THE GREAT DISCOURSE ON
Venerable MAHASI SAYADAW
Note: Pali terms in this page are created with Unicode CN-Times font.
Reverence to the Blessed One, the Exalted One, the Supremely Enlightened One.
All teachings or beliefs outside of the Buddha's Dispensation fall under the category of beliefs in a self, attā. They hold to the view that there is such a thing as a soul, a living entity, which actually resides in all living creatures.
In the midst of the world holding fast to notions of self or soul the Buddha declared, "Attā, soul or living entity, is not a reality; it is only a conventional nomencla-ture. What really exists, in the ultimate sense, is a continuous flux of corporeal and mental processes, impersonal phenomena."
It is essential to thoroughly and comprehensively understand anattā, the doctrine of impersonality propounded by the Buddha. He first touched on the doctrine in his elaboration of the Four Noble Truths in the Dhammacakka Sutta. He touched on it again when he taught the Hemavata Sutta, explaining that "with the arising of the six sense bases, (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind) there arises a world, a being." Then the Buddha brought forth the doctrine of not-self explicitly and comprehensively in this Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta.
THE SUTTA INTRODUCTION
The introduction to the Sutta was recorded by the Elders of the First Council in the Khandhavagga of the Saṁyutta Nikāya of the Pāli Canon, in these words:
Evamme sutaṁ. Ekaṁ samayaṁ Bhagavā Bārāṇasiyaṁ viharati Isipatane Migadāye. Tatra kho bhagavā pañcavaggiye bhikkhū āmantesi, 'Bhikkhavo' ti. 'Bhadante' ti te bhikkhū Bhagavato paccassosuṁ. Bhagavā etadavoca.
"I, Ānanda, have heard thus," began the Venerable Ānanda, "At one time, the most Exalted One was staying in the Pleasance of Isipatana, the Deer Sanctuary, near the township of Varanasi."
The Dhammacakka Sutta, the First Discourse, was delivered on the evening of the full moon day of July, 2,552 years ago. At that time, only one of the Group of Five [*], Venerable Koṇḍañña, attained the first stage of Higher Knowledge and became a Sotāpanna, a Stream Enterer. Having fully penetrated into the Dhamma, with firmly established confidence and unshakable faith in the Buddha's Teaching, he sought and gained admission into the Order (Saṅgha).
[* The Group of Five were the five ascetics who had previously followed the Bodhisatta while he was practicing austerities and who later heard the First Discourse and became the Buddha's first monk disciples.]
The remaining four monks, the Venerables Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahānāma and Assaji, had not yet achieved that Higher Knowledge, so the Blessed One urged them to devote themselves to the strenuous practice of Dhamma under his personal guidance. They did not go out, even for alms round. The Blessed One himself also stayed in the monastery to attend to their progress and assist them in removing the obstacles, hindrances and impurities that arise in the course of meditation practice. Thus, instructed and guided by the Blessed One, and striving arduously and consistently, the Venerable Vappa attained the Path and Fruition on the first waning day of July; the Venerable Bhaddiya on the 2nd, the Venerable Mahānāma on the 3rd and the Venerable Assaji on the 4th respectively, and each of them became a Stream Enterer.
I have already dealt elaborately with the account of their attainments in the concluding portions of the discourses on the Dhammacakka Sutta [See The Great Discourse on the Wheel of Dhamma, by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, translated by U Ko Lay; Buddhadhamma Foundation.] I stated there that the four monks other than Koṇḍañña were not accomplished enough to attain the Higher Knowledge by just listening to the discourse, but had to strive for it, and that is why the Blessed One wanted them to devote themselves to the practice of the Dhamma. In view of this fact, I warned against being led astray by the mistaken and irresponsible doctrine that the status of Stream Enterer can be attained without the effort of vipassanā meditation, just by listening to a discourse.
The Commentaries say that after all five monks had become Stream Enterers and received ordination as members of the Buddha's Order, the Buddha taught them the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta on the 5th waning day of July. Thus, "at one time" in the introduction means the 5th waning day of July, while the Blessed One was still staying in the Deer Sanctuary near the town of Varanasi.
"At that time, when the Blessed One was staying in the Deer Sanctuary in the township of Varanasi, the Blessed One addressed the Group of Five monks, 'O monks,' and the Group of Five monks answered, 'Revered Sir.' Then the Blessed One taught thus:
THE BUDDHA'S WORDS: BEGINNING THE SUTTA
Rūpaṁ bhikkhave anattā. Rūpañca hidaṁ bhikkhave attā abhavissa nayidam rūpaṁ ābādhāya saṁvatteyya; labbhetha ca rūpe evaṁ me rūpaṁ hotu, evaṁ me rūpaṁ mā ahosīti.
"Monks, rūpa, the material body, is not self, soul or living entity."
People in general see themselves and others as living entities, each with a soul, self or ego, called in Pāli attā, corresponding with the Sanskrit word ātman. Attā is also known as jīva, life; thus attā conveys the concept of life, soul or living entity. Holding the view that there exists a soul or a living entity in man is known as the misconception or wrong belief in self (attādiṭṭhi).
Ordinary worldlings are not free from this wrong belief in self; the only difference from person to person lies in how firmly it is held and how plainly it manifests. The vipassanā meditator who is developing keen insight into the physical and mental processes, and contemplating the fact that there is no self or living entity, is free from that wrong notion of self, but only for the duration of his noting the arising and passing away of corporeality and mentality. The misconception of self is likely to return.
In order to remove this misconception of self and make it clear that there is no such thing as soul or living entity in the physical and mental constituents, either of one's own body or in the bodies of others, the Blessed One began the discourse with the statement, "Rūpaṁ bhikkhave anattā : Material form (rūpa) monks, is not self, soul or living entity."
MISTAKING BODY FOR SELF
What is this material form which we wrongly conceive as self? The following material qualities form the foundation of a material form: the sensitive part of the eye which enables us to see objects; the sensitive part of the ear which enables us to hear sounds; the sensitive part of the nose which enables us to smell odors; the sensitive part of the tongue which enables us to sample tastes; the sensitive part of the body which enables us to feel touch; the "heart-base" (hadāya vatthu), that is, the seat of consciousness; and the material quality of the life-principle or vital force.
Careful consideration reveals that eye consciousness arises because of the sensory organ of the eye; and with eye consciousness comes the concept of a living entity or self. Similarly, because of the sensory organs of the ear, nose, tongue, and body we have the consciousness of hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The heart base, the seat of consciousness, is responsible for thoughts and thinking, resulting in the notion of self or living entity. The life principle is the vital force which vivifies all material bodies and preserves them from decay and decomposition. This life principle, which is just a material quality, is wrongly believed to be a soul, a living entity.
In the absence of the sensory organs there is no such thing as soul or living entity. Consider, for instance, a wooden figure of a man, which resembles a living person in appearance but has none of the sense organs that give rise to cognition. It could never be mistaken for a living being with a soul or a living entity. Likewise we do not conceive notions of a soul or a living entity with respect to a corpse, as there are no functional sensory organs within it. So long as the sensitive qualities exist, other material bodies which are their adjuncts and concomitants, such as sights, sounds, odors, the tangibility (of the earth [paṭhavī] , fire [tejo], and air [vāyo] elements), moistness and fluidity (of the element of cohesion [āpo]) felt by the sense of touch, and the material qualities of sex responsible for masculinity and femininity, are also wrongly conceived as self. Material qualities such as sight, sound and odor, which are concomitant with the sensory organs of the eye, ear and nose, are misconceived as soul or living entities when seen, heard and smelt. In short, the whole material world which coexists with sensory awareness is regarded in terms of living entities.
In common speech, too, the body which is compounded of the material qualities is spoken of as self. To talk this way is not wrong, it conforms to the convention of the world, but from the point of view of ultimate, absolute reality, none of the material substances of the body is self. They are merely aggregates of matter, or material qualities. That is why the Blessed One clearly and explicitly stated that "although people view the aggregates of material qualities as a living being, in reality they are not self, they are merely physical phenomena."
Exponents of the doctrine of self, however, who hold that their body is self, are bound to come up with the question, "Why is it not self?" The Blessed One provided the following explanation:
WHY BODY IS NOT SELF
"Monks, if the body were self, the core of our being, then it would not tend to affliction or distress, and one should be able to say of it, 'Let my body be thus (in the best of conditions); let my body not be thus (in a bad condition).' It should be possible to influence the body in this manner."
Were the body the core of one's being, or self, it would not cause suffering, but actually the body does impose suffering in many ways. It does not remain youthful and vigorous, it grows old and decays, and it dies. Without the body, one would be free from the afflictions of going grey, becoming toothless, hunchbacked, deaf, near-sighted, wrinkled and infirm. It is the body that inflicts these sufferings.
Again, because of the body, one is troubled with pain -- eye diseases, ear diseases, toothache, backache, flatulence, feelings of heat, coldness, pain and itching -- and with diseases of the blood, skin, stomach or urine. These ailments arise because of the body. We suffer from hunger and thirst because of the body, and because of it we are subjected to attack by mosquitoes and other antagonists. Suffering in the miserable and woeful states is also due to the body. In short, one suffers from all these ailments and afflictions because of the body.
In addition, the body is responsible for the phenomenon of death in human existence. When the material qualities in the body undergo deterioration and decay, death occurs. It may be said, therefore, that the physical form inflicts suffering by causing death.
Thus we can reflect that if the physical form were self, it would not inflict on us the sufferings of old age, disease and death. One might cause suffering to others but not to oneself. If the body were self, it should not inflict suffering on itself by bringing about old age and so on.
Furthermore, even before the onset of old age, disease and death, the body is constantly subjecting us to many forms of distress. Even young people, who are relatively free from illness and enjoy good health, cannot remain long in any one of the body postures, such as sitting, standing or walking. They have to change postures very often. We have all experienced how hard it is to remain in any one body posture. We find it difficult to remain seated for half an hour or one hour without changing posture, or to lie down for two or three hours without moving. We are constantly having to change postures because of the feelings of heat or pain that arise in the limbs after a certain time in one position. All this distress arises because of the physical form; in other words, it is the body that is inflicting it.
Thus we may reflect that if the body were self, it would not impose these sufferings on us.
Furthermore, it is stated, "if the body were self it should be possible to say of it, 'let my body be thus, let my body not be thus'."
All beings would like to see their bodies always healthy and youthful in appearance, to keep them from old age, illness, decay and death. But the material body is never obliging; it refuses to be subject to one's will. Its fresh youthfulness fades into aged debility, its robust health declines against one's will into illness and disease and finally dissolution and death.
If the body were self it would not inflict suffering on us, and it should be possible to subject it to our will. While others may not be amenable to one's control, it should at least be possible to manage our own body as we desire. But the fact of the matter is that the body is not self. That is why it inflicts suffering on us and refuses to be controlled. The Blessed One continued to explain this fact.
Yasmā ca kho, bhikkhave, rūpaṁ anattā, tasmā rūpaṁ ābādhāya saṁvattati, na ca labbhati rūpe evaṁ me rūpaṁ hotu, evaṁ me rūpaṁ mā ahosī'ti.
"Monks, in fact, the body is not self. Since it is not self, it tends to affliction and distress, and it is not possible to say of the body, ‘Let it be thus, let it not be thus.' It is not possible to influence and manage the body in this manner."
JĪVA ATTĀ AND PARAMA ATTĀ
Believers in the doctrines of self say that self is of two kinds: jīva attā and parama attā. According to them, each individual creature, man, deva, or animal, has a self, an inner soul or substance called jīva attā, the life principle. This life principle is usually believed to be created by God, but some believers hold that these individual jīvā attā are small segments of the bigger attā of God.
Parama attā is the "Big Self" of God, who has created the world together with all its creatures. According to some, this Big Self permeates the whole world, but others say it lies in a Heavenly Abode. These ideas of small self and Big Self are all, of course, mere speculation. Nobody has met or seen the God which is the embodiment of the Big Self.
Belief in creation by God had existed long before the appearance of the enlightened Buddha. This is clear from the story of Baka the Brahma.
At one time, the Blessed One went to the realm of the Brahmas for the purpose of clearing up the wrong views held by the great Brahma Baka.
On arrival there, the great Brahma Baka welcomed the Blessed One to his realm, in praise of which he said, "Welcome, Venerable Gotama; your coming is good, although it has taken a long time. This Brahma land is permanent, stable, everlasting, perfect in every way. And no one dies or passes away from here."
For this statement, the Blessed One rebuked the Brahma Baka in these words: "Oh, Brahmas, how ignorant is Brahma Baka! In ignorance, he describes his imper-manent realm to be permanent and stable."
At this, one of the followers of Brahma Baka said indignantly,
"Monk Gotama, do not rebuke Brahma Baka, do not rebuke him. This Brahma Baka is the Great Brahma, chief of the Brahmas, Conqueror over All, Invincible; he sees all; he wields power and authority over every creature; he is the maker of the world, creator of the whole world, the noblest one; Assigner to each -- king, Brahmin, man, Deva, or animal -- his station in this world; accomplished in attainments, the Father of all past and future beings!"
Thus did he praise the virtues of Brahma Baka.
In the Brahmajāla Sutta, where the origin of the wrong view of permanency was explained, the Buddha gave a similar account of the Brahma.
ORIGIN OF THE CREATION BELIEF
According to that Sutta, after a world system has passed away, there comes a time when a new world system begins evolving. The first Brahma who appears then thinks: "I am the Brahma, the Great Brahma, Conqueror Invincible, Seer of All, All-powerful, the Lord, the Maker, the Creator, the Noblest of All, Assigner to each his station, accomplished in attainments, the Father of all past and future beings."
The Brahmas who appear later also think that he is the Great Brahma. Of those Brahmas who pass away from the Brahma realm to be reborn in the human world, there are some who can recall their past existence in the Brahma realm. These people boldly announce that "the Great Brahma created the beings in the world. The Creator himself, the great Brahma, is permanent, eternal; the creatures he has created, however, do not last permanently; they pass away and die." These bold announcements, given on personal experience, are readily believed and accepted by those who hear them. The Blessed One explained that thus was the origination of the notion that "only the Creator of things is permanent, eternal."
From the passages we have just quoted, one can surmise that the so-called God who is said to have created all beings, the God who is said to be in Heaven, could be the great Brahma who first appeared in the realm of the Brahmas at the beginning of the world. We could also take it that the parama attā, the Big Self, is the self of that great Brahma. Then it becomes clear from the teachings of the Buddha that the parama attā, Big Self, of the great Brahma is basically the same as jīva attā, the life principle, of other beings; it is just a misconception of the continuous flux of material and mental processes. Actually, there is no such thing as self apart from the psycho-physical phenomena; it is a figment of the imagination.
Furthermore, the mental and physical properties of the great Brahma are, like the mental and physical properties of other beings, subject to the law of impermanence. When his life span becomes exhausted, the great Brahma also faces death and has to pass away. In reality, the great Brahma cannot have every wish fulfilled; he cannot maintain the physical properties of his body according to his wish. Therefore, the body of the great Brahma is also not self, anattā.
ATTACHMENT TO SELF
In general, people hold on to the belief that there is an individual soul, a living entity which lasts for the duration of the life span. This is the view held by the annihilationists who maintain that there is nothing after death. The etemalists, however, believe that the individual soul remains undestroyed after death, living on in new bodies, never perishing.
According to the eternalists, the body of a being is made up of two parts: the gross body and the subtle body. At the end of each existence, when death ensues, the gross body is destroyed but the subtle body departs from it to enter into a new body. Thus it remains eternal and never perishes. This etemalist view, as described in their literature, has been reproduced in full in the Sub-Commentary to the Visuddhimagga.
I have given a detailed description of the various beliefs in self and their origination in order to present more clearly the concept of anattā, not-self. Among those who profess to be Buddhists, there are many who actually do believe in the existence of a soul or a living entity, even though they do not say so in so many words. They believe that at the moment of death life departs via the nose or mouth. When conception takes place in the womb, life enters through the mother's nose, her mouth or her abdomen. And from birth to death, the life principle remains steadfastly in the new body. All these views relate to a belief in the existence of a soul, a living entity.
In reality, death is simply the cessation of psycho-physical processes, the non-arising of new mentality and corporeality after the termination of the "death consciousness."
There is no such thing as a departing soul or living entity. A new becoming means the arising of new consciousness at a new site together with the physical base on which it finds its support. just before death-consciousness terminates at the moment of death, consciousness holds on to either kamma, kamma nimitta (kamma-image) or gati nimitta (destination-image). Conditioned by these objects (held on to at the last moment of consciousness), a new consciousness arises at a new site in a new existence. This is called rebirth or re-linking consciousness, as it forms a link between the previous and the next existence. When the re-linking consciousness passes away, it is followed by the life-continuum (bhavaṅga) consciousness, which continues throughout life as prescribed by previous karmic energy. When sense-objects such as sights and sounds appear at the sense-doors, the bhavaṅga consciousness is replaced, for the respective moments, by eye-consciousness and ear-consciousness, as the case may be.
The arising of new consciousness in a new existence as conditioned by the kamma of past existences is conventionally called migration from an old existence to a new one, but in reality, there is no soul or living entity which transmigrates from one existence to another.
There are people who cannot grasp the concept of nonself because they do not understand the theory of self in detail as explained above. They think that if someone holds on to the shape and form of objects, it is clinging to self. For instance, to recognize a tree as a tree, a stone as a stone, a house as a house, or a monastery as a monastery, is, according to them, clinging to self. In their view, the truth of not-self is clearly grasped only when the concepts of shape and form are transcended and replaced by perception of ultimate truth.
In fact, merely perceiving forms and shapes does not amount to self-clinging. Neither does no longer perceiving shapes and forms mean that knowledge of not-self is established. Recognizing inanimate objects, such as trees, stones, houses or monasteries, is not clinging to the self-theory, it is merely apprehending in terms of conventional concepts.
Clinging to belief in self is assuming that sentient beings have an intrinsic self. When one assumes oneself to be a living soul, or others to be living entities, then one is attaching to the belief in self.
The Brahma beings of the immaterial realms (arūpa), having no material body, do not perceive themselves in conventional shapes and forms, but those Brahma beings that are unenlightened are not free from the distorted view of self. It is only when belief in the existence of a self is discarded, and one's own and other's bodies are perceived as merely psycho-physical phenomena, that knowledge of nonself arises, and it is essential to develop this true knowledge.
FOUR KINDS OF SELF CLINGING
There are four kinds of self clinging arising out of belief in self:
1) Sāmi attā ("controlling self') clinging: believing that there is a living entity inside one's body who governs and directs every wish and action, that it is this living soul which goes, stands up, sits down, sleeps, and speaks whenever it wishes to.
The Blessed One taught the Anattatakkhaṇa Sutta particularly for removing this sāmi attā clinging. Now, as this Sutta was taught to the Group of Five, who had already become Stream Enterers, may it not be asked whether a Stream Enterer is still encumbered with self clinging?
At the stage of Stream Entry the fetters of personality-belief (sakkāyadiṭṭhi), doubt (vicikicchā), and adherence to rites and rituals (sīlabbataparāmasa) have been completely eradicated, but a Stream Enterer is not yet free from asmi-māna, the I-conceit. To take pride in one's ability, one's status -- "I can do; I am noble" -- is conceit. (A Stream Enterer's conceit relates only to the genuine qualities and virtues he or she actually possesses, it is not false pride based on non-existing qualities and virtues). The Stream Enterer has, therefore, to continue with the practice of insight in order to remove the fetter of conceit. When insight knowledge (vipassanāñāṇa) is considerably developed, this I-conceit becomes attenuated and is partially removed by the Path of Once Returner (Sakadāgāmi); the Path of Non-Returner (Anāgāmi) further weakens it, but it is only the final Arahatta Path that completely eradicates the I-conceit. Thus we may take it that the Blessed One taught the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta in order to bring about total eradication of the I-conceit lingering in the Group of Five.
2) Nivāsī attā ("continuous self') clinging: belief that there is a living entity permanently residing in one's body.
Most people believe that they exist permanently as living beings from the moment of birth to the time of death. This is nivāsī-attā clinging. Some hold that nothing remains after death; this is the wrong view of' annihilationism. Yet others believe in the wrong view of eternalism, which maintains that the living entity in the body remains undestroyed after death and continues to reside in a new body in a new existence. It was with clinging to the I-conceit in mind that the Blessed One taught the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta. That is to say, to eradicate the I-conceit which still remained fettering the Group of Five monks and other Noble Ones; and to remove the two wrong views (of self sakkāyadiṭṭhi', and attachment to rites and rituals sīlabbataparāmāsa) as well as the I-conceit of ordinary common worldlings.
So long as we cling to the belief that there is a permanent living entity or a soul, we hold that our body is amenable to our control. The Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta was delivered to remove not only the sāmi attā clinging but also the nivāsī attā clinging. Once the sāmi attā clinging is removed, other types of self clinging and wrong views are simultaneously eradicated.
3) Kāraka attā ("active agent self") clinging: belief that there is a living entity, a soul, that effects every action, physical, vocal and mental.
This kāraka attā clinging is more concerned with saṅkhārakkhandha, the aggregate of volitional formations. We shall deal with it more fully when we come to the aggregate of volitional formations.
4) Vedaka attā ("experiencing self") clinging: belief that it is self which feels sensations, pleasant or unpleasant. This form of clinging is concerned with the vedanak-khandha, the aggregate of feelings, which we will take up fully in the next chapter.
That the aggregate of materiality is not self or a living entity has been adequately expounded, but it still remains to explain how meditators practicing vipassanā meditation come to perceive the nonself and uncontrollable nature of the body.
CONTEMPLATION OF NONSELF IN RELATION TO THE BODY
Vipassanā meditation consists of contemplating the upādānakkhandha, the groups of grasping which manifest at the moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. For new meditators, however, it is hard to take note of each and every instance of sensory activity. They must start their practice with only a few of the most prominent objects of sensation. For instance, while sitting, the meditator may concentrate on the nature of stiffness and resistance felt in the body and note it as "sitting, sitting." If the meditator finds this too simple an exercise, he can combine it with noting touching, and note "sitting, touching," "sitting, touching." But the rising and falling of the abdomen is more pronounced. Thus, if one heedfully notes "rising" as the abdomen rises, and "falling," as it falls, one will begin to distinctly see the phenomena of stiffening, resisting, distending, relaxing, and moving which take place in the abdomen. These are the characteristics, function and proximate cause of vāyo dhātu, the element of motion. This kind of contemplation and noting is in accordance with the Visuddhimagga, which states that "the nature of physical and mental phenomena should be comprehended by observing their characteristics and functions," and so on.
I have accordingly instructed beginners in the practice of vipassanā to start with observing the rising and falling of the abdomen. However, this exercise of noting the rising and falling alone is not all that has to be done in vipassanā meditation. While noting the rising and falling of the abdomen, any thoughts that may occur must also be noted. When feeling stiff, hot, cold or painful, the meditator has to note these sensations as they arise. When he bends or stretches his arms or legs, these movements should also be noted. As he rises from the sitting position, the change of posture should be accompanied by heedful noting. While walking, every motion involved in each step has to be noted as "rising, stepping forward, dropping." If possible, all physical activities, even the opening and shutting of the eyelids, should come under close observation. When there is nothing particular to take note of, the meditator's attention should revert to the rising and falling movements of the abdomen. This is a brief description of exercises involved in the practice of vipassanā meditation.
While thus occupied in taking note of rising, falling, sitting and touching as they occur, the desire may arise in the meditator to change postures in order to relieve the pain and sensations of heat which are developing in his arms and legs. The meditator should take note of these desires as they arise but should remain still, not immediately yielding to the temptation to stretch the limbs. He should put up with the discomfort as long as he can. If the desire to stretch arises once again, he should take note of it as before without changing posture. Only when the pain becomes unbearable should he slowly stretch out his arms and legs, at the same time noting these actions carefully as "stretching, stretching."
During each session of meditation, frequent change of posture becomes necessary due to the discomfort of aches and pains. With this repeated adjusting of posture, the oppressive nature of the physical body becomes apparent. Despite the meditator's inclination to remain still, quietly seated, without changing position for one or two hours, it becomes evident that he cannot do so. Then realization comes that the body with its constant oppression is not self, soul or living entity, but mere physical phenomena occurring in accordance with conditions. This realization is knowledge of contemplation of not-self.
One cannot remain very long either seated, lying down or standing. Thus realization comes too that the body never gives us what we want and is unmanageable. Being uncontrollable, it is not self, but a mere physical phenomenon that is faring in accordance with its own conditions. This realization, too, is knowledge of contemplation of not-self.
Again, being repeatedly disturbed by having to answer the calls of nature, it becomes apparent that the body is oppressive, unmanageable, not amenable to one's will. Being unmanageable, it is not self. While contem-plating on the behavior of the physical form, its true oppressive nature is exposed when bodily filth such as nasal mucus, saliva, phlegm, tears, and sweat ooze out of the body. One cannot maintain cleanliness as one desires because of this uncontrollable nature of the body. It is, therefore, obviously not self. In addition, the body oppresses by inflicting hunger, thirst, old age and disease on us. These afflictions are obvious truths even to a casual observer, but there is a likelihood of the notion of self persisting in one who observes casually. It is only through heedful noting that the body is exposed as mere physical phenomena, not a self or living entity.
Thus in the course of heedfully noting all bodily actions and perceiving how the body afflicts, is unmanageable and ungovernable, the realization arises through personal experience: "Although the physical form of my body appears to be self, since it oppresses me, it is not my self nor my inner core; because it is not amenable to my will, it is unmanageable, not self. I have been mistaken all along in taking it to be my self." This is true knowledge of the contemplation of nonself.
See also: Vietnamese Translation
Source: Sakyamuni Meditation Center, California, U.S.A.