Sunlun Buddhist Vipassana Meditation FAQ

Chinese / 中文

(An EXTRACT from “Chapter 6 Sunlun Sayadaw” of "The Living Buddhist Masters" or its new name "The Living Dharma" with Publicaton and Translation approval from the author Jack Kornfield)

Q. 1

Why is it that when we start the deep breathing, for the first few minutes we feel very tired; then when we breathe longer we no longer feel tired?

A. 1

We feel tired when our breathing is not balanced; usually the out-breath tends to be stronger than the in-breath. Inhalation should be increased. Once we establish proper breathing balance, once our breathing becomes rhythmic, we no longer feel tired and in fact we can go on breathing for a long time.


Q. 2

Why do we stop our breathing with an in-breath?

A. 2

So that we can gather our energies together to grapple with the sensations. If we stop on an out-breath we are likely to be relaxed, which is not good for mindfulness.


Q. 3

When we sit in certain positions, we feel strong sensations such as cramps. Do we sit on until the sensations subside, and how long do such sensations last?

A. 3

Yes, we should let all sensations subside. The length of time depends on individuals. Some take only a short time; others may take hours. Any sensation that arises is natural and we should not be afraid but should be mindful and patient. We should sit and not move, and should keep our mindfulness on the sensations until they disappear completely.


Q. 4

Sometimes after the most pronounced sensation has worn off, there is left some numbness, say in the foot. Should we continue till this too has gone?

A. 4

Yes, you should continue until all sensations have gone. You may have to sit a long time for all the sensations to go, but this is necessary. Of course, if you are able to establish rigorous and intense mindfulness it does not take so much time. Intentness is important.


Q. 5

But if we do not have the time to sit so long, can we stop before the numbness disappears entirely?

A. 5

You can, though it is not good; your body may feel heavy and your mind not fully purified. If you do not have enough time, you need not breathe for too long to start with. Your sensations may not then be too pronounced, and you may not have to sit for very long for all sensations to disappear. But then you are not really doing what you should and there may arise feelings of dissatisfaction with the practice or with yourself.


Q. 6

I have found that I can make my sensations go by simply stretching my legs for example. Why do I then have to sit till they disappear?

A. 6

The essence of meditation is to grapple with sensations to overcome them. We can of course make the sensations disappear by simply moving our legs, our arms, or our body, but in this way we are not grappling with our sensations. We are trying to escape from them and in doing so we come up against new sensations. We have to know that we cannot escape from any sensation, that what we cannot escape from is the suffering inherent in our body, and that the only way is to face up to it and win through to insight, to liberation.


Q. 7

What is meant by mindfulness? Is it, for example, meditation on the cause of the sensation that arises in us?

A. 7

Certainly not. Mindfulness is alert awareness and holding rigorously on to this awareness without any conceptual notion, without any thought whatever.


Q. 8

What is the difference between Samatha meditation and Vipassana meditation?

A. 8

Samatha meditation is concentration on objects, ideas, and images. Vipassana meditation uses the power of concentration primarily on sensations within the body. Samatha makes the mind powerful, while Vipassana purifies the mind to enable it to gain insight. A person who succeeds with pure concentration will for example be very persuasive in arguments, and everybody will be influenced by him; but usually reaction will come later. With Vipassana it is different; a person who succeeds in Vipassana is so clearly full of insight and knowledge that he will be listened to without any doubt appearing either then or later.


Q. 9

Is it possible for a person practicing Vipassana to go into Samatha?

A. 9

Samatha uses concentration as its main support, while Vipassana uses the two legs of concentration and sensation. One who practices concentration can do so without Vipassana, but one who practices Vipassana uses concentration to some extent, to obtain the instant-to-instant concentration, and trains this concentration on sensation. As long as you keep on this path you will not go into pure concentration. But if you lean entirely on the leg of concentration you can go into the path of Samatha. You may see colors, images, etc., and you may become distracted. The trouble is that those who go into Samatha may feel that they are achieving something, whereas in fact their experiences tend to become obstacles in the path of true liberation. It is difficult for a person who is well developed in Samatha to advance in Vipassana. The only way to help such a person is to teach him to lean on the leg of mindfulness of sensationas well.


Q. 10

What should we do if the sensations are too intense to bear?

A. 10

Patience, perseverance – these are the qualities required to stand up to sensations however intense they may be, and to overcome them. Be mindful, and sensation will disappear, even the most intense sensations. The more intense the sensation which has been overcome, the clearer will be the resultant mind.


Q. 11

If firm attention is maintained on bodily sensations, that is, if we can be aware of the sensations without the mind intervening, how are we to be benefited in our mind?

A. 11

It is not a question of the intervention of the mind, it is a matter of a way of functioning of the mind. The mind should continue to function through the operation of awareness. Its thinking function should not interfere; there should be no thinking of thoughts about the sensation. If we are mindful of whatever sensation, when the sensation subsides the mind becomes cleansed and firm; whence arises loving-kindness and calm. Besides, sensations are not only bodily sensations; there are mental sensations as well, but these are better left to a later stage.


Q. 12

How can we be mindful in our everyday life?

A. 12

When we walk our feet touch the ground; be mindful of this touch. When we hold an object, there is the touch on the hand; when we see an object, there is the touch on the eyes; when we hear a sound, there is the touch on the ears; when we smell an odor, there is the touch on the nostrils; when we eat, there is the touch on the tip of the tongue. We can be mindful in these and in many other ways. But it is best to be mindful of touch on any part of the body. This is easier to grasp and hold.


Q. 13

What are the benefits of this form of meditation?

A. 13

The benefits of this form of meditation are the purification of oneself, the overcoming of sorrow and misery, the destruction of pain and grief, reaching the right path, and the attainment of nirvana. By purification is meant the cleansing of the mind and the strengthening of the moral sense. The mind is quieted through the removal of the five hindrances namely, sloth and torpor, sensual lust, ill will, agitation, and distraction and doubting. The mind is purified – at least for a period – of greed, hatred, and ignorance. The moral sense is strengthened not through the acceptance of the social sanctions but through a greater awareness of what happens when one is immoral.

Sorrow, misery, pain, and grief take two forms, physical and mental. Physical misery and pain arise when the body is ill or not functioning properly. Sorrow and grief arise when the mind is disturbed. This form of meditation helps the body to function properly. (I shall here only mention that there are many cases of cure of physical.