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Jun 10, 2011

The Beneficial power of Anicca

by Sayagyi U Ba Khin

(This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the passing away of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. He died on 19 January 1971. The Global Vipassana Pagoda was built as one of the three Dhamma projects to commemorate the birth centenary year of Sayagyi U Ba Khin in 1999. (*1)

Sayagyi U Ba Khin's following discourse in English was particularly for his Western students. After his death, the discourse was published under the title "T
he Essentials Of Buddha Dhamma In Meditative Practice, by Sayagyi U Ba Khin". The following is an excerpt published by the Vipassana Research Institute:

Let me now deal with Vipassana meditation from the point of view of a householder in everyday life and explain the benefit one can derive from it-here and now-in this very lifetime.

The initial object of Vipassana meditation is to activate the experience of anicca in oneself [the wisdom of impermanence that a Vipassana practitioner experiences in the arising and passing of bodily sensations] and eventually to reach a state of inner and outer calmness and balance. This is achieved when one becomes engrossed in the feeling of anicca within.

The world is now facing serious problems, which threaten all mankind. It is just the right time for everyone to take to Vipassana meditation and learn how to find a deep pool of quiet in the midst of all that is happening today.

Anicca is inside of everybody. It is within reach of everybody. Just a look into oneself and there it is-anicca to be experienced. When one can feel anicca, when one can experience anicca, and when one can become engrossed in anicca, one can at will cut oneself off from the world of ideation outside. Anicca is, for the householder, the gem of life, which he will treasure to create a reservoir of calm and balanced energy for his own well-being and for the welfare of society.

The experience of anicca, when properly developed, strikes at the root of one's physical and mental ills and removes gradually whatever is bad in him, i.e., the causes of such physical and mental ills.

This experience is not reserved for men who have renounced the world for the homeless life. It is for the householder as well.

In spite of drawbacks which make a householder restless in these days, a competent teacher or guide can help a student to get the experience of anicca activated in a comparatively short time.

Once he has got anicca activated within, all that is necessary is for him to try to preserve it; but he must make it a point, as soon as time or opportunity presents itself for further progress, to work for the stage of bhaṇgañāṇa (knowledge of bhaṇga)-the third level of knowledge in Vipassana. If one reaches this level, there will be little or no problem because he should then be able to experience anicca without much ado and almost automatically. In this case anicca will become his base, to which all his physical and mental activities return as soon as the domestic needs of daily life for such activities are over.

However, there is likely to be some difficulty for one who has not reached the stage of bhaṇga. This will be just like a tug-of-war for him between anicca within, and physical and mental activities outside. So it would be wise for him to follow the motto of "Work while you work, play while you play." There is no need for him to be activating the experience of anicca all the time. It should suffice if this could be confined to a regular period, or periods, set apart in the day or night for the purpose. During this time, at least, an attempt must be made to keep the attention focused inside the body, with awareness devoted exclusively to anicca.

That is to say, the awareness of anicca should go on, from moment to moment, so continuously as not to allow for the interpolation of any discursive or distracting thoughts, which are definitely detrimental to progress.

In case this is not possible, he will have to go back to respiration-mindfulness, because
samādhi is the key to the contemplation of anicca. To get good samādhi, sīla (morality) has to be perfect, since samādhi is built upon sīla. For a good experience of anicca, samādhi must e good. If samādhi is excellent, awareness of anicca will also become excellent.

There is no special technique for activating the experience of anicca other than the use of the mind adjusted to a perfect state of balance, and attention projected upon the object of meditation. In Vipassana the object of meditation is anicca, and therefore in the case of those used to focusing their attention on bodily feelings, they can feel anicca directly. In experiencing anicca in relation to the body, it should first be in the area where one can easily get his attention engrossed, changing the area of attention from place to place, from head to feet and from feet to head, at times probing into the interior. At this stage, it must clearly be understood that no attention is to be paid to the anatomy of the body, but to the formations of matter-the kalāpas-and the nature of their constant change.

If these instructions are observed, there will surely be progress, but the progress depends also one's pāramī [the disposition for Dhamma development from the accumulation of merits of good deeds in the present and past] and devotion of the individual to the work of meditation. If he attains high levels of knowledge, his power to understand the three characteristics of anicca [impermanence], dukkha [suffering] and anattā [no 'I' of egolessness] will increase and he will accordingly come nearer and nearer to the goal of the ariya or noble saint-which every householder should keep in view.

This is the age of science. Man of today has no utopia. He will not accept anything unless the results are good, concrete, vivid, personal, and here-and-now. When the Buddha was alive, he said to the people of Kāḷāma: "Now look, you Kāḷāmas. Be not misled by report or tradition or hearsay. Be not misled by proficiency in the scriptural collections, or by reasoning or logic, or reflection on and approval of some theory, or because some view conforms with one's inclinations, or out of respect for the prestige of a teacher. But when you know for yourselves: these things are unwholesome, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise; these things, when practiced and observed, are conducive to loss and sorrow-then do you reject them. But if at any time you know for yourselves: these things are wholesome, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise; these things, when practiced and observed, are conducive to welfare and happiness-then, Kāḷāmas, do y, having practiced them, abide."

The time-clock of Vipassana has now struck-that is, for the revival of Buddha-Dhamma Vipassana in practice. We have no doubt whatsoever that definite results would accrue to those who would with an open mind sincerely undergo a course of training under a competent teacher-I mean results which will be accepted as good, concrete, vivid, personal, here-and-now-results which will keep them in good stead and in a state of well-being and happiness for the rest of their lives.

May all beings be happy and may peace prevail in the world.
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(*1) The other two Dhamma projects are Dhamma Tapovana Vipassana centre for long courses and Sayagyi U Ba Khin Vipassana Village, a private residential facility for Vipassana students. Both are adjacent to Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri, near Mumbai, India.

For original article
The Essentials Of Buddha Dhamma In Meditative Practice, by Sayagyi U Ba Khin
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* How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai, India

* 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)