“We do not practice meditation to gain admiration from anyone. Rather, we practice to contribute to peace in the world. We try to follow the teachings of the Buddha, and take the instructions of trustworthy teachers, in hopes that we too can reach the Buddha’s state of purity. Having realized this purity within ourselves, we can inspire others and share this Dhamma, this truth.” – Sayadaw U Pandita
Vipassana meditation teacher Sayadaw U Pandita has died at the age of 94. A highly influential Theravada teacher, U Pandita was, at the time of his death, the abbot of Paṇḍitārāma Meditation Center in Yangon, Myanmar, which he founded in 1991. He had himself been trained by the famed Mahasi Sayadaw, and took over the Mahasi Meditation Center after Mahasi’s death in 1982.
U Pandita’s influence in the West was strong with students and teachers alike, due in part to his time teaching at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts in 1984.
Timeless Wisdom: Teachings on the Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation Practice
by Sayadaw U Pandita
Three conducive Factors for Meditation
To practice successfully, one must develop mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. One should have ardent effort, be alert and strive in the practice. This must be accompanied by knowledge that it is beneficial and suitable for the practice. The clear comprehension of suitability (sappāyasampajañña) will guide us as to what is beneficial or not. If we feel that we can benefit and that an activity is suitable for the development of mindfulness, concentration and wisdom, then we should take it on. Having the power of reasoning and prudence, we must have maturity in our decisions. Exercising our power of reasoning and reflecting before embarking upon a task, we can make decisions that are beneficial and suitable for our mental training.
Practice meditation while you are still young. Reflect with maturity and give up worldly and sensual desires to dedicate time for the practice.
Sacrifice insignificant worldly matters to dedicate time for the practice, so that you benefit from a practice that gives results in this very life. So give up unnecessary pursuits and cultivate factors that are beneficial and conducive to the practice!
It is stated in the Visuddhimagga that there are three factors that are beneficial to meditation practice. Whether you are a monk, layman or laywoman, your practice must harness effort, mindfulness and clear comprehension.
Effort (viriya) is the courage to refrain from unwholesome acts and to perform wholesome deeds that purify bodily behavior and mental behavior. We are not talking about ordinary courage here.
It is outstanding courage, whereby one is able to admit to one’s weakness and shortcomings and not pretend to be innocent. Effort must also be exerted to keep defilements at bay. When the presently arising object is noted with sustained mindfulness on the object, defilements are kept at bay. Laziness does not arise when the mind is alert. If you relax your effort, then the path will be open for defilements to enter and to disturb the practice.
As long as effort is balanced and sustained, defilements are at bay and will be suppressed. So, one minute of mindfulness will guarantee you sixty moments in which defilements would be suppressed.
With sustained mindfulness, you gradually abandon defilements. Then the mind is guarded and protected from the disturbances that defilements can create. A mind free from defilements will experience peace. When the noting mind falls calm and collected on the object, momentary concentration develops. The mind is no longer agitated by lust or other defilements. When the mind gradually falls on the object, one comes to discernnāma and rūpa. When the mind falls on mentality, nāma can be discerned and the same with materiality (rūpa). When you focus on the cause, you discern the cause and when the mind falls on the effect, you discern the effect. In this way, one discerns distinctly and outstandingly.
If you just think and reflect, then the knowledge that arises will be incomplete and you will not know the truth underpinning existence yourself. Instead, your knowledge will be theoretical and will be based on what you have learnt from others or what you have read. In oneself, there is nāma and rūpa phenomena and one discerns very clearly. So, clear comprehension is not ordinary knowledge, but is outstanding knowledge that discerns correctly and distinctly. If your practice is supported by ardent effort (viriya) and protected by mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati and sampajañña), then you will progress further and further in your mental training. If mindfulness is sustained on the object, the mind falls calm and collected on the object and by noting the rising and the falling of the abdomen you will discern the stiffness, movement and the tension, being the natural characteristics of rūpa.
To make progress, every arising object should be noted with aim and effort. If you fail to note the object, then the noting will not be effective and mindfulness and concentration will not be strong. For example, when you eat, you must be aware of the flavors, such as sweetness, and whether it is hot, sour and so on. Bite the food slowly and pay attention so that you can observe the process, discern the characteristics of nāma and rūpa, distinctly and clearly.
If you practice diligently and meticulously, you will make progress even within one or two days. One must exert effort every single second, so that the practice will progress. Without meditation, mindfulness will be tender and weak.
By undertaking the satipatthāna practice, the mind will become wholesome and develop to a mature stage. If you just imagine, gaze and wonder, you will not make any progress. If you have the support of effort, mindfulness and clear comprehension, your practice will develop to reap the desired benefits.
Book to hang out with: The State of Mind Called Beautiful
In The State of Mind Called Beautiful, Burmese meditation master Sayadaw U Pandita lays out the breadth, depth, and wealth of the Theravadan tradition of Buddhism. U Pandita begins with the basic guidelines of Buddhism, and moves on to various practices: those that can be done for one minute a day, those that sweeten and strengthen the mind, those that heal societies and families, those that lead to liberation.
Also included are complete teachings on Vipassana or Insight meditation, from how to do it, to how to refine it, to how to deal with difficulties. Teachings on the development of mindfulness, wisdom, patience, and practice itself are all included, and the book is capped by an extremely helpful “Question and Answers” section–an FAQ for newcomers and established practitioners alike. Lastly, both Pali-to-English and English-to-Pali glossaries are included, with all such terms also being glossed in the text, ensuring that readers easily master the meanings of important terms.