Mahasi technique and overcoming defilements

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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Mahasi technique and overcoming defilements

Post by T_Hill_616 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:15 pm

My main meditation practice is Vipassana as taught by Bhante Gunaratana, although I do use somewhat of the Mahasi Sayadaw technique of using some basic metal notes during "normal" life to try and maintain as much mindfulness as possible. My question regarding the Sayadaw technique of noting has to do with the fact that it seems like if you have some sort of nagging unwholesome mind state arise and you just see it as "thinking" or "anger", does that help you overcome that habitual mind state? Or should you go into it a little deeper as Bhante G suggests and notice it, determine why it arose and then apply a technique of countering it with Metta or something similar in order to over come it and create new wholesome habits of mind? After this is done a few times and you immediately recognize that mind state it's enough to just notice it arising and passing and it doesn't need to really be worked with in that way anymore.

I just dont see (or understand I suppose) how just noting "anxiety, anger etc..) can help you overcome them.

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Re: Mahasi technique and overcoming defilements

Post by bodom » Sat Jul 07, 2012 4:03 pm

I just dont see (or understand I suppose) how just noting "anxiety, anger etc..) can help you overcome them.
Noting is simply a tool to keep one from identifying with whatever is being experienced. For instance when experiencing anger in meditation and one notes "anger" "anger" it will help prevent one from concocting stories about the source of the anger ie. "I cant believe he said that about me!" Instead one simply notes "anger" "anger" and allows the anger to fade away on its own without fuelling the fire with stories.

If the noting is not strong enough to overcome negative thoughts and feelings one may then go on to other techniques to dispell the hindrances such as Bhante G. suggests. For more on this see this sutta:

The Removal of Distracting Thoughts ... .soma.html" onclick=";return false;

Also I would suggest sticking with either Bhante G's or Mahasi's instructions. Bhante G recommends not noting and trying to follow both will result in doubts.
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo

With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5

"Dont send the mind outside. Watch the mind right at the mind."

- Ajahn Dune Atulo

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Mahasi technique and overcoming defilements

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Jul 07, 2012 6:58 pm

Yes, its true, bare attention to the defilements such as — When a lustful mind is present he knows, "There is a lustful mind" (sarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘Sarāgaṃ citta’nti pajānāti) or when an angry mind is present he knows, "There is an angry mind" (sadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘Sadosaṃ citta’nti pajānāti) — is not enough to remove the defilements completely. It will be enough to expel lustful or angry thoughts as long as one is maintaining mindfulness only.

Still, one should do it whenever, and wherever one can to avoid accumulating unwholesome kamma (lustful and angry thoughts on the mental level that do not lead to speech or actions, are the unwholesome mental kammas of covetousness and ill-will).

To bring about deep-rooted changes to one's mental habits is not easy. The initial stage of noting is only enough to gain Purification of Mind (citta visuddhi) by suppressing the five hindrances. However, if we continue the process of mental noting throughout the entire day without a break, not missing anything, and if we can sustain this mindfulness over a period of days, weeks, or months, insights into the three characteristics of the mental and physical process can arise, leading to higher stages of insight such as Knowledge of Comprehension and beyond.

Unless we can gain the third stage of the Noble Path (Non-returning), the root of lustful and angry thoughts is not destroyed, so they can always return whenever we are unmindful. We need to be realistic, and very patient and very determined to persist with our practice whenever a suitable opportunity arises.

If possible, try to attend at least one ten-day course every year. For lay people, it may be the most effective way to make significant progress because there are just too many forces dragging the mind down to the defiled state during everyday life. Even for a monk, living in the city, but largely isolated from society, there are occasions where mindfulness can be lost. If a lay person can achieve insight while immersed in the worldly life it is all the more praiseworthy.
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Re: Mahasi technique and overcoming defilements

Post by Kamran » Sun Jul 08, 2012 7:31 am

Thanks Bikhu Pesala for the informative post.

Recently, I was angry about something that happened at work. I got the mind well concentrated, and serene and realized that I was actually making myself suffer because my sense of self/identity had been insulted. Once I understood this, it no longer bothered me.

If you are not overcoming anger or something, you may need to work more on concentration.
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: Mahasi technique and overcoming defilements

Post by T_Hill_616 » Mon Jul 09, 2012 1:54 pm

Thank you everyone for your replies. You have helped my understanding of this technique immensely.

May you all be well

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