During this talk Peter discusses the characteristics of the second of the Seven Awakening Factors, Dhamma Vicaya (dah-mah vih-chah-yah), which he interprets as Investigation of Mental Phenomena. This awakening factor works in close coordination with the Mindfulness and Energy Awakening Factors (the energy factor will be the focus for next week’s talk). A careful reading of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse reveals that dhamma vicaya is repeatedly mentioned in regards to mindfulness of the body, of feeling, of the mind and of mental factors, so it is an essential aspect of how the process of Awakening is developed. The cultivation of this factor begins with mindfulness of breathing and involves the suggestion of directing attention to the beginning of the in-breath and sustaining this attention for the duration of the in-breath, then repeating this for the out-breath. This intentional process uses the sensation of breathing to increase the mind’s agility and insight into how the mind makes meaning from what primary sensations stimulate, and this skill becomes more and more important as it matures into the ability to notice the arising and passing away of self-state organizations, revealing the transient and essentially unstable delusion of an enduring and autonomous self. This explanation is followed by a general discussion to clarify the ways to cultivate dhamma vicaya.
This is the second of a series of reviews of the Seven Awakening Factors, with the first talk as an overview of the factors on June 3, 2020, posted on June 4. Sati (sah-tee), translated as mindfulness, is perhaps the most important characteristic of the mind to be cultivated during the process of Awakening. Mindfulness as an awakening factor has the function of monitoring the presence or absence of the other six factors as well as supporting the most appropriate and effective coordination of these factors. Peter provides a brief history of the application of sati in Buddhist history and reviewes how it operates in relation to supporting the other factors, based on the practice of mindfulness of breathing meditation. Passages from the Satipatthana Sutta are read to emphasize the refrain in each of the four foundations that repeatedly urges atapisati sampajanna (ah-tah-pee sah-tee sahm-pah-jah-nyah), diligent, mindful, clearly knowing what arises in the mind in an ongoing way. The explanations are followed by a brief question and answer period to clarify how mindfulness can be applied in the context of challenging decision-making, focused on two approaches: one is to be mindful of how the mind can be balanced as the information and solution stages are developed and the other is of monitoring during the process of applying a solution, alert to changes in circumstances that might alter the intended outcome and requiring a different approach.
There are two initial stages in the practice of mindfulness of breathing meditation: persistently maintaining present-moment awareness of the in- and out-breath, followed by increasing investigation of phenomena that emerge into awareness during the breathing cycle. During this meditation, training attention to investigate the breath cycle was cultivated by inviting a primary investigation of the physical experience of breathing, then letting the breath awareness become secondary while investigating and “looking closer” at other predominant sensations in the body, or investigating the nature of attention while attending to physical sensations to discover the self-fabricating nature of the mind. An important goal of vipassana practice is to investigate the interactions between physical sensory experience and how the mind makes meaning of the sensations. In the progressions of insight during the process of Awakening, this awareness is called namarupa, with nama relating to the mind’s function and rupa to the physical sensations that occur.
Dhamma Vicaya, the Investigation of Mental Phenomena, is the second of the 7 Factors of Awakening. Peter described the progressive development of vitakka (aiming attention at the sensations of breathing) and vicara (sustaining focused attention on these sensations), combined with sati (mindfulness) and viriya (energy/persistent effort) into the capacity to maintain diligent awareness of the three characteristics of reality: anicca (impermanence), dukkha (the distress and confusion that is the consequence of craving and clinging) and anatta (the absence of an enduring and autonomous self). This alert and detached investigative process is vipassana, often translated as insight. Three meditation practices for cultivating dhamma vicaya were described: mindfulness of breathing, noting and body sweep. This description was followed by discussion by the attending group regarding the various practices.
Continuing the exploration of the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, tonight’s topic is the Awakening Factor Dhamma Vicaya, Investigating Mental Phenomena. During the talk, Peter suggested the development of this Awakening Factor begins with the practice of vitakka/vicara, aiming attention at the breath sensations/sustaining attention for the duration of the breath sensations. As the topic was developed, the cooperation of the other Awakening Factors was described in developing mature awareness of how the process of “selfing” occurs and to realize anicca (impermanence), anatta, (non-self) and the distress and confusion that constitutes dukkha. This was followed by general group discussion of the benefits that result from cultivating Dhamma Vicaya.