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What My Guidance Involves

The teachings I provide are based on the unaltered and authentic guidelines laid out by the Buddha, systematically compiled by the esteemed Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw from unmodified and authoritative sources such as the Abhidhamma, Patisambhidamagga, Visuddhimagga, and Pali Canon. You will embark on a step-by-step journey, starting from the fundamentals of concentration development and progressing towards advanced levels of insight knowledge. Below, you will find an outline that explains the sequential stages of practice, which you will have the opportunity to follow in a step-by-step manner under my guidance.

1. Sīla: Morality

Diligent and daily observance of Five, Eight or Ten Precepts for laypeople

2. Samādhi: Concentration

Developing jhāna (absorption) or upacāra (access) concentration through Ānāpānassati, Four Elements Meditation, Kasiṇa, Four Brahmavihāra (Mettā, Karuṇā, Muditā, Upekkhā), or any of the forty samatha meditation objects

3. Paññā: Wisdom


(i) Discernment of Materiality (Rūpa) and Mentality (Nāma)

For the attainment of the first vipassanā knowledge, which is the ability to differentiate and penetrate ultimate mentality and materiality: nāmarūpa-pariccheda-ñāṇa, and to penetrate the First Noble Truth of Suffering: Dukkha-Sacca


(ii) Discernment of Cause and Effect in the Past, Present and Future with Dependent Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda)

For the attainment of the second vipassanā knowledge of conditionality: paccaya-pariggaha-ñāṇa, and to penetrate the Second Noble Truth of Origin of Suffering: Samudaya-Sacca


(iii) Development of Insight Knowledge (Vipassanā)


Contemplating the impermanent (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and non-self (anatta) nature of ultimate materiality and mentality for the attainment of higher insight knowledge from third vipassanā knowledge of comprehension (sammasana-ñāṇa) up to the last vipassanā knowledge of path and fruit knowledge (magga- and phala-ñāṇa), and to realise the Third Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering: Nirodha-Sacca

Below I share with you a concise step-by-step summary of the techniques, and knowledge that you will receive from my guidance in a step-by-step manner based on the seven levels of purification (visuddhi) stated in the Visuddhimagga. 

“Suppose someone were to say: ‘Without truly comprehending the noble truths of suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path, I will completely make an end of suffering.’, that is not possible”. (SN 56.32: Khadirapattasutta)

The Buddha clearly explained that without having seen the Four Noble Truths, cessation of suffering, which is the ending of the round of rebirths is not possible. This also implies that the attainment of Four Path and Fruit Noble Knowledge: stream-entry (sotāpanna), once-returner (sakadagāmi), non-returner (anāgami) and arahantship (arahatta) are not possible without having properly discerned and contemplated the noble truths. Therefore, one must engage in an intricate step-by-step practice of morality (sīla), samādhi (concentration), and wisdom (paññā) to realise the Four Noble Truths.


Step 1: Sīlavisuddhi (Purification of Morality)

The first thing a meditator should do before committing oneself to the practice is the upholding of precepts. A meditator must uphold five, eight or ten precepts to purify one’s bodily- and speech-actions. This purification is the first step of purification, as mentioned in the Visuddhimagga, as sīlavisuddhi. Morality forms the basis and foundation not only for meditation but for the entirety of Buddhist practice. All practitioners are, therefore, strongly encouraged to faithfully observe a minimum of five precepts. This means consciously and consistently following these moral guidelines as an integral part of their practice. By upholding these precepts, practitioners cultivate a foundation of morality conduct that is vital to their journey on the noble eightfold path and in everyday life as a lay practitioner.


Step 2: Cittavisuddhi (Purification of Mind)


After upholding the precepts to purify the body and speech, one must then progress towards the practice to purify of the mind. first see the noble truth of suffering (Dukkha-sacca), one must first develop concentration because Buddha said, “the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision” (AN 4.41 Samādhisutta)… and that “a person whose mind is concentrated knows & sees things as they actually are” (AN 10.2 Cetanākaraṇīyasutta). Thus, a concentrated mind will powerfully help you see very subtle and profound forms of materiality (rūpa) and mentality (nāma) in their ultimate forms.

As described in the Visuddhimagga, “cittavisuddhināma saupacārā atthasamāpaṭṭiyo”: “purity of mind refers to access concentration and eight attainments": one should attain at least access concentration or one of the eight attainments (absorption concentration) for the mind of to be purified, that is, to be concentrated. Buddha laid out forty samatha meditation objects that can help one gain either of these concentrations but the absorption (jhāna) concentration, is the most powerful of all. To name a few, jhāna concentration can be accessed through ānāpāna, metta, kasiṇa, and asubha meditation. The well-known four elements meditation can achieve access concentration. As soon as one has achieved right concentration through access or jhāna concentration (samma-samādhi, as mentioned in the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta), then the mind is pure and powerful enough to move onto the next step. This step of purification of mind is mentioned in the Visuddhimagga as cittavisuddhi, which is the second stage of purification.


Step 3: Diṭṭhivisuddhi (Purification of View)


The noble truth of suffering encompasses both materiality (rūpa) and mentality (nāma), which together contribute to our experience of suffering and form the very basis of our existence. In order to grasp this noble truth, it is crucial for a meditator to discern both rūpa and nāma. Initially, the meditator must develop the ability to directly perceive and understand the ultimate form (paramattha) of materiality (rūpa-kālāpa), and types of materiality with their own wisdom and direct knowledge (paccakkha-ñāṇa). This stage is of utmost importance as it allows the meditator to cultivate a clear and accurate understanding (sammā-diṭṭhi) using their innate wisdom, enabling them to perceive clearly the true nature of rūpa in paramattha nature (ultimate nature). Through this process, one can clearly understand that there is no inherent self, atta, soul, 'doer' apart from the paramattha dhamma (ultimate reality) .


Subsequently, the meditator must also discern the ultimate reality of mental processes (nāma-vīthi) to understand how these continuous streams of mentality arise and pass away from moment to moment, what the constituents of each mental process are, and how they arise. This exploration delves into the understanding of how these mental phenomena operate within the framework of ultimate reality.

Having seen with one’s direct knowledge, the mentality and materiality, one can be said to have possessed the nāma-rūpa-pariccheda-ñāṇa (the knowledge of distinction of mentality and materiality), which is the first vipassanā knowledge. This vipassanā knowledge is the purification of view, which is the third step of purification as detailed in the Visuddhimagga as diṭṭhivisuddhi.

Step 4: Kaṅkhāvitaraṇavisuddhi (Purification of Doubt)


The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering (Samudaya-sacca) explains why the mass of Dukkha (the existence, or the nāma-rūpa) exists. Buddha clearly explained this noble truth with Paṭiccasamuppāda: dependent origination. The present suffering (existence) has its roots in the past, so it is essential to examine past lives with direct knowledge to contemplate what and how ignorance, craving, attachment, volitions, kamma, and wrong views contributed to the current existence and previous existences. Without understanding the origin of suffering, it is impossible to break free from the cycle of rebirth. Therefore, a meditator should discern the causes of cycles of existence and effect of kamma, not just through conceptual understanding (conventional truth) but with deep insight and wisdom through the ultimate reality framework, so as to fully grasp the understanding of dependent origination. One who has discerned via direct knowledge the causes and effects and the origin of suffering is said to have possessed the paccaya-parigaha-ñāṇa (the knowledge of conditionality), which is the second vipassana knowledge. Once a meditator has gained this vipassana knowledge, one is free from doubt about past and future lives and the workings of kamma. Therefore, it is the purification of doubt and conditionality, which is the fourth step of purification explained in the Visuddhimagga, as kankhā-vitaraṇa-visuddhi.

The two preceding stages of vipassanā knowledge mentioned above serve as the foundation for subsequent stages of higher insight. It is crucial to attain a solid comprehension of these two vipassanā knowledge through direct knowledge and one's own wisdom. The ultimate mentality and materiality discerned by the practitioner's wisdom in these initial stages are the exclusive objects of contemplation in vipassanā. Without a strong grounding in these initial vipassanā knowledge stages, a meditator cannot progress to higher levels of insight.

Steps 5 and 6: Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What Is Path and Not Path (Maggāmagga-ñāṇdassana-visuddhi), and Purification of the Course of Practice (Paṭipadā-ñāṇadassana-visuddhi)

Starting from the third stage of vipassanā knowledge known as sammāsaṇa-ñāṇa, and continuing up to the eleventh stage of vipassanā knowledge called sankhārupekkha-ñāṇa, it is necessary to engage in repeated contemplation of nāma, rūpa, their causes, and their effects. This contemplation focuses on understanding their impermanent (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anatta) nature. By gradually progressing through these insight knowledges, one moves closer to the ultimate goal of liberation, Nibbāna. These knowledges are referred to as purification of knowledge and vision of what is path and not-path (maggāmagga-ñāṇadassana-visuddhi), and purification by knowledge and vision of the course of practice (patipadā–ñāṇadassana-visuddhi).

Step 7: Ñāṇadassanavisuddhi (Purification of Knowledge and Vision)

Upon the maturation of one's vipassana knowledge, the twelfth vipassanā knowledge known as anuloma-ñāṇa emerges. This is then followed by the most profound and noble thirteenth and fourteenth vipassanā knowledge of path and fruit (magga- and phala-ñāṇa). This is succeeded by the sixteenth and final knowledge of reviewing (paccevakkhana-ñāṇa). When the meditator reaches this ultimate and conclusive knowledge, one can be said to have realised the Four Noble Truths and accomplished the goal of realising Nibbāna. The realisation of path, fruit and reviewing knowledges are called the purification of knowledge and vision (ñāṇadassana-visuddhi), which is the final stage of purification. This is the stage where a meditator is free from doubt, wrong views, wrong practices, some or all defilements, and can be ultimately called an 'ariyā': a noble one.

To better visualise yourself with the practice, you may explore the illustration provided with the pop-up below.

"Monks, strive with heedfulness.
Rare is it that Buddhas arise in the world.
Rare is it that one obtains a human birth.
Rare is it to have the good fortune of being in the right time
[and place to come in contact with the Dhamma].
Rare it is that one is endowed with faith in Dhamma.
Rare is it that there is the opportunity to practice the True Dhamma.
Rare is it that there is the opportunity for listening to the Dhamma."

(Dhammapada, 182)

By reflecting on Buddha's words, I hope my fellow meditators can cultivate a sense of urgency (saṃvega) and grasp the opportunity to realise the Dhamma, and ultimately the Four Noble Truths in this very life.

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