Spirit and corporeality: the spirit precedes the movement

- through Henry Oudin

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Part 3 of Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw's advice on the basic Buddhist practice of Mindfulness.

With further advancements in meditation, the conscious state of an intention becomes evident before bodily movement occurs. The meditator first observes this intention. Although at the beginning of his practice he notes "intention, intention" (eg to bend an arm), he cannot distinctly note this state of consciousness. Now, at this more advanced stage, he clearly notes the awareness of the intention to bend. So he first notes the conscious state of an intention to make a bodily movement, then the particular bodily movement. At first, failing to observe an intention, he thinks that bodily movement is faster than the mind that knows it. At this stage, the spirit appears to precede the movement. The meditator easily observes the intention to bend, stretch, sit, stand, walk away, etc. It also clearly notes bending, stretching, etc. He therefore realizes the fact that the spirit which knows a bodily process is faster than the material process. He directly experiences the fact that a bodily process takes place after an intention has preceded it.

Observing the cessation and disappearance of bodily and mental phenomena

If the meditator begins either with the raising and lowering of the abdomen, or with any other bodily or mental object, he will find that he is progressing. Observation will continue on its own, smoothly and calmly. He will find that he clearly observes the cessation and disappearance of bodily and mental phenomena. At this point, his mind is quite free from all defilements. As pleasant and attractive as an object may be, it is no longer so for him. Likewise, however repulsive an object may be, it is no longer so for him. He just sees, hears, smells, tastes or knows. With the six types of equanimity described in the Texts, he observes all bodily and mental phenomena. He is not even aware of how long he is immersed in meditation. And he does not think in any way.

Despite the fluctuations, the meditator must not allow himself to be overwhelmed by disappointment or despair.

But if he does not develop the Insight sufficiently to realize the "knowledge of the Path and the realization of its results" (magga and phala) within two or three hours, concentration will become weak and thinking will set in. And, conversely, if he progresses well, he can anticipate future progress. He will be so delighted thinking about the result that he will experience regression. He must then dispel such anticipation, or reflection, simply by noting it. Regular meditation will allow for smooth progress. But if one has not yet acquired sufficient strength in Penetrating Vision, concentration will again become weak. In this way, some meditators progress and regress several times. Those who have learned about the stages in the progression of Insight through study (or by hearing about it) encounter ups and downs. Therefore, it is not good for a student meditating under the guidance of a teacher to inquire about these steps before beginning to meditate. But these steps have been explained here for the benefit of those who must practice without the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Despite such fluctuations, the meditator must not allow himself to be overwhelmed by disappointment or the despair. He is now, so to speak, on the threshold of Magga and speak (entering the Way and realizing the results of the states of holiness). As soon as the five faculties (indriya) of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and understanding will be developed in a balanced way, it will soon reach Magga et speak and will do the nibbana.


Mahasi Sayadaw
Translation: Christian Galliou

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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