To calm the mind means to find the right balance. If you try to force your
mind too much it goes too far; if you don't try enough it doesn't get there, it
misses the point of balance. For most of us the mind is never at peace, it
never have the solid enery of calmness.
Find a comfortable posture, keeping the spine straight. You can sit cross
legged on a folded blanket or on a chair with both feet on the floor. They key
is to keep the spine straight.
Bring your attention to feel the sensations of your breathing. Take a few
deep breaths to sense where you can feel the breath most easily. Incoming
breath will cause a sensation of touch on that point of the nostril; so will
the outgoing breath which will cause a sensation of touch on that same point of
the nostril. Just focus on that sense of touch.
Alternatively, bring your attention to feel the rising and falling of the
abdomen. When air is breathed in, the step by step arising of the abdomen must
be noted. He must concentrate on the gathering rigidity and sense of posture of
the adbomen. He notes with silent acknowledgements: 'rising', 'rising',
'rising'. When air is breathed out, the step by step falling of the abdoment
must be noted. He must concentrate on the decreasing sense of support, step by
step movement of the abdomen. He notes with a silent acknowledgement:
'falling', 'falling', 'falling'.
If we force our breath to be too long or too short we're not balanced, the
mind won't be at peace. We don't get concerned over how long or short, weak or
strong it is, we just note it. KNOW its there. We simply let it be.
After a few breaths your mind will wander. Catch this. No matter how long or
short a time you have been away, simply come back to the next breath. You can
mindfully acknowledge where you have gone with a soft word in the back of your
mind, such as "thinking", "wandering", "hearing".
Even "itching", "pain", "anger",
"lust", "happy" should be acknowledged. One word of
acknowledgement and a simple return to the breath is best. Don't dwell on what
is past be ever present with the breath. If no other object arises, return to
Like sitting meditation, walking meditation is a practice for developing
calm, connectedness and awareness. It can be practiced before or after sitting
Should space not permit, the shortest track should not be less than 10
paces. A medium length track would be 20 paces, and a long track should be 25
to 30 paces.
The yogi should cross his hands in front of him, right hand over left, both
resting below the navel. Begin to walk slowly, with each step feel the
sensation of lifting your foot and off the earth. Be aware as you place each
foot on the earth and mentally note: "right step", "left
step". Your mind must not be attached to the shape of the foot. It is very
important that is it the sensation of touch, the hardness which you must be
interested in and not the foot itself. The key is mindfulness in every step.
Walking meditation can help to increase the power of concentration, and is a
great help in sitting meditation.
Stages of Progress
from Dhamma Discourses
by The Sayadaw U Kundalabhivamsa
The following is a
description of the levels of understanding as a yogi progresses into the
practice of Vipassana Meditation. These Insights (Pali language: Nana) arise
naturally within the yogi without prompting from anyone and they conform in
high consistency among other yogis and meditation masters.
This text is meant for advanced students of Vipassana meditation. The beginner
may doubt its validity. But for one who have not tasted salt, he could never
know its taste. For one have tasted, its difficult to describe to another who
THE FIRST INSIGHT.
Knowledge of Mind and Matter
Nama-Rupa Pariccheda Nana
When the yogi enters the meditation centre to note on the rise of his
abdomen, the fall of his abdomen; he thinks that "his" abdomen is
rising, "his" abdomen is falling. "He" is noting.
When noting the sense of touch while sitting, he thinks "his" body
is sitting and touching, and "he" is noting. As concentration
increases, he will find that the manner of the rising of the abdomen is one
separate entity, and conscious mind knowing the rise of the abdomen is another
The behaviours such as rising, falling, sitting, touching are body-matter
which do not have consciousness. The noting mind is mental-phenomena. Some
foreign yogis reported to the Sayadaw that, in the early days of their retreat,
there was only himself, one and only one. Now, it seemed there always were two of him all the time.
Having reached the first insight, the wrong view on the concept of
"I", is destroyed. The yogi understands that the terms such
"I", "he" are only an ordinary way of expression.
eg. Knowing that this is 'Mind' and that is 'Body'. Each can be seen as
clearly separate and different.
THE SECOND INSIGHT
Knowledge Of Cause and Effect
Paccaya Pariggaha Nana
All manners of the rise of the abdomen, the fall of the abdomen, the
sitting, the touching all happen beforehand; then the noting consciousness
follows to note the above bodily behaviours. The bodily behaviours are the
causes, and they cause the mind to notice. The noting mind is the effect.
Some yogis experience that the pattern of the rising or the falling of the
abdomen varies. The abdomen does not rise up straight towards the front.
Sometimes. it rises nearer to one side of the body in a lopsided manner. Sometimes,
it rises towards the back of the body. Sometimes, it is rotating while rising.
Sometimes, the yogi notices that the rise occurs at the top of his head,
sometimes on his hand.
The changing mode of rising is the cause. The noting mind following is the
THE THIRD INSIGHT.
Knowledge of Comprehension
The yogi faces all types of pains, aches, nausea, stomach- aches, shaking of
his body, swaying of his body throughout his meditation. He faces mental
sufferings as well as physical sufferings. He feels that his body is a load of
He also finds that suffering varies and changes places. Suffering itself is
not permanent. The yogi feels that he comes to meditate to find peace and
bliss, but at that moment he finds he cannot obtain, nor create, what he
anticipated. He has no say in that matter. His body is not responding to his
The Third Insight is explained as the knowledge of investigation of the
three characteristics of composite things.
Seeing the previous knowledge deeper. The 3 universal characteristics of
existence impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non self becomes manifest. The
beginning, middle and end of phenomena becomes obvious. Pains ususily can also
be very intense before it subsides. The defilements of insight may arise
clearly at this stage.
THE FOURTH INSIGHT
Knowledge of Arising and Dissolution
The yogi does not have physical pain anymore. Therefore, the mind also is
free of suffering. The yogi's body as well as his mind are light, soft, pliant
and well- behaved. Those who used to change positions two times during one
sitting, may need no change of position at all. The sense-objects and the
noting mind are very compatible. The yogi enjoys the physical well-being as
well as mental well-being. He enjoys bliss. He sees light, colours, celestial
beings, monasteries, stupas, etc. These are the manifestations of early
As insight matures, the yogi notices the arising and then the perishing of
the rise of the abdomen. He notices the arising and then the perishing of the
fall of the abdomen. All phenomena have two parts, coming into being and then
passing away. The yogi is happy because he can note all. Udayabbaya nana is
explained as the knowledge into rising and passing away of phenomena.
THE FIFTH INSIGHT.
Knowledge of Dissolution
This Insight emphasizes the perishable nature of all phenomena.
The beginning of the rise of the abdomen is not clear to him anymore. Only
the passing away of the rise of the abdomen is distinct. While walking, he
cannot find the beginning of his lifting the foot, nor the beginning of his
movement forward, nor the beginning of the downward motion of his foot. He
notices the end part of his lifting manner, the end part of his forwarding
foot, and the end part of his downward press.
Ending of all phenomena is distinct. The sense-object as well as the
consciousness perish all the time. He does not find any form or matter in his
body. This is called "strong and successful" Vipassana. He cannot
find anything permanent in his body. The flux of cessation is so much and so
fast that he finds it unsatisfactory. He cannot prevent nor correct it . Bhanga
nana is explained as knowledge which reflects on the breaking up or perishable
nature of composite things.
THE SIXTH INSIGHT
Knowledge of Terror
Whatever the yogi notes, it just perishes. The yogi feels afraid of his
body. This nana is explained as knowledge of the presence of fear of composite
THE SEVENTH INSIGHT
Knowledge of Danger
Since all phenomena out of his body perish all the time, he begins to find
his Khandha as a decaying, rotting heap. He finds fault with it. Adinava Na-na
is explained as knowledge which reflects on the danger of composite things.
THE EIGHTH INSIGHT.
Knowledge of Disgust
The yogi feels disgusted with his body. He wants very much to discard it.
This nana is explained as the knowledge which reflects on feelings of disgust
aroused by composite things that are dangerous.
THE NINTH INSIGHT
Knowledge of Desire for Freedom
The yogi does not wish to go on noting. He wants to discard his meditation.
This nana is explained as the knowledge of the desire for release from
composite things which cause feelings of disgust.
THE TENTH INSIGHT
Knowledge of Reflection
The yogi finds that he cannot stop just like that. He feels that he has to
go on noting. So, he carries on with his meditation. In the Text, this
situation is explained with a simile:
A man went to a shallow pond, taking a net with him, to
catch fish. He threw the net into the water. He saw movements inside the net
which is under the water. He bent down and put one hand under the net to seize
the fish. He held the fish tightly and brought it out of the water. Then, he
realized that it was not a fish, but a poisonous snake with three stripes on
its neck. He felt frightened. He wanted to discard it, but he could not simply
drop it there. He felt fed up of holding it, so he took a deep breath. He held
his hand very high, aimed well and then threw the snake to the farthest
Similarly, the yogi finds that his body is like a poisonous snake. The three
stripes on the neck of-the snake are the three characteristics of composite
things. At this nana stage, pains, aches, dukkha vedana appear again. However
much he puts in his effort to concentrate, the yogi finds that he wishes to
change position too often. His mind is restless, also his body is restless. It
requires a lot of encouragement from the teacher. If the yogi doggedly carries
on his hard work, he will reach the next nana soon.
THE ELEVENTH INSIGHT
Knowledge of Equanimity of Formations
Suddenly, the yogi who nearly felt that he was failing finds that he can
meditate again. All sense-objects as well as the noting mind are doing their
work spontaneously again. As time goes on, notings become very soft and subtle.
The yogi can go on noting for a stretch of two to three hours. He does not feel
frightened. He is not suffering. He can face all phenomena cqually.
Some serious ailments of yogis when they reach this nana, are discarded
completely (see A Case of Healing through Vipassana). His vipassana is
recognized as of standard. This nana is explained as the insight arising from
Does one have to go to all the stages?
The 5 Controlling Faculties & Insight Meditation
by Ven. Sujiva
A question frequently asked is: Does one have to go to all the stages?
The answer will be in principle yes, but in experience one may not realise
it. this is because at time the experience may be so brief that one may not
realise it is even an insight knowledge. Some experience them clearly and
because of the thinking that follows with regard to far reaching implications
may become terrified (with unwholesome fear) instead. This brings up the point
that one must have a proper attitude towards insight experiences�that these are only a means
to an end, we must not be frightened or attached to them.
Secondly it has to borne in mind that insight is one thing and the objects
are another. Pain for example is frequent object encountered in insight
meditation. It also occurs abundantly in sick people. Some objects of
experience are also shared by drug addicts and meditators. Obviously the states
of mind are worlds apart. The emphasis is the maturity and power of mindfulness
although the objects do imply how it is.
Another error is that some yogis become disappointed when they discover that
they have dropped to lower insight knowledges even though they have been
striving very hard.
Here we have to bear in mind that these knowledges occur when the faculties
are strong and they are not so all the time. But if we strive hard, it will
develop to a higher level.
There is also a difference between the maturity of an Insight knowledge and
the level of an insight knowledge. Though it needs a certain level of maturity
to progress to the next, it must be much more mature if it is to progress far
enough for the crossing over. It is like a pyramid whose base has to be widened
if the pinnacle is to reach a greater height.
The crossing over to the supramundane level is possible only when:
1) The faculties are matured and strong enough.
2) There are nothing obstructing the way.
Common Altered States
from A Path with Heart
by Jack Kornfield
Whenever powerful concentration and energy are evoked in spiritual practice,
a great variety of new and exciting sensory experiences can begin to arise.
They do not occur for everyone, nor are they necessary for spiritual
These new states are more like side effects of meditation, and the better
we understand them, the less likely we are to get stuck in them or confuse them
with the goal of spiritual life.
First to arise for many people is a whole array of altered physical
perceptions. Many of these are categorized in Buddhist texts as side effects
called the five deepening levels of rapture.
In this context, rapture is a broad term used to cover the many kinds of
chills, movements, lights, floating, vibrations, delight, and more that open
with deep concentration, as well as the enormous pleasure they can bring to
Rapture commonly arises during intensive periods of meditation or spiritual
practice. Sometimes rapture begins as subtle coolness or waves of fine and
pleasurable vibrations throughout the body. Through con- centration or other
techniques of practice one often experiences a buildup of great energy in the
body. When this energy moves, it produces feelings of pleasure, and when it
encounters areas of tightness or holding, it builds up and then releases as
vibration and movement.
Thus, rapture may lead to trembling or the powerful spontaneous releases of
physical energy which some yogic traditions refer to as kriyas. These are spon-
taneous movements that come in many different patterns. Sometimes they arise as
a single involuntary movement felt together with the release of a knot or
tension in the body. At other times they can take the form of prolonged and
dramatic movements that can last for days.
Beyond kriyas and spontaneous movement, many other kinds of rap- ture can
arise. These include pleasant kinds of thrills throughout the body, tingling,
prickles, waves of pleasure, and delightful sparkles. At certain levels one may
feel the skin vibrate or feel as if ants or small bugs were crawling all over
it, or as if the skin were being stuck by acupuncture needles; at other levels
one may feel hot, as if the spine were on fire. This heat can alternate with
feelings of cold, beginning with slight chills, and turning to strong rapture
with a profound deep cold. Sometimes these experiences of temperature change
are so tangible and strong that we shiver on hot summer days.
Lights and Visions
Along with this kinetic rapture, one may see colored lights, initially
blues, greens, and purples, and then, as concentration gets stronger, golden
and white lights. Finally, many students will see very powerful white lights as
if looking into the headlight of an oncoming train or as if the whole sky were
illuminated by a brilliant sun.
At still deeper states of concentration we may feel our entire body dissolve
into light. We may feel tingles and vibrations so fine that we feel we are only
patterns of light in space, or we may disappear into the colors of very strong
light. These lights and sensations are powerful effects of the concentrated
mind. They feel purifying and opening, and can show us that on one level the
mind and body and the whole of consciousness is made of light itself.
A series of unusual sensory perceptions in addition to these forms of light
and power may also arise. We may feel we have become very heavy, or hard and
solid like a stone, or feel as if we are being squashed under a weight or a
wheel. Our sense of weight may disappear and we may sense ourselves floating
and have to open our eyes and peek to make sure we're still sitting in
Raptures in Walking Meditation
Similar experiences can also arise during walking meditation. When walking
is concentrated, the whole room can appear to sway as if we were on a ship in a
storm, or we might put our foot down and feel as if we were drunk. Sometimes
everything starts to sparkle, and it seems as if we could walk through the
floor or the wall itself. Our vision can swirl and create strange patterns and
colors around us. The shape of the body may seem to shift. Temperature, solidity,
and vibration may simultaneously change, with sensations of heat, melting, and
movement all occurring at once.
The body may seem to stretch out gigantically tall or become very short.
Sometimes it teels as if our head is located somewhere outside of our body or
we may experience strange breathing rhythms or breathing in every cell of our
body or feel that we are breathing through the soles of our feet. A hundred
other variations of these altered physical percep- tions may arise during
Similarly, other senses may open to new experiences. Our hearing may become
very acute, we may hear the softest sounds we have ever heard or powerful inner
sounds such as bells, notes, or choruses of sound. Many people hear inner
music. Sometimes voices will clearly speak. We may hear words or specific
teachings. Our senses of taste and smell may open in ways never before
One morning when I walked on my monk's alms-rounds to collect food, my nose
became like that of the most sensitive dog. As I walked down the street of a
small village, every two feet there was a different smell: something being
washed, fertilizer in the garden, new paint on a building, the lighting of a
charcoal fire in a Chinese store, the cooking in the next window. It was an
extraordinary experience of moving through the world attuned to all the
possibilities of smell. In similar fashion, our senses of sight, sound, taste,
and touch can all reach profound new sensitivity.
Deep concentration can lead to all kinds of visions and visionary
experiences. Floods of memories, images of past lives, scenes of foreign lands,
pictures of heavens and hells, the energies of all the great arche- types, can
open before our eyes. We can sense ourselves as other crea- tures, in other
bodies, in other times and other realms. We can see and encounter animals,
angels, demons, and gods. When such visions arise in the most compelling form,
they become as real as our day-to-day reality. While such visions often arise
spontaneously, they can also be developed through specific meditative exercises
as a means to awaken the beneficial energy of a particular realm.
Along with the openings of vision, hearing, and physical senses, we can
experience a release of the strongest kinds of emotions, from sorrow and
despair to delight and ecstasy. Meditation may feel like an emotional roller
coaster as we allow ourselves to be plunged into unconscious emo- tions. Vivid
and profound dreams and many varieties of fear frequently appear. These are not
just the emotions of our personal problems, but the opening of the whole
One encounters soaring delights and the darkness of isolation and
loneliness, (see The Dark Night) each feeling very real as it fills our
consciousness. These releases require the guidance of a skilled teacher to help
us through them with a sense of balance.
All Experiences are Side Effects
Even with a teacher, there are principles to keep in mind in working with
these unfamiliar realms of our spiritual life.
The first principle is the understanding that All Spiritual Phenomena Are
Side Effects. In the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha often reminded students
that the purpose of his teaching was not the accumulation of special good deeds
and good karma or rapture or insight or bliss, but only the sure heart's
release a true liberation of our being in every realm. This freedom and awak-
ening, and this alone, is the purpose of any genuine spiritual path.
from A Path with Heart
by Jack Kornfield
The spiritual description of death and rebirth as a "dark night"
comes from the writings of the great mystic St. John of the Cross. In an
eloquent way, he describes the dark night as a long period of unknowing, loss,
and despair that must be traversed by spiritual seekers in order to empty and
humble themselves enough to receive divine inspiration. He put it this way:
"The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in
it, will not arrive at the liberty of the divine."
Traditionally the dark night arises only after we have had some initial
In Insight Meditation, once we have abandoned the luminous state of arising
and passing, we open to a profound cycle of dissolution, death, and rebirth.
As concentration increases and becomes yet more precise and fine. We
immediately feel the end of each moment, the end of each experience. Life
begins to feel like quicksand. Everything we look at or feel is dissolving. In
this stage, nothing around us seems solid or trustworthy. On all levels, our
consciousness becomes attuned to endings and death. We sense the dissolution of
life moment to moment.
Now the dark night deepens. As our outer and inner worlds dissolve, we lose
our sense of reference. There arises a great sense of unease and fear, leading
students into a realm of fear and terror. "Where is there any
security?" "Wherever I look, things are dissolving." In these
stages we can experience this dissolution and dying within our own body. We may
look down and see pieces of our body seeming to melt away and decay, as if we
were a corpse. We can see ourselves dying, or having died, in a thousand ways,
through illness, battles, and misfortune. At this point other powerful visions
can arise, visions of the death of others, visions of wars, dying armies,
funeral pyres, or charnel grounds. Con- sciousness seems to have opened to the
realm of death to show us how all creation moves in cycles, all ends in death.
We experience how every aspect of the world comes into being and inexorably
From this realm of terror and death arises a very deep realization of the
suffering inherent in life: the suffering of pain, the suffering of the loss of
pleasant things and, hanging over it all, the enormous suffering of the death
of whatever is created or loved by us. Out of this we can experience tremendous
sympathy for the sorrows of the world. It seems that no matter where we look in
the world at our community, our family members and loved ones, our own self and
body all of it is fragile, all will be lost.
As the realm of terror deepens, periods of paranoia may arise. In this
stage, wherever we look, we become fearful of danger. We feel that if we walk
outdoors, something could run us over. If we take a drink of water, the
microbes in it could kill us. Everything becomes a source of potential death or
destruction in this phase of the dark night. People experience these feelings
in many different ways: as pressure, claustro- phobia, oppression, tightness,
restlessness, or struggle, or as the un- bearable endless repetition of
experiences, one after another, dying all the time. We can feel as if we are
stuck in meaningless cycles of life. Existence can seem flat, arid, and
lifeless. It is as if there is no exit.
As you might expect, it is hard to meditate through these stages. But
continuing to sense these new levels of consciousness with clarity and
acceptance is the only way through them. We must name each one and allow it to
arise and pass. Any other reaction will keep us stuck. As we learn to
acknowledge each state, name each state, and meet it with mindfulness, we
discover that we are dying over and over again. What we are being asked to do
is to open to this death and become someone who has entered the realm of death and
awakened in the face of it.
In traversing these painful stages, there next arises a deep and pro- found
desire for freedom. In this state we long for release from the fear and
oppression of continued birth and death. We sense that there must be a freedom
that is not bound up in our seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching,
something beyond our plans and memories, our body and mind, the whole identity
we have taken to be ourselves. In fact, in each level of the dark night, the
increasing power of awareness has been gradually unraveling our identity,
releasing our grip on all that we have held in life.
Even though we wish for freedom, there often arises a sense of im-
possibility, that we cannot go any further, that we just cannot let go any more.
We enter the stage of great doubt; we want to stop; we become restless. In one
text this is called the rolling-up-the-mat stage. Here the world becomes too
difficult; our spiritual practice asks too much of us; we wish we could quit
and go home to our bed or our mother.
Because the powerful stages of fear and dissolution touch such painful
chords in us, it is easy to get stuck in them or lose our way among them. In
this process, it is important to have a teacher; otherwise, we will get lost or
overwhelmed by these states and quit.
When we can finally look at the horrors and joys, our birth and our death,
the gain and loss of all things, with an equal heart and open mind, there
arises the state of the most beautiful and profound equanimity. We enter a realm
where consciousness is fully open and awake, perfectly balanced. This is a
level of wonderful peace. We can sit at ease for hours, and nothing that arises
causes any disturbance in the space of conscious- ness. Consciousness becomes
luminous , because now everything is untangled, free, and we grasp at nothing.
This state of profound balance the Elders called high equanimity. Our mind
becomes like a crystal goblet or like the clear sky in which all things appear
unhindered. We become completely transparent, as if every phenomenon just
passes through our mind and body. We are simply space, and our whole identity
opens to reveal the true nature of consciousness before we became identified
with body and mind.
A Case of
Healing through Vipassana
from Dhamma Therapy,
Cases of Healing through Vipassana
compiled by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma
translated by Bhikkhu Aggacitta
The translation is actually of an appendix compiled by the
late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw in 1976. The reader will soon discover that
sandwiched between the apparently scholastic introduction and conclusion,
skilfully written by the late Venerable Sayadaw, lies the appetizing main
portion of the work which deals with the almost miraculous healing of sicknesses,
encountered in the course of Dhamma-striving, as related either personally or
as recorded by widely experienced Meditation Teachers.
A Layman Whose Large Tumour Disintegrated
54-year-old U Aung Shwe of Daing Wun Kwin, Moulmein, had a large tumour in
his abdomen. When he visited a doctor for a medical examination, he was
informed that it was necessary to operate on it.
So, with the intention of getting the Dhamma, which is a dependable source
of refuge, before going for the operation, he arrived at M.T.Y., Rangoon, and
started Dhamma-striving on the 5th waning of Na Yone, 1330 B.E. (around June,
One day, while thus striving- in-mindfulness he experienced through insight,
a sudden bursting of the the tumour in his abdomen, followed by its disintegration
and the rapid discharge of blood gushing away.
It was as if he was actually hearing it with his ears and seeing it with his
eyes. Since then he had been completely rid of the tumour-ailment. Continuing
Dhamma- striving to the satisfaction of his Masters, he eventually attained all
the Vipassana insights to full completion. Even till this very day he is
healthily and happily rendering his services to the Sasana. in both fields of
pariyatti and patipatti.
Yogi Cured of Arthritis of the Knee
On the 1st waning of Wa Gaung, 1313 B.E. (around August, 1951) 40-year-old
Ko Mya Saung arrived at Myin Gyan Yeiktha, a Mahasi Branch Centre, and
commenced Dhamma-striving under the resident Sayadaw.
Ko Mya Saung has been suffering from arthritis of the knee for 5 years. It
seems that as the ailment was not cured, despite treatment given by various
doctors, he had been stirred by samvega and had thus come to Myin Gyan Yeiktha
to strive for the Dhamma.
While striving, his knees swelled, and the more the pain was noted, the more
intense it grew. As the Sayadaw had instructed, he persisted in noting it
unrelently. The pain became so excruciating that tears would roll down his
cheeks and his body would be thrown forwards and backwards or be suddenly
jerked upwards in the most awkward manner. This lasted for about 4 days. And
while thus engaged in mindful noting, he saw (in a vision) his knee together
with the bones breaking apart. In great alarm, he screamed, "Haw! It
broke! My big knee broke!"
After that incident hs was so scared he did not dare to be mindful. However,
with the Sayadaw's encouragement he resumed mindful noting; eventually, the
swelling and pain of the knee completely disappeared, and Ko Mya Saung was
never again troubled by it up till
Compiled by Derek Leong