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Archive for March, 2010

(yoniso) manasi karotha

One of the most essential terms used by the Buddha in reference to developing wisdom and pointing out the path to Nibbana is the Pali verb “manasi karoti” especially in the phrase yoniso manasi karoti.

It is so essential to the attainment of Nibbana that the Buddha time and again points out that if we practice manasi karoti in a certain manner, which he calls yoniso, that we will then progress and develop insight to see for ourselves what he himself experienced in that particular night, 536 B.C. now commonly known as “the Awakening”, the Buddha’s bodhi:

The riddle:

‘‘Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso manasi karotha; cakkhāniccatañca yathābhūtaṃ samanupassatha. Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yoniso manasikaronto, cakkhāniccatañca yathābhūtaṃ samanupassanto cakkhusmimpi nibbindati. Nandikkhayā rāgakkhayo; rāgakkhayā nandikkhayo. Nandirāgakkhayā cittaṃ suvimuttanti vuccati.

Practice yoniso manasi karotha towards eye-sight, o monks; See the impermanence of eye-sight as it manifests. When a monk, o monks, practices yoniso manasikara he sees the impermanence of eye-sight as it manifests, he will not find anything (fascinating) with regard to eye-sight. From the removal of delight comes the removal of fascination. From the removal of fascination comes the removal of delight. ‘When delight (nandi) and fascination/desire (rāga) are removed the mind is fully detached’ – thus I say.

SN Salayatanasamyutta, Ajjhattaaniccanandikkhayasuttaṃ. (Solution to this ‘riddle’ at the end of this article)

Now, what is manasi karoti in English? What does it mean? I would like to invite you to a little journey trying to “unlock” the meaning of this term and find out what implications this may have on our process of insight meditation as reflected in the earliest forms of Buddhist meditation.

Let’s start with the first part, i.e. manas. Manas is an old Vedic word meaning “mind” (it is actually linguistially related to our “mind”) and is used very much in the same colloquial sense as the English “mind”. Manasi is the locative case of manas and therefore indicates that we would have to translate it literally as “in the mind”.

Now, as any Indo-European language Pāli too makes use of a simple trick to express (new) meaning by using existing words. One such “trick” is grammatically known as “compound verbs” [link]. Here is a definition from Wikipedia:

N+V compounds: A compound with Noun+verb, converting the noun into a verbal structure; the arguments and the semantics are determined by the N and the tense markers / inflections are carried by the V. This would include English stretched verb examples like take a walk or commit suicide… The N+V compound appears in almost all languages, especially … as “do”, “make” etc., …

Compound verbs are very common in Indo-Aryan languages, such as Hindi-Urdu and Panjabi, where as many as 20% of the verb forms in running text may be compounds.

For example, Hindi निकल गया nikal gayā, lit. “exit went”, means ‘went out’, while निकल पड़ा nikal paRā, lit. “exit fell”, means ‘departed‘ or ‘was blurted out‘.

As you will see, in this particular instance the Buddha uses a very similar Pali construction himself. The second part of manasi karoti is the verb “karoti“, very frequent in Pāli as it simply means “to do, to make”.

Now, if we were to translate “manasi karoti” too literal (“to make into the mind”) that would not make much sense. If you understand that this construction is simply a compound verb, as explained above, however, the meaning becomes quite clear and we do not have to translate it too free or vague either. In fact we can now go about translating this compound verb pretty straightforward. It just says: “keep in mind”. Yes, that simple. Here the literal “to do, to make” in the form of karoti is simply used to establish a compounded meaning. Therefore to literally “make in the mind” becomes “to keep in mind“. This, obviously, makes sense. Okay, now let’s see if that translation survives our test of applying it to various contexts:

Let’s take a very obvious one first. As you know might know, very often when the Buddha started one of his sermons he would address the monks and the monks would return his address saying “Venerable Sir!” Then the Buddha would continue saying:

Tatra kho bhagavā bhikkhū āmantesi – ‘‘bhikkhavo’’ti. ‘‘Bhadante’’ti te bhikkhū bhagavato paccassosuṃ. Bhagavā etadavoca – ‘‘sabbadhammamūlapariyāyaṃ vo, bhikkhave, desessāmi. Taṃ suṇātha, sādhukaṃ manasi karotha, bhāsissāmī’’ti. ‘‘Evaṃ, bhante’’ti kho te bhikkhū bhagavato paccassosuṃ. Bhagavā etadavoca –

…I will teach you. Listen to that, keep in mind well (sādhukaṃ manasi karotha), I will talk.

Majjhima Nikaya, 1. Sutta, many others, very freq.

So here you can see how it is used. Very straight forward, very simple to understand. But wait! This still can give us a headache. Because here in this moment, you could tend to interpret the connotation of “keep well in mind” to imply a form of learning by heart, couldn’t you? Yes, but as you will see in a moment, that that idea (which is usually expressed by another Pali term called pariyāpuṇāti or uggaheti) is not meant here, when the Buddha wants his monks to “keep it well in mind”.

Let’s have a look at the second example, slowly coming closer to the meditative implications this particular expression carries and you will quickly undertand why a correct understanding of this term can make many a Buddhist (Pali) text suddenly more profound than you would have expected.

In a remote corner of the Pali canon ( 🙂 ) we find this passage:

Idh’āvuso, bhikkhunā kammaṃ kātabbaṃ hoti. Tassa evaṃ hoti – ‘kammaṃ kho me kātabbaṃ bhavissati, kammaṃ kho pana me karontena na sukaraṃ buddhānaṃ sāsanaṃ manasi kātuṃ, hand’āhaṃ vīriyaṃ ārabhāmi appattassa pattiyā anadhigatassa adhigamāya, asacchikatassa sacchikiriyāyā’ti!

Here, o friend, the Bhikkhu has some duty to attend to (kammaṃ kātabbaṃ – work to do). So this occurs to him: “I will do some work. While doing a work it is not easy (sukaraṃ) to keep the Buddhas’ teaching in mind (pay attention to it). What if I were to arouse my energies to attain to what I have not attained to yet, to achieve what I have not yet achieved, to realize what I yet have not realized!”.

from the DighaNikāya, Saṅgītisutta.

Now, as you can see, he does not mean in this case that it is difficult to learn the Buddhas teaching. This very comprehensible passage gives us a great leverage in grasping the connotation of meaning when we hear the Buddha talk about “manasi karoti” – to keep in mind, summarizing all said before, in the Buddha’s sense, means the following:

to keep ones attention fixed on it, to keep it present in mind, to focus on it, to not let it slip, to pay attention to it

Yes, of course that is ([a form of] concentration) meditation!

In a certain sense this may not be such new news to some, but IMHO it is very illuminating to see what the Buddha asked his monks to do before getting ready to talk about the Dhamma. Long suspected by many, listening to a sermon of the Buddha was unlike attending a public talk at a political convention. It did not resemble a modern day audience which just gets “hooked” and “carried away” on words/thoughts. The purpose was not alone to merely listen or memorize: At least some Dhamma talks, especially in a monastic environment were more like training sesssions.  Rather than simply creating a substitute for craving (sounds) or thoughts we here see the Buddha trying to encourage his monks to turn the activity of listening to him into a meditation session: to turn their attention to the content of his teachings and put them right away into a mode of practice of applying his very words – yes, almost like what we would call a “guided meditation”. Now, this also puts the repetitions into an entirely different light, doesn’t it 🙂

Once we understand that the term manasi karoti or “manasikāra” (which is its form when used as a noun) means keeping attentively in mind, observing, focusing on, to bring to mind (and keep it there), “(ver)gegenwaertigen” (German), “se représenter qc., attirer l’attention” (French) then such passages as the following appear in a much more pragmatic light:

‘‘Katamā cāvuso, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā ñāṇadassanapaṭilābhāya saṃvattati? Idhāvuso, bhikkhu ālokasaññaṃ manasi karoti, divāsaññaṃ adhiṭṭhāti yathā divā tathā rattiṃ, yathā rattiṃ tathā divā. Iti vivaṭena cetasā apariyonaddhena sappabhāsaṃ cittaṃ bhāveti. Ayaṃ, āvuso samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā ñāṇadassanapaṭilābhāya saṃvattati. (DN, Saṅgītisuttaṃ)

araññasaññaṃ paṭicca manasi karoti ekattaṃ. (MN, Cūḷasuññatasuttaṃ)

‘‘Accharāsaṅghātamattampi ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhu mettācittaṃ manasi karoti; ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave – ‘bhikkhu arittajjhāno viharati satthusāsanakaro ovādapatikaro amoghaṃ raṭṭhapiṇḍaṃ bhuñjati’. Ko pana vādo ye naṃ bahulīkarontī’’ti! (AN, I.)

‘‘Idha pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhu aññataraṃ santaṃ cetovimuttiṃ upasampajja viharati. So avijjāppabhedaṃ manasi karoti. Tassa avijjāppabhedaṃ manasi karoto avijjāppabhede cittaṃ pakkhandati pasīdati santiṭṭhati adhimuccati. Tassa kho evaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno avijjāppabhedo pāṭikaṅkho. (AN, 3.Jambālīsuttaṃ)

dūrepi saddānaṃ saddanimittaṃ manasi karoti, santikepi saddānaṃ saddanimittaṃ manasi karoti, (Patisambhidhamagga)

Tattha yaṃ sasatthārammaṇaṃ cittaṃ pavattaṃ ayaṃ buddhānussati. Yampi bhagavato guṇe manasi karoti, ayamassa dhammānussati. (Petakopadesa, just beautiful. You need to read that full passage.)

Vedanāsu vedanāññatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadāmi yadidaṃ – assāsapassāsānaṃ sādhukaṃ manasikāraṃ. (SN, Vedanāsamyutta)

Manasikārasamudayā dhammānaṃ samudayo; manasikāranirodhā dhammānaṃ atthaṅgamo’’ti. (SN, Mahavagga, Samudayasuttaṃ) – a very good quote to understand the idea of nirodha vs. samudaya.)

‘‘Kāmarāgaṭṭhāniyānaṃ,  bhikkhave, dhammānaṃ manasikārabahulīkārā anuppanno ceva kāmacchando uppajjati, uppanno ca kāmacchando bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattati. (SN, Mahavagga as well, Ṭhāniyasuttaṃ)

That was probably convincing enough. But, we are not done yet. On purpose we were looking only at places were the manasikāra appears without the “yoniso“, and adverb which the Buddha especially employed whenever he wanted to stress the insight-meditation character of using “attention” or “bringing it to mind”, manasikāra.

So, what does yoniso mean? It is an adverb (yoni + so) from the noun yoni, which literally means womb.

It’s basic meaning can be derived by reading a simple and straightfoward passage once again:

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu paṭisaṅkhā yoniso cīvaraṃ paṭisevati – ‘yāvadeva sītassa paṭighātāya, uṇhassa paṭighātāya, ḍaṃsamakasavātātapasarīṃsapa- samphassānaṃ paṭighātāya, yāvadeva hirikopīnappaṭicchādanatthaṃ’.

In this Teaching, monks, a thoroughly reflecting monk, uses a robe simply for warding of the cold, for warding off the heat, for warding of the touch of gadfly, mosquito, wind and sun, creeping things, simply for the sake of covering his nakedness.”

As you can see, here the yoniso just means “thoroughly”. In the sense that you try to be comprehensive and thorough with your reflection. Let’s quote a few more individual instances before we see how the Buddha uses these two words in explaining insight meditation:

Tatrapi sudaṃ soṇadaṇḍo brāhmaṇo etadeva bahulamanuvitakkento nisinno hoti – ‘‘ahañceva kho pana samaṇaṃ gotamaṃ pañhaṃ puccheyyaṃ; tatra ce maṃ samaṇo gotamo evaṃ vadeyya – ‘na kho esa, brāhmaṇa, pañho evaṃ pucchitabbo, evaṃ nāmesa, brāhmaṇa, pañho pucchitabbo’ti, tena maṃ ayaṃ parisā paribhaveyya – ‘bālo soṇadaṇḍo brāhmaṇo abyatto, nāsakkhi samaṇaṃ gotamaṃ yoniso pañhaṃ pucchitun‘ti. Mamañceva kho pana samaṇo gotamo pañhaṃ puccheyya, tassa cāhaṃ pañhassa veyyākaraṇena cittaṃ na ārādheyyaṃ; tatra ce maṃ samaṇo gotamo evaṃ vadeyya – ‘na kho esa, brāhmaṇa, pañho evaṃ byākātabbo, evaṃ nāmesa, brāhmaṇa, pañho byākātabbo’ti, tena maṃ ayaṃ parisā paribhaveyya – ‘bālo soṇadaṇḍo brāhmaṇo abyatto, nāsakkhi samaṇassa gotamassa pañhassa veyyākaraṇena cittaṃ ārādhetun’ti. (DN, Soṇadaṇḍasutta)

Now the following hesitation arose in Sonadanda’s mind as he passed through the wood: ‘Were I to ask the Samana Gotama a question, if he were to say: “The question ought not to be asked so, thus ought the question to be framed;” the company might thereupon speak of me with disrespect, saying: “Foolish is this Sonadanda the Brahman, and inexpert. He is not even able to ask a question rightly.” But if they did so my reputation would decrease; and with my reputation my incomings would grow less, for what we have to enjoy, that depends on our reputation. But if the Samana Gotama were to put a question to me, I might not be able to gain his approval{1} by my explanation of the problem. And if they were then to say to me: “The question ought not to be answered so; thus ought the problem to be explained;” the company might thereupon speak of me with disrespect, saying: “Foolish is this Sonadanda the Brahman, and inexpert. He is not even able to satisfy the Samana Gotama by his explanation of the problem put.”

Saṃvego ca saṃvejanīyesu ṭhānesu saṃviggassa ca yoniso padhānaṃ. (DN, Saṅgītisutta)

Urgency and the proper fight of the one filled with urgency regarding occasions which cause urgency.

Ṭhānañca kho etaṃ vijjati yaṃ bhagavā evaṃ byākareyya – āsañcepi karitvā ayoniso brahmacariyaṃ caranti, abhabbā phalassa adhigamāya; anāsañcepi karitvā ayoniso brahmacariyaṃ caranti, abhabbā phalassa adhigamāya; ..Āsañcepi karitvā yoniso brahmacariyaṃ caranti, bhabbā phalassa adhigamāya; anāsañcepi karitvā yoniso brahmacariyaṃ caranti, bhabbā phalassa adhigamāya;…Taṃ kissa hetu? Ayoni hesā, bhūmija, phalassa adhigamāya. ‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhūmija, puriso telatthiko telagavesī telapariyesanaṃ caramāno vālikaṃ doṇiyā ākiritvā udakena paripphosakaṃ paripphosakaṃ pīḷeyya. Āsañcepi karitvā vālikaṃ doṇiyā ākiritvā udakena paripphosakaṃ paripphosakaṃ pīḷeyya, abhabbo telassa adhigamāya; anāsañcepi karitvā vālikaṃ doṇiyā ākiritvā udakena paripphosakaṃ paripphosakaṃ pīḷeyya, abhabbo telassa adhigamāya; āsañca anāsañcepi karitvā vālikaṃ doṇiyā ākiritvā udakena paripphosakaṃ paripphosakaṃ pīḷeyya, abhabbo telassa adhigamāya; nevāsaṃ nānāsañcepi karitvā vālikaṃ doṇiyā ākiritvā udakena paripphosakaṃ paripphosakaṃ pīḷeyya, abhabbo telassa adhigamāya. Taṃ kissa hetu? Ayoni h’esā, bhūmija, telassa adhigamāya. (MN Suññatavaggo, Bhūmijasutta)

Bhumija, whoever recluses and brahmins with wrong, view, thoughts, speech, actions, livelihood, endeavour, mindfulness and concentration were to lead the holy life with attachment, it is not possible to attain some distinction. Were to lead the holy life without attachment, it is not possible to attain some distinction. Were to lead the holy life with and without attachment, it is not possible to attain some distinction. Were to lead the holy life neither with nor without attachment it is not possible to attain some distinction. What is the reason? Because it is not the right method to attain a result.

Bhumija, it is like a man in search of oil, was to put some sand in a trough and while sprinkling it with water was to press it for oil. Even if he was to press it with attachment, without attachment, with and without attachment, neither with nor without attachment, he would not obtain oil. What is the reason? Bhåmija it is not the right method to obtain oil.

dhammadīpānaṃ dhammasaraṇānaṃ anaññasaraṇānaṃ yoni upaparikkhitabbā. (SN, Khandhasamyutta, 5.1)

Monks, the monk who abides becoming a light and refuge to his self, not searching another refuge, considering the Teaching as his light and refuge, not searching another Teaching, should investigate wisely. (This itself is from such a beautiful Sutta: [link])

‘‘Tīhi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu diṭṭheva dhamme sukhasomanassabahulo viharati, yoni cassa āraddhā hoti āsavānaṃ khayāya. Katamehi tīhi? Indriyesu guttadvāro hoti, bhojane mattaññū, jāgariyaṃ anuyutto.

With three, o monks, things equipped, a monk will often dwell happy and at peace here and now and his effort to eradicate the influxes will be properly/thoroughly aroused: With which three things? He is guarding the doors of his senses, he keeps restraint regarding food and he stays awake a lot.

‘‘Sādhu sādhu, hatthaka! Yoni kho tyāyaṃ, hatthaka, mahatiṃ parisaṃ saṅgahetuṃ. (AN, 8. Hatthakasutta)

“Hatthaka, it is good! You have wisely got together this huge gathering”

All of the above show, that yoniso has actually not really that much to do with thoroughly, even if we might embrace such a meaning just looking from an etymological standpoint. But that does not help us much, as we have to see the contextual meaning in which the word was used during the life time of the Buddha. The above situations show quite clearly that the contemporary idea of ayoni(so) or yoni(so) was one of “right/smart/correct/proper(ly)” vs. “false, wrong, stupid, improper(ly)“.

Now let’s look at some passages where both appear together:

Asubhanimittaṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva kāmacchando nuppajjati uppanno ca kāmacchando pahīyatī’’ti.

An ugly object, o monks, properly keeping (it) in mind, the un-arisen sensual desire will not arise and the arisen sensual desire will disappear.

Mettaṃ, bhikkhave, cetovimuttiṃ yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva byāpādo nuppajjati uppanno ca byāpādo pahīyatī’’ti.

avikkhittacitto dhammaṃ suṇāti, ekaggacitto yoniso ca manasi karoti.

Therefore, if we combine our two pieces of information we get quite a rich new meaning. Especially when we apply it back to those passages where yoniso manasikāra is mentioned. Now, we hear the Buddha talk about the “correct application of attention”. It is all about keeping the right or correct things in mind. We see how this meaning is applied in many instructions clearly dealing with instructions for meditation. This is no different in the passage we quoted at the beginning of this post.

Rather than focusing on thoughts which lead to nowhere, the Buddha encourages us to attend to those thoughts itself so that  we see how they really have sprung into existance (yathābhūta ñāṇadassana – which is althogether another story for another day 🙂

Finally, the riddle’s solution:

‘‘Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso manasi karotha; cakkhāniccatañca yathābhūtaṃ samanupassatha. Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yoniso manasikaronto, cakkhāniccatañca yathābhūtaṃ samanupassanto cakkhusmimpi nibbindati. Nandikkhayā rāgakkhayo; rāgakkhayā nandikkhayo. Nandirāgakkhayā cittaṃ suvimuttanti vuccati.

Properly keep the eye-sight in mind, o monks; See the impermanence of the eye-sight as it manifests. When a monk, o monks, sees the impermanence of eye-sight as it manifests properly keeping it in mind, he will not find anything (fascinating) with regard to the eye-sight. From the eradication of delight comes the eradication of fascination. From the destruction of fascination comes the destruction of delight. ‘When delight (nandi) and fascination/desire (rāga) are destroyed the mind is fully liberated’ – thus I say.

So, give it a try. Right here, right now. Move your attention from the content of these lines towards the process of seeing itself. Try too keep that in your mind, holding your observation right there. See how the seeing disappears, replaced by moments of thoughts, replaced by moments of hearing…Keep doing this as often as you can for as long as you can (nibbidabahulo) and you are on the right track to Awakening!

Thank you for your attention 🙂

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Three Levels Of Observation

Comparing Buddhist techniques of observing (vipassana) we can distinguish three approaches:

The first one defines itself as merely “observing what is” in a supposedly neutral fashion. Various traditions define this to be simple a “looking at what is happening” without interference. Lets disregard for a moment the level of concentration which may or may not have occurred or practiced up to that point, this particular school of thought traditionally believes that it suffices to “mindfully observe”. For them thirst is usually equivalent with craving, desire or aversion in emotions.

The second approach inherits everything aforesaid, however they would postulate, that the first mode of observation is overlooking a subtle but important point: If we agree, that our object of observation is name-and-form as well as consciousness and that they are held together by some form of deep rooted thirst for being, than that implies that every moment where we consciously experience a moment of “here am I observing” and “there is the object I observed” we are already grasping. We are already agreeing (maññati) in one form or the other that the observed is ours or belongs to us – which means putting us into a relationship with it. Thus they challenge that if we were to “just let ourselves observe” we actually are grabbing the snake not at its head but in most moments of meditational experience we grab it somewhere at its body or tail. Thus the meditation would in turn consist most of the time of continuous grasping at thoughts, feelings, perceptions, etc. and not qualify at what the Buddha indicated as “yoniso manasikara” or an “attention going to the source/origin/womb” of experience. Buddhist schools who propagate this insight then usually introduce a technique of noting to stop the mind right after any experience given. The idea is reflected in the Buddha’s explanation (see SN, Salayatanavagga etc.) that the meditator has to see whatever arises as
“impermanent”, “painful”, “empty” etc. These labels which are used as short descriptions are a form of using name itself in its most basic form of attention (see MN 9) to stop short the proliferating process of the mind which sets in after each sense impression gets registered. Here then, the meditator tries to grab the snake of unfolding sense-experience as close to the head as he can get. In the beginning this practice will very much look like the former method described, but eventually lead beyond it, much closer to the range of an experiential event-horizon where in each moment the world of name-form and consciousness is born. Such an approach creates an ultimate tool of “wisdom which sees the rising and falling” of the world (six senses) without compromise. A compromise would mean letting the mind unfold into a relationship with the object at which end a person would perceive itself observing – caught up in outright duality.

The third approach in turn inherits everything aforesaid, but it does not allow for any “excuse” to not note. In other words, while the second approach or school of meditators may still cave in and justify an intentional change in their meditation observation this third approach would argue that once we enter this sharp mode of observation that now anything must be observed equally outright. For example: While some insight meditation teachers in the second school of thought legitimize that a student may “change his meditation object if a secondary object becomes prevalent” this third method of observation would argue that there is no such thing. If we attend to anything observed trying to just see what happens at its core, than even a desire/intent to switch objects can only be noted. To take it up and willingly change the meditation object would resemble a shallower approach, would in fact mean to take up and grasp at the observed! In this line of argument nothing remains not to be noted once we start our meditation sessions, including the noting itself should it become an object of consciousness! It would actually be hard to ever stop this meditation again, but as we all know, desire and samsara will eventually end even this meditator’s meditation session when painful identification with his body becomes overwhelming and lets him take it up and self-identify again.

However, as it can be seen just from a mere theoretical perspective – these three approaches all try to help the meditator loose his deep-rooted love with seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting…thinking. Just as the Buddha encourages anyone who wants to replicate his Nirvanic experiment, as we can glean from many suttas at the core of all Buddhist schools. Here two quick samples:

SN, Salayatanavagga. Pahānasutta. [pi]

‘Sabbappahānāya vo, bhikkhave, dhammaṃ desessāmi. Taṃ suṇātha. Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sabbappahānāya dhammo? Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, pahātabbaṃ, rūpā pahātabbā, cakkhuviññāṇaṃ pahātabbaṃ, cakkhusamphasso pahātabbo , yampidaṃ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi pahātabbaṃ…pe… yampidaṃ sotasamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi pahātabbaṃ… yampidaṃ ghānasamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi pahātabbaṃ. Jivhā pahātabbā, rasā pahātabbā, jivhāviññāṇaṃ pahātabbaṃ, jivhāsamphasso pahātabbo, yampidaṃ jivhāsamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi pahātabbaṃ. Kāyo pahātabbo… mano pahātabbo, dhammā pahātabbā, manoviññāṇaṃ pahātabbaṃ, manosamphasso pahātabbo, yampidaṃ manosamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tampi pahātabbaṃ. Ayaṃ kho, bhikkhave, sabbappahānāya dhammo’’ti.

“Monks, I will teach you the All as a phenomenon to be abandoned (pajahati = to leave, abandon, lose; give up, renounce, forsake). Listen and pay close attention. I will speak.” “As you say, lord,” the monks responded.
The Blessed One said, “And which All is a phenomenon to be abandoned? The eye is to be abandoned. Forms are to be abandoned. Consciousness at the eye is to be abandoned. Contact at the eye is to be abandoned. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too is to be abandoned. “The ear is to be abandoned. Sounds are to be abandoned…
“The nose is to be abandoned. Aromas are to be abandoned… “The tongue is to be abandoned. Flavors are to be abandoned…  “The body is to be abandoned. Tactile sensations are to be abandoned… “The mind is to be abandoned. Mental objects are to be abandoned. Consciousness at the mind is to be abandoned. Contact at the mind is to be abandoned. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the mind — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too is to be abandoned. “This is called the All as a phenomenon to be abandoned.”

“Monks, I will teach you the All as a phenomenon to be abandoned (pajahati = to leave, abandon, lose; give up, renounce, forsake). Listen and pay close attention. I will speak.” “As you say, lord,” the monks responded. The Blessed One said, “And which All is a phenomenon to be abandoned? The eye is to be abandoned. Forms are to be abandoned. Consciousness at the eye is to be abandoned. Contact at the eye is to be abandoned. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too is to be abandoned. “The ear is to be abandoned. Sounds are to be abandoned… “The nose is to be abandoned. Aromas are to be abandoned… “The tongue is to be abandoned. Flavors are to be abandoned…  “The body is to be abandoned. Tactile sensations are to be abandoned… “The mind is to be abandoned. Mental objects are to be abandoned. Consciousness at the mind is to be abandoned. Contact at the mind is to be abandoned. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the mind — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too is to be abandoned. “This is called the All as a phenomenon to be abandoned.”

While the above one describes the general idea, the following sutta would give us detailed instructions. Please note the fact that anything (without exception) has to be noted, and secondly how a short label seems to be applied here to stop the mind short as quick as possible to just observe without “getting into” or becoming “part of” the story:

SN, Khandasamyutta, Sonasutta: [pi]

‘‘Tasmātiha, soṇa, yaṃ kiñci rūpaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, sabbaṃ rūpaṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ.

‘‘Yā kāci vedanā… yā kāci saññā… ye keci saṅkhārā… yaṃ kiñci viññāṇaṃ atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ ajjhattaṃ vā bahiddhā vā oḷārikaṃ vā sukhumaṃ vā hīnaṃ vā paṇītaṃ vā yaṃ dūre santike vā, sabbaṃ viññāṇaṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ.

‘‘Evaṃ passaṃ, soṇa, sutavā ariyasāvako rūpasmimpi nibbindati, vedanāyapi nibbindati, saññāyapi nibbindati, saṅkhāresupi nibbindati, viññāṇasmimpi nibbindati. Nibbindaṃ virajjati; virāgā vimuccati. Vimuttasmiṃ vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti. ‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānātī’’ti.

Therefore Soṇa, whatever form in the past, future, or at present, internal or external, rough or fine, unexalted or exalted, far or near, all that has to be seen, as it became with fully knowing: “it is not mine, this am I not, it is not my self”.

20.-23. Whatever feelings and whatever perceptions and whatever intentions in the past, future, or at present, internal or external, rough or fine, unexalted or exalted, far or near, all that has to be seen, as it became with fully knowing: “it is not mine, this am I not, it is not my self”.

24. Soṇa, the learned noble disciple seeing it thus turns from form, turns from feelings, turns from perceptions, turns from intentions and turns from consciousness. Turning looses interest. Loosing interest is released and knowledge arises I am released. He knows, `Birth is destroyed, the holy life is lived to the end, duties are done, and there is nothing more to wish.’

The first mode of practice is currently widespread esp. in Western circles of meditation, usually under a Mahayana influence where the knowledge of the Sutta Pitaka with its psychological emphasis of the five groups of graspings or six sense spheres was replaced by a more philosophical interpretation. This makes it harder to see how applicable but also more profound their application to meditation would be. Usually Zen-affiliated or purely jhana teaching groups, which are more likely to be sceptical of  the techniques of noting, fall into this category.

The second mode of practice is typical for Mahāsi but also Goenka systems of which there are many variations these days. It is characterized by (at some point) interfering with the process of noting for the benefit of “the technique” which, funny enough, seems to limit its thoroughness right at that moment.

The third application of all-around exception-less noting is taught also in a few Mahāsi derived vipassanā groups.

The beautiful thing though is that texts like the above to snippets quoted from the Samyutta Nikaya have survived in almost all Buddhist traditions (usually at their core – where hardly anyone reads them 😦 ) which has in the past and probably will in the future rekindle new and creative ways when someone turns the Buddha’s blueprint into a meditation – first for himself and then successfully instructing others. Thanks for your attention and good luck with your application of thorough (yoniso) attention.

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