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Dec 26, 2009

Significance of the Pali term 'Dhuna' in the practice of Vipassana


The core purpose of the Global Pagoda is to share infinite benefits of Vipassana with all beings. The essence of Vipassana meditation is to be objectively aware of the reality within at this moment, as it is, from moment to moment. Awareness and equanimity, as the Buddha explained, have to be simultaneous.

Vipassana is safest, effective, powerful universal practice to purify the mind since it involves absolutely no artificial, external created element - with no imagination, no mantras etc. Vipassana involves pure objective self-observation of truths of nature, and realities about oneself manifesting themselves from moment to moment. One observes these realities about oneself with equanimity at the level of sensations - however ugly or unpleasant these truths about oneself may be. 


A confused student can dilute the effectiveness of Vipassana - by a) mixing it with other techniques, b) by losing equanimity to manifesting realities about oneself, and reacting blindly with ego-based aversion or craving , c) breaking essential rules and regulations during a Vipassana course, or d) incorrect understanding and wrong practice of Vipassana. Such a student cannot experience benefits of Vipassana. Instead of generating negativity to the teacher, teaching etc (which is pure practical science of mind-matter) the student is well-advised to contact his or her assistant teacher guide in Vipassana, and calmly discuss the problem. Taking another 10-day Vipassana course would help, in order to practice correctly and experience the inevitable fruits and benefits of correct Vipassana practice.
May all beings benefit from practice of Vipassana, and be liberated from all suffering.

The Vipassana Research Institute article below explains deeper aspects of Vipassana practice: 

Significance of the Pali term 'Dhuna' in the practice of Vipassana 


In the Pali language, there are several words which appear to be quite insignificant, but yet have very deep meaning and relevance in the practice of Vipassana. One such word, occuring in the Tipitaka, is the word dhuna(1) which means combing out, shaking off, doing away with. This word is derived from the root 'dhu', which means to 'comb out'. Regarding patipatti (the actual practice), the question arises: what to comb out, and how?

The Buddha replied to these queries in the following udana (exclamation of joy):
Sabbakammajahassa bhikkhuno,

Dhunamanassa pure katam rajam.
Amamassa thitassa tadino.
Attho natthi janam lapetave. (2)

The monk who does not make new kamma
And combs out old defilements as they arise
Has reached that meditative state where there remains no 'I' or 'mine'.
For him mere babbling makes no sense.
Engrossed in silent practice, he is bent.

The occasion for this joyous utterance of the Buddha was the sight of a monk sitting near the Compassionate One, cross-legged, erect and determined. Undergoing the fruition of his past actions, he was wracked by intense, piercing, gross sensations but due to his constant distinct awareness of impermanence, he did not lose his calm or balance of mind.

Indeed, the above few brief lines of udana set out the complete technique of Vipassana meditation, the actual way to reach liberation.

Let us understand what the Buddha actually meant, in more detail. The Pali word 'Vipassana' means to see things as they really are - not just as they appear to be. This is a state of pure observation without the cloud of imagination, preconception and illusion. That is why the Buddha described the state of Vipassana as yatha-bhuta nana-dassanam (3) (as it is, so is it observed and understood). To put this into practice is to realize reality by direct experience and proper understanding.

Ego-centricity is the greatest and most dangerous of all the illusions. We can accept the doctrine of 'Non-Self' doctrine of 'non-self' or anatta on an emotional or intellectual basis simply because of blind faith or intellectualisation. But what use is this intellectual acceptance alone, if at the practical level in our daily life we continue living an ego-centered life? This illusory ego keeps its hold over us simply because at the actual level we are continually submerged in it. Even to be totally convinced intellectually about the dangers of this illusion is simply not enough. In reality we are rolling in suffering because there is no direct realisation of these dangers, or the means to come out of it.

It is because the intellect is not capable of totally dispelling this illusion that the Buddha perfected this wonderful technique of Vipassana - the Fourfold Establishing of Awareness (Satipatthana) (4) which he called ekayano maggo, the one and only way for liberation. How could anyone become liberated while rolling in complete illusion about one's own reality? The removal of illusion by truth-realisation, by self-realisation, is liberation.

The direct experience of our own reality prevents new mental conditioning, while at the same time eradicating bondages of the old accumulated kammas-

Khinam puranam, navam natthi sambhavam. (5)
The past has been destroyed, there is no new becoming.

How does Vipassana help us to stop tying new knots and to open up the old ones, eradicating all the accumulations of the past? The text says that first, a meditator should sit correctly nisinno hoti pallankam abhujitva ujum kayam panidhaya (6) cross-legged and erect. Then he sits with adhitthana (determination), no movement of the body of any kind. Now at the grossest physical level, all the bodily and vocal actions are suspended so there can be no new physical kamma (kayika-kamma) or vocal kamma (vacika-kamma).

Now one is in a position to try to stop mental kamma formations (mano-kamma). For this, one has to become very alert, very attentive, fully awake and aware, all the time maintaining true understanding, true wisdom. Aware of what? Anicca vata sankhara, uppadavaya-dhammino-the truth of impermanence; the arising and passing of every compounded phenomenon (7) within the framework of one's physical structure.

A Vipassana meditator soon realizes the difference between apparent and actual truth. By simply observing objectively and equanimously feeling the sensations in one's own body in a proper way, one can easily reach a stage where even the most solid parts of the body are experienced as they really are - nothing but oscillations and vibrations of subatomic particles (kalapas). What appears solid, hard and impenetrable at the gross level is actually nothing but wavelets at the subtlest, ultimate level.

With this awareness, one can observe and realize that the entire pancakkhandha (the five aggregates of mind and matter), are nothing but vibrations, arising and passing away. The entire phenomenon of mind and matter has this continuously ephemeral nature. This is the ultimate truth (paramattha sacca) of mind and matter-permanently impermanent; nothing but a mass of tiny bubbles or ripples, disintegrating as soon as they arise (sabbo loko pakampito sabbo loko pakampito).(8)

This realisation of the basic characteristic of all phenomena as anicca (impermanent) leads one to the realisation of the characteristic of anatta (no 'I', no 'me', no 'mine', no 'my soul'). The various sensations keep arising in the body whether one likes it or not. There is no control over them, no possession of them. They do not obey our wishes. This in turn makes one realize the nature of dukkha (suffering). Through experience, one understands that identifying oneself with these changing impersonal phenomena is nothing but suffering.

The more one is established at this level of ultimate truth, the more strongly and more steadfastly one will become established in real wisdom. In contrast to this, anyone entangled in ignorance will crave for pleasant sensations to continue and crave for unpleasant sensations to end. This blind reaction based on craving and aversion is the strongest bondage.

Initially, the meditator fights a tug-of-war between the new wisdom of understanding all phenomena as impermanent and transitory, and the old ignorance to attachment to the flow of sankhara (reactions). With patient, persistent practice, one learns how to appreciate the difference between reality and what is illusory. For longer and longer periods, continuity of awareness of this truth will predominate. Each sensation felt is recognised as impermanent; hence the perception that accompanies each cognition is free from the self-consciousness of 'I' and 'mine'.

With continuous practice, the truth that the sensation immediately passes away begins to predominate, instead of the old tanha (craving) for it to continue, or the tanha for it to pass away. It is meaningless to like or dislike sensations that pass away on their own, as they arise. It is this liking and disliking which turns into very strong attachments that condition the mind and produce the bhava-sankhara, the bhava-kamma (actions which are responsible to give a new birth), driving individuals in the cycle of becoming and suffering for countless lives.

A non-reacting mind produces no new conditioning to create any new suffering. The law of nature is such that the old accumulation of conditioning in the flow of the consciousness (bhavanga-santati) will automatically rise to the surface to be eradicated when no new sankhara is given as input. This comes about by remaining equanimous with the direct understanding of the wisdom of anicca-vijja-nana.

Here again, it is the practice of Vipassana which enables the meditator to silently and attentively observe these old bondages of the past, as they arise, in their true impermanent nature. With heightened equanimity, based on the constant thorough experience of impermanence (sampajanna) at the level of bodily sensations, craving and aversion lose their grip on us. In a non-reacting mind, the latent conditions cannot multiply - rather they are progressively eradicated.

At times, however, the fruition of the old kamma is so intense that an inexperienced or careless meditator loses all balance of mind. Wisdom fades away and the old habit pattern of blind reaction returns. The impersonal attitude towards painful or pleasurable sensations is lost, and one begins to identify with the sensations. One may try intellectually to come out of reactions, but actually one begins generating aversion to the pain as if it will never end. The cycle of suffering continues.

To break this cycle of suffering from moment to moment, one realizes the impermanent nature of all phenomena and to break the apparent solidity of perceptions. For this, a Vipassana meditator must objectively experience the stage of uppadavaya-dhammino (the instantaneous arising and passing away of the vibrations or wavelets) of nama-rupa (mind and matter) at the level of bodily sensations, from moment to moment.

This stage can be reached only by proper practice of Vipassana meditation, the sure, proven way to break these bondages. In fact, Vipassana meditation is for the purpose of 'dhunamanassa pure katam rajam' - combing out all old defilements from the deepest part of the mind.

With this persistent, patient process of pure observation of impermanent bodily sensations - observation without any 'I' evaluating and reacting - old knots automatically open up. Old defilements are washed away from the deepest parts of the mind. A Vipassana meditator objectively working on physical sensations quite distinctly experiences this mind purification process.

This 'combing' process is not complete while even the smallest knot remains unopened. In the same way, the practice of Vipassana must continue until all impressions of solidity anywhere in the framework of the physical and mental structure have been removed. How can this stage be achieved? As the text says-

Puranakammavipakajam dukkham tibbam kharam katukam vedanam adhivasento. (9)
The meditator dwells enduring equanimously the fruition of his or her past actions, no matter how painful, severe, sharp and terrible they are.


How is this possible? Not enduring (that is, becoming agitated or crying because of the old habit patterns of the mind) would be completely opposite to the process of purification. One can only endure such intense sensations by developing awareness (the thorough experience of impermanence at the level of bodily sensations (sampajanna) and equanimity to the sensations (upekkha). This awareness and equanmity have to be simultaneous and together.

It is by knowing perfectly the true nature (anicca) of the phenomenon of mind-matter arising and passing away as sensations, at this present moment and from moment to moment, that one is able to bear these fruits of the past without any reaction. The meditator becomes an impartial observer of the suffering, rather than the sufferer. This enlightened detachment allows old bondages to get eradicated.

With this detached process of non-identification with sensations, one experiences how there is no observer, but only observation. There is no more sufferer, only suffering.

From time to time, slight agitation or identification with the sensation may reappear and trigger fresh craving and aversion. But with patient, persistent, continuous practice, a vigilant meditator reaches the stage of amamassa thitassa, or the stage where the illusion of 'I' and 'mine' is eradicated.

When this stage of detachment is reached, he or she can bear anything, even the most severe sensations, in the state of avihannamano, or a mind free from agitation. As a result comes sabba kammajahassa - the cessation of all kinds of new kamma formations.

Now the meditator is fully engrossed in dhunamanassa pure katam rajam, or continual purification, because he or she has stopped making new sankharas, that is, new cetana (volition) or new kamma. In this way, the old sankharas naturally get eradicated little by little (thokam thokam) so that the state of visankhara gatam cittam (10) or total purification of mind, is reached.

A meditator engaged in such a task needs to spend all his or her time in actual practice - for one's own benefit as well for sharing of such gained benefits with all suffering beings.

Where is the time for useless talk? Every moment is precious, not to be wasted. The only ones who waste time in talking are those who do not realize the seriousness of the task, and who do not work properly. The noble practice of truth-realization is degraded to mere intellectual chatter. Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by discussion.

That is why the Buddha burst forth in praise of the monk who was so resolutely practicing the sure path of liberation. 'Cross-legged, erect and determined, undergoing the fruition of his past actions, wracked by intense, piercing, gross bodily sensations, with sharpened awareness and the constant thorough understanding of impermanence (sati-sampajanna), making no new kammas, combing out old defilements as they arise, with nothing remaining of "I" and "mine".

Notes: (All references VRI edition)
(1) In the entire Tipitaka, the word occurs nineteen times;

(2) Udana 21;
(3) Patisambhidamagga 1.18;
(4) Digha Nikaya 2.373;
(5) Khuddaka-Patha 6.1, Suttanipata 238;
(6) Udana 21;
(7) Digha Nikaya 2.221;
(8) Samyutta Nikaya 1.1.168;
(9) Udana 21;
(10) Dhammapada 154

  Original article from the Vipassana Research Institute

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