Thursday, August 2, 2018
Here are a few notes on my experience of revisiting the Mahasi Sayadaw Noting technique (aka Mahasi Sayadaw style vipassana).
For some reason, I felt like carrying out an all day experiment, using considerable effort to keep noting all day long. The noting or labelling was to take place every second or so, and during all activities. I also did it during a few 20 minute sittings in silence.
Although I was fond of this technique before, it seems to have worn out its usefulness for now. In fact, I found it rather tiresome and effortful, versus the simple self-awareness, nondual type contemplation I'm used to these days.
- Gives some instant focus and withdrawal from discursive thought, analysis etc
- Tunes one into one's environment and the 6 sense doors rapidly
- Makes one ultra sensitive to the senses
- Brings experience back to basic sensations and perceptions, instead of conceptual stories
- Becomes tiresome after long extended periods, especially due to the effort in keeping up the noting after each event
- Becomes mechanical and forced after a while, even when done lightly
- Too clunky to be used on subtle levels of experience
- The noting or labelling can get in the way of direct experience at times
- Focuses and habituates the mind to constantly 'go out' into phenomena, and completely ignores consciousness or awareness itself (subject).
- The mind becomes too tense after long periods
- Can strengthen the ego, false self, by engaging it in this whole project of 'doing' and 'getting somewhere' over time.
The technique has some ardent followers and proponents who say that it can lead to "stream-entry". It seems MS created it a century ago to help 'busy people' get into mindfulness and vipassana easier. It seems to be used in monastic and retreat situations these days mostly. I have read/spoken to/heard both success stories from people using the technique (ie attained to what they think is stream-entry), to dissatisfied students having used it for years (30 years in one case) without delivering 'the goods'.
I have my doubts now about how far the technique can actually take a practitioner. I highly doubt it would lead to the destruction of the false self/ego, and seems never to really lead to a thorough investigation of one's identity and underlying beliefs about experience.. but instead lead one to get into the minutiae of one's environment and senses.
Summary IME- it has it's place and is great for certain situations, and as an auxiliary practice, but is unlikely to deliver hard results in terms of self-realisation and transcending the false "I".