Reply To: Goenka´s Vipassana – Part 2


Two sections before that one (“What is really meant by Saṅkhāra?” p.78) I first explain what is meant by “sankhara” and how it’s an inconsistency when compared to pure Buddha Dhamma. For the Vipassana practitioner of this tradition it will make somewhat more sense.

The reason why I wrote that last section was to try and offer an explanation what this physical phenomenon, that is described as “sankhara,” is. It’s basically the backbone of the tradition. Perhaps I should attempt to give a few examples before continuing. Then I might be able to answer the question better. To be clear, I’ll speak from the perspective of that tradition, not Buddha Dhamma.

Example 1:

Let’s say one gets angry. One may be feeling sensation of heat in several parts of the body, let’s imagine the chest and back. These are coarse (e.g., heavy, throbbing, unpleasant) sensations. During meditation one scans the body and notices these unpleasant sensations, but stays equanimous and accepts them for what they are, ephemeral and impermanent, and pays no particular attention to these. OR one stops in those areas and stays there for a short time observing the sensations, equanimously, before moving on with other body parts. As one continues the observation/scanning process, the aversion that manifests itself through these unpleasant sensations, will pass away (aversion gets eradicated). With it, the emotion of anger also reduces. The more advanced practitioner can observe these areas a bit longer. He or she would be able to reduce the coarseness of the sensations, resulting in more subtle sensations that feel more pleasant. This would also result in a reduced feeling of anger.

Example 2:

Let’s say one thinks back of a pleasant event, e.g., a holiday. Instead of unpleasant sensations one will now be experiencing more pleasant sensations (e.g., tingly, soothing, etc.). These arise because of craving/desire. Let’s say, pleasant sensations arise in arms and legs. One will have the tendency to like these and not want them to go away. However, because they are impermanent, they will go away eventually. So, one should keep observing the body, as mentioned above, in a similar way; equanimously. This is how craving/desire is eradicated.  If one practices correctly and keeps doing this, eventually all sensations in the body become incredibly subtle. This means all sankharas arise to the surface and pass away with great rapidity.

Note regarding both examples: when one is not equanimous, the craving and aversion cannot be eradicated since one only feeds it.

Regarding example 1 and 2, we are talking about body parts where particular sensations manifest. These are the manifesations of desire when they are of pleasant nature or aversion if they are of unpleasant nature. The third one would be neutral sensations which are manifestations of ignorance. (Reminder: I’m speaking from the perspective of this tradition, not Buddha Dhamma)

Now, for the (very) advanced practitioner, he or she will notice that sensations manifestaing over larger surface areas of the body seem to originate in very small areas. This needs some explaining and this is what I’m mostly trying to offer an explanation for.

Let’s take example 1. There are unpleasant sensations felt on chest and back. When you “zoom in” with a calm mind on this area, one will notice there’s a tiny point from where these sensation seem to originate. It’s usually felt as some kind of throbbing sensation/”heart beat.” I referred to it as an “(energy) knot.”

When one focuses on this point, and has a strong concentration, one can sometimes dissolve it so that it becomes completely subtle. Then the whole area feels light and subtle. The anger seems to vanish from that very moment. This easily leads to states where the whole body feels “dissolved.” This state is explained as “sankharas” of craving, aversion, and/or ignorance arising and passing away very rapidly. Layers and layers are being washed away. This state doesn’t last forever. After some time, course sensations arise again and the process starts over again as well.

My intention for the chapter Lal speaks of (p.82) is to explain in this phenomenon with the help of Buddha Dhamma. The vast majority of practitioners won’t be familiar with the process I described as “energy knots” btw, but they are with the general concept of sensations that arise and pass away and they can also get to those states where the whole body seems to dissolve. I thought that maybe it could be explained with the help of the utuja kaya of the gandhabba.