The identifying feature of Dhammakaya meditation is the meditator's attention towards the centre of the body as two finger breadths above the navel. The promoters of this approach say this is the same point as the end-point of the deepest breath in mindfulness of breathing meditation (Anapanasati), although the early Buddhist texts do not mention any such physical location. It is called an approach rather than a method because any of the forty methods of samatha meditation mentioned in the Visuddhimagga can be adapted to it.
Dhammakaya meditation was re-discovered by Phramongkolthepmuni on the full-moon night of September 1914 at Wat Bangkuvieng, Nonthaburi. This monk had practised several other forms of meditation popular in Thailand at the time with teachers such as Phrasangavaranuwongse (Phra Acharn Eam) of Wat Rajasiddharam, Bangkok; Phra Kru Nyanavirat (Phra Acharn Po) of Wat Pho, Bangkok; Phra Acharn Singh of Wat Lakorn Thamm, Thonburi; Phramonkolthipmuni (Phra Acharn Muy) of Wat Chakrawat, Bangkok and Phra Acharn Pleum of Wat Kao Yai, Amphoe Tha Maka, Kanchanaburi. He claimed that the Dhammakaya approach he discovered had nothing to do with the teachings he had received from these other masters - but he did have previous knowledge of the Sammā-Arahaṃ mantra before discovering the technique. The technique of directing attention towards the centre of the body is already described in an obscure 18th century Sinhalese meditation manual that was translated into English as Manual of a Mystic. It was probably introduced into Sri Lanka by Thai monks during the Buddhist revival in the mid-eighteenth century, and taught to forest dwelling monks of the Asgiriya Vihara fraternity in the Kandyan Kingdom, who wrote it down. After rediscovering the technique, Phramonkolthepmuni first taught it to others at Wat Bangpla, Amphoe Bang Len, Nakhon Pathom in 1915. From 1916 onwards, when he was given his first abbothood, Dhammakaya Meditation became associated with his home temple of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. It is said that Phramongkolthepmuni was the rediscoverer of Dhammakaya meditation, because members of the Dhammakaya Movement believe that the Buddha became enlightened by attaining Dhammakaya, and that knowledge of this (equated with Saddhamma in the Dhammakaya Movement) was lost 500 years after the Buddha entered Parinirvana.
Phramongkolthepmuni devoted his time from 1916-1959 to teaching Dhammakaya meditation. He ran a meditation workshop (rong ngan tahm vijja) from 1935-1959 which was reserved for gifted meditators able to perform Dhammakaya meditation on the Vipassana level - to meditate as a team in shifts, twenty-four hours-a-day, with the brief to use the meditation to research the underlying nature of reality. Since 1959, Dhammakaya meditation has been taught by Phramongkolthepmuni's disciples at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Wat Luang Por Sod Dhammakayarama, Amphoe Damnoen Saduak, Ratchaburi Province and Wat Rajorasaram, Bang Khun Thian, Thon Buri (district). Of these, Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Wat Luang Por Sod Dhammakayarama have published instructive books on Dhammakaya meditation in English and offer training retreats for the public. Instruction and the documentary programme 'Meditation for all' based on Dhammakaya meditation are broadcast by the satellite channel DMC.TV. Dhammakaya meditation is also featured on the in-flight relaxation channel of Thai Airways in English and Thai.
As with many forms of Buddhist meditation Dhammakaya meditation has both samatha and vipassana stages. The goal of Dhammakaya meditation at the samatha level is to overcome the Five hindrances. When the mind becomes peaceful and stable as the result of successful practice for tranquillity, the mind will overcome the Five Hindrances and reach a state of one-pointedness (ekaggata) also known in Dhammakaya Meditation as the 'standstill of the mind' (i.e. to a state where it is free of thought). The indication of reaching this stage is that a bright clear sphere will arise spontaneously at the centre of the body. The mind should then be directed continuously at the centre of this sphere helping to transport the mind towards the ekalyânamagga path inside. attainment at the level of vipassana arises. There are several ways of focussing the attention at the centre of the body, namely:
- following down through the seven bases of the mind, namely: the nostril, the corner of the eye, the centre of the head, the roof of the mouth, the centre of the throat, the middle of the stomach at the level of the navel and two finger breadths above the previous point.
- visualising a mental image at the centre of the body: characteristically, a crystal ball [alokasaññâ] or a crystal clear Buddha image [buddhânussati] and repetition of the mantra ‘Samma-Araham’ (which means ‘the Buddha who has properly attained to arahantship’).
- placing the attention at the centre of the body without visualising
When one visualizes the mental object continuously, the mental object will gradually change in nature in accordance with the increasing subtlety of mind according to the following sequence:
- Preparatory image [parikamma nimitta]: the meditator perceives a vague, partial or undetailed version of the image they have imagined. Such a mental object indicates that the mind is in a state of preparatory concentration [khanika-samadhi] where it is still only momentarily.
- Acquired image [uggaha-nimitta]: this is where the meditator is able to perceive the image they have imagined with 100% of the clarity and vividness of the external image it is based on.
- Counter image [patibhaga-nimitta]: once the mind comes even closer to a standstill, so that it is no longer distracted by external things or thoughts, but is captivated by the image at the centre of the body, the image will change to be one which the meditator can expand or contract at will. The image will change from an image that is coloured to one which is transparent. The acquired image and the counter image, both indicate a state of mind on the threshold of the first absorption (see jhana in Theravada). This threshold state is called ‘neighbourhood concentration’ [upacâra-samâdhi] and indicates that the mind has become unified or one-pointed.
Although the meditator may start out with as many as forty different paths of practice, once the Hindrances are overcome, all methods converge into a single path [ekalyânamagga] of mental progress, which leads into meditation at the Vipassana level.
Dhammakaya meditation embarks on the Vipassana level at a later stage than some other meditation schools available in Thailand. In this school, insight relies on purity of ‘seeing and knowing’ (ñānadassana-visuddhi) i.e. a mind that is stable, and has penetrative insight into the reality of life and the world. Such insight will allow the meditator to have penetrative knowledge of the Five Aggregates (khanda), the Twelve Sense Spheres (āyatana), the Eighteen Elements (dhātu), the Twenty-Two Faculties (indriya), the Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. The meditator sees and knows clearly through their insight knowledge that all things composed of the Five Aggregates exhibit the Three marks of existence and for the meditator, there arises dispassion (ekantanibbida] and detachment (viraga) and accomplishes sequential shedding of the defilements until an end to defilements can be reached. The meditator sees and knows with the latter four of the five eyes the Buddha himself attained - but in Dhammakaya Meditation, the level of attainment is usually explained in terms of equivalent inner bodies which start with the physical human body and the subtle human body (astral body or subtle body) and which go in successively deeper layers until reaching the body of enlightenment (Dhammakaya) of the arahant - the number of bodies totalling eighteen.
|Five Eyes of the Buddha||Dhammakaya Meditation
Equivalent Inner Bodies
|Equivalent jhana level|
|physical eye (mamsacakkhu)||physical human body
subtle human body
|angelic eye (dibbacakkhu)||coarse angelic body
subtle angelic body
|eye of wisdom (paññâcakkhu)||coarse form brahma body
subtle form brahma body
|eye of omniscience (samantacakkhu)||coarse formless brahma body
subtle formless brahma body
|Buddha-eye (Buddhacakkhu)/ Dhamma-eye (Dhammacakkhu)||coarse Gotrabhu Dhammakaya body
subtle Gotrabhu Dhammakaya body
coarse stream enterer Dhammakaya body
subtle stream-enterer Dhammakaya body
coarse once-returner Dhammakaya body
subtle once-returner Dhammakaya body
coarse non-returner Dhammakaya body
subtle non-returner Dhammakaya body
coarse arahant Dhammakaya body
subtle arahant Dhammakaya body
|paths and fruits of Nirvana|
The process of purification corresponds with that described in the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta where the arising of brightness is accompanied by the inner eye [cakkhu], knowing [ñāna], wisdom [paññā] and knowledge [vijjā]. The meditator will see the nature of the Dhamma (inner mental phenomena) and according to the Lord Buddha’s advice to Vakkali he who sees the Dhamma will see the Buddha (see also Eternal Buddha). Thus, in Dhammakaya meditation, the Buddha's words are taken literally as seeing one's inner body of enlightenment which is in the form of a Buddha sitting in meditation.
- Dhammakaya Foundation (1998) The Life & Times of Luang Phaw Wat Paknam (Dhammakaya Foundation, Bangkok) p.42-48
- F.L.Woodward (trans.) 1916 Manual of a Mystic (Pali Text Society, Oxford) pp.11, 24, 28, 34, 47, 49, 56, 63, 73, 75, 108, 114; Heinz Bechert, Singhalesische Handschriften Teil II; Stuttgart, 1997.
- The Middle Way Meditation Retreat :: The Search is Over
- D.iii.273, A.i.60
- A.iii.62, Vbh.378
- Mahasatipatthâna Sutta D.ii.290ff.
- Dhammakaya Foundation (2004) Start Meditation Today!: The Simple Way to Inner Peace (Bangkok, Dhammakaya Foundation)
- Comp.203, Vism.125
- Cousins, L.S. (1995) The Origins of Insight Meditation in T. Skorupski (Ed) The Buddhist Forum IV (London SOAS), pp.38-39
- see the Criteria of the Doctrine and the Discipline (dhammavinaya-jānama) A.iv.143
- Nd2235 The Five Eyes of the Blessed One: physical eye (mamsacakkhu), angelic eye (dibbacakkhu], the eye of wisdom (paññācakkhu], the Buddha-eye (buddhacakkhu] and, the eye of omniscience (samantacakkhu)
- Phramongkolthepmuni (1997) The Heart of Dhammakaya Meditation (trans. Phra Maha Sermchai)(Dhammakaya Buddhist Meditation Foundation, Ratchaburi)
- Pathama Tathāgata Sutta S.v.41
- Sudsuang, R., Chentanez, V. & Veluvan, K. (1991) Effect of Buddhist Meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time, Physiology-Behavior, 50(3), pp. 543-548
- Kruawan Sookcharoen (1998) Meditation: A Therapeutic Tool For Managing Stress, unpublished M.Sc. Nursing Studies thesis (King’s College, London)
- Kasantikul, Suttipan & Worakul (1986) J. Psychiat. Ass. Thailand 31 pp.177-190
- Pupatana & Sribundith (1996) Under test: The Dhammadayada Training Scheme, The Light of Peace 3, pp8-10
- Dhammakaya Foundation (2004) Start Meditation Today!: The Simple Way to Inner Peace (Bangkok, Dhammakaya Foundation) ISBN 978-974-87855-4-7