Ven Mahasi Sayadaw
Agga Mahapandita U Sobhana

Buddhasasananuggaha Association, Rangoon, Myanmar.
First Printed December, 1978


The following is a talk by the Ven Mahasi Sayadaw Agga Maha
Pandita U Sobhana given to his disciples on their induction into
Vipassana Meditation at Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre,
Rangoon, Burma. It was translated from the Burmese by U Nyi Nyi.


The practice of Vipassana or Insight Meditation is the effort
made by the meditator to understand correctly the nature of the
psycho-physical phenomena taking place in his own body. Physical
phenomena are the things or objects which one clearly perceives
around one. The whole of one's body that one clearly perceives
constitutes a group of material qualities (rupa). Psychical or
mental phenomena are acts of consciousness or awareness (nama).
These (nama-rupas) are clearly perceived to be happening whenever
they are seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched or thought of. We
must make ourselves aware of them by observing them and noting
thus: 'Seeing, seeing', 'hearing, hearing', 'smelling, smelling',
'tasting, tasting', 'touching, touching', or 'thinking, thinking.'

Every time one sees. hears. smells. tastes, touches, or thinks,
one should make a note of the fact. But in the beginning of one's
practice, one cannot make a note of every one of these happenings.
One should, therefore, begin with noting those happenings which
are conspicuous and easily perceivable.

With every act of breathing, the abdomen rises and falls, which
movement is always evident. This is the material quality known as
vayodhatu (the element of motion). One should begin by noting this
movement, which may be done by the mind intently observing the
abdomen. You will find the abdomen rising when you breathe in,
and falling when you breathe out. The rising should be noted
mentally as 'rising', and the falling as 'falling'. If the
movement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keep touching
the abdomen with the palm of your hand. Do not alter the manner of
your breathing. Neither slow it down, nor make it faster. Do not
breathe too vigorously, either. You will tire if you change the
manner of your breathing. Breathe steadily as usual and note the
rising and falling of the abdomen as they occur. Note it mentally,
not verbally.

In vipassana meditation, what you name or say doesn't matter.
What really matters is to know or perceive. While noting the
rising of the abdomen, do so from the beginning to the end of the
movement just as if you are seeing it with your eyes. Do the same
with the falling movement. Note the rising movement in such a way
that your awareness of it is concurrent with the movement itself.
The movement and the mental awareness of it should coincide in the
same way as a stone thrown hits the target. Similarly with the
falling movement.

Your mind may wander elsewhere while you are noting the
abdominal movement. This must also be noted by mentally saying
'wandering, wandering.' When this has been noted once or twice,
the mind stops wandering, in which case you go back to noting the
rising and falling of the abdomen. If the mind reaches somewhere,
note as 'reaching, reaching.' Then go back to the rising and
falling of the abdomen. If you imagine meeting somebody, note as
'meeting, meeting.' Then back to the rising and falling. If you
imagine meeting and talking to somebody, note as 'talking,

In short, whatever thought or reflection occurs should be
noted. If you imagine, note as 'imagining'. If you think,
'thinking'. If you plan, 'planning'. If you perceive,
'perceiving'. If you reflect, 'reflecting'. If you feel happy,
'happy'. If you feel bored, 'bored'. If you feel glad, 'glad'. If
you feel disheartened, 'disheartened'. Noting all these acts of
consciousness is called cittanupassana.

Because we fail to note these acts of consciousness, we tend
to identify them with a person or individual. We tend to think
that it is 'I' who is imagining, thinking, planning, knowing (or
perceiving). We think that there is a person who from childhood
onwards has been living and thinking. Actually, no such person
exists. There are instead only these continuing and successive
acts of consciousness. That is why we have to note these acts of
consciousness and know them for what they are. That is why we have
to note each and every act of consciousness as it arises. When so
noted, it tends to disappear. We then go back to noting the rising
and falling of the abdomen.

When you have sat meditating for long, sensations of stiffness
and heat will arise in your body. These are to be noted carefully
too. Similarly with sensations of pain and tiredness. All of these
sensations are dukkhavedana (feeling of unsatisfactoriness) and
noting them is vedananupassana. Failure or omission to note these
sensations makes you think, "I am stiff, I am feeling hot, I am in
pain. I was all right a moment ago. Now I am uneasy with these
unpleasant sensations." The identification of these sensations
with the ego is mistaken. There is really no 'I' involved, only a
succession of one new unpleasant sensation after another.

It is just like a continuous succession of new electrical
impulses that light up electric lamps. Every time unpleasant
contacts are encountered in the body, unpleasant sensations arise
one after another. These sensations should be carefully and
intently noted, whether they are sensations of stiffness, of heat
or of pain. In the beginning of the yogi's meditational practice,
these sensations may tend to increase and lead to a desire to
change his posture. This desire should be noted, after which the
yogi should go back to noting the sensations of stiffness, heat

'Patience leads to Nibbana', as the saying goes. This saying
is most relevant in meditational effort. One must be patient in
meditation. If one shifts or changes one's posture too often
because one cannot be patient with the sensation of stiffness or
heat that arises, samadhi (good concentration) cannot develop. If
samadhi cannot develop, insight cannot result and there can be no
attainment of magga (the path that leads to Nibbana), phala (the
fruit of that path) and Nibbana. That is why patience is needed in
meditation. It is patience mostly with unpleasant sensations in
the body like stiffness, sensations of heat and pain, and other
sensations that are hard to bear. One should not immediately give
up one's meditation on the appearance of such sensations and
change one's meditational posture. One should go on patiently,
just noting as 'stiffness, stiffness' or 'hot, hot'. Moderate
sensations of these kinds will disappear if one goes on noting
them patiently. When concentration is good and strong, even
intense sensations tend to disappear. One then reverts to noting
the rising and falling of the abdomen.

One will of course have to change one's posture if the
sensations do not disappear even after one has noted them for a
long time, and if on the other hand they become unbearable. One
should then begin noting as 'wishing to change, wishing to
change'. If the arm rises, note as 'rising, rising'. If it moves,
note as 'moving, moving'. This change should be made gently and
noted as 'rising, rising', 'moving, moving' and 'touching,

If the body sways, 'swaying, swaying'. If the foot rises,
'rising, rising'. If it moves, 'moving, moving'. If it drops,
'dropping, dropping'. If there is no change, but only static rest,
go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. There
must be no intermission in between, only contiguity between a
preceding act of noting and a succeeding one, between a preceding
samadhi (state of concentration) and a succeeding one, between a
preceding act of intelligence and a succeeding one. Only then will
there be successive and ascending stages of maturity in the yogi's
state of intelligence. Magga and Phala nana (knowledge of the path
and its fruition) are attained only when there is this kind of
gathering momentum. The meditative process is like that of
producing fire by energetically and unremittingly rubbing two
sticks of wood together so as to attain the necessary intensity of
heat (when the flame arises).

In the same way, the noting in vipassana meditation should be
continual and unremitting, without any interval between acts of
noting whatever phenomena may arise. For instance, if a sensation
of itchiness intervenes and the yogi desires to scratch because it
is hard to bear, both the sensation and the desire to get rid of
it should be noted, without immediately getting rid of the
sensation by scratching.

If one goes on perseveringly noting thus, the itchiness
generally disappears, in which case one reverts to noting the
rising and falling of the abdomen. If the itchiness does not in
fact disappear, one has of course to eliminate it by scratching.
But first, the desire to do so should be noted. All the movements
involved in the process of eliminating this sensation should be
noted, especially the touching, pulling and pushing, and
scratching movements, with an eventual reversion to noting the
rising and falling of the abdomen.

Every time you make a change of posture, you begin with noting
your intention or desire to make the change, and go on to noting
every movement closely, such as rising from the sitting posture,
raising the arm, moving and stretching it. You should make the
change at the same time as noting the movements involved. As you
rise, the body becomes light and rises. Concentrating your mind on
this, you should gently note as 'rising, rising'.

The yogi should behave as if he were a weak invalid. People in
normal health rise easily and quickly or abruptly. Not so with
feeble invalids, who do so slowly and gently. The same is the case
with people suffering from backache who rise gently lest the back
hurt and cause pain.

So also with meditating yogis. They have to make their changes
of posture gradually and gently; only then will mindfulness,
concentration and insight be good. Begin therefore with gentle and
gradual movements. When rising, the yogi must do so gently like an
invalid, at the same time noting as 'rising, rising'. Not only
this: though the eye sees, the yogi must act as if he does not
see. Similarly when the ear hears. While meditating, the yogi's
concern is only to note. What he sees and hears are not his
concern. So whatever strange or striking things he may see or
hear, he must behave as if he does not see or hear them, merely
noting carefully.

When making bodily movements, the yogi should do so gradually
as if he were a weak invalid, gently moving the arms and legs,
bending down the head and bringing it up. All these movements
should be made gently. When rising from the sitting posture, he
should do so gradually, noting as 'rising, rising'. When
straightening up and standing, note as 'standing, standing'. When
looking here and there, note as 'looking, seeing'. When walking
note the steps whether they are taken with the right or the left
foot. You must be aware of all the successive movements involved,
from the raising of the foot to the dropping of it. Note each step
taken, whether with the right foot or the left foot. This is the
manner of noting when one walks fast.

It will be enough if you note thus when walking fast and
walking some distance. When walking slowly or doing the cankama
walk (walking up and down), three movements should be noted in
each step: when the foot is raised, when it is pushed forward, and
when it is dropped. Begin with noting the raising and dropping
movements. One must be properly aware of the raising of the foot.
Similarly, when the foot is dropped, one should be properly aware
of the 'heavy' falling of the foot.

One must walk, noting as 'raising, dropping' with each step.
This noting will become easier after about two days. Then go on to
noting the three movements as described above, as 'raising,
pushing, forward, dropping'. In the beginning, it will suffice to
note one or two movements only, thus 'right step, left step' when
walking fast and 'raising, dropping' when walking slowly. If when
walking thus, you want to sit down, note as 'wanting to sit down,
wanting to sit down'. When actually sitting down, note
concentratedly the 'heavy' falling of your body.

When you are seated, note the movements involved in arranging
your legs and arms. When there are no such movements, but just a
stillness (static rest) of the body, note the rising and falling
of the abdomen. While noting thus and if stiffness of your limbs
and sensations of heat in any part of your body arise, go on to
note them. Then go back to 'rising, falling'. While noting thus
and if a desire to lie down arises, note it and the movements of
your legs and arms as you lie down. The raising of the arm, the
moving of it, the resting of the elbow on the floor, the swaying
of the body, the stretching of the legs, the listing of the body
as one slowly prepares to lie down, all these movements should be

To note as you lie down thus is important. In the course of
this movement (that is, lying down), you can gain a distinctive
knowledge (that is, magga-nana and phala-nana - the knowledge of
the path and its fruition). When samadhi (concentration) and nana
(insight) are strong, the distinctive knowledge can come at any
moment. It can come in a single 'bend' of the arm or in a single
'stretch' of the arm. Thus it was that the Venerable Ananda became
an Arahat.

The Ven. Ananda was trying strenuously to attain Arahatship
overnight on the eve of the first Buddhist council. He was
practising the whole night the form of vipassana meditation known
as kayagatasati, noting his steps, right and left, raising,
pushing, forward and dropping of the feet; noting, happening by
happening, the mental desire to walk and the physical movement
involved in walking. Although this went on until it was nearly
dawn, he had not yet succeeded in attaining Arahatship. Realizing
that he had practised the walking meditation to excess and that,
in order to balance samadhi (concentration) and viriya (effort),
he should practise meditation in the lying posture for a while, he
entered his chamber. He sat on the couch and noting 'lying,
lying', he attained Arahatship in an instant.

The Ven Ananda was only a sotapanna (that is, a stream winner
or one who has attained the first stage on the path to Nibbana)
before he thus lay himself down. From sotapannahood, he continued
to meditate and reached sakadagamihood (that is, the condition of
the once-returner or one who has attained the second stage on the
path), anagamihood (that is, the state of the non-returner or one
who has attained the third stage on the path) and arahatship (that
is, the condition of the noble one who has attained the last stage
of the path). Reaching these three successive stages of the higher
path took only a little while. Just think of this example of the
Ven Ananda's attainment of arahatship. Such attainment can come at
any moment and need not take long.

That is why the yogi should note with diligence all the time.
He should not relax in his noting, thinking "this little lapse
should not matter much." All movements involved in lying down and
arranging the arms and legs should be carefully and unremittingly
noted. If there is no movement, but only stillness (of the body),
go back to the rising and falling of the abdomen. Even when it is
getting late and time for sleep, the yogi should not go to sleep
yet, dropping his noting. A really serious and energetic yogi
should practise mindfulness as if he were forgoing his sleep
altogether. He should go on meditating until he falls asleep. If
the meditation is good and has the upper hand, he will not fall
asleep. If, on the other hand, drowsiness has the upper hand, he
will fall asleep. When he feels sleepy, he should note as 'sleepy,
sleepy'; if his eyelids droop, 'drooping'; if they become heavy or
leaden, 'heavy'; if the eyes become smarting, 'smarting'. Noting
thus, the drowsiness may pass and the eyes become 'clear' again.

The yogi should then note as 'clear, clear' and go on to note
the rising and falling of the abdomen. However perseveringly the
yogi may go on meditating, if real drowsiness intervenes, he does
fall asleep. It is not difficult to fall asleep; in fact, it is
easy. If you meditate in the lying posture, you gradually become
drowsy and eventually fall asleep. That is why the beginner in
meditation should not meditate too much in the lying posture. He
should meditate much more in the sitting and walking postures of
the body. But as it grows late and becomes time for sleep, he
should meditate in the lying position, noting the rising and
falling movements of the abdomen. He will then naturally
(automatically) fall asleep.

The time he is asleep is the resting time for the yogi. But
for the really serious yogi, he should limit his sleeping time to
about four hours. This is the 'midnight time' permitted by the
Buddha. Four hours sleep is quite enough. If the beginner in
meditation thinks that four hours' sleep is not enough for health,
he may extend it to five or six hours. Six hours' sleep is clearly
enough for health.

When the yogi awakens, he should at once resume noting. The
yogi who is really bent on attaining magga and phala nana, should
rest from meditational effort only when he is asleep. At other
times, in his waking moments, he should be noting continually and
without rest. That is why, as soon as he awakens, he should note
the awakening state of the mind as 'awakening, awakening.' If he
cannot yet make himself aware of this, he should begin noting the
rising and falling of the abdomen.

If he intends to get up from bed, he should note as 'intending
to get up, intending to get up'. He should then go on to note the
changing movements he makes as he arranges his arms and legs. When
he raises his head and rises, note as 'rising, rising'. When he is
seated, note as 'sitting, sitting'. If he makes any changing
movements as he arranges his arms and legs, all of these movements
should also be noted. If there are no such changes, but only a
sitting quietly, he should revert to noting the rising and falling
movements of the abdomen.

One should also note when one washes one's face and when one
takes a bath. As the movements involved in these acts are rather
quick, as many of them should be noted as possible. There are then
acts of dressing, of tidying up the bed, of opening and closing
the door; all these should also be noted as closely as possible.

When the yogi has his meal and looks at the meal-table, he
should note as 'looking, seeing, looking, seeing'. When he extends
his arm towards the food and touches it, collects and arranges it,
handles it and brings it to the mouth, bends his head and puts the
morsel of food into his mouth, drops his arm and raises his head
again, all these movements should be duly noted. (This way of
noting is in accordance with the Burmese way of taking a meal.
Those who use fork and spoon or chopsticks should note the
movements in an appropriate manner.)

When he chews the food, he should note as 'chewing, chewing'.
When he comes to know the taste of the food, he should note as
'knowing, knowing'. As he relishes the food and swallows it, as
the food goes down his throat, he should note all these
happenings. This is how the yogi should note as he takes one
morsel after another of his food. As he takes his soup, all the
movements involved such as extending of the arm, handling of the
spoon and scooping with it and so on, all these should be noted.
To note thus at meal-time is rather difficult as there are so many
things to observe and note. The beginning yogi is likely to miss
several things which he should note, but he should resolve to note
all. He cannot of course help it if he overlooks and misses some,
but as his samadhi (concentration) becomes strong, he will be able
to note closely all these happenings.

Well, I have mentioned so many things for the yogi to note.
But to summarize, there are only a few things to note. When
walking fast, note as 'right step,' 'left step,' and as 'raising,
dropping' when walking slowly. When sitting quietly, just note the
rising and falling of the abdomen. Note the same when you are
lying, if there is nothing particular to note. While noting thus
and if the mind wanders, note the acts of consciousness that
arise. Then go back to the rising and falling of the abdomen. Note
also, as they arise, the bending and stretching and moving of the
limbs, bending and raising of the head, swaying and straightening
of the body. Then back to the rising and falling of the abdomen.

As the yogi goes on noting thus, he will be able to note more
and more of these happenings. In the beginning, as his mind
wanders here and there, the yogi may miss noting many things. But
he should not be disheartened. Every beginner in meditation
encounters the same difficulty, but as he becomes more practised,
he becomes aware of every act of mind-wandering until eventually
the mind does not wander anymore. The mind is then riveted on the
object of its attention, the act of mindfulness becoming almost
simultaneous with the object of its attention such as the rising
and falling of the abdomen. (In other words the rising of the
abdomen becomes concurrent with the act of noting it, and
similarly with the falling of the abdomen.)

The physical object of attention and the mental act of noting
are occurring as a pair. There is in this occurrence no person or
individual involved, only this physical object of attention and
the mental act of noting occurring as a pair. The yogi will in
time actually and personally experience these occurrences. While
noting the rising and falling of the abdomen he will come to
distinguish the rising of the abdomen as physical phenomenon and
the mental act of noting of it as psychical phenomenon; similarly
with the falling of the abdomen. Thus the yogi will distinctly
come to realize the simultaneous occurrence in pair of these
psycho-physical phenomena.

Thus, with every act of noting, the yogi will come to know for
himself clearly that there are only this material quality which is
the object of awareness or attention and the mental quality that
makes a note of it. This discriminating knowledge is called
namarupa-pariccheda-nana, the beginning of vipassana-nana. It is
important to gain this knowledge correctly. This will be
succeeded, as the yogi goes on, by the knowledge that
distinguishes between the cause and its effect, which knowledge is
called paccaya-pariggaha-nana.

As the yogi goes on noting, he will see for himself that what
arises passes away after a short while. Ordinary people assume
that both the material and mental phenomena go on lasting
throughout life, that is, from youth to adulthood. In fact, that
is not so. There is no phenomenon that lasts forever. All
phenomena arise and pass away so rapidly that they do not last
even for the twinkling of an eye. The yogi will come to know this
for himself as he goes on noting. He will then become convinced of
the impermanency of all such phenomena. Such conviction is called

This knowledge will be succeeded by dukkhanupassana-nana,
which realizes that all this impermanency is suffering. The yogi
is also likely to encounter all kinds of hardship in his body,
which is just an aggregate of sufferings. This is also

When, as he goes on meditating, the yogi comes to realize
firmly that all these phenomena are anicca, dukkha and anatta, he
will attain Nibbana. All the former Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas
realized Nibbana following this very path. All meditating yogis
should recognize that they themselves are now on this
sati-patthana path, in fulfilment of their wish for attainment of
magga-nana (knowledge of the path), phala-nana (knowledge of the
fruition of the path) and Nibbana-dhamma, and following the
ripening of their parami (perfection of virtue). They should feel
glad at this and at the prospect of experiencing the noble kind of
samadhi (tranquillity of mind brought about by concentration) and
nana (supramundane knowledge or wisdom) experienced by the
Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas and which they themselves have never
experienced before.

It will not be long before they will experience for themselves
the magga-nana, phala-nana and Nibbana-dhamma experienced by the
Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas. As a matter of fact, these may be
experienced in the space of a month or of twenty or fifteen days
of their meditational practice. Those whose parami is exceptional
may experience these dhammas even within seven days.

The yogi should therefore rest content in the faith that he
will attain these dhammas in the time specified above, that he
will be freed of sakkaya-ditthi (ego-belief) and vicikiccha (doubt
or uncertainty) and saved from the danger of rebirth in the nether
worlds. He should go on with his meditational practice in this

May you all be able to practise meditation well and quickly
attain that Nibbana which the Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas have

Sadhu (well done)! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Practical Vipassana
Vipassana Meditation