This collection of
'sayings' by Chanmyay Sayadaw is from his teachings given during the 1983 retreat he led
at the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre in Penang.
As the context of these 'saying' was mostly the interview
situation between the teacher and the individual student, it would be useful to read them
as if they were personal instruction and advice from the meditation master.
Vipassana or insight meditation, is above all, an experiential practice, based on the
systematic and balanced development of a precise and focused awareness. By observing
ones moment-to-moment mind/body processes from a place of investigative attention,
insight arises into the true nature of life and experiences. Through the wisdom acquired
by using insight meditation one is able to live more freely and relate to the world around
with less clinging, fear and confusion. Thus ones life becomes increasingly directed
by consideration, compassion and clarity.
This is a technique of repeatedly naming or labelling with the
purpose of directing the attention to the mind/body phenomena in order to understand their
true nature correctly.
The guiding principle in Vipassana practice is to observe
whatever arises at the moment of its occurrenceby noting the present, one lives in
Note attentively and precisely. Superficial noting may make
the mind more distracted. When the concentration is weak, the tendency to skip over things
may be checked by using the device of labelling. The actual saying of the
words that constitute the label is not really necessary, but it is helpful in
the beginning. Do persist with the labelling until the noting becomes fluent and drop it
only if it becomes too cumbersome, then it has outlived its usefulness.
The meditator will get an appreciation of the purpose of
Vipassana meditation by bringing an investigative quality to the noting
practice. This exploration can lead to the discovery of the true nature of the
To prepare for sitting meditation, let the body and the mind relax as much as possible.
Maintain the body in a well-balanced posture. Do not change the posture abruptly or
unmindfully during the sitting, if you are about to move, note the intention to move
before actually moving.
To give balance to the practice, every sitting should be
preceded by an hour of walking meditation.
In the changeover from walking to sitting practice, or vice
versa, be careful to keep your mindfulness and concentration continuous.
The starting point in the sitting practice is to establish
the attention on the sensation of the abdomen caused by the rise and fall movement. This
is done by synchronising the mental noting or labelling of the movement when repeating
rising, rising, falling, falling with the actual experience of
As the movement of the abdomen become steady and clear,
increase the number of notings. If the movements are complicated, note them in a general
If there is gap between the rising and falling movement of
the abdomen, insert the noting of sitting and/or touching (noting
sitting is awareness of the characteristic of support of the wind element).
Do not disturb the natural breathing by taking sharp or
deep breaths. This will make you tired. The breathing should be just normal.
When secondary objects predominate, such as sounds,
thoughts, sensations, etc., note hearing, hearing, thinking,
thinking,feeling, feeling and so on. At first, it is not easy to note
such a variety of objects, but with increased mindfulness one is able to do so. So, when
secondary objects have passed, then one goes back to noting the primary object, ie.the
rising and falling movements of the abdomen.
Although one is taught to begin with watching the rising
and falling movement of the abdomen, one must not get attached to it. For it is not the
only object, but one of the many varieties of objects in Vipassana meditation.
Mindfulness of the movement of the abdomen leads to the
direct experience of the wind element. That is, to its specific characteristics of motion,
vibration and support. It is then that one can rightly know the real nature of the wind
element. Thereby destroying the false view of self.
Take the walking meditation seriously. By merely doing the walking alone, it is possible
to attain complete awareness (Arahantship).
Begin this practice by bringing your attention to the foot.
Then note the step part by part as you follow the movement with sharp attention. Mentally
noting right,left as you make the steps while walking.
Keep the eyes half-closed and fixed on the ground 4 to 5
feet ahead of you. Avoid looking at the foot during walking, or you will become distracted
Do not let the head bend too low because this will very
quickly create strain and tension in your posture.
The objects to be noted are increased gradually. That is,
the number of parts of the steps observed, are gradually increased. At the beginning of a
walking meditation period note one part only for about 10 minutes: left,
rightand so on. Then note your walking in 3 parts:lifting, pushing,
dropping, etc. Finally, increase the noting to intending, lifting, pushing,
dropping, touching, pressing.
Please consider this. The mind is sure to wander off quite
a few times during a walking period of one hour. So do not look around here and there
during walking meditation. You have had, and will have many more years to look around. If
you do it during the retreat, you can forget about having concentration. The wandering eye
is a difficult problem for the meditator. So take note very mindfully of the desire to
For the practice to be effective, at least 6 hours of
walking and 6 hours of sitting meditation each day is recommended.
Mindfulness Of Daily Activities
Awareness of daily activities is the very life of a
meditator. Once one fails to observe an activity, one loses ones life, as it were.
That is, one ceases to be a meditator, being devoid of mindfulness, concentration and
The faculty of mindfulness becomes powerful by constant and
uninterrupted awareness of every activity throughout the days practice.
Constant mindfulness gives rise to deep concentration, and
it is only through deep concentration that one can realise the intrinsic nature of
physical and mental phenomena. This then leads one to the cessation of suffering.
Failing to note the daily activities create wide gaps of
unmindfulness. Continuity of noting is needed to carry the awareness forward from one
moment to the next. With this kind of practice there are many new things to discover every
During a retreat, all you need to do is be mindful. There
is no need to hurry. The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw compared a Vipassana meditator to
a weak invalid, who by necessity moves about very slowly.
Doing things very helps to make the mind concentrated. If
you want the meditation to develop, you must get accustomed to slowing down.
When a fan is turning fast, you cannot see it as it really
is, but when it is turning slowly then you can see. Therefore you need to slow down
significantly to clearly see the mental and physical processes as they really are.
When you are surrounded by people who are doing things in a
hurry, be oblivious to your surroundings. Instead, note your own mental and physical
Talking is a great danger to the progress of insight. A
five minute talk can wreck a meditators concentration for the whole day.
Pain and Patience
Pain is the friend of the meditator. Do not evade it, it can lead you to nibbana
Pain does not have to inform, you of its coming. It may not
disappear, but if it does, you may cry over it, for your friend has gone away.
Pain is observed not to make it go away, but to realise its
When concentration is good, pain is not a problem - it is a
natural process. If you observe it attentively, the mind will be absorbed in it, and
discover its true nature.
When pain comes, note it directly. Ignore it only if it
becomes overpoweringly persistent. It can be overcome by deep concentration brought about
by continuous mindfulness.
If intense pain arises arises walking meditation, stop
occasionally and take note of it.
Be patient with anything and everything that stimulates
Patience lead to Nibbana - impatience leads to hell.
Noting Mental States
When noting mental or emotional states, do it quickly, energetically and precisely so that
the noting mind is continuous and powerful. Then thinking stops by itself.
Unless you can note the wandering thoughts, you are already
defeated when attempting to concentrate the mind. If your mind is inclined to wander, it
indicates that you are not really noting thoughts energetically enough. The acquired
ability to do this is indispensable.
If you are aware of the content of thoughts, they will tend
to go on. If you are aware of the thought itself, then thinking will cease.
Do not be attached to thinking and theory. Meditation is
beyond time and space. So do not be caught up with thinking and theory. Insight will arise
with deep concentration, but logical and philosophical thinking comes with shallow
Drowsiness can be overcome by putting in more effort.
Labelling activities vigorously is helpful. Note sleepiness energetically, if you accept
laziness, you will go on half asleep.
Actually, the energy to note is always there. The trouble
is that you are reluctant to do it. The mental attitude is very important. So, do not be
pessimistic. If you are optimistic, you offer yourself an opportunity. Then there is
satisfaction in every situation and there will be less distraction.
A human being has a great variety of abilities and the
strength to do many things. If you want to develop this meditation to its ultimate goal of
complete awareness you will need to put a determined effort into the practice. If you put
in this all-out effort you will achieve the final liberation from habitual clinging, fear
The Eight Precepts
Moral integrity serves as the basis for the development of concentration, which is
essential for the cultivation of vipassana meditation.
During retreats, all participants are expected to observe
the following training rules:
I understand to abstain from harming or killing living
I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given.
I undertake to abstain from erotic behaviour.
I undertake to abstain from false speech.
I undertake to abstain from intoxicating drink and drugs.
I undertake to abstain from eating after midday.
I undertake to abstain from entertainment, beautification and adornments.
I undertake to abstain from using luxurious beds and seats.
Guidance for Interviews
All meditators report daily to the meditation teacher. They report on what they have noted
and experienced during that days practice. The teacher will suggest any corrections,
give further instructions and try to inspire the meditator onto further progress.
During interviews try to describe:
- What was noticed of the rising and falling movement
- Mindfulness of daily activities.
Describe each of these in detail. Try to be concise and to
During the interview do not pause to wait for remarks from
the teacher. Only after you have reported all your experiences will any remarks be made.
Please listen carefully to all the instructions from the
teacher and follow them diligently. If there is ant doubt, please ask the teacher.
When asked a question, answer it directly. Please do not
speak about something else.
Report all experiences even if they seem unimportant to
Many meditators find that making short written notes
immediately after each meditation is helpful, but one should not make it a point to
attempt to remember while meditating. This will disturb concentration.