VIPASSANA ‘AS IT IS’ SANS LABELS & CONCEPTS
true vipassana is the process of choice-less, effort-less, label-less & concept-less (pannatti thapetva) observation of the reality of nama-rupa ‘as it is’ (yathabhuta) from moment-to-moment.
the mahasatipatthana sutta does not teach ‘not to react’ to sensations or to forcibly cultivate ‘equanimity’ at the level of sensations. instead the buddha repeatedly says “pajanati” - to be completely aware of the reality of nama-rupa manifesting from moment-to-moment ‘as it is’ without any restraint, restriction, control or correction. sankharas arise & pass away and equanimity naturally & effortlessly develops on its own as a corollary of such pure awareness.
vipassana is not a technique but, a process of observation. the vipassanic process of silent mere-bare observation is without the imposition or addition of any analysis, concept or label on what is being observed. the observer is the observed.
the mahasatipatthana sutta does not teach to begin the practice of vipassana with the forced psychological imposition of the concept of equanimity or anicca on sensations. buddha’s teaching in the mahasatipatthana sutta is all about the silent awareness of the reality of mind-matter ‘as it is’ (yathabhuta) whatever the reality may be from moment-to-moment - whether the reality manifests as arising-and-passing-away (samudaya vyaya) or whether it is the mere-bare impersonal awareness of the ‘empty’ phenomenon of nama-rupa rolling on (yavadeva nanamattaya patisatimattaya) or whether the mind reacts with craving (sa-raga) or aversion (sa-dosa) to sensations (samisa or niramisa vedana) or whatever reality is actually manifesting at ‘that’ moment.
the forced psychological imposition of the concept of equanimity or anicca and that too exclusively on body sensations is not the original teaching of the buddha or the original tradition of sayagyi u ba khin. buddha’s vipassana begins with yathabhuta nanadassana (observation of the reality ‘as it is’) and is not about the effortful forced cultivation of “equanimity”.
the original teaching of sayagyi u ba khin at IMC is in accordance with undistorted pure (paripunno & parisuddho) buddha-dhamma. sayagyi did not improvise & invent any new technique to attract more followers. sayagyi u ba khin did not teach to forcibly maintain equanimity at the level of body sensations and instead taught to experientially see (not psychologically or intellectually analyse & ‘understand’) anicca, dukkha, anatta of the nama-rupa phenomenon.
interestingly, a word search of sayagyi u ba khin’s collected texts published by IMC confirms that sayagyi used words like ‘equanimity’ & ‘equanimous’ only in the context of samadhi and NOT even once in the context of panna (vipassana). sayagyi u ba khin’s vipassana is a choiceless awareness of anicca or dukkha or anatta of the yathabhuta reality from moment-to-moment. period.
there is no mention of the words ‘anicca, dukkha, anatta’ in the mahasatipatthana sutta and it confirms that bhagava’s vipassana is the direct experience of paramattha sacca at the level of tilakkhanas & the tilakkhanas are not a psychological concept (pannatti) or “label” to be thoughtfully or psychologically or analytically ‘understood’ and affixed to the sensations. anicca lakkhana is the direct experience of samudaya-vyaya & not a thoughtful analysis or concept. sayagyi u ba khin pointed out that dukkha lakkhana is the experiential understanding of tejo dhatu nature of all mind-body phenomenon. referring to the oft quoted saying of upacala theri (therigatha) - one may surmise that ‘sabbo pajjalito loko’ is dukkha-lakkhana & ‘sabbo loko pakampito’ is anicca lakkhana. anatta lakkhana is seeing the nama-rupa phenomenon as impersonal & ‘empty’ phenomenon rolling on.
the vipassanic process may be begun by observing any dimension or facet of the nama-rupa phenomenon. all four satipatthanas are one [catunnaṃ satipaṭṭhānānaṃ ekena satipaṭṭhānena (Peṭakopadesapāḷi. Pañcamabhūmi) & ekameva satipaṭṭhānaṃ ārammaṇavasena cattāroti etadeva vuttaṃ. (Mahavagga Attakatha & Mulapannasa Attakatha)] and one does not need to exclusively search only for anicca lakkhana & exclude the other two lakkhana (dukkha & anatta) of the paramattha sacca. equanimity is something that naturally & effortlessly develops on its own at a later stage and this is confirmed by the fact that udayabbyaya-nana, bhanga-nana & nibbida-nana PRECEDE the sankhara upekkha nana in the stages of insight. same is the chronological order in the suttas and also in the bojjhangas.
the statements made in this article are not the personal view or interpretation of the author. a careful study of the mahasatipatthana sutta, attakathas, ven. ledi sayadaw’s dipanis & the collected dhamma texts authored by sayagyi u ba khin will confirm the statements made in this brief article. the author can cite numerous references from the tipitaka, ven. ledi sayadaw’s dipanis & also the texts authored by sayagyi u ba khin in support of the statements made herein.
this is pure & undistorted vipassana as taught by the bhagava in the mahasatipatthana sutta & in accordance with the traditional burmese definition of vipassana as “pannatti thapetva visesena passati’ti vipassana” & as was originally taught by sayagyi u ba khin at IMC.
the buddha was a revolutionary par excellance. the unparalleled ‘cattaro satipatthana bhavana’ ekayano maggo teaching of the buddha is a total revolution in the psyche and has the potential to fundamental transform our life, thought process & the entire world. undoubtedly, you are the world & the world is you.
the forceful psychological imposition of the concept of equanimity or anicca exclusively on body sensations is a new & improvised technique which is akin to a concept-laden (sa-pannatti & not pannatti thapetva) practice of samadhi (शमथ) on body sensations and is not the original vipassana as taught by the buddha or the original teaching of saya thetgyi or the original IMC tradition of sayagyi u ba khin. any conceptual meditation is not universal and is bound to be a ‘technique’ and all techniques further condition the mind. the way to de-condition the mind is not through the ‘practice’ of any conceptual meditation technique. samadhi kammatthana may be a concept (pannatti) but, if it is real vipassana - it will be a concept-free (pannatti thapetva) bhavana of nama-rupa paramattha sacca.
the unique incident of the realization of buddha-hood by siddhartha gotama 2550 years ago stands testimony. prince siddhartha had studied various philosophies & practiced many austerities. despite achieving the highest 8th jhana - the bodhisattva found that his mind was not totally de-conditioned and that the sankharas of anusaya-kilesa remained. the night of vesaka purnima was a turning point for him because now he completely abandoned the effortful & chosen path of doer-ship which comes with conceptual samadhi practices, austerities and philosophies and instead started observing the concept-less (pannatti thapetva) reality of nama-rupa ‘as it is’ (yathabhuta nanadassana) and this mere-bare awareness of the truth from moment-to-moment (visesena passati’ti vipassana) led to the realization of supreme Enlightenment - sammasambodhi - which cannot be reached through any conceptual practice.
religions and meditation techniques with concepts (pannatti) are many. may all who come in contact with buddha dhamma understand that the unique contribution of buddha is not about the concept imbued practice of sila (morality) or samadhi (concentration) but, the concept-less effortless & choiceless awareness of the totality of the nama-rupa phenomenon manifesting from moment-to-moment. only such a pure awareness can be called a concept-less (pannatti thapetva) ‘ekayano maggo’ that can de-sankharize (de-condition) the mind.
with glory to the triple gems and all those who have unshakeable saddha on the triple gems,
rejoicing with much metta,