Meditation without virtue
Wisdom without compassion. 

A householder’s Vinaya


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Virtue with meditation
Wisdom with compassion.
offered by
Allan Cooper
Householding meditators almost always try to fit their meditation practices into their daily lives instead of making their lives into their meditation practice. There are very real reasons why this is the case—typically, people feel too busy, have little or no support for their practice, and/or lack adequate instruction. is where a serious meditator can get clear instructions on how to plan and do a Home Retreat; get help in making one’s daily life into a proactive and workable Home Practice; and construct their own householder’s Vinaya.
    When we choose to make Home Practice our life, we do the best we can under whatever the inner and outer conditions are to incline the mind with a friendly determination toward mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-sampajañña) coupled with virtue (silā).
    When we do formal meditation, we incline our minds toward continuous mindfulness. When we work we incline our minds toward continuous work, and when we play we incline our minds toward continuous play. Training ourselves to include as much sati-sampajañña in all our activities, whether on the cushion, at work, or sipping coffee with friends, we are actively sculpting the mind/heart toward wholesomeness in all our activities. 
       The rest takes care of itself.
This mandala is commonly found in monasteries and retreat centers in the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition of Theravada Buddhist meditation. One such hangs in the entranceway at a monastery/retreat center in Lumbini, Nepal where I’ve practiced almost annually for many years. Over the years of glancing at it and sometimes taking time to study it, I’ve learned its lesson through practice. I’ve learned that when the mental factors of faith/confidence, energy/effort, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom with virtue are combined and balanced, many doors to spiritual insight can be opened. It takes a combination of all these mental factors with virtue in balance to open the door.
A consciously cultivated intentional mental training towards harmlessness linked with the cultivation of wholesome mind states is what separates a spiritual meditation practice from a simple mental training. Virtue and clear comprehension (sampajañña) combined with the power of meditation opens the door to spiritual realization, which otherwise remains closed when not linked together. The combined practice of mindfulness with the other listed mental factors, and virtue, naturally channels the mind/heart towards a saintly happiness because one’s effort is rooted in wisdom and compassion. Mindfulness opens the door to Wisdom, virtue opens the door to Compassion, and together they open the door to meditative freedom.
Buddha sunset


Saddha/faith or confidence

Viriya/energy or effort




The mandala visually describes the ways these mental factors link and the way the mind works when mindfulness is fully operational when coupled with virtue. The outer circle lists the five mental factors that are the necessary components for mindfulness to become operational. The inner circle sila is at the center and at the heart for the entire system, and without all combined, the work towards liberation cannot truly begin. The mandala is a visual way to learn how this wholesome combination of mental factors can train a meditator’s mind/heart towards liberation.
Mindfulness meditation, when practiced alone and not linked to virtue and clear comprehension, will simply teach the mind to focus and to become calm. In current times, mindfulness meditation is commonly used as a psychological therapy for the treatment of various mental conditions, used in the medical profession for the treatment of pain, used in sports for enhanced performance, and now it’s even being used by the American military to train snipers in order to become more accurate in their aim. Clearly, despite being used successfully in these arenas, mindfulness training is not a spiritual or even always a wholesome practice in and of itself. In these cases cited, mindfulness training is a health modality or a productivity technique and is not intended or being used for the cultivation of wholesomeness of the mind/heart.
Sayadaw U Pandita.
Sayadaw U Pandita.

If you want to understand your mind. Sit down and see for yourself.



Much can be accomplished in a week or a ten days Home Retreat. However, shorter periods of time, even just one day, can also be extremely valuable.

Allan Cooper
Allan Cooper
Allan Cooper has practiced vipassana and samatha meditation practices since 1974. His primary teachers are the Burmese meditation master Sayadaw U Pandita, his student, Sayadaw U Vivekananda, Abbot, Panditarama International Vipassana Meditation Center, Lumbini, Nepal, and Joseph Goldstein, co-founder of Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA, USA. Allan is a retired hospice and mental health RN and has been teaching meditation and leading retreats for many years.

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