Interview 1 of 2
Note: Some edits have been made afterwards to make things clear or to protect the anonymity of people.
I am sitting here now with one anonymous monk. He has sat for more than 24 hours in 4th jhāna and I wanted to interview him anonymously to inspire others. So we are here with Bhante (Note: All monks can be called “Bhante”).
I want to ask a few questions. First is…. You are quite senior and I don’t think you were successful before in meditation. So what did you do in your early years? Did you study? Did you do try meditation, and what type of meditation did you do before to prepare for this? Are you fluent in Pāḷi? Can you elaborate on this?
I did a lot of things for the sāsana and we were involved in many many things. We also tried many methods, and after years in the monastic life, then we were given many duties to do such as building monasteries…and things like that. Most of the time was occupied…. But we tried to do meditation and there were many teachers we visited and many techniques …. Mahasi, Goenka..various traditions…. …but it was not consistent like this.
Nothing with a nimitta based method or visual type based method or anything …..
But preliminary work with mindfulness and indriyasaṃvaro (restraint in the senses).
More towards … they call it vipassana….
Goenka …… Mahasi also… but it was not consistent like this. We had many other things to think about, …monastic duties and things like that…it would never end.. Then you had to look after the little ones…and things like that in the monastery, the duties…when you think you finish this thing… then it starts again.. ..Then something else pops up..like someone says “Bhante, I really want to build a kuṭi (monk hut) [laughter].
[laughter] Yes, people think that once you become a monk you have all the free time in the world [laughter]
[more laughter] That is what I also thought. I really like listening to Dhamma..then I thought after you become a monk you can listen more. .In the first three months after I ordained it was like… I just met my teacher only once for one month.. That also, it was not very nice….I just had to go here and there taking the messages. I really missed [him] ..He was having his vassa in another place.
So you are happy to be here and you get all the free time you want.
Yes definitely..right. [We have] a lot of freedom and nobody knows us around here and then…we can totally focus. But actually, It took me 5 months for the past to go away….
That was my second question. Once you got here, how long did it take for you to settle down, get the nimitta. How long? Did you start building up with the breath? Did you always have the nimitta? [And then] the nimitta getting stronger and stronger, [or the] breath getting stronger and stronger and then the nimitta come……and then…
you were working on the 5 mastery, can you explain the process and the time frame….how long [before] it came..how long for each stage? First the breath then the nimitta, then bright nimitta… if you can explain it a little bit like that.
[comment to readers] A nimitta is a bright visual object that represents the breath. It is a precursor to attaining samādhi or jhāna concentration. 5 mastery is when one has mastery over the first jhāna and can move on to the further consecutive jhānas.
Before we got here we were volunteering at another place.. Thabawara? Do you know? It was very gross and very tough. (Gross is used in Asia as an English word meaning the opposite of “subtle”.)
[laughter] Oh you went there? [laughter].
[laughter] The kappiya (layperson who helps monk), I met him there, and he became my kappiya and we helped a lot of people. I did a lot of charity …. I did the kusala [good deeds]. [I am here] because a group from Vietnam, they came to visit [Pa-Auk] Sayadawgyi and they asked me if I would also like to come……
So coming here was not part of your plan?
No, nothing. My plan was like try out other vipassana techniques because I was in Bago for like 6 months continuous..and..then Mahasi, Panditarama …. I met you there.
Then, anyhow, we were invited [to Pa-auk to pay respect] and we came .. it was very tough there [at Thabawara] and then we pay homage to Sayadawgyi and Sayadaw U Candima. Then the kappiya layman, he asked…. Because it [Thabawara] was very like heaven and hell like,… it was very gross and there was a lot of suffering there…we worked very hard, a lot of concrete and many things…he had been volunteering there like 1 year, I was there for 3 months… We worked very hard, looking after patients …. It was very tough.
I went there once.
Then the kappiya asked Sayadaw U Candima if we can come…..he said fill out the form and email him also. We did it right then and there. Very fast, we went to the kuṭi and filled out the forms, we were very interested. We were lucky we had the photos also [for the application to stay]. And then we went back [to Thabawara] and after one month the message [allowing us to come] just came. We couldn’t believe it! It was very hard to come and they have this very long [waiting] list [to get accepted] to Maymyo [Pa-Auk Branch]. Then the messages came one morning…We distributed [our extra stuff] whatever we had..and he [the kappiya layperson] booked the bus for the both of us, and just traveled and came overnight just as the news came.
Then after that, it was really tough. It took 5 months [to settle my mind],…. and the practice was not very diligent like 2 sittings a day, 2 to 3 hours at a time, to be honest.
Two or three hours hours at a time? That is not so bad.
Sometimes we feel lazy and I used to get messages on the phone… not bad things but the communication went on…
Then suddenly out of nowhere, like many people here, in Maymyo were practicing very hard and you hear the news when you go for interview practice of all night [sittings], some people staying [meditating] 8 hours… 10 hours! At first I was really struggling, no nimitta, because I had read many books..
5 months no nimitta?
Yeah yeah, then I read all these [books] like Sayalay Dipankara’s book, Ajahn Brahmavamso’s book. It was always going with each stage. The Sayadaw’s [teachings] were definitely helping,..Sayadaw U Kumara and Sayadawgyi. Before that, these books were with me…video portions and all……but I never read the whole book, like I would just read only about the breath in the Ajahn Brahm book and Sayalay Dipankara’s book. Another one called “Practicing the jhānas” by two lay yogis…but they are very good..like Sayadawgyi ..I insisted on that book .. [NOTE: Ajahn Brahm’s book does not match the nimitta and jhāna stage used by Pa-Auk.. he said he used only the breath (part of the book).]
[10.41] Stephan Schneider [Pa-Auk Sayadawgyi says he no longer associates his name with him.]
no no no lady and .another…
Shaila Catherine and ….
Listen listen …the jhānas. It’s very good…, I still follow it, but Sayadawgyi … he said….Pa Auk Sayadaw preface… he said this for Westerners this is one of the best that’s why I follow it
Then I was just reading…then some of these books say the nimitta should be very bright…and things like that… Then.. suddenly Sayadaw…and one spiritual friend,. Says, “Bhante, I think you have the nimitta…and Sayadaw says, “I think you have [a nimitta]..no?”
[11.45} But you never reported a nimitta?
I never thought so, no, I thought I would have to meditate until I get old or something . You hear of monks who practiced for many many years. Some very senior, very good teachers who have practiced for many years, ..no..
Then, after that, I didn’t have any confidence, then I was thinking like “outside light”,”inside light”. Then another Bhante told me ..”Bhante this outside light it doesn’t stay for long, the inside light stays – the nimitta [Note: nimitta is the breath in visual form light is something separate and different]”. Then, but still my mind was not ready. It had the hindrance of doubt. Then, afterwards, what I did was, I thought I would increase the effort. Then I started four three-hour sittings per day. Then, because of this book, it said, they were practicing here just for 2 months and they have really progressed and they said they had only taken like one hour break every time..or…just after the meal and then they would sit again.They had progressed very fast. So then I was just following that. I got permission and I went to my kuṭi, and then I found this mat, then I was walking then sitting again and again. First it was very gross, and then I was in doubt and then I covered all of the curtains with robes just to make it dark. Then, after that, the [inner] light seems to stay. Then the gross pains, of the knees …
[Interrupting] You had a circle where the breath was or something like that?
When I… when I closed my eyes, it was very dull….
The whole screen was….
No no, just in front … like on the face, but it was very dull. It‘s like something like when you burn sugar and you see this in the pan like caramel, glowing caramel. That’s how I first saw it, and I couldn’t explain… it was very dull…and nothing like the flashlight or anything like that, but when I closed my eyes also it stood. In the night, when I pay homage to the Buddha, I could see the [residual] circle on the floor. Then just told Sayadaw…..and Sayadaw U Kumara said, “Okay” and then he asked me to stay for a long long time… with the nimitta. He is very kind. Early on, he used to encourage me and say ”Don’t worry”… First I used to be very agitated …. because I think….
[14.42] If you are looking for the perfect thing from the beginning you will never make progress…You have to, you have to trust in yourself and be able to build up…
Definitely the trust was the key because I had the nimitta but I didn’t trust it until somebody pointed it out
It is not like you read about and it can be dangerous to read.
Yes in a way, but any other aspects, they say, but I was the one who caught the wrong part of it…….
[15:23 ] The Visudhimagga says you shouldn’t discuss it..because if you say my nimitta is like this and then the other person says my nimitta is like this and then you crave each others’ nimitta because you crave what you don’t have…
I think in the Visudhimagga says something like this [in the section] about protecting the sign. So [back to you], you’re nimitta started to grow and grow…
The concentration got deeper and then they asked me to check the bhavanga [the heart area]..
[15:57] So wandering thoughts were present or not present?
They were present. But Sayalay Dipankara told me a very nice part….She has this chapter in that book, The Happiness of a Beautiful Mind. In that [book] it talks about wandering thoughts. She said [as he remembers reading it], “I don’t want to put you down. Many of you come and tell me that you have wandering thoughts. I don’t want to tell you, but I must tell you. You come and tell me you don’t want wandering thoughts but still they come. They don’t come uninvited. They come because they are your desires.
[16:46] So this was the slap I needed, like really waking up. Then when I just sat, either it was sound outside that was disturbing me…then I was really wanting ..or..I wish it was silent. This was desire. Then I wanted to sit for a long time…then it was still desire again. Then… oh …the mind was very tricky, after the gross sensations, gross things went, the desires went. It [the tricky mind] brought up very nice thoughts like… Oh, you should do dana here, you should go and attend to a senior monk. Then I said, “Come on. These are also desires although they are good.” Then suddenly they started dying down.. Then after that, also there was another problem. It was like I was in front of this wall and I could see these thoughts creeping in. When I asked Sayadaw, Sayadaw said, “It could be a hint of sloth and torpor.”
[17:41] Then when I read these books again… these were very helpful, because I have never got past that part. I referred to it again…so many times to those four books. Then it said, “You should go back to basics.” So I said okay… and these things, [advanced level] meditation and everything I just give it [up]. I just started counting [humble laugh]. I had these beads and then I started. I thought [about] all this ego and everything, and I just left it aside. There was a nice discourse by Ajahn Brahm, which talked about control and freedom that had a very nice part. I was always listening to it before meditation. It says you don’t have to do anything.. like no 3 hours sitting, no sloth and torpor, nothing, nothing, nothing. He said, “Just sit.” That will always relax [you] .
[18:38] Then I started counting first …. it was really irritating, then I felt put down or belittled or something. Then I started because in Panditarama…they said… when you look at your….
[18:53 ] Belly Breathing
Yeah …belly breathing. If you do it one second you have awareness, so you multiply it 360 or 3,600 [that’s the amount of seconds in one hour]. So then when I counted the beads… like.. it was one in, one out … two in, two out.. three in, until 8. Then after [I counted] 8, then only I would just toss a [only a single] bead. But if a thought or something crept in…oh.. no way you are not going in. Then I would just stop and start again.
[19:25]..I finished the [bead] circle and [I knew because] the bead wouldn’t move …then….I’m just telling what happened to me …Then after that when I calculated …even if I had some thoughts …these beads usually have 108.. So multiply by 60 it’s like 3,400, no? ..so the difference is not so bad. … if you are every second mindfulness…if you do this thing….then slowly, slowly, slowly, I could just count the extra thoughts…. it became so close …like the extra additional thoughts..I could just… maybe because like I was so occupied …no? …it became like…a nice..thing to do… and then …I could just …ohhh…..12345 like that for the whole sitting… 3 hour sitting like that… I could just count the extra thought moments…eh.. not small, but block of thoughts which earlier was just flooding me…..
[20:30] Then after that this concentration got stronger and stronger. Then, I didn’t need the beads anymore. Then, I could just focus on the breath. And then the lights started appearing more brighter and brighter. Then only the Sayadaw ask me to check the bhavanga. That also was like just one dip in maybe three hours time. Then, it became more like 1 hour one time. Then the jhāna factors after that. Then you feel the presence of the jhāna factors there.
[21:05] Because these were things we thought couldn’t even be reached. Before that we had tried many many other techniques and we were misled when some teachers say, “Now you have this” but you were really trying for Nibbana and when they say it’s not the true jhāna or Magga Phala. Luckily we have read something. The book of Buddha’s teachings and then when you look at it and it’s not, you feel like… just crash ..totally….Bad kamma and all this coming into action.
[21:45] But finally when you come to a good place, [with] good teachers, good spiritual friends, the right environment, all the causes coming, and then it’s like the simile the Buddha gave us.. When you want to light a fire, you take the sticks and you start rubbing. Then, little by little, if we just stop it gets cold again. But when all these causes come perfectly, then the flame from the sparks appear. Then you have to add cotton wool or something and build it little by little.
This technique is actually like when you start from the breath, then the breath becomes nimitta, then the nimitta .. you just absorbed into it..and it gets better and better, but actually like that, the spark is the breath that really holds everything together. Then you look upon it [after] the nimitta is built [correctly]. Then after that the jhānas; first jhāna, second jhāna; third and then the fourth jhāna. Then you have the kasiṇas and you keep on.
[22:54] Explain “absorbing into the nimitta”
Yeah it’s actually simple, like you just observe the breath and for me what happen was, they say each individual’s experience is unique for them… no? So what happened was like I felt I was observing the breath, and then the breath slowly like water …how do you say…. absorbing into the soil…soil…like… the breath just disappeared, and this light came. Then the light took the place of the breath. So they were like combined. But what I felt was like the light took the place of the breath and the breath just “sinked” in.
So no more breath?
Yeah. But if I really focus on it, you can feel it. ..
[23:55] Becomes more constant…becomes more…….. It’s like feeling the nimitta, right?
Yeah, you just seeing it in front of you. And you don’t have to do anything. You just stay in front of it. And then after that, it comes and like it’s very soothing. It just.. How to say.. shrouds you, it just covers your face like a very beautiful breeze or something. It just comes in a very soft way, it just takes over.
so..Because we are watching the breath… and ānāpāna and all, we focus on the face area like watching a monitor….no? This seems like it is coming right in front of your face and it covers everything. But it gets better and better. So Actually, it was…a lot of effort was put into it, it didn’t just come overnight.
[24:50] And then you continuously sustained that, and without thoughts or do you have some thoughts come …even at that stage… or no thoughts or… and sounds, you hear sounds but you don’t worry about them or what?
In the jhānas you mean?
Yeah the Nimitta stage and then later the jhāna stage
[25:20] Nimitta stage, first it seems weak …it seems weak and then you feel sometimes you are tossed out…then you come back to the breath or something like that.
So You are inside the nimitta or absorbing the nimitta?
When you go inside, the feeling is different. You can’t do anything. Like that also you feel afterwards, like you are in the swimming pool, and then after that, when you come to the edge of the pool .. it is different… you can always jump in. But like when you come to the edge, then you hear sounds. Maybe you can feel the body, but it’s really.
when you are on the edge
….on the edge even
[26:02] but before that cannot?…..
That cannot. That also you know afterwards…but the moments are less, eh..like you sometimes you are thrown out, thrown out means you come out…. i don;t know why …maybe has to mature, no? But it gets better and better… eh.. over the time,. Then when you are really there…like eh….how do you say, like you put it to some milk and then you refrigerate it or something [maybe Jello or yoghurt or curd]. You can’t do anything. It’s very whitish. And after that, also you know how it was like. But it’s really fixed and it’s very nice. But when you come out… oh [you know] it was like this…
[26:51] Then when you do the adhiṭṭhāna stages (determination to sit a certain length of time) and all, even the eyelids even if you want you can’t open …. they are like really stuck..really stuck. As soon as you come to this first jhāna and all, and second third and all, first they are like very strong, then after more and more and more you practice and practice, then it becomes normal. But….It doesn’t [get weaker], it gets better. But the first impact and all, you really feel like you can’t even move a limb. Like you are curious, no? Sometimes…Just like some things in the book. Just wondering and you just come out a little and just check. So, you really can’t do [these things]. The books are so true. What they say, you [really] can’t do these things. If you just try it, but no need, eh… just if you are curious …and …Without doing any harm towards your nimitta or the jhāna, you can just see what’s happening. But the books and all are so true….. [laughing], it’s nice!
[28:00] So..the nimitta quality in the first, second, third, fourth changes?
Definitely change. Definitely changes. The first is like you feel fabulous, no? Because we don’t know anything beyond, so it’s fabulous. Then the light appears, it gets stronger and stronger, and you absorb into it. But soon, as you go into the second one [jhāna], the first one, you don’t have to even think of as repulsive or anything [which is part of the process of moving to the second jhāna]…you feel like you sleep outside on the lawn or something. A grass, grassy place, like when we were children when we used to play around, no? You have all the itching and then when you come inside and maybe you sleep on some mat and it is much [more] comfortable, no? You don’t feel itching or the ticks or mosquitoes biting. It’s like that. That’s like the vitakka vicāra. They are like so….ehhh….
[29:00] Then after that you feel so frustrated with them. Ah because of these, this mind feels all these things, and you definitely feel the separation of it. It’s like you take a piece of wood, and then take an ax and chop it. You feel that half of it just slipped away. Fell off. Like that, the gross factors just fall off. And then the other three factors just stay. The Piti, Sukha, Ekaggatā …they just stay..and then….
Nimitta go more..….
More bright and more powerful… more powerful…. Second [jhāna], it’s like you turn a page. It’s not gross. It is like a modern day phone or something [with a] touch system. You just swipe and you turn to another part. Or it’s like turning a leaf or a page of a book.
[30:00] …a new chapter opens. And then how you feel it and all. So..Piti and all.. It gives you so much energy .. it’s very nice..and even when you come out of it, you feel inside your body and all so much energy. No wonder they say like in the ancient times there were beings who recharge… revitalized like from piti itself. You feel so much energy.. Yeah Refreshed… and even when you come out and you walk and all, you feel from inside your body like … as if its going into itself. Very nice eh..
[30:43] Then when you go to the third jhāna … it’s much more mild, eh… the sukha. and you feel the grossness of piti. Because when the next chapter opens … the grossness of piti you can feel it so much….And the sukha is very pleasant. And it is the comfort factor that brought us all the way ..of these jhānas.
[31:18] and when you go to the fourth jhāna, then like when you let go of sukha also, the light become so bright …the light.. The nimitta become so bright. And the sukha factor is also let go but there is another… upekkhā.. But the feeling you feel towards it is different than sukha. You feel something reduced like you have had so much fun, no? Like it was very comforting. But this is also some kind of a very pleasant feeling …of upekkha.
[31:55] But early it was pleasurable. But it’s no more, like you have taken off something which was nice from you, but this is also very nice.. and very strong. And afterwards when you come out, in day to day things or even if you hear some gross things, you can feel the equanimity. You don’t react like before, you think more… and things like that. And you can feel it coming into action. Yeah really. Like even if you had this very gross… some news or something or somebody came and spoke off, then you get..early you just react no?..
[32:42] So.. If you were meditating in the meditation hall, so you wouldn’t hear any sounds?
I would. You would? You mean when I come out. No..no inside. Inside no. You wouldn’t hear at all? No. but they say…Door opening, talking, mosquito net opening and this and that. When we go more higher and higher even if we hear, it doesn’t matter.. Because many constructions going, no? All these wheels, these tractors all these going very loud… then you don’t mind.
Right, right, right. But other times you don’t hear at all?
When you are really in it, you don’t hear.
[33:26] And the breathing…. for jhāna? No. No breathing? No. Definitely not. If you really check on it, it starts again. It’s true no.. the citta..yeah yeah ..because it’s different Kāmāvacara citta. No? It’s Samahaggata [amahaggata] citta…and then…. But hindrances… no way eh… they have no way of coming in. Like er…I think..Unless you do some really crazy thing, I think they cannot come.
[33:58] And so you sat 24 , 24 hours or maybe even longer than that…
yeah yeah, more longer..
Yeah yeah yeah… and er… actually how long?
(laughter) that’s personal…….. That’s for the record. [24 hours was just a landmark length]
So, then er…so no toilet? No. No need.. Eh. Really!
No toilet?.. Superhuman. No no no… like.. Some others also have done it…and..There were some other people who did it afterwards.
Yeah yeah yeah also no toilet or they say.
Because like when you are really into the nimitta…
…But you move your legs though
Sometimes when it gets really…..
…. 24 hours how many times would you move your legs? I can’t remember..Just a few times.. A few times. Yeah
[34:48] [were] You leaning against the wall or sitting just like you are sitting now? So your sitting…That’s another thing I wanted to discuss… was the sitting posture. So you’re sitting on a flat, you know, rubber foam square right now. Would you have one of the angle things? Yeah yeah [he is saying yes to an angled cushion]
[35:04] Would You have one of the angle things. you put your back against the wall.. Or no.. just er…in the centre of the room?
I just have this small wooden frame, just like a small table kept just…er… how do you say…
Maybe for your back or something like that…..yeah yeah, usually the body gets erect.
Yeah very fast eh… you feel like hydraulics or something. And it is automatic.
Definitely you can see why the Buddha, …even for the nimitta… I really understood my back is a bit crooked. Then… I… have this problem in my back also… this big injury once. So, that’s why I take a little precaution. But leaning, or if your just head or something goes down…the nimitta, the position and before that the thoughts… That’s why I’m so sure this Buddha says this ujum kāyam panihitam.. He was so right..eh.. Only when it happened only [then] I understood.
[36:12] But no need to do full lotus? No. Have you..Did you try.. Did you try to test it? I cannot. After the injuries I got of the back and the knees. Earlier I could a little, but not like this. Then, It was just this posture [He was sitting in the “Burmese Posture” (Google “Burmese Posture”)]
So three hours normally easy… six hours maybe
Yeah..more than that.. More than that. More than that. You just feel the numbness, not pain..really… honestly. It’s not pain, it’s like…
[36:44] You feel some numbness in your legs but you can ignore it.
After a long time, only this. Maybe this circulation or something. Then you feel numbness. But your mind wants to urge..but you can even skip it also. Yeah.. It’s just not the pain eh.. Even after all these times….
[37:06] And then when you did 32 parts, you could just look and see. Or, did you need the book, or you could, you could use the light. You scan it through your body or [did] you have to sort of know where to look..
[37:25] First I thought, like it was still the doubt. Doubt means like “is it the true one that you saw?”
[37:30] combination of both maybe, huh?. The book and the light together.
But sometimes you can see… like… you see…because I was wondering…no? . Then once I had this big pain here and all and I thought my whole arm was like ..somethings wrong. Twisted. Then it’s just like… I never thought… tissue..tissue. Tissue on this part of the bone. And then you see this coming..and then I’d really just touch it like this. The pain was exactly there. Here it was like, you know, like in a dream, you know, dream ..suddenly [a] door opens and then shows something and it closes no. ..like that…. .this also I go like this and then suddenly… bzzt …..and …Then I really applied some ointment there. And it changed ..
[38:26] ah.. You cured yourself..
[laughter].. No, no, no. Like ..really ..it was..You don’t think it something wrong right on the bone, no? Because the whole arm was paining..I had to study it?
You can see the … you can see the root cause.
Yeah yeah. They say some people who are very powerful, who are very good pāramī, they can see exactly and where and inward color… outward color… ..and where the insides come and go. Real yeah. Because it is true.. like some two parts…It’s funny because we use our language, no? And then these two were…like… I had the wrong idea of it ..
[39:10] So.. when I was like searching searching they didn’t appear, no? And I didn’t know.
Then uh..the parts I knew were then ..… …because we did Goenka and all. You feel the sensations…and ..We did many many types of meditations. With another teacher we did from inside. So then when you say brain or something, you feel the sensations going, you don’t focus it there, you just look in front. But you feel…
[39:40] Then afterwards [he starts speaking softly like telling a secret] when you go to the dining hall or the sīma, it’s like you go…you don’t plan anything, no….you don’t want to see your senior monk like stuck like a pile of meat or anything, no.
But you can see
Just like … choooo. No and when I go into the sīma, like when you just go into a meat shop….Many many many many many. It’s not very nice, no? Even a little bird who sings very nice… sweetly. Then and then the perception, I think it’s perception.. The perception changed.
yeah..The 32 parts…everything….
Yeah yeah..Then you just spread spread spread the lights.. And then..`
[40.22] So with the eyes open, in the sīma or meditation with the eyes closed. Eyes open.. Eh. Eyes open? Eyes open also. Because I had no idea no..like you don’t want to see the sayadaws and all..
So the same thing, no…I heard there are some bhikkhu who can just open their eyes and then go into jhāna .. and then come out. so…This is the idea ..no? .. first some..when meditate…
[40:49] Because it is mind door anyway….nothing to do with the eyes. So you can do that?
I try… I try ..but little .eh, not perfect. But try…you can you can. like..How do you say, before alms rounds…like just before the donor…. Because these vasītā … 5 [pañca] vasītā, [5 mastery as listed in the Path of Purification] vajjanavasī, samāpajjanavasī, adhiṭṭhānavasī, vuṭṭhānavasī, paccavekkhaṇavasī.”
Adhiṭṭhāna is going in [to jhāna]..
utthāna is coming out… [of jhāna].
So awajhāna no? So those things are……
[41:22] … staying in as long as you want….
vajjanavasī is… you recall no..? Things like that…
So samāpajjanavasī is going into jhāna anytime you want from the 5 within the second….So like we have to practice. It seems like some people can do. Like say Venerable…like you go out…maybe I mean…..then I just make adhiṭṭhāna .. my mind is so powerful ..eh… like you can just say… “Until Venerable Subhuti keeps his foot on the first step..may I.. may this mind be in first jhāna, or second jhāna, third jhāna. When he keeps his first step… foot on the first step of this kuṭi, may I come out of it. Or may this mind come out of it.” It really happens.
[42:10] you could tell the time directly, you could .say like two hours and then right on the two hour mark you can come out.
Yeah, the smaller the time.. Easier … Really! Easier because it is like really precise. Like maybe just like you sleep..and sometimes we have this time…notion.. notion of time. Then we suddenly get up even before the alarm..
Yeah A few seconds before… same thing
So..They say usually if it is before 5 minutes and not after 5 minutes also within that radius, it’s good.. The adhiṭṭhāna ..So er….
[42:50 ] But you were closer than that
yeah yeah like …even shorter ones were very precise. Like spot on. But the longer longer longer you get…I think… before you come out and go..Then… I just push it in…no? When it comes out. It’s not tiring, it’s not like .. what we were doing before we get these nimittas and jhāna. And then..but viriya factor I think ..of the 5 ..is just to push it in…ok you go now, now be there, like that in a kind way. But it’s very very nice …l and you don’t feel tired…I thought like sleep and all… you need to..no?
[43:35] So after this 24 hour jhāna right, after this 24 hour fourth jhāna, how do you feel? Did you have to sleep… or..afterwards… or.. Could you eat or…?
Yeah… the last …maybe the one hour ..or the two hour you feel the energy dropping…. When you come out also…really you become tired. Then when you finish the sitting also like you feel tired.eh.. I can’t lie, no?
But come on… you don’t feel like er.. …you didn’t sleep or something like that . The body I think the energy has dropped…. Because it uses up, no? But..it’s not like you have some sickness or something, Or even when you stayed up all night maybe for some other thing you feel very tired. Nothing like that eh.. Nothing like that .
You feel, you feel …. Only the body is weak … the mind is very… radiant you can say, kind of glowing.
[44:51] Now you finish white kasiṇa, right? No, Not yet
Not yet..Do you like white kasiṇa?
White kasiṇa …like.. I thought I stay there..Because its like in this practice they say it’s another big step, so I thought i just stay there for some time…and then make a fixed base, no.. make it more stronger..like er….but the skeleton.. Then we did the skeleton..From the skeleton the white light comes .
So you like it better than ānāpāna..or
I don’t know.. Because ānāpāna seems to…….
[45:30] … have a lot of pāramī for ānāpāna
no… I really like…it’s like a dream come true, no… All People saying and then this suddenly happens. No? And.now…..this is like…
24 hours , yeah..
This is the one that really help me, no? And Buddha always emphasize so much on ānāpāna
[45:50] So you’re hoping you can stay 7 days or something..
You are going to try for two days after 4th jhāna white kasiṇa
And then when you go to next color kasiṇa, three days,… next color kasiṇa four days…….up to 7 right..
It will take you forever to finish this samatha course, right?
Oh yeah… like that…
[46:15] 24 hours each day..yeah…
But even sayadaw say, the longer the duration of the sitting…, it’s much better because we going… like the breath no? Like when we are going with the breath. Like We try again and again ..no? So its.no waste ?. so more longer sitting
I don’t think your concentration will fall down… unless, you know your sila or something like that..…So, I think you are in are good company and stuff right now… yeah
[46:45] Ok well, thank you. I think this will be inspiring for other people.. The recording itself is quite good but I don’t know if we can just keep this “as is”..47 minutes … yeah…so sādhu sādhu Bhante
[47:05] Oh.. and please..like…Please invite everybody.. I didn’t have anything, no..just to……How do you say…the effort and the faith and the trust .. teacher really help and good spiritual friends.. who motivate you. Good Teachers especially no
And sīla to, right? Sīla
Yeah Definitely sīla
And even for laymen no, ..you saw people come .and they.. like..within 5 days, no?
[47:35] Yeah.. one person two days … two days then go.
Five days first jhāna. So and these jhāna’s and things are like really alive still ..
Yeah yeah yeah not such a mystery thing…
Yeah not, nothing mystery, and then anybody can achieve this but we have to work on them. Definitely you feel like ..what Buddha said was so true…. When you really go ..no? And like you say…Venerable, like They say the arahant they can stay 7 days, no?…Without even a break. So more less…
[48:10] Nirodha samāpatti
So…For us also in this little step no?… If we can do something like this… It’s not big..no.. compared to same with the nobles…no?. But..If our kilesa is reduced and we can just stand… sit for like this time, for practice no? Then more and more we let go of the kilesa..how wonderful it would be. …no? And …We also can achieve those goals…or the points of liberation , no? Like what the Buddha or the arahants does.. Did….. so, it’s like the Dhamma… no? It says …
You inspire others and now you inspire yourself. That’s also good, yeah I inspire myself all the time… just. You know……so…and I like to share it with other people. Now I’m inspired by you so.. I want to share that with other people too.
[49:07] sādhu sādhu sādhu
May this.. Our simple discussion be …like er… even for me it’s nothing..Like er… It’s not a point of ego, then I would crash no? Because I need to be…. how do you say.. I would be like a fool, no?
So..Like er…I just accepted Venerable’s invitation as if it would help … even if one person is inspired..and then if they come and practice and then achieve, it would be a merit of us all and for the well being of themselves and the sāsana.
sādhu sādhu sādhu!
Above are meditation pillows used at the same meditation center. Firm rubber foam with an angle is preferred. Monks are not allowed to sit on kapok or cotton which is most commonly used for meditation pillows. Buckwheat pillows are also at this center. Laypeople may sit on anything they wish and are not held accountable for the special monks’ rules or higher training (adhisīla).
NOTE: The following was a small 14 minute follow up interview to make clear the details of his experience. Not all of the conversation were included..
Interview 2 of 2
So during the last recording I said …something like.. are you feeling the nimitta.
[1:52]When you are in the jhāna do you feel any substance in the nimitta or something like that, sort of? Or is it just only looking…
Just…Just like you are bathed with it, no.. showered with it …and like just inside it no, … and its showering all over you, no?
[2:12] But you always know that this nimitta is the breath. Always know or, you just focussing on light.
Afterwards, the teacher also ask us to just focus on the light… then no more breath story.
No more knowing that this is the breath. It’s only.. only just.. (?). You are in the ocean, you are not saying this is ocean water, this is pool water, this is lake water.. you just like..er.., I’m in… I’m in….And you are not even thinking I’m in
Yeah.. we can’t..no? we can’t do anything like that.
[3:00] and then… So…When you said that there is no sounds in jhāna..ok..now, if I were to like…open up the door when you are meditating… I knock on the door..would you, would you hear.
When you are really absorbed, I don’t think so
You don’t think …
Hm.. Nothing happened like that to me.
Or a truck… and you are near or…
I think… really absorbed, then nothing..nothing..
But …Is it always really absorbed…or is it. uh…
[3:29] Not always.. eh. There are times you come out and then.. maybe.. I think it depends on some days, maybe the food and your health.
Is it something like 80% inside.. or something like that or..
Yeah..More than 50%
More than 50%.
Yeah. Ok.. More than 50% you are fully inside. Some other times its like less…
[3:51] it comes and then you go inside..especially if you sit for a long……. Short sittings [referring to three or four hours] is very easy, long sittings [referring to 24] ..like you feel the energy dropping ..and then, then you just… not so difficult.. but then you… just ..maybe from access [concentration], you just push it in. Maybe the viriya factor comes… effort..
[4:10] Do you give advice for people who hear sounds. Should they make that a goal.. not to hear sounds, or should they just focus on..
Just ignore. If you are focusing you cannot make the progress
you are always looking…you want to hear..you want to hear… am I hearing sounds…. Then you’re out.
[4:24] Like Ajahn Chah… like Venerable Ajahn Chah said, like why do you go and trouble the sounds. Why do you go and trouble the sounds.. no.. so that help because there were a lot of construction happening. And then first the mind was agitated when we just first started meditation.. then this came to me.. no? Then when I was like thinking all these thoughts and my desires… and then..to feel even though the sounds were gross, I had the liking for to hear that sound. That’s why the mind was like focussed on to it. But when you are really not focussed on to it, when you have something better to focus on maybe the nimitta, maybe the jhāna, no? Then this is nothing. So then .. …like… only..so….…Actually we don’t have to get troubled with these outward factors.
Right Right Right
Even the pain and these things.
You cannot make .. progress if you are always worried about making this the goal..
[5:25] yeah..and we can’t like..uh we can’t fix the world, no? Like the king ..no? He just has to wear a pair of slippers.
Right Right Right.. You have been to one too many Goenka courses.
I heard you say some other things from Goenka. I also know.. I know the things back and forth, you know. I know it very well, because I can remember from.. what… 20 years ago…
And … er… when you are fully inside, there is no shape or color… no shape of the nimitta.
The teachers ask you not to focus on it.
So you are just inside..like…no shape…
Just inside… Otherwise
No shape of the ocean while you are inside it, right?
[6:14] You get the idea of duality..Then this become..it can then…The concentration can drop even. Because you have another perception, .. no? So when you think of size and all… some kasina and all, they ask you to expand, but that also you just let it happen, no?. Right right right…ānāpāna like you can spread it to all directions, but afterwards, the meditation instruction that come afterwards especially… But…
[6:45] Ānāpāna or white kasiṇa?
Kasiṇa, kasiṇa especially and the skeleton meditation. And the 32 body parts, so you can spread it. Ānāpāna also the light spreads and just takes over. But you don’t have these things like… see a shape. And some teachers…specify on that because the duality factor comes and then you try to think something else, no? Then the quality of concentration goes down.
[7:16] And you forget about yourself completely.
Yeah..the body and all just disappear.
Yeah.. yeah yeah.. and er..lastly, some people, they believe that they cannot do 32 parts without jhāna or the clear light. So many.. the .. you.. you can do 32 parts without jhāna. You can do it with er… you can do it with er ..with access concentration. But er..Can you explain the clear light … and the… .. you always go to jhāna before you do anything or..have you just go directly to using the light of wisdom right away?
[7:58] um.. still the teacher ask me to use the fourth jhāna… ānāpānasati..and then it’s much easy. But now it happens very fast.. Like er.. you can just say, maybe first jhāna then it comes and second jhāna like that. Then I heard some monks they can, when they just say fourth jhāna.. whoosh… it comes very fast. But its comes 1,2,3,4 but they have practiced so many times.
[8:25] Later They do the 14 ways… they can skip..
ah like that..
They can skip.. you know, they can skip jhānas. They have to go.. they have the chart of the kasiṇas , right….. like this… boop bopp boop…and then they have the number of jhānas. And so there is one way where you just go like this….and then there is another way, there is another.. you go forwards and backwards and then there is another where you… where you go first jhāna all the color kasiṇas right..and you forwards and backwards. And you do another one where you go diagonal and then there is another one where you.. where you jump.. where you go , I think where you just.. I think where you make a determination, you know … 8th jhāna.
I forget… I forget the chart actually. How it works. They were..They were doing this in 2012. 2012, 2013 Pa Auk Sayadaw were giving them this paper and say like this. This is for… this is for psychic power training.
Because you have to go directly into fourth jhāna to be able to get abhiñña. So You can try.I want to test you … I want to say ok…I’m thinking about that number… I have so many fingers…..[hidden] under my robe…..
[9:36] So like.. the 32 part question. ..like er, they say like you can clearly see it. The light its much better but even we have to use that and then next it’s to reduce lust they say…and er the feeling of the self, to reduce that concept. And then when you have the light, then afterwards with the open eyes also, whatever you see..[you can get the light] … er no.. the perceptions change, like 32 parts…also. And then er… Otherwise they say it’s alright if you can just take a picture…..and… of what you have seen before..And then after that like.. er…then
[10.20] If you do… if you do the … In the book, The Light of Wisdom, one of Pa Auk Sayadaw’s earlier books, before “Knowing and Seeing” they actually do 4 elements meditation. They get the light of wisdom using the power of the light within the four elements of the body. Then use 32 parts, then with 32 parts go for white kasiṇa. The very end they go ānāpāna.
Uh in the very end? Oh…
[10:46] Yeah near the very end. The Visuddhimagga also similar. And the Visuddhimagga says that the ānāpāna is very subtle and very different, is different from the other objects… So the last thing is the.. so you don’t know whether it can be done in access or not… and then can you just explain the clear light. And is it..Is it that way from the first jhāna paṭibhāga nimitta..or is it only in the fourth jhāna that you…you see the clear light.. can you get some similes for the clear light.
[11.23] Light of wisdom?…Yeah.. like the… clear light, clear light like the transparent light.
Ah transparent light…Usually they say like…For me what happened was like at first it was not very clear, But….the access concentration was like some cloud okay… Then when the patibhaga nimitta came, first it was dull and then after when I went on with the jhānas it went more brighter and brighter and then 4th jhāna was the brightest and now when you turn to the skeleton then the access concentration is also very bright. And then when you come to the white kasiṇas and all it’s different and it’s more bright. It gets brighter and brighter.
[12:17] Do you recognize a difference between brightness and shininess? Brightness is like color but shininess is like illumination.
ah illumination . This was like see-throughing like a fluorescent lite for me they say like…
Sort of like my telephone here. This picture of underwater sunlight.
like an ice cube or something..
Like this … yes yes.. more whitish and more bright
like a melting ice cube can see clearly through it.
Clearly through it, but it is a bit kind of foggy, not so transparent. For me sorry it was like one of these fluorescent lights, like the CFLs. It is white but not totally transparent, but
13:33 Doesn’t matter translucent or something?
you cannot crave a certain color , it does not matter what it is it is.
and when you looked at your body parts did you see like sort of fluorescent parts
Through that like a dream it opens up and then you can see inside
Were your body parts lit up too, or was it like looking at your body parts like now
Not so clear like now, but like looking through foggy eyes or something
yeah foggy eyes or like looking underwater..have you ever looked under water with your eyes
Yes not so clear as on the land.
That’s good because a lot of people.. Pa-Auk Sayadawgyi says it should be as clear as this or that [because he always must match the ancient texts] but a lot of people don’t see that. So it is good to get this on the recording..
End of Recording II
Editor’s Note: A few months after this interview, I received an email saying that he was inspired by the interview and did 48 hours. (!)
6 thoughts on “Interview: Monk Meditates for 24 Hours”
Nice interview thanks Bhante.
Thank you very much for posting this Bhante, this is greatly appreciated!
Through whole interview you mentioned what you notice during long meditation hours. What about constant falling in abyss feeling during meditation. You never once mentioned it in the interiew. Do you experience it? I’d like your thoughts on this. Thanks!
The question was sent to the interviewee and his reply is below :
“Hello Dear Friend on the path,
Did not experience anything like that within this time period
There was bright broad stillness which was focused awake and solid
This also we witnesses afterwards
And it was a very
pleasant, comfortable, light experience”
Jhāna has a single object of meditation. Feeling like one is falling takes several objects for the mind to infer falling. Movement needs many points to infer movement. That is why water is not a vipassana object. In any case. It is totally correct not to experience falling during full jhāna However, in the early stages before jhāna concentration, different forms of piti can be felt and are listed in the vissudhimagga. One type can be felt as an uplifting joy. Perhaps this uplifting joy is caused by citta-oja-kalapas (mind created particles) in a rising fashion. Therefore the body which is stationary might infer a sinking feeling. The vissudhimagga specifically tells people not to focus on the factors with joy,, (piti) being one of them. If not concentration does not develop. If you have a nimitta John, keep meditating on the nimitta and not trying to feel the factors such as joy. Ignor it and everything else except the nimitta. It is a mind only state with only one object repeating again and again.
I have meditated for many years, yet most of it was very shallow. Also I am not aware of definitions, might use google for it, but I would prefer a meditator like you to define what Jhāna, piti, vissudhimagga,citta-oja-kalapas,nimitta means.
Im very glad to read such response but, the experience I am talking was not sinking, it was falling, and I only experienced it once in my life, more than a decade ago. Few days later it come to my attention that enlightened master was visiting the city. I dont know if he is such or not, if it was a coincidence or not – I dont bother with trying to explain.
But the experience was not even close to joy. It was extreme amount of fear, and I felt it for a minute or so.. I was not afraid, but the fear from the body I assume was very strong. No joy, no happyness, nothing of sorts. Perhaps peacefullness. But no emotions and no feelings except fear. I am happy to find that a monk meditated for 24hours – that inspired me to stop being dumb time waster and start meditating again.
Aim for consistency in your own practice. One of the dangers is to rely on others. Try basic meditation and work systematically. The books by Ven. Pa-Auk Sayadaw are best. There is a translation of the anapana texts called Mindfulness of Breathing by ven. Nyanamoli. The visuddhimagga is an ancient text on how to meditate. This book is a translation. Go to the resource page on my website here to find it locally and free. https://americanmonk.org/buddhist-book-and-web-resources/
Don’t worry about the other terms. Just meditate according to the texts provided. There are also recordings of guided meditation on this website under the resource pages. Aloha and best of luck.