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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008





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Government Gazette

Taming the mind through meditation

Ven. Bandarawela Amithananda Thera

I felt like I had to touch base. No Buddhist or for that matter any person of any religion can ignore that nagging need to reconnect with that spiritual side of life once in a while, and I felt I had been disregarding it for too long. Vesak for me, couldn’t have come at a better time.

My mind ran back to an interview I did with Ven. Bandarawela Amithananda Thera a few months ago, that I kept putting off since I wanted to take all the time I needed to do a good job with it. I wouldn’t know if I have succeeded in doing so, but I hope our readers would benefit from it.


“The minds of the lay, filled with craving, is restless.” Said Bandarawela Amithananda Thera, explaining the significance of meditation for monks and the lay alike. Some seem to believe that ‘meditation’ was not meant for the lay. But Bandarawela Amithananda Thera explained that meditation is a must to relinquish the dukka (unsatisfactoryness) for the monks and lay alike, that’s born out of the restless mind. “Meditation is the only way to tame the mind.” He explained.

“There are two main categories of meditation Samatha and Vidharshana, and 40 methods.” He explained. “Samatha is a temporary form of mind control, administered in consideration of ones position in the society, ones caste, etc.... Vidharshana is to observe things are as they are and is a long term solution to the troubled mind.

Pix by Nisansala Karunaratne

In the Maha Sathipattana Sutra - which represents the real essence of Buddhism - the Buddha explains three stages of mind; Soka, Paridewa, Samathikkamaya. Soka is the restlessness of mind. “One can only relinquish the restlessness by renouncing the indulgence of entertaining the five senses.”

Instead most humans through Upandana (holding on), clutches on to the Raga (desires). Paridewa is the subsequent propagation of restlessness. The way to relinquish the restlessness is Samathikkamaya, to go beyond Raga without holding on to them.

According to the Buddha “If restlessness arises out of something - which is termed as a nimitta - one should go beyond that nimitta by thinking of anithya (transience of life), dukka (unsatisfactoryness due to transience) and anathma (soullessness).” This is the beginning of Vipassana meditation.

“When the mind is restless, suffering increases and vice-versa. Consequently it is a never ending cycle.” explained Amithnanda Thera reiterating the fact that one should not clutch on to desires. The Buddha in the Maha Sathipattana Sutra preached that the person who has mastered the art of breaking this cycle will be successful in attaining Nibbhana.


“One must always be conscious of everything.” One must always be aware of every thought that crosses the mind. They must be alert and aware. For example, if anger arises, the person must be aware that he or she is angry before he or she could remedy it. For which, each person must be aware of the workings of the mind.

Thereby perceive the pain caused by anger to ‘oneself’, let alone others. Just as negative emotions like anger causes negative sensations - Akusala dhamma, the sensations that arise out of positive emotions are positive - Kusala dhamma. Dhammanupassana relates to bearing positive thoughts in the mind, thereby generating positive sensations in the mind.

This alertness and analysis of thoughts, has been termed as Anupassana. Consequently the alertness is four folds - kayanupassana, vedananupassana, chittanupassana and dhammanupassana. “You must be aware of everything that happens concerning mind and body.” One must calm the mind by this analysis enough to perceive each and every thought that crosses the mind.


According to the Maha Sathipattana Sutra the mind of the person who has mastered this art - Yogawachara - is devoid fear and suspicion. As the first step, the mind of the untrained lay person is compared to a dense forest, always in fear and suspicious. But through anupassana the mind can be gradually trained, until it reaches the second step.

The Sutra compares the second step to obtaining calmness of mind as resting on the root of a tree, fear is gradually reduced and the mind begins to settle.

The third stage of the mind in training is compared to an old house stripped of furniture. Raga (desires), dosa (malice) and moha (ignorance) is gradually stripped away like the furniture, permitting him to look within himself. This is the first step to becoming a Yogawachara.


“From 4 am to 12 midnight people are always busy. They are always running.” But Anapanasathi does not take up time. Most people seem to believe that the Anapanasathi is not a suitable form of meditation for the lay person.

Often the desired results are not reached through this particular form of meditation, because people do not follow the proper method. “Do not meditate without the assistance of a teacher.” said Amithananda Thera.

“Breath must not be merely seen but observed properly. And where and how the breath is transferred through the body is not what is important. What the meditator must focus on is the simple fact that it’s happening. The meditator must be ‘aware’ that he or she is ‘breathing’.”

The person who has trained the mind is able to inhale and exhale consciously. “While engaging in Anapanasathi, one must also be conscious of the fact that life depends on ‘breath’ and not money.” If one accomplishes this he can acquire consciousness of Anithya, dukka, anathma.” The lay has over sixty types of desires, and the mind clutches on to them.

Minds of people with this many desires can never be tamed with only a few hours meditation. “People move from one meditation centre to the next, after meditating for just a few days, in search of the ‘best’ meditation centre.

Mind will never be tranquil enough to meditate if people do not comprehend the fact that life is about conflicts and attachments, one must train the mind to not clash with the dislikes and get attached to the likes.”

In Buddha’s own words “Take what you see, what you hear, what you feel for just what they are. Do not clutch on to them.”


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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