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Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?

Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/9/10 7:57 AM
Hey, everyone at the DhO!
I stumbled upon this video, and must confess that I do not understand if fully:

I personally don't think there is any truth to the statement that the dura mater should contract where there is craving, but I am not an MD, of course.

Anyways, I posted it if anyone is interested, and if there is any discussion, maybe I'll learn something from it!

Baby steps emoticon


RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/9/10 10:30 AM as a reply to Mike Gee.
Hi Mike,
I met this guy a few years ago and it really changed how I practice. The tension he speaks of is quite real - and noticeable with practice. Whenever I am caught up in thoughts, if I turn my attention toward the sense of tension in the forehead (also face and back of head in my experience), there is tension there. After relaxing this tension (takes practice), there is a sense of release. Following it up with a light smile kind of energizes the release in a nice way.

The tension is habitual and directly related to a sense of stress, striving, etc. At first I was only able to release it partially for a brief period of time and then it crept back in. You have to keep repeating the process -but eventually it leads to releasing tension much deeper in the body - sort of a chain reaction.

I think you can verify it for yourself pretty easily within a few days.

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/9/10 5:38 PM as a reply to Mike Gee.
Mike Gee:

I personally don't think there is any truth to the statement that the dura mater should contract where there is craving, but I am not an MD, of course.

i don't know about the dura mater specifically either, but i appreciate bhante vimalaramsi because i appreciate anyone who says 'there must be more' (and is able to substantiate it with a first-hand account of accomplishment).

also, i can report that there is something to the point about head tension. a tension inside my head 'popped' when i got stream-entry (which i did by practising the very same mahasi method vimalaramsi criticises by the way), then later, funny sensations (approximating a pleasant tension) at the crown of my head showed up and stayed for quite a while, and other unusual sensations played on the back of my head for a long time (which had the effect of making my sense of perspective seem wide and expansive).

like chuck wrote, you may be able to verify the coincidence in which certain tension felt in the head occur along with stress rather quickly. whether these tensions have anything to do with contractions of the dura mater is perhaps another matter.


RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/13/10 3:56 AM as a reply to Mike Gee.
Some psychology to it... and my experience.

A.H. Almaas talks a lot in his book ´The Void´ about the 'genital hole' (related to the freudian castration complex), that we all experience in our body-image (that is a part of the self-image), which - according to him - is just the presence of space. He says that we normally react to this space or hole by contracting the pelvic area and the forehead (especially near the ocular area). I don't know if this is true, but it relates to my experience in a interesting way.

I begun to feel a strong tension in my forehead for the first time in january - while I still was at the 3 characteristic stage. When I completed the cycle (early march) it got really intense, and was present almost all my waking hours. Recently completed a new insight cycle (my second), where I begun to feel the hole that he describes during the dark night - which brought a lot of stuff, as one can imagine - and later in equanimity, after feeling the energy channels in my forehead and eyes burning like hell, a really 'complex' tension pattern relaxed: it begun in the forehead, went down thought my neck to the spine to the heart region, and to the lower back. My shoulders droped immedeately and I never felt so relaxed in my life... Later, the lower back released a little and some time latter pelvic tensions showed up for the first time. This was the first time I managed to relax the dura matter; and now if I pay attention to it, I manage to keep it relaxed, but whenever I begin to think too much it contracts. Also when I strain or try to focus too hard, I feel it contrating and it makes my whole body tense.

Thanks for the video by the way. This was the sort of thing I've been looking for. After this last cycle I've been feeling a need to find a more relaxed and less intense approach to meditation.


RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/14/10 2:58 AM as a reply to Bernardo V..
Thanks for this info. I had never heard of of this guy. I appreciate his message though. Its easy in the Hardcore Dharma tradition to get caught up in craving. Yesterday I listened to a talk on his site, very good. I think a blend of relaxing the tension and then moving to noting practice will be what I am going to try out for a few days. Went well this morning. He is a suttra thumper which generally turns me off, but I dunno I think he has got something to say... So Chuck do you do noting practice as well or just the practice he lays out?

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/24/10 11:52 AM as a reply to Clayton James Lightfoot.
Along these lines, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, also a sutta guy, did a great guided meditation in his recent talks at IMC in which he systematically went through different chakras with a view toward relaxing tension at each. He started at the naval and gradually moved up the body to the center of the head and then down the back to the base of the spine. This was all "tetrad" stuff from the satipatthana sutta. The instruction was to "breathe" at each center.
The talks are available at the link below. I think the particular guided meditation I'm referring to might have been the fourth talk.

Overall, I'm pretty darn sure I could use a lot more "receptive effort" in my practice--the non-effort that involves softening, relaxing, easing up, doing metta practice. Alan Wallace gives a good instruction that has to do with perking up or paying attention on the in-breath, but really relaxing and kind of "going out" on the out breath.

I actually think Vimalaramsi might be quite correct that for a lot of people metta is actually the key to jhana. Even Pa Auk asks a lot of people to start with metta, I believe...

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/26/10 6:26 PM as a reply to Clayton James Lightfoot.
Clayton James Lightfoot:
So Chuck do you do noting practice as well or just the practice he lays out?

Hi Clayton,
Now days I use a sort of hybrid method that combines the Breath Energy practices that Thanissaro Bhikkhu teaches (lots of talks here) with the more explicit relaxing/smiling technique that Vimalaramsi teaches. I start off with long breathing while maintaining awareness of the whole body which includes inclining the body/mind towards calming during the in and out breath- then if I drift off, employ Vimalaramsi 6R's method. The object is the breath energy throughout the body.

The other practice I use quite often is a lying down chi-gong method of sweeping energy through the body - starting with the feet.

Started with internal chi-gong for a few years, then I did what was called 'dry vipassana' (kind of like what Daniel teaches but not such intense noting) for about 6 years. Then came upon Than. Bhikkhu and started with his practices which I found very compatible with my earlier Chi Gong training. Then sort of folded in Vimalaramsi's stuff.


RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
6/7/10 10:26 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
Dhamma Greetings Tarin.
My name is Rev. Sister Khema. i have been studying with Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi for 10 years now and am a nun in the new Buddhist Order called American Forest Tradition.

It isn't the "dura matter" that Bhante refers to tensing up. It is the surrounding sack called the Meninges membrane that behaves like a muscle when tension arises. This is documented pretty easily by using an EEG.

As the meditator becomes very still and progresses with the practice, they will learn how to identify this sensation and learn how to RELEASE mind's attention from any arising phenomena and RELAX any left over tension and tightness in mind or in body.
Then they RE-SMILE to lighten up mind and sharpen awareness. YOu can see this part on the EEG also when it occurs. Then they return mind's attention to the object of meditation and continue on repeating this process whenever they recognize mind's attention shifting away from the obj of meditation.

The practice does not work fully unless the student understands that these steps are actually the buddha's process called Right Mindfulness as described in MN 77.
The 4 steps of Right mindfulness are
1. RECOGNIZE any unwholesome arising in mind ( during meditation, this means any arising phenomena which turns out to be a hindrance to continued meditation practice)

2. RELEASE the unwholesome;

3. BRING UP A WHOLESOME ( and your practice of meditation is the MOST wholesome you can do in life.)

4. KEEP the wholesome going.

The 6 steps that Bhante gives us to do, actually are simply fulfilling the practice of RIGHT EFFORT.

RECOGNISE = our RECOGNISE step when we first notice mind's attention moving away from the object ( sending the loving kindness out to the spiritual friend..)

RELEASE/ RELAX = the RELEASING of the unwholesome hindrance that arose and then adding the step of Relaxing any leftover tension after that release. ( There are two steps here and for most of modern times this second step has been left out. IT makes a real difference if you do the second relax step and then bring back less tension to the object each time you continue. If you practice this way, you are systematically reducing the tension and you will find that you can fall into deeper states naturally.

BRING UP A WHOLESOME = the RESMILE/ RETURN steps . As i said above, the smile lightens up mind and sharpens awarenss more. the next time you will notice the arising tension sooner because there will be less in your mind!

KEEP THE WHOLESOME GOING = This equals the REPEAT the process as needed when we are practicing.

by following the Buddha's guidance literally concerning Right Effort you will find a deeper experience is possible ...

At the same time if you have a guide who fully understands this stuff, they can help you to see which parts of Dependent Origination you can actually observe during this entire experience. As you begin to understand this very impersonal process you will begin to see clearly what Atta and Anatta actually are as the Buddha taught them. This is rather an extraordinary experience and it comes out very clear.

Hope this helps you to see better what Bhante Vimalaramsi is passing along to us. When he teaches he is teaching right out of the texts and his understanding is truly exceptional. He finds not reason to change around how the buddha was teaching. So we learn to practice using the same drills and exercises the monks did. Experimenting with this, one sees more deeply faster and clearer than expected. Slowly the movie of life is revealed to us as Frames of a film and we begin to udnerstand how everything is really working. it's just great.

Metta and smiles.
Rev. Sister Khema

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
8/27/10 4:18 AM as a reply to Sister Khema.
That's right Sister, the instruction is right there for all to read and learn in MN118 Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing,

You say "There are two steps here and for most of modern times this second step has been left out. IT makes a real difference if you do the second relax step and then bring back less tension to the object each time you continue."

You bet and here it is:

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, ... 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, ... 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.

Now there is no confusion "calming bodily fabrication" means relaxing. "releasing the mind" means exactly what you describe in your explanation.

You go on to say: " If you practice this way, you are systematically reducing the tension and you will find that you can fall into deeper states naturally."

This is exactly my experience when I added these steps. Adding the release and relax steps result in a feeling or sense of relief. Lightness. The mind/body immediately brightens and energizes. I bring this relief back to my object of meditation. That's what I call a wholesome state. It was a little clunky to lean at first but quickly became fluid and natural, even in every day life.

Releasing and relaxing quickly softens and eases the mind. It become quieter and quieter, and quieter. This quality of tranquility and peace is not gained though forcing Samadi but by releasing distractions and relaxing. This stillness is what you describe as the deeper natural states and wow what that's about is another story.

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
meditation experience mediation progress meditation practice
5/10/13 4:28 PM as a reply to Mike Gee.
Just a note.
No one says anything about the 'dura matter' of the brain during any dhamma talks being given by Bhante Vimalaramsi. Someone went off track with this by some kind of whispering down the line like children. I have hear all of the Dhamma talks since 2003 and there are none saying that. Let's correct this part. .
There is a sac that surrounds the brain called the Meninges. Whenever personal opinion arises within craving and clinging, a tension arises and this sac feels tighter around the brain. There are two hemispheres of the brain and in between is where the pineal gland is located. The pineal gland is historically involved with mystical experiences and meditation for many centuries. You can look this up for yourselves. If you train to relax the head, mind, brain area, gradually, you will be able to feel the separation of the two hemispheres and also when there is tension and they are pressing together. What is happening by u sing the relax step is a slight separation and THEN the pineal gland can begin to move into action and this is a new and different opening of mind, a different kind of feeling that you will experience.

At this point I have practiced, then studied, and then eventurally taught over 12 years and followed this teaching approach carefully. I have witnesses many students who can feel the tightening, release , and expansion clearly. This is really logical and it works.
In my travels into Asia I have had the opportunity to talk with many higher monks about the Dhamma and have opprtunities to ask questions about many things. One question I had is like this. Is it out of step to question the Vissudhimagga when it comes to instructions for meditation?
The answer to me, and especially within University settings is , "certainly not! The Vissudhimagga has been contested sicne the day it came out!!!!!! Each generation should continue to ask questions concerning it in reference to the meditation" Anything the commentary does not match the suttas concerning instructions, practice, development, Modes of Progress, or results; then it should be examined very closely beside the texts. When the texts do not agree, then, as instructed by the Buddha, we should close the commentary and retreat into the texts to re-evaluate our practice from there and start again. Each generation of monastics are responsible to "smoke out the sheds" when they find the teachings have fallen off the mark."

This is NOT a popular thing to do! It is NOT easy. But when you know that this teaching WAS in fact real and practical and you see how it can actually help people tremendously change their live to the end results the Buddha talked about, then you see it is a very good thing to question ALL commentaries... always....

All the teachers in existence today, all of us are creating commentary too. EVERY one of us. That's a good thing to think about.
When you go to a retreat, you only go to investigate and see what happens. YOu are NOT expected to believe anything you hear unless you sit and investigate it and see it for yourself. That is why I like how Bhante V. teaches.. it is because of that challenge.... to always see for ourselves.

In all of this about commentary and texts, we should not stick with what the commentary says if it does not match the texts. Today we have seen the texts rewritten about how long the practice takes to learn and have results in life, we have seen the redesign the 4 noble truths and how they are no longer the same, and have heard about changing the length of time it takes to reach certain levels of attainment. REquirements for attainment levels have changed as well today... There is a lot of mix up.
Instead of buying into much of this, we should instead consderre-evaluating the texts meditation instructions and practice until the Buddha's results are achieved. Wouldn't that be novel! This is the whole issue, cut and dry.

Once you are told to watch for this difference in how your mind open up, if you stay absolutely calm, you CAN notice when a thought arises, if you personally move your attention towards it, then, you can feel a change in the tension level as it goes up in your head. by the way, the Buddha said that the Head IS part of the Body.... interesting. A lot of people don't see that in the same way. Many of us thought the body went up to the next, and then, there is the head.

The whole issue about this tension is so interesting and yet its a hoot to see how people will reject it without event esting it. In n fact, if they were releasing attention on what came up and then adding the additional relax step' as pointed out in the meditation instructions in the Anapanasati sutta and other places, i.e.
if using the breath
...He trains thus, he tranquilizes the bodily formation on the in-breath and he tranquilizes the bodily formation on the out-breath.... and then just after that
..... he tranquilizes the mental formation on the in-breat, and he tranquilzes the mental formation of the out-breath.....

If you are practicing this systematically, and lowering the tension little by little in the meditaition, then when the RELAX step happens, you will drop down a little bit deeper each time...... You learn very quickly this is how you can experience the jhanas ( levels of understanding), more smoothly.

But if you are
1. not performing both steps of the instructions, (RELASE and RELAX) then you are not using all ingredients for the results implied by the Buddha in other places.
2. if you are practicing a meditation where you have been instructed to 'move your attention over to whatever is arising and stay with it until it is passing away....then the fact is, you are NOT doing only one meditation continually. Instead, you are breaking one meditation to move over and investigate what came up in a second meditation... then ..... you are not continual enough to notice the step down each time when it happens. You are not fluent yet in one meditation.

At least that has been my own experience with students.finding out what happens in interviews.......

the student MUST follow the instructions and ONLY the instructions and not put other things into it or take away some of the ingredients to expect the results Bhnate Vimalaramsi is talking about. Otherwise, no big difference. You cannot know it if you do not experience it.

That is why he most often asks in retreat that students try to use the instructions using METTA for practice to begin with. Otherwise you will continue to react as you always have from the instructions you have followed for years. A new practice has no habits yet to start with. That is the theory and it seems to work very well.

In a nutshell, no one has ever been asked to ONLY do this meditation forever by anyone at DSMC where Bhante Vimalaramsi's meditation center is located.!
For heavens sake, this is an experiment that IMHO is thoroughly worth your time to try for about one week before making any accusations about anything taught by him, don't you think?

This STEVE person did take a retreat with him WAAAAAYYYYY back when he first came out of Burma. did it every occur to him that maybe after all that purely unnecessary lack of sleep perhaps he should be sleeping more for a few weeks? Geese!
I have met many monks who knew him when he was over there. He just revisited the center in Burma this past December to see old teachers that were still left there.

Anyway, that retreat happened when he was just first beginning to share what he found and begin to teach... He has developed as a teacher much more now for many, many years and refined the way he teaches so the material becomes easier and easier to understand and certainly is immeditatly effective.. A student now can know within 4 full days of practice time whether there is something worthwhile to investigate in this approach or not.
If you feel there isn't, then it is fine and dandy to go your own way and continue your work wherever you want.

Bhante's only job is to be a conduit for what is in the suttas and he has chosen not to just write without the suttas involved. That is he job of Buddhist monks. He chooses to take you step by step through the texts when you study with him, and expound on what each part means so that you can then test it for yourself and gain solid knowledge to work with. You would discuss what you found with him each day through a long or short interview.

The texts instruct the monks that when they understand the teaching clearly and are making definitive progress as described then, once they understand this, as monastics, they are supposed to preserve and share that information with others. What do you think that means? Let's look a moment at some texts. Ananda taught the other monks what should be done when a teaching is well-learned. WE find this in MN-32:4.

MN-32 [4]
[ Sariputta asked… “What kind of monk friend Ananda, could illuminate the Gosinga Sala-tree Wood?”
[Ananda Replys],
“Here, friend Sariputta, when a monk has learned much, remembers what he has learned, and consolidates what he has learned. Such teachings as are good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing—such teachings as these he has learned much of, remembered, mastered verbally, investigated with the mind, and penetrated well by view, then, he teaches the Dhamma to assemblies with well-rounded and coherent statements and phrases for the eradication of the underlying tendencies. That kind of monk could illuminate the Gosinga Salla-tree wood.”

So, here is the deal. Does it make sense to you if a monk has figured out something that truly can help a LOT of people whether they are Buddhist, monastics, or laypeople, do you think that monk should go put his head in a cave and just sit by himself? Of course not.
If the practice has been followed correctly, and the mind had become retrained, then tha tmonk should be leaning now in the direction of compassion; i.e. compassionate service for those who help to support this teaching... So what result should come about if one followed the practice correctly?
Look at this.....

MN-21- Kakacupama Sutta- The Simile of the Saw.

When others talk to us their speech may be
Timely or untimely;
True or false;
Gentle or harsh;
Connected with good or connected with harm;
Filled with loving-kindness or inner hatred. We need to train ourselves this way:

“My mind will remain unaffected
and I will say no words that are evil or untrue.
I shall be compassionate for others welfare.
I shall keep my mind filled with loving-kindness
without ever entertaining thoughts of anger or hatred.
I shall radiate loving-kindness to everyone all of the time;
to all beings as to myself.
I shall radiate and pervade all beings
with a mind that is abundant, exalted, immeasurable,
without anger or hostility.
‘That is what we need to practice!’

in other words, he or she should work very hard to share this information as openly as possible and with as many as possible around the world and wherever his home center is. That is what should be done.

If persons having no experience with this teacher for even one weeks time, wish to foul what he is doing, that is very sad fro them and for others still searching for what was easy to understand and immediately effective. When they utter such nonsense without coming directly to him to talk about what is said, then itt does not speak ill of Ven. Vimalaramsi as much as it speaks of their own poor karma in this lifetime as they create unfounded gossip and slander. It is to be pitied and much compassion should be given for that kind of thing.

Ven. Sister Khema

There are so many parts to this teaching and each one is part of the weaving of the Dhamma cloth. you cannot reweave this cloth and its symmetrical perfect pattern without all the pieces and with full understanding. If the pieces are presented apart from each other, then we shall never see the weaving. If we do not question commentaries that change the pattern, then the teaching will be lost for the future....... All meditation helps us to calm down so we can do this kind of research and investigation.... <grin>

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
5/19/13 2:32 PM as a reply to Sister Khema.
Thanks for that post. This head tension become very apparent in equanimity and it opening seems to be the key to moving to the next path. As it is generally recommended here, relaxation is the key during that stage. Also, muscular tension in the back, especially around the tailbone, contribute to that head tension and relaxation of those muscles become the aim of the practice at some point.

I'm not sure if that head tension is much relevant outside of equanimity. It can arises in other stages but I'm not sure if someone can work with it in the same way. Some form of relaxation is needed during the dark night but it's not of the same nature as during equanimity. It's more a compromise between strong resolve and pushing hard vs relaxation. Before the A&P, there is not much place for relaxation as to make progress you must build strong momentum.

We can only hope that diagnosis of the stages will improve in the community and tailored approach influenced by various traditions will help people make good progress without driving themselves insane, which is certainly a risk when applying a very intense approach all the way.

RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
7/31/15 2:11 PM as a reply to Mike Gee.
Wanted to get some comments on something I heard Bhante Vimaramsi say. 
This talk, (from

It's a ten minute talk, it's best to listen to the first few minutes of the talk, but paraphrasing, he's saying that with way that vipassana meditation is taught and practiced, tension and tight concentration causes people to experience something that isn't Nibbana, or isn't the Nibbana that the Buddha was talking about.

I'm surprised to hear this, that it's possible to experience different ultimate realities, depending on the meditation practiced.  Also, that one should be experiencing and understanding Dependent Origination, not the insight knowledges.


RE: Vimalaramsi vs Sayadaw teachings?
7/31/15 3:46 PM as a reply to chris mc.
chris mc:
Wanted to get some comments on something I heard Bhante Vimaramsi say. 
This talk, (from

It's a ten minute talk, it's best to listen to the first few minutes of the talk, but paraphrasing, he's saying that with way that vipassana meditation is taught and practiced, tension and tight concentration causes people to experience something that isn't Nibbana, or isn't the Nibbana that the Buddha was talking about.

I'm surprised to hear this, that it's possible to experience different ultimate realities, depending on the meditation practiced.  Also, that one should be experiencing and understanding Dependent Origination, not the insight knowledges.

Hi Chri MC,  Just a quick note, from my current view it seems that the Insights are Insights, no matter the method.  I think the real key is what does one do with the Insights after they are realized.

For instance, being aware of the Breath cycle, the long breathing, the short breathing, what is bodily tense or relaxed during each, what is mentally tensed or relaxed during each. 

One can look at the breathing and observe for a million years, but if one does not then use this information, what good is it, have we really understood this information?

For example Mindfulness with Breathing, 

The Breathing Fabrication conditions the Bodily Fabrication which then conditions the Mental Fabrication which then conditions the Dhamma Fabrication, then round and round, through the cycle, and also through the daily life movements.  

These teachers probably are teaching the same thing, just with different words, and people come in with different evolutionary and social prior conditionings, so different methods are sometimes needed in different circumstances.

Just another view of views , I suppose.


And to be fair, Bhante Vimilaramsi teaches more than just the TWIM method, and Mahasi Sayadaw taught more than just a Vipassana Noting Method.  In both instances, it may be fair to say, those are the introductory trainings.  But, while being introductory, they can also lead very deep.

Similarities, they both teach/taught Jhana, Insight, Sila, Right Effort, etc. etc.  It jmay be that alot of people want a quick and dirty method, and gloss over all the rest of it.

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