How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Mal » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:45 pm

I read that in Vipassana (inight) meditation the mind should be directed to experienced phenomena, such as thoughts or sensations, to see them clearly as impermanent, dissatisfying, and non-self.

How exactly do you 'see them clearly' and know that you are seeing them clearly?

For instance, during the in-breath, do you note them using internal verbalisation:

1) "unsatisfying."

2) "impermanent."

3) "not self"

... when these things become apparent about the breath?

If I just "attend and let go" as many texts say then how do I now that I'm not just vapidly watching stuff, like the wife watching a football match and not taking anything in? Does it just "click" that these things you are watching are impermanent, dissatisfying, and non-self? Could the 1), 2), 3) verbal analysis be helpful? Like if you get the wife to shout out "offside", "penalty", "free kick", she concentrates a lot harder and learns a lot more about the game?
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby bodom » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:57 pm

Ajahn Chah often emphasized in his teachings that by simply seeing impermanence that the other two characteristics would become apparent. There is no need to constantly be repeating "anicca, dukkha, anatta...anicca, dukkha, anatta." Just focus on seeing impermanence, this is the gateway to seeing all three. This is also supported by a number of suttas. If you have access to Analayos satipatthana commentary he gives a list of these suttas in a footnote on pg. 102.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby DAWN » Sun Sep 30, 2012 4:39 pm

For anicca = That arise, so it's pass away, so it's impermanent
For dukkha = That arise, so it's pass away, so attachement to it - is dukkha
For anatta = That arise, so it's pass away, so it's conditioned, so it's anatta
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Sep 30, 2012 5:08 pm

Mal wrote:I read that in Vipassana (inight) meditation the mind should be directed to experienced phenomena, such as thoughts or sensations, to see them clearly as impermanent, dissatisfying, and non-self.

How exactly do you 'see them clearly' and know that you are seeing them clearly?

It's not about an intellectual understanding but instead a subtle shift in the way you view experience. Just try and really "know" the phenomena that arise and cease, see them coming and going, and slowly you'll begin to see that what you used to think of as permanent is in fact always changing. As concentration develops, you can notice subtler and subtler shifts in body, feelings, mind states, and dhammas.

Ajahn Brahm said that the truth was like a lotus flower; it needs the light of mindfulness to shine on it until it opens slowly. So don't worry if the petals haven't peeled back yet - just try and be mindful, equanimious, and calm. The flower will open eventually.

May I ask what tradition you are practicing in?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Mal » Sun Sep 30, 2012 5:34 pm

bodom wrote:Ajahn Chah often emphasized in his teachings that by simply seeing impermanence that the other two characteristics would become apparent. There is no need to constantly be repeating "anicca, dukkha, anatta...anicca, dukkha, anatta.


Do you need to see impermanence "as it happens", or is an inference of impermanence sufficient? For instance - in the moments of mindfulness while eating a sandwich the pain in my mouth ulcer is permanent! But I know the pain will go away "in the future". But it's not like seeing the impermanence of the in-breath at the moment of cessation - that's seeing the impermanence in the moment as it happens.

Isn't no-self easier to see? My baseline philosophy is that any event that happens to me isn't me so *anything* I see is no self. The mouth ulcer pain is just pain, it isn't my self. I see this in the moment in regards to the ulcer pain, if I'm mindful.

Some masters recommend noting "breath", "thought", etc, so why not note characteristics? Knock over two skittles with one ball? Maybe not all the time!? (Hard work...)
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Mal » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:03 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:It's not about an intellectual understanding but instead a subtle shift in the way you view experience. Just try and really "know" the phenomena that arise and cease, see them coming and going, and slowly you'll begin to see that what you used to think of as permanent is in fact always changing. As concentration develops, you can notice subtler and subtler shifts in body, feelings, mind states, and dhammas.


But surely you can *only* have an intellectual understanding about change in some things. For instance, if you have a diamond ring, that's unlikely to change noticeably in your lifetime. But you know that it was sometime, long ago, carbon "gas", and might someday be melted & no longer be a diamond.

LonesomeYogurt wrote:Ajahn Brahm said that the truth was like a lotus flower; it needs the light of mindfulness to shine on it until it opens slowly. So don't worry if the petals haven't peeled back yet - just try and be mindful, equanimious, and calm. The flower will open eventually.


Equanimious and calm, my favourite words! This sounds like good advice. I think I need to stop over-thinking this. When the thought "What is mindfulness?" comes up I'll just continue to note (without words!) that it's a thought, then return to the breath.

LonesomeYogurt wrote:May I ask what tradition you are practicing in?


I went along to FWBO classes back in the 1980s. Now I'm 'eclectic'. I've read Kabat-Zinn, Goldstein & Ricard recently. I'm reading Ajahn Brahm's meditation book at the moment.

Brahm points out that during Samatha you shouldn't ask how your meditation is going, all that thinking will just spoil the meditation. Is the same true about Vipassana? Should I investigate if I have experienced no-self, impermanence, or suffering only *after* the session?
Last edited by Mal on Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:04 pm

Mal wrote:For instance - in the moments of mindfulness while eating a sandwich the pain in my mouth ulcer is permanent! But I know the pain will go away "in the future". But it's not like seeing the impermanence of the in-breath at the moment of cessation - that's seeing the impermanence in the moment as it happens.

Try and focus on the pain and concentrate yourself; you might begin to see that what was once seen as a constant, individual pain is in fact a series of different feelings, each arising and falling together. Often when I meditate, my back aches. When I really try and turn my mind on it, I see that the "one ache" that bothers me while I do other things is really a thousand little aches that go up and down and change and stop and start. Try doing that with sensations, really focusing until you break up the "compactedness."

Isn't no-self easier to see? My baseline philosophy is that any event that happens to me isn't me so *anything* I see is no self. The mouth ulcer pain is just pain, it isn't my self. I see this in the moment in regards to the ulcer pain, if I'm mindful.

No self is definitely easier for me to see as well.

Some masters recommend noting "breath", "thought", etc, so why not note characteristics? Knock over two skittles with one ball? Maybe not all the time!? (Hard work...)

There's nothing wrong with that - it's probably a great idea! Just don't get tied up in intellectual observance as opposed to mindful, meditative experience.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby DAWN » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:06 pm

Without anicca there is no consciousness,
so by keeping mindfulness, automaticly you note anicca, without thoughts etc.

So to note anicca you have nothing to do, perharps make the light clearer and stronger (concentrate).
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:07 pm

Mal wrote:But surely you can *only* have an intellectual understanding about change in some things. For instance, if you have a diamond ring, that's unlikely to change noticeably in your lifetime. But you know that it was sometime, long ago, carbon "gas", and might someday be melted & no longer be a diamond.

What you can do is focus on the impermanence of the experience - the sight, texture, the emotions it brings up. Remember that at the final level there is no diamond, just a collection of experiences, and those experiences are impermanent and empty.


Brahm points out that during Samatha you shouldn't ask how your meditation is going during Samatha, all that thinking will just spoil the meditation. Is the same true about Vipassana? Should I ask myself if I have experienced no-self, impermanence, or suffering *after* the session?

Well if you're practicing in Brahm's line of thought, as I am, then there is no "samatha or vipassana." There's just Jhana - meditation. Vipassana is a quality, not a method. I don't think Ajahn Brahm (or the Buddha!) ever divided it into "HERE DO SAMATHA...DONE? OKAY DO VIPASSANA." Samatha and Vipassana work together and neither is more important than the other. So doing breath meditation, anapanasati, is meditation that brings about Samatha and Vipassana. What it is, though, is Jhana.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Mal » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:39 pm

Well if you're practicing in Brahm's line of thought, as I am, then there is no "samatha or vipassana." There's just Jhana - meditation. Vipassana is a quality, not a method. I don't think Ajahn Brahm (or the Buddha!) ever divided it into "HERE DO SAMATHA...DONE? OKAY DO VIPASSANA." Samatha and Vipassana work together and neither is more important than the other. So doing breath meditation, anapanasati, is meditation that brings about Samatha and Vipassana. What it is, though, is Jhana.


Thanks for the input LonesomeYogurt, I'll keep on reading Brahm.
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Hanzze » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:56 am

Mal wrote:Do you need to see impermanence "as it happens", or is an inference of impermanence sufficient? For instance - in the moments of mindfulness while eating a sandwich the pain in my mouth ulcer is permanent! But I know the pain will go away "in the future".

In this case, Mal, you use this remembering (that all phenomenas are impermanent) as valve. This value is as good as your real experiances of impermanence and as good as you maintain to rememeber it.

But it's not like seeing the impermanence of the in-breath at the moment of cessation - that's seeing the impermanence in the moment as it happens.

This is a very good observation, Mal, as many people think that they need to search for something that they already know. We don't know yet. So that abservation (panna) gives the possibility to let go of this perceptions compensation and make the step forward into faith (saddha) if sati (mindfulness) recognices it by remembering this is not and this is also not.

So we keep on watching and the perceptions will be subtiler and subtiler as well as the sensations. This essay is maybe useful to understand the process: De-perception

It's over more great that you use mindfulness not only in fromal meditation. The concept if insight meditation is useable all the time. Once we have seen impermanence in the phenomena well, it will be more and more a good out-let. Not only to gain more insight through letting go, but also in our daily issus it fades away all kind of suffering.

Isn't no-self easier to see?

I don't think so, it is sometimes dangerous. As there is only no-self when there is a self. If it is more over even based on a philosiphy or intelectuall constructed idea, it could also easy lead to something we might call crazy wisdom. Sometimes how ever it is also a good valve.

The line of this attributes is all copounded things are impermanent and therefor not-self and therefore unsatisfactory. So if we just focus on anicca, there is no danger of any strange ego-trip (eternalist of nihilist irritations) at the beginning.

My baseline philosophy is that any event that happens to me isn't me so *anything* I see is no self.

It's good to put away any philosophy and idea while doning insight meditation.

The mouth ulcer pain is just pain, it isn't my self.

What is the mouth (for expample) "I see this in the moment in regards to the ulcer pain, if I'm mindful." in this case it is not really observing but regarding the mouth as not-self which could be easy a rejecting of it as not part of me, but still there is a "my" that rejects!!

Some masters recommend noting "breath", "thought", etc, so why not note characteristics?

One can only not what he knows already. Of cause it is possible to note even ideas, but if we are careful, we will see that this ideas are also not lasting. Its how ever better to simply observe and not "this is not" and "that is not" if the idea of "ohh that is anicaa" arises and put further effort on the foot of saddha (faith in finding the unconditioned while observing anicca like it realy is without the blur of ideas)

Knock over two skittles with one ball? Maybe not all the time!? (Hard work...)

One ball is quite enought, even it seems that mulittasking is possible, there is just one event after the other. That is quite more hard work and needs a lot of patient. A kind of changing our general ways of trying to be productive and efficient. So again a kind of latting go.

Step by step, only the focus on the next step will make our travel successful and secure.

I found this short and easy readable work Vipassana Meditation Lectures On Insight Meditation very useful which even makes it possible to train insight without a physical teacher amoung daily life is the time and the livelihood makes it possible (virtue).

Wish you that it might be useful for you.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Mal » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:06 am

Hanzze wrote:In this case, Mal, you use this remembering (that all phenomenas are impermanent) as valve. This value is as good as your real experiances of impermanence and as good as you maintain to rememeber it.


So it's a valve that helps let off the steam of frustration? But the engine of samsara is still running and the steam builds again? Good metaphor.

Thanks for your comment Hanzze. If my attention is forced to dwell on my tinnitus, i.e., when it gets bad, I do tell myself "it will ease, this isn't permanent", and it helps. The steam of frustration is released, somewhat. But this isn't noticing impermanence directly, it is making an intellectual comment.

The tinnitus is usually a very even sound so looking for variations in it is not often fruitful, and even if I see variation the sound is still there. And it's the sound that is the problem, watching it vary doesn't make it any better. So it is a permanent problem during the period of meditation. I can only deal with it by making an intellectual observation of impermanence, or by just "letting it be".

"I see this in the moment in regards to the ulcer pain, if I'm mindful." in this case it is not really observing but regarding the mouth as not-self which could be easy a rejecting of it as not part of me, but still there is a "my" that rejects!!


Good point. So I have to accept as part of myself. But it is not part of myself! Guess i should just accept it and stop making such a fuss about it.

One can only note what he knows already. Of cause it is possible to note even ideas, but if we are careful, we will see that this ideas are also not lasting. Its how ever better to simply observe...


Makes sense - that's what my beginners guides say. I guess I was wondering if there were more advanced observing techniques that involve analysis of what is observed. From what you are saying - no. In some ways the insight process seems too simple, I note "thought, let it go" and then I think "Is that it? Shouldnt I be doing something else, analysing that thought, really finding out what it is?" I guess that might be appropriate in a "Socratic philosophy" session, but not in the Insight Meditation session?

Thanks for all comments and links Hanzze.
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Hanzze » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:20 am

Sound all very good Mal, much mudita! And also wish you much joy by exploring the mind and gaining insight step by step. The tinitus sound is for sure a good place to observe if it is presenter as any thing else. You will be amazed who it will diapear if you do it in the right way, but just go back to the breath or what ever is your object of observance.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Mal » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:24 pm

Hanzze wrote:Sound all very good Mal, much mudita! And also wish you much joy by exploring the mind and gaining insight step by step. The tinitus sound is for sure a good place to observe if it is presenter as any thing else. You will be amazed who it will diapear if you do it in the right way, but just go back to the breath or what ever is your object of observance.


It does disappear if I concentrate hard on just about anything, like a good dhamma book, meditation object, or even difficult cooking. But it comes back again if I am not concentrated. So can you say it has *really* gone during meditation? Maybe it is still going on, but I am just unconscious of it. In any case, I don't care of it is going on, it's just nature doing its thing, and it's a useful 'meditation on the decaying corpse' even before the corpse dies :)
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Re: How do you note impermanence, dissatisfaction, and non-self?

Postby Hanzze » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:05 pm

There is a second pair Mal.

On one hand there is the pair of Saddha (faith, let me call it guessing here) and Panna (Wisdom, let me call it experiances here), which like talk needs to be balanced or change constantly (on wich leg one might be actually). Mindfulness is the operator or the judger who looks over it.

It does disappear if I concentrate hard on just about anything, like a good dhamma book, meditation object, or even difficult cooking.

Your samples are very good samples of actually good concentration. While in the other case it is not concentration but effort. With this effort and restlessness a kind of aversion arises and makes the noies to an object again.

Concentration and effort needs to be balanced as well, its the second pair which needs to be controlled by Sati (Mindfulness). If effort is to strong, we get restless and with it we lose the object of concentration. If on the other side concentration is to strong and effort is weak, we will get lazy.

Start to observe when the Tinitus is absolutly not present and try to find out how it has come to be so and why it returns. Just try to observe the noise when it is presnet. Your mind will sometimes take it as an object, sometimes it is simply not present for the mind. Even actually nothing has changed espect your mind in this regard.

I guess its good to play a little with it and experiment with it by one self. Its not so easy to explain when there are no experiances and no need to explain it if there is experiance already.

So to keep the two pairs and the fifth operator ( the five powers) in mind is actually perfect. Don't forget on virtue, its the base to be even able to do on with success and attain anything.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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