Mirror of the Dhamma – Four things Posssessed by Sotapannas

This list is from the Sa.myutta Nikaaya, Mahavagga, SN.V.55.8.

  1. confirmed confidence in the Buddha
  2. confirmed confidence in the Dhamma
  3. confirmed confidence in the Sangha of Ariyapuggala (noble ones – enlightened beings)
  4. possess the virtues (Siila) dear to the noble ones, unbroken, untorn, unblemished, unmottled, freeing, praised by the wise, ungrasped, leading to concentration.

Factors for Sotapanna – the First Stage of Enlightenment

This list is from the Sa.myutta Nikaaya, Mahavagga, SN.V.55.5.

  1. Association with superior persons (Ariyapuggala)
  2. Hearing the true Dhamma
  3. Careful attention – Yoniso Manasikaara
  4. Practice in accordance with the Dhamma

Ten Bases for Meritorious Deeds

The following list of ten bases for meritorious deeds (pu~n~nakiriyavathu) shows ten ways to develop wholesome kamma for the sense sphere (kammavacarakuala.m).

I strongly recommend everyone memorise this list and make strenuous efforts to put the list into practice. This will be for your benefit now and for a long time into the future.

  1. Daana – giving generously and freely to worthy recipients such as virtuous monastics
  2. Siila – ethical conduct; keeping at least five precepts every day and regularly observing
    8 precepts on Uposatha days (about once a week)
  3. Bhavanaa – mental development through meditation either vipassana-insight meditation or samatha-concentration meditation
  4. Apacaayana – reverence and respect for elders, parents, teachers, monastics, officials and so forth; recognising the importance of their senior or guiding role
  5. Veyaavacca – service for promoting the Dhamma, assisting others to do meritorious deeds
  6. Patidaana – sharing merit with others while undertaking meritorious deeds oneself
  7. Pattaanumodana – rejoicing in others’ meritorious deeds; congratulating them and being happy with them during their meritorious conduct
  8. Dhammasavana – hearing the Dhamma or reading the Dhamma
  9. Dhammadesanaa – teaching the Dhamma either by speech or writing
  10. Ditthijukamavasena – straightening out one’s views, studying Dhamma to be sure that one understands the Dhamma correctly (also sometimes spelled: ditth’uju-kamma)

Nine ways to Sharpen the Controlling Faculties – Indriyas

I copied/paraphrased these nine ways from two different English language translations of Ven. Sayadaw U Kundala’s Burmese language transcriptions of Dhamma talks. I’m sorry I don’t have the citation details since I left the books in Yangon.

These nine ways are also in the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) by Ven. Buddhaghosa, in the section on Samaadhi. Buddhaghosa appears to have provided them to strengthen the five controlling faculties (panc’indriya) and develop samatha – one pointedness of mind. Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw and the Mahasi tradition of vipassana meditation have adapted these nine ways for vipassana meditation.

1. Direct the mind on the nature of cessation of phenomenon; incline the mind towards the dissolution or passing away of the observing and noting object.

2. Note respectfully and penetratively; note respectfully, closely and intensely to actually see the dissolution.

3. Note continuously without disruption in noting; note incessantly without break or gap so the noting will be continuous throughout.

4. Cultivate seven types of suitable (beneficial) dependables during the retreat including:

  1. accommodation – meditation centre
  2. alms – convenient to obtain food, not having to walk far etc.
  3. conversation on Dhamma that is relevant to attaining liberation
  4. fellow practitioners – who are enthusiastic for bhavanaa-mental development
  5. nourishment – food that is suitable for the individual
  6. climate – not too hot, not too cold etc.
  7. posture – straight back and not too much pain

5. Note the causes of development of vipassana samaadhi (insight concentration), remember the causes for attaining the tranquillity of mind, the causes of samaadhi, the signs (nimitta) of past samaadhi.

6. Contemplate the Bojjhanga Dhammas to strengthen the Indriya-controlling faculties. [This also amounts to balancing bojjhangas 2-4 (the investigation group) with bojjhangas 5-6 (the concentration group). Sati-mindfulness is neutral as far as balancing goes and is never in excess relative to any other factor.]

  1. Sati-mindfulness
  2. Dhammavicaaya-investigation of phenomena
  3. Viriya-energy
  4. Piiti-joy, rapture, thrill
  5. Passaddhi-tranquillity
  6. Samaadhi-concentration
  7. Upekkhaa-equanimity

7. Be detached from body and life [be ready to sacrifice the bodily comfort for progress in Dhamma].

8. Practice to overwhelm all painful sensations/feelings [not by force of will but by patient noting and perseverence].

9. Make a determination/resolution for non-stop continuous noting until reaching perfection, don’t give up observing and noting until reaching path and fruition (magga and phala) [this is for an advanced stage and usually after being instructed to do so by the teacher].

Mahasi Sasana Yeithka Foreign Meditators July 2009

Sayadaw U Jatila is a brother of Sayadaw U Lakkhana who is also a leading vipassana meditation teacher in the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw. Both teachers have travelled and taught overseas, though both relied heavily on translators. Sayadaw U Jatila teaches at MSY for about six months every year from about June to November and spends the other six months at his base monastery near to Naypidaw.

About three days after I arrived at MSY four Chinese Mahayana monks came from Singapore where they are studying. They all spoke Mandarin well and English poorly. I speak English well and Mandarin poorly. Even so, Sayadaw U Jatila asked me to help with translating during meditation instructions, interviews twice a week and once a week for the Dhamma talks. I struggled because I hadn’t learned Dhamma technical terms for Mandarin and neither were the monks familiar with Paali terms used by most Theravada Buddhists, though they knew most of the similar concepts in Mahayana Buddhism using Mandarin. We managed and taught each other a lot. They wanted to ordain temporarily as Theravada monks so I seized the opportunity to make merit and sponsored their ordinations. It was very interesting and we all learned a lot.

The Korean Monk and Korean Yogi appeared unable to speak any other languages except Korean and a few words of English so they didn’t talk with anyone except each other.

I first met the Thai monk – Ajahn Sujin Decharo at Chanmyay Yeithka two and a half years ago and was able to have many fascinating conversations with him in Thai. He has been in Myanmar for nearly 5 years and recently spent 7 monks at Pa Auk Tawya. Ajahn Sujin speaks only very basic English so I also helped translate for two of his meditation interviews with Sayadaw U Jatila because the visiting Laos monk (a student at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University) was not available to translate at those times.

Note: Talking is not really a good practice at meditation centres. Usually it is better to practice “noble silence” to get maximum value from the time there and make the quickest progress. Even so, I learned a lot during the three weeks I spent at MSY.

Standing row: Korean Yogi, Korean Monk, Myanmar Translator Monk, Ajahn Sujin Deracho (Thailand), Mihindu Pulukkody (Sri Lanka), Michael Kalyaano (Australia)
Seated row: two Chinese Mahayana Monks, Sayadaw U Jatila, two Chinese Mahayana Monks

Standing row: Korean Yogi, Korean Monk, two Myanmar Translator Monks, Ajahn Sujin Deracho (Thailand), Myanmar Translator Monk, Myanmar Translator Layman, Michael Kalyaano (Australia)
Seated row: two Chinese Mahayana Monks, Sayadaw U Jatila, two Chinese Mahayana Monks, Mihindu Pulukkody (Sri Lanka)

Out of Yangon – happy and well

I left Yangon and arrived in Bangkok on Friday, 7 August. It was not convenient to write blogs in Yangon though I sometimes went to Internet cafes and wrote e-mails. Most of the time I was meditating at either Saddhamaransi Yeithka (about 4 months) or Mahasi Sasana Yeithka (3 weeks). I’ll write more about some that in later posts.

I learned a lot about meditation, the mind, the Dhamma, Buddhism as practiced in Myanmar and surprisingly I also learned a little about Mahayana Buddhism from 4 visiting Chinese Mahayana monks. I’ll write more about these topics in later posts.

I lost about 15 kg while in Myanmar. This is partly due to not eating in the afternoon or evenings while maintaining 8 precepts. It was also partly due to frequent bouts of travellers’ diarrhoea and having less exercise than usual at Saddhamaransi Yeithka. Even at Mahasi Sasana Yeithka the exercise was very low impact – slow walks and some yoga. Fruit is relatively expensive in Yangon right now with most of it being imported from China and Thailand. Most of the fruit trees in the Yangon area were destroyed in cyclone Nargis (May 2008). So the meditation centre monks, nuns and yogis sometimes didn’t eat fruit or if they did it was only bananas. Even so I had good health most of the time.

Now I’m staying at Suk 11, a hostel on Sukhumvit Road. It is comfortable, friendly and central. I may stay here until mid next week and then travel on to either Nong Khai or Cha Am for a week or two of quiet time to write. While in Bangkok, I’m looking for a notebook laptop to use for writing while travelling from here onwards (India, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc.).