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Mar 24, 2010

The Practice of Mettā-Bhāvanā

by Vipassana Research Institute

The practice of mettā-bhāvanā (meditation of loving kindness) is the closing part of the technique of Vipassana meditation. We practice mettā by radiating loving kindness and goodwill towards all beings, deliberately charging the atmosphere around us with the calming, positive vibrations of pure and compassionate love. The Buddha instructed us to develop mettā so as to live more peaceful and harmonious lives and to help others to do so as well. The practice of mettā gives us a way to share with all others the peace and harmony that we are developing.

The commentaries state that mettā is the quality that inclines one to a friendly disposition—Mijjati siniyhatī’ti mettā. It is a sincere wish for the good and welfare of all, devoid of ill will. Non-aversion is mettā—adoso’ti mettā. The chief characteristic of mettā is a benevolent attitude. It culminates in the identification of oneself with all beings—a recognition of the fellowship of all life.

Mettā is not a prayer nor is it the hope that an outside agency will help. On the contrary, it is a dynamic process producing a supportive atmosphere where others can act to help themselves. Mettā can be directed towards all beings or towards a particular person. We must eliminate egotism and open our minds to practise mettā.

Intellectually, it is easy enough but it is far harder to develop such an attitude in oneself. To do so, some practice is needed, and so, we have the technique of mettā-bhāvanā, the systematic cultivation of goodwill towards others.

To be really effective, though, mettā-bhāvanā must be practiced along with Vipassana meditation. So long as negativity such as aversion dominates the mind, it is futile to formulate conscious thoughts of goodwill, and doing so becomes a ritual devoid of inner meaning. However, when negativity is removed by the practice of Vipassana, goodwill naturally wells up in the mind; and emerging from the prison of self-obsession, we begin to concern ourselves with the welfare of others.

For this reason, the technique of mettā-bhāvanā is introduced only at the end of a Vipassana course, after the participants have passed through the process of purification. At such a time, meditators often feel a deep wish for the well-being of others, making their practice of mettā truly effective. Though limited time is devoted to it in a course, mettā may be regarded as the culmination of the practice of Vipassana.

Nibbāna can be experienced only by those whose minds are filled with loving kindness and compassion for all beings. Simply wishing for this state is not enough; we must purify our minds to attain it.

By the practice of Vipassana, we become aware that the underlying reality of the world and of ourselves consists of arising and passing away every moment. We realize that the process of change continues without our control and regardless of our wishes. Gradually, we understand that any attachment to what is ephemeral and insubstantial produces suffering for us. We learn to be detached and to keep the balance of our minds in the face of any experience. Then we begin to experience what real happiness is: neither the satisfaction of craving nor the forestalling of fears but rather liberation from the cycles of craving and fear. As inner serenity develops, we clearly see how others are enmeshed in suffering, and naturally this wish arises, “May they find what we have found: the way out of misery, the path of peace.” This is the proper volition for the practice of mettā-bhāvanā.

In order to practise mettā, the mind must be calm, balanced and free from negativity. This is the type of mind developed by the practice of Vipassana. A meditator knows by experience how anger, antipathy, or ill will destroys peace and frustrates any efforts to help others. Only when hatred is removed and equanimity is developed can we be happy and wish happiness for others. The words, “May all beings be happy” have great force only when uttered from a pure mind. Backed by this purity, they will certainly be effective in fostering the happiness of others.

We must, therefore, examine ourselves before practising mettā-bhāvanā to check whether we are really capable of practising mettā. If we find even a tinge of hatred or aversion in our minds, we should refrain at that time and relax or lie down until the impurity or unpleasantness goes away.

However, if the mind and body are filled with serenity and well-being, it is natural and appropriate to share this happiness with others: “May you be happy, may you be liberated from the defilements that are the causes of suffering. May all beings be peaceful! May all beings be happy! May all beings come out of their misery!”

In Vipassana, no verbalization, visualization or imagination is allowed. But while practising mettā-bhāvanā, all of these are allowed.

We can use our imagination especially with those who are near and dear, we can visualize their faces and give mettā: “May you be happy, may you be happy.” As we experience the vibrations, which are characteristic of arising and passing, we can say to ourselves, “These vibrations are vibrations of mettā, of love, of compassion.” When one is alone, one can even verbalize, “May all be happy, may all be happy”. When we are in a group, we can recite mentally to ourselves, “May all be happy, may all be peaceful, may all come out of misery.”

This loving attitude enables us to deal far more skilfully with the vicissitudes of life. Suppose, for example, one encounters a person who is acting out of deliberate ill will to harm others. The common response—to react with fear and hatred—is self-centeredness, which does nothing to improve the situation and, in fact, magnifies the negativity. It would be far more helpful to remain calm and balanced, with a feeling of goodwill for the person who is acting wrongly. This must not be merely an intellectual stance, a veneer over unresolved negativity. Mettā works only when it overflows spontaneously from a purified mind.

The serenity gained in Vipassana meditation naturally gives rise to feelings of mettā, and throughout the day, this will continue to affect us and our environment in a positive way. Thus, Vipassana ultimately has a dual function: to bring us happiness by purifying our minds, and to help us to foster the happiness of others by preparing us to practice mettā. What is the purpose of freeing ourselves of negativity and egotism unless we share these benefits with others? In a retreat, we cut ourselves off from the world temporarily in order to return and share with others what we gained in solitude. These two aspects of the practice of Vipassana are inseparable.

In these times of violent unrest and widespread suffering, the need for such a practice as mettā-bhāvanā is clear. If peace and harmony are to reign throughout the world, they must first be established in the minds of all the inhabitants of the world.

May all beings be happy !

for more http://www.vridhamma.org/en2008-08
* Directions to reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai, India
* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana courses
* Global Pagoda Developmental Projects - Phase Two
* Directions to reach Vipassana International Academy, Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri, India.

Mar 13, 2010

Treasure of Dhamma

7. The Highest Gain

Insignificant, O monks, is the loss of relatives, wealth and fame; the loss of wisdom is the greatest loss.
Insignificant, O monks, is the increase of relatives, wealth and fame; the increase of wisdom is the greatest gain.
Therefore, O monks, you should train yourselves thus: "We will grow in the increase of wisdom."
Thus, O monks, should you train yourselves. (I, viii,6-10)

Sayings of the Buddha arranged in numerical order (please click on link for Google Books preview of 'The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya.
Translated and Edited by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikku Bodhi'
Published by International Sacred Literature Trust, London WC2N5AP, UK.
Altamira Press. A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc; Walnut Creek, CA 94596, USA )

Mar 9, 2010

What Really Matters

(All who benefit from Vipassana, and the Global Pagoda, would have infinite gratitude to Venerable Webu Sayadaw (1896-1977). In 1941, this highly respected monk in Burma was the first to strongly advise Sayagyi U Ba Khin to teach Vipassana. In 1999, Sayagyi U Ba Khin's most distinguished student Sayagyi U Goenka declared the start of the Global Pagoda project to commemorate the birth centenary year of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Below is one of the well-known discourses of Webu Sayadaw)

You have taken up moral conduct (sila). Now that you have undertaken to perfect yourselves in morality, fulfill it to the utmost. Only if you fulfill morality to the utmost will all your aspirations be met. You will be happy now and in the future.

Nothing but the teachings of the Buddha can give you real happiness, in the present and in the remainder of samsara, the cycle of repeated birth and death.. The teachings of the Buddha are enshrined in the Tipitaka, the three baskets of the scriptures. The Tipitaka is very extensive. If we take the essence out of the Tipitaka we shall find the thirty-seven factors of awakening. [1] The essence of the thirty-seven factors of awakening is the eight constituents of the Noble Eightfold Path. The essence of the Noble Eightfold Path is the threefold training — the higher morality, the higher mind, the higher wisdom. The essence of the threefold training is the one Dhamma or Universal Law.

If your body and mind are under control, as they are now, there can be no roughness of physical or verbal action. This is the higher morality (adhisila).You have taken up moral conduct (sila). Now that you have undertaken to perfect yourselves in morality, fulfill it to the utmost. Only if you fulfill morality to the utmost will all your aspirations be met. You will be happy now and in the future.

Nothing but the teachings of the Buddha can give you real happiness, in the present and in the remainder of samsara, the cycle of repeated birth

If morality becomes strong, the mind will become peaceful and tranquil and lose its harshness. This is called the higher mind or the concentrated mind (adhicitta). If concentration becomes strong and the mind stays one-pointed for a long time, then you will realize that in a split-second matter arises and dissolves billions and billions of times. If mind (nama) knows matter (rupa), it knows that matter originates and disintegrates billions and billions of times in the wink of an eye. This knowledge of arising and disintegration is called the higher wisdom (adhipañña).

Whenever we observe the respiration coming in or out (Anapana meditation), the incoming and the outgoing air touches somewhere in or near the nostrils. The sensitive matter registers the touch of air. In this process, the entities touching are matter and the entity knowing the touch is mind. So do not go around asking others about mind and matter; observe your natural breathing and you will find out about them for yourselves.

When the air comes in, it will touch. When the air goes out, it will touch. If you know this touch continuously, then greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha) do not have the opportunity to arise, and the fires of these defilements will subside.

You cannot know the touch of air before it actually occurs. After it has gone, you cannot know it anymore. Only while the air moves in or out can you feel the sensation of touch. This we call the present moment.

While we feel the touch of air, we know that there is only mind and matter. We know for ourselves that there is no "I," no other people, no man and woman, and we realize for ourselves that what the Buddha said is true indeed. We do not need to ask others. While we know the in-breath and out-breath, there is no "I" or self.
When we know this, our view is pure; it is right view. We know in that moment that there is nothing but nama and rupa, mind and matter. We also know that mind and matter are two different entities. If we thus know how to distinguish between mind and matter, we have attained to the analytical knowledge of mind and matter.

If we know the touch of air as and when it occurs, our mind is pure and we get the benefits thereof. Do not think that the benefits you get thus, even in a split-second, are few. Do not think that those who meditate do not get any advantages from their practice. Now that you have been born in a happy plane and have met the teachings of a Buddha, you can obtain great benefits. Do not worry about eating and drinking, but make all the effort you can.

Is this present time not auspicious?

Disciple: Yes, sir, it is.
SAYADAW: Yes, indeed! Can't those good people attain their aspiration for Nibbana who, with an open mind, receive and practice the teachings of the Buddha, just like the noble people of the past who received the instructions from the Buddha himself?
D: Yes, sir, they can.
S: So, how long does the Buddha's Teaching last?
D: For five thousand years, sir. [2]
S: And now tell me, how many of these five thousand years have past?
D: Sir, about half this time-span has gone.
S: So, how much remains still?
D: About 2500 years, sir.
S: What is the life-span of a human being now? 
D: About one hundred years, sir.
S: How old are you?
D: I am thirty-seven years old, sir.
S: So, how much longer do you have to live?
D: Sixty-three years, sir.
S: But can you be sure that you will live that long?
D: That I don't know, sir.
S: You don't know yourself how long you are going to live?
D: No, sir, it isn't possible to know this for sure.
S: But even as we are born we can be sure we have to suffer old age, disease and death.
D: Yes, sir.
S: Can we request old age, pain and death to desist for some time, to go away for some time?
D: No, sir.
S: No they never rest. Can we ask them to stop their work?D: No, sir, we cannot.
S: In that case can we be certain we have to die?
D: Yes, sir, it is certain that we all have to die.
S: It is certain that we all have to die. What about living?
D: We can't be sure how long we have left to live, sir.
S: Someone whose life-span is thirty years dies when the thirty years are up. If your life-span is forty or fifty years, you will die when you are forty or fifty years old. Once someone is dead, can we get him back?
D: No, sir, we can't.
S: However many years of your life have passed, they have passed. What is it that you have not accomplished yet?
D: The happiness of the path and fruition states and the attainment of Nibbana. [3]
S: Yes, inasmuch as you haven't attained the paths and fruition states yet, you have been defeated. Have you used the years that have passed well, or have you wasted your time?
D: I have wasted my time, sir.
S: Then do not waste the time that you have got left. This time is there for you to strive with energy and steadfastness; you can be sure that you will die, but you can't be sure how much longer you have got to live.

1.Bodhipakkhiya Dhamma. These are thirty-seven aspects of practice taught by the Buddha, including the four foundations of mindfulness, the four great efforts, the four bases of accomplishment, the five spiritual faculties, the five powers, the seven factors of awakening and the eight constituents of the Noble Eightfold Path.
2. A Buddha's Teaching (Sasana) lasts about five thousand years on the human plane and then is lost.
3.The paths and fruits of stream-entry, once-returner, non-returner, and Arahatship.

Mar 4, 2010

Different Kinds of Sukha (Happiness)

Principal Teacher of Vipassana Sayagyi U Goenka on the different and deeper levels of happiness: 

It is not possible to give a different name to each type of happiness. Even so, while comparing various types of happiness, the Buddha once explained, in detail, which happiness is lesser and which is greater: 
1. The happiness of home and the happiness of homelessness (of a monk or a nun) — of the two, the happiness of homelessness is greater. 
2. The happiness of sensual pleasures and the happiness of renunciation — of the two, the happiness of renunciation is greater.
3. The happiness of various realms and the happiness beyond all the realms of existence — of the two, the happiness beyond the realms of existence is greater.

4. The happiness accompanied by āsavas (intoxicating impulses) and the happiness not accompanied by āsavas — of the two, the happiness not accompanied by āsavas is greater.
5. The happiness of material comforts and the happiness transcending material comforts — of the two, the happiness transcending material comforts is greater.

6. The happiness of the ariyas (noble ones) and the happiness of anariyas (of unenlightened ones) — of the two, the happiness of ariyas (noble ones) is greater.
7. The happiness of body (one that comes from physical comfort) and the happiness of mind — of the two, the happiness of mind is greater.

8. The happiness accompanied by pīti (pleasurable sensations in the body) and the happiness without pīti (beyond the pleasurable sensations in the body) — of the two, the happiness without pīti is greater.
9. The happiness of indulgence and the happiness of restraint — of the two, the happiness of restraint is greater.
10. The happiness of a scattered mind (of the mind not in jhāna) and the happiness of a concentrated mind (of the mind in jhānic states) — of the two, the happiness of a concentrated mind is greater.

11. The happiness with pīti (pleasurable sensations in the body) as its object and the happiness beyond pīti as its object — of the two, the happiness beyond pīti as its object is greater.
12. The happiness dependent on indulgence as its object and the happiness dependent on restraint as its object — of the two, the happiness dependent on restraint as its object is greater.
13. The happiness with form as object and happiness with formlessness as object — of the two, the happiness with formlessness as its object is greater.

(for full article: http://www.vridhamma.org/en2006-09 )

The towering Global Pagoda in Mumbai, India, by the sea in the island of Gorai, could be called a practical lighthouse of happiness. It shares the Vipassana path leading to true happiness, calm and purity at the depth of the mind. With happiness and freedom from discontent being a common human pursuit, the popular question arises: what is happiness?

For a serious practitioner of Vipassana, the truth becomes clear that worldly pursuits and indulgence in them offer only fleeting happiness. Discontent again arises almost immediately after. This is because nothing in the world is permanent. Everything is subject to change every moment, decay, death. 

The objective fact is that there is no guarantee that whatever we hold very dear today will exist tomorrow. So happiness in the worldly sense is only a temporary enjoyment and indulgence of the senses. 

The real happiness is going beyond dependence on only sensual pleasures, and developing strength of mind to deal with impermanence.

Certainly, enjoy life when the going is good. But learn how to smile when the going gets tough.Vipassana gives the training.

Developing the equanimity and detachment to deal with impermanence leads to real happiness. But this needs hard work. Vipassana enables this faculty of awareness of the truth and equanimity to the truth as we experience it, from moment to moment. The benefits are here and now, as well as long-term.

The most compassionate Super Scientist Gotama the Buddha rediscovered this timeless path of Vipassana leading to liberation from change, decay and death. He shared freely this universal, rational Dhamma path with all beings. The practical quintessence of this Dhamma path is the insight meditation of Vipassana.

Practicing Vipassana leads to the wisdom of one making the right choice of the superior kind of happiness, and the strength to continue walking on this Dhamma course.

At first, it appears making the right choice of happiness seems very difficult, as for instance, giving up some attachment. The very thought of being away from anything very beloved produces very unpleasant sensations. But once the right choice of greater happiness is made, then Dhamma forces come to support progress on the path - particularly to those whose volition is to serve in Dhamma for the true and greatest happiness of all beings.

Vipassana practice reveals the truth of how every attachment comes with the misery and fear of losing whatever to which one is attached. Bigger the ego, bigger the attachment - which is actually the ego establishing a strong preference for this one over that another.

This preference of liking and disliking is actually to one's pleasant or unpleasant sensations within, caused by a part of the mind reacting to external objects. This becomes clear to a Vipassana practitioner. Lesser the attachment and ego, lesser the fears and insecurity. We become happy and free. We rejoice in being able to develop jealousy-free, pure, compassionate, selfless, unconditional goodwill for all beings. This is a greater happiness. 

(The above painting is part of a series displayed in the Information Gallery of the Global Pagoda, Mumbai, India. These intricate paintings accurately depict important events in the Buddha's life. They comprise the single largest thematic collection of paintings in the world. 

The Great Renunciation. Giving up all imaginable luxuries of the royal palace and his life as a crown prince, Siddhatha Gotama courageously sets forth to conquer all sorrow. Even after attaining the final goal and being liberated from all misery, the Sammasambuddha did not revert back to a life of ease and comfort. If the Fully Enlightened sammasambuddha so wished, he could have lived in his father King Suddhodana's palace for the rest of his life, and taught Vipassana from there. But this would never be a choice of a sammasambuddha . He continued living as a homeless wanderer, and went through many physical hardships. He died homeless, under a tree.

A sammasambuddha, and those working for countless lives and aeons in the same lineage of serving all beings, will always ultimately choose renunciation and homelessness in each lifetime, across endless time.
* Directions to reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai, India
* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana courses
* Global Pagoda Developmental Projects - Phase Two
* Directions to reach Vipassana International Academy, Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri, India.

Mar 1, 2010

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai / Borivali, Mumbai, India

Global Pagoda Timings: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm.
(The last ferry leaves Gorai jetty to the Global Pagoda at 5.25 pm)
Visiting the Global Pagoda is free of charge. There is no entry fee.

* Vipassana students - those who have taken one or more 10-day Vipassana courses as taught by Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka - are permitted to meditate inside the main dome of the Global Pagoda.
How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai / Borivali, Mumbai, India
The Global Pagoda can be reached overland by car, as well by ferry. Pre-paid taxi services are available at the Mumbai domestic and international airports. Ask for "Esselworld", if "Global Vipassana Pagoda" draws a blank stare. The Global Pagoda is adjacent to Esselworld Park.

From Mumbai Airport:
One can drive directly to the Global Pagoda from the airport.

Driving to the Global Pagoda: Please take the Western Express Highway upto Dahisar. After crossing the Dahisar Toll Booth, take a left to the Mira-Bhayander Road. From there on, follow the road signs to Esselworld. On reaching Esselworld, please drive upto the main gate and request the security guards to guide you to the Pagoda site.

Cars can also be parked at the Gorai jetty, before taking the ferry to the Global Pagoda.

Hiring a car for airport pick-up to Global Pagoda: Request the taxi driver to take you to Esselworld. The approximate fare should be Rs.500 ( 7 Euros, US$ 10) to Rs 700 (10 Euros, US $14) for a non-air conditioned taxi. The approximate driving time is about 1.5 hours. Private taxis and vehicles can be hired from many car rentals in Mumbai. Rates may vary. Many Vipassana students make use of the services of private taxi operator Mr Jagdish Maniyar. Contact : Tel (Res): 91-22-26391010 or cell phone 09869255079.e-mail: traxtravels@hotmail.com
As of November 2009, Mr Maniyar charges Rs 1,550 (approx 22 Euros, US $33) for airport pickup to Global Pagoda (inclusive of road taxes).
From airport to Dhamma Giri Vipassana centre, Igatpuri, he charges Rs 2,550 (36 Euros, US $54).

From Borivali Railway station: From Borivali Station (Western Railway, Mumbai) please use the western exit gates of the station (for the train from Churchgate, the exit is on the same platform, to the left). One can take Bus number 294 or hire an auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to Gorai Creek. The bus fare is Rs. 6 and auto rickshaw fare is approx Rs. 25 (approx US $0.50) to Rs 35.

For the auto-rickshaw, please take one heading to your right, after crossing the road from the western exit of the railway station. The Gorai jetty is approximately 10-15 minutes-ride from Borivili station. Please take the ferry for Esselworld from Gorai Jetty. The return fare for the ferry is Rs. 35/- per person. On arrival at Esselworld, you will see signs guiding to take you to Global Pagoda (which anyway is too big to be missed).

The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Centre is less than five minutes walking distance from the Esselworld Jetty gate.

Prefer a shorter sea trip? One can take the more frequent (and humbler) ferry to Gorai Village (Rs 5 one way - actually it's only a jetty, the village is not in visible distance). From there, shared autorickshaws (Rs 15 a seat, or Rs 40 for 3 passengers) and the more quaint horse-drawn carriages (Rs 10 a seat) are available for a nice ride to the Essel World entrance through the flat landscape of marshlands. The Global Pagoda, a brief walk from the gates, is of course visible throughout the 10-minute ride from the Gorai Village jetty.

Other Bus Numbers to Gorai:
From Kurla railway station (West) - 309 L;
From Mulund station (West) - 460 L;
From Ghatkopar Bus Depot - 488 L
(please re-confirm before boarding bus)

Wishing you a very happy and most beneficial visit to the Global Pagoda.
For any further details and assistance, please contact:
Global Vipassana Pagoda
Telephone: 91 22 33747501 (30 lines)
Email: pr@globalpagoda.org
Pagoda Address:
Global Vipassana Pagoda
Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
For sending any post/courier, please use this address:
Head Office Global Vipassana Foundation
2nd Floor, Green House, Green Street, Fort
Mumbai – 400 023
Telephone: +91 22 22665926 / 22664039
Fax: +91 22 22664607
Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Centre
Inside Global Vipassana Pagoda Campus
Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
Tel: [91] (22) 3374 7519
Fax: [91] (22) 3374 7518
Email: info@pattana.dhamma.org

* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana courses
* One-day Vipassana courses at Global Pagoda (for those who have completed a 10-day Vipassana course)