Foundation Series on Buddhist
Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM)
As taught by
Sister Khema and overseen by Most Venerable “Bhante” Vimalaramsi Maha
the Gift of Dhamma is Priceless!
March 1, 2010 and repeated April 28, 2010
Title: FS-04 PART 1 -
What is Bhavana?
Bhavana - PART 1-
Today it would be good to talk a little bit about the Pali word
Bhavana. Bhavana means development. Today people hear a
lot about developing meditation. But “development” is not
restricted just to meditation. Actually,
development refers to
Generosity, Morality and Wisdom (dana, sila, and pa~n~na).
Without generosity and morality established, Buddhist wisdom cannot
In Buddhsim the word “wisdom” is not quite what you would
expect either. The Pali word for Wisdom is pa~n~na.
This word becomes specific
within Buddhist teaching. It operates as a code word in the texts. You
can test this for yourself as we continue on with training. Discovering
the Buddha’s meaning for ‘wisdom’ opens your mind to a much deeper
understanding of the texts. It’s quite amazing. As we continue on with
this training, occasionally, I will try to point out to
you the variations of the meaning when it is used. In
Buddhism, the word wisdom most often refers to the impersonal
process of cognition that the Buddha taught us about. He called this the
impersonal process of Dependent Origination. In our training we develop
Dana, Sila and Pa~n~na. In the case of wisdom, it means developing the
ability to see, understand and use the impersonal Process of Dependent
Origination to relieve suffering.
Bhavana actually refers to all parts of the path leading to the
cessation of suffering. The path slowly enlightens your
understanding of universal law. So far, the installments have
touched on the foundation work of Generosity (dana) and Morality (sila).
It is important to establish a clear understanding of how these support
the meditation practice and how they affect life in general.
Pa~n~na arises only through development of Buddhist practice. The
practice I am referring to is Meditation. In this practice we are
learning to personally observe HOW everything works when a human being
experiences life. This is studying human cognition of the eye, ear,
nose, tongue, body and mind. We cannot let go of something when we do
not know precisely what it is first, can we? So we first must understand
how suffering occurs through the sense doors and the precise root of
Fear can stop development. How can we eliminate fear?
Once we understand how things
work, fear will no longer block our path. Think of those extreme
sportsters in the Olympics who almost ski upside down when they hotdog!
You know that they would never be able to defy gravity in the way they
do unless they fully understood their equipment, knew the natural laws,
and developed their skills to the fullest extent. They have abandoned
fear! Meditation is no different. If you want to follow through to the
point of liberation, it takes courage and determination to stick with
the instructions completely and not just go part way or for only a very
short time. This is a real challenge and it takes courage to commit to
this so you can get to the really stunning results..
There is a great deal more to Buddhist meditation than just sitting and
waiting to see what happens. The Buddha’s practice was not to
rest attention on one object of meditation until all peripheral vision
just disappears. It’s not a dead end practice like that. It had real
and tangible results that completely changed people because of resulting
understanding. Reaching a void without understanding is really
empty of purpose. This practice is a skill training. The purpose of it
is to develop expert observation skills so you can see how things really
work. The Buddha figured out how to observe at very deep and fine
levels. He refined what he learned into a system for teaching others to
do the same thing. You have to admit it must have been fascinating
because he continued to teach for 45 years! His great gift to us was
clearly defining to us how to achieve the Cessation of Suffering! This
is what we are studying how to understand.
Q: Wasn’t the full freedom from suffering true ONLY for an Arahat?
A: Perhaps that is true when we are talking about full and permanent
freedom. But, actually, there are degrees of development that can
be very useful in life that were taught by the Buddha.
One line of development was set up for the members of the lay community.
It teaches the lay person the primary practice, without any secrets held
back, and then shows them how to apply the practice in daily life.
This leads them to a happier life. It
is clear this form of gradual training was taught for the common man,
woman and family or else 60,000,000 people would not have become
Buddhist in the classical world!
Because of the results of this practice, also kings found the teaching
so “priceless” that they decided to greatly support the Sangha and
help preserve the training. They supplied the four requisites of
shelter, food, medicine and clothing for the monastic community in the
hopes that these monastics would then dedicate themselves to persistent
practice, preservation and teaching of this Dhamma for future
generations. The practice was valued greatly by a government who was
overseeing a peaceful people.
Thousands found relief through this new clear knowledge. People began
understanding the main causes of suffering and retraining themselves to
manifest a better future world by changing their perspectives and
actions. Those who took the practice into daily life, all the time,
became more at peace and lived happier richer lives.
It is this
Bhavana that makes Buddhism
come to full fruition.
As I said, ultimately, Buddhism is about change. Students MUST have
courage and truly be willing to change for progress to happen. The
meditation practice is the vehicle that carries a person to where they
can see how things actually work. It changes our perspective.
This new perspective purifies the mind along the way. With this
pure mind, a person gradually learns ways to have more control over
their life. This is simply because if you understand how things work or
don’t work, then you develop the opening to fix them and chart a new
course. Without that information, you are flying blind with no
hope of repair!
The Buddha devised a gradual system which taught people the needed
skills to attain knowledge and vision and, eventually, wisdom . Within
his system of training, everyone developed in the same way. Over the
years he taught, the Buddha created clear developmental and progression
charts to guide us along this path.
Q: You said there were two groups who learned the teaching. Who is the
A: The Buddha also created a
line of development for the fulltime monastic or serious practitioners
from the lay community.
Monastics and the more serious practitioners used the same path to
develop. The difference is that they put more time into their practice
while living under the monastic code or spent extended time at
monasteries doing temporary ordinations to make more progress. You
might say ‘they decided to “go for the gold”!’ They were obedient and
they followed directions very carefully. They spent extended periods of
time on certain approaches of study to fully understand, internalize and
use them. They would go into isolated areas for practice reaching deeper
states of consciousness.
Lay people could also reach
these states of consciousness, but had other responsibilities of the
householder that tended to pull them out of their meditation
before getting to the finer observations.
This second group’s clear
pursuit was the goal of liberation and to experience the complete relief
of Nibbana with understanding. They practiced in earnest to naturally
raise up their level of compassion for a more peaceful world.
Q: What exactly are we developing as we practice this meditation?
A: We are opening the way for peaceful alternative ways of living in
this and a future world.
This continual practice of right Effort by using the 6Rs specifically
offers an experience that naturally alters our perspective and gently
shifts us towards an impersonal unselfish protocol for life. Outward
compassionate actions towards our fellowmen arise more easily. When we
begin to live and act in this frame of mind, we are using the Buddha’s
doorway to PEACE. We now begin to understand why the Buddha was called a
Q: How can you make that kind of shift in today’s world when everything
seems so dark at times?
A: You have to give up fear, anxiety, panic, much of the cause of
depression, let go of doubt by personally seeing how things really work
and dare to embrace this option of change.
Most fear arises because we do not understand what’s going on. Life
becomes overwhelming! We assume everything is happening to
In reality, nothing happens to
us. Everything happens from us. We are actually responsible for
our own destiny. However, if we don’t understand this, then
personal assumptions will feed fear, discouragement, anxiousness,
doubt, disappointment, and the pre-occupation of trying to make things
the way we want them to be. That's a lot of struggle and stress!
What is needed is knowledge. Without it
we cannot get to the heart of how things actually work and how tension
arises in our life. We need less tension and tightness in mind and body
to be able to see clearly. All emotional states mentioned above start
with tension. Tension leads to stress. Stress leads to the
DIS-EASE of mind and body.
It is easy to become caught in
a fog of misunderstanding, misinformation and the lack of truth
about how these things happen. Because of this, we
act in unbalanced
ways. We continue
to RE-ACT in the same ways
all the time as frustration increases. At
the front end of our training, we must embrace the fact that not one of
us is at fault in this! We are not guilty of anything and should not
carry a weight about this.
We have seen this happening all around us since birth. No one has ever
tried to tell us something different! So we should go lightly into this
practice and be very forgiving of not knowing about this when we begin.
When we look around today at what is being taught in our schools, we
don’t find helpful information, methodology or any practice to
help us see clearly what is really going on. As a result of the
disinformation the average untrained mind receives, young people can
come to the drastic conclusion that there is no hope of change.
This is a tragic miscalculation and it just isn’t so.
When we cave into taking action
based on assumption without having real information, this is the root of
all conflict in this world. Because of this, we let go of new
creative solutions, sometimes make a crash landing (a breakdown) and we
really suffer. This prevents change.
Q: What can we do about this?
A: We must tread lightly here and begin to dig out the truth about
universal laws. We need to see for ourselves how everything really is.
Maybe there is a way out! Maybe
it is in these teachings!
To understand how we experience our world and how we sometimes fall
off-sides with our assumptions, the Buddha left us a system and a
meditation practice to help us see the truth for ourselves. He believed
that we could not be taught his teaching any other way but through
“knowledge and vision” meaning “knowing by seeing”. The
Buddha shared this plan with as many people as he could before his life
ended. This is what we are going to do now.
We are going to pursue the way to change our perspective and find new
hope for the future.
End of Bhavana PART 1.
The Gift of Dhamma is Priceless !
Brought to you by
United International Buddha Dhamma Society (UIBDS)
and Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center (DSMC), 8218 County Road 204,
Annapolis, Missouri 63620