VIPASSANA BUDDHIST MEDITATION
THE SUNLUN WAY
THE SUNLUN WAY OF MINDFULNESS
In this age, the objects of desire and aversion impinge upon the senses with increasing force and growing variety. There is a greater urge and opportunity for the gratification of the senses. The accelerating pace of living and the increasing pressure create stresses leading to anxiety and neurosis. City life is becoming noisier, and noise is a thorn in the flesh of jhana, the mental absorptions through meditation. At the same time, people do not have enough leisure for a long and sustained practice of any way of mindfulness. The result is an increasing diversion of the attention and diffusion of mental powers, with less and less time even for minimum corrective action. To cap it all, people who are born in these latter days of the Buddha dispensation (sasana) are of sluggish intuition rather than of quick intuition. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a way of mindfulness which takes into account the growing urges and commodities for sense-gratification, increasing noise and distraction, lack of time and the meditator’s own sluggish intuition.
Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw’s way of mindfulness provides a technique to quickly overcome sloth and desires of the senses. It raises the threshold, over which noise and distraction must pass to divert the attention of the meditator. For the man of sluggish intuition, it provides an amazingly sure and rapid method for the complete and perfect establishment of the four foundations of mindfulness. It is not a method fashioned out of the elements available in the books. It is a method forged in the struggle against self-love and ignorance. Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw was a barely literate man and was thus blessed by not being sicklied with the pale cast of thought. With earnestness, courage and perseverance, he became an arahat in 1920. Sunlun Shin Vinaya has made the technique available to the city man who is without the overwhelming courage and perseverance of the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. What follows is a very brief sketch of the method.
Assume a meditative posture which can be maintained for some time without change. Do not lie in bed nor recline in a chair. The posture should be one which will permit the gathering together and assumption of all of one’s resources. The posture should be one designed for hard work and not relaxation. A suitable posture is to sit with legs crossed. The back should be straight. The arms should be held close against the side of the body. The right fist should be held in the left hand. This is to facilitate the clenching of the fist as the meditator summons his strength to combat unpleasant sensation which may arise later. Do not mesh the fingers of the hands nor hold them lightly with each thumb against the other. Let the head be slightly bowed. Do not sit loosely. Assume a tight posture where the body provides a firm base, its circuit is closed and the meditator is alert.
Select a spot where the meditation session can be concluded without disturbance. It is better to select a quiet place out of the wind but that is not essential. Meditation may be done individually or in a group. No elaborate preparation of the place is required nor should it be made a ritual.
There are no set periods for meditation. Time should be arranged to suit the meditator’s convenience. But he should take care that the meditation hour or two is not sacrificed to some other purpose. Western books suggest that the beginner should start with a session of two or three minutes a day, the period to be gradually extended. Sunlun’s experience is that an intensive initial session of an hour or so produces more beneficial results. A normal session should not be less than an hour or two. Those practising intensively sit through the whole day or night.
After the posture has been selected and assumed, it should not be changed or altered in any way. It will have to be kept up till the end of the session. Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw has said:
“If cramped, don’t move;
if itchy, don’t scratch;
if fatigued, don’t rest.”
Commence by inhaling. It will be noticed that the breath touches the nostril tip or upper lip. Be keenly mindful of the touch of breath. With mindfulness vigilantly maintained, breathe strongly, firmly and rapidly. Strong, hard, and rapid breathing wards off external noises, helps to control the mind, quickly removes the hindrances, rapidly establishes concentration and enables the meditator to cope with the unpleasant sensation which may arise later.
Strong, hard and rapid breathing will cause inhaled and exhaled breath to touch with increased friction against the tips of the nostril holes, the upper lip or some other part of the body in that region. Be mindful of that touch of breath.
“When the breath touches the nostril tip or upper lip, you will be aware of it. Be mindful of that awareness,” said the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. Let not a single touch pass without awareness. Be aware of every single touch.
“Be rigorously mindful of touch and awareness of touch,” said the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. Mindfulness should be rigorous. It should not be relaxed. This means that there should be putting forth of energy, that the meditator should be ardent and zealous.
Do not let the awareness be of the breath-body. Do not follow it in and out of the body. Do not count its entrances and exits. Do not take note of the area of touch of breath whether it be the nostril tip or upper lip. Let awareness be only of the sensation of touch of breath. Be mindful only of the sensation of touch.
Breathe in air attentively and fully as though water was being drawn into a syringe. Exhale sharply. Full and hard drawing in of breath helps to establish concentration rapidly. It helps the sensations to arise. It provides strength in the coming struggle with unpleasant sensation. Since most people have stronger exhalation, it is necessary to pay greater attention to inhalation to realize a balance between inhalation and exhalation. When these two are balanced, then the touch will be continuous like the touch of saw against wood which simile is mentioned in the Pali Texts. When they are balanced, the meditator will have reached the stage of smooth, effortless, self-compelled rhythmic breathing.
Breathe without shaking the head and body. This will obtain concentration quickly. If the meditator practises this exercise not so much for its vipassana rewards but for health, then he may breathe with a shaking motion of the head and body.
Fatigue may set in at the early stages of strong, hard, rapid breathing, but he should neither stop nor reduce the strength and rapidity of breathing. “Don’t rest when fatigued,” said the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. The fatigue is probably due to either insufficient strength of inhalation or to excessive blowing on exhalation. The remedy is to increase the strength of inhalation. When inhalation and exhalation strengths are balanced at a high level, the fatigue will disappear. He will then have broken out of the zone of difficult breathing into the zone of smooth, effortless, self-compelled rhythmic breathing. Attention can then be addressed wholly to mindfulness of touch of breath.
There are three levels of breathing — high (very strong, hard, rapid, breathing); medium (strong, hard, rapid); low (weak, soft, slow breathing; the common way of breathing). Since man is not a machine, he will flag and falter some time. It is necessary to reach the high level early so that later, when the pace falls, the meditator will reach the balanced medium level of respiration and be able to maintain it.
Do not alter the posture when tired, nor scratch an itch. The remedy here again is stronger, firmer, more rapid inhalation and balanced exhalation.
Be mindful of touch of breath upon nostril tip or upper lip. Do not follow the breath-body, nor keep the mind on the top of the head, the tip of the nose, the movement of the abdomen or the solar plexus (the pit of the stomach).
Do not pre-set the time for breathing. On firm, rapid breathing, unpleasant sensations will rise within oneself. These unpleasant sensations may assume the forms of pain, cramp, ache, numbness, heat or cold or some other sensation. Continue the breathing until there is a sufficient magnitude of unpleasant sensation for the next stage of the practice of mindfulness. It sometimes happens that about a third of the unpleasant sensation subsides when the breathing is stopped. This should be taken into account. When the meditator feels that sufficient sensation has arisen, he may stop the strong respiration. Here, sensation is the clock to time the period of respiration. Alternatively, he may pre-set the time for breathing, say three-quarters of an hour or an hour and have an arrangement for notification of the completion of that period. But this is not as proper as the first method.
When it is about time to stop strong respiration, fifty or a hundred strokes of breath should be made, this time with all the strength at his command. Meanwhile, mindfulness of touch of breath should be relentless. Then, respiration should be stopped suddenly on the inhaled breath and collecting one’s self together, the whole body should be watched internally.
Respiration should be stopped completely and suddenly on inhaled breath. The body should be stilled, gathered together and watched rigourously. Sensations of pain, cramp, ache, numbness, heat or cold would have arisen in the body. Be mindful of the most pronounced sensation. Do not let it go. Do not switch the attention to the navel, the solar plexus (pit of the stomach) nor any other region. It is natural for the most pronounced sensation to demand one’s attention. Turning to the other regions which do not have the most pronounced sensation is liable to make one lose grasp of the immediate present.
“If the sensation is weak, stay mindful of the fact of its weakness. If the sensation is strong, stay mindful of the fact of its strength,” said the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. Stay mindful and know neither less nor more. Know it only as it is. Know whatever arises, in the bare fact of its arising. Be mindful of just this. Let no thoughts of “me” and “mine” interfere. Do not think that this is one’s foot or one’s body or one’s hand. Do not reflect that this is rupa (body) and this nama (mind). Do not consider that this is anicca (impermanence), this dukkha (unpleasantness) and this anatta (self-lessness). All thinking, reflection and consideration are conceptual; they are not vipassana.
Sunlun makes direct, immediate contact with reality. It cannot afford the time and effort required to build a conceptual bridge first before approaching reality. Confronted with the elephant of its search, it does not follow the footprints backwards and then retrace them again to the elephant. When there arises an ache, it immediately catches hold of that fact of the ache; it does not formulate the concept “aching, aching” and then return to the fact of the ache. Therefore, it tells the meditator to avoid name-calling; do not conceptualize reality.
Neither reach towards the sensation nor reach after it. Be mindful of the sensation in the immediacy of its arising or vanishing which is in the present time — the now. In the struggle with unpleasant sensation, which may rage with extreme force and virulence, the meditator takes care that he does not reach beyond the sensation. This is to say that the effort exerted should not exceed that which is necessary to maintain firm attention. When there is an excess of energy, it were as though the meditator had placed his effort before the unpleasant sensation, with the result that the attention slips from the unpleasant sensation and there remains in the consciousness of the meditator, only the violence of his effort. This violence is none other than patigha, anger. And anger is one of the forces which turn the wheel of samsara (rounds of rebirth).
On the other hand, the meditator takes care that he does not fall short of the sensation. This is to say that the effort exerted should not fall short of that which is necessary to maintain firm attention. When the effort is inadequate, the meditator slips back into torpor and sloth, or is overwhelmed by the unpleasant sensation if the sensation is intense. Severe unpleasant sensation which is not held with mindfulness gives rise to fear, frustration, anxiety, anger which are all aspects of patigha and constitute a force which turns the wheel of samsara. Torpor and sloth are the basis of ignorance (moha), yet another force which conditions birth in samsara.
Therefore, the meditator takes great care not to reach beyond nor fall short of the sensation. He exerts that forceful and vigilant attention necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. The arising of the attention is made to take place simultaneously with the arising of the sensation. If the attention arises before the sensation, it reaches beyond the sensation. If it arises after the sensation, it falls short of the sensation. When the attention arises before sensation, there is no sensation to be aware of. When the attention arises after the sensation, it is too late for mindful awareness. The reality has slipped away. However immediate may be the reaction of the attention to the arising of the sensation, it is belated because it is a reaction whereas it ought to be an independent action. The time relation of attention to sensation should not be one of future or past but of the simple immediate present. And this is realized when, instead of being passively attentive to the arising of the sensation and to its disintegrating future, the meditator tends actively to perceive the very birth of the sensation.
It is important to collect the sensations together. If sensations arise simultaneously in the head, the arms, the body and the legs, and the meditator’s mind should run helter-skelter after them, there will be no mindfulness of them right here and now. Vipassana will not be practised and the only result will be personal distress and suffering. To avoid this, there should be mindfulness of the most pronounced sensation. Vigorous awareness of it should be aroused and this awareness vigilantly watched by mindfulness. To realize its nature, the meditator should be able to hook on, sink in, adhere, or penetrate into the sensation. Effort is required to do this. One analogy is of a nail being driven into wood. The wood is sensation, the nail is the mind, the finger which holds the nail straight is mindfulness and the hammer is effort.
When the mind has become totally merged with the sensation, the meditator will no longer feel the form of his foot, or arm or body; he will no longer feel that “I” am suffering. These conceptual notions will be replaced by a simple, clear awareness of sensation alone. And because the idea of an “I” which suffers has been removed, the meditator will not feel the discomfort of the unpleasant sensation. The sensation, which a few moments ago was felt as pain or burning, will now be felt by the meditator only as an intense sensation, without the element of infliction.
Of the three sensations, unpleasant, pleasant and neutral, the last is most subtle and not normally suitable for ordinary people as an initial object for the establishment of mindfulness. When it arises in the succeeding stages of development, the meditator will have to be mindful of it as it arises and when it arises. But by then, the meditator should have developed the power to grasp subtle neutral sensation.
In pleasant sensation, there lies latent desire (lobha). When the meditator comes up against pleasant sensation, he likes it since he has always liked it throughout samsara. Because of this, he is unable to keep his awareness of pleasant sensation as it is in the here and now. Latent lobha, desire, rears its head and then overwhelms him. He is unable to hold on to sensation as sensation; sensation moves forward to originate the thirst of desire (tanha).
In unpleasant sensation there lies latent anger (dosa). When the meditator comes up against unpleasant sensation, he does not like it since he has never liked unpleasant sensation throughout samsara. However, since the object of the practice is to endeavour to be mindful of the sensation, the meditator can summon up zeal and try to be mindful of unpleasant sensation as it arises in the here and now.
It is as though a swimmer in a strong current were asked to grasp a bunch of flowers at the winning post. If he is swimming with the current, stretches out his hand to grasp the flowers and misses, he will be carried beyond the point by the force of the current. If he is swimming against the current and misses when stretching out to grasp the flowers, he will still be below them and will thus have an opportunity to try again. The swimmer with the current is like the meditator who employs pleasant sensation as an object of meditation. If he is unable to be mindful of pleasant sensation as it is, he will be carried beyond it into desire (lobha). The swimmer against the current is like the meditator who employs unpleasant sensation as an object; if he is unable to be mindful of unpleasant sensation as it is, he will still be able to summon up energy and mindfulness to accomplish his mission.
Pleasant sensation is like a hidden enemy; it catches the meditator unawares. Unpleasant sensation is like a conspicuous foe; the meditator can recognize it for what it is and take corrective action should latent anger rear its head. There will be no danger of the meditator immersing himself in unpleasant sensation as he might, should he attempt to be aware of pleasant sensation. Between natural dislike of unpleasant sensation and a zealous effort to be mindful of it, the meditator will neither immerse himself in it nor flinch from it. He will be able to detach himself completely from the unpleasant sensation, dwelling within the sensation, watching the sensation, without thinking any thoughts connected with the sensation. Unpleasant sensation serves as a firm hitch-post for the mind which inclines to wander. Unpleasant sensation will never deceive the meditator about the true nature of reality — its unpleasantness, dukkha.
This may not apply to people with quick intuition, but for most people who are born in these latter days of the Buddha dispensation (sasana) and possess a sluggish intuition, the encounter with unpleasant sensation is inevitable. And if, when the meditator comes up against unpleasant sensation and he is unable to overcome it, he will soon develop into a meditator with his vipassana back broken, or he will be tossed and rolled by it like a plum in a wicker tray. Unpleasant sensation is the greatest obstacle on the road of vipassana. Only when the meditator is able to overcome that obstacle can he forge forward to attain the rewards beyond unpleasant sensation.
And it is possible to overcome unpleasant sensation. Since unpleasant sensation, too, is subject to the law of impermanence, it must come to an end some time. This end can occur in various ways. Its intensity can subside; but this would not be a true ending. Some measure of unpleasant sensation would remain. The real overcoming of unpleasant sensation takes place when the meditator dwells in the sensation, watching the sensation without thinking any thoughts connected with the sensation, and it is consumed, it ends, it snaps, it is shed, or extinguished. It is said to be consumed when it gradually subsides till there is no remainder. It ends when the meditator follows it till there is no more of it, like a road followed to the end, like a length of string felt along the whole length till no more is felt. It snaps when it breaks off suddenly, as when a taut rope is snapped. It is shed like the skin of a snake. It is extinguished like a light which has used up its oil and wick.
Pain is unpleasant, ache is unpleasant, heat is unpleasant, cold is unpleasant. Within the unpleasantness of all these, there is an element of discomfort. It is this element of discomfort (dukkha) which is the basis of all living things. The meditator who feels fatigue in his limbs and wishes to alter his position, or whose mind, being confined to the narrow point of touch, wishes to be let loose among sensual objects, desires escape from the discomfort of his posture and confined mind. But how can one attain magga-nana (enlightenment) and escape from samsara (rounds of rebirth) by going after the delights and comforts of the senses? “The uncomfortable truly is the norm; the comfortable will set you all adrift on the current of samsara,” said the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. He was referring to the efficacy of unpleasantness (dukkha) to overcome unpleasantness (dukkha).
How should one be mindful of unpleasant sensation in order to consume it, end it, snap it, shed it, extinguish it? The only answer is that the meditator should be rigorously mindful of unpleasant sensation as it arises, when it arises, in the here and now. But how does one hold the mind steadfast which flinches from unpleasant sensation? How does one catch unpleasant sensation in the very moment of its arising, in the very manner of its arising? How can one successfully accomplish mindfulness of unpleasant sensation in the here and now? The meditator knows what is to be done but how does he accomplish it in the face of uncomfortable, unliked unpleasant sensation? These are important questions, and success or failure in meditation depends upon the answers.
Usually, the meditator is told what he should be but not how he should become. He is usually given a picture of what he should be at the end state of his development. He is not told what he should do to initiate that development and how to carry it forward till the goal is reached. For instance, he is told to eliminate the notion of “I” and be detached, but how that notion is to be eliminated or how he is to become detached is not enunciated. To make it more tragic, the end and means are often confused. It is not realized that a statement of ends is in itself insufficient and that the means to attain those ends should also be provided. It is most encouraging for the common meditator that Sunlun offers a practical solution to the problem, that it offers precise methods and a modus operandi.
In being mindful of unpleasant sensation, collect the body and mind together and keep both perfectly still. Watch the unpleasant sensation with bated breath. Hold the breath as long as the meditator can normally hold it. This is not an exercise in breath retention. It is just the normal practice effected in carrying out the common duties of life. Whenever something is done with great attention, the breath is naturally held back. For example, in putting a thread through a needle hole, the operator normally holds his breath till the task is accomplished. In like manner, the meditator should watch unpleasant sensation with bated breath. This will enable him to exercise greater awareness and more rigorous mindfulness.
If the unpleasant sensation is too intense for proper attention with bated breath, the meditator should stiffen himself against it. He tenses his whole body against the sensation to support the work of the mind. He holds his arms tighter against the sides of his body, he closes his fists, he stiffens his neck, and clenches his teeth. He puts forth energy as he would in a physical struggle against a strong opponent. All the time he keeps rigorously mindful of the sensation.
If the unpleasant sensation is excruciating and cannot be overcome by endeavour with bated breath and tensed body, the meditator should brace his mind against it. Just as in breathing he had respired strongly and firmly, so also in applying his mind to unpleasant sensation, he should do it strongly and firmly.
If with all these the meditator is unable to be rigorously mindful of unpleasant sensation to its final consumption, its end, its snapping, its shedding and its extinguishing, then he should pit the resources of his breath, his body and his mind against the sensation. With bated breath, tensed body and fortified mind, he should exert pressure against the pressure of the sensation until he is able to penetrate it, to hook on to it, to merge with it, to dwell in it, watching it, without thinking any thoughts connected with it, till finally the sensation is completely consumed or ended.
It will be noticed that the important element in the technique is intentness. The meditator should put forth unflinching energy; he should be ardent, zealous, earnest, and energetic. He should be all that the Buddha required of his disciples. Escape from samsara is not achieved through reflective, considerate, relaxed effort. It is achieved only through the most powerful and sustained thrust of all the physical and mental capabilities at the meditator’s command. Sunlun calls for just this.
It will not be necessary to stir up physical force in being mindful of cetasika-vedana (emotional feeling). However, it will still be necessary to stir up zeal and earnestness for unremitting mindfulness. For the meditator whose training with unpleasant sensation has helped him to develop those qualities, the practice of mindfulness of cetasika-vedana (emotional feeling) should not be difficult. Moreover, since cetasika-vedana is usually accompanied by unpleasant physical sensations, the meditator may turn his attention to those physical sensations and thus overcome cetasika-vedana through the conquest of unpleasant physical sensation.
When the meditator perfectly dwells in sensation, watching and following the sensation without thinking any thoughts connected with the sensation, and the sensation snaps or is completely extinguished, the meditator’s mind becomes cleansed, purged, firm and serviceable. He becomes full of loving-kindness (metta) for all living things. He is able to suffuse them with true loving-kindness (metta), which is not mere repetition of words, which is without craving and self-identification, and which is without differentiation between a person whom the meditator hates, one whom he likes and one to whom he is indifferent.
With cleansed, purged, firm and serviceable mind, he contemplates consciousness in consciousness (citta-nupassana). He knows consciousness (mind) with lust as with lust; he knows consciousness (mind) without lust as without lust; he knows consciousness with hate as with hate; he knows consciousness without hate as without hate. He knows when lust or hate have arisen and keeps mindful of them so that they may not be the cause to further originate lust or hate and thus give another turn to the wheel of samsara. This is killing the causative force in the effect (i.e., stopping the emotion that has arisen so as not to perpetuate successive emotions). When he comes into contact with an object which could arouse lust or hate, he keeps rigorously mindful of it so that lust or hate cannot arise. This is killing the cause in and as cause (i.e., stopping the emotion even before it arises).
With this last act of mindfulness, he perfectly practises what the Pali Texts instruct:
“In what is seen, there should be only the seen;
in what is heard, only the heard;
in what is sensed, only the sensed;
in what is thought, only the thought.”
He is able to do this because he has cleansed his mind and made it firm and serviceable through ardent mindfulness of unpleasant sensation. For the common meditator with sluggish intuition, trying “to see only the seen in what is seen” is extremely difficult, if practised as the initial exercise in mindfulness. This is because consciousness is a subtle object of contemplation and not readily grasped or held with the impure, weak and unmanageable mind. But when the mind of the meditator has been strengthened through mindfulness of unpleasant sensation, he is able to hold the seen as the seen, the heard as the heard, the thought as the thought, with no further reactionary feelings towards them.
It has been suggested that if distractions should arise during the practice of mindfulness, the mind should follow after them to take note of them. Theoretically, it should be possible to follow each distraction to grasp it mindfully. However, in practice, it is extremely difficult for the distracted mind to be mindful of whatever had distracted it. If it had been powerfully concentrated, it would not at all have been distracted away from its originally selected object of meditation. Moreover, in taking note of the distraction, the meditator often runs the risk of believing that he is being mindful of the distraction, whereas he is being drawn along by it. Therefore, the safest and most effective method is to generate additional zeal to be more mindful of the initial object of meditation, say touch or sensation.
With respect to the contemplation on mental elements (dhamma-nupassana), these are yet subtler than consciousness. The meditator of elements cannot obtain direct access to them. Contemplation on mental elements may be said to be a practice consequential to the ardent mindfulness of sensation. During the period of energetic mindfulness of sensation, the five hindrances (nivarana) — sensual desire, ill will, sloth, restlessness and doubt — will arise and then disappear. When sensation has been consumed or ended, the factor of enlightenment may appear. The meditator will have to be mindful of these elements as and when they arise and disappear. If the hindrance of anger arises, the meditator does not make a mental note that it is “anger”; he merely keeps vigilantly aware of the fact of anger. If the detachment factor of enlightenment arises, the meditator keeps vigilantly aware of the fact of detachment. Here again, the meditator will be able to accomplish this mission well because he has developed a powerful concentration and a clear and firm mind from the practice of mindfulness of sensation.
In fact, the four stations of mindfulness (satipatthana) — body, sensation, consciousness and mental elements — do not arise independently of each other. They arise together in association. When the meditator is being mindful of the awareness of touch, there is in it the station of the body, the station of sensation, the station of consciousness and the station of the mental constituents. Being mindful of one, the meditator is mindful of all the others. It is as in a glass of sherbet, the four elements of water, lemon, sugar and salt are present together in association. And when one element is dominant, the sherbet is called respectively watery, sour, sweet or salty. When sensation is dominant, it is called vedana-nupassana (sensation-led Insight); when consciousness is dominant, it is called citta-nupassana (consciousness-led Insight) and so on.
When mindfulness of the four stations is completed and perfected, the meditator acquires the seven factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). When the seven factors of enlightenment are completely and perfectly acquired, the meditator attains the supramundane enlightenment (magga-nana). However, this is an effect-result. Further consideration to this matter need not be given in this brief sketch of the Sunlun way of mindfulness. If a mango seed is sown, a mango tree will sprout. A man should give all his attention to sowing well the best mango seed he can obtain. The result will take care of itself.
The Sunlun way of mindfulness is practised by an ardent monk or layman throughout the day and night. For the less ardent meditator, the centres offer three sessions a day, each session lasting from one to two hours. The man who is too busy with affairs of work or business should be able to practise it twice a day.
Meanwhile, the mind should not be left unguarded in the hours between sessions. The meditator should endeavour to be continually mindful. He accomplishes this by being mindful of the sense of touch. At no moment of the day will his body not be in contact with an object. If he is sitting, his body will be in touch with the chair. If he is lying, his head will be in touch with the pillow. If he is walking, his feet will touch the ground on each step. If he is handling a tool or an object, his fingers will touch them. The meditator should be mindful of touch of body against chair, of head against pillow, of feet against the ground, of fingers against the tool or object. He should, if possible, be mindful of touch of visual object against the eye, of sound against ear, of taste against tongue, of smell against nose. “Be rigorously mindful of the awareness of touch,” said the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw.
Sunlun is a simple system; it is as simple as drawing a line or writing an O. Even the child’s first attempts with paper and pencil are drawing lines or circles. But to draw a perfectly straight line and a perfectly round circle are extremely difficult. Yet, when one practises it with sufficient earnestness and zeal, quick results can be obtained. Most other methods are difficult to describe, easy to perform but results come slow. Sunlun is easy to describe. Literature on Sunlun is almost non-existent. There are in Burmese, just a pamphlet describing the method and a small book on the life of the Sunlun Gu-Kyaung Sayadaw. Since it is easy to describe, and there is very little theorizing, there has not been much use for books. Sunlun is difficult to perform. By this, it is not meant that the sequences of operations are complex; they are simple. This means only that it is not a relaxed comfortable method. It calls for courage to face the discomfort of strong breathing and unpleasant sensation, zeal to pass beyond them, and unremitting mindfulness to accomplish the purpose. But when this is done well, and it can be done well, the results are rapidly gained because Sunlun makes immediate and direct contact with reality and also stirs up the meditator’s zeal to help him move forward at an intense pace.
For the lazy man of today who has little time to spare for anything whatsoever, who with his conceptualization, logicalism and rationalism, is moving further away from the root source of reality and knowledge. Sunlun offers so much. It makes him throw away his thought-systems to grasp directly and immediately, the actuality of things. It pulls out, mobilizes and uses his great physical and mental reserves. It gives him the means and strength to withstand the vicissitudes of life. It strikes at the heart of that deceptive, self-loving illusive notion of “I” (atta) which is the cause of all the misery and unsatisfactoriness.
Sunlun is an intense, resolute, zealous method to establish the four foundations of mindfulness for “the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and misery, for the destruction of pain and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana.”
“Be vigorously mindful of the awareness of touch.”
“The uncomfortable truly is the norm.”