This type of Dukkha Vedana appears at three interval before the last and most severe Vedana. They each appear and remain for quite a long time before each subsides by itself without being alleviated or countered by the various means. After having subsided for a while, it then reappears. This happens three times. Each time these Vedana remain and pervade over the whole body for a long time before subsiding, until the fourth time when it is the turn of the fourth and most severe Vedana, or the greatest onslaught of Dukkha, to occur. When this happens every part of the body becomes like a stack of flames. The external parts of the body seem like they are being baked, while the internal seem like they are being smitten by hammers and pierced by sharp and pointed metal objects. During that time there is excruciating pain in every part of the body which appears as if it is about to fall apart into pieces and spread into the different directions. This is due to the power of the severe Dukkha Vedana blazing from all directions.
Once this severe Dukkha Vedana appears, there is not a chance of alleviating it so as to lighten the burden placed on the body. All it seems to be doing is to hit and smash the body to pieces. Even if the Citta is engaged in the investigation of some other aspects of Dhamma at this time, it must now turn round and concentrate all its strength with Sati and Panna to seriously investigate, or else the body and the Citta will all become the sea of flame; because this Dukkha Vedana is very profound and severe, and is just about to destroy the body and cause the Heart to shake and tremble due to the fear of death. Fearing that it might not be able to persevere because the whole body is turning into a heap of fire, not a single part can remain cool and not be disturbed by this type of Vedana.
From the time one begins sitting to the occurrence of the severe Vedana, if one has not experienced this before, one will probably not be able to distinguish between the small Vedana and the severe Vedana. There is apprehension that one would assume the small Vedana, which are like offspring's, to be the severe Vedana, although the severe Vedana might not have been awakened yet. But if one has experienced it before, one will know immediately the different kinds of Vedana, because the severe Vedana will not appear before five or six hours has elapsed. Before this, they are all small Vedana which are like children teasing. For one who has not sat for a long time before, and who has not experienced this, one will probably experience the children of Dukkha Vedana in the beginning stages within the first two or three hours. This will cause Dukkha and anxiety from that time on. If Sati-Panna is not capable of correcting the situation, one might not be able to remain seated. One might have to give up one's sitting position within the first two or three hours, even though the severe Vedana has not appeared yet. One might assume that one had met with the severe Vedana and had not been able to withstand it. In truth one has not yet got to the climax.
For one who is used to sitting in Samadhi Bhavana and has gained some calmness and who is also used to sitting for quite some time, like two, three, or four hours continuously, during each exertion one will know the various kinds of Vedana quite well. If one had not experienced the severe Vedana before, one will probably consider each of the small Vedana that appears at two or three intervals, and then subsides by itself, to be the severe Vedana. But when one really gets to meet the severe Vedana, all the other Vedana are like small matters, because the intensity of these two Vedana differs immensely like an elephant to a cat.
When the severe Vedana is fully manifested, all the organs of the body appear to be very painful and agonizing. It seems like they are really about to break up at that time. The burning sensation around the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are very intense as if someone is setting fire at those places for cooking purposes. The various pieces of bone and tissue are as if being smitten into pieces by hammers due to the severity of the painful sensation. There does not seem to be a place that the body and Citta can use as a refuge. The whole body appears to be on fire. The only things that can withstand this are Sati-Panna, Saddha, Viriya, with the support of endurance and perseverance, not allowing one to give up one's position to the opposition that is storming in full-scale attack as if to smash one into pieces right there and then without allowing one the chance to continue on living. When one is 'driven into the corner' the Citta cannot seek any out of the situation other than to firmly determine to face up to the point of life or death with Sati-Panna. This is for the sake of finding out the truth of the body and the Citta that one can only come to know and come to see by this exertion.
The wish for Vedana to disappear and the wavering and faltering thoughts of not being able to withstand this, for example, are Samudaya, the factor that enhances Dukkha to increase and become more intense. These thoughts must definitely not be allowed to appear during this time, if one does not want to be dishonourably defeated. There is only Sati-Panna that one must use to devise the various means to cope with the Vedana that appears during that time, by way of separating the body, Vedana, and the Citta; one can analyse and compare them until seeing clearly the truth about each one of them with Panna.
In separating the body, one should concentrate the investigation on the point where Dukkha is most profound, more than at any other point. For instance, if the bone in the foot or at the knee is the site of the most Dukkha, one then establishes the Citta and Sati to investigate at that point. Is this bone Dukkha? Or is Dukkha this bone? If this bone is really Dukkha, as one presumes, how is it that when Dukkha disappears this bone does not disappear with the Dukkha? If they are one and the same as understood, both of them must disappear together in accordance with natural truth principles. Besides, after a person dies and all the Dukkha in this body vanishes, this bone still remains. When the body is being burned, does this bone show any signs of Dukkha? If it does not show any signs of Dukkha, not being painful and irritated at all, until it is totally burned down to ashes, would it not be shameful to assume and assess that this bone is Dukkha? Truly, this bone is not Dukkha as previously understood.
Is it not being foolish right in the presence of this bone and the other parts of the body which have the same characteristics and which are not Dukkha as is being claimed? And if Dukkha is really this bone, and this bone has existed ever since birth right up to the present day, how is it that Dukkha only appears when one is sitting in Samadhi Bhavana? Why does Dukkha not occur constantly just like this bone that has existed since the first day of birth? If this is the case, taking this bone as Dukkha or Dukkha as this bone must be seeing incorrectly. This is incorrect view and contrary to the truth. This is a disgrace and not in accordance with truth principles.
While doing the investigation and analysis, separating the body from Vedana so as to see the truth about them, the Citta and Sati-Panna must be attending and performing the work in earnest. The Citta cannot be sent elsewhere. It must be revolving with the work of investigation. This investigation must be done thoroughly and repeatedly, back and forth, until understanding clearly. It does not matter how many times one investigates. The importance is to investigate until one fully understands, which is the purpose of this work. Once one understands clearly even at just a single part, the Citta will naturally pervades into the other parts which which have the same characteristics.
Continuing further at that time, one then separates the Citta and Vedana, comparing them thoroughly and scrupulously with Sati-Panna, the same way as with the separating out of the body and Vedana for investigation. One can probe by enquiring: which is really which? Is the Citta Vedana? Or is Vedana the Citta? If the Citta is truly Vedana as understood, when Dukkha disappears, why is it that the Citta does not disappear also? And if Vedana is the Citta, so long as the Citta exists, this Dukkha Vedana must also exist. But how come the Dukkha Vedana arises and ceases even though the Citta remains to know and to be the Citta all the time, Akaliko, and does not cease along with Vedana? Is such is the case, would it not be contrary to the truth in taking the Citta and Vedana to be one and the same thing? And is it not disgraceful to the truth in twisting it and turning it into falsehood following one's barbarous views and understanding?
In analysing both the body and Vedana, and the Citta and Vedana, Sati-Panna must be revolving within the work at hand and must not be sent elsewhere. During that time, the more Dukkha Vedana manifests itself, the more will Sati-Panna be involved in the investigation without allowing any lapse, to find out the truth concerning these things that one wants to know and understand. Whether Vedana is going to increase, decrease, or disappear, the importance is to know it within the field of investigation. The important thing is not to wish for Dukkha Vedana to disappear before one has fully investigated and understood the truth concerning the body, Vedana, and the Citta: that they are different from on another.
What is really the truth concerning each one of them? One investigates until understanding about the body, Vedana, and the Citta. When one has truly understood with Sati-Panna, then the body is just the body and does not consider itself to be Dukkha, to be Vedana. Vedana is just Vedana; it does not consider itself to be the body, to be the Citta. Even the Citta is just the Citta; it does not consider itself to be the body, to be Vedana, like one used to suppose and assume during the time before one had investigated and understood. As soon as Sati-Panna has comprehensively investigated, all the Dukkha Vedana then disappears spontaneously, not increasing any further. The Citta then converges perfectly to the point where it ceases to acknowledge anything.
On the other hand, even if the Citta does not converge perfectly, it will not be disturbed by Vedana. The body is real. The Citta is real. Vedana is real. They each are real. Thy each exist within their realm of truth. During this time of truth, one will come to see the marvel of the Citta and its boldness. That it is capable of separating itself from the various kinds of Vedana is marvellous beyond speculation. In addition, there also arises the courage to face up to any 'life or death' situation without fear and firmly. This is due to one's clear and penetrative understanding of the nature of Vedana that used to haunt oneself, causing one to be fearful of living and dying. In the future, no matter how severely Vedana is manifested, the Heart will be able to investigate like it previously investigated and understood. Knowing and seeing in this manner is truly seeing and knowing the Sacca Dhamma with Sati-Panna, even is it is not the seeing and knowing on the final level where the Kilesa are totally cut down. For the total eradication of the Kilesa, one also must depend on this method as one's means of practice in the future.
One who is courageous and daring in facing up to Dukkha Vedana by this method of investigation will not give up his position ungracefully. He will triumph through this method without any doubt. One will also come to see the fresh footprints of the Teacher (Sasada) and the Savaka who had just recently walked past in succession. One might forget that the Lord Buddha had entered into Parinibbana 2500 years before which is quite a long time ago, because the truth and the Sasada is one and the same. The true Sasada is not time and place and people where it can be changed to appear to be far away like 2500 years. One should know that wherever truth is, that is where the Sasada is. Because Dhamma arises from the truth that has been investigated thoroughly until seeing clearly, not by any other means.
Therefore, one who is capable of investigating Dukkha Vedana until arriving at the truth of the body, of Vedana, and of the Citta, will come to see clearly and successively the Dhamma that is not dependent at all on the factors of time and place as in the following declaration: “Behold Ananda, if the practice of Dhamma in accordance with the way of Dhamma is still there, the Arahant will not disappear from this world.” This is the instruction that has been spoken just very recently; the sound had just barely disappeared. Because the Dhamma, the Truth, does not depend on time, but is constantly and consistently true. There is not anything that can be greater than the truth in the Three Worlds.
The discussion on the method of investigation of Dukkha Vedana has been presented briefly, practical enough as a guide for those who are of the fighting breed in the struggle of salvaging life and existences; making short the state of birth and death, not allowing it to expand endlessly into the various realms of existences; for the attainment of Vimutti (deliverance) where there are no more worries with the heaps of Dukkha, both large and small, for a long long time to come, which is so much of a burden and anxiety; to use it to investigate the way out using the Dukkha in the Khandha as the sharpening stone for Sati-Panna making this Sati-Panna very sharp. It is up to each one to devise various suitable means of which there are too many to be discussed thoroughly here. This is because the investigation of the various aspects of Dhamma depends on the technique each individual devises and uses to liberate himself.
One who thinks, reflects, and considers, will be the one to find the way out of the heap of Dukkha, the prison of Samsara Vatta, having Nibbana as the abode, eternal peace and happiness. But for the one who fears Dukkha and who will not investigate, this is like preserving a thorn-head embedded in one's foot to become worse to the point where the foot might have to be amputated, making the foot unusable and crippling oneself. For one who can see the danger and quickly have the thorn removed, however great the pain might be during that time, one is willing to endure it. The wound will heal as the days go by. The pain does not last for a long time. There is a possibility that it will one day heal making one free of Dukkha and anxiety in the future due to one's courage in facing up to Dukkha so that one can come to experience happiness. This person is making happiness and well-being for himself in the correct way. The same way with one who is courageous in facing up to and investigating Dukkha Vedana in the Khandha. Regardless of the intensity of Dukkha, whether small or great, one is capable of investigating until seeing thoroughly all aspects of the truth. One does not preserve it so as to build up a stack of flames that burns oneself for an immeasurable length of time. What is termed as Nibbana will become one's satisfactory possession one day definitely. This is inescapable.
It is said that Dukkha should be known; it should be known very distinctly and profoundly. The method that has been discussed is truly making known and relinquishing the two Sacca of Dukkha and Samudaya, with the Magga of Sati-Panna doing the work of simultaneously uprooting the Kilesa. It is said that Dukkha should be known; Samudaya should be relinquished. If Sati and Panna which are the factors of Magga are not taken to perform the work of making known and relinquishing, then what can be taken to do this work of making known and relinquishing? Nirodha, the cessation of the Kilesa and the various heaps of Dukkha only comes about dependent on Sati and Panna doing the work. At the same moment, Dukkha will diminish eventually ceasing totally due to the power of Magga. This is how it can be accomplished.
The relationship of the Four Sacca Dhamma is inseparable; they must function interdependently like a chain from beginning to end. The more powerful is Sati-Panna, the factor of Magga, the weaker will be the strength of the various kinds of Kilesa. Even so with Nirodha, the cessation of the various heaps of Dukkha, which will gradually come about corresponding to the strength of Magga until there is not any remnant of the Kilesa and Dukkha remaining within, transforming one into the total state of purity without having to seek from elsewhere but existing in the Heart that is totally rid of the Kilesa. The term 'True Buddha' means precisely this. Likewise, the terms 'True Dhamma' and 'True Sangha' which is just this purity. What is the term 'Dhamma'? It is just precisely this state of purity, the true Dhamma that the world has venerated and sought for a long time.
One who is truly desirous of experiencing the true Dhamma should not overlook the training of the Heart which is at every moment ready to be transformed. In interpreting the term Dhamma as to what it really means, one can do so endlessly without ever coming to fully understand it, with all doubts eliminated. No matter how imaginatively one interprets, one will still never eliminate the uncertainties. The same way with one who has never seen precious gems before, even if one is shown a photograph of them piled high as a mountain, it will be just a picture of those precious gems. It is not the real precious gems which can eliminate one's uncertainties by merely seeing that picture. But the doubts and uncertainties can only be eliminated by seeing the real precious gems. Therefore, the nature of Dhamma is mysterious when it has not been discovered. No matter how much one has read Dhamma and studied Dhamma, it is comparable to showing a photograph of the precious gems to one who has never seen and never discovered them before. It is not capable of eliminating doubts and uncertainties.
In order to eliminate the questions and perplexities about Dhamma, as to what it really is, one should study the nature of the Heart which is directly the nature of Dhamma. The more one learns the more one will come to know about Dhamma until knowing thoroughly within one's Heart. Once one understands clearly and completely within one's Heart, one will eliminate all the questions immediately and simultaneously. One will be forever without doubts. What is Dhamma? It is the very things that are known and seen within one's Heart. What else can it be? Although it is fully understood within one's Heart, when describing it, one cannot describe it correctly in accordance with the truth of this true Dhamma. It is indescribable. One can only compare and describe it metaphorically. It is like when there is an itch inside the throat, it is beyond one's ability to scratch at the right spot. When scratching, one can only scratch externally. But as far as the internal where the real itch is, one cannot scratch at the right spot even though one knows fully well within one's Heart.
As such, the nature of the Dhamma is very delicate and subtle as it is understood generally, and has always been enquired after by many who are in doubt. But no one has been able in the past to explain it well enough to clear up all the doubts and questions, and it is quite definite that no one will in the future. The practitioner who strenuously trains himself by way of facing up unwaveringly to Dukkha Vedana with Sati-Panna will usually come to experience this Dhamma which is hard to interpret and hard to describe much sooner than it should normally be experienced.
There are apparently many in the practice circle who favour the method of sitting over a long stretch of time in Bhavana as the means of disciplining and training themselves just like the other methods, such as the methods of fasting and reduced dieting. They give the reason that in sitting for a long time, one just doesn't sit like a dummy that does not think; one rather sits using one's head – Sati-Panna; one uses one's head to investigate with Panna the truth of all the Vedana, which are the bases of all the Sacca Dhamma which is within the body and the Citta. Exposing the Dukkha Vedana with the method of changing one's posture, upon investigation, is really the way of one who fears Dukkha rather than the way of one who faces up to Dukkha so one may come to know the truth of Dukkha. This is because the changing of posture conceals Dukkha and does not expose it so one can see it clearly enough to be convinced of one's ability to cope with it in the time of necessity.
In seeing the truth of the Sacca Dhamma, like Dukkha for example, one will really see and know only by coping with it. This kind of realization is truly profound and penetrative. One gains an unshakeable confidence and is not any more fearful of Dukkha Vedana, no matter how severe it may be, either in the present or in the future. Furthermore, during the final moments, at the time of death, although it is one's instincts to be very fearful of death, one will not exhibit any more fear because both the fear of death and the fear of Dukkha are really one and the same thing. They are contrary to truth due to the unsound investigation of the natural truth principles. However, once having investigated thoroughly and realised penetratively the truth of Dukkha and of the true nature of birth and death, what then is the reason for being fearful?
Both the four elements (Dhatu) of earth, air, fire and water, that form the body; and the Heart's totality, are original nature and cannot be destroyed. They only transform in accordance with conditions; like for instance, when the four Dhatu dissolve, they only return to their original nature. They are not annihilated. While the Heart that resides in the forms of the various beings of the three realms and the Heart that does not take hold of any forms, like the purified Heart of the Lord Buddha, the Pacceka Buddhas and the Enlightened Ones, all remain unchanged. Thus it is unfounded to be fearful. It can only create the unnecessary feelings of anxiety and despair which are caused by one's thoughts.
The realization of the Sacca Dhamma from this method of sitting where one investigates and copes with Sati and Panna is incredibly faster than it should normally be. Once having realized, it will remain to be one's living testimony which provides one with the unshakeable confidence and conviction forever. Although from time to time one might not be able to investigate to see the truth like one used to do, the truth that one had realized cannot be otherwise; it will always remain to be the truth within one's Heart. The only alternative left open is for one to continue on practising until one becomes proficient and one's wisdom gains more depth and subtlety, to the point where one can understand penetratively and relinquish completely.
Therefore, the investigation of Dukkha Vedana that either arises from sitting over a long stretch of time, or from sickness, or from hardships, is the way for one to realise the Sacca Dhamma. It is obvious and poses no problems to those of the fighting breed who really cope, with Sati-Panna. On the other hand, Dukkha Vedana is of no benefit to the weak who only wish for Dukkha to disappear without ever investigating for a way out. Furthermore, the Dukkha Vedana will be harmful to that individual; the intensity of it will correspond to the intensity of his thinking going against the truth. For this reason, although Dukkha is with everyone, there are not many who can gain benefit from it. Usually, it is more the case of taking the undesirable Dukkha to burn oneself by thinking contrary to Dhamma, instead of investigation for the uprooting of Samudaya from within one's Heart and body according to one's ability, which is the teaching of the Sasana.