Practical Meditation


Practicing Insight On Your Own




This book has been composed especially for the inexperienced meditator. Some meditators may, however, practise very well in the course of time; so it is necessary to have some means for measuring progress according to pariyatti-dhamma (scriptural teaching). Therefore we outline the 16 ñāna and 7 visuddhi here:

I. Sīla-visuddhi: In the beginning the meditator is first required to have sīla; that means normal behavior of body and speech. Before that nīvarana still disturb the mind; the mind is not calm because samādhi is lacking.

II. Citta-visuddhi: Momentary concentration of the meditator is more continuous. When the nīvarana calm down, the mind will be pure and steady; this will be the condition for the arising of ñāna-paññā later.

III. Ditthi-visuddhi:

1. Nāmarūpapariccheda-ñāna - Vision is pure and ñāna-paññā distinguishes nāma and rūpa.


IV. Kankhā-vitarana-visuddhi:

2. Paccayapariggaha-ñāna - Purity to go beyond doubt derived from ñāna-paññā that knows the causal relationships nāma and rūpa.

V. Maggāmagga-ñānadassana-visuddhi:

3. Sammasana-ñāna - Purity out of ñāna-paññā that knows from the practice whether it is the correct Middle Way or not by realization of the three characteristics (tilakkhana).

VI. Patipadā-ñānadassana-visuddhi:

4. Udayabbaya-ñāna - Purity of knowledge and vision of the correct way with ñāna-paññā contemplating the arising and vanishing of nāma-rūpa.

5. Bhanga-ñāna - ñāna contemplating the dissolution of nāma-rūpa.

6. Bhaya-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma-rūpa as fearful, terrible things.

7. ādīnava-ñāna - ñāna contemplating the oppressive and harmful nature of nāma and rūpa.

8. Nibbidā-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma and rūpa with weariness.

9. Muccitu-kamyatā-ñāna - ñāna, knowledge, wishing to go beyond and get rid of nāma-rūpa.

10. Patisankhā-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma-rūpa for the sake of reaching higher ñāna.

11. Sankhārupekkhā-ñāna - ñāna contemplating nāma-rūpa with equanimity.

12. Vutthānagāminī Vipassanā - ñāna contemplating one of the three marks anicca, dukkha, anattā.

13. Anuloma-ñāna - ñāna contemplating according to the Four Noble Truth.

14. Gotrabhū-ñāna - knowledge changing lineage from lokiya-citta to lokuttara-citta.

VII. Ñānadassana-visuddhi:

15. Magga-ñāna- Purity of knowledge and Vision when the magga-ñāna arises.

16. Phala-ñāna - ñāna of the Fruit-consciousness arises having Nibbāna as object.

17. Paccavekkhana-ñāna - ñāna that examines, how much kilesa is left. This ñāna is lokiya-ñāna, it is not included in ñānadassana-visuddhi.

There are many dhamma that may be employed as a means for gauging the results of the dhamma practice, such as the 37 bodhipakkiya-dhamma, 7 visuddhi, 16 ñāna, 4 ariya-sacca; on the akusala side there are 4 āsava, 4 ogha, 4 yoga, 4 gantha, 4 upādāna, 5 nīvarana, 7 anusaya and 10 kilesa.

Those who know these dhamma can apply them all as a gauge for the practice of vipassanā-kammatthāna.

Q: The 7 visuddhi and the 16 ñāna have some differing characteristics; for instance; the 16 ñāna don't mention sīla but the 7 visuddhi do. How is this?

A: The 7 visuddhi have characteristics like the Eightfold Path. That means, they speak of sīla, samādhi, paññā; this is the practice by way of the three sikkhā (threefold training). In particular the 7 visuddhi are spoken of in terms of successive stages. At first one must establish sīla-visuddhi; this will be the condition to reach citta-visuddhi. When citta-visuddhi has been established, then paññā-visuddhi will arise step by step, beginning from ditthi-visuddhi up to ñānadassana-visuddhi; so there are 5 visuddhi summarized as the gradual development of paññā-visuddhi, they are all a part of paññā.

However that may be, in the practice of the Middle Way, sīla, samādhi, and paññā actually always arise together.

Q: If this book is used as a handbook for the practice, how will the meditator know whether the first ñāna has already appeared?

A: It is difficult to speak about the subject of ñāna-paññā because it is paccattam, that means, the meditator actually knows and sees for himself. Those who have studied much pariyatti (the scriptures) are well-learned. Some of them may be able to know. Those people who don't know will have to depend on the kalyānamitta (spiritual friend) or vipassanā teacher to give guidance or inquire frequently about the experiences of the practitioner; that will suffice to tell whether the meditator has; developed ñāna.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 1st ñāna? Please explain sufficiently for individual comparison.

A: I will answer adequately in outline. In the beginning of the practice, the mind is not yet calm because one is disturbed by reflection and agitation. Only when noting the Rising - Falling of the abdomen becomes more continuous will the Rising rūpa (matter) and the Falling rūpa gradually appear more distinct. The mind noting the Rising and Falling will recognize that it has the function of knowing the Rising and Falling.

Sometimes one will see that even the Rising matter and the Falling matter are not the same material thing. The Rising rūpa has one characteristic and the Falling rūpa has another characteristic. If the meditator understands and sees this, it is called rūpa-pariccheda-ñāna (discrimination of matter).

Later, when the samādhi of the meditator has more power the mind is calm and notes the Rising-Falling continuously throughout. Then one will understand that the Rising matter and the one who notes it are different from each other; the Falling matter and the one who notes it are not identical. The 'Rising' and 'Falling' are rūpa; the one who notes is nāma. When the meditator understands and sees this as it really is by noting the Rising and Falling of the abdomen when they are present, then he has reached the 1st ñāna or nāma-rūpa-pariccheda-ñāna (knowledge of the discrimination of mind and matter).

In the interview the meditation teacher will ask the meditator whether the Rising and the noting of the Rising are the same thing or different. If the meditator says that they are identical, it means that he has not yet reached the 1 ñāna. If the meditator speaks about his experience of his own accord, or when questioned by the vipassanā teacher he tells just as he understands and sees for himself: the Rising is rūpa and the one who notes is nāma, they ate different, and when the Rising arises the noting mind runs towards it; or, when noting the Rising it is as if they appear together, but when the Falling is noted, then the Falling rūpa is not the same thing as the Rising rūpa: this ñāna is being aware of rūpa-nāma, and it also abandons sakkāya-ditthi, the wrong view which holds that there is a self.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 2nd ñāna? Please explain this also.

A: This ñāna is paññā (wisdom) being aware of causes. When we have a result arising, which cause does it come from? The meditator who has already gone through the 1st ñāna will find that, at the moment when he is noting the present object, he sees that there are only rūpa and nāma; nothing else can be found. Sometimes the Rising, which is rūpa appears first; citta, which is nāma, follows to note it. When sound appears first the noting mind follows as 'hearing, hearing'. Or when heat contacts the body the mental note follows: 'hot, hot'.

After a long time of practising like this, the meditator will understand: rūpa arises first, rūpa is the cause. When the noting mind follows, then the mind is the effect.

Sometimes he wishes to stand up. When the mind has noted this, the standing rūpa appears; the mind desires to walk then the walking rūpa appears; the mind wishes to sit the sitting posture appears; the mind desires to lie down the lying body appears. Or the mind wishes to bend, to stretch, to take, to lift, to hold, to catch, to touch, and then the bending, stretching, taking, lifting, holding, catching, touching body arises and one realizes, the nāma that arises first is the cause, rūpa arising afterwards is the result.

If the meditator has right view by reason of contemplating rūpa-nāma, it means he has reached the 2nd ñāna, paccayapariggaha-ñāna (knowledge penetrating conditionality).

This ñāna understands that there is no creator; the occurrence of this life springs from nāma as the cause and rūpa as the result, or rūpa is the cause and nāma the effect. There is no being, no person, no self, no we, or they; there is nothing but rūpa and nāma mutually conditioned and related to one another. This ñāna dispels doubts such as: What is this life? Where does is come from? Where is it going to? - When one understands the present then one has the ability to investigate the past and the future as they really are. This ñāna is the complete abandonment of vicikicchā (skeptical doubt).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 3rd ñāna? Please explain!

A: When sati-samādhi of the meditator are stronger, the contemplation of Rising-Falling is more distinct. The principles for examining the contemplation are:

1st ñāna: The meditator noting the Rising matter will see the middle portion of the Rising because it is more apparent than the other portions.

2nd ñāna: The meditator noting the Rising matter will note the beginning of the Rising and the middle portion; that means, sati has become stronger.

3rd ñāna: The meditator noting the Rising matter will contemplate the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Rising, all three portions; this is so because sati and samādhi are more powerful.

In this ñāna the phenomena of pīti will arise. For instance: At the moment of contemplation the hairs of the body will stand on end, giving a tingling sensation; nimitta and various pictures arise; jerking or dropping backwards occurs, there is itching, the sensation of ants crawling, and sudden pain like mosquito or ant bites. One must always note these; in noting these nimitta and pictures one will find that they momentarily disappear or finally disappear slowly.

Sometimes when sitting and noting there will be heavy dukkha-vedanā; such as pain in the knees, the legs, the back, the waist, or in any other part of the body. Having strong violent dukkha-vedanā like this shows the three characteristics, so that paññā (Wisdom) becomes manifest. It demonstrates the truth that this rūpa-nāma is not lasting it is suffering and not self, it is uncontrollable and unmanageable. Because of impermanence dukkha-vedanā arises; when it has arisen it is dukkha, unbearable, and anattā: It is impossible to force it to be anything else. It arises owing to conditions which carry the cause and effect in themselves. This ñāna understands the three characteristics.

Sometimes, if the meditator has much samādhi and pīti a lot of objects and phenomena will occur, or ñāna-paññā arises and stimulates thinking about dhamma. There may be light, effulgence, or much happiness. One will misunderstand this and think that, one has already achieved the higher magga-phala. Clinging and sticking to these phenomena is vipassanūpakkilesa, or it is called 'going the wrong way', since one still clings to the objects of rūpa-nāma. The right way is the Middle Way or the way of satipatthāna (application of mindfulness), which is the Only Way to the realization of Nibbāna. Being misled by the phenomena of samādhi and pīti which are still rūpa-nāma objects this is losing the way.


In the 7 visuddhi it is shown that maggāmagga-ñāna-dassana-visuddhi is the purity that knows whether it is the Path or not the Path. When receiving the advice of the kalyāna-mitta that whatever arises one must note that immediately, and not cling to anything at all, one must not be deluded and still cling when reaching this stage; if the meditator has right understanding the contemplation will progress further. When the meditator applies energy in noting the mental objects, the various nimitta and pictures will gradually disappear. The meditator has then reached the 3rd ñāna, sammasana-ñāna (knowledge of comprehension). This ñāna is knowledge that is aware of the three characteristics (tilakkhana).

Q: When the practice has come to this stage, what are the additional kammatthāna (main objects) for the sitting and walking meditation?

A: According to the principles of general practice it is thus:


1st ñāna: When sitting, note 'Rising - Falling'. When walking, note 'Right goes thus, left goes thus', Continue for 30 minutes.

2nd ñāna: When sitting note 'Rising - Falling - Sitting'. When walking, note 'Lifting the foot - placing the foot' (2nd step).

3rd ñāna: When sitting, note 'Rising - Falling - sitting - touching'. When walking, note 'lifting the foot - moving forward - placing the foot' (3rd step).

4th ñāna: When sitting, the noting is the same as for the 3rd ñāna; but sometimes one may note both buttocks, alternating right and left until the next Rising occurs. When walking, note 4 steps, 'Lifting the heel - raising the foot - moving forward - placing the foot'.

Q: What is the use of noting the intention? When shall we apply mindfulness to it?

A: Noting the intending mind is the practice for vigilance. It implies that when thinking, speaking, and acting, one must be mindful to supervise or constantly be aware of oneself. What are you doing at this moment? This practice should be introduced when the meditator has trained for about seven days; or, when the 2nd ñāna has cone up then note the intending mind as 'intending, intending' when it arises. One will know the cause and see the effect and make sure whether it is a fact that this mind actually commands the body or not.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 4th ñāna? And is this ñāna genuine vipassanā-ñāna?

A: This ñāna is called udayabbaya-ñāna (knowledge of arising and vanishing). It is divided into a weak and a strong stage. The weak stage is called taruna udayabbaya-ñāna (tender insight-knowledge); the strong stage is called balava udayabbaya-ñāna. At the time when the meditator has reached the tender insight-knowledge, the objects of vipassanūpakkilesa will arise and be quite powerful. These are:

1. Obhāsa, that means light or effulgence. It is pale white light, or it may be a beam of streaming light like a flashlight, or a light which fills the whole room.

2. Pīti, zest or rapture; there are 5 kinds of pīti:

a) Khuddaka-pīti (minor rapture); sometimes one experiences itching or tingling all over the body like goose-skin.

b) Khanika-pīti (momentary rapture); tingling which moves from the feet on the chest and the windpipe and then vanishes. Sometimes one feels warmth or coolness, which for instance starts at the head.

c) Okkantika-pīti (flooding rapture); it may spread throughout the body.

d) Ubbegapīti (transporting rapture); sometimes the meditator may say his body becomes light and floats above the ground 20 or 50 cm; sometimes, at the time of sitting it feels as if someone came to push him or bend him down; sometimes it is as if someone were turning his head back and forth or the like.

e) Pharana-pīti (suffusing rapture); perhaps he feels that he doesn't know what his experience in the body is like; comfortable coolness pervades the whole body in a way that is inexpressible; sometimes one does not wish to get up again.

3. Passaddhi (tranquillity); some say that they feel comfortably cool and content in the body; perhaps one feels calm and utterly refreshed in the chest; body and mind are very happy and satisfied; some people say this body is light and adroit.

4. Sukha (happiness, bliss); some people say they feel very easy and fresh in the heart, in the mind; now that they have encountered this; they feel that they have never before found such happiness anywhere since their birth. Sometimes only the clear, spotless citta (mind) remains and they note: 'clear, clear..!'

5. Adhimokkha, that means saddhā or faith; some people get strong confidence; they adore the teacher very much, wish to see the teacher's face and have high esteem for the teacher; they must note: 'confident..', 'respecting..'; sometimes they start thinking about their parents and relatives, they feel like preaching to them and wish to persuade them to practise meditation; they must note: 'thinking, thinking..'.

6. Paggāha, this is viriya (energy, exertion); some say that in the beginning, although the teacher inspired them to raise energy, it was very difficult for them, they felt very exhausted; they claim they had the determination to get somewhere and practised until they nearly died, the teacher had to encourage them continuously to give it another try. But now, these thoughts have completely disappeared; they have extraordinary diligence; they are astonished at themselves, wondering: 'Is it really me or who? Why is there abundant energy?' They feel they will never tire of practising.

7. Upatthāna, this is sati, some of the people say that they can note everything, even the minor movements, some say that something compels them to note, or they state that noting is difficult, but they have developed such skillfulness at it that they are astonished at themselves.

8. Ñāna (knowledge); some people say that, in the past, in order to know anything, they had to concentrate on it many times; but now they feel that they have extraordinary knowledge; especially the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha they know them very accurately and thoroughly.

9. Upekkhā (equanimity); before this, they reflected and pondered over the subject of anicca, dukkha, anattā but they could not understand then clearly. At this time, however, they see very clear that the beginning, the middle, and the end portions of the occurring phenomena are all of them the three characteristic. Sometimes they feel uninterested until they don't care any more about things. Sometimes they think they have no more kilesa.

Obhāsa, pīti, passaddhi, viriya, sukha, saddhā, sati, ñāna and upekkhā become vipassanūpakkilesa because of nikanti, which is the tenth. It is satisfaction, being engrossed by the objects, enjoying them with gratification and being deluded by them, then these phenomena become obstacles to vipassanā.

But when hearing the instruction of the vipassanā teacher that they should not cling and become attached to these objects, then they must establish mindfulness in the present, so that they see the arising and vanishing of these objects. At the time when insight is still the taruna udayabbaya-ñāna, the nimitta-pictures and phenomena will, after noting them, fade away slowly or disappear moment by moment. But when insight has changed to balava udayabbaya-ñāna one notes the phenomena and they disappear immediately. One will realize the arising and vanishing very perspicuously.

The Supreme Teacher said of the people who have truly reached this ñāna, that they have not wasted their present life, they don't fall into bad destiny. The meaning is: They don't go down to apāya (miserable existence) after death. This ñāna is genuine vipassanā-ñāna which will proceed to higher stages afterwards.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 5th ñāna? Please explain so that one understands.

A: When the meditator has found balance in the 5 indriya, sati will note the present objects more skillfully; it will perceive the arising and vanishing of rūpa-nāma as it really is. What happens next is that the noting of the objects becomes speeded up. Even the Rising and Falling of the abdomen arise and vanish quicker. Later one will see only vanishing, vanishing and the velocity of the objects; sometimes one has to note 'knowing, knowing' so as not to get stuck. Some people feel that the objects noted are not clear, or sometimes it is noted and gone; both the object and the one who notes it disappear. While practising walking meditation the experience will be like sudden flashes; that means, it is just noted and already vanished. At times, when sitting one feels empty in the body; it happens that one does not know what to note. Sometimes one is discouraged because the objects used to be clear but now they are not clear any more; they are barely noted and then vanish. One feels it is difficult to contemplate the vanishing objects disappearing at breakneck speed; or one cannot note clearly since what is noted is disappearing, vanishing. This is called: the meditator has reached bhanga-ñāna (knowledge of dissolution).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 6th ñāna?

A: Wen reaching bhaya-ñāna (knowledge of fear), the objects noted and the noting mind stick together; they always vanish together, every time the object and the mind disappear until one feels frightened. This fear is not fear of a ghost, a demon, man or animal, or some weapon; one is frightened but cannot tell of what. Some people note the couplet of rūpa-nāma always disappearing together, vanishing together; every time fear gets stronger. Some people are contemplating and when samādhi gets strong, the body disappears and they are frightened. The characteristic of bhaya-ñāna stems from the dissolution seen at first in the stage of bhanga-ñāna, which is the condition for bhaya-ñāna.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 7th ñāna?

A: When this ñāna arises, the meditator will feel that whatever he notes is no good altogether; even the phenomena of Rising and Falling that become apparent are felt to be no good, they are dukkha, affliction. One feels it would be better if there were nothing to be noted any more. The six kinds of objects of the senses, or sankhārā, which present themselves are altogether no good, useless. This is ādīnava-ñāna (knowledge of misery).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 8th ñāna?

A: Some meditators will say they can note well although they feel desolate and weary, as if lazy, but they still go on contemplating. Some people can note well but their mind is not joyful. Some understand that all phenomena that they see are altogether disgusting. Some people contemplate and get bored and don't want to speak to anybody; they only want to stay in their rooms. Some may think about the 31 planes of existence and find that even the worlds of men, devas, and brahmas are not satisfying but they all represent boredom. The emergence of boredom from the contemplation of rūpa-nāma develops gradually starting from udayabbaya-ñāna until the 8th ñāna, nibbidā-ñāna, arises; that is knowledge contemplating rūpa-nāma with boredom or disgust.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 9th ñāna?

A: When the meditator carries on the contemplation he will experience sensation of mosquito bites or ant bites or as if insects were crawling over the body. Some people cannot remain sitting; they are restless, one moment they wish to sit the next moment they wish to stand up, just as if they were about to go away. Some people think that, within the 31 planes of existence, nothing good can be seen whatever. The mind desires to reach cessation, Nibbāna; the mind desires to become calm and still.

Some people feel fed up with it all, they don't want to note any more; some even pack their belongings and wish to run away. The sankhāra-objects (conditioned phenomena), every time they are noted, every time they are considered, are found to be vanishing and falling apart, so that they are not enjoyable, not satisfying. The meditator wants to get rid of them to escape from sankhārā, and they do not wish to cling to them. Ñāna that understands and sees like this, is called muccitu-kamyatā-ñāna (knowledge of desire for deliverance).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 10th ñāna?

A: Some meditators will say the objects that are noted can be found but they always disappear, they vanish so swiftly; one cannot find anything firm enduring or substantial; therefore one meets only phenomena of the nature of tilakkhana, which become apparent with ever increasing perspicuity.

When they are contemplating, some people feel that the hands and feet are heavy and vibrating at the same time. Some people have a slight itching sensation; later they feel that the body, the hands and feet are tense and heavy. Some people hear buzzing, soughing sounds in the ears; when hearing this some feel annoyed; they wish to escape from that sound. When noting the Rising and Falling, some feel that both of them arise and vanish moment by moment; maybe they feel oppressed in the chest. This ñāna is the start to try and aim at higher ñāna. It is the desire for Nibbāna, the dhamma which can extinguish the flames of dukkha. The experiences of a meditator mentioned here are the signs of patisankhā-ñāna (knowledge of re-observation).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 11th ñāna?

A: The meditator will say that he cannot tell whether the contemplation is good at all. Contemplating feels lighter and swifter; sitting and lying one can keep on contemplating with ease without having to make a great effort at it. It is like a good road and a good car, so that the driver need not be very careful. Some people say they sit an amazing long time but they don't have any dukkha-vedanā. Whatever sitting posture they assume they feel comfortable in it. The noting is also going well; they don't have to direct the mind but merely establish mindfulness to be aware and that will take care of it, at this time the mind does not reflect about anything, sometimes they want to think but the mind does not do it; it stays only with the Rising-Falling, not going anywhere else. Before that the mind moved about to note touching sensations here and there; now it doesn't go anywhere but stays with the Rising-Falling alone, whilst these phenomena become more subtle and also with other phenomena it is the same thing, they become increasingly smooth and subtle, no matter how fine they are, still the mind can always note them.

6 Qualities of Sankhārupekkhā-ñāna

1. In regard to any object, there is no fear, no satisfaction, no exultation at all.

2. There is no over-exertion or too much ambition, this is also good.

3. There is no more trouble or difficulty, such as dukkha-vedanā.

4. The frequent changes of posture cease; one can keep to one posture for a long time.

5. The mind does not hurry to many places it stays with one single object; it does not move over to different objects but remains calm at the original place.

6. The objects and the noting mind become increasingly subtle.

If the meditator has developed these qualities and he has practised continuously in succession from the arising of nāma-rūpa-pariccheda-ñāna until he had reached the strong udayabbaya-ñāna through the process that has already been described then it is certain that this practitioner has now entered sankhārupekkhā-ñāna (knowledge of equanimity about sankhāra, (mental and material events).

When sankhārupekkhā-ñāna first arises, however, its characteristics are not conspicuous. It must be developed until upekkhā (equanimity) becomes firmly established. For some meditators this may take time and persistent effort because the strength of the contemplation varies with different people.

That means: Perception of the rise and fall has been building up gradually since the time of udayabbaya-ñāna. When the meditator has reached sankhārupekkhā-ñāna, sati has much power in contemplating rūpa-nāma and perceives the rise and fall all the time if sankhārupekkhā-ñāna has much strength and this strength has been accumulated since the time of udayabbaya-ñāna, then the development will go on easily. But some people may experience lapses from sankhārupekkhā because they entered the stages of vipassanā-ñāna, beginning from udayabbaya-ñāna, with less drive. Then the development of samādhi will be slow and the stages of ñāna will not manifest in a clear-cut way. When they reach sankhārupekkhā they may lose it again and again, falling back to the 9th or 10th ñāna several times. This can be illustrated by the following story:

Practicing Insight on your own

The Direction-Seeing Crow (Disā Kāka)

In former times, when the captain of a big ship was preparing to sail across the deep ocean he would take along a crow in a cage on board ship, in those days, there were no compasses. To fix the course of a ship one had to use the sun, moon and stars as instruments of navigation when the ship had sailed far into the high seas and the shore was out of sight. Picture a heavy thunderstorm rumbling in the bowels of the arching sky, which is covered with clouds and rain, the sea rolling with stirring waves conjured up by the strong wind. There is then no instrument for finding out the directions, so the ship will lose course, the crew not knowing where it will go.

When the weather conditions are like this and the captain wants to determine the direction where the shore is, he will catch hold of the crow which is locked up in the cage and let it fly freely. When the crow is set free, it will at first fly up and perch on the end of the mast, the crow's-nest, in order to find out where the shore is. If it cannot make out the shore, it will fly up higher and higher so as to find the direction. But if it still cannot discover the shore, it will return and perch on the mast-end again. Later the crow will gather its strength in order to fly even higher. If it still cannot find the direction, it will return again and again. But as soon as the crow has discovered the shore, it will immediately fly towards it.

In the same way, the weak sankhārupekkhā-ñāna is like the direction-finding crow. When one has put forth effort in contemplation until reaching sankhārupekkhā-ñāna but the strength is weak and not sufficient for vutthāna-gāminī vipassanā-ñāna, then the knowledge will go back and forth repeatedly between muñcitukamyatā-ñāna, patisankhā-ñāna, and the weak sankhārupekkhā-ñāna. The reason is that the strength handed over from udayabbaya-ñāna to sankhārupekkhā-ñāna is weak; samādhi will linger on, not being firm. Or, the meditator's rebirth-consciousness may be dvihetuka; or he may have some kamma that needs to be settled.

The main difficulty at this stage are the thoughts and moods belonging to the objects of cittānupassanā. Unreasonable worries, agitation and apprehension may cause loss of upekkhā. Therefore the meditators must take special care to note all the arising objects of the following categories:

1) Dukkha-vedanā, bodily pain, if there is any; they will find that even sharp stabbing pain, which may arise at some moments, vanishes when it is firmly notes.

2) Mental feeling, such as happiness, causes agitation if it is not contemplated; it must be noted resolutely to see the true nature of feeling. Sometimes one feels very detached and then starts worrying; this is because the meditator is not used to seeing neutral feeling so clearly. Any change in feelings must be immediately recognized and noted.

3) Thoughts may arise in the course of contemplation, judging what is going on or drawing conclusions; these are all mental objects arising and vanishing, they have no substance and don't help us to see reality. If you don't note them, you will think: 'It is I who thinks', and then you will get involved in these ideas and the subsequent moods, thus losing upekkhā and samādhi.

But if the meditator applies mindfulness diligently to all mental objects he will achieve a sound basis of upekkhā and understand that all thoughts arise from conditions and they are not important and have nothing to do with him. The mind will then cease to react to various thoughts and remain unaffected, simply contemplating the rise and fall of whatever occurs. Thus the 6 qualities of sankhārupekkhā-ñāna will be manifest.

When sankhārupekkhā-ñāna becomes strong, it reaches the summit of vipassanā-ñāna, called vutthāna-gāminī vipassanā (insight leading to emergence). At that time, one of the three characteristics of existence becomes the focus of contemplation, is noted repeatedly, and understood with unprecedented clarity. It means that only now one really understands how to escape and get rid of sankhāra (conditioned phenomena); one truly comprehends the way preached by the Lord Buddha, and the mind will go that way instantly without hesitation. This is the definite condition for the arising of the Path-process, which encompasses the remaining five ñāna. When the Path-process follows, it is named after one of the three characteristics, because they serve as the focus of contemplation; thus:

1. When the mind contemplates impermanence, anicca, it acquires the idea of no-sign and consequently achieves the Signless Liberation (animitta vimutti).

2. When the mind contemplates oppression, dukkha, it acquires the idea of no - desire and consequently achieves the Wishless Liberation (appanihita vimutti).

3. When the mind contemplates insubstantiality, anattā, it acquires the idea of no - self and consequently achieves the Void Liberation (suññatā vimutti).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 12th ñāna?

A: Anuloma-ñāna (knowledge of adaptation) is the last act of noticing belonging to vutthāna-gāminī vipassanā and it arises in the magga-javana-citta-vīthi (mental impulsions in the consciousness-process of the Path). It is the fully developed access-concentration (upacāra-samādhi) with the rise and fall of the 5 rūpa-nāma-khandhā as its object.

The function of anuloma begins to develop when the meditator has reached the 6th purification or the strong udayabbaya-ñāna. That means: The true object of vipassanā is the three characteristics of the rise and fall of rūpa-nāma; yet in the beginning one does not know this object, and there is no other way than the practising of vipassanā or contemplating the present moment in order to realize it.

In the first three ñāna the meditator investigates the reality that he experiences in the, aspects of arising, change, and vanishing of the rise and fall. This is the parikamma (preparatory sign) of vipassanā; it cannot be perceived through the five senses but only by wisdom arising from the contemplation of the present moment. To acquire this parikamma, a good portion of momentary concentration is necessary which is in strength equivalent to access-concentration in the, practice of samatha-kammatthāna.

From the 4th ñāna onwards one enters the stages of vipassanā-ñāna and meditates in order to gain a clear comprehension of the three characteristics anicca, dukkha, anattā. One cannot go searching for the tilakkhana; but if one notes the presently existing rūpa-nāma perceiving the arising and vanishing, then the tilakkhana, which are the uggaha-nimitta (acquired sign) of vipassanā, will become more evident. It is the function of anuloma to concentrate on this uggaha-nimitta which is the nature of the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha.

In every consciousness-process, that is in every act of noticing, there arises then: parikamma-upacāra-anuloma-patiloma (preparation, access, thrusting forward, receding again), because the strength of anuloma is not sufficient to yield or turn into absorption. In the development of patipadā-ñāna-dassana or vipassanā-ñāna, understanding and perception of the three characteristics gain power and thus anuloma becomes stronger. It is said, when the meditator has reached sankhārupekkhā-ñāna and makes an effort to contemplate persistently so as to increase and make much of sankhārupekkhā, then saddhā (confidence and faith) of the meditator will become intrepid, his energy will be supported well, sati becomes firmly established, the mind is very concentrated, and sankhārupekkhā becomes unshakable. Then sankhārupekkhā-ñāna of that meditator will become aware that the maggañāna is about to arise now. Therefore it considers all sankhāra as either anicca or dukkha or anattā.

At that time, anuloma has gained the power to be the immediate condition for absorption and consequently it arises at the beginning of the Path-process, which then has: parikamma-upacāra-anuloma-gotrabhū, (preparation, access, adaptation, maturity). The first three consciousness-moments in the Path-process are collectively called anuloma-ñāna.

The process described here is the development of anuloma in the practice for paññā-vimutti (deliverance by wisdom). It is quite a different procedure when practising for cetovimutti (deliverance by the heart).

If the meditator has previously developed samatha-kammatthāna and attained lokiya-jhāna (worldly absorption), the function of anuloma, that is to collect and sum up the concentration practised until its strength is sufficient to enter absorption, is already well-developed and powerful. Only that it has been trained in regard to worldly objects. If such practitioners switch over to vipassanā, the development is much more, rapid. They practise on the basis of jhāna, enter absorption and on coming out of it contemplate satipatthāna. They have citta-visuddhi from the outset, the nīvarana are well subdued, and they have no problem in developing the parikamma of vipassanā and reach the 4th ñāna without being troubled by vipassanūpakkilesa because they are acquainted with different uggaha-nimitta and don't cling to the wrong objects. They can control the mind and keep it focused on the correct sign, the tilakkhana. Thus, they pass quickly through the vipassanā-ñāna, and anuloma soon builds up the required strength in focusing on the four Noble Truths to enter Supramundane absorption.

The Path-process in cetovimutti begins: upacāra-anuloma-gotrabhū, where upacāra is a single thought-moment of switching over to the object of vipassanā with the fully developed force of samādhi. Thus anuloma is very strong and the meditation leaps into extinction with such power that kilesa cannot stand it.

At the time of the Lord Buddha there were many hermits and monks with jhāna and psychic powers. As soon as they heard the method of vipassanā and understood it properly, they acquired the uggaha-nimitta and, by the strength of anuloma, progressed speedily. In the suttas are many accounts of such yogīs who heard the preaching of the Lord Buddha and became Arahats (Holy Ones) on the spot, fully fledged with supramundane powers. These accounts are true, they are not fairy-tales. But in our days ordinary people don't have this mental power; so the development takes more time. However paññā-vimutti or cetovimutti, - when anuloma has gained the minimal required strength it will become anuloma-ñāna and initiate the Path-process. The result is identical; it is the complete relinquishment of fetters according to its level, thus achieving incomprehensible relief which can never again be reversed.

Anuloma-ñāna (knowledge of adaptation) knows according to the four Noble Truths. That means: It sums up the whole course of vipassanā and gathers the accumulated force of the contemplation done by the previous eight ñāna which are otherwise called pubbabhāga-magga (precursory path). The objects of vipassanā are the rūpa-nāma-kkhandha, which are nothing but dukkha-sacca and samudaya-sacca. Since anuloma-ñāna is the adaptation to the previous eight ñāna it is the absolutely correct contemplation according to dukkha-sacca and samudaya-sacca.

When the pubbabhāga-magga is developed, it means the 37 bodhipakkhiya-dammā (the Requisites of Enlightenment) are also developed, because they are the means and the application of the correct method in rūpa-nāma.

When the pubbabhāga-magga is concluded, then the bodhipakkhiya-dhammā, which are noting but magga-sacca, come together simultaneously and balanced. When magga-sacca is completed, nirodha-sacca (Cessation) will be realized; since anuloma-ñāna is the adaptation to the 37 bodhipakkhiya-dhammā it is the absolutely correct contemplation according to magga-sacca and nirodha-sacca.

If we were to express the characteristics of anuloma-ñāna in words, it contemplate like this:

  • 1. It perceives the rise and fall of all dhamma and sees that it is natural for them to be like this.

  • 2. It perceives that the cessation of all dhamma is a natural thing.

  • 3. The manifestation of rūpa-nāma is inducing fear, it is horrible.

  • 4. It perceives that rūpa-nāma in themselves are suffering and affliction.

  • 5. It is disenchanted and weary of sankhāra beyond all hope.

  • 6. It is wishing to escape from the rūpa-nāma-kkhandha.

  • 7. It retraces the way of practice once again in order to emerge from the rūpa-nāma-kkhandha.

  • 8. When being aware of rūpa-nāma as they really are, it lets go and doesn't cling or stick to anything whatever.

Comprising this aspects of contemplating rūpa-nāma, anuloma-ñāna (knowledge of adaptation) is the final conclusion of vipassanā practice and the irrevocable refutation of all sankhāra. This is the condition for the 37 bodipakkhiya-dhammā to arise fully developed and unified; the mind is prepared and adjusted to enter Supramundane Absorption.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 13th ñāna?

A: The 13th ñāna is gotrabhū-ñāna (maturity knowledge). It is the knowledge that changes the lineage; this ñāna also belongs to the magga-javana-citta-vīthi and it arises immediately in succession to anuloma-ñāna.

Anuloma-ñāna is the link between the course of practice followed and refined since udayabbaya-ñāna and the 37 bodhipakkhiya-dhammā which are the final results of the contemplation. Thus it links this life to the seeds of Enlightenment and then its duty is fulfilled. But gotrabhū has the function of bringing this seed to Nibbāna which is the utter Cessation of all sankhāra. Thus it links the beginningless past of samsāra to the stream of cessation which is Nibbāna.

Gotrabhū-ñāna changes from lokiya-citta (worldly mind) to lokuttara-citta (Supramundane mind). As regards the individual, it is the change from puthujjana (worldling) to ariya-puggala (Noble one). According to the natural principles, samādhi which in anuloma-ñāna has been upacāra-samādhi, will increase its strength in this ñāna to be appanā-samādhi (fixed concentration). While anuloma-ñāna knows that rūpa-nāma must come to an end, yet it does not know what will happen after this end because it has the object of rūpa-nāma. When gotrabhū arises the object is Nibbāna, and gotrabhū realizes that, the destruction of rūpa-nāma does not mean annihilation of something existing or a blank nothingness. It realizes that the characteristic of Nibbāna is Peace.

Gotrabhū-ñāna can be compared with moving a foot across the threshold of a door. The other foot still remains outside the door but one foot is already past it. The Door of Nibbāna is just like that. Outside the Door of Nibbāna there are still rūpa and nāma as objects; when entering inside Nibbāna there is no rūpa-nāma but there is Nibbāna as object; Nibbāna is khandha-vimutti, deliverance from the 5 rūpa-nāma-kkhandha. So the 13th ñāna, gotrabhū-ñāna, is like the Door of Nibbāna because when the magga-vīthi (Path-process) has arisen there is nothing in the way anymore.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 14th ñāna?

A: The teaching about magga-javana-vīthi-citta (the Mind in the Thought-process of the Path) is pariyatti (comprehensible teaching); it is not the practice, because the practice is paccattam, the meditator as a matter of fact understands by himself and sees for himself. When gotrabhū-ñāna has arisen, the maggañāna will follow in succession without interruption. Samādhi at that stage is appanā-samādhi (fixed concentration); it is appanā-vīthi (mental process of absorption). The mind is quenched and Nibbāna is the object.

The magga-citta is the Experience of the immutable, unconditioned Reality, which is unborn, it does not arise and cannot vanish, therefore it is Indestructible (amata). The maggañāna cuts off and cools down kilesa, the machinery of sorrow, which are listed as the 10 samyojana (fetters), according to the four levels of magga. This is the moment of deliverance; it is the identity of cause and effect. The magga-citta will not return again.

Q: What are the characteristics of the 15th ñāna?

A: The 15th ñāna is phala-ñāna (Fruition-knowledge). It arises in consequence of the magga-citta without interruption for two or three moments, depending on conditions and the rebirth-consciousness. Phala-citta (Fruit-consciousness) has Nibbāna as object and it is appanā-samādhi.

While magga is the highest kamma (action) in that it renders kamma inoperative according to its level, phala is the vipāka (result) of that kamma and is aware of Cessation after the destruction of kilesa; the phala-citta may return when the practice is continued. Magga and phala are both lokuttara-citta (Supramundane mind).

Q: What are the characteristics of the 16th ñāna?

A: The 16th ñāna is paccavekkhana-ñāna (knowledge of reviewing). This knowledge is lokiya-citta (worldly mind). It is the ñāna which considers the magga-phala that has just happened, and how much kilesa has been left. This ñāna has rūpa-nāma as object.

In practice, this process of the Path does not last as long as the snap of a finger or a flash of lightning. For the meditator it is a single act of noticing. He will remember the vutthāna-gāminī vipassanā and that afterwards all feelings broke off for a moment. The destruction of kilesa, however, is permanent and qualifies for the Final Nibbāna, if it was the true Cessation in the magga. Therefor one should examine carefully, when cessation of some sort has been experienced.