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Nov 29, 2011

Vipassana and Solving the Mystery of Life

( Original Dhamma article The Comprehension of Vedanā, the Sambodhi of the Buddha - by Vipassana Research Institute )

For ages, the seers and sages of India have sought to unveil the central mystery of the world: the question of suffering, so very apparent in life, and how suffering may be ended.

Many seekers, in their quest, developed theories and philosophies, some based on their own experiences of penance or meditation practice, others based merely on speculative thinking. These seekers were intent on knowing what life is. Why do we live? How can the end of suffering be reached? How can decay and death be overcome?

During the Buddha's lifetime, some thinkers believed that if at the end of the present life a man's behaviour was sufficiently excellent, he would be reborn in a higher world than the present. Some samaṇas and brāhmaṇas, not depending on imagination or poetic fancy, were familiar with more refined states of mind, and higher stages of consciousness which they had experienced in various types of meditation practices. They presented their own theories and new concepts.

The states of concentration that these Indian saints attained were not peculiar to one set of religious beliefs, and there were common features to many systems of thought. They could not, however, regard them as 'perfect' in all respects. In the Brahmajāla-sutta of the Dīgha-nikāya we come across some sixty-two such views or diṭṭhi which for the most part deal with the following questions:

(i) The nature of 'self' (attā): is it consciousness, is it eternal?
(ii) Is the world eternal or finite?
(iii) Is life (jīva) or being (sattā) the same as body?
(iv) Does the Tathāgata, the person who has realized the Truth in this life, continue to live after death?

Interest in such matters was so intense in those days that many schools of thought came into existence, some with large following. In another sutta of the Dīgha-nikāya, the Tevijja-sutta, a reference to brahmasahabyatā or 'union with Brahma' occurs. This is the theory which took a wider dimension in the Vedānta of later times.

The ascetic Gotama, on his way to becoming the Sammsambuddha, had himself made a thorough practical investigation of these schools of thought - either undergoing their practices and penances, or meeting with adherents and discussing their views with them. He concluded that these views were unacceptable and could not lead to liberation from all suffering. i.e, leading to total purification of the mind. Hence he called these delusional views ' micchā' (false) and rejected them as not leading to full enlightenment.

A painting depicting an event in the life of Sammasambuddha Gotama, displayed in the Information Gallery of the Global Vipassana Pagoda. Created by distinguished artists in Asia, these intricate artworks comprise the single largest thematic collection of paintings in the world.

The Buddha said that whatever one had experienced or whatever conclusions these schools of though had arrived at by analytical insight were ultimately based on phassa or contact derived from the six sense organs. He said that as long as one does not truly comprehend the origin (samudaya) and passing away (atthaṇgama), the relishing (assāda) and the danger thereof (ādinava) and the escape (nissaraṇa) from the six spheres of sense contact (phassāyatana), then one cannot transcend this world of birth, decay and death.

Yato kho bhikkhu channaṃ phassāyatanānaṃ samudayaṃ ca atthaṇgamaṃ ca assādaṃ ca ādinavaṃ ca nissaraṇaṃ ca yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti, ayaṃ imehi sabbāni uttaritaro pajānāti.

The Buddha's contemporaries never realized nissaraṇa, transcendence of the realm of saḷāyatana (the six sense organs) and so remained in the sphere of phassa (contact). As long as they did not truly comprehend phassa or the simultaneous arising of vedanā (sensation), they remained prone to either craving or aversion to these sensations (vedanā).

Not realizing the true nature of vedanā as anicca (impermanent, changing) they could not emerge from the realm of vedanā and comprehend the ultimate truth.

In contrast, the Buddha in his meditation practice of Vipassana passed through the entire sphere of saḷāyatana, and understood that the ultimate truth rests in going beyond it, the ceasing of saḷāyatana, the ceasing of phassa and therefore also the ceasing of vedanā (nirodha).

To reach the stage of nibbāna, he made a strenuous effort to realize the true nature of sensations arising, based on phassa, or contact, essentially rooted in contact, conditioned by contact. In the Pubba-sutta of the Saṃyutta-nikāya, the Buddha emphatically says that before his Enlightenment, this thought occurred to him:

What are the vedanā (sensations)? What is the arising (samudaya) of them? What is the ceasing of them (nirodha)? And what is the way leading to the ceasing of them?

He made a thorough investigation of these questions through the development of insight (Vipassanā) and by his deep meditation he could rightly understand the relishing of sensations (assāda), the danger in them (ādinava) and ultimately how to go beyond them (nissaraṇa).

He thus realized the true nature of vedanā; only then did he proclaim himself to be a Fully Enlightened One (Sammāsambuddha). In the ñāṇa-sutta of the Saṃyutta-nikāya the Buddha says that the knowledge (ñāṇa), the vision (cakkhu), the insight (paññā), the wisdom (vijjā) and the light (āloko) that he attained at the end of his deep practice of Vipassana were none other than the true comprehension of vedanā-their arising, their ceasing and the way leading to their cessation. He had explored the entire sphere of vedanā, and their complete cessation (nirodha). This is the Sambodhi (full enlightenment) that he attained under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.

It is true that the Buddha discovered the Law of Dependent Origination, Paṭiccasamuppāda, contributing a new dimension to Indian spiritual thought. However, when we approach this fundamental law of nature analytically, we find it is exactly the same as the true comprehension of vedanā, which can arise every moment within ourselves.

It is well known that phassa and vedanā are included in the twelve-fold link of the Paṭiccasamuppāda truth about life. The Buddha realized the basic characteristics of vedanā as anicca (transitory), dukkha (suffering) and anattā (having no substance). He also went beyond the realm of vedanā and experienced the truth - the sublime happiness of nibbāna (nibbānaṃ paramaṃ sukhaṃ).

By transcending the sphere of saḷāyatana, one experiences this stage of nibbāna where all the six sense doors cease functioning. This is the saḷāyatana nirodha. When the sense doors have stopped functioning, there is no possibility of phassa, and there is phassa-nirodha. This stage leads to vedanā-nirodha and thus taṇhā-nirodha. This is the nirodha-gāminī-paṭipadā, and has been very well illustrated in several discourses of the Buddha.

The dukkha-nirodha-gāminī-paṭipadā (path leading to the cessation of suffering) or the majjhima-paṭipadā (Middle Path) that he taught is also described as vedanā-nirodha-gāminī-paṭipadā, or the path leading to the cessation of vedanā (sensations).

The Buddha admonishes the monks that a samaṇa or brāhmaṇa achieves the consummation of his Vipassana practice only when he perfectly realizes the vedanā (impermanent bodily sensations) as they really are, and goes beyond them. Then one reaches the final Dhamma goal.

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

* How to reach Global Pagoda, Gorai / Borivili, Mumbai

* Rare opportunities to earn and share merits in participating in Global Vipassana Pagoda projects

Nov 16, 2011

Rare opportunities to earn and share merits participating in Global Vipassana Pagoda projects

Sabbadanam dhammadanam jinati
(The highest dana is the dana of Dhamma)
- Sammāsambuddha Gotama

The Global Vipassana Pagoda was built with selfless Dhamma service and voluntary donations from people worldwide, for the benefit and happiness of many.

"As with all other kamma, so too the kamma of dāna is good or bad according to the volition of one’s mind... The mind when giving must be free of craving, free of aversion, and free of ignorance... While giving such dāna, we do not consider our own benefit. Instead, we are delighted to see the happiness and welfare of the person receiving our dāna. When we take delight in the happiness of others, our minds become pure and tender and is freed from the limitations of narrow self-interest." 
-  Sayagyi U S.N. Goenka. Right Volition of Dana

Most infinite gratitude to Venerable Webu Sayadaw (1896 - 1977). He strongly exhorted Sayagyi U Ba Khin to teach Vipassana. He thereby enabled countless beings in modern times to benefit from Dhamma, through the visionary, Dhamma service of U Ba Khin's student and representative, Principal Vipassana Teacher Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka.

Infinite gratitude to Sayagyi U Ba Khin and Sayagyi U Goenka for compassionately emphasizing that theory and meditation practice of the Buddha's teachings must go together, and are equally important. Theory without meditation is being lame, in not taking actual steps to purify the mind and walk on the path of Dhamma. And practice without theory is walking blind.

May all beings benefit from the correct practice of Vipassana, and be liberated from all suffering.

Ongoing projects in the Global Vipassana Pagoda:

* Designs on the Pagoda, decorating the canopy, canopy pillar, and Dhamma verses on the Pagoda walls. The Parikrama path will be laid with a special marble from Burma (to ease walking barefoot even on hot days). Estimated cost of completion of these projects: US $260,000; INR 1,25,00,000
* Landscaping the outer areas of the Pagoda, building parks and roads, laying water lines etc. Estimated cost: US$ 530,000, INR 2,50,00,000
*Gong Tower : $25,000, INR 12,50,000
*Cell Pagoda Dome: $80,000, INR 40,00,000
* Two auditoriums: $180,000, INR 90,00,000
* Dhamma Library: $60,000, INR 30,00,000
* Security and Information Centre: $445,000, INR 2,22,50,000
* Maintenance: Estimated cost $900 (Per day) $324,000, INR 1,62,00,000
* Boundary Wall: $335,000, INR 1,67,50,000
* Pagoda Parikrama Flooring: $670,000, INR 3,35,00,000
* Landscaping: $670,000, INR 3,35,00,000
* Estimated Total Funds needed: $3,579,000, INR 17,89,50,000

Corpus Fund for the Global Vipassana Pagoda
The Global Vipassana Foundation has established a Corpus Fund for uninterrupted management of the Vipassana Pagoda, to maintain the Pagoda successfully for centuries without any outside pressure.
This Corpus Fund cannot be utilized by any individual for personal gain. The income from this Fund, deposited in an Indian Government Bank, will be used for maintenance and daily expenditure of this unique Dhamma monument.

How to donate to the Global Vipassana Pagoda
  1. Donation through Cheque/Draft
    Donation Cheque/Draft favoring “Global Vipassana Foundation” payable at Mumbai can be sent to the following address:
    Kamlesh Vikamsey
    Khimji Kunverji & Co.
    Sunshine Tower, Level 19,
    Senapati Bapat Marg,
    Elphinstone Road,
    Mumbai 400013,
    Tel: +91 22 2439 1111
  2. Donations through Core Banking (within India )
    Donations to “Global Vipassana Foundation” can now be remitted from anywhere in India through any branch of the AXIS BANK LTD. under core banking system.
    Global Vipassana Foundation
    A/C NO: ‐ 911010032397802
    IFSC CODE:‐ UTIB0000062,
    MICR CODE:‐ 400211011
    MUMBAI‐ 400064

  3. Donations from Outside India can be remitted through SWIFT transfer to Bank of India
    SWIFT Transfer details are as follows:
    Name of the Bank : J P Morgan Chase Bank
    A/c. No. : 0011407376
    Swift: CHASUS33
    Address :
    New York, US
    Global Vipassana Foundation
    Bank Of India
    Stock Exchange Branch.
    A/C No008610100011250
    Swift Code BKIDINBBBLD
    FORT, Mumbai 400001
Copy of communication may please be enclosed to kamlesh@kkc.in.
For donation made through option 3 & 4 Please Inform
Kamlesh Vikamsey
Global Vipassana Foundation
Khimji Kunverji & Co.
Sunshine Tower, Level 19,
Senapati Bapat Marg,
Elphinstone Road,
Mumbai 400013,
Tel: +91 22 2439 1111 Or
Email to: Kamlesh@kkc.in
Please inform all relevant details such as Name, Address & Contact Number, so that the receipt of your donation can be sent to you.
* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for Vipassana courses
* Dhamma reasons why no fees are charged for Vipassana courses - including for boarding and lodging
* How to reach Global Pagoda, Gorai / Borivili, Mumbai

Nov 3, 2011

What is Purpose and Benefits of the Global Vipassana Pagoda?

(Updated and based on the Dhamma article Why the Grand Vipassana Pagoda? Vipassana Newsletter, October 1997)

The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been built to share the benefits of Vipassana - the universal, practical quintessence of the Buddha's teachings. Vipassana practice is to purify the mind and achieve true happiness.
The Global Pagoda is a commemorative symbol of gratitude to my benevolent teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. He had wished and predicted that Vipassana will again return to India, and from India spread around the world.

Through Vipassana practice and information displays, the Global Pagoda serves to dispel many myths, misconceptions and delusions about the Buddha and the timeless Dhamma teaching of Vipassana.

The historical truth is that the Buddha neither taught ‘Buddhism’ nor converted anyone as ‘Buddhist’. The Buddha taught the universal, practical Dhamma to live a wholesome, happy life.

The Vipassana Research Institute Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD , with the entire teaching of the Buddha and related literature in Pali, contains 146 volumes with 52,602 pages and 7,448,248 words. The word "Buddhism" or "Buddhist" is not found in it.

'Dhamma' is the word used for the teaching of the Buddha, not "Buddhist Dhamma". Prefixes to the word "Dhamma" are qualitative, not sectarian: for eg, saddhamma (true Dhamma), ariyo dhammo (noble Dhamma), dhammo sanātano (eternal Dhamma), and so on.

In the Buddha's lifetime, those who practiced his Dhamma teaching were never called 'Buddhists' . These six words were used to describe them: dhammim, dhammiko, dhammattho, dhammacarim, dhammavihari, dhammanusari.

This word 'Buddhist' may have come into use after India lost Vipassana, the practical essence of the true teaching of the Buddha. Instead. rites and rituals were practiced in the delusion that such blind beliefs were the Buddha's teaching.

The Buddha's true teaching of Vipassana gives immense benefits to all, shattering artificial barriers of caste, race, class and religion. The universal acceptance of Vipassana is proof that the Buddha's teaching is for all, not just to people of any particular sect.
After all, morality, mastery of the mind, purifying the mind and compassion is the essence of all religions. Vipassana is the practical quintessence of all religions.

The Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon (Rangoon)

The Global Vipassana Pagoda is modeled on the Shwedagon as mark of gratitude to Myanmar (Burma), for preserving the teaching of Vipassana in pristine purity for over 2000 years.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been built only from voluntary donations and services from thousands worldwide - from all religions - who wish to share the benefits of Vipassana with others. The completion of the Global Pagoda is proof of the gratitude of the many to Dhamma; it reflects the deep wish of the many for the true welfare and happiness of all beings.

Historically, such pagodas are solid. But with innovative techniques of architecture, a vast meditation hall has been built as a hollow stone dome of the pagoda. This enables thousands of Vipassana students to meditate together. One gains strength from combined purity of practice in such group sittings. Mumbai has tens of thousands of Vipassana practitioners, and the number is increasing.
At the top of the stone dome, in its centre, bone relics of the Buddha have been enshrined. These relics of the Buddha were generously donated by the Mahabodhi Society of India and the government of Sri Lanka. Many millions in coming centuries will visit the Global Pagoda to pay respects and gratitude to Dhamma, and the Buddha.

The Buddha said the best way to show one's gratitude and respect to Dhamma and the Buddha is to purify the mind - by sitting cross-legged, upright and ardently practicing insight meditation of Vipassana. The Global Pagoda, as the world's largest meditation hall, provides this practical facility.
The Global Pagoda dome Dhamma hall enables one to benefit from group meditation of Vipassana. It is very inspiring to see many thousands of people from diverse backgrounds and communities silently and ardently practicing together pure scientific path to true happiness.
The adjacent Dhamma Pattana Vipassana centre conducts residential 10-day Vipassana courses for beginners, and longer courses for experienced students. Dhamma Pattana is one of over 160 Vipassana centres worldwide where people can take a deep dip in Dhamma.
The nearby exhibition gallery of the Global Pagoda has traditional paintings depicting important events of the Buddha's life and teachings. Visitors learn that Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha was neither a god, nor an incarnation of any god. nor a prophet of any god. He did not become the Buddha because of divine grace. Perfecting his paramitās (wholesome mental qualities that help to dissolve egoism and thus lead to liberation), by exerting strenuous efforts for innumerable lives, he attained supreme enlightenment in his final life. He was therefore called a sammāsambuddha (one who becomes a Buddha by his own efforts). He was not a mythological being, but a completely historical person.

He was called superhuman because he attained the highest state that can be attained by a human being. For 45 years, until he passed away at age of 80, he compassionately taught the technique of Vipassana to suffering humanity. Having completely eradicated craving, aversion and ignorance, he was called Bhagavā. Having rediscovered and taught nature's laws of kamma (volitional action), the law of cause and effect, he was called a supreme theist. In ancient India of those days, this was the only acceptable definition of theism.

The Buddha said the Dhamma truths, and the practical path of Vipassana to experience the Dhamma truths, already existed before him, and will do so after him. With supreme effort, a sammāsambuddha rediscovers the lost teaching, and shares the teaching out of compassion for all beings.

With the loss of Vipassana, India forgot the universal and practical nature of the Buddha's beneficial teaching. As long as it was "Dhamma", people did not hesitate to practice it. But as soon as it began to be called "Buddhism", the delusion spread,"This is the dhamma for 'Buddhists', not for us".

Fortunately, a few wise people in the neighbouring country of Myanmar preserved this universal technique of Vipassana in its pure form for centuries, from generation to generation. It has arisen again. It has returned to India. It has arisen again in the world.

The Buddha did not establish any religious sect. He never had any intention of converting anyone. He taught the pure Dhamma with only one objective, "bahujana hitāya, bahujana sukhāya" (for the good of many, for the happiness of many) and not merely for the good of any single religious sect.

Gullible people blindly believed that purification of the mind and liberation from the cycle of existence could be attained through meaningless rituals. With infinite mettā and compassion, the Buddha made strong efforts to bring such deluded people to the path of Dhamma, the path of sīla (morality), samādhi (mastery of the mind) and paññā (wisdom).

He taught the way to make pure Dhamma an integral part of daily life through the practice of Vipassana. It enabled people to come out of delusions that merely reading and recitation of their scriptures, or praying to some invisible power, might save them from suffering. Vipassana practice enables one to experience the benefits, the urgency and importance of purifying the mind, how the law and cause and effect is supreme, and how one reaps what one sows.

The question is often asked: Why is this pagoda built in a Burmese and not India architectural style? Why is it a replica of the Swedagon pagoda in Yangon (Rangoon)?
In the ancient pure tradition of India, two important yardsticks measure one's progress in Dhamma: 1) pubbakari, serving others selflessly without expecting anything in return; 2) kataññu katavedi, gratitude.
We have regained this priceless technique of Vipassana, which had been lost for over 2,000 years, from Myanmar (Burma) which preserved it in its pristine purity. About 2,500 years ago, when the pure Dhamma teaching went from here to different countries - primarily through efforts of Emperor Asoka - they expressed their gratitude to India by building stupas in an Indian architectural style. So, when devoted people there saw these stupas, they would remember their gratitude to India.

As centuries passed, the original Indian architectural style was influenced by local architecture, and the stupas of these different countries assumed characteristic differences. We have now received this technique from Myanmar. It is our duty to express our gratitude towards Myanmar.The Global Vipassana Pagoda is a symbol of this gratitude.
For centuries, those seeing this pagoda will remember the debt of gratitude to Myanmar. With the arising of this feeling of gratitude, their Dhamma volition will be strengthened. One becomes more happy, peaceful.
In the over four decades after Vipassana practice is again spreading throughout India and the world, it has completely proved that the original teaching of the Buddha is not meant to be confined within the bounds of a religion. It is universal. People of all religions, races, castes and communities of the world are benefiting.
Vipassana enables the self-realization that one's problems are within. It provides a pure, proven, scientific method to work hard to purify one's mind. One changes oneself for the better, instead of expecting others to change. The purer mind has nothing but compassion and goodwill for all beings.
One can believe with conviction that with the widespread practice of Vipassana, aversion and ill-will between individuals, and sectarian strife between different religions and communities will end. Peace, harmony and goodwill will grow among people of India and around the world.
May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be liberated from all suffering.