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May 18, 2011

Right, Continuous Effort - Viriya

The existence of the Global Pagoda in Mumbai, and all beings benefiting from Vipassana owe an infinite debt of gratitude to Venerable Webu Sayadaw (1896-1977), the respected monk teacher of Burma. Webu Sayadaw was the first to strongly exhort Sayagyi U Ba Khin to teach Vipassana, in July, 1941, an instruction that U Ba Khin immediately followed.
Soon, the happy, liberating light of Dhamma began glowing worldwide after Sayagyi U Ba Khin's devoted student Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka started teaching Vipassana in Mumbai, India from 1969.

To gain real benefits of Dhamma, Webu Sayadaw stressed much on Viriya, or Right Effort of proper, continuous, untiring practice, and to get rid of laziness and wasting time. He taught Anapana meditation - objectively observing the natural in-coming, out-going breath. Anapana is the preliminary practice to develop Samma Samadhi, or right concentration needed for Vipassana.

Ven Webu Sayadaw meditating under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, India

 The Vipassana surgery of the mind progressively removes all deep-rooted defilements. The pure mind experiences true happiness and becomes base for practice of Metta Bhavana (the third part of the technique of Vipassana), to share the benefits thereby gained, with all beings.

Below is one of Venerable Webu Sayadaw's well-known discourses, "To light a fire", translated from Burmese (by R.Bischoff).

Venerable Webu Sayadaw: You have taken the moral precepts, now practice them. Only when your practice of morality (sila) is perfect can you fulfill your aspirations for awakening. Having perfected yourselves in morality, you have to perform various other meritorious practices, and these can take you to the pinnacle and the fulfillment of your aspirations.

The teachings of the Buddha are enshrined in the Tipitaka. These teachings were not given by the Buddha just to be preached and studied. You are good people; you have to practice the teachings with unwavering effort from the time you obtain them in order to escape from this suffering.

Do not get confused about the teachings. We don't have to know many techniques, only one; but that we should know clearly. If we establish one technique with strong effort and get rid of all doubts then, without asking anyone else, we shall find the answers.

Choose one technique and practice it.

(In Anapana) if you focus your mind at the small spot where the air touches when you breathe in and out, then there will be no wanting, no aversion or delusion, and as these three are absent, you are immediately out of suffering.

So, for a short moment Your mind is pure. Now, if your last mind-moment came up at this time and you died, would there be anything to be worried about or to be afraid of?

The benefits accruing to you from this practice don't last for just a short moment or one life-time. This short moment of purity will bring benefits for the remainder of the cycle of birth and death. And why can you accomplish this? Because the time is right, your form of existence is right, and you are putting forth right effort.

Students of the Buddha took the practice from the Teacher and worked with unwavering perseverance. Therefore, they achieved the awakening they had aspired for.

How did they work? In the same way as a man who wants to light a fire with a fire stick, as in the olden days. They rubbed two pieces of wood together, and heat was produced. Eventually the wood started to glow, and then they could light a fire. So, if a man wants to start a fire in this way, and rubs two pieces of wood together, does he count: "One rub, two rubs, three rubs..."?

Meditator: No, sir, that wouldn't work very well.

Sayadaw: How would he have to do it then?

M: He would have to rub continuously until he got a flame.

S: Yes, when they wanted to start a fire in those days, this was the only way to do it. They had to rub with strong determination and without taking breaks. Now, if one were to rub two pieces of wood together in this way, how long would it take for the fire to start?

M: When it gets hot enough, the fire will start, sir.

S: Will that take long?

M: Not very long, sir.

S: No, if this man works with determination, it doesn't take long. It is just the same with this practice here. You want fire. You know that if you rub these two pieces of wood together you can have it. Now, if you count, "One rub, two rubs..." it will become a little bit hot. And then you take a rest for a while. Will you start a fire?

M: No, sir.

S: OK, so you start again, once, twice, three times... and again heat is produced. Then you lay back again and take a bit of rest. Will you start a fire?

M: No, sir. .

S: And if you continue in this way for a whole month?

M: We won't get fire.

S: And if you continue for a whole year?

M: It will just get warm, sir, but there will be no fire.

S: Now, what if you were to work like this for one hundred years?

M: It will just become warm, sir.

S: In that case, there is no fire in these two pieces of wood?

M: There is fire, sir, but effort and perseverance are not sufficient.

S: It is just the same with our work. You have to work as the fire maker does, without taking rest. Soon, before long, a fire will start. Only then will you be able to use the fire in the way you want. You should all make the right effort to fulfill your aspiration for awakening.

Viriya, The Pāramī of Proper Efforts

Pāramīs are virtues—that is, good human qualities. By perfecting them, one crosses the ocean of misery and reaches the stage of full liberation, full enlightenment. Everyone who is working to liberate oneself has to develop the ten pāramīs. They are needed to dissolve the ego and to reach the stage of egolessness. A student of Dhamma who aspires to attain the final stage of liberation joins a Vipassana course in order to develop these pāramīs.

[ The ten pāramīs are:  morality (sila), renunciation (nekkhamma), wisdom (pañña), effort (viriya), tolerance (khanti), truth (sacca), strong determination (adhitthana), compassionate goodwill (metta), equanimity (upekkha), donation dana).]

Little by little, one develops these pāramīs in every course. They should be developed in daily living as well. However, in a meditation course environment, the perfection of the pāramī can be greatly accelerated.

A human life is of limited duration, with limited capabilities. It is important to use one’s life to the best purpose. And there can be no higher purpose than to establish oneself in Dhamma, in the path, which leads one out of defilements, out of the illusion of self, to the final goal of ultimate truth. Therefore no effort is more worthwhile for a human being than the exertion of all one’s faculties to take steps on this path.

In a Vipassana course, a meditator makes best use of his energy and of the time at his disposal by developing the faculties of sati (awareness) and of paññā (insight). The student strives to become conscious of everything that is happening within himself, from the grossest to the subtlest level. At the same time, one strives to observe dispassionately whatever reality may manifest at this moment, with the understanding that this experience is impermanent, this will also change. These two faculties, in proper combination, will lead the meditator along the path to full liberation, full enlightenment.

From time to time, because of the ingrained habit pattern of the mind, the meditator is inundated by waves of craving, aversion, sloth and torpor, mental agitation, and scepticism. These are nothing but the reaction of one’s own mental defilements, trying to stop the process of purification one has begun. The wise student persists in the struggle, using all his or her energy to oppose these enemies. One thereby strengthens oneself in the pāramī of viriya.

(From Vipassana Newsletter, October, 1990)

Sayagyi U Ba Khin's meeting with Webu Sayadaw, July, 1941
* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for Vipassana courses
* Directions to reach Global Pagoda, Gorai / Borivili, Mumbai
* Dhamma service opportunities at Global Pagoda
* Earning boundless merits through Dhamma dana for Global Pagoda

May 7, 2011

One-day Vipassana Course at Global Pagoda on May 17, Buddha Purnima

A special one-day Vipassana course will be conducted at the Global Vipassana Pagoda in presence of Sayagyi U S.N. Goenka on 17 May 2011, Tuesday, on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.

Registration for the course is to be kindly done in advance (in order to make prior arrangements for lunch etc for students).

(One-day courses are only for students who have already taken a 10-day Vipassana course as taught by Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka *)

Contact for registration for May 17 one-day course at Global Pagoda: 
Mobile no.: 98928-55692, 98928-55945;
Tel: (022) 2845-1170, 3374-7543, 3374-7544
Email registration: oneday@globalpagoda.org

Online registration: http://www.vridhamma.org/1-Day-Course

May all beings sitting and serving this Vipassana course experience all the infinite benefits of Dhamma, be happy, peaceful and be liberated from all suffering.

For more details on one-day courses at Global Pagoda with Sayagyi U Goenka: http://www.vridhamma.org/1-Day-Course-At-Pagoda

* Please Note: [One-day courses are only for students who have already taken a 10-day Vipassana course as taught by Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. New students may kindly contact a convenient Vipassana meditation centre worldwide to register for a residential 10-day Vipassana beginner's course.]
* One-day course is also held every Sunday in the main dome Dhamma hall of the Global Pagoda, for Vipassana students.

* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for Vipassana courses

* Dhamma service opportunities at Global Pagoda 
* Directions to reach Global Pagoda, Gorai / Borivili, Mumbai
* Earning boundless merits through Dhamma dana for Global Pagoda

Healing balm of Mettā

The Practice of Mettā-Bhāvanā  

by Vipassana Research Institute

The practice of mettā-bhāvanā (meditation of compassionate loving kindness) is the closing part of the technique of Vipassana meditation. We practice mettā by radiating pure compassion 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 liberated, be happy !

For original article in Vipassana newsletter: http://www.vridhamma.org/en2008-08

* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for Vipassana courses

* How to reach the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai, India