Investigation (Dhamma Vicaya) literally means "Investigating the Dhammas": The nature of reality.
Investigation is applied in two stages:
1. The first function of Investigation is to continuously apply attention to the object of meditation until awareness concentrates and sustains on it (Vitakka, Vicara: Applied & Sustained Attention) to suppress the Five Hindrances.
2. Once attention has sustained Investigation changes to the desire to look into reality, to question what is being experienced.
Investigation into reality is needed because we habitually view the world through mental confusion with an altered perception of reality, delusion (Moha: literally the inability to see reality as it really is). Our perception of reality is distorted through continuous misinformation, like walking around in an unfamiliar room without the light on, we continuously bump into things, with delusion present our lives can feel like this.
This desire to look into, to investigate the true nature of our experience of reality develops understanding, and has the effect of turning a light on in a room so we can see clearly and navigate it without any effort. To question our current reality is necessary for the development of Mindfulness meditation practice, without it we may experience bliss during meditation but not wisdom, therefore it will not have any impact on negative habitual tendencies that are controlling our life.
Investigation and Wisdom
It is Wisdom that develops the momentum of this practice; it is Wisdom that changes our relationship to what we are experiencing, it changes the way that our mind perceives the world. This is a path of self enquiry, a way of looking inward, of getting to understand ourselves in terms of reality by applying the mental factor of Investigation.
Investigation is an intentional silent watching, a silent observing, a silent experiencing of reality through the touch of awareness. This touch of awareness is similar to placing your hand through a hole in a wall and ‘feeling’ what is there with your fingers to develop understanding about it. During MIDL training we learn how to ‘mentally touch’ each experience, feeling it with our mind by rubbing awareness against it.
Through the continued experiencing of the same thing again and again and again, with the desire to understand, a pattern starts to emerge and the conditions for Wisdom to arise are developed. Continued Investigation of experience causes the second Mental Factor of Mindfulness to cultivate.
The Pali word for Mindfulness is ‘Sati’, which literally means ‘memory’ or ‘to remember’. It is a particular type of remembering, not remembering the past but remembering the present. During our meditation practice we will continuously forget the present; forget our meditation object, forget 'now' – this is what the mind does. Noticing this ‘forgetting’ is a function of Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is very important Mental Factor, actually without Mindfulness it would not be possible to meditate. We literally would become lost in the fantasy world of thinking and never come back. Mindfulness is also the morality factor, it allows us to self reflect, to observe and navigate the reactions of the heart and mind developing a sensitivity to what combines and what separates within our life.
If we break down the word ‘Mindfulness’ we can start to get a picture of what is meant in terms of our meditation practice. First let’s look at the meaning of ‘Mind’ in Mindfulness. ‘Mind’ in this context means ‘to look after’, ‘care for’, ‘to protect’; it can also be used as ‘to keep in mind’ – ‘to remember’. When we add ‘ful’ to the end of ‘Mind’, we could use it in a sentence as “Be Mindful of ………..” If you were crossing a road I might say to you: “Be ‘Mindful’ of the traffic, keep the traffic in ‘Mind’ when you cross the road.”
If we forget the traffic as we cross the road we are in danger of being hit. If we forget our present experience we are in danger of reacting in a way that will lead to suffering. In this way Mindfulness protects us. Mindfulness protects us from creating future pain.
When ‘ness’ is added to the end of a word it means to be ‘in a state of’’, ‘to dwell within’, it makes it active, continuous. For example if we are continuously happy, we would then be experiencing happiness, we would live within it. So ‘ness’ in Mindfulness means ‘a continuous state of being Mindful, our dwelling place, where we live’.
To help you understand this, sit down, place one hand in the other, close your eyes and see how long you can sit there and remember the touch of your hands before your mind wanders off. Every time your mind wanders off to a thought, wanders off to anything without you noticing, in that wandering you have literally forgotten ‘now’. You have forgotten you are just sitting here, you have forgotten your meditation object.
It is the task of Mindfulness to know where the centre of our awareness sits, to notice any wanderings of attention, to notice every time we forget our present experience. Actually in the context of MIDL meditation, Mindfulness needs distraction to cultivate, which is why this practice can be done in daily life.
Once enough Fixed Concentration has been developed in MIDL practice we need to give up our attachment to our meditation object such as breathing and intentionally allow our mind to wander. Do not be afraid of letting go of control of your mind, it is only when we release our grip on it and allow it to wander where it wants to that we can start to observe the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to develop Wisdom. One of the skills being developed in the 52 MIDL trainings is the ability to observe our mind wander – to stay on the wild horses back.
If we use distraction in the right way, that is, to try to observe when we are distracted, the Mindfulness factor will become very, very strong, and our ability to notice when we are distracted will increase. Literally we can then notice, with strong Mindfulness, the moment our attention shifts from our meditation object and also any shifts of our attention in daily life.
The Pali word for Concentration is (Samadhi) which literally means ‘to unify’, ‘to bring together’. Concentration is the unification of Awareness (Vinnana).
Concentration in our meditation practice is that it magnifies, it clarifies experience. The more concentrated we become the more magnified and clear experience becomes to us. When our mind is free from the colouring of the Five Hindrances, we can observe reality through a clear awareness free from distortion to allow Wisdom to develop.
This is the result of continuous Mindfulness, unification of Awareness, increased steadiness and clarity of consciousness. Concentration during meditation is not something that you do; it is result of being continuously Mindful of your present experience.
When the Three Mental Factors of Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration have not been developed your attention during meditation will jump around, your Awareness will be dispersed. It will move between Awareness of the present experience (reality; Dhamma), at any of the Six Sense Doors (eye: sight, ear: sound, nose: smell, tongue: taste, body: touch and mind: thoughts / memories).
One of your tasks during Mindfulness Meditation Training is to unify Awareness by remembering where your attention is sitting. As Awareness concentrates and focuses in on one thing, it starts to become steady, still and clear. When Awareness is concentrated it also has the effect of suppressing the Five Hindrances to Meditation: Sensual Desire, Mental Aversion, Mental Restlessness, Mental Sluggishness and Doubt.
The Pali word for Awareness is (Vinnana). Awareness literally means ‘consciousness, ‘awareness of an object / experience’. Whenever we experience anything through any of our Six Senses, the knowing of the experience that is present is Awareness. During meditation practice our task is to continuously remember Awareness of our meditation object.
Awareness in its essence is pure, clear, still, but it can literally be Coloured by Emotional Responses (Kilesa) when they are triggered by our relationship to any experience that arises at the Six Sense Doors. This Colouring from Emotional Response, when it is present, alters the lens through which we perceive the world. “Literally the perception of the world we live in changes.”
This is the problem that we encounter in our meditation practice and daily life, for all of us are always looking out through these colourings, through the Five Hindrances. This is why we initially concentrate Awareness so that we can suppress these colourings, so that Awareness becomes clear and we can observe reality, free from colouring to develop understanding and Wisdom.
It is important in MIDL practice to understand the difference between Mindfulness and Awareness. Awareness (Vinnana) and Mindfulness (Sati) are two separate mental factors. Mindfulness remembers where Awareness sits and Awareness is the knowing of an experience. Continuous remembering, (Mindfulness), of our present experience causes Awareness to concentrate, this is the relationship between these two mental factors and why Mindfulness is so valued in the tradition.
The difference between Mindfulness and Awareness can be understood in this story. Imagine you will be going away on a holiday soon: Tropical Island, sandy beach, sitting under a coconut tree with a cocktail in your hand. You are walking down a crowded street and start thinking about your holiday enjoying this wonderful daydream.
Then suddenly you are startled by feeling someone tap you on your shoulder, you jump and then suddenly notice your friend standing there. Hi, nice to see you, sorry I was just lost in a daydream. Your friend asks you what your daydream was about, could you tell them?
Yes of course, because there was awareness in the daydream.
Did you know that you were standing on a busy street when you were daydreaming? No, the whole world had disappeared because the factor of Mindfulness was not present. So unless we are unconscious Awareness is functioning continuously, continuously striking our Six Senses. The problem is that we do not know that Awareness is present in every sense experience; the task of Mindfulness is to remember this Awareness, to remember “I am aware of being aware of this”
To sum this up, during our meditation practice Investigation of reality develops interest and stimulates Mindfulness. Mindfulness continuously remembers Awareness causing it to Concentrate. As Awareness concentrates the Five Hindrances are suppressed and distraction is removed allowing clarity of mind.
Mental clarity allows us to see ‘experiences as they are’, free from judgement, free from colouring, thus allowing us to develop deep understanding in regards to their true nature. This understanding arises as Wisdom which then changes our minds relationship to sensory experience. With this change of relationship our mind neither grasps nor pushes away any experience and Equanimity of mind arises and matures – freedom is experienced.
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This article was written by Stephen Procter, Meditation Instructor from Meditation in The Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you