The Virtues of Patience to Achieve Nibbana

- through Henry Oudin

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Part 4 of Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw's advice on the basic Buddhist practice of Mindfulness.

“Patience leads to nibbana says a saying. Obviously, this saying applies to this observing practice more than any other. You have to have a lot of patience in meditation. If a meditator does not bear unpleasant feelings patiently during meditation, but changes his posture frequently, he cannot hope to achieve concentration. And without concentration he has no chance of realizing the knowledge of Penetrating Vision (vipassana-naṇa). Without it, one cannot realize the entrance to the Path, nor its results, nor the nibbana. 

The progression and outcome of contemplation:
knowledge of dukkha, anicca and anatta and entry into the Stream.

Continuing the practice of meditation for some time will result in considerable progress in mindfulness and concentration. At this high level, it will be made possible to perceive that each time one notes, each process appears and then instantly disappears. But ignorant people generally consider that the body and the spirit are in a situation of permanence throughout life, or existence, that it is the same body which has grown from childhood until adulthood ; that it is the same young spirit that has grown to maturity and that body and spirit are one and the same person. The reality is not like this. Nothing is permanent. Everything exists for a while and then disappears. Nothing can last, even for the blink of an eye. The changes happen very quickly and they will be perceived in time by the meditator. By continuing the meditation by noting: “ascent, descent” and so on, one finds that the processes always appear and then disappear one after the other in very rapid succession. By realizing that everything disappears at the very moment when he notes, the meditator acquires the certainty of the fact that nothing is permanent. This knowledge concerning the fleeting state of things is the knowledge of the Penetrating Vision of impermanence (aniccanupassana-naṇa).

So the meditator feels that this constantly changing state of affairs is painful and undesirable to him. This is the knowledge of the Penetrating Vision of suffering (dukkanupassana-naṇa). Moreover, the fact of experiencing many painful feelings is then seen as a simple cluster of suffering. This too is the same Penetrating Vision.

By realizing the first stage of nibbana, one is freed from the cycle of rebirth in the unhappy life of a lower existence.

Then, we perceive that the elements of matter and spirit never follow our wishes, but that they act according to their own nature and according to their conditioning. Busy noticing the processes, a meditator is sure of the fact that these are not controllable and that they are neither a person nor a living entity nor a 'me' in the true sense of the term. It is the knowledge of the Insight of the absence of a "me" (anattanupassana-naṇa).

When a meditator has fully developed the insightful spiritual knowledge of impermanence, suffering, and the absence of a 'self', he will achieve nibbana. From time immemorial Buddhas, Arahants and saints have realized nibbana through the medium of Vipassana. It is the High Way leading to nibbana. In fact, Vipassana is made up of the Four Applications of Mindfulness (satipaṭṭhana) and is therefore the high way to nibbana.

Meditators should therefore pursue the practice of meditation with great earnestness and with confidence that it will surely lead them to perfecting the knowledge of entering the Path and realizing its results, and realizing the nibbana. They will then be freed from the mistaken belief in the existence of a "me" (sakkaya-diṭṭhi) and doubt (vicikiccha) and will no longer be subject to the round of rebirths in the unhappy existences of hell, animals or hungry spirits.

By realizing the first stage of nibbana, one is freed from the cycle of rebirth in the unhappy life of a lower existence. Everyone must therefore strive to achieve at least this first stage.


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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