Dhammakaya Meditation

Introduction

About five hundred years after the Great Decease of Lord Buddha, there remained no evidence of the Dhammakaya meditation technique. After devoted practice, the Venerable Chao Khun Phra Mongkol-Thepmuni restored the principles of Dhammakaya meditation and taught them. Today the approach has become well-known once again.

Luang phor Sodh 3

The Venerable Chao Khun Phra Mongkol-Thepmuni (also called Luang Phor Sodh or Luang Phor Wat Paknam) once said that Dhammakaya meditation would be known all over the country, primarily because it penetrates right to the heart of the practice of purification. Defilements such as greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, wrongview, doubt, sloth, restlessness, shamelessness, and lack of moral dread are uprooted naturally and effectively. Avijja or ignorance becomes Vijja or knowledge.

Dhammakaya meditation is not a new practice, as many believe. It is the original Buddha-Teaching. Dhammakaya meditation is the exact path that the Buddha practiced. It is cited many times in the Tipitaka (Buddhist Canon), and directly follows the Noble Eightfold Path which is classified into the three categories of Sila or morality, Samatha or Right Concentration, and Vipassana or Right Wisdom. In combination with the four Satipatthana or Foundations of Mindfulness, the Samatha (concentration) and Vipassana (insight) will advance to Right Wisdom pertaining to the Sankhara or compounds and Visankhara or non-compounds. The Right Wisdom of the Four Noble Truths will be unfolded. Nirvana or freedom from all conditioning and suffering will, thus, be attained.

Without Lord Buddha, this teaching would never have been known and practiced. Without the Venerable Phra Mongkol-Thepmuni, Dhammakaya meditation would never have been well known again. Various benefits will be gained even at the beginning of Dhammakaya meditation practice.

This is for all who seek to understand reality or the true meaning of life as well as those who seek inner purification. Wisdom and virtue develop hand-in-hand. As the meditator progresses beyond the distortions of the passions, insight sharpens and understanding deepens.

Dhammakaya Meditation does not require blind faith. You do not have to believe in Buddhism to benefit from it. It is a method for training the mind to become concentrated and keenly aware, focused inward at the center of the body. With practice, you will encounter new experiences for yourself and will develop confidence.

In 1916, Luang Phor Sodh Candasaro (Chao Khun Phra Mongkol-Thepmuni) rediscovered the Dhammakaya approach to meditation which had been lost sometime during the first five hundred years following the passing away of Lord Buddha. The technique leads the meditator directly along the path to enlightenment and emancipation by combining concentration (Samatha) and insight (Vipassana) meditation techniques. It is, thus, extremely focused and effective.

Dhammakaya Meditation practice has become popular and widespread throughout Thailand. This is intended to make the method more widely available to English speakers.

Meditation begins with turning the powers of observation and awareness inward. We are accustomed to perceiving the outside world, but introspection requires special effort. Steeped in science, we have prided ourselves on “objectivity” while remaining largely unaware of inner biases.

Traditional scientific objectivity required isolation from the object observed. Since quantum mechanics was introduced, science has recognized that we are part of the world we perceive and what we see depends on how we look at it. Meditation is like polishing a lens to enable us to see more clearly. Skill in meditation develops the ability to perceive experience directly without the distortions implicit in conceptualization.

Many seekers turn to meditation because of dissatisfaction with life. This is the universally experienced sadness / suffering / tension (Dukkha) on which Lord Buddha based the Four Noble Truths. But, this motivation to ease tensions or cope with anxieties is only a starting point. Many meditation techniques will provide relief on this worldly level, but the beauty of Dhammakaya Meditation is that it leads directly upwards from this plane to more and more refined, purer and purer levels of awareness.

The effectiveness of the Dhammakaya Meditation derives from focusing attention at the center of the body and combining three meditation techniques simultaneously. Meditators often debate the efficacy of concentration (Samatha) versus insight (Vipassana). Dhammakaya Meditation employs elements of both. Higher and higher levels of concentration enable personal insight to progress from a more worldly view to Right Understanding and ultimately to Supra-mundane Right Wisdom.

The Meanings of Dhammakaya

Dhammakaya is the Supra-mundane body of the purist element which is non-compound and not subject to the Three Characteristics of impermanence, suffering and non-self.

The word Dhammakaya appears many times in the scriptures. Here are six examples.

  1. In the Pathikavagga Sutta (Thai ที. ปา. 11/55/92), Lord Buddha says Dhammakaya is a name for the Buddha. “Dhammakaya, Dhammabhuto, Brahmakaya and Brahmabhuto are all names for the Tathagata.” The Thai Dighanikaya Commentary (Thai ที. อฏ. 3/50) explains that this is because Dhamma came from his heart via his words.
  2. In the Khuddakanikaya, Apadana (Thai ขุ. อป. 32/2/20) Lord Buddha said that Private (Pacceka) Buddhas “…have a lot of Dhammakaya.” The Apadana Commentary (Thai อป. อฏฺ. 1/245) explains that this means that they have a high natural state.
  3. Also in the Khuddakanikaya, Apadana, (Thai ขุ. อป. 33/157/284 ) Lord Buddha presents himself as Dhammakaya – already fully developed.
  4. Badantacariya Buddhaghosa (Thai สํ. อฏฺ. 2/342-343) explained that Dhammakaya means the Tathagata plus the nine supra-mundane Dhamma – the 4 paths and 4 fruits of the Noble Disciples and Nirvana.
  5. The Paramattha Dipani Commentary (Thai อิติ. อฏฺ. 334) explains that anyone who sees Dhammakaya with the Insight eye sees Lord Buddha, the Private (Pacceka) Buddhas and the Arahants.
  6. The same Paramattha Dipani Commentary (Thai จริยา. อฏฺ. 324) explains that the Dhammakayas of Lord Buddha and the Private (Pacceka) Buddhas and the Arahants are True Self. “The Perfections (Parami) have rid these Dhammakayas of all defilements. They are True Self. Thus, they are ultimate and eternal.

If one looks beyond the specific word “Dhammakaya” for Dhammakaya concepts, they are found close to the heart of Buddhism. Upon hearing the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (The Wheel the Doctrine), Kondañña attained the Dhamma Eye or Dhammacakkhu. And, Lord Buddha’s definitive treatise on meditation, the Greater Sutta on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, begins with the instruction “A monk abides contemplating body in body.” The ultimate verification of Dhammakaya Meditation lies not in the scriptures, but in the thousands of meditators who have repeatedly seen the body in body and attained remarkable results. We invite you to see for yourself.

Samatha & Vipassana Meditation

Meditation by concentration of the mind to remove the Five Hindrances is known as Samatha (concentration meditation), while the contemplation of physical body, feelings, mental functions (mind) and phenomena (dhamma) to develop Right Wisdom is called Vipassana (Insight Meditation). Dhammakaya Mediation includes aspects of both Samatha and Vipassana meditation.

After Enlightenment, Lord Buddha taught Four Noble Truths. These are Suffering (Dukkha), the Cause of Suffering (Samudaya), Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha), and the Noble Eightfold Path (Magga) leading to the extinction of suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path consists of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration of mind. Dhamma Practices leading to the Noble Eightfold Path are classified under the three categories, Sila or morality, Samatha or Right Concentration and Vipassana or Right Wisdom.

Sila or Morality

Let’s first consider how to follow the first three folds of the Noble Eightfold Path which are known collectively as Sila (Morality). These are Right Speech, Right Action (or Conduct), and Right Living (or Livelihood). When a person accepts precepts and practices Sila, it helps to prevent wrong speech and wrong action resulting from wrong mentality, which arises under the influence of Greed, Attachment, Anger, Ill-will, or Delusion. Practicing speech, bodily action and thought based on the precepts of morality helps us become more and more peaceful.

Concentration Meditation

Concentration (Samatha) Meditation leads us to the next three folds of the Noble Eightfold Path. These are Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. The practice of Samatha Meditation deals with concentration. It helps to remove the Five Hindrances to wisdom which are attachment to Sensual Desire, Ill-will, Inactivity or Sleepiness, Anxiety or Restlessness of mind, and Doubtfulness. Concentration Meditation also helps to develop mind powers, especially super-normal vision and supernormal hearing. These, in turn, assist in the development of supernormal knowledge of the past and future. Samatha also helps in learning about the natural Law of Karma (cause and effect) as well as rebirth. This is very helpful for developing Right Wisdom in Insight meditation. Concentration Meditation also helps to calm down and remove Craving, Passion, and Attachment to compounds or worldly objects.

Insight Meditation

Insight or Vipassana Meditation is the technique for developing Right Wisdom. This derives from contemplation of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the physical body, feelings, mental functions and Dhamma. It includes Right Wisdom with regard to the Five Hindrances, the Five Aggregates, the Four Noble Truths, and the twelve links of Dependent Origination. (Paticcasamuppada).

Concerning Right Wisdom, we should develop Right Understanding of the two fundamental aspects of Nature: first is Right Understanding of the three common characteristics of compounds. Lord Buddha said: Sabbe sankhara anicca
All compounds are impermanent, Sabbe sankhara dukkha
All compounds are unsatisfactory or subject to suffering.

Therefore, any person who attaches to compounds with craving and delusion will suffer, according to the degree of attachment. Finally, sabbe dhamma anatta
All compounds are devoid of self.

Some translate the phrase sabbe dhamma literally as “all phenomena” (both compound and non-compound). This is not true. According to Lord Buddha’s Teaching in the Dhammapada Pali text, as interpreted by the original arahant commentators and by the most recent translators (Carter and Palihawadana 1987), the words sabbe dhamma, in this context, refer only to the Five Aggregates. These are sankhara or compounds. Thus, the reference excludes pure, non-compound aspects of nature such as Nirvana.

The second aspect of nature to be discerned with Right Wisdom is Right Understanding of non-compound nature (Visankhara). This means “the pure” and pertains to Nirvana. The Pali Canon describes Nirvana as not subject to change, of pure essence and absolutely permanent. It is everlasting, with no more death and rebirth. Any person who attains Nirvana will find supreme peace and happiness.

The Noble Eightfold Path

Vipassana Meditation also helps to develop Right Wisdom of the Four Noble Truths. These include the Noble Eightfold Path as the fourth Noble Truth, the path leading to the cessation of all suffering. Vipassana or Insight leads to Right Thought and Right Intention. Right Thought pertaining to the Four Noble Truths and Right Intention for the removal of all passions. This includes the subtlest passion, mental attachment (Anusaya Kilesa or Asava Kilesa) and the subtlest ignorance, especially inherent misconception (Avijjasava or Avijja-anusaya) which is the root cause of suffering.

Vipassana also helps to cut the Chain of Dependent Origination. Initially, ignorance (Avijja) gives rise to impression (Sankhara), impression brings about consciousness, consciousness originates the psycho-physical organism (Nama-rupa), and this results in the sense organs (Salayatana). These, in turn, bring about contact (Phassa), feeling (Vedana), craving (Tanha), attachment (Upadana), the will-to-become (Bhava), rebirth (Jati), and the suffering of old age, sickness, despair, sorrow and death (Jara-marana).

When the Noble Eightfold Path is perfectly cleared, at least the following three fetters will be cut:

  1. Wrong View (Sakkayaditthi) about the characteristics of all compounds,
  2. Doubtfulness (Vicikiccha) about the Dhamma Practice leading to Nirvana,
  3. Wrong Religious Practices (Silabbataparamasa).

Those who have fully opened the Noble Eightfold Path and are able to cut these fetters will become Noble Disciples, beginning as Stream Enterers (Sotapanna).

Dhammakaya Meditation

Let us consider the principles underlying the Dhammakaya Meditation to Concentration-Insight Meditation. Some may think that the approach is new and is not in the scriptures or is not Lord Buddha’s teachings. In fact, this method is exactly the teaching of Buddha.

The final goal of meditation is to reach Nirvana by removing all ignorance and passions, and by developing Right Wisdom regarding the path of attainment. All this is possible when you reach Dhammakaya. Dhammakaya is really Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha said in the Suttantapitaka, Digha-Nikaya, Patika-vagga Agganna-Sutta:

Dhammakaya is the name of Lord Buddha, or is Lord Buddha. Both Lord Buddha and the other Noble Ones (Arahanta) spoke of Dhammakaya. They described Enlightenment or attainment of Nirvana through the arising of Dhammakaya.

So, Lord Buddha and the Arahants are really Dhammakaya which is the purest element. It is non-compound, and very different from the crude body. The crude body is a compound thing like the Five Aggregates, which is subjected to change. Anyone who is attached to such compounds will suffer, because soon the compounds will no longer exist. The Dhammakaya Arahant is not of that character. He is permanent. The Pali word Dhammasaram means “elemental” and Niccam means “permanent”. Nibbanam paramam sukham means Nirvana is the highest or supreme happiness (pertaining to something which exists without change forever). The Pali words Tadi or Dhuvam are used when referring to Nirvana which is non-compound like Dhammakaya. Lord Buddha said: Monks, non-compound nature exists; if the non-compound or purest nature were non-existent, there would be no detachment from that which is compound. It is due to the existence of the non-compound that detachment from the compound becomes possible. (Nibbana Sutta III).

Some ask why nobody mentioned Dhammakaya earlier. In fact, all of this information is in the scriptures. Then, why did so many overlook it? I can only answer that Luang Phor Wat Paknam, in particular, meditated all the way to Nirvana and could see these two natures, the compound and non-compound, exactly as Lord Buddha described them. I cannot comment on those who say otherwise. Those who hear this Dhamma which talks about both the compound and the non-compound (Nirvana) are very lucky.

You will see the Dhammakaya Meditation is exactly in accordance with Lord Buddha’s teachings and aims directly at supra-mundane Right Wisdom (Nirvana). The Dhammakaya, which is the purest element, is non-compound and possesses characteristics of Nirvana. Luang Phor Wat Paknam (Luang Phor Sodh) taught his disciples to aim at the Right, purest Dhammakaya nature, or Nirvana, and to understand Nirvana in all aspects.

We have seen that Lord Buddha was enlightened to the Four Noble Truths: Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, Cessation of Suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the extinction of suffering. We have also described the three basic Dhamma Practices that develop the Noble Eightfold Path: Sila or observance of moral precepts, Concentration Meditation for concentration of the mind to remove the Five Hindrances, and Insight Meditation which involves contemplation of the physical body, feelings, mental functions and Dhamma to develop Right Wisdom.

When the Noble Eightfold Path is firmly established, meditators will be able to cut at least three fetters (Sanyojana). These are Wrong View regarding the characteristics of compounds (Sakkayaditthi), Doubtfulness about the Three Gems and Dhamma Practices (Vicikiccha), and Wrong Practices (Silabbataparamasa). With these three fetters removed, practitioners will be able to become Stream Enterer (Sotapanna) Noble Disciples and eventually attain Nirvana.

Summary

In summary, meditation by concentrating the mind to remove the Five Hindrances is known as Samatha or Concentration Meditation, while contemplation of the physical body, feelings, mental functions and Dhamma to develop Right Wisdom is called Insight Meditation. These meditation practices must be based on Sila or moral precepts. Anyone practicing these Dhamma can be sure they will attain Right Wisdom concerning Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, Cessation of Suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the extinction of suffering – in short, the Four Noble Truths.

The Dhammakaya Meditation includes aspects of both concentration or Samatha and insight or Vipassana. It is not a new doctrine. Dhammakaya is mentioned in the scriptures and the method follows exactly Lord Buddha’s teachings. This meditation technique leads directly to Nirvana. Dhammakaya is the non-compound. Thus, it is Nirvana and is Lord Buddha. The approach is especially effective because the meditator who has reached Dhammakaya can see and experience both compound and non-compound nature. With practice, he or she can cut the fetters and become a Noble Disciple. By cutting the first three fetters, one becomes a Stream-Enterer (Sotapanna). After continuing to cut all fetters, one becomes a Dhammakaya Saint (Arahant).