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Dec 20, 2013

Work Without Wavering

When you are well concentrated, even for a short moment, your mind is cleansed of greed, aversion and delusion for that short moment (of pure happiness). Cannot you keep your continuity of awareness for a longer time-span?

by Most Venerable Webu Sayadaw

You are born at a good time and in a good form of existence. Now then, emulate the wise and put forth effort as strong as theirs, so that you may attain to the awakening to which you aspired. 

What the Buddha taught is the way out of suffering. You don't have to know a vast amount. If you practice one meditation technique properly with strong and steadfast effort, you will come to know for yourselves that you are people of great strength. You will not have to ask others about the Dhamma teachings, and you will not even have to tell others that you are practicing.

Once you have established effort, you will not only know what good teachers told you, but you will clearly know for yourselves how the 'viriya iddhipada' (viriya - effort, iddhipada - a factor needed for enlightenment) arises in a split-second. 

When I increase effort, then the 'viriya iddhipada' factor will increase also. And then what will happen? I will think: "With just this much effort, the viriya iddhipada factor has arisen to this extent. But my energy is not exhausted yet. There is still more. I shall increase my effort further. And the will to increase effort will arise. At this same instant effort increases. As effort increases the viriya iddhipada factor becomes stronger. When these factors have thus arisen to a very high standard, then all your aspirations can be fulfilled.

Work continuously. If you develop continuously, you will become happier and happier.

You will understand that the degree you come out of suffering depends on how much effort you put in and on how strongly the viriya iddhipada factor arises out of this effort.

There will be no more room for doubt because you have now practiced the technique and experienced it for yourselves, and so you know it. You will think, "Even in such a short time I am able to come out of suffering immediately to such an extent, but my strength is not yet exhausted." And the will to exert still more effort arises, and you will become happy with a happiness of which you will never tire.

Webu Sayadaw: And you will fight, won't you? Your enemies do attack and they attack often and with full force. Are sloth, torpor and laziness friends or foes? What do you do when they come? I think it has been some time that you haven't fought a battle?
Meditator: Quite some time, sir.
S: Tell me about the weapons you will have to use, and how you have to fight.
M: We have to fight for one hour every day, sir.
S: Only one hour a day?
M: We can't even always manage that much, sir.
S: Look here! Is this because the weapons are soft or because the warriors are soft?
M: We are soft, sir. We try hard, but we never succeed.
S : But the weapon is fine. You don't understand because you don't fight. You are talking like most. You meditate, you put forth effort, but in spite of that you sound as if there was no effort. There is so much energy in you, but you don't use it. You do have energy. If you put all your stock of energy to use, you will assuredly be successful.
You may say that you have been meditating for so many years, but have you really ever been able to keep your mind focused for a full day?
M: No, sir.
S: By one day I mean a day and a night, twenty-four hours. Now do this: practice the teachings of the Buddha to the full for one day and one night. If you have done this once, you will all be able to appreciate the value of just one single day. 
Some of you may have been practicing for twenty or thirty years and some even longer. But just examine yourselves. Have you really, having established yourselves in complete effort, fulfilled one single day in practice? Have you?
M: No, sir, we haven't.
S: And why have you never devoted yourselves fully for one whole day? You do have the energy required, don't you?
M: Yes, sir.
S: You don't use the energy you have in the right place. You waste it for no purpose. Are you still going to shows and entertainments?
M: Yes, sir. We watch the pwe [traditional Burmese theater, that goes on from evening to sunrise] all night until dawn, without sleeping.
S: How many nights in a row do you do this?
M: About two or three nights, sir.
S: How many shows have you seen in all?
M: I can't remember, sir.
S: You see; there you have plenty of energy. Day and night ! You do have the will to work, but you don't usually use it for this noble purpose, but rather to watch pwe. 
.... Now, if your attention is so firmly fixed on the object of meditation, can sloth, torpor or laziness disturb you?
M: No, sir, they can't.
S: If your attention is firmly established on the in-breath and out-breath and the point of contact, do we still hear other people's conversation?
M: No, sir.
S: What if someone speaks very loudly?
M: It doesn't disturb us, sir.
S: There is no wanting, aversion or delusion. If our minds are thus purged of greed, aversion and ignorance, will there still be loneliness, depression and laziness?
M: No, sir.
S: Are we still missing company?
M: No, sir.
S: Do we still want to know what others are saying?
M: No, sir.
S: If someone comes and invites us out, are we excited?
M: No, sir.
S: We shall not jealously guard what we have got. Good people are not like that. We share it with those with whom we live: "May they also get what I have got." 
Now, what will happen if all establish strong effort from sunrise to sunset, without a break? This is a long time-span, from sunrise to sunset. But will you feel it to be long?
M: No, sir.
S: "Today the time went so quickly! We observed Uposatha and the time just flew! And I really don't know why this day was so short." And after sunset you will again establish awareness of the object and then day will break and you still continue with the awareness of the spot below the nose, above the upper lip until it is light. Without interruption. And you will wonder, "This night passed really quickly; now it is day again!"
This is how they used to practice on Uposatha day. When the direct disciples of the Buddha undertook to practice for a day, they practiced for twenty-four hours. And when day came, they were still not satisfied and said, "In the long cycle of birth and death we have been doing all those other things for a long time, but not this." And they continued their work without wavering. Do you have days like this?
M: Our days contain some interruptions, sir.
S: If someone keeps Uposatha, and his mind wanders here and there — just anybody, I don't mean you — so his mind flits around here and there. But he is at a pagoda or under a holy Bodhi tree, and say he dies at that moment. What will happen to this person?
M: He will go to the lower worlds, sir.
S: How many lower planes are there?
M: There are four lower planes, sir.
S: What are they?
M: Hell, the animal world, the plane of the hungry ghosts, and the demon world.
S: Now, who wants to go to hell or the animal world?
M: I don't, sir.
S: What about the ghost world or the demon world?
M: I don't want to go there, sir.
S: If you take the precepts and then don't firmly put your mind to observing the teachings of the Buddha, is that skilled or not?
M: It is unskillful, sir.
S: If someone observes the Uposatha without keeping his mind focused, where will he be reborn when he dies?
M: In the lower planes of existence, sir.
S: Are you sure?
M: Yes, sir, I'm sure.
S: There are four bodily postures: sitting, standing, walking and lying down. Which of these is prone to let in the enemy? Laziness and sloth come in while lying down, and they come to stay, don't they? If we indulge in laziness and sloth, will we be able to develop in morality, concentration and wisdom?
M: No, sir, we won't.
S: Laziness and torpor are our enemies. The Great Monk Maha Kassapa rejected the one posture in which the enemy attacks (posture of lying down) and adopted the other three postures (sitting, standing, walking) in which the enemy can't remain for long.
There are thirteen ascetic practices (*see note below) and Maha Kassapa practiced all thirteen. Only those among the disciples of the Buddha with the strongest determination practiced the sitter's practice, i.e., did not lie down for twenty-four hours a day. 
If one takes up the sitter's practice and makes the strong determination not to sleep, this sloth and laziness can't overpower him. Though these noble disciples of the Buddha neither lay down nor slept, they lived long and were very healthy. 
If you practice without sleeping, you are establishing full effort and are always keeping your attention firmly fixed on the object, day and night. If you practice in this way, your morality, your concentration and control over the mind, and your insight and wisdom will become stronger and stronger. They will develop from moment to moment.
If you watch a show all night, you will feel tired in the morning. But if you practice the teachings of the Buddha all night, you will experience happiness and joy without end, and you will not feel sleepy. 
Do you understand? This the Buddha taught — it is not my teaching. If you follow the teachings of the Buddha and don't rest until you have understood them completely, you will really know.
If people tell you, "This shade is cool," don't simply believe them, but try it out for yourselves. If you just repeat, "It is cool, it is cool..." because others say so, you don't really know about its coolness; you merely talk about it. If someone just babbles along, he doesn't show appreciation. But if someone speaks from experience, then will he not be able to speak with deep appreciation, and radiant happiness, and compassion?
So pay attention and practice. If you practice, you will reach your goal. Not just hundreds, not thousands, not ten thousands, not hundreds of thousands — all who follow the teachings will master them.
Well then, what will you do when tiredness and laziness really arise?
M: I shall probably fall asleep, sir.
S: Then, Wake up. Put forth effort and you will become perfect. You have all you need.
All of you have acquired the elements of insight (Vipassana) and renunciation. Because of this, you now esteem the teachings of the Buddha, you want to fulfill and practice them. 
If the accumulation of the perfection of renunciation is small, your ears will be blocked to the teachings of the Buddha. For instance, if somebody tells you to come to this place, you don't want to come because you are bored by this. But now you are attracted by this teaching. All you need now is the same amount of effort that the noble disciples of the Buddha made.
When you begin to practice you may worry, "If I sit for one or two hours I am aching and stiff. How can I possibly sit for a whole day and night? I think that's quite impossible." 
But don't worry in this way. The Buddha did not teach suffering. He taught the way leading to happiness. You may not believe this because you think your own thoughts. But you have to work with full effort and without wavering. Now, when you meditate with full effort, the viriya iddhipada factor will arise. You will understand this.
Keep your attention at the spot where the air touches when you breathe in and out. If you keep it fixed on this spot with full effort, at some time you will find the place of no sleep. 
If you sleep and postpone meditation until you are rested, you will wake up when it is light and there will be no time left to meditate. I am just telling you what the Buddha taught. There is nothing I know. All the Buddha taught is true.
Only when your attention wanders away, the continuity of awareness is broken.
Will greed, aversion and delusion still arise when your attention is focused on the spot of meditation? When you are well concentrated, even for a short moment, your mind is cleansed of greed, aversion and delusion for that short moment. Cannot you keep your continuity of awareness for a longer time-span?
M: Yes, sir, I can.
S: So, make a strong effort and keep your attention there. If you keep it there, is there any drowsiness or laziness disturbing you?
M: They don't come up, sir.
S: But what will happen if you reduce your effort?
M: Laziness will come in, sir.
S: Sloth and laziness (enemies) will come and your concentration will become weak. This is because you're at the beginning; later it will improve.
Will you undertake the sitter's practice (of renouncing the posture of lying down)? Or will you, when sleepiness and tiredness set in, change to another (of the four) postures and reduce your effort?
M: We won't reduce our effort, sir.
S: Now, then, undertake to carry out the sitter's practice! Make it a firm vow!
You may think, "It wasn't right that we just gave in to sleepiness in the past." Well, now you have undertaken the sitter's practice, and I think it is for the first time.
M: Yes, sir, the first time.
S: Now, then. Undertake to carry out the sitter's practice. I'll say it in Pali, repeat after me: 
"Seyyaṃ paṭikkhipāmi, nesajjikaṅgaṃ samādhiyāmi" 
I renounce the posture of lying down. I will train into the practice of remaining seated, even at the time of taking rest. (Nesajjika dhutanga*)

S: This is the weapon. With this weapon you can fight your battle. With this weapon you will be victorious. If you fight with a pillow as a weapon, you cannot win.

M: We shall work hard.

S: You have the teachings, the meditation technique. All you need now is effort. And why do you need effort? Because during meditation the enemies will come to disturb you. Keep your attention on this small spot. 

If your limbs ache, work that you reach the state where there is no aching. 

When you are drowsy, work that you reach the state where there is no drowsiness. 

Good, good. Establish effort and meditate, work to make an end to all suffering.

* Nesajjika dhutanga - One of the thirteen voluntary ascetic practices that the Buddha permitted, for rigorous efforts in practicing Vipassana to purify the mind.


May all beings be happy, Make all right efforts to be free from all impurities of the mind, and be liberated from every suffering.