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Dec 16, 2013

Being Free from the Poison of Passion

You keep generating impurities, and your misery continues. You can't stop it because there is a big barrier between the surface of the mind (intellect) and depth of the mind (the so-called 'unconscious' mind that is actually very active, every moment). Without Vipassana practice, this barrier remains.
 - Sayagyi U Goenka

From Principal Teacher of Vipassana Saygyi U Goenka's article On Addiction, October, 1991:
The Buddha said that one who understands Dhamma understands the law of cause and effect. You must realize this truth within yourselves. Vipassana is the process by which you can do so. 

You take steps on the path of Dhamma by practicing Vipassana. Then, whatever you realize, you accept it. Step by step, with an open mind, you experience deeper truths of mind and matter.

It is not for curiosity that you investigate the truth pertaining to your own mind-matter and mental contents. Instead, you change habit patterns at the deepest level of the mind. As you progress, you will realize how mind influences matter, and how matter influences mind.

Every moment within the framework of the body, masses of sub-atomic particles (kalāpas) arise and pass away. How do they arise? The cause becomes clear as you investigate the reality as it is, free from influence of past conditionings of philosophical beliefs. The material input, the food (āhāra) that you have eaten, is one cause for arising of these kalāpas. Another is the atmosphere (utu) around you. 

You also begin to understand how mind (citta) helps matter to arise and dissolve. At times matter arises from the mental conditioning of the past - that is, the accumulated saṇkhāras of the past. By the practice of Vipassana, all of this starts to become clear. At this moment, that type of mind has arisen and what is the content of this mind? The quality of the mind is according to its content. For example, when a mind full of anger, passion or fear has arisen, you will notice that different sub-atomic particles are generated.

When the mind is full of passion (lust, sexual cravings), then within this material structure, sub-atomic particles of a particular type arise, and there is a biochemical flow which starts throughout the body. This type of biochemical flow, which starts because a mind full of passion has arisen, is called in Pali kāmā asava,-the flow of passion.

Like a scientist you proceed further, observing truth as it is, examining the law of nature. When this biochemical flow produced by passion starts, it influences the next moment of the mind with more passion. Thus the kāmā asava turns into kāma tanhā, a craving of passion at the mental level, which again stimulates a flow of passion at the physical level. One starts influencing and stimulating the other, and the passion multiplies for minutes, even hours. The tendency of the mind to generate passion is strengthened because of this repeated generation of passion.

Not only passion but fear, anger, hatred and craving, in fact every type of impurity generated in the mind simultaneously generates an āsava, a biochemical flow. And this āsava stimulates that particular negativity, or impurity. The result is a vicious circle of suffering. You may call yourself a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jain or a Christian; it makes no difference. The process, this law of nature is applicable to one and all. There is no discrimination.

Mere understanding at a superficial, intellectual level will not help break this cycle, and may even create more difficulties. Your beliefs from a particular tradition may look quite logical, yet those beliefs will create obstacles for you. 

The intellect has its own limitations. You cannot realize the ultimate truth merely by intellect because intellect is finite, while ultimate truth is limitless, infinite. Only through direct experience can you realize that which is limitless and infinite.

If you accept this law of nature intellectually but still are unable to change the behaviour pattern of your mind, you remain far away from realizing the ultimate truth. Your acceptance is only superficial, while your behaviour pattern continues at the depth of the mind. 

What is called the 'unconscious' mind is actually not unconscious. At all times it remains in contact with this body. And with this contact a sensation keeps arising. You feel a sensation that you label as pleasant, and you keep reacting. At the depth of your mind you  react with craving or aversion. You keep generating different types of saṇkhāras, negativities, impurities, and the process of multiplying your misery continues. You can't stop it because there is such a big barrier between the surface level and the depth of the mind. Without the practice of Vipassana, this barrier remains.

True freedom comes only with conquering lust - the sexual craving for another's (filth-filled *) body - which, in reality, is only craving for a particular flow of sensations (kāmā asava) within one's own body. The ascetic Gotama successfully fought through this great inner battle against lust, in his journey to total purification of the mind with practice of Vipassana. He reached the ultra pure state of a Sammasambuddha, to serve all beings with infinite compassion. 
(Painting from the Global Pagoda Art Gallery of the Buddha's life).

At the conscious, intellectual (surface) level of the mind, one may accept the entire theory of Dhamma, truth, law, nature. But still one rolls in misery because one does not realize what is happening at the depth of the mind. But with Vipassana practice your mind becomes very sharp, sensitive, penetrating - so that you can feel sensations throughout the body. 

Sensations occur every moment. Every contact results in a sensation: in Pali, phassa paccayā vedanā. This is not a philosophy; it is the scientific truth which can be verified by one and all.

The moment there is a contact, there is bound to be a sensation; and every moment, the mind is in contact with matter throughout the physical structure. The deeper level of the mind feels these sensations, and it keeps reacting to them. But on the surface the mind keeps itself busy with outside objects, or it remains involved in intellectual games, imagination, emotion. Therefore, you do not feel what is happening at the deeper level of the mind.

By Vipassana, when that barrier is broken, one starts feeling sensations throughout the body, not merely at the surface level but also deep inside. By observing these sensations, you start realizing their characteristic of arising and passing, udaya-vyaya. By this understanding, you start to actually change the habit pattern of the mind.

For example, you are feeling a particular sensation may be caused by: 1) the food you have eaten, 2) the atmosphere around you, 3) your present mental reactions, 4) old reactions (saṇkhāras) that are now giving their fruit. Whatever the cause may be, a sensation has occurred. With your training in Vipassana, you observe sensations with equanimity, without reacting to them. 

In those few wonderful moments of equanimity, you have started changing the habit pattern of your mind by observing sensation and understanding its nature of impermanence. You have stopped the blind habit pattern of reacting to the sensation and multiplying your misery. 

Initially you may not react to sensations only for a few seconds or minutes. But by practice, you gradually develop your strength and purity of equanimity. As the habit pattern of reaction becomes weaker, your behaviour pattern changes. You are coming out of your misery.

When we talk of addiction, it is not merely to alcohol or to drugs, but also to passion, anger, fear or egotism. All these are addictions to your impurities.

At the intellectual level you may well understand , "Anger is not good for me. It is dangerous. It is harmful." Yet you are addicted to anger, and keep generating it. And when the anger is over, you keep repeating, "Oh! I should not have generated anger." Yet the next time a stimulus comes, you again become angry. You are not coming out of anger, because you have not been working at the depth of your mind where the actual problem multiplies.

By practicing Vipassana, you start observing the sensation that arises because of the biochemical flow when you are angry. You observe, and do not react to it. That means you do not generate anger at that particular moment. This one moment turns into a few seconds, a few minutes, and you find that you are not as easily influenced by this flow as you were in the past. You have slowly started coming out of your anger.

Those who regularly practice Vipassana try to observe how they are dealing with different situations. Are they reacting or remaining equanimous? The first thing a Vipassana meditator will try to do in any difficult situation is to observe sensations. Because of the situation, maybe part of the mind has started reacting, but by observing the sensations, one becomes equanimous.  Instead of the mind being swept away by the torrent of impurities, the bio-chemical flow of impurities fades away.

With regular, daily practice and application of Vipassana, the behaviour pattern starts to change. Those who used to roll in anger, fear for a long time find their anger, fear diminishing in intensity or duration. Similarly, those who are addicted to passion find that it becomes weaker.

The time needed to fully free oneself of a certain impurity may vary, but sooner or later the process of Vipassana works, if one works properly.

Whether you are addicted to craving, aversion, hatred, passion or fear, the addiction is actually to particular sensations that have arisen because of the biochemical flow.

The āsava, or flow, of ignorance is the strongest āsava. Of course, there is ignorance even when you are reacting with anger, passion or fear; but when you become intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, this intoxication multiplies your ignorance. Therefore it takes time to feel sensations, to go to the root of the problem. 

When you become addicted to liquor or drugs, you cannot know the reality of what is happening within the framework of the body. There is darkness in your mind. You cannot understand what is happening inside, what keeps multiplying inside. 

After a ten day Vipassana course, you may only make a slight change in the habit pattern of your mind. It doesn't matter; a beginning is made. If you maintain the (minimum) one-hour practice of Vipassana every morning and evening and take a few more Vipassana courses, the habit pattern will change at the deepest level of the mind. You will come out of your ignorance, out of your habit pattern of reaction - out of your suffering.

When the addictive urge arises (whether for a sexual action, alcohol, drugs, tobacco etc), along with it there is a sensation in the body. Start observing that sensation, whatever it may be. Do not look for a particular sensation. Anything you feel at that time is related to the urge. And by observing the sensation as impermanent, anicca, you will find that this urge passes away. This is not a philosophy, but experiential truth.

Those who follow this advice find that they are coming out of their addictions, whether it be to tobacco, drugs, alcohol, anger and sexual cravings. They may be successful only one time out of ten at first, but they have made a very good beginning. They are striking at the root of their problem.

It is a long path, a lifetime job. But even a journey of ten thousand miles must start with the first step. One who has taken the first step can take the second and third; and step by step, one will reach the final goal of full liberation.

May you come out of all your addictions, addiction to mental impurities. May you change this strong negative behaviour pattern of rolling in impurities, and come out of your misery - for your own good, your own benefit. The Dhamma is such that when you start to benefit from Vipassana, you cannot resist serving others. Your Dhamma goal becomes the good and benefit of many, the liberation of all beings. 

So many people are suffering all around: may they all practice Vipassana, the pure Dhamma, and come out of their misery. May they start enjoying peace and harmony, the peace and harmony of being liberated from all impurities of the mind.

(from the Vipassana Newsletter article On Addiction, October, 1991)

* Contents of the human body: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach and contents, faeces (excreta, body waste), bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, and urine. This is its nature. (from the Mahā-Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta discourse)
[To see the true nature of the human body, go to Google Images, enter search word 'autopsy' ]
That aversion or craving is generated only to one's own bio-chemical flow of sensations within, not to external objects, is the fundamental, life-changing truth realized by practicing Vipassana.

May all beings be happy, be free from all impurities of the mind, be liberated from every suffering.