The word ‘meditation’ has many meanings to the users and to the listeners. People who meditate have various goals in their minds; hence, there are also various methods and techniques of meditation. There are meditations to achieve worldly goals—such as the various occult powers, healing power, to be able to do astral travel etc.—and there are meditations which have so-called spiritual goals, which are to attain or unite with the “highest” principle, the so-called God, Nirvana, Moksha, The Universe, The I Am etc. In general, meditation involves some kind of concentration, fixing one’s attention on a certain object—such as the breath, visualization, words/mantras etc.—for an extended period of time with the hope of eventually attaining what one is hoping to attain. Thus, a general feature of most meditations is an achievement, which will occur in the future.
There is one special kind of meditation which is different from most other kinds of meditation. This meditation is taught by The Buddha, more than 2500 years ago; it is called the vipassana meditation. This meditation is based on the existential fact taught by the Buddha, i.e. that everything in life is impermanent, and hence is unsatisfactory; this fact causes suffering for those who do not realize it: they cling tenaciously to their body & mind, and seek everlasting happiness and immortality, which they never find. The Buddha also taught, that this existential fact of suffering is caused by the inability of human beings to understand their own self, the me, which is created by its own thinking, which is so conditioned to pursue immortality and everlasting happiness. (Anatta-lakkhana-sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, 22.59). In order to achieve that, human beings always live in conflicts within his own mind and in conflicts with others; they always live in conflict between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’.
The Buddha taught, that with vipassana meditation—i.e. passively observing every movement of the body & mind (thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, hopes, despairs, pleasures, sufferings, etc.) at the present moment—human beings may achieve insight or enlightenment on the true nature of existence which is impermanent and unsatisfactory. With the dawn of insight, human beings are freed from attachment to the body & mind, to the self, and hence are freed from suffering. But it is impossible to achieve this freedom by the exertion of any effort on the part of the self to achieve it in the future, because the very self/me is the cause of suffering; the me could not possibly eliminate the me.
Thus the distinguishing features of vipassana meditation are: passivity, stopping, detachment, being in the present moment. As the Buddha said to the killer Angulimala: “I have stopped a long time ago. It is you who still keep running. Stop!” Being in the present moment continuously, in which the me/self and thoughts cease altogether, is the door which opens up towards freedom, according to the Buddha in Mulapariyaya-sutta (Majjhima Nikaya, 1).
Unfortunately, with the passing of time, in many vipassana meditation practice taught all over the world, these principles of vipassana meditation have shifted a long way from what the Buddha must have originally taught: ‘stopping’ has turned into ‘achieving’, and 'passivity' has turned into 'active concentration'. For many vipassana meditators these shifts may hardly be noticeable; but for certain meditators, they are faced with real difficulties in understanding passively the ways of the body & the mind, and thus experience insight and freedom, if they are told to exert an effort, through concentration, to achieve it. For the latter kind of vipassana meditators, this MMD (Meditasi Mengenal Diri) or ‘Self Awareness Meditation’ has been developed, which is believed to be the vipassana meditation originally taught by the Buddha, as found in the Bahiya-sutta (Udana 1.10).
Meditasi Mengenal Diri (MMD) - ‘Self Awareness Meditation’
The realization that the vipassana meditation practice that is commonly taught nowadays has shifted a long way from what must have been originally taught by the Buddha was inspired by the teachings of J. Krishnamurti in the 20th century. Krishnamurti criticized most meditation techniques which emphazise concentration, effort and technique. This also applies to many “vipassana techniques”.
According to Krishnamurti, such meditation techniques never result in freedom, never transform the human mind; on the contrary, such meditations only get the mind bogged down deeper and deeper in its conditionings and limitedness. Any concentration technique will only lead to a one-pointedness of the mind, which may produce a feeling of intense bliss, which is easily mistaken for enlightenment, but nevertheless ensnares the mind deeper in subtler conditionings and limitedness.
“Meditasi Mengenal Diri” (MMD) or “Self Awareness Meditation” is a special kind of vipassana meditation which has been developed during the past few years from the “traditionally” taught vipassana meditation. It has has been greatly modified along Krishnamurti’s teachings on passive awareness or choiceless awareness, which actually is a return to the original characteristics of vipassana meditation as originally must have been taught by the Buddha. Therefore, there are several important differences between the MMD vipassana meditation and the “traditional” vipassana meditation:
(1) The goal of vipassana meditation
When a “traditional” vipassana practitioner is asked, what is the goal of vipassana meditation, he/she usually answers: to eliminate greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and ignorance (moha), and thus achieve liberation from attachment to the body & mind (nama-rupa), which is called ‘Nibbana/Nirvana’. Thus, the goal of “traditional” vipassana meditation is derived from Buddhist doctrines. In general, the goal of vipassana meditation is believed to be achievable some time in the future.
What is the goal of MMD? The goal of MMD reveals a paradox. On the one side, it can be said that the goal of MMD is the complete cessation of the me/self, which means the complete cessation of suffering; theoretically speaking, this would be achieved in the future. But on the other side, as an actual praxis, the goal of MMD is not seen as located in the future, but rather to be achieved in the here & now, as a mental transformation. To be sure, the goal of MMD is to be aware deeply and continuously of the movements of the body & mind at the moment of their appearance, from moment to moment, in the here & now.
Therefore, theoretically speaking, the goal of MMD is not different from the goal of “traditional” vipassana meditation. However, in actual praxis there is a fundamental difference between the two vipassana versions.
The notion of a ‘goal’ always refers to a state to be achieved in the future; but, as has been said before, paradoxically the goal of MMD is to be here & now continuously. Therefore, in MMD it is no longer relevant talking about a ‘goal’ in the future, in MMD there is ‘no goal’. Moreover, the ‘goal’ of MMD is identical with its ‘method’, i.e. to be here & now continuously, which is a ‘non-method’ (see below).
This paradox is not taught in the explanation of “traditional” vipassana to its practitioners. Its goal—nibbana—is put in the future; moreover, it is often represented as a goal that is only attainable in the distant future, not in this present life.
The above-mentioned paradox of a transcendental goal could also be discerned in the texts of the Mahaprajnaparamita-sutras of the Mahayana, e.g.: the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra etc.
Thus, the goal of MMD is to be here & now continuously; in MMD one does not look to the future. If one could be in that state continuously, there would be a possibility for—it is the door which opens to—the ending of conflicts and of the existential suffering of human beings, which is sought after by human beings from time immemorial.
What the nature of the cessation of conflicts and of the existential suffering is is not contemplated in the practice of MMD, since it will become another mental discourse which will add another spiritual doctrine among other existing doctrines, and will only hinders one from the awareness of the present moment continuously, to see what is without the interference of any mental concepts and conditionings.
The “goal” of MMD is not only to understand the negative states of mind, such as greed, hatred and ignorance as understood in the “traditional” vipassana, but also to understand the positive states of mind, such as love (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). When both positive and negative states of mind are understood fully, then one is freed from rejecting the negative and attaching to the positive states of mind.
(2) The method/technique of vipassana meditation
There is a fundamental difference between the practice of the “traditional” vipassana and MMD.
In the “traditional” vipassana meditation, various techniques are taught which has to be performed by the meditator in order to achieve what is promised as its goal. For instance, in the Mahasi Sayadaw vipassana meditation, the following techniques are emphazised:
- to concentrate on a “main object” for an extended period of time;
- to note or label everything that is noticed during meditation (at least during the “early phases” of the practice);
- to practice sitting and walking meditation alternately in a formal meditation session;
- to slow down every movement of the body in order to be able to concentrate on it fully.
All these techniques are performed with “maximal effort” (viriya), with the intention to develop a strong concetration, to enable the arising of the expected various “insights” (nyanas), and eventually to attain liberation (nibbana).
On the other hand, in MMD:
- there is no concentration on a “main object” at all - since awareness, when developed passively, will by itself also develop strong mindfulness, but not concentration; rather than concentrating on a narrow object, awareness is kept naturally as broad as possible, encompassing all the senses and the mind itself (as the door for the emergence of memories of the past);
- every phenomenon arising in the body & the mind is noticed passively, without any effort to note or label it, which is of course another thinking process;
- the state of mind in awareness & mindfulness could be maintained in all postures and activities: sitting, standing, walking, lying down, and while performing all personal daily activities, without distinguishing & separating formal meditation sessions from daily activities—thus the same meditative state of mind will develop in a natural way and is maintained at all times when the me & thinking are not needed (for survival);
- all bodily movements in daily activities need not be slowed down deliberately—when the mindfulness is strong, bodily movements will slow down on their own accord; the slowing down of bodily movements is not developed deliberately as a meditation technique.
In short, in MMD there is no meditation technique at all. Moreover, in MMD there is no “effort” (viriya); to be here & now does not require any effort at all.
The exertion of any efforts would only hinder the thinking process and the me from ceasing naturally, would obstruct liberation. This is clearly borne out by the experience of Venerable Ananda Bhikkhu (the cousin of the Buddha) on the eve of the First Sangha Council, soon after the Buddha had passed away. Only arahats would be allowed to participate in the council. Since Ven. Ananda had not attained arahatship, he tried strenously to attain it all night long. But his strong effort did the opposite; it hindered the attainment of liberation. It was only at dawn, when he stopped his efforts altogether, did he achieve arahatship. (Vinaya Pitaka, Culavagga, Khandaka, 11)
Since there is no technique at all, and no efforts to attain anything at all, thus the meditator is freed from the ‘burden of meditation’, so that continuous awareness at the present moment, without any expectation in the future, becomes a state of passivity, stopping, stillness and perfect respite.
(3) Scriptural reference
Almost all “traditional” vipassana meditations use the famous Maha-satipatthana-sutta (Digha Nikaya, 22) as their reference. The sutta is full of Buddhist doctrines, so that often times it is difficult for meditators to distinguish doctrines from their actual personal experience when they try to implement them. The contemplations on the four groups of dhamma (bodily & mental phenomena) taught in the discourse are nothing more than intellectual analytical exercises and not an actual passive awareness on whatever phenomenon arising in the here and now. The late Ajahn Buddhadasa Mahathera characterized the sutta as “nothing more than a long list of names, a lengthy catalog of sets of dhammas. Although there are whole groups of dhammas, no method of practice is given or explained.” Instead of using the sutta, Ajahn Buddhadasa used the Anapanasati-sutta (Majjhima Nikaya, 118), to teach vipassana meditation.
On the other hand, MMD uses the Bahiya-sutta (Udana, 1.10) as its reference, where the Buddha gave a direct, very succinct and pure vipassana instruction to the ascetic Bahiya. Bahiya was not a disciple of the Buddha, and he had never heard of any Buddhist doctrines before. Nevertheless, the Buddha did not impart to Bahiya his doctrines; rather, he taught Bahiya direct vipassana meditation without any doctrine as its foundation, and immediately Bahiya attained his final liberation. Exactly the same instruction was also given by the Buddha to Malunkyaputta, an old monk, who also attained final liberation after practising it for some time (Malunkyaputta-sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, 35.95). The passive observation of every sensory and mental stimuli without the arising of any thinking process is taught by the Buddha in the Mulapariyaya-sutta (Majjhima Nikaya, 1).
Since the vipassana instruction given by the Buddha to the ascetic Bahiya is free of Buddhist doctrines, it becomes a perfect means of instruction for non-Buddhists, and for Buddhists themselves as well. Moreover, the instruction given to Bahiya is consistent with the aforementioned main characteristics of vipassana meditation, which are expounded by the Buddha and J. Krishnamurti.
Since most “traditional” vipassana meditations are taught in the Buddhist settings and conducted at a monastery, it is inevitable that some kind of ritualism always creeps into the practice. One exception is the vipassana meditation taught by S.N. Goenka; its venue is free from all religious symbolism, so that meditators do not tend to perform any rituals during its retreats. Attachment to rituals itself is one of the mental fetters that has to be eliminated before liberation could occur.
In MMD, although the retreat is conducted in a vihara (monastery), it is strongly recommended that during the whole retreat period no religious rituals be performed, such as prostration to the Buddha image, paritta chanting, daily taking the precepts, etc.
As far as Muslim participants are concerned, they are allowed to perform their obligatory daily prayers.
MMD retreats have been conducted since the year 2000 at various viharas and other places throughout Indonesia. Currently, MMD retreats are conducted regularly in:
- West Java – at Cipanas and Siripada Vihara (Tangerang)
- Central Java – Mendut Vihara and Watugong Vihara (Semarang)
- Bali - Brahmavihara-arama (Buleleng District, Northern Bali)
Irregular MMD retreats are also conducted in:
- East Kalimantan – Muladharma Vihara (Samarinda)
- Central Java – Dhamma Sundara Vihara (Solo)
- North Sumatera.
Two kinds of MMD retreats are offered: the weekend retreats and the one-week retreats. The annual schedule of MMD retreats, complete with addresses for registration, can be downloaded from the bilingual MMD’s website: http://meditasi-mengenal-diri.org. Further information and discussions on MMD can be found in the bilingual MMD’s Discussion Forum: http://meditasi-mengenal-diri.ning.com.
All MMD retreats are offered free of charge, except for a voluntary donation given to the vihara at the end of the retreat. The teacher and dharma-workers do not receive any remunerations whatsoever.
Currently, MMD is taught only by Hudoyo Hupudio, MD, MPH, 65. But in the future it is anticipated that concerned persons will follow in his step, who are competent and experienced enough to share and teach MMD for the edification of many people.
January 1, 2009,