Tag Archives: Kammathana

Patikula Namasikara- Asubha Bhavana

The Tudong forest tradition style of Buddhism in Thailand, uses the practice of examining that which is unclean, to destroy the false idea of beauty, and desirability. The technique works by applying the contemplation on various forms of human corpses, in order to destroy the false view of a self that is to be coveted.

Hence, we should take every opportunity to examine and contemplate the Dhamma of Patikula Namasikara as ‘Bhavana’ (applied practice of contemplative mindfulness), to penetrate the illusion of beauty, and liberate from the enchantments of Rupa Dhamma, the world of conditioned forms, names, and sensory perceptions.

Asubha Bhavana - Contemplation of Corpses

We may not have the opportunity to sit in a Cemetery and meditate over corpses in various states of dissolution, but we can still see it when we walk through the meat and fish markets, and we can see it in video and tv, and contemplate our own body, when viewing corpses of living beings, and learn to know that we face the same end. This causes dispassion with impermanent material states of existence, and prepares the way for further advancement along the path to Liberation (Arahantship).

Sīla – Real or Imaginary

There are two levels of keeping Sila (Moral Precepts) – one is real, and the other is forced, and imaginary (Not Manifest).

Ajarn Spencer has prepared a Casual 12 Minute Talk in Podcast to cover this topic, and hopefully reveal the difference between enforced rule keeping, and Manifest Virtue.

There is a big difference between Self Restraint (Enforced Rule Keeping), and Truly Manifest Virtue (Absence of Instincts wich need to be Restrained). With applied Kammathana practice, consciously noticing the relative presence or absence of auspicious and/or inauspicious instincts to act with or without Virtue, one can become aware of what is tainted (defiled) Instinct, and what is untainted (Undefiled) Instinct. Becoming Aware with Mindfulness is an important prerequisite to develping the qualities of mind necessary to be able to remove Non-Virtuous Instincts to Act (Purify the Heart of Defilement).

sila practice

True Sīla is nothing to do with restraint. True Sīla, has no need to exercise restraint, because no defilement is present to restrain.

Sīla practice has therefore the first level of Restraint, and the Second level, which is Manifest Virtue, with no Defilement present in need of restraint. Such of course, would mean stream entry and beyond, and that one has attained purity.

Until we remove the defilement, we are not Virtuous. We are just Impure Unenlightened Beings, full of Defilement, but who are restraining themselves, by behaving. If the instinct to misbehave is still present, then we have not attained anything. We are just exercising restraint. It is necessary to see and recognise the presence of defilement, in order to be able to remove it.

One of the most Important aspects of Sīla practice, is to become aware of the fact that the heart is full of Non-Virtuous Intentions and Instincts, because it is only possible to get rid of a problem, if one becomes aware of the existence of the problem. With Sīla practice, one should notice consciously how much pure and impure elements of mind are present when putting oneself through self restraint, and concluding how far away one is in one’s practice, from truly manifest Sīla, and how much remains mere self restraint.

Mindfulness practice, is all about consciously noticing what is happening within and without. Being Awakened, is also about being Consciously Aware of within and without in the present moment. Vipassana Practice is designed to Awaken the Mind, and pull it out of the Dream-Thinking State.

If we look at the 5 Precepts in English we can see that the concept of Abstention is applied;

  1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from killing ;
  2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given;
  3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from sensual misconduct;
  4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech; and
  5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from liquors, wines, and other intoxicants, which are the basis for heedlessness.

If we are practicing Abstention, then this Implies that the desire to do the thing we are restraining ourself from, still exists. if there is no longer any desire to commit the act which is not within the Sīla, then no Abstention is necessary. A Cow does not Abstain from eating meat. A Cow is Vegetarian from birth, and so has no Virtue in not eating Meat, for their is no Merit of Effort in Abstention.

So, if we have attained purity by anihillating the Non-Virtuous Instincts and desire to Lie, Kill, Steal, Speak Ill of Others, Perversions, Intoxication etc, then we are no longer abstaining. We only need t abstain if we have the desire and intentions to perform actions which are not Auspicious.

In short, Sīla practice should not make you feel good that you are behaving well. It should make you aware of the fact that the only reason you are not making Inauspicious karma, is that you are exercising self restraint. One should become aware that one is Impure, and that should spur the disappointment with oneself, and the realisation that selfishness, is not something to nurture and cherish, rather, one’s own enemy, and must be removed and aihillated.

Until we develop the true need and will and desire to anihillate the false view of a self that is separate and the center of the universe, we will not stand a chance of Enlightenment. One has to develop the wish and the need and the will power to renounce Non-Virtuous Thoughts and Intentions.

To do this, one has to Understand the Nature of those Non-Virtuous Thoughts and Intentions, as Defilement which arises from Wrong View (Sakya Dhitti)

Ajahn Khao Khorata's Biography

The Life of Ajarn Khao

Khao Khorata, born on 28 December 1888 in Baan Bo Chaneng in Ubon Ratchathani province in Thailand, was the fourth child in a family of seven children. Khao was a farmer. He worked hard to be wealthy, and was known as a person who was easy in social interaction. His personality was primarily characterised by honesty and generosity towards friends and family.[1]

When he reached the age of twenty, his parents arranged a marriage for him. Khao and his wife – Nang Mee – had seven children. Though he had to work hard in order to provide for his family, yet his income was just enough to provide them with the basic necessities of life. Hence, for the sake of his family’s well being, he decided to go and look for a job in another province. Once he had gathered sufficient funds, he would return back home. However, when that time finally arrived, Khao found his wife sleeping with someone else.[2]

Though Khao had previously already been informed by his friends, who told him about the adulterous behavior of his wife, yet he nearly lost his self control when he heard the news. Hence, armed with a machete, he went out to confront the unlawful couple. His rage and anger took complete control over him, and so he pointed the machete at the sleeping couple. However, coincidentally, his wife’s lover noticed what was going on, and saw Khao standing at a short distance with the machete in his hands. Terrified by what he saw, he immediately raised his hands and begged Khao to spare his life. The man then instantly admitted the grave mistake he had made to sleep with another man’s wife. Due to the man’s sincere confession, Khao suddenly changed his mind. His anger turned into compassion when he saw the anxiety in that man’s eyes. When Khao saw that man’s his fear of death, his anger disappeared, and he regained his sense of reality again.

So, instead of killing the man, Khao called upon all the villagers as a witness to this scandal, and let them testify against the shameless act of the couple, so that in the future no doubt could remain about this matter. In the presence of the entire village community, among them were Khao’s relatives, he publicly accused his the of committing sex with his wife; the man admitted his faults, and agreed to pay a financial compensation to Khao. Khao then publicly announced that he hereby handed his wife over to her lover.[3]

Before all this happened, Khao was merely concerned about how he could achieve his worldly ambitions. But because of the martital unfaithfulness of his wife, Khao was inspired to contemplate the Dhamma. Soon after that he understood that there are many hidden dangers in the life of a householder. And so he realized that his worldly dreams and wishes would only cause him to suffer even more in the future. This insight, of course, upset him so much until it became almost unbearable for him to carry on living this way. After a while he had lost the will to live, for he could not find any motivation to get his worldly life back on track.

Eventually Khao decided to renounce his worldly life in order to put an end to all his suffering. The Dhamma made him realize that there is in fact a way out of this suffering. Thus, Khao put all his trust and faith in the teachings of the Buddha, and went forth as a member of the saṅgha[5] to put the Dhamma in to practice. Through his dilligent practice, he found that the Buddha’s teachings are true in the sense that there is indeed a way to transcend beyond samsara, which leads to final liberation from suffering.

Ajahn Khao Khorata's Biography



[1] Ven. Ācariya Mahā Boowa Nanasampanno: ‘Venerable Ajaan Khao Analayo: a True Spiritual Warrior’, p. 11.

[2] Ven. Ācariya Mahā Boowa Nanasampanno: ‘Venerable Ajaan Khao Analayo: a True Spiritual Warrior’, p. 16.

[3] Ven. Ācariya Mahā Boowa Nanasampanno: ‘Venerable Ajaan Khao Analayo: a True Spiritual Warrior’, p. 17.

[4] Saṅgha: the monastic community of Buddhist monks.

What is Kammathana?


Kammatthana literally means “basis of work” or “place of work”. It describes the contemplation of certain meditation themes used by a meditating monk so the forces of defilement (kilesa), craving (tanha), and ignorance (avijja) may be uprooted from the mind. Although kammatthana can be found in many meditation-related subjects, the term is most often used to identify the forest tradition (the Kammatthana tradition) lineage founded by Ajarn Sao Kantasilo Mahathera and his student Ajarn Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera.

The origin of the name Forest tradition came from the theory that the Buddha himself gained awakening in a forest, gave his first sermon in a forest, and passed away in a forest. The qualities of mind he needed in order to survive physically and mentally in the wilds, were key to his discovery of the Dhamma. Therefore every practitioner should take the wilderness as the teacher, conform to the ways of nature – the samsara itself — and break through to truths transcending them entirely.

Ajarn Sao (1861-1941) originally belonged to the Dhammayut order in that he unusually had no scholarly interests but was devoted to the practice of meditation. He trained Ajarn Mun in strict discipline and canonical meditation practices, set in the context of the dangers and solitude of the wilderness.

Ajarn Mun (1870-1949) was the son of rice farmers in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani province, northeastern Thailand. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1892, he felt that Customary Buddhism had little to offer and so he joined the Dhammayut order, taking a student of Prince Mongkut as his preceptor. Unlike many Dhammayut monks, he wasn’t interested in the scholarly environment of his preceptor’s temple and went to live with Ajarn Sao. After wandering for several years with Ajarn Sao, Ajarn Mun set off on his own in search of the truth and spent the remainder of his life wandering through central Thailand, Burma, and Laos, dwelling for the most part in the forest, engaged in the practice of meditation. Eventually, when Ajarn Mun had reached the point where he believed the noble attainments was reachable, he returned to the northeast to inform Ajarn Sao and then to continue wandering. Gradually he attracted followers that were impressed by his demeanor and teachings. They believed that he embodied the Dhamma and Vinaya in everything he did and said. Instead of teaching a single meditation technique, Ajarn Mun taught them full panoply of skills and then sent them into the wilds. In 1928, a Dhammayut authority ordered Ajarn Mun‘s followers to establish monasteries and help propagate the government’s program for the purpose of domestication against these forest wanderers. Ajarn Mun and a handful of his students left for the north, where they were still free to roam. In the early 1930’s, Ajarn Mun was appointed the abbot of an important monastery in the city of Chieng Mai, but fled the place before dawn of the following day. He returned to settle in the northeast only in the very last years of his life. He maintained many of his dhutanga practices up to his death in 1949.

Ajarn Lee Dhammadharo (1907-1961) was one of the foremost teachers in the Thai forest ascetic tradition of meditation founded at the turn of the century by his teacher, Ajarn Mun. His life was short but eventful. Known for his skill as a teacher and his mastery of supranatural powers, he was the first to bring the ascetic tradition out of the forests of the Mekhong basin and into the mainstream of Thai society in central Thailand.

The forest meditation tradition subsequently spread throughout Thailand and to several countries abroad.

Basic Teachings

This sect follows the Vinaya (monastic discipline) faithfully. They believe the rules of the Vinaya, instead of simply being external customs, played an important role in physical and mental survival. The practitioners observe many of what are known as the thirteen classic dhutanga (ascetic) practices, such as living off almsfood, wearing robes made of cast-off rags, dwelling in the forest, eating only one meal a day. The teaching focuses on the customs of the noble ones: the practices that had enabled the Buddha and his disciples to achieve awakening in the first place. And they believe the true Dhamma cannot be found in old customs or texts but in the well-trained heart and mind.

This attitude toward the Dhamma parallels what ancient cultures called “warrior knowledge” — the knowledge that comes from developing skills in difficult situations — as opposed to the “scribe knowledge” that people sitting in relative security and ease can write down in words. A text is pointers for training and authoritative only if its teachings are borne out in practice. Thus the ultimate authority in judging a teaching is not whether the teaching can be found in a text but the results of relentless honesty in putting the Dhamma to the test and carefully monitoring. So that one learned gradually by trial and error to the point of an actual noble attainment. Instead of simply imparting verbal knowledge, a practitioner will be put into situations where they would have to develop the qualities of mind and character needed in surviving the battle with their own defilements. These included resilience, resolve, and alertness; self-honesty and circumspection; steadfastness in the face of loneliness; courage and ingenuity in the face of external dangers; compassion and respect for the other inhabitants of the forest.

It will appear of its own accord to the person who practices; because virtue, concentration, and discernment all exist in our very own body, speech, and mind. These things are said to be;

Akaliko: Ever-present.
Opanayiko: Bring the mind inward to investigate body, speech, and mind when a practitioner contemplate what already exists within him/her.
Aloko: Blatantly clear both by day and by night;
Paccattam: Knew clearly for themselves after bringing their minds inward to contemplate what was already there.
Keeping awareness with the breath is directed thought. Knowing the characteristics of the breath is evaluation. Spreading the breath so that it permeates and fills the entire body is rapture. The sense of serenity and well-being in body and mind is pleasure. When the mind is freed from the Hindrances so that it’s one with the breath, that’s singleness of preoccupation. All of these factors of jhana turn mindfulness into a factor of Awakening.

Breath Training

The most important meditation technique is this sect is to focus on the in-and-out breath and to keep mindfulness in charge, together with the meditation word, buddho (“Buddha”, used as the meditation word), in and out with the breath. The meditation word is like bait; it should be dropped once the mind is in place. Being mindful and alert to the in-and-out breath is the actual meditation. When the body is still, the practitioner gain knowledge from the body. When the mind is still, the practitioner gain knowledge from the mind. When the breath is still, the practitioner gain knowledge from the breath.

There are five levels to the breath:

  1. The breath that we breathe in and out.
  2. The breath that goes past the lungs and connects with the various properties of the body, giving rise to a sense of comfort or discomfort.
  3. The breath that stays in place throughout the body. It doesn’t flow here or there. The breath sensations that used to flow up and down the body stop flowing. The sensations that used to run to the front or the back stop running. Everything stops and is still.
  4. The breath that gives rise to a sense of coolness and light.
  5. The really refined breath, so refined that it’s like atoms. It can penetrate the entire world. Its power is very fast and strong.

There are two kinds of breath evaluation: the first is to evaluate the in-and-out breath. The second is to evaluate the inner breath sensations in the body until the practitioner can spread them out through all the properties of the body to the point where the practitioner forget all distractions. If both the body and mind are full, there’s a sense of rapture and ease that results from the directed thought and evaluation. This is Right Action in the mind.

Breath Training and Eight Noble Paths

The in-breath stress is the stress of arising and the out-breath stress is the stress of passing away. When a practitioner concentration has strength through the breath training, the ability to discern stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding will rise within the breath. When all of these aspects of the Noble Path — virtue, concentration, and discernment — are brought together fully mature within the heart, the practitioner gain insight into all aspects of the breath. This includes the knowledge of the relation between the breathing method and good/bad mental states. The breath that fashion the body, the factors that fashion speech, the factors that fashion the mind, whether good or bad, letting them be as they truly are, in line with their own inherent nature. As the practice itself, it can be concluded in the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path:

Right View – Knowing when the breath is coming in, knowing when it’s going out, knowing its characteristics clearly — i.e., keeping the views in line with the truth of the breath.
Right Consideration – Knowing which ways of breathing are uncomfortable, knowing how to vary the breath.
Right Speech – The mental factors that think about and properly evaluate all aspects of the breath.
Right Action – Knowing various ways of improving the breath; breathing, for example, in long and out long, in short and out short, in short and out long, in long and out short, until the breath becomes most comfortable.
Right Livelihood – Knowing how to use the breath to purify the blood, how to let this purified blood nourish the heart muscles, how to adjust the breath so that it eases the body and soothes the mind, how to breathe to feel full and refreshed in body and mind.
Right Effort – Trying to adjust the breath so that it comforts the body and mind, and to keep trying as long as possible.
Right Mindfulness – Being mindful of the in-and-out breath at all times, knowing the various aspects of the breath — the up-flowing breath, the down-flowing breath, the breath in the stomach, the breath in the intestines, the breath flowing along the muscles and out to every pore — keeping track of these things with every in-and-out breath.
Right Concentration – A mind intent only on matters of the breath, not pulling any other objects in to interfere, until the breath is refined, giving rise to fixed absorption and then liberating insight.

Meditation paths

With respect to the meditation on physical events that qualifies as the great frame of reference (mahasatipatthana), when the practitioner’s mind has fully developed the four paths to success (listed as bellow), complete with mindfulness and alertness, the results in terms of the body are the stilling of pain. In terms of the mind, they can lead all the way to the transcendent: the stages of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship. The four paths to success are:

Chanda (desire): Have a friendly interest in the breath, keeping track of it to see when breath is in and what breathe in with it.
Viriya (persistence): Be diligent in all affairs related to the breath and be in charge of the breath.
Citta (attention): Focus intently on the breath. Be observant of how the external breath comes in and connects with the internal breath in the upper, middle, and lower parts of the body; in the chest — the lungs, the heart, the ribs, the backbone; in the abdomen — stomach, liver, kidneys, intestines; the breath that goes out the ends of the fingers and toes and out every pore.
Vimansa (discrimination): Contemplate and evaluate the breath that comes in to nourish the body to see whether it fills the body, to see whether it feels easy and natural, to see if there are many parts the body still have to adjust it. Notice the characteristics of how the external breath strikes the internal breath, to see if they connect everywhere or not, to see how the effects of the breath on the properties of earth, water, and fire arise, remain, and pass away.
In terms of concentration, there are three levels in the practice:

Momentary concentration- the mind gathers and settles down to a firm stance (a underlying level) and rests there for a moment before withdrawing.
Threshold concentration – the mind gathers and settles down to its underlying level and stays there before withdrawing to be aware of a nimitta (mental sign, image, or vision). Or without retreating, the practitioner meditates until an uggaha nimitta (arising image) appears, contemplates that image until the mind lets go of it and reverts to its underlying level and stays there for a fair while before withdrawing again.
Fixed penetration – the mind settles down to a firm stance on its underlying level and stops there in singleness endowed with the five factors of jhana. Keep on contemplating that image until the mind reverts to a firm stance on its underlying level, reaching the singleness of the first level of jhana. When the mind withdraws, keep contemplating that image over and over again until the practitioner can take it apart as a patibhaga nimitta (counterpart image).
Note: jhana (Skt. dhyana): Mental absorption. A state of strong concentration focused on a single physical sensation (resulting in rupa jhana) or mental notion (resulting in arupa jhana). Develompent of jhana arises from the temporary suspension of the five hindrances through the development of five mental factors: vitakka (directed thought), vicara (evaluation), piti (rapture), sukha (pleasure), and ekaggatarammana (singleness of preoccupation).

Seven factors of Awakening

Forest tradition practitioners believe the hindrances are the breath impregnated with ignorance and darkness, thus the untended and undirected breath is full of darkness. This state cuts and closes off our path to enlightenment. Only if these hindrances are removed, the mind will be radiant and bright. And seeing the Dhamma can be clear in both cause and effect. Concentration is the most effective way to divest our hearts of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. And it is composed of seven basic qualities as the factors of Awakening. Appreciating all seven of these qualities and developing them in full measure within the heart will result a single point awakening in a single moment.

1. Mindfulness (sati-sambojjhanga): The mind is centered firmly on the breath, aware of the body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities.

2. Analysis of present qualities (dhamma-vicaya-sambojjhanga): Let the breath spread throughout the body to care for its various parts, making an enlarged frame of reference. To adjust, improve, choose, and use our breaths so that they give us comfort.

3. Persistence (viriya-sambojjhanga): Stick with the state as the practitioner keeps warding the Hindrances from the heart. Don’t fasten on or become involved with distracting perceptions.

4. Rapture (piti-sambojjhanga): When the mind is quiet, the breath is full and refreshing. The practitioner is free from the hindrances and from every sort of restlessness; it gives rise to a feeling of brightness, fullness, and satisfaction. This is the breath of cognitive skill (vijja), meaning the breath lies under the direction of mindfulness.

5. Serenity (passaddhi-sambojjhanga): The breath is solid throughout the body. The elements are at peace, and so is the mind. Feelings are still experienced as they are felt, but at this point they don’t give rise to craving, attachment, states of being, or birth. Awareness is simply aware.

6. Concentration (samadhi-sambojjhanga): The breath is firm, steady, and unwavering. The mind takes a firm stance in a single preoccupation so the knowledge arises. The practitioner will perceive kamma and its results, both in ourselves and other people in this state.

7. Equanimity (upekkha-sambojjhanga): When body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities are fully snug with one another in these two types of breath — the mind stays with these aspects of the breath — it goes to be still with a spacious sense of relaxation, not fastening onto many sign, preoccupation, or anything at all.

When mindfulness saturates the body the way flame saturates every thread in the mantle of a Coleman lantern, the elements throughout the body work together, both the body and mind become buoyant. The sense of the body will immediately become thoroughly bright, helping to develop both body and mind. The practitioner can now sit or stand for long periods of time without getting tired, to walk for great distances without getting fatigued, to go for unusually long periods of time on just a little food without getting hungry, or to go without food and sleep altogether for several days running without losing energy.

Samatha and Vipassana

Tranquillity meditation (samatha) is a mind snug in a single preoccupation. It doesn’t establish contact with anything else; it keeps itself cleansed of outside preoccupations. Insight meditation (vipassana) is when the mind lets go of all preoccupations in a state of all-around mindfulness and alertness. When tranquillity imbued with insight arises in the mind, five faculties arise and become five kinds of strength:

1. Saddhindriya (Saddha-balam): conviction; the practitioner gain conviction in the results from his/her efforts.

2. Viriyindriya (Viriya-balam): persistence arises and becomes resilient without flagging or getting discouraged.

3. Satindriya (Sati-balam): mindfulness be robust and vigorous. The awareness becomes entirely radiant in every posture: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. This all-around awareness is what is meant by the great frame of reference.

4. Samadhindriya (Samadhi-balam): concentration becomes firmly established.

5. Panyaindriya (Panya-balam): discernment of all things right and wrong. Discernment can make the mind attain stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, or even arahantship.

When these five strengths appear in the heart, the heart will be fully mature. The practitioner’s conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment will all be mature and pre-eminent in their own spheres. The mind will have the power to demolish all defilement in the heart.

Further information on the following links;

Kammathana 40 Vipassana techniques of Mindfulness

Download and listen to “Letting Go”, a free Mp3 teaching by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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