Vipassanà Meditation Guidelines
Chanmyay Sayadaw- Ashin Janakarbhivamsa
This collection of 'sayings' by Sayadaw U Janaka
is from his teaching given during the 1983 retreat
he led at the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre
in Penang. They were originally complied by
Venerable Sujiva, partly from evening Dhamma talks,
but mainly from the daily interviews with the
meditators at the retreat.
As the context of these 'sayings' was mostly the
interviews situation between the teacher and the
individual student, it would therefore be most
useful to read them as if they were personal
instruction and advice from the meditation master.
The original (1983) booket was revised by Venerable
Pannavaro for the benefit of meditators who took
part in Sayadaw U Janaka's 1989 vipassana meditation
retreats in Australia.
It was revised again by Bhikku Pesala in 1999, and
reprinted by U Rewata and U Khemissara of Chanmyay
Yeiktha for free distribution.
Vipassna or insight meditation is, above all, an
experiential practice, based on the systematic and
balanced development of a precise and focused
awareness. By observing one's moment-to-moment
mind/body processes from a place of investigative
attention, insight arises into the true nature of
life and experience. Through the wisdom acquired by
using insight meditation one is able to live more
freely and relate to the world around with less
clinging, fear and confusion. Thus one's life
becomes increasingly directed by consideration,
compassion and clarity.
1. Mental Noting
This is technique of directing the attention to the
mind/body phenomena in order to understand their
true nature correctly.
The guiding principle in vipassana practice is to
observe whatever arises at the moent of its
occurrence. By noting the present, one lives in the
Note attentively and precisely. Superficial noting
may make the mind more distracted. When the
concentration is weak, the tendency to skip over
things can be checked by using the device of 'labelling'.
The actual saying of the words that constitute the
'label' is not really necessary, but it is helpful
in the beginning. Do persist with the labeling until
the noting becomes fluent, and drop it only if it
becomes too cumbersome, then it has outlived its
The meditator will get appereciation of the purpose
of purpose of vipassna meditation by bringing an
investigative quality to the 'noting practice'. This
exploration can lead to the discovery of the true
nature of the mind/body process.
2. Sitting Meditation
To prepare for sitting meditation, let the body and
the mind relax as much as possible. Maintain the
body in a well-balanced posture. Do not change the
posture abruptly or unmindfully during the sitting.
If you are about to move, note the intention to move
before actually moving.
To give balance to the practice, every sitting
should be preceded by an hour of walking meditation.
In the changeover from walking to sitting practice,
or vice versa, be careful to keep your mindfulness
and concentration continuous.
The stating point in the sitting practice is to
establish the attention on the sensations of the
abdomen caused by the rise and fall movement. This
is done by synchronizing the mental noting or
labeling of the movement with the actual experience
of those sensations.
As the movement of the abdomen becomes steady and
clear, increase the number of notings. If the
movements are complicated, note them in a general
If there is a gap between the rising and falling
movement of the abdomen, insert the noting of
'sitting' and/or 'touching' (noting 'sitting' is
awareness of the characteristic of support of the
Do not disturb the natural breathing by taking sharp
or deep breaths. This will make you tired. The
breathing should be just normal.
When secondary objects predominate, such as sound,
thoughts, sensations, etc., note 'hearing hearing',
'thinking, thinking' and so on. At first, it is not
easy to note such a variety of Objects, but with
increased mindfulness one is able to do so. So, when
secondary objects have passed, then one goes back to
nothing the primary objects, i.e., the rising and
falling movements of the abdomen.
Although one is taught to begin with watching the
rising and falling movement of the abdomen, one must
not get attached to it. For it is not the only
objects, but one of the many varieties of objects in
Mindfulness of the movement of the abdomen leads to
the direct experience of the wind element. That is,
to its specific characteristics of motion, vibration
and support. It is then that one can rightly know
the real nature of the wind element, there by
destroying the false view of self.
3. Walking Meditation
Take the walking meditation seriously. By merely
doing the walking meditation alone, it is possible
to attain complete awareness (Arahantship).
Begin this practice by bringing your attention to
the foot. Then note the step part as you follow the
movement with sharp attention. Mentally nothing
'right, left' as you make the steps while walking.
Keep the eyes half-closed and fixed on the ground 4
to 5 feet ahead of you. Avoid looking at the foot
during walking, or you will become distracted by it.
Do not let the head bend too low because this will
very quickly cause strain and tension in your
The objects to be noted are increased gradually.
That is, the number of parts of the step observed is
gradually increased. At the beginning of a walking
meditation period, note one part only for about 10
minutes: ''left, right and so on. Then note your
walking in 3 parts, 'lifting, pushing, dropping',
etc. Finally, increase the noting to, 'intending,
lifting, pushing, dropping, touching, and pressing'.
Please consider this. The mind is sure to wander off
quite a few times during a walking a period of one
hour. So do not look around here and there during
walking meditation. You have had, and will have,
many more years to look around. If you do it during
the retreat. you can forget about having
concentration. The wandering eye is difficult
problem for the meditator. So take note very
mindfully of the desire to look around.
For the practice to be effective, at least 6 hours
of walking and 6 hours of sitting meditation each
day is recommended.
4. Mindfulness Of Daily Activities
Awareness of daily activities is the very life of a
meditator. Once one fails to observe an activity,
one loses one's life, as it were. That is, one
ceases to be a meditator, being devoid of
mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
The faculty of mindfulness becomes powerful by
constant and uninterrupted awareness of every
activity throughout the day's practice.
Constant mindfulness gives rise to deep
concentration, and it is only through deep
concentration that one can realize the intrinsic
nature of mental and physical phenomena. This then
leads one to the cessation of suffering.
Failing to note daily activities creates wide gaps
of unmindful ness. Continuity of noting is needed to
carry the awareness forward from one moment to the
next. With this kind of practice there are many new
things to discover every day.
During the retreat, all you need to do is to be
mindful. There is no need to hurry. The venerable
Mahasi Sayadaw compared a vipassana meditator to a
weak invalid, who by necessity moves about very
Doing things very slowly helps to make the mind
concentrated. If you want the meditation to develop,
you must get accustomed to slowing down.
When a fan is turning fast, you cannot see it as it
really is, but when it is turning slowly, then you
can see. Therefore you need to sloe down
significantly to see the mental and physical
processes as they really are.
When you are surrounded by people who are doing
things in a hurry, be oblivious of your
surroundings. Instead, note your own mental and
physical activities energetically.
Talking is a great danger to the progress of
insight. A 'five minute' talk can wreck a
meditator's concentration for the whole day.
5. Pain And Patience
Pain is the friend of the maditator. Do not evade
it. It can lead you to nibbana.
Pain does not have ti inform you of its coming. It
may not disappear, but if it does, you may cry over
it, for your friend has gone away.
Pain is observed not to make it go away, but to
realize its true nature.
Pain is the key to the door of nibbana.
When concentration is good, pain is not a problem.
It is a natural process. If you observe it
attentively the mind will be absorbed in it, and
discover its true nature.
When pain comes, note directly. Ignore it only if it
becomes overpoweringly persistent. It can be
overcome by deep concentration brought about by
If intense pain arises during walking meditation,
stop occasionally and take note of it.
Be patient with anything and everything that
stimulates your mind.
Patience leads to nibbana ___ impatience leads to
When noting mental or emotional states, do it
quickly, energetically and precisely so that the
noting mind is continuous and powerful. Then
thinking stops by itself.
Unless you can note the wandering thoughts, you are
already defeated when attempting to concentrate the
mind. If your mind is inclined to wander, it
indicates that you are not really noting thoughts
energetically enough. The acquired ability to do
this is indispensable.
If you are aware of the contents of thoughts, they
will tend to go on. If you are aware of the thought
itself, then thinking will cease.
Do not be attached to thinking and theory.
Meditation is beyond time and space. So do not be
caught up with thinking and theory. Insight will
arise with deep concentration, but logical and
philosophical thinking comes with shallow
Drowsiness can be overcome by putting in more
effort. Labelling activities vigorously is helpful.
Note sleepiness energetically, if you accept
laziness, you will go on half-asleep.
Actually, the energy to note is always there. The
trouble is that you are reluctant to do it. The
mental attitude is very important. So, do not be
pessimistic, if you are optimistic, you offer
yourself an opportunity.
Then there is satisfaction in every situation and
there will be less distraction.
A human being has a great variety of abilities and
the strength to do many things. If you want to
develop this meditation to its ultimate goal of
complete awareness, you will need to put a
determined effort into the practice. If you put in
this all-out effort, you will achieve the final
liberation from habitual clinging, fear and
All meditators reports daily to the meditation
teachers. They report on what they have noted and
experienced during that day's practice. The teacher
will suggest any corrections, give further
instructions and try to inspire the meditator onto
try to describe:
What was noticed of the rising and falling movement
mindfulness of daily activities
Describe each of these in dentail. Try to be concise
and to the point.
During the interview do not pause to wait for
remarks from the teacher. Only after you have
reported all your experiences will any remarks be
Please listen carefully to all the instructions from
the teacher and follow them diligently. If there is
any doubt, please ask the teacher.
When asked a question, answer it directly. Please do
not speak about something else.
Report all experiences even if they seem unimportant
Many meditators find that making short written notes
immediately after each meditation is helpful, but
one should not make it a point to attempt to
remember while meditating. This will disturb
The Training Precepts
Moral integrity serves as the basis for the
development of concentration, which is essential for
the cultivation of vipassna meditation
During retreats, all participants are expected to
observe the eight precepts.
Homage to the Buddha
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato
Homage to the Blessed One, the Nobel one, the Fully
Enlightened One (3 times)
The Three Refuges
Buddham saranam gacchami.
Dhammam saranam gacchami.
Sangham saranam gacchami.
I go to the Buddha as my refuge.
I go to the Dhamma as my refuge.
I go to the Sangha as my refuge.
Dutiyam pi Buddham saranam gacchami.
Dutiyam pi Dhammam saranam gacchami.
Dutiyam pi Sangham saranam gacchami.
A second time…
Tatiyam pi Buddham saranam gacchami.
Tatiyam pi Dhammam saranam gacchami.
Tatiyam pi Sanghan saranam gacchami.
A third time…
The Eight Precepts
1. Pànàtipàtà veramanì-sikkhàpadam samàdiyàmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from killing
2. Adinnadànà veramanì-sikkhàpadam samàdiyàmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking what
is not given.
3. Abrahmacariyà veramanì-sikkhàpadam samàdiyàmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from all sexual
4. Moravia veramanì-sikkhàpadam samàdiyàmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from wrong
5. Surà - meraya - majja - pamadatthànà verramanì -
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking
intoxicants, which cloud the mind and cause
6. Vikàlabhojanàveramani-sikkhàpadam samàdiyàmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at
the wrong time. (between noon and dawn)
7. Nacca - gìta -vàdita - visùka - dassana - màlà -
gandha - vilepana-dhàrana - mandana -
vibhùsanatthànà veramanì - sikkhàpadam samàdiyàmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing,
singing, music, and unseemly shows; from the use of
garlands, perfumes, cosmetics and jewellery that aim
to beautify and adorn the person.
8. Uccàssayana mahàsayanà veramanì - sikkhàpadam
I undertake the precept to refrain from using high
and luxurious seats and beds.