as They Are
Collection of Talks on the
Training of the Mind
Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Translated from the Thai by
© 1988 Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Edition 1988; Revised 1994; Revised 1996
book is a free gift of Dhamma and may not be offered for sale,
for as the Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa has said, "Dhamma
has a value beyond all wealth and should not be sold like
goods in a market place."
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as if there were a pool of water in a mountain glen -- clear,
limpid, and unsullied -- where a man with good eyes standing
on the bank could see shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also
shoals of fish swimming about and resting, and it would occur
to him, 'This pool of water is clear, limpid, and unsullied.
Here are these shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also these
shoals of fish swimming about and resting;' so too, the monk
discerns as it actually is, that 'This is stress... This is
the origin of stress... This is the stopping of stress...
This is the way leading to the stopping of stress... These
are mental effluents... This is the origin of mental effluents...
This is the stopping of mental effluents... This is the way
leading to the stopping of mental effluents.' His heart, thus
knowing, thus seeing, is released from the effluent of sensuality,
released from the effluent of becoming, released from the
effluent of unawareness. With release, there is the knowledge,
'Released.' He discerns that, 'Birth is no more, the holy
life is fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further
for this world.'
great king, is a reward of the contemplative life, visible
here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and
more sublime. And as for another visible reward of the contemplative
life, higher and more sublime than this, there is none."
-- Samaññaphala Sutta
In these talks, as in Thai usage in general, the words 'heart'
and 'mind' are used interchangebly.
talks -- except for the first -- were originally given extemporaneously
to the monks at Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa's monastery,
Wat Pa Baan Taad, in Udorn Thani Province, Thailand. As might
be expected, they deal in part with issues particular to the
life of Buddist monks, but they also contain much that is
of more general interest. Since the monks who had assembled
to listen to these talks were at different stages in their
practice, each talk deals with a number of issues on a wide
variety of levels. Thus there should be something of use in
these pages for every reader interested in the training of
The title of this collection is taken from a Pali term that,
directly or indirectly, forms the theme of a number of the
talks: yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana -- knowledge
and vision of things as they are. My hope is that these talks
will aid and encourage the reader in his or her own efforts
to taste the liberation that comes with the reality to which
this term refers.
Ignorance to Emptiness
Today I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you some of
my own ignorance and doubts, with the thought that we all
come from the land of ignorance and doubt inasmuch as our
parents and their ancestors before them were people with the
defilements (kilesa) that led them to ignorance as
well. Even all of us here: There's probably not a one of us
who slipped through to be born in the land of intelligence
and freedom from doubt. This being the case, we all must be
subject to doubts. So today I'd like to take the opportunity
to resolve some of the issues that are on your minds by giving
a talk instead of answering the questions you have asked from
the standpoint of your various doubts, ranging from the most
basic to the highest levels -- which I'm not sure I can answer
or not. But the questions you have asked seem to follow so
well on one another that they can provide the framework for
a talk instead of a question-and-answer session.
Each of us, before starting the practice and in the beginning
stages of the practice, is sure to suffer from ignorance and
doubt, as these are the qualities that lead to the states
of becoming and birth into which all living beings are born.
When we lay the groundwork for the beginning of the practice,
we don't have enough starting capital for intelligence to
take the lead in every situation, and so ignorance is sure
to find an opening to take the lead. And as for this ignorance:
If we have never trained our intelligence to show us the way,
the ignorance that holds the upper hand in the heart is sure
to drag us in the wrong direction as a matter of course.
In the beginning of my own training, I felt doubts about whether
the teachings of the Buddha -- both the practices to be followed
and the results to be obtained -- were as complete as he said
they were. This was an uncertainty that ran deep in my heart
during the period in which I was debating whether or not to
practice for the really high levels of Dhamma -- or, to put
it bluntly, for the sake of nibbana. Before I had considered
practicing for the sake of nibbana, these doubts hardly
ever occurred to me, probably because I hadn't yet aimed my
compass in this direction. But after I had ordained and studied
the Dhamma -- and especially the life of the Buddha, which
was the story of his great renunciation leading to his Awakening
to the paths (magga), fruitions (phala), and
nibbana; and then the lives of the Noble Disciples
who, having heard the Dhamma from the Buddha, went off to
practice in various places until they too gained Awakening,
becoming witnesses to the truth of the Buddha and his teachings
-- when I had studied to this point, I felt a sense of faith
and conviction, and wanted to train myself to be like them.
the training that would make me be like them: How was I to
follow it? The Dhamma -- in other words, the practice that
would lead the heart to awaken to the higher levels of Dhamma
like the Buddha and his disciples: Would it still produce
the same sorts of results or would it be fruitless and simply
lead to pointless hardship for those who practiced it? Or
would it still give the full results in line with the well-taught
teachings (svakkhata-dhamma)? This was my primary doubt.
But as for believing in the Buddha's Awakening and that of
his disciples, of this I was fully convinced in my way as
an ordinary run-of-the-mill person. The thing that formed
a stumbling block to me in the beginning stages was the doubt
as to whether or not the path of practice I would take, following
the Buddha and his disciples, would lead to the same point
they had reached. Was it now all overgrown with brambles and
thorns? Had it changed into something other than the Dhamma
that leads away from suffering (niyyanika-dhamma),
even though the Buddha and his disciples had all followed
this very same path to the land of peace and security? This
was my doubt concerning the causes in the practice. As for
the results of the practice, I wondered whether the paths,
fruitions, and nibbana still existed as they had in
the time of the Buddha. These doubts, which ran deep in my
heart, I couldn't tell to anyone else because I felt there
was no one who could resolve them for me and dispel them from
This is why I had my hopes constantly set on meeting Ven.
Acariya Mun. Even though I had never met him before, I had
heard his reputation, which had been spreading from Chieng
Mai for quite some time, that he was a monk of distinction.
By and large, the people who would tell me about him wouldn't
speak of him in terms of the ordinary levels of noble attainments.
They'd all speak of his arahantship. This had me convinced
that when I had finished my studies in line with the vow I
had made, I'd have to make the effort to go out to practice
and live under his guidance so as to cut away the doubts running
deep in my heart at that time.
The vow I had made to myself was that I would complete the
third grade of Pali studies. As for Dhamma studies, whether
or not I would pass the examinations was of no concern to
me. As soon as I had passed the third-level Pali exams, I'd
go out to do nothing but practice. I'd absolutely refuse to
study or take the exams for the higher levels. This was the
vow I had made. So the aim of my education was the third level
of Pali studies. Whether it was my good or bad fortune, though,
I can't say, but I failed the Pali exams for two years, and
passed only on the third year. As for the three levels of
Dhamma studies, I ended up passing them all, because I was
studying and taking the examinations for both subjects together.
When I went up to Chieng Mai, it so happened that Ven. Acariya
Mun had been invited by Ven. Chao Khun Dhammachedi of Udorn
Thani to spend the Rains Retreat (vassa) in Udorn,
and so he had left his seclusion and come to stay at Wat Chedi
Luang in Chieng Mai at just about the time of my arrival.
As soon as I learned that he was staying there, I was overwhelmed
with joy. The next morning, when I returned from my alms round,
I learned from one of the other monks that earlier that morning
Ven. Acariya Mun had left for alms on that path and had returned
by the very same path. This made me even more eager to see
him. Even if I couldn't meet him face to face, I'd be content
just to have a glimpse of him before he left for Udorn Thani.
next morning before Ven. Acariya Mun went on his alms round,
I hurried out early for alms and then returned to my quarters.
There I kept watch along the path by which he would return,
as I had been told by the other monks, and before long I saw
him coming. I hurried to my quarters and peeked out of my
hiding to catch a glimpse of him, with the hunger that had
come from having wanted to see him for such a long time. And
then I actually saw him. The moment I saw him, a feeling of
complete faith in him arose within me. I hadn't wasted
my birth as a human being, I thought, because I now
had seen an arahant. Even though no one had told me that
he was an arahant, my heart became firmly convinced the moment
I saw him that that was what he was. At the same time, a feeling
of sudden ecstasy hard to describe came over me, making my
hair stand on end -- even though he hadn't yet seen me with
his physical eyes.
Not too many days after that, he left Wat Chedi Luang to head
for Udorn Thani together with his students. As for me, I stayed
on to study there at Wat Chedi Luang. When I had passed my
Pali exams, I returned to Bangkok with the intention of heading
out to practice meditation in line with my vow, but when I
reached Bangkok a senior monk who out of his kindness wanted
to help me further my Pali studies told me to stay on. I tried
to find some way to slip away, in keeping with my intentions
and my vow, because I felt that the conditions of my vow had
been met the moment I had passed my Pali exams. Under no terms
could I study for or take the next level of Pali exams.
It's a trait with me to value truthfulness. Once I've made
a vow, I won't break it. Even life I don't value as much as
a vow. So now I had to try to find some way or another to
go out to practice. It so happened during that period that
the senior monk who was my teacher was invited out to the
provinces, so I got the chance to leave Bangkok. Had he been
there, it would have been difficult for me to get away, because
I was indebted to him in many ways and probably would have
felt such deference for him that I would have had difficulty
leaving. But as soon as I saw my chance, I decided to make
a vow that night, asking for an omen from the Dhamma that
would reinforce my determination in going out this time.
After I had finished my chants, I made my vow, the gist of
which was that if my going out to meditate in line with my
earlier vow would go smoothly and fulfill my aspirations,
I wanted an unusual vision to appear to me, either in my meditation
or in a dream. But if I wouldn't get to go out to practice,
or if having gone out I'd meet with disappointment, I asked
that the vision show the reason why I'd be disappointed and
dissatisfied. But if my going out was to fulfill my aspirations,
I asked that the vision be extraordinarily strange and amazing.
With that, I sat in meditation, but no visions appeared during
the long period I sat meditating, so I stopped to rest.
soon as I fell asleep, though, I dreamed that I was floating
high in the sky above a large metropolis. It wasn't Bangkok,
but I don't know what metropolis it was. It stretched as far
as the eye could see and was very impressive. I floated three
times around the metropolis and then returned to earth. As
soon as I returned to earth, I woke up. It was four a.m. I
quickly got up with a feeling of fullness and contentment
in my heart, because while I had been floating around the
metropolis, I had seen many strange and amazing things that
I can't describe to you in detail. When I woke up, I felt
happy, cheerful, and very pleased with my vision, at the same
time thinking to myself that my hopes were sure to be fulfilled,
because never before had I seen such an amazing vision --
and at the same time, it had coincided with my vow. So that
night I really marveled at my vision. The next morning, after
my meal, I went to take leave of the senior monk who was in
charge of the monastery, and he willingly gave permission
for me to go.
From there I set out for Nakhorn Ratchasima Province, where
I spent the rains in Cakkaraad District. I started practicing
concentration (samadhi) and was amazed at how my mind
developed stillness and calm step by step. I could clearly
see my heart settle down in peace. After that the senior monk
who was my Pali teacher asked me to return to Bangkok to continue
my studies. He even had the kindness to come after me, and
then continued further out into the provinces. On the way
back he was going to have me accompany him to Bangkok. I really
felt in a bind, so I headed for Udorn Thani in order to find
Ven. Acariya Mun. The progress I had been making in concentration
practice, though, disappeared at my home village of Baan Taad.
The reason it disappeared was simply because I made a single
klod.  I hadn't even spent a
full month at Baan Taad when I began to feel that my mind
wasn't settling down in concentration as snugly as it had
before. Sometimes I could get it to settle down, sometimes
not. Seeing that things didn't look promising and that I could
only lose by staying on, I quickly left.
In coming from Nakhorn Ratchasima to Udorn Thani, my purpose
had been to catch up with Ven. Acariya Mun, who had spent
the rains at Wat Noan Nives, Udorn Thani. I didn't reach him
in time, though, because he had been invited to Sakon Nakhorn
before my arrival, so I went on to stay at Wat Thung Sawaang
in Nong Khai for a little more than three months.
May of that year, 1942, I left Nong Khai for the town of Sakon
Nakhorn, and from there went on to the monastery where Ven.
Acariya Mun was staying in Baan Khoak, Tong Khoam Township,
Muang District, Sakon Nakhorn Province. When I reached the
monastery, I found him doing walking meditation in the late
evening dusk. 'Who's that?' he asked, so I told him who I
was. He then left his meditation path and went to the meeting
hall -- he was staying in a room there in the meeting hall
-- and conversed with me, showing a great deal of kindness
and compassion for the incredibly ignorant person who had
come to seek him out. He gave me a sermon that first evening,
the gist of which I'll relate to you as far as I can remember
it. It's a message that remains close to my heart to this
'You've already studied a good deal,' he told me, 'at least
enough to earn the title of "Maha." Now I'm going to tell
you something that I want you take and think over. Don't go
thinking that I underrate the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, but
at the present moment no matter how much of the Dhamma
you've studied, it will serve no purpose in keeping with
your status as a scholar other than simply being an obstacle
to your meditation, because you won't be able to resist
dwelling on it and using it to take the measure of things
when you're trying to calm your heart. So for the sake of
convenience when fostering stillness in your heart, I want
you to take the Dhamma you've studied and put it away for
the time being. When the time comes for it to benefit you,
it will all come streaming in to blend perfectly with your
practice. At the same time, it will serve as a standard to
which you should make the heart conform. But for the time
being, I don't want you to concern yourself with the Dhamma
you've studied at all. Whatever way you make the mind still
or use discernment (pañña) to investigate
the khandhas, I want you first to restrict yourself
to the sphere of the body, because all of the Dhamma in
the texts points to the body and mind, but the mind doesn't
yet have any firm evidence and so can't take the Dhamma learned
from the texts and put it to good use. The Dhamma will simply
become allusions and labels leading you to speculate elsewhere
to the point where you become a person with no foundations,
because the mind is fixated on theory in a manner that isn't
the way of the Lord Buddha. So I want you to take what I've
said and think it over. If you set your mind on the practice
without retreating, the day will come when these words of
mine will impress themselves on your heart.' Of what I can
remember him saying that day, this is all I'll ask to tell
I felt an immediate sense of faith and conviction in him as
soon as I saw him face to face that night, both because of
my conviction in the Dhamma he was so kind to teach me, and
because of the assistance he gave in letting me stay under
his guidance. I stayed with him with a sense of contentment
hard to describe -- but also with a stupidity on my own part
hard to describe as well. He himself was very kind, helping
me with the Dhamma every time I went to see him.
practice when I first went to stay with him was a matter of
progress and regress within the heart. My heart hardly ever
settled down firmly for a long period of time. The first rains
I spent with him was my ninth rains, in as much as I had spent
my first seven rains in study, and one rains in Nakhorn Ratchasima
after starting to practice. During that first rains with Ven.
Acariya Mun, there was nothing but progress and regress in
the area of my concentration. After the rains, I went up to
stay on a mountain for more than two months and then returned
to be with him, my mind still progressing and regressing in
the same way. I couldn't figure out why it kept regressing
even though I was intent on practicing to the full extent
of my ability. Some nights I was unable to sleep all night
long out of fear that the mind would regress, and yet it would
still manage to regress. And especially when the mind was
beginning to settle down in stillness, I'd accelerate my efforts
even more, out of fear that it would regress as it had before
-- and even then it would regress on me. After a while it
would progress again and then regress again. When it had progressed,
it would stay at that level for only three days and then regress
right before my eyes. This disturbed me and made me wonder:
Why was it able to regress? Was it because I had let go of
my meditation word? Perhaps my mindfulness (sati) had lapsed
at that point. So I made a note of this and promised myself
that no matter what, I would have to keep the meditation word
in charge of my mind at all times. Regardless of where I would
go, and regardless of whether I was in our out of concentration
-- even when I was sweeping the monastery compound or doing
any of my chores -- I wouldn't allow my mind to slip away
from buddho, the word I liked to repeat in my meditation.
At this point, when the mind would settle down into stillness,
if it could continue to think of the meditation word buddho
in that stillness, I wouldn't let go of it. If the mind was
going to regress in any way, this was where I would have to
As soon as I had taken note of this point and had made my
promise, I started repeating the word buddho. As I
was repeating it, the mind was able to settle down quickly,
much more quickly than it had before. It would let go of its
meditation word only when it had settled snugly into stillness.
At that moment, whether or not I would think buddho,
the awareness of that stillness was already solidly 'buddho'
in and of itself. It wouldn't be forming any thoughts at all.
At that point I'd stop my repetition. As soon as the mind
made a move to withdraw -- in other words, as soon as it rippled
slightly -- I'd immediately start pumping the meditation word
back in again as a means of keeping the mind in place. At
the same time, I'd keep watch to see at what point the mind
would regress. I abandoned my concern for the progress or
regress of the mind. No matter how far the mind might progress
or regress, I wasn't willing to let go of my meditation word.
Even if the mind was going to regress, I'd let it regress,
because when I had been determined that it not regress, it
had still regressed in spite of my determination.
Now, though, I felt no more concern for whether the mind would
progress or regress. I'd simply force it to be conscious of
buddho. I'd try to be aware of progress and regress
only in terms of the heart that had buddho in charge.
This was where I would know. This was where I would
clearly see. This was the one spot in which I'd place my confidence.
I wouldn't have to concern myself with progress or regress.
time passed, the mind that had once progressed and regressed
didn't regress. This was what made me realize: The
fact that the mind had kept regressing so often was because
of a lapse in its meditation word; mindfulness must have
slipped away at that moment for sure. So from that point on
I kept my meditation word continually in place. No matter
where I'd go or where I'd stay, I wouldn't let mindfulness
lapse. Even if I was to be on the verge of death, I wouldn't
let mindfulness slip away from buddho. If the mind
was going to regress, this was the only place where I'd try
to know it. I wouldn't concern myself with the matter in any
other way. As a result, the mind was able to establish a foundation
for itself because of the meditation word buddho.
After that came my second Rains Retreat with Ven. Acariya
Mun. Before the rains began, my mind felt still and firm in
its concentration, with no regressing at all. Even then, I
refused to let go of my meditation word. This kept up to the
point where I was able to sit in meditation without changing
to any other position from early night until dawn.
During my second rains with Ven. Acariya Mun, I held to sitting
in meditation until dawn as more important than any other
method in my practice. After that I gradually eased back,
as I came to see the body as a tool that could wear out if
I had no sense of moderation in using it. Still, I found that
accelerating my efforts by means of sitting all night until
dawn gave more energy to the heart than any other method.
The period in which I was sitting up all night until dawn
was when I gained clear comprehension of the feelings of pain
that arise from sitting in meditation for long periods of
time, because the pain that arose at that time was strange
and exceptional in many ways. The discernment that investigated
so as to contend with the pain kept at its work without flagging,
until it was able to understand the affairs of every sort
of pain in the body -- which was a solid mass of pain. At
the same time, discernment was able to penetrate in to know
the feelings of the heart. This did a great deal to strengthen
my mindfulness, my discernment, and my courage in the effort
of the practice. At the same time, it made me courageous and
confident with regard to the future, in that the pains that
would appear at the approach of death would be no different
from the pains I was experiencing and investigating in the
present. There would be nothing about those pains that
would be so different or exceptional as to have me deceived
or confused at the time of death. This was a further realization.
The pain, as soon as discernment had fully comprehended it,
disappeared instantaneously, and the mind settled down into
Now at a point like this, if you wanted to, you could say
that the mind is empty, but it's empty in concentration. When
it withdraws from that concentration, the emptiness disappears.
From there, the mind resumes its investigations and continues
with them until it gains expertise in its concentration. (Here
I'll ask to condense things so as to fit them into the time
we have left.) Once concentration is strong, discernment steps
up its investigation of the various aspects of the body until
it sees them all clearly and is able to remove its attachments
concerning the body once and for all. At that point the mind
begins to be empty, but it doesn't yet display a complete
emptiness. There are still images appearing as pictures within
it until it gains proficiency from its relentless training.
The images within the heart then begin to fade day by day,
until finally they are gone. No mental images appear either
inside or outside the heart. This is also called an empty
kind of emptiness is the inherent emptiness of the mind that
has reached its own level. It's not the emptiness of concentration,
or of sitting and practicing concentration. When we sit in
concentration, that's the emptiness of concentration. But
when the mind has let go of the body because of the thorough
comprehension that comes when its internal images are all
gone, and because of the power of its mindfulness and discernment
that are fully alert to these things, this is called the emptiness
of the mind on its own level.
When this stage is reached, the mind is truly empty. Even
though the body appears, there's simply a sense that the body
is there. No image of the body appears in the mind at all.
Emptiness of this sort is said to be empty on the level of
the mind -- and it's constantly empty like this at all times.
If this emptiness is nibbana, it's the nibbana
of that particular meditator or of that stage of the mind,
but it's not yet the nibbana of the Buddha. If someone
were to take the emptiness of concentration for nibbana
when the mind settles down in concentration, it would simply
be the nibbana of that particular meditator's concentration.
Why is it that these two sorts of emptiness aren't the emptiness
of the Buddha's nibbana? Because the mind empty in
concentration is unavoidably satisfied with and attached to
its concentration. The mind empty in line with its own level
as a mind is unavoidably absorbed in and attached to that
sort of emptiness. It has to take that emptiness as its object
or preoccupation until it can pass beyond it. Anyone who calls
this emptiness nibbana can be said to be attached to
the nibbana in this emptiness without realizing it.
When this is the case, how can this sort of emptiness be nibbana?
If we don't want this level of nibbana, we have to
spread out feelings (vedana), labels (sañña),
thought-formations (sankhara), and cognizance (viññana)
for a thorough look until we see them clearly and in full
detail -- because the emptiness we're referring to is the
emptiness of feeling, in that a feeling of pleasure fills
this emptiness. The mind's labels brand it as empty. Thought-formations
take this emptiness as their preoccupation. Cognizance helps
be aware of it within and isn't simply aware of things outside
-- and so this emptiness is the emptiness of the mind's preoccupation.
If we investigate these things and this emptiness clearly
as sankhara-dhammas, or fabrications, this will open
the way by which we are sure some day of passing beyond them.
When we investigate in this way, these four khandhas
and this emptiness -- which obscure the truth -- will gradually
unravel and reveal themselves bit by bit until they are fully
apparent. The mind is then sure to find a way to shake itself
free. Even the underlying basis for sankhara-dhammas
that's full of these fabricated things will not be able to
withstand mindfulness and discernment, because it is interrelated
with these things. Mindfulness and discernment of a radical
sort will slash their way in -- just like a fire that burns
without stopping when it meets with fuel -- until they have
dug up the root of these fabricated things. Only then will
they stop their advance.
this level, what are the adversaries to the nibbana
of the Buddha? The things to which the mind is attached: the
sense that, 'My heart is empty,' 'My heart is at ease,' 'My
heart is clean and clear.' Even though we may see the heart
as empty, it's paired with an un-emptiness. The heart may
seem to be at ease, but it depends on stress. The heart may
seem clean and clear, but it dwells with defilement -- without
our being aware of it. Thus emptiness, ease, and clarity
are the qualities that obscure the heart because they are
the signs of becoming and birth. Whoever wants to cut off
becoming and birth should thus investigate so as to be wise
to these things and to let them go. Don't be possessive of
them, or they will turn into a fire to burn you. If your discernment
digs down into these three lords of becoming as they appear,
you will come to the central hub of becoming and birth, and
it will be scattered from the heart the moment discernment
reaches the foundation on which it is based.
When these things are ended through the power of discernment,
that too is a form of emptiness. No signs of any conventional
reality (sammati) will appear in this emptiness at
all. This is an emptiness different from the forms of emptiness
we have passed through. Whether this emptiness can be called
the emptiness of the Buddha, or whose emptiness it is, I'm
afraid I can't say, other than that it's an emptiness that
each meditator can know directly only for him or herself alone.
This emptiness has no time or season. It's akaliko
-- timeless -- throughout time. The emptiness of concentration
can change, in terms of progress and regress. The emptiness
on the formless or image-less (arupa) level, which
serves as our path, can change or be transcended. But this
emptiness exclusively within oneself doesn't change -- because
there is no self within this emptiness, and no sense that
this emptiness is oneself. There is simply the knowledge
and vision of things as they are (yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana)
-- seeing this emptiness in line with its natural principles
as they actually are, and seeing all phenomena as they actually
are, as they pass by and exist in general. Even virtue, concentration,
and discernment -- the qualities we use to straighten out
the heart -- are realized for what they are and let go in
line with their actuality. Nothing at all remains lurking
in the nature of this final stage of emptiness.
I ask that we all reflect on these three kinds of emptiness
and try to develop ourselves to attain them -- and especially
the last form of emptiness, which is an emptiness in the principles
of nature, beyond the range where any other person or any
conventional reality can become involved with us ever again.
Our doubts, ranging from the beginning levels of the Dhamma
to this ultimate emptiness, will find resolution, with our
own knowledge and vision acting as judge.
So now at the end of this talk -- which started out with my
telling you of my own ignorance step by step and then strayed
off to this final emptiness, which is a quality somewhat beyond
my powers to explain any further -- I'll ask to stop, as the
proper time seems to have come.
May happiness and contentment be with each and every one of
Tracks of the Ox
excerpt from a talk given July 6, 1982
...Whichever theme you focus on, be earnest with it, keeping
mindfulness in constant touch with the work you are doing.
For example, if you're focusing on the repetition of buddho,
keep constantly aware of the word buddho, buddho, as
if there were nothing else left in the world for you to become
two with this or three with that. There is only one thing:
the word buddho blending step by step with your awareness.
As the mind becomes more and more still, the buddho
you are repeating will more and more blend into one with your
awareness. Then the word buddho, buddho will fall silent,
leaving only an awareness that's more conspicuous than before.
This means that you've reached the mind. To put it in terms
of following the tracks of an ox, you've reached the ox and
can let go of its tracks. Here you've reached the inner buddha,
which is like the ox, so now you can let go of the meditation
The same holds true if you focus on keeping the breath in
mind. Whether the breath is heavy or refined, simply be aware
of it as it normally is. Don't set up any expectations.
Don't force the breath to be like this or that. Keep your
awareness with the breath, because in meditating by taking
the breath as your preoccupation, you're not after the breath.
The breath is simply something for the mind to hold to so
that you can reach the real thing, just as when you follow
the tracks of an ox: You're not after the tracks of the ox.
You follow its tracks because you want to reach the ox. Here
you're keeping track of the breath so as to reach the real
thing: awareness. If you were to start out just by holding
on to awareness, you wouldn't get any results, just as you
wouldn't be sure of finding the ox if you simply went around
looking for it. But if you follow its tracks, you're going
to find it for sure. Your meditation word has to keep moving
in. This is called following the tracks of the ox step by
step until you reach the ox, or what knows: namely the mind.
The same holds true with focusing on the breath. If it's heavy,
know that it's heavy. Don't get worried or upset about it,
and don't be afraid that you'll die because the breath is
heavy or because you feel suffocated. When you do heavy work,
you feel suffocated -- don't think that you feel suffocated
only when focusing on the breath. There are a lot of other
things more suffocating than this. If you carry a post or
lift something heavy, you feel suffocated to death all over
the body, not just in the chest or in the breath. The whole
body is ready to burst because of the heaviness and great
pain, and yet you can take it. You even know that it's because
of the heavy object, and that's the way it has to be.
you focus on keeping the breath in mind when the breath is
coarse, it's as if you were lifting something heavy. It's
naturally bound to feel suffocating, so don't worry about
it. Even if it's suffocating, the important point is to keep
track of the breath coming in and out. Eventually the breath
will become more and more refined, because mindfulness is
focused on the breath and doesn't go anywhere else. When the
breath goes in, be aware of it. When it goes out, be aware
of it, but there's no need to follow it in and out. That would
simply be creating a greater burden for yourself, and your
attention might slip away. So focus right on the entry point
where the breath goes in and out. In most cases, the tip of
the nose is the place to focus on the breath. Keep watch right
there. Keep aware right there. Don't waste your time speculating
or planning on how the results will appear, or else your mind
will wander away from the principle of the cause that will
give rise to those results. Keep close watch on the cause
-- what you are doing -- and the breath will become more and
When the breath becomes more refined, that shows that the
mind is refined. Even if the breath becomes so refined that
it disappears -- at the same time that you're aware that it's
disappearing -- don't be afraid. The breath disappears, but
your awareness doesn't disappear. You're meditating not for
the sake of the breath, but for the sake of awareness, so
stay with that awareness. You don't have to worry or be afraid
that you'll faint or die. As long as the mind is still in
charge of the body, then even if the breath disappears, you
won't die. The mind will dwell with freedom, with no agitation,
no worries, no fears at all. This is how you focus on the
Path of Strength
We have gone forth from the household life and are abstainers
from all things that are our own enemies and enemies of the
common good. That's why we're said to have gone forth: It
means that we abstain. 'Abstaining' here means refraining
from the things that work to our detriment. Once we have gone
forth, our duty is to abstain from things that are unwise
and to develop wisdom -- intelligence -- as much as we can
until it is enough to carry us past our obstacles: the entire
mass of suffering.
At present we all know that we have gone forth. The world
calls us 'people who have gone forth,' so be conscious of
your status at all times and in your every movement in thought,
word, and deed. You are ordained in the Buddha's religion
and have his teachings as your guide. His teachings have both
a fence and an open way. The fence is the Vinaya, which prescribes
penalties for our errors -- major, intermediate, and minor.
This is the fence that blocks the wrong paths so that we won't
stray down them, and that opens the right path -- the Dhamma
-- so that we can follow it to the goal to which we aspire.
The Vinaya is a fence on both sides of the path. If we go
astray, it means we've gone wrong. If we go just a little
astray, we've gone just a little bit wrong. If we go far astray,
we've gone far wrong. If we go so far astray that we can't
get back on the path, we've gone absolutely wrong. This is
like a person who loses his way: If he gets just a little
lost, he can quickly get back on the path. If he gets more
lost, it wastes a lot of his time. If he gets really lost,
he has no chance of reaching his goal. Thus the Vinaya is
like a fence to prevent those who have gone forth from going
wrong. This fence has various levels -- in line with the differing
levels of lay people and those who have ordained -- for us
to observe in line with our moral duties, beginning with the
five precepts and going up to the eight, the ten, and the
As for the Dhamma, which is the path to follow as taught by
the Buddha, it has conviction as its basis -- in other
words, conviction in the path to be followed for good results
-- and persistence in making the effort to follow the
path unflaggingly. Mindfulness is what guides our efforts
as we follow the path. Concentration is firmness of
the heart in following the path, in addition to being food
for the journey -- in other words, mental peace and ease along
the way before we reach the goal. And discernment is
circumspection in following the path step by step from beginning
to end. These qualities support and encourage us to stay on
the right path. When we have these five qualities -- conviction,
persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment --
constantly with us, there's no need to doubt that the results
will appear as our reward, clear to the heart, in line with
our strength and abilities. If we develop these five qualities
so that they are powerful within our hearts, the results that
the Buddha proclaimed as lying at the end of the path -- release
and nibbana -- won't be able to elude us, because all
of these qualities aim at these results.
I ask that you as meditators nourish your conviction in the
Dhamma and in your own capabilities. Make your persistence
adequate to the task. Concentration will then appear as a
result, so try to make it adequate, and take mindfulness and
discernment as your guardians. The results will then appear
to your full satisfaction. You don't have to worry about where
the paths, fruitions, and nibbana lie. Try to nourish
the causes I have explained here and make them adequate. Nothing
will then be able to prevent the results that will arise from
These five qualities -- principles in following the path --
are called the five indriya or five bala. 'Indriya'
means dominant factor. 'Bala' means strength. As for
the Vinaya, it's a fence guarding both sides of the path to
keep us from straying from the way to the paths, fruitions,
and nibbana. The Buddha closed off both sides and then
opened the way -- the five strengths -- for us to follow as
much as we like.
physical seclusion in your dwelling place. The place where
we are staying now is fairly conducive in this respect. Citta-viveka:
mental seclusion. Those of you aiming for inner seclusion
in line with the levels of your concentration have already
attained a fair amount. Those of you who are just beginning,
who don't have any mental seclusion in your hearts, should
try to nourish the five strengths to make them solid. Inner
seclusion will gradually appear step by step. Those of you
who have attained an adequate amount of inner seclusion should
try to make it more and more refined, at the same time developing
discernment or circumspection with regard to your seclusion.
As for those of you at the higher stages of the practice,
you should urgently gather up persistence with discernment
so as to make it adequate, and it will bear fruit as upadhi-viveka
-- absolute seclusion from the defilements -- appearing clearly
to your hearts.
Physical seclusion means finding peace in solitary places.
You don't get embroiled in external matters; you don't latch
on to work to disturb the body to the point where you turn
your temporary dwelling place into a factory, viewing physical
work as the basis of the religion and as your occupation as
a monk -- as we see happening everywhere -- to the point where
you no longer have any interest in the inner effort of the
practice that is a monk's true duty. Mental seclusion refers
to the peace of mind endowed with the inner effort of the
practice to keep it from running wild with the things that
make contact. You rein it in so as to keep it still with watchfulness
and restraint at all times. The nature of this level of mental
peace is that even though external things may not be making
any disturbance, there are still some enemy preoccupations
lurking within the mind. This is why this level is termed
simply mental seclusion, seclusion from the disturbance of
for seclusion from the defilements, this refers to peace with
regard to such external things as sights, sounds, smells,
and tastes, as well as to peace with regard to internal preoccupations
that are the particular enemies of the mind. In other words,
you are free both from external enemies and from internal
enemies. This is absolute seclusion from the defilements,
without even the least thing infiltrating the heart. The heart
is in this state at all times. Even though various things
may come and make contact, or the khandhas may do their
work in line with their duties, these things can't permeate
into the heart to cause it any difficulties.
These are the results that come from the basis of physical
and mental seclusion. These three qualities -- physical seclusion,
mental seclusion, and seclusion with regard to the defilements
-- are qualities that all of you as meditators should be capable
of developing fully within yourselves. There should be nothing
blocking your way. All I ask is that you don't abandon your
efforts. Be courageous and enthusiastic in searching out lonely,
isolated places: places where you can shed your foolishness
with regard to yourselves once and for all. This is the way
through which the Buddha and all his Noble Disciples passed
before reaching the land of nibbana -- so how could
these places turn into the enemies of those of us who are
following the Buddha's example? Don't be worried that you'll
lose your lives in such places. If that were to be the case,
the Buddha would have had to change his preliminary instructions
to us after our ordination from rukkhamula-senasanam
-- living in the forest -- to something else, in keeping with
his compassion for all living beings, human and divine. If
living in lonely, solitary places, making the effort in line
with the Buddha's example, were to give results other than
those corresponding to the Dhamma he taught, he would have
had to modify his various teachings to be in keeping with
the demands of time and place. The 37 wings to Awakening (bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma)
-- which are like the Buddha's very heart that he gave to
us so rightly -- would have had to be completely altered.
But these truths are constant and unwavering. The Buddha never
changed them. We as meditators should thus modify our thoughts,
words, and deeds to fit in with this Dhamma. It would be highly
inappropriate for us to modify the Dhamma to conform with
the influence of our hearts with their defilements. If we
were to do such a thing, we would become Devadatta's in our
thoughts, words, and deeds, and our Teacher -- the Buddha's
right teachings -- would be lost to us without our even realizing
try to be persistent, in line with the teachings given by
the Buddha. Be brave in contending with the enemies of the
heart -- both those that come from within and those that come
from without -- together with the results they bring. Always
take an interest in seeing where suffering and stress come
from and how they arise. Don't abandon this work or get bored
with it. Try to know the causes and effects of the things
that come into contact or become involved with the heart to
see how they give rise to stress, until you can ultimately
see the causes clearly -- and in that same moment, you will
clearly understand the results.
The most important points, no matter when I teach you -- and
they are teachings that lie close to my heart -- are mindfulness
and discernment. These qualities are very important. If you
lack mindfulness and discernment, the results of your practice
will be erratic. The progress of your efforts will be interrupted
and uneven. The techniques of your intelligence for curing
defilement will be lacking, and the results -- peace and ease
-- will be sporadic. If mindfulness and discernment are
interrupted, you should know that all the efforts of your
practice have been interrupted in the same instant. So
I ask that each of you realize this. Every time I've given
a talk, I've never omitted the topics of mindfulness and discernment.
You could almost say that I give them the limelight more than
any other topic, for I've considered the matter to the best
of my ability, from the time I first started the practice
until today, and I have never seen any qualities superior
to mindfulness and discernment in being able to unravel things
within or without so as to make them clear to the heart. For
this reason, I teach you these two qualities so that you'll
know: To put them in terms of wood, they're the heartwood
or the tap root of the tree. In terms of the Dhamma, they're
the root, the crucial tools for eliminating all defilements
and mental effluents (asava), from the blatant to the
most extremely refined levels, once and for all.
If you lack mindfulness, you can't even give rise to concentration.
If you lack discernment, your concentration might turn into
wrong concentration -- for the word 'concentration' is a neutral
term. There's no assurance as to what sort of concentration
it may be. If it lacks discernment as its guardian, it's sure
to turn into concentration that deviates from the principles
of the Dhamma without your realizing it. There are many levels
of wrong concentration -- those that appear blatantly to the
world, as well as intermediate and subtle levels -- but here
I'll discuss only those forms of wrong concentration that
can occur to us in the area of the practice without our realizing
example, when we enter concentration, the mind may gather
and rest for a long or a short time, but when we withdraw,
we're still attached to that concentration and not at all
interested in developing discernment. We may feel that the
concentration will turn into the paths, fruitions, or nibbana;
or else we are addicted to the concentration and want the
mind to stay gathered that way for long periods of time or
forever. Sometimes, after the mind gathers into its resting
place, it then withdraws a bit, going out to know the various
things that make contact, becoming attached and engrossed
with its visions. Sometimes it may float out of the body to
travel to the Brahma worlds, heaven, hell, or the world of
the hungry shades, without a thought for what's right or wrong,
as we become engrossed in our visions and abilities, taking
them as our amazing paths, fruitions, and nibbana,
and those of the religion as well. When this happens, then
even if someone skilled and experienced in this area comes
to warn us, we won't be willing to listen at all. All of these
things are termed wrong concentration that we don't realize
to be wrong.
So what is right concentration like, and how should you practice
for the sake of rightness? This is where a few differences
lie. When you sit in concentration and the mind gathers to
rest -- no matter what the level of concentration -- how long
it stays there depends on the particular strength of that
level of concentration. Let the mind rest in line with its
level of concentration. There's no need to force it to withdraw.
Let it rest as long as it wants, and then it will withdraw
on its own. Once it withdraws, try to train yourself to explore
with your discernment. Whatever level of discernment corresponds
to that level of concentration, use it to investigate and
contemplate the physical properties (dhatu) and khandhas.
Whether you investigate these things within or without is
not an issue. All that is asked is that you investigate for
the sake of knowing cause and effect, for the sake of curing
or extricating yourself: Just this much is what's right.
Use your discernment to investigate conditions of nature (sabhava
dhamma) both within and without, or else exclusively within
or exclusively without. Contemplate them in terms of any one
of the three characteristics (ti-lakkhana) until you
are experienced and astute, until you can find the openings
by which you can extricate yourself step by step. When you
have investigated to the point where you feel tired, and the
mind wants to rest in its home of concentration, let it rest
as much as it wants. Whether it rests for a long or a short
time is not an issue. Let it rest until it withdraws on its
own. As soon as it withdraws, continue with your investigation
of such phenomena as the body, as before.
This is right concentration. Be aware of the fact that concentration
is simply a temporary resting place. When you have investigated
a great deal in the area of discernment and feel mentally
tired, rest in concentration. Once the mind is strong again,
it'll withdraw. If it's in shape to investigate, then continue
investigating. Keep practicing this way constantly. Your concentration
will go smoothly, and your discernment will always be astute.
Things will go evenly, both in the area of concentration and
in the area of discernment, because concentration is beneficial
in one way, and discernment in another. If you let yourself
follow only the path of discernment, you'll go wrong because
you won't have concentration as a support. If you let yourself
follow only the path of concentration, you'll go even more
wrong than by simply following the path of discernment.
summarize: These two qualities are like a right arm and a
left arm, a right leg and a left leg. Wherever a person walks
or whatever he does, he needs both arms and both legs. Concentration
and discernment are necessary in just the same way. If you
feel that concentration is better than discernment, or discernment
better than concentration, then you should have only one arm
or one leg, not two arms and two legs like everyone else.
In other words, you don't fit in with the rest of the world.
Whoever doesn't fit in with the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha
-- criticizing discernment and praising concentration, or
criticizing concentration and praising discernment -- is the
same sort of person.
What's right is that when you are developing concentration,
you have to do your duties in terms of concentration and really
see the value of concentration. When you are contemplating
with discernment, you have to do your duties in terms of discernment
and really see the value of discernment. Let each side rest
at the right time. Don't get them mixed up together. It's
the same as when you walk: When your right foot takes a step,
your left foot has to stop. When your left foot takes a step,
your right foot has to stop. They don't both step at the same
time. Thus both concentration and discernment have their benefits.
But when mindfulness and discernment develop enough strength
from being trained together, concentration and discernment
will then step together -- it's not the case that they'll
always take turns -- in the same way that your right arm and
left arm work together.
Here we've discussed the relationship between concentration
and discernment for those who tend to develop concentration
first, who are usually in danger of their concentration's
going out of bounds without seeing discernment as the other
side of the practice. If it's a necessary quality, you should
use it at the appropriate times. As for those who tend to
have discernment fostering their concentration, their minds
can't settle down into stillness simply through the power
of concentration practice alone. They need to use discernment
to put brakes on the mind -- which is restless and running
wild with its various preoccupations -- by keeping track of
the restlessness of the heart so as to see why it is
restless and what there is that encourages it to be
that way. Discernment has to go ferreting out the various
things the mind is labeling and interpreting until the mind
surrenders to its discernment and is able to enter stillness.
This sort of stillness of mind is said to be still through
Some people, even when their minds have entered stillness,
can at the same time use discernment to investigate and form
thoughts without these things being an enemy to that stillness.
Perhaps you may think, 'If the mind is concentrated, how can
it form thoughts?' and then become doubtful about your concentration.
This is called not understanding your own tendencies. These
doubts are normal for those who aren't experienced and don't
know -- since no one has given them any directions that they
can hold to as authoritative -- so they may become uncertain
about their practice when this sort of thing happens to them.
So here I'd like to take the opportunity to explain: The mind
that attains stillness through the method of using discernment
as its guardian can continue having thought processes occurring
on one level of concentration, but when we reach a fully refined
level, no matter which way our concentration is fostered,
all thought-formations will cease. No labeling of things will
be left in that refined concentration; no thought-formations
or cognizance of various things will appear.
summarize: The intermediate level of concentration for those
whose minds gather quickly -- namely, those who start out
with concentration -- won't have any thought processes, because
the moment thoughts forms, their minds will begin to withdraw
from concentration. The concentration attained through the
guardian power of discernment, though, can still form thoughts
without the mind's withdrawing from concentration -- and
both types of concentration must have mindfulness alert as
they gather inward.
Today I've explained the differences between wrong and right
concentration -- enough so that you as meditators will understand
and take this as a guide. I've stressed that mindfulness and
discernment are very important factors. Those of you who are
training mindfulness shouldn't wait to train it only when
you are meditating. You must train it at all times. Wherever
you go, whatever you do, be mindful. Always take your stance
in the effort of the practice. Once there is mindfulness,
there also has to be self-awareness (sampajañña),
because self-awareness comes from established mindfulness.
If mindfulness is lacking, no self-awareness appears. So try
to develop your basic mindfulness until it is capable and
strong enough to be the sort of mindfulness suitable for the
effort of the practice within the heart. From that point it
will become super-mindfulness because you have continually
fostered it and kept it established.
The same holds true with discernment. Try to contemplate the
things that make contact with the mind: sights, sounds, smells,
tastes, tactile sensations, and the thoughts that occur exclusively
within. You have to explore these things, ferreting out their
causes, until you find it habitual to contemplate and think.
When this level of discernment gains strength, it will advance
to a higher level, and you will be able to use this higher
level of discernment to investigate your doubts about the
situation exclusively within the heart. You will be able to
see things clearly and cut away your various doubts through
the power of discernment, the discernment you have trained
in this way so that it becomes super-discernment, just like
super-mindfulness. I've never seen it happen anywhere that
anyone who hasn't started out by training discernment in this
way has suddenly gained full results through superlative discernment.
Even those who are termed khippabhiñña
-- who have attained Awakening quickly -- started out from
crude discernment, advancing quickly, step by step, and gained
Awakening in the Buddha's presence, as we all know from the
texts. So when we train our mindfulness and discernment to
follow our every movement, without any thought for whether
we're meditating or not, but simply keeping this hidden sort
of meditation going at all times, then no matter what, our
minds will have to enter stillness, and discernment will begin
In particular -- for those of us who are monks, or who are
single-mindedly intent on practicing for the sake of mental
peace and release from suffering and stress -- mindfulness
and discernment are even more necessary. Once we have trained
mindfulness and discernment to become so habitual that we're
constantly circumspect, then when we focus outside, we'll
be intelligent. When we focus inside -- on the body, feelings,
mind, and phenomena -- we'll become more and more astute.
When we investigate body, feelings, labels, thought-formations,
and cognizance, we'll develop techniques for removing defilement
without break. Mindfulness is especially important. If you
lack mindfulness as a protective barrier at any time, discernment
will simply turn into labels without your realizing it. Thus
mindfulness is the quality with a solidity that helps discernment
become astute in a smooth and even way. The power of mindfulness
acts like the bank of a river, keeping discernment from going
out of bounds. Discernment that goes out of bounds turns
into labels. If it's true discernment, it doesn't go out
of bounds, because it has mindfulness in charge.
you use discernment to focus within the body, things will
catch your attention at every step. Inconstancy (anicca),
stress (dukkha), and not-selfness (anatta):
One or another of these three characteristics is sure to appear,
because all of them are always there in the nature of the
body. When mindfulness and discernment reach this level, the
mind and its objects will come into the present. You should
know that no Dhamma has ever appeared because of past or
future affairs. It appears only because of the present.
Even if you contemplate matters of the past of future, you
have to bring them into the scope of the present if you hope
to gain any benefit from them. For example, if you see someone
die, refer it to yourself: 'I'll have to die as well.' As
soon as the word 'I' appears, things come running back to
you and appear in the present. Matters of past and future,
if you want them to be useful, must always be brought into
the present. For example, 'Yesterday that person died. Today
or tomorrow I may die in the same way.' With the 'I', you
immediately come into the present. External matters have to
be brought inward; matters ahead and behind have to be brought
into the present if they are to serve any benefit. If you
always use mindfulness and discernment to contemplate the
conditions of nature -- such as the body -- all around you,
then no matter what, things won't lie beyond your grasp. You'll
have to understand them clearly.
In investigating phenomena, such as the body, analyze them
into their parts and aspects, and use your discernment to
contemplate them until they are clear. Don't let thoughts
or allusions drag you away from the phenomenon you are investigating,
unless you are using thoughts as a standard for your discernment
to follow when it doesn't yet have enough strength for the
investigation. Keep mindfulness firmly in place as a protective
fence -- and you will come to understand clearly things you
never understood before, because the conditions of nature
are already there in full measure. You don't have to
go looking anywhere for inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness.
They are qualities filling your body and mind at all times.
The only problem is that mindfulness and discernment haven't
been able to ferret them out to make them your own wealth.
But if you are set on investigating observantly day and night
-- thinking not about how many times you do it in a day or
night, but taking the skill and agility of your discernment
as your standard -- keeping mindfulness as a steady flow in
the present and radiating discernment all around you, then
whatever makes a move in any direction, mindfulness and discernment
will follow right after it. When we have trained mindfulness
and discernment to be sufficient to the task like this, how
will their foes be able to withstand them? After all, we haven't
made it our purpose to encourage such things as restlessness
and distraction. We're trying at all times to practice the
Dhamma -- the means for stopping such things -- so as to keep
abreast of the movements of the bandits always lying in wait
to rob us at any moment.
We must thus force the mind to investigate in the way we've
mentioned. Ferret out each part of the body so as to see it
clearly, from the outside into the inside, or take just the
inside and bring it out for a look. Look forwards and backwards,
up and down, separating the body into pieces. You can imagine
fire burning it into ashes and dust, or whatever other ways
you can imagine it scattered into pieces, depending on what
comes easiest to you. All count as ways in which your discernment
is making itself ingenious and astute. When it's sufficiently
developed, you'll be wise to all of these things, and they'll
be clear to your heart without your having to ask anyone else
about them at all.
more you investigate the body until you understand it clearly,
the more clearly you will understand the affairs of feelings,
mind, and phenomena, or feelings, labels, thought-formations,
and cognizance, because all these things are whetstones for
sharpening discernment step by step. It's the same as when
we bail water out of a fish pond: The more water we bail out,
the more clearly we'll see the fish. Or as when clearing a
forest: The more vegetation we cut away, the more space we'll
see. The things I've just mentioned are the factors that conceal
the mind so that we can't clearly see the mental currents
that flow out from the heart to its various preoccupations.
When you use discernment to contemplate in this way, the currents
of the heart will become plain. You'll see the rippling of
the mind clearly every moment it occurs -- and the heart itself
will become plain, because mindfulness is strong and discernment
quick. As soon as the mind ripples, mindfulness and discernment
-- which are there in the same place -- will be able to keep
track of it and resolve it in time. But be aware that in investigating
the five khandhas or the four frames of reference (satipatthana),
we aren't trying to take hold of these things as our paths,
fruitions, and nibbana. We're trying to strip them
away so as to see exactly what is the nature of the fish --
namely, the heart containing all sorts of defilements.
The more you investigate... You needn't count how many times
you do it in a day. Focus instead on how expert and agile
you can make your mind at investigating. The more you investigate
-- and the more skillful you get at investigating -- the more
the astuteness of your discernment, which is sharp and flashing
as it deals with you yourself and with conditions of nature
in general, will develop until it has no limit. You'll eventually
have the knowledge and ability to realize that the conditions
of nature you have been investigating in stages -- beginning
with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations
throughout the cosmos, and turning inward to your own body,
feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance -- are
not defilements, cravings, or mental effluents in any way.
The heart alone is what has defilements, cravings, and mental
effluents with which it binds itself. Nothing else has
the power to reach into the heart so as to bind it. Aside
from the heart that is ignorant about itself -- searching
for shackles for its neck and setting the fires of delusion
to burn itself to no purpose -- there are no traces of
enemies to the heart anywhere at all. We can compare this
to a knife, which is a tool made to benefit intelligent people,
but which a foolish person grabs hold of to kill himself and
then accuses the knife of being his enemy. What precedent
is there for making such a charge? All conditions of nature
in general are like useful tools, but a stupid person grabs
hold of them to bind himself and then claims that the conditions
of nature throughout the world have put their heads together
to abuse him. Who can decide such a case? -- for the plaintiff
has already killed himself. If we decide that the instrument
of death loses the case to the dead plaintiff, what sort of
vindication is the plaintiff going to gain to give him any
heart that's deluded about itself and about its own affairs
is in the same sort of predicament. Thus when discernment
begins to penetrate in to know the conditions of nature --
beginning with the body -- it will also have to penetrate
into the causal point. It will know clearly with its discernment
the objects to which the mind tends to send its mental currents,
and how strong or weak, many or few those currents are. It
will come to see that the things that it used to see as enemies
aren't really enemies at all. This is because of the power
of discernment that has contemplated things carefully and
correctly. At the same time, it will turn around to perceive
the awareness inside itself as being its own enemy. This is
because of the power of the discernment that sees clearly
and comes in, letting go stage by stage, the things it can
no longer hold to. This is why clear understanding through
discernment -- once it has realized that sights, sounds and
so forth, on into the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations,
and cognizance, are not enemies -- must let them go stage
by stage until they no longer remain in the heart.
And as for this knowing nature: Before, we weren't able to
tell whether it was harmful or beneficial, which is why we
went about branding things all over the cosmos as being good
or bad, beautiful or ugly, lovable or hateful, so amazing
as to make us feel like floating or so dreary as to make us
miserable and unable to sleep because of the dreariness: in
short, making ourselves pleased, displeased, and endlessly
miserable without our realizing it. What is the cause that
makes the mind like a wheel, turning in cycles around
itself, generating the fires of passion, aversion, and delusion
to burn itself at all times? When discernment has contemplated
things until they are clear, all conditions of nature, within
and without, will be seen to have the same characteristics.
None of them are enemies to anyone at all. You will see --
the moment discernment removes all the things concealing it
-- that the only fault lies with this knowing nature.
At this point, when the knower moves or ripples -- blip! --
you'll know immediately that the inner wheel is getting into
the act. This is the troublemaker, heaping up misery. It's
the direct cause of suffering and stress. Aside from this
knowing nature, there is no cause of suffering and stress
anywhere in the world.
When we reach this level, only this awareness -- this entire
awareness -- is the cause of suffering. When this fact becomes
this clear to the heart through discernment, who would
be willing to hold to this knower -- this wheel -- as his
or her self? This is the subtle discernment, the automatic
discernment in the principles of nature, that was trained
by our forcing it in the beginning stages. The results now
appear as an ingenuity and intelligence sufficient to the
task. There's nothing wrong with calling it super-discernment.
In addition to knowing the revolving mind that is the cause
of stress, this discernment turns inward to know why that
mind is a cause of stress, and how. Intent on knowing, it
probes in after the reasons that reveal themselves.
But for the most part when we reach this level, if our discernment
hasn't really considered things with precision and thoroughness,
we're sure to get stuck on this revolving awareness, because
it's the supreme cause of the cycle -- so deceptive and attractive
that we as meditators don't realize our attachment to it.
In addition to being deluded and attached without our realizing
it, we may even spread this subtle form of delusion, through
our misunderstanding, to delude many other people as well.
to let you know: This knowing nature, in terms of it marvelousness,
is more marvelous than anything else. In terms of its radiance,
it's more radiant than anything else, which is why we should
call it a pit of burning embers secretly lying in wait for
us. But no matter what, this knowing nature can't withstand
the discernment that is its match in subtlety. We are sure
to learn the truth from our discernment that this knowing
nature is the foremost cause of suffering and stress. When
we know this, this nature won't be able to stand. It will
have to disintegrate immediately, just as when people smash
a solid object to pieces with an iron bar.
When this nature disintegrates after having been destroyed
by discernment, a nature marvelous far above and beyond any
conventional reality will appear in full measure. At the same
moment, we will see the harm of what is harmful and the benefits
of what is beneficial. The awareness of release will appear
as dhammo padipo -- the brightness of the Dhamma --
in full radiance, like the sun that, when unobscured by clouds,
lets the world receive the full radiance of its light. The
result is that the awareness of release appears plainly to
the heart of the meditator the moment unawareness has disbanded.
This is the result. What the causes are, I've already explained
to you: conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration,
and discernment. This is the path to follow leading right
to this point. It doesn't lead anywhere else. Whether you
live at home, in a monastery, or in a forest, whether you're
a woman or a man, ordained or not: If you have these five
qualities always with you, you're heading toward this point.
In other words, we all have the same full rights in the
practice and in the results we'll receive.
So I ask that all of you as meditators -- and you know clearly
that you are meditators and abstainers as well -- I ask that
you practice so as to develop your thoughts, words, and deeds,
and that you fully abstain from things that are your enemies
until you reach the goal -- the release of nibbana
-- as I've already explained. None of these qualities lie
beyond your mindfulness, discernment, and relentless effort.
These are the teachings the Buddha gave to us as svakkhata-dhamma
-- the well-taught Dhamma. In other words, he rightly taught
us the path to follow. He taught that the wrong path was really
wrong, and the right path really right. And the results --
release and nibbana -- that come from following the
right path were also rightly taught. The only problem is
with those of us following the path: Will we really follow
it rightly or not? If we follow it rightly in line with
what the Buddha taught, the results are sure to appear as
sammadeva asavehi vimuccati -- right release from all
defilements and mental effluents.
So for this reason you should make an effort to train your
mindfulness and discernment at every moment and not just in
any one particular position. Don't think that this is making
too much of an effort. The more you understand, the more ingenious
you become, the more you can cure defilement, the more you
gain release from suffering and stress: These are the results
we all want step by step until we really gain release with
nothing left. In other words, we gain release while we're
conscious and aware in this lifetime, while overseeing
these five khandhas. This is the most certain Dhamma
-- because the word svakkhata-dhamma, the Dhamma rightly
taught by the Buddha, doesn't mean that it's right only after
we die. It's also right while we are practicing it,
and the results that come in line with our efforts appear
clearly to the hearts of meditators while they are alive.
for the methods or techniques you use to train your hearts,
I ask to leave them up to each person's intelligence and ingenuity
in the course of making the effort in the practice. You have
to notice which positions are most helpful in your practice.
Don't simply sit and keep on sitting, or walk and keep on
walking. You have to remember to notice what results and benefits
you get from your efforts as well, because different people
may find themselves more or less suited to the four different
positions of sitting, standing, walking, and lying down.
Today I've explained the Dhamma to all of you from the beginning
to the final point of my ability, so I feel that this should
be enough for now. I ask that each of you take the Dhamma
that I've explained today and that you have encountered in
your practice, and make it food for thought or a companion
to your practice. The results you will receive can in no way
deviate from today's explanation.
So I'll ask to stop here.
Savor of the Dhamma
The mind constantly coerced or oppressed at all times and
the mind absolutely released from that coercion and oppression
are two very different things -- so different that there is
no conventional reality that can be compared to the mind released.
This sort of mind doesn't lie in the realm of conventional
reality in such a way that anything may rightly be compared
to it in keeping with the reality of its nature. Even though
some comparisons can be made, they're simply a manner of speaking.
They aren't really in line with the truth of that nature as
it exists. We have to make comparisons simply because the
world has its conventions and analogies.
We see prisoners in jail who are coerced and oppressed, who
are deprived of their freedom at all times beginning from
the day of their imprisonment to the day of their release.
What sort of happiness do they have? Even though they may
have their laughter, in line with the things that may make
them laugh, it's still the laughter of prisoners. Just hearing
the word 'prisoner' is enough to tell us that happiness isn't
what produces their laughter. Their penalty is what produces
their laughter. It keeps coercing and oppressing them. So
where can we find any happiness and pleasure among them?
We can take this and compare it inwardly to the state of affairs
between the mind and the defilements that coerce and oppress
it. These things control and coerce it with every mental moment.
Even when the mind isn't forming any thoughts, it's still
controlled and coerced in this way, in line with its nature.
When this is the case, where can it find any true happiness?
The happiness it does have is happiness like the food fed
to prisoners. And what sort of food is that? Even though we
may never have been imprisoned, we know what sort of food
is fed to prisoners. Is there anything satisfying about it,
the food they feed prisoners?
The foods -- the temptations -- with which the defilements
feed the mind, if we were to speak in the way of the world,
are simply to keep it from dying, in the same way that prisoners
are fed. The defilements feed the mind so that it can be put
to work, in the same way that prisoners are fed so that they
can be put to work, so that we can get the fruits of their
labor. The food for the mind that the defilements bring to
sustain us is thus like the food fed to prisoners. There's
no difference at all. If we compare them, that's the way they
if we look from a different angle, we can see that prisoners
are still better off than we are, because they know that they
eat their food out of necessity. They don't eat it out of
satisfaction with it or its taste or anything, because there's
nothing at all gratifying about the food they are fed. But
we meditators are still content to be attached to the flavor
of worldly pleasures, so we're said to be stuck. When we're
attached to visual objects, it's because we find flavor in
them. When we're attached to sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile
sensations, it's simply because we find flavor in them. It's
not the case that the only flavor is the flavor we taste with
the tongue. All forms of contact -- with the eye, ear,
nose, tongue, body, and mind -- have their flavor, and we've
been attached to them in such a way that we haven't even realized
our attachment for aeons and aeons.
The mind is attached, bound, and feels love for these things
without knowing that they are flavors that tie us down, that
they are all matters of defilement: the flavors of defilement.
So we are attached to the point where we will never know the
harm of these flavors at all if we don't use mindfulness and
discernment to investigate them wisely. Regardless of how
many aeons may pass, we will have to be attached to these
flavors, engrossed in these flavors, without ever coming to
our senses. This is the ingenuity, the cleverness of the defilements.
How ingenious and clever are they?
If you want to know, then set your heart on the practice.
And don't forget what I'm saying here. Someday it's sure to
become clear to your heart as a result of your earnest practice.
There's no escaping it. Listen carefully to the Buddha's words:
'The flavor of the Dhamma surpasses all other flavors.' What
sort of flavor is the flavor of the Dhamma that it has to
surpass all other flavors? Those other flavors are the flavors
of the food of prisoners, imprisoned in the wheel of death
and rebirth through the power of defilement. They aren't food
or flavors that can keep the heart satisfied. They aren't
true flavors. They aren't the flavors of the truth. They're
the flavors of the counterfeits that the defilements whip
up into being for us to touch or to eat. They aren't the flavors
of the true Dhamma.
The flavor of the Dhamma will begin to appear when the mind
is centered in concentration. As soon as the mind begins to
be still, pleasure will begin to appear as its flavor, depending
on the amount of stillness in line with the levels of its
tranquillity. When we say 'levels of tranquillity', don't
go thinking that they're separate steps, like those of a ladder.
It's simply a way of speaking. Actually, they're all connected,
from the pleasure of basic concentration progressively up
to the levels of refined concentration. The pleasure that
arises will become correspondingly more and more refined.
This counts as one of the flavors of the Dhamma -- the Dhamma
of concentration, the Dhamma of peace -- in the levels of
the stillness of the mind.
soon as the mind has stillness for its food, it lets go of
its concerns for the various flavors of sights, sounds, smells,
tastes, and tactile sensations step by step, because the flavor
of this stillness begins to excel them. Even this is enough
to begin excelling all other flavors. Even more so when the
mind begins to investigate things with its discernment, analyzing
them in terms of the three characteristics or the meditation
theme of unattractiveness -- because in the beginning we tend
to develop the theme of unattractiveness, contemplating every
part of our own body and the bodies of others, inside and
out, as seems most appropriate and natural for us to investigate,
because they all share the same conditions for us to see clearly
step by step: The flavor of the Dhamma will then intensify,
becoming an ingenious flavor. And in addition to being an
ingenious flavor, it's a flavor that comes from being able
to let go.
The nature of the mind is such that once it investigates anything
to the point of seeing it clearly, it lets go. When it hasn't
let go, when it grasps with attachment, these are the chains
and fetters with which defilement keeps it bound. The defilements
confer titles, telling us, 'This is good. That's pretty. This
is beautiful.' They never tell us that the body is filthy,
ugly, inconstant, stressful, and not-self -- not belonging
to us or to anyone else. These are things the defilements
never tell us, never mention, never suggest in line with the
principles of the truth. Instead, they bring their own principles
in to interfere with the Dhamma, telling us just the opposite
-- that this or that is beautiful, lasting, valuable -- denying
the truth every step of the way because they are very powerful.
For this reason, we need to keep track of their deceits, counteracting
and removing them, by using such qualities as mindfulness
Our world is entirely stuck in the deceits of defilement.
When discernment has investigated inward, in line with the
principles of unattractiveness as we have already mentioned,
and in line with the three characteristics of inconstancy,
stress, and not-self, probing and analyzing back and forth,
time and again, the truths that the defilements have kept
concealed will be revealed in line with these principles of
truth -- because these principles are truth pure and simple.
There's nothing counterfeit about them. What's counterfeit
-- our false views -- are an affair of defilement, not an
affair of the Dhamma.
We will be able truly to see things as they are -- without
a doubt -- once we can remove the counterfeit things that
conceal them. For example, beauty: Where, exactly, is the
body beautiful? What is there about it that you can claim
to be beautiful? If you speak in terms of the principles of
the truth, how can you even look at the human body? It's entirely
filled with filthiness, both within and without, which is
why we have to keep washing it all the time. Even the clothing
and other articles on which the body depends have to be dirty
because the main part -- the body -- is a well of filth within
and without. Whatever it comes into contact with -- robes,
clothing, dwelling, bedding -- has to become dirty as well.
Wherever human beings live becomes dirty, but we don't see
the truth, mainly because we aren't interested in looking.
As meditators we should investigate so as to see this truth.
Don't run away from it. This is the genuine truth. The things
that fool us into seeing the body as beautiful are counterfeit
and false. So. Look into your body. Which part can you claim
to be beautiful, to contend with the truth of the Dhamma?
Look for it. Is there any part that dares claim to
be above the Dhamma and more true than the Dhamma -- unless
it's simply more false than the Dhamma?
fact that the Dhamma isn't appearing in our heart is because
at the moment falseness is more powerful, more established,
and conceals things completely. Even though there's filth
throughout the body both within and without, we're still able
to regard it as beautiful and lasting. The issues between
truth and falsity lie within our body and mind, because the
defilements themselves lie within the mind and spread their
power out throughout the various parts of the body, and then
splash out beyond, throughout the world of rebirth, saying
that this is us, that's ours, everything is us, ours, beautiful,
lasting, enjoyable -- depending on the song with which the
defilements, the deceivers, fool the mind into jumping, bouncing,
and spinning much more than a soccer ball. And what happiness
can we find in jumping along with all the deceits we've mentioned
If we haven't yet awakened and come to our senses, when will
we, and where? If the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha hasn't awakened
us meditators, who in the world will be able to awaken us?
As they say, 'svakkhato bhagavata dhammo': 'The Dhamma
of the Buddha is rightly taught' -- rightly taught in a way
clear to see, with nothing hidden or esoteric. What's hidden
about it? If we look with our eyes, we'll see in line with
what I've said here.
So. Look on in, from the skin on in. Skin-scum and sweat-scum:
Is there anything good about them? Anything clean and beautiful?
If they were clean, how could we call them scum? Then look
on inside. What is there inside that can contend with the
Dhamma and claim to be pretty and beautiful? The Dhamma tells
us that there's nothing pretty or beautiful in there, that
it's all filthy. So which part is going to contend with the
Dhamma of the Lord Buddha? If the Dhamma is false,
if the Buddha didn't teach it rightly, then find something
to prove it wrong. All of the things that the Dhamma criticizes:
When you penetrate into them with discernment, you'll find
that that's just how they are. There's no point with which
you can argue.
All of these things have been true ever since before we investigated
them, but the defilements have closed our eyes to them. Even
though we see them, we don't see them for what they are. Even
though filth fills the body, the defilements deny it entirely
and turn it into something beautiful -- and we believe them,
without looking at the Dhamma that's waving its arms at us,
ready to help us at all times, as if it were calling to us:
'Hold on. Hold on to the Dhamma. Hurry up, and you'll escape
from danger. Hurry and let go of the defilements. They're
a fire burning you.'
See what happens when you smash the defilements to bits. Fight
with them until you have no more breath to breathe. That's
when the Dhamma will fully reveal itself in every facet for
you to see clearly. This is the way of digging into the things
that conceal so as to uncover the truth: the genuine Dhamma.
If we see the truth, we begin to see the genuine Dhamma step
by step. Even on the level of stillness, we're already not
embroiled with anything, because we have the savor of the
Dhamma. The heart can drink of the Dhamma: mental peace and
calm. The heart doesn't jump or run, isn't vain or proud,
restless or distracted, flying out after various preoccupations,
because it has found a satisfying food to sustain it.
we use discernment to investigate -- to prepare our food,
so to speak -- to make it even more exquisite than the food
of tranquillity, turning it into the food of discernment,
this has a flavor even more exquisite and refined, without
limit, which comes from investigating and analyzing the body,
the theme of our meditation. The basic principle on which
we depend to counteract and remove the defilements lies right
here, which is why the Buddha focuses his teachings right
here. It wouldn't work to focus anywhere else, because this
is the primary place where living beings are attached. Attachments
outside come second to this. When we have investigated so
as to see in line with this truth, step by step, without retreating
in our investigation or letting it lapse until we have clearly
understood, then the point of 'enough' in our investigation,
together with the point where we let go of our attachments,
will appear of its own accord through the power of the discernment
that has removed all things concealing, has dismantled all
things counterfeit so as to see the truth clearly in the heart.
Discernment on this level will then stop of its own accord.
As for the affairs of attachment, we needn't say anything,
because they are simply the results of delusion. Wherever
knowledge penetrates, delusion will immediately retreat, so
how can attachment remain? It will have to retreat without
a doubt. The more we investigate in preparing our food --
the flavor of the Dhamma -- through the power of mindfulness
and discernment, unraveling things to see them clearly for
what they are, the more the mind becomes light and airy. Disenchanted
and dismayed. 'How long have I been attached this way? Why
have I dared to make things up in such a bull-headed way?'
This is the exclamation with which we reproach ourselves --
because things actually haven't been what we've made them
up to be. So why have we made them up that way? We then immediately
see through the make-believe that has led to this state of
affairs, because discernment is what penetrates and makes
its choices. How will it not know what's true and what's not?
If we analyze the body to pieces, we can clearly see that
it's a living cemetery. When it dies, it's a dead cemetery.
How can we stand to look at it? Look all over the world: Is
there any place where there are no cemeteries? There are cemeteries
wherever living beings dwell.
Investigate on down to the truth. Is our discernment for us
to make into food? It's for us to cure our bankruptcy, so
that we can escape from being prisoners held in custody by
the defilements. Why shouldn't we be able to escape? The Dhamma
of the Lord Buddha is perfectly suited to us human beings,
which is why he taught it to the human world. He saw this
as the central point of existence, the most appropriate place.
There's no one more intelligent than the Buddha, the foremost
Teacher who taught the Dhamma to the most appropriate place:
our human world.
At the moment, what are we? We're human beings. Of this we're
certain. In addition, we're monks -- meditating monks at that,
so why shouldn't we be able to seize the excellence of the
flavor of the Dhamma to taste as our own treasure through
our own practice? If we aren't capable, who in the world
is capable? To whom should we hand over this capability?
At the moment, whose hearts are being squeezed by suffering
and stress? Aren't these things squeezing our own hearts?
So to whom are we going to hand over this capability? To whom
are we going to hand over all the duties and responsibilities
involved in attaining freedom? Should we hand them over to
suffering? We already have suffering in our hearts. The only
thing to do is to remove suffering and stress through persistent
fighters. We have to be defiant. We can't let ourselves say
retreat. So. Whatever the pain, however great it may be, we're
ready for it. The pain and suffering that come with the effort
won't lead us to bankruptcy. They're better than the pain
and suffering that are already putting a squeeze on us at
all times and serve no purpose at all. So dig on down, meditators.
This is one step in the investigation.
The Buddha teaches us to visit cemeteries because we don't
yet see the cemetery within. We first have to visit external
cemeteries to open the way for bringing the mind into our
own internal cemetery. It's full of corpses. Aside from the
fact that the body itself is a cemetery, the corpses of all
sorts of animals fill our belly. What sorts of things have
been stuffed in there? For how long? Why don't we look at
this cemetery? Look so as to see it clearly. Unattractiveness,
inconstancy, stress, and not-self are all heaped right here.
We don't have to go looking for them anywhere else.
When we look in terms of changeability -- inconstancy -- we
can see it clearly. The body keeps changing all the time,
from the day it's born to the day it dies. Even feelings keep
changing in their way: pleasure, pain, and indifference, both
in body and mind. They keep spinning around in this way. When
do they ever stop? If we have any mindfulness and discernment,
why don't we see these things as they do their work in line
with their natural principles? If we use our mindfulness
and discernment, we have to see, we have to know. These
things can't be kept hidden. They can't be kept hidden from
mindfulness and discernment. We have to see right through
them. There's no doubt about this.
Stress. Which part of the body gives us any pleasure or ease?
There's nothing but stress and pain filling the body. We've
constantly had to tend and care for the body so that it has
been able to survive this far, so are we still going to be
attracted to this mass of fire?
Not-self. The Buddha has already proclaimed it. 'It's not
the self. Don't mess with it.' As if he were slapping our
wrists: 'Don't reach for it. Don't touch. It's dangerous.'
Whenever you say that it's you or yours, your attachment is
like grabbing fire, so extricate yourself, using discernment.
See these things as being truly inconstant, stressful, and
not-self. The mind then won't dare to reach for them or touch
them. Step by step it will let go of its burdens -- its attachments,
which are a heavy weight.
When the mind extricates itself from its attachments, it becomes
lighter and lighter, more and more at ease. The savor of the
Dhamma will appear step by step, even more exquisite than
on the level of concentration. When the flavor of the Dhamma
surpasses the flavor of these various defilements, they have
to be discarded and trampled underfoot.
physical khandha -- the body -- is important. It has
a really great impact on the mind. To love it is to suffer.
To hate it is to suffer. To be angry with it is to suffer.
The affairs connected with the body are more prominent than
any others. If the mind has no stillness, there's nowhere
it can find any relief. There's nowhere we as monks can retreat
to find any pleasure. For this reason, we must try to still
our minds and make use of the Dhamma to attack our defilements.
feel any regret for the time it takes. Don't feel any
regret for the cycles of rebirth, for the prison, for our
wardens and torturers: the various kinds of defilement. These
have been our greatest torturers from time immemorial. Even
though we may not remember for how long, simply hold to the
principle of the present as your primary guide and they'll
all be scattered. The past, no matter how long, is simply
a matter of this same mass of suffering. If we can't shed
it, these things will have to continue this way forever.
Don't be interested in any other matters. Keep watch of the
truth -- which is within you, proclaiming itself at all times
-- by using mindfulness, discernment, conviction, and persistence.
Don't let up or retreat. Don't see anything as having greater
value than the effort of extricating yourself from these things
that coerce and oppress you. You'll then be able to make something
extraordinary of yourself. Whether or not you give yourself
titles, make sure at least that you aren't burdened or attached
right here. This is where the Buddha says the highest savor
is found. Uproot the things that involve and entangle you
each step along the way. Keep cutting your way in, beginning
with the physical heap -- the body -- which is one wall or
one thick covering.
Once you've passed the physical heap, ransacked this physical
heap and known it clearly with understanding, without any
remaining ties, it's as if you have amassed a large pile of
capital, clear to your heart. You can be certain of progressing
to release at one point or another in this present lifetime,
with no need to anticipate it as happening in this year or
that. Once the mind has attained this level, you can be sure
of yourself. Persistence comes on its own. The pain
and difficulties that come from making the effort are completely
erased of their own accord, because the flavor of the Dhamma
appearing clearly to the heart has a power far overriding
the pains that come from the persistent effort. The heart
becomes motivated through the principles of its nature. Persistence
keeps spinning in the person who used to be lazy.
Laziness is a matter of the defilements resisting and fighting
the Dhamma. When we start out making the effort, then laziness,
weakness, discouragement, pain, and difficulty all come thronging
in, oppressing us so that we can't take a step, and we finally
fall down with a crash. That shows we've been shot. They don't
have to shoot us a second time. One shot and we're down --
down on the pillow, snoring away. We keep getting shot by
the defilements, again and again, till we're thoroughly mangled.
Our efforts don't amount to anything. If this is the way things
are, then we'll be sunk in the round of rebirth, sunk in the
prison of the wheel of rebirth forever, with never a day when
we'll gain release, never a day when we'll be free.
slash away at the defilements, using the principles of the
Dhamma that the Buddha taught and aren't otherwise. You'll
then have to gain release from these things that coerce and
oppress you without a doubt. The important points are persistence,
mindfulness, discernment, and endurance. So. Keep enduring.
What's wrong with endurance for the sake of making your way?
Other things you can endure. Physical pain to the brink of
death: No one else can endure it for you. You have to endure
it for yourself. Haven't you already endured it before? So
why can't you endure the pains and deprivations that come
with the effort of the practice? After all, you endure them
for the sake of the effort to extricate yourself from suffering.
So why can't you endure them? Make it strong, your heart as
a monk, your heart as a meditator. Once you've seen the dangers
pointed out by the Dhamma, you'll see the benefits arising
through your efforts.
In the beginning, you have to grapple a great deal with the
body as your meditation theme. Once you've opened your way
and seen causes and results as your starting capital, then
the four mental khandhas -- vedana, sañña,
sankhara, and viññana -- have
already gotten into the act. There are feelings in the body
as well as in the mind, so when you're investigating the body,
how can these things not rush in to connect? They're related
phenomena. It's not the case that you finish investigating
the body before you start investigating vedana, sañña,
sankhara, and viññana. Don't plan
on things being that way, because it's wrong. In the truth
of the practice, that's not the way things are. Once your
work is focused on any one point, it has an impact on everything
else, but these things become prominent only after the
body has lost its meaning and value for us through the Dhamma.
Before, we saw it as having a great deal of meaning and value,
but once the Dhamma -- the truth -- has demolished the falsity
of this sort of defilement and craving, these things lose
their meaning and worth. The Dhamma now clearly has a value
above and beyond them. This is when vedana, sañña,
sankhara, and viññana become prominent,
because they've already opened the way from the stage of the
What is there to feelings? For the most part, they converge
in on feelings of the mind. As for physical feelings, I've
already explained them to you before. If you analyze them
when you're sick or have been sitting in meditation for a
long time, you'll know them. If you want to know them, focus
on them today, using mindfulness and discernment, and you'll
understand them. You're sure to understand them clearly if
you use discernment. Don't simply endure them. To contend
with pain, you have to use discernment. Simply fighting it,
simply enduring it, doesn't count as the path. The
path is mindfulness and discernment. The greater the pain,
the more these things spin into work. You can't let mindfulness
and discernment leave the point of the pain. As for the body,
each part will be seen clearly as a reality in line with its
nature, within the mind, because in accordance with the principles
of nature that's what they already are.
No matter how much pain arises in the body, it's its own separate
reality. Only the mind is what labels and interprets it. Once
the mind has used discernment to investigate the pain to the
point of being abreast of it, it will extricate itself from
the pain to be its own separate reality on this level, so
that each is a separate reality. When each is a separate reality,
what harm can they do to each other? What impact can they
have on each other? None at all. The body is the body,
the pain is a pain, the heart is the heart, i.e., the mind
is the mind. Each is a separate reality, with no impact on
the others. Even if the pain doesn't subside, it has no impact.
It has no impact on the mind at all. This is called seeing
the truth. After you've done this many times, you'll be able
to uproot your attachments to the body, and the pain in the
body will be passed by as well. The only issue remaining will
be feelings in the mind.
and sankhara are important. Once the body, the physical
heap, is passed, sañña and sankhara
-- thought-formations -- become prominent because there are
no more problems involving the body. The mind isn't willing
to investigate the body again, just as when we've eaten enough
of this sort of food, we put it aside and continue eating
whatever else still attracts us. When we're completely full,
we put it all aside, no matter what kind of food it is, meat
dishes or desserts. Our investigation is similar to this.
It tells us on its own. When the mind has had enough of anything,
it lets go and no longer investigates that thing. It then
continues with other things, in the same way that when we've
eaten enough of this sort of food, we go on to other sorts
until we're completely full. Then we put it all aside. Our
investigation is so that we will have enough and then let
refers to the thought-formations in the mind -- good thoughts,
bad thoughts, this issue and that. They keep forming all the
time. Each of us falls for his or her own issues. Even if
other people don't become involved with us, the mind has to
paint pictures and form thoughts, past and future: a big turmoil
within the heart. We get infatuated with this preoccupation,
saddened by that one. Matters that passed months and years
ago, we warm up and serve to torment the mind, to oppress
and coerce it, because of our delusion, because of the fact
that we aren't up on the tricks and deceits of this sort of
defilement. This is why we have to investigate them. Whatever
issues the mind forms, if they're good, they vanish; if they're
bad, they vanish -- so what sense or substance can we gain
from them? Wherever they arise, probe on down right there.
labels and interpretations: They come labeling out of the
mind. This is how the mind appears when it reaches a refined
level. This is the way the natural principles of the investigation
are of their own accord. Even if no one tells us, we come
to understand on our own. Wherever anything makes contact,
mindfulness and discernment spin around right there until
they understand and let go.
Once discernment has cut the bridge to the body, it has also
cut the bridges to external sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.
The only things left in the mind are feelings, labels, thought-formations,
and cognizance. These deal entirely with the mind itself.
We investigate at that point with discernment, without becoming
intimate with any of these four conditions. For example, feeling:
Pleasure arises and vanishes. Pain arises and vanishes, there
in the heart. The Buddha thus calls them inconstant and not-self.
Inconstant and not-self. They arise and vanish. Labels are
also inconstant, stressful, and not-self. What is there to
become attached to? They're just like the body. In other words,
they're all a heap of the three characteristics.
we have investigated them time and again, these four conditions
shrink into the mind. This is called giving chase to defilement.
Probe into that point with discernment until you know and
see it clearly. When the defilements can't find any place
to hide, they'll go running into the mind. Mindfulness and
discernment then come spinning into mano: the mind.
This too the Buddha tells us not to hold onto. Listen!
The mind too is inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Listen
to that! How can the mind not share in the three characteristics
when the defilements are in there? How can we hold to the
mind as being us or ours when the entire army of defilement
is in there? If we hold to the mind as being us or ours, it's
the same as holding to defilement as being us or ours, so
how can we gain release? Very profound, this point of Dhamma,
here on the level of investigation.
The mind too is inconstant, stressful, and not-self because
the defilements are in there. So strike on down with your
investigation. Whatever gets smashed -- even if ultimately
the mind itself is demolished along with everything else --
at least know it clearly with your discernment.
The defilement that forms the essence of the cycle (vatta)
-- which in Pali is termed 'avijja-paccaya sankhara,'
'With unawareness as condition, there occur mental formations':
This is the seed of becoming and birth, buried here in this
mind. When its bridges are cut, it can't find any way out
to go looking for food. The bridges out the eyes have been
cut. The bridges out the ears, nose, tongue, and body have
all been cut by discernment. The defilements can't find any
way out to develop love for sights, smells, tastes, or tactile
sensations, because all their bridges have been cut. We're
abreast of things as they actually occur, so the defilements
go running inside. If they try to become attached to the body,
that's something we've already investigated and known with
discernment, something we've already let go. Feelings, labels,
thought-formations, and cognizance have all been investigated
and seen to have the three characteristics of inconstancy,
stress, and not-self, so where do the defilements lie? They
have to be hiding in the Big Cave: the mind. So discernment
goes slashing in.
So now, is the mind us? Is it ours? Slash on down! Whatever
is going to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. We feel no
regrets. We want only the truth. Even if the mind is
going to be smashed and destroyed along with everything else,
let's at least know with our practice. Strike on down! Ultimately,
everything counterfeit gets smashed, while the nature of pure
truth, of supreme truth -- the pure mind -- doesn't die and
isn't destroyed. See? So now whether you call it inconstant,
stressful, and not-self or not, at least make the mind pure,
and it will gain release from all conventional realities.
Inconstancy, stress, and not-self lie within the realm of
convention. Once the mind has gained release from these things,
there's nothing more that can be said -- even though we are
completely aware. So what is there now to doubt?
This is release from the prison, from the cycle that imprisons
living beings, and us in particular -- our mind in particular,
now extricated right here. Freed right here. All that is needed
is for the defilements to be shed entirely from the heart:
There is nothing else to pose the heart any problems. This
is thus called the timeless heart, the timeless Dhamma, freed
from time. It's a pure nature, always fully 'buddho'
this point, how can we not clearly see the harm of defilement?
When such things as mindfulness and discernment have trampled
defilement to bits, how can we not see its harm with our whole
heart? How can we not see through the happiness that the defilements
bring to feed us when we're ready to die, simply to keep us
going? 'That's the sugar-coated happiness concocted by the
defilements simply to keep us going. That's the flavor of
defilement. But the flavor the Dhamma is like this, something
else entirely.' How can we help but know?
To summarize, the mind that lies under the power of the cycle,
with the defilements coercing and oppressing it, is not at
all different from a convict in prison. When it has gained
utter release from its prison of defilement, there's no comparison
for it. Even so, we praise it as being supreme -- a convention,
which doesn't really correspond to that reality. But even
though it doesn't correspond, you can be assured that the
difference is just like that, between the mind imprisoned
and the mind released from all coercion, completely free and
independent. They're different in just the way that we've
So be earnest and intent. You've come here for the purpose
of learning and finding things of substance and value for
yourselves. Investigate so as to see clearly in line with
the principles of inconstancy, stress, and not-self as I have
mentioned, because they underlie the way everything is throughout
the three levels of the cosmos. There's nothing splendid enough
for us to feel regret at leaving it. The only thing splendid
is release. It's a nature truly splendid. We don't have
to confer titles on it, because it's its own nature. It has
had enough of everything of every sort. This is what is meant
when we say that the flavor of the Dhamma excels all other
flavors. Whatever kinds of flavors we may have experienced,
the flavor of the Dhamma excels them all, lets them all go,
because no other flavor can match it. Even this flavor, it
isn't attached to. This flavor we say is supreme isn't attached
to itself. It's simply a principle of truth, and that's all.
So. Be earnest, meditators. Don't get discouraged. Give your
life to the Buddha. Even though we may have never said that
we've given our life to defilement, that's what we've done
for an infinitely long time, to the point where we can't count
the times. Even in the single lifetime of an individual, we
can't count the times. Take the realm of the present that's
visible to us and work back to infinity: It's all come from
the avijja-paccaya sankhara embedded here in the heart
for countless lifetimes. Nothing else in the cosmos has caused
us to experience becoming and birth, and to carry the mass
of all sufferings, other than this avijja-paccaya sankhara.
For this reason, when they say the mind of a person who dies
is annihilated, just where is it annihilated? Use the practice
to get a hold on the matter. Don't speak simply in line with
the tricks and deceits of defilement that close off our ears
and eyes. Defilement says that death is followed by annihilation.
See? It's blinded us completely. As for the defilement that
causes people to take birth and die, where is it annihilated?
If we want to see through its tricks and deceits, why don't
we take its arrows to shoot it in return? It causes living
beings to lie buried in the cycle, so where is defilement
annihilated? And what does it coerce, if it doesn't coerce
the mind? If the mind is annihilated, how can defilement coerce
it? The mind isn't annihilated, which is why defilement has
been able to coerce it into birth, aging, illness, and death
all along without ceasing. So why do we fall for the deceits
of defilement when it says that death is followed by annihilation,
without having the sense to see the harm of its deceits? This
sneaky defilement has fooled living beings into falling for
it and grabbing at suffering for a long, infinitely long time.
investigate down to the truth. Find out what is and isn't
annihilated. That's when you can be called skilled at the
Dhamma, skilled at exploring and investigating down to the
truth. That's how the Buddha proclaimed and taught the Dhamma.
He taught the Dhamma using the truth he had already practiced
by making the causes absolutely complete and attaining results
satisfactory to his heart, and then taking that Dhamma to
teach the world. So where did he ever say that death is followed
by annihilation, just where? He taught nothing but birth,
aging, illness, and death, birth, aging, illness, and death,
over and over. All of the Buddhas taught like this. They never
differed, because they all knew and saw the same sort of truth
in line with the principles of that truth. So how can you
make the mind be annihilated when it's already utterly true?
Birth and death, birth and death without ceasing: What is
the cause? The Buddha has taught us, beginning with avijja-paccaya
sankhara, sankhara-paccaya viññana -- 'With
unawareness as condition, there are formations. With formations
as condition, there is cognizance.' These are the causes.
They're buried in the mind, which is why they cause us to
take birth without ceasing. As soon as we destroy avijja-paccaya
sankhara, what happens? Avijjayatveva asesaviraga-nirodha
sankhara nirodho -- 'All that is needed is for unawareness
to be completely disbanded from the heart, then nirodho
hoti -- everything else is disbanded.' What do you say
to that? Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho
hoti -- 'All that is needed is for unawareness to be utterly
disbanded, and everything -- the entire mass of suffering
and stress -- is disbanded.' And that which knows that unawareness
is disbanded, that's the pure one. How can that pure
one disband or be annihilated? It's an utter truth. So look.
Listen. We Buddhists take the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as
our refuge, you know. We don't take the defilements as our
We're meditators, so we have to probe and explore so as to
see the truth. Whoever may bring the entire cosmos to intimidate
or take issue with us, we won't bat an eye. Once we've seen
and known the truth with our full hearts, how can anyone intimidate
us? Think for a minute: The Buddha was a single, solitary
person. Why was he able to be the Teacher of all three levels
of existence? If he didn't teach the truth that he had known
and seen with his full heart, what did he teach? He taught
with courage. There has never been anyone who has excelled
him in being thoroughly trained and bringing the pure truth
to teach the world. He didn't teach anything counterfeit or
guessed at. To speak out of guess-work, scratching at fleas:
That's the science of unawareness -- the science of unawareness
that lulls the world into bankruptcy. The principles of the
genuine truth don't teach us to be bankrupt, which is why
we say that those other things are counterfeit. The Dhamma
is a truth on which we can stake our life without question.
are false, the whole lot of them. 100 out of 100 are counterfeit.
The Dhamma is true -- 100 percent all true. The Dhamma and
defilement pass each other going in opposite directions, which
is why they are adversaries. In the effort of the practice,
if we don't fight with the defilements, what will we fight
with? These are our adversaries. If we don't fight with them,
what will we fight with? At the moment, the defilements are
the adversaries of the Dhamma. They're our adversaries. If
we don't fight with the defilements that are our adversaries
and the Dhamma's, what will we fight with? Once we know all
about the affairs of the defilements, what doubts will we
have about the Dhamma? In particular, what doubts will the
mind have about the matter of death and rebirth or death and
annihilation? Find out just where things get annihilated,
meditators. Whatever we hear is the voice of those filthy
defilements. Aren't we tired of washing our ears? Listen to
the voice of the foremost Teacher's Dhamma. Our ears will
then be clean, and our hearts pure.
So be earnest. Shilly-shallying around, thinking of sleep,
thinking of our stomachs: These are habits long embedded in
our hearts. They're all an affair of defilement. So flip over
a new leaf, making the heart an affair of the Dhamma, in keeping
with the fact that we're disciples of the Tathagata who have
given ourselves to be ordained in his religion and to follow
the principles of his Dhamma. That's when we'll attain a great
treasure of infinite worth to rule our hearts. When the Dhamma
rules the heart, how is it different from defilement ruling
the heart? As I've said before, the Dhamma ruling the heart
is something supreme and magnificent: We're fully free with
our full heart -- not grasping, not hungry, not searching,
not hoping to depend on anything -- for the Dhamma has filled
the heart and that's plenty enough.
Middleness of the Middle Way
remarks after a talk, August 5, 1981
can tell a resolute person when I see him -- like our Ven.
Acariya Mun. It was intimidating just to look at him. How
could the defilements not be intimidated by him? Even we were
intimidated by him, and the defilements are smarter than we
are, so how could they not be intimidated? They had
to be intimidated. That's the way things have to be. A teacher
who possesses the Dhamma, who possesses virtue, has to be
resolute so as to eliminate evil. He has to be resolute. He
can't not be resolute. The stronger the evil, then
the more resolute, the stronger his goodness has to be. It
can't not be resolute and strong. Otherwise it'll get
knocked out. Suppose this place were dirty: However dirty
it might be, we couldn't clean it just by splashing it with
a glass of water, could we? So how would we make it clean?
We'd have to use a lot of water. If this place were filled
with a pile of excrement, we'd have to splash it with a whole
bucket -- and not just an ordinary bucket. A great big one.
A single splash, and all the excrement would be scattered.
The place would become clean because the water was stronger.
Being resolute is thus different from being severe, because
it means being earnest toward everything of every sort in
keeping with reason. Take this and think it over. If you act
weakly in training yourself, you're not on the path. You have
to be strong in fighting with defilement. Don't let the strong
defilements step all over you. If we don't have any way of
fighting defilement -- if we're weak and irresolute -- we're
good for nothing at all.
Those who want what is clean and good from the Dhamma: What
is the Dhamma like? What did the Buddha teach? What sort of
defilements are eliminated by what sort of Dhamma so that
it deserves to be called the middle way? The Buddha taught,
'The middle way realized by the Tathagata -- producing vision,
producing realization -- leads to calm, to direct knowledge,
to self-awakening, to nibbana.' This is in the Discourse
on Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion. The middle way is
what can cause all these forms of knowledge to arise. Realization:
This is penetrative knowledge that's very subtle and sharp.
Even discernment is less penetrating and sharp than it is.
Self-awakening. Nibbana: This path leads to
nibbana. All of these things without exception come
from this middle way. They don't lie beyond range of this
middle way at all.
What does it mean, the word 'middle'? Middleness as it is
in reality and the middleness we hear about, study, memorize,
and speculate about: Are they different? Very different.
I'll give you an example. Suppose there are two soldiers,
both of whom have studied the full course of military science.
One of them has never been in the battle lines, while the
other has had a lot of experience in the battle lines, to
point where he has just barely escaped with his life. Which
of the two can speak more accurately and fluently about the
reality of fighting in a war? We have to agree without hesitation
that the soldier who has been in battle can speak of every
facet in line with the events he has seen and encountered
to the extent that he could come out alive. If he were stupid,
he would have had to die. He had to have been ingenious in
order to survive.
the middle way: How is it 'middle'? We've been taught that
following the middle way means not being too lax, not being
too extreme. So what way do we follow so that it's not too
lax or too extreme, so that we're in line with the principle
of middleness aimed at by the genuine Dhamma? When we've sat
a little while in meditation, we get afraid that we'll ache,
that we'll faint, we'll die, our body will be crippled, or
we'll go crazy, so we tell ourselves, 'We're being too extreme.'
See? Understand? If we think of making a donation, we say,
'No. That'd be a waste. We'd do better to use it for this
or that.' So what is this? Do you understand whose 'middleness'
this is? If we're going to follow the way of the Dhamma, we
say it's too extreme, but if we're going to follow the way
of defilement, then we're ready for anything, without a thought
for middleness at all. So whose middleness is this? It's just
the middleness of the defilements, because the defilements
have their middleness just like we do.
When people do good, want to go to heaven, want to attain
nibbana, they're afraid that it's craving. But when
they want to go to hell in this very life, you know, they
don't worry about whether it's craving or not. They don't
even think about it. When they go into a bar: Is this craving?
They don't stop to think about it. When they drink liquor
or fool around with the ways to deprivation (apaya-mukha):
Is this the middle way or not? Is this craving? Is this defilement
or not? They don't bother to think. But when they think of
turning to the area of the Dhamma, then it becomes too extreme.
Everything becomes too extreme. What is this? Doesn't the
thought ever occur to us that these are the opinions of the
defilements dragging us along? The defilements dress things
up just fine. Their real middleness is in the middle of the
pillow, the middle of the sleeping mat. As soon as we do a
little walking meditation and think buddho, dhammo, sangho,
it's as if we were being taken to our death, as if we were
tied to a leash like a monkey squirming and jumping so that
we'll let go of the buddho that will lead us beyond
their power. Whether we're going to give alms, observe the
precepts, or practice meditation, we're afraid that we're
going to faint and die. There's nothing but defilement putting
up obstacles and blocking our way. We don't realize what the
middleness of defilement is like, because it's been lulling
us to sleep all along.
Just now I mentioned the two soldiers who had studied military
science, one of whom had gone into battle while the other
one hadn't. We can compare this to studying the texts. Those
who have gone into battle -- who have had experience dealing
with defilement and fighting with defilement -- are the ones
who can describe the middle way correctly and accurately.
If you simply study and memorize... Here I'm not belittling
study. Study all you can. Memorize all you can. I'm not criticizing
memorization. But if you simply memorize the names of the
defilements -- even if you memorize their ancestry -- it doesn't
mean a thing if you aren't intent on the practice. If you
don't practice, it's just like memorizing the names of different
criminals. What this or that gang of criminals does, how it
makes its money, what it likes to do, what their names are:
We can memorize these things. Not to mention just their names,
we can even memorize their ancestry, but if we don't get into
action and deal with them, those criminals whose names we
can remember will keep on harming the world. So simply memorizing
names doesn't serve any purpose. We have to get into action
and lay down a strategy. Where do those criminals rob
and steal? We then take our strategy and put it into practice,
lying in wait for them this place and that, until we can catch
them. Society can then live in peace. This is the area of
same holds true with defilements and mental effluents. We
have to practice. Once we know, we put our knowledge into
practice. What is it like to give alms? We've already given
them. What is it like to observe the precepts? We've already
observed them. What is it like to meditate? We've already
done it. This is called practice. It's not that we simply
memorize that giving alms has results like that, observing
the precepts has results like this, meditation has results
like that, heaven is like this, nibbana is like that.
If we simply say these things and memorize them, without being
interested in the practice, we won't get to go there, we won't
get any of the results.
So now to focus down on the practice of fighting with defilement:
The defilements have been the enemies of the Dhamma from time
immemorial. The Buddha has already taught that the defilements
are the enemies of the Dhamma. Where do they lie? Right here
-- in the human heart. Where does the Dhamma lie? In the human
heart. This is why human beings have to fight defilement.
In fighting the defilements, there has to be some suffering
and pain as a matter of course. Whatever weapons they use,
whatever their attack, whatever their tactics, the Dhamma
has to go spinning on in. The ways of sidestepping, fighting,
jabbing, attacking: the ways of eliminating defilement all
have to be in line with the policies of the Dhamma -- such
as Right Views and Right Attitudes -- spinning back and forth.
Gradually the defilements collapse through our practice. This
is what is meant by the middle way.
So. Go ahead and want. Want to gain release from suffering.
Want to gain merit. Want to go to heaven. Want to go to nibbana.
Go ahead and want as much as you like, because it's all part
of the path. It's not the case that all wanting is craving
(tanha). If we think that all wanting is craving, then
if we don't let there be craving, it's as if we were dead.
No wanting, no anything: Is that what it means not to have
defilement or craving? Is that kind of person anything special?
It's nothing special at all, because it's a dead person. They're
all over the place. A person who isn't dead has to want this
and that -- just be careful that you don't go wanting in the
wrong direction, that's all. If you want in the wrong direction,
it's craving and defilement. If you want in the right direction,
it's the path, so make sure you understand this.
The stronger our desire, the more resolute our persistence
will be. Desire and determination are part of the path, the
way to gain release from stress. When our desire to go heaven,
to attain nibbana, to gain release from stress is strong
and makes us brave in the fight, then our persistence, our
stamina, our fighting spirit are pulled together into a single
strength by our desire to attain nibbana and release
from stress. They keep spinning away with no concern for day
or night, the month or the year. They simply keep at the fight
all the time. How about it? Are they resolute now? When the
desire gets that strong, we have to be resolute, meditators.
No matter how many defilements there are, make them collapse.
We can't retreat. We're simply determined to make the defilements
collapse. If they don't collapse, then we're prepared to collapse
if we're no match for them. But the word 'lose' doesn't exist
in the heart. If they kick us out of the ring, we climb right
back in to fight again. If they kick us out again, we climb
back in again and keep on fighting. After this happens many
times, we can start kicking the defilements out of the ring
too, you know. After we're been kicked and hit many times,
each time is a lesson.
we lose to defilement, whatever tactics the defilements use
to beat us, we use their tactics to counteract them. Eventually
we'll be able to stand them off. As the defilements gradually
become weaker, the matters of the Dhamma -- concentration,
mindfulness, discernment, persistence -- become stronger and
stronger. This is where the defilements have to grovel, because
they're no match. They're no match for the Dhamma. Before,
we were the only ones groveling. Wherever we groveled, we'd
get kicked by the defilements. Lying down, we'd cry. We'd
moan. Sitting, we'd moan. Standing, we'd feel desire. Walking,
we'd feel desire and hunger. Wherever we'd go, there'd be
nothing but love, hate, and anger filling the heart. There'd
be nothing but defilement stomping all over us. But once these
things get struck down by mindfulness, discernment, conviction,
and persistence, they don't exist no matter where we go --
because the defilements are groveling. They keep on groveling,
and we keep on probing for them without let up. Whenever we
find one, we kill it. Whenever we find one, we kill it, until
the defilements are completely eradicated, with nothing left
in the heart. So now when we talk about defilement, no matter
what the kind, we can talk without hesitation. Whatever tricks
and tactics we employed to shed the defilements, we can describe
without hesitation. The purity of the heart that has no more
defilements ruining it as before, we can describe without
This is like the person who has gone into battle and can speak
without hesitation. It's not the same as when we simply memorize.
If we simply memorize, we can speak only in line with the
texts. We can't elaborate the least little bit. We don't know
how. But a person who has gone into battle knows all the ins
and outs -- not simply that military science says to do things
like this or to follow that route. He can make his way through
every nook and cranny, every zig and zag, depending on what
he needs to do to get to safety or gain victory. A fighter
takes whatever means he can get.
It's the same with us in fighting defilement. Whatever approach
we should use to win, the Buddha provides all the weapons
of the Dhamma for us to think up with our own mindfulness
and discernment. We people never run out of rope, you know.
When we really come to the end of our rope, then mindfulness
and discernment produce ways for us to help ourselves so that
we can bash the defilements to bits, until no more defilements
are left. From that point on, wherever the defilements bring
in their armies, in whoever's heart, we know them all -- because
they've been entirely eliminated from ours.
This is the practice. This is what's called the middle way.
When the defilements come swashbuckling in, the middle way
goes swashbuckling out. If they bring in a big army, the middle
way has to fight them off with a big army. If they're hard-hitting,
we're hard-hitting. If they're dare-devils, we're dare-devils.
This is what's meant by the middle way: the appropriate way,
appropriate for defeating the armies of the enemy. If their
army is large while ours is small and our efforts few, it
just won't work. We'll have to lose. However large their army,
however many their weapons, our army has to be larger and
our weapons more. Only then will we win. This is what's called
the army of the Dhamma. However large the army of defilement
may be, mindfulness, discernment, conviction, and persistence
have to go spinning in and treat them with a heavy hand. Finally,
the defilements fall flat on their backs, and we won't have
to chant a funeral service for them. We've gained the superlative
the defilements have fallen flat on their backs, we aren't
worried about where we'll live in the cosmos. Why ask? We're
not interested in whether we'll be reborn in heaven, in the
Brahma worlds, or in hell after we die. There is nothing that
knows more than the heart. Normally, the heart is already
a knower, so now that it knows clearly in line with reason,
in line with the Dhamma, what is there to wonder about?
This is why there is only one Buddha at a time -- because
a Buddha arises with difficulty, gains release with difficulty.
He's the first to gain Awakening, making his way all by himself
past the enemy army of defilement, craving, and mental effluents,
to proclaim the Dhamma to the world so that we can study it
and put it into practice, which is our great good fortune.
We've been born right in the midst of the Buddha's teachings,
so be earnest in practicing them so as to profit from them.
The teachings of the Lord Buddha aren't a child's doll or
plaything, you know.
The Dhamma is sanditthiko -- directly visible. The
teachings of the Buddha are the open market of the paths,
fruitions, and nibbana. They're never out of date --
unless we're out of date, which is why we let the defilements
fool us into thinking that the Dhamma is out of date; that
people who practice the Dhamma are old-fashioned and out of
date; that people who enter monasteries are old-fashioned
and out of date; that the teachings of the religion have no
paths or fruitions any more; that the paths, fruitions, and
nibbana don't exist; that no matter how much you practice,
you'll just wear yourself out in vain. These things are nothing
but defilement deceiving us -- and we believe everything it
says, so we keep going bankrupt without even a scrap of good
to our names. Why are we willing to believe it so thoroughly?
saranam gacchami' -- I go to defilement for refuge.' We've
never said it. All we say is 'buddham dhammam sangham saranam
gacchami' -- I go to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha for
refuge,' but when the defilements give us a single blow, we
fall flat on our backs. What good does it accomplish? What
does 'Buddham saranam gacchami' mean? Nothing but Kilesam
saranam gacchami. Even though we never say it, our beliefs
fall in line with defilement without our even thinking about
it. This is called Kilesam saranam gacchami. The grandchildren
of defilement we saranam gacchami. The grandparents
of defilement we saranam gacchami. Everything about
the defilements we grovel and saranam gacchami. We're
all a bunch of kilesam saranam gacchami. Think it over.
So be resolute, meditators. Desire to see the truth. It's
there in the heart of every person. The Buddha didn't lay
any exclusive claims to it. All that's needed is that you
practice. Don't doubt the paths, fruitions, and nibbana.
When are the defilements ever out of date? They're in our
hearts at all times. Why don't we ever see them being accused
of being out of date? 'Every kind of defilement is old-fashioned.
The defilements are out of style, so don't have anything to
do with them.' I don't see us ever give a thought to criticizing
them. So how is it that the Dhamma that remedies defilement
is out of existence? The Dhamma is a pair with defilement,
but defilement simply lulls us to sleep so that we won't use
the Dhamma to defeat it. It's afraid of losing its power --
because defilement is intimidated by the Dhamma, which is
why it deceives us into not heading towards the Dhamma. So
Very well, then. I'm tired of preaching to meditators who
Kilesam saranam gacchami.
Simile of the Horse
from informal remarks after a talk, July 23, 1981
don't know where my courage came from. Just think -- the fear
I used to feel for Ven. Acariya Mun, I didn't feel at all.
I was bold. I wanted to speak. I wanted to tell him what I
had experienced. The mind was impetuous and spoke right up
without any fear. That was when he got to see my true nature.
Before that, I had never shown anything at all. No matter
what the mind had been like, I had never behaved that way;
but once this awareness arose, I went up to see him when there
were just the two of us and told him right away. It was as
if he were the master of a dog, urging me on to bite the defilements.
Ven. Acariya Mun -- who could be more astute than he? As soon
as I went up to see him, I started right in speaking without
Once the mind knows the truth, together with how it has contemplated,
it can describe it all, including the results that appear.
It can describe them in full detail. While I was speaking,
he listened in silence. As for me, I kept right on going.
'This crazy guy doesn't just fool around' -- that's probably
what he was thinking. 'When his madness is on the rise, he's
really in earnest.' That's probably what he said to himself.
As soon as I had finished, he burst right out: 'That's the
way it's got to be!' He really got going, and I bowed down
and listened. 'We don't die up to five times in a single lifetime,'
he said. 'We die only once. So keep on striking away. You've
finally caught on to the basic principle. You've finally got
it, so keep wrestling with it.' I was like a dog he spurred
on -- I was so happy. Coming away from him, I was ready to
bark and to bite. I kept fighting away. That is, I continued
sitting all night in meditation and kept telling him the Dhamma
I had gained. Sitting in meditation all night -- I did it
more than nine or ten times that Rains Retreat, and I wasn't
just sitting as normal, because I was wrestling with my full
strength, both because of the marvels I was seeing and because
of my frustration over the way my mind had regressed earlier.
These two got added together, so that the mind had the full
strength of frustration and daring. As time passed though,
Ven. Acariya Mun finally gave me a warning -- a single flash:
'The defilements don't lie in the body,' he said. 'They
lie in the heart.'
He then gave a comparison with a horse. 'When a horse is unruly
and won't listen to its master, the master has to give it
really harsh treatment. If he has to make it starve, he should
make it starve -- really treat it harshly until it can't make
a move. Once it finally stops being rebellious, though, he
can let up on the harsh treatment. When its rebelliousness
weakens, the harsh treatment can be relaxed.' That's all he
said -- and I understood immediately. If he had said more
than that... He knew what sort of person I was: He was afraid
I'd go completely limp. So he gave just a flash of a warning,
and I understood...
in the Practice, Principles in the Heart
important point for a meditating monk is to have principles
in the heart. 'Principles in the heart' means the various
stages of concentration and levels of discernment, all the
way to the level of arahantship. These are called the principles
in the heart for meditating monks. If the principles in the
heart are good, every aspect of the principles in our practice
will be good as well, because the heart is what gives the
orders. This is why we see the heart as having primary importance.
When a person with principles in the heart practices, it's
very different from a person without principles in the heart.
When a person with principles in the heart makes compromises
in line with events at some times, in some places, and with
some individuals, and when he is strict with himself at normal
times, he does so with reason -- which is different from a
person who is simply determined, without having principles
in the heart. Even though such a person may be resolute and
courageous, he's pervaded with error, pride, and conceit.
He's not as even as he should be in his ascetic practices
(dhutanga), which are means of cleansing away the defilements
of pride and conceit fermenting inside him. The body is an
affair of the world, like the world in general. It has to
be involved with the world, which requires compromises with
certain people, in certain places, and on certain occasions.
But if, when we have to make compromises, we can't do so for
fear that we're sacrificing our strictness or our ascetic
practices; or if once we compromise we can't return to our
strictness, it's a matter of pride in either case and can't
help but have an impact on ourselves and on others both when
we should be strict and when we should make compromises in
line with events.
When a person with principles in the heart sees fitting, in
line with reason, he makes compromises when he should with
certain individuals, places, and events that may happen from
time to time. But when that necessity is past, he returns
to his original strictness without any difficulty in forcing
himself. This is because reason, the Dhamma, is already in
charge of his heart, so he has no difficulties both when making
compromises and when following the ascetic practices strictly
as he is accustomed to.
All of this is something I practiced when living with Ven.
Acariya Mun. For example, I'd vow to follow a particular practice
or several practices without telling him -- although he would
know perfectly well, because I couldn't keep it secret from
him. But because of my great respect for him, I'd have to
make compromises, even though it bothered me (bothered my
As a rule, I wouldn't be willing to make compromises at all.
That was a feeling set up like a barrier in the mind, because
my intentions were really determined like that. I wouldn't
let anything pass without my working right through it with
this determination of mine.
The first year I went to stay with him, I heard him talk about
the ascetic practices -- such as the practice of accepting
only the food received on one's alms round -- because he himself
was very strict in observing them. From that point on, I'd
vow to take on special ascetic practices during the Rains
Retreat, without ever slacking. I'd vow to eat only the food
I got while on my alms round. If anyone else would try to
put food in my bowl aside from the food I had received on
my round, I wouldn't accept it and wouldn't be interested
in it. Ever since then, I've kept to this without fail. I'd
be sure that I for one wouldn't let this vow be broken. Once
the Rains Retreat came, I'd have to make this vow as a rule
in my heart, without missing even a single year.
The years we spent the rains at Baan Naa Mon, Ven. Acariya
Mun was really observant and astute. Of all the sages of our
day and age, who could be sharper than he? He knew I had vowed
not to accept food that came afterwards, but on the occasions
he would come to put food in my bowl, he'd say, 'Maha, please
let me put a little food in your bowl. This is a gift from
one contemplative to another.' That's what he'd say. 'This
is a gift from a fellow contemplative. Please accept it.'
That meant he was giving me the food himself.
there'd be groups of lay people from Nong Khai, Sakon Nakhorn,
or other places who would come to Baan Naa Mon to present
food to Ven. Acariya Mun and the other monks in the monastery.
This would happen once in a long, long while, because in those
days there were no cars or buses. You'd have to travel on
foot or by cart. These people would hire ox-carts to come
and would spend a night or two -- but they wouldn't stay with
the monks in the monastery. They'd stay in the shack in Yom
Phaeng's rice field. When morning came, they'd prepare food
and, instead of waiting outside the monastery to place the
food in our bowls as we returned from our alms round, they'd
bring it into the monastery to present it to us. I wouldn't
dare accept their food, for fear that my observance would
be broken. I'd walk right past them. As I noticed, though,
Ven. Acariya Mun would accept their food out of pity for them.
There would be a lot of food left over from presenting it
to the monks, so they'd bring it to the meeting hall -- fruit,
individual servings of food wrapped in banana leaves -- but
we wouldn't take any of it. It'd get passed around without
making a ripple. No one, except sometimes one or two of the
monks, would take any of it. It must have looked not just
a little strange to the lay people. As for me, I wouldn't
dare take any of it, for fear that my observance of this ascetic
practice would be broken. Several days later, Ven. Acariya
Mun asked to put food in my bowl, saying, 'This is a gift
from a fellow contemplative. Please let me put it in your
bowl.' And then he put it in my bowl. He did it himself, you
know. Normally -- who would I let put anything in my bowl!
I'd be afraid that my observance would be broken or at the
very least wouldn't be complete. But he probably saw that
there was pride lurking in my vow to observe this practice,
so he helped bend it a little to give me a number of things
to think about, so that I wouldn't be simply a straight-arrow
type. This was why he'd find various ways to teach me both
directly and indirectly.
I in particular was very straight-arrow. I was very set on
things in that way, which is why I wouldn't let anyone destroy
my ascetic practice by putting food in my bowl -- except for
Ven. Acariya Mun, whom I respected with all my heart. With
him, I'd give in and let him put food in my bowl the times
he saw fit. I was solidly determined not to let this observance
be deficient, not even the least little bit. This was something
that kept chafing in the heart. I'd have to be complete both
in terms of the observance I was following and in terms of
my determination, but because of my love and respect for him,
I'd accept his gifts even though I didn't feel comfortable
about it. This is the difference between a principle in the
practice and a principle in the heart.
I admit that I was right in the earnestness of my practice,
but I wasn't right in terms of the levels of Dhamma that
were higher and more subtle than that. Looking at myself
and looking at Ven. Acariya Mun, I could see that we were
very different. Ven. Acariya Mun, when looking at something,
would see it thoroughly, in a way that was just right from
every angle in the heart -- which wasn't like the rest of
us, who would view things in our stupid way from one side
only. We didn't use discernment the way he did. That was something
we'd have to admit. Here I've been talking about practicing
the Dhamma with Ven. Acariya Mun at Baan Naa Mon.
we moved to Baan Nong Phue, I vowed again to observe this
particular practice. Wherever I'd go, I'd stick to my guns
as far as this practice was concerned and wouldn't retreat.
I wouldn't let it be broken. Coming back from my alms round,
I'd quickly put my bowl in order, taking just a little of
whatever I'd eat -- because during the rains I'd never eat
my fill. I'd never eat my fill at all. I'd tell myself to
take only so-and-so much, around 60 to 70 percent. For example,
out of 100 percent full, I'd cut back about 30 to 40 percent,
which seemed about right, because there were a number of us
living together as a group. If I were to go without food altogether,
it wouldn't be convenient, because we always had duties involved
with the group. I myself was like one of the senior members
of the group, in a behind-the-scenes sort of way, though I
never let on. I was involved in looking after the peace and
order within the group in the monastery. I didn't have much
seniority -- just over ten rains in the monkhood -- but it
seemed that Ven. Acariya Mun was kind enough to trust me --
also behind the scenes -- in helping him look after the monks
When the rains would begin, all of us in the monastery would
vow to observe different ascetic practices, and after not
too many days this or that person would fall back. This showed
how earnest or lackadaisical the members of the group were,
and made me even more meticulous and determined in my duties
and my ascetic practices. When I'd see my fellow meditators
acting like this, I'd feel disillusioned with them in many
ways. My mind would become even more fired up, and I'd encourage
myself to be unrelenting. I'd ask myself, 'With events all
around you like this, are you going to fall back?' And the
confident answer I'd get would be, 'What is there to fall
back? Who is this if not me? I've always been this sort of
person from the very beginning. Whatever I do, I have to take
it seriously. Once I decide to do something, I have to be
earnest with it. I don't know how to fool around. I won't
fall back unless I die, which is something beyond my control.
I won't let anyone put food in my bowl under any circumstances.'
Listen to that -- 'under any circumstances.' That was how
I felt at the time.
So the changes in my fellow meditators were like a sermon
for me to listen to and take to heart. I haven't forgotten
it, even to this day. As soon as I returned from my alms round,
I'd quickly take whatever I was going to eat, put my bowl
in order, and then quickly prepare whatever I had that I'd
put in Ven. Acariya Mun's bowl -- this or that serving that
I had noticed seemed to go well with his health, as far as
I knew and understood. I'd set aside whatever should be set
aside and prepare whatever should go into his bowl. Then I'd
return to my seat, my eyes watchful and my ears ready to hear
whatever he might say before we'd start eating.
As for my own bowl, when I had put it in order, I'd put it
out of the way behind my seat, right against the wall next
to a post. I'd put the lid on and cover it with a cloth to
make doubly sure that no one would mess with it and put any
food in it. At that time I wouldn't allow anyone to put food
in my bowl at all. I made that clear in no uncertain terms.
But when Ven. Acariya Mun put food in my bowl, he'd have his
way of doing it. After I had prepared the food I would give
to him and had returned to my place; after we had given our
blessings and during the period of silence when we were contemplating
our food -- that's when he'd do it: right when we were about
to eat. I have no idea where he had arranged the food to put
in my bowl -- but he wouldn't do it repeatedly. He knew and
he sympathized with me. On the occasions when he'd put food
in my bowl, he'd say, 'Maha, please let me put food in your
bowl. These lay people came late...' -- and his hand was already
in my bowl -- right when I had placed my bowl in front of
me and was contemplating my food. I didn't know what to do,
because of my respect for him. So I had to let him do it in
his kindness -- but I wouldn't let anyone else do it. He'd
do it only once in a long while. In one Rains Retreat, he'd
do it only three or four times at most. He wouldn't do it
repeatedly, because he was every astute. The word majjhima
-- just right: You'd have to hand it to him, without being
able to find anything to fault.
ever since then I've stuck to my practice all along, up to
the present. As for the monks and novices who couldn't get
it together, they all ended up in failure, which has made
me think -- made me think without ceasing -- about my fellow
meditators: 'What is it with their hearts that they don't
have any firm principles, that they keep failing like this?
What mainstay can they have for the future when the present
is already a failure?' Events like this have kept me thinking
in this way without ceasing, all the way up to the meditators
who are living with me at present.
For this reason, the ascetic observances are very important
principles in the practice. Eating from the bowl: There are
many people, monks among them, who don't see the value of
eating from the bowl. In addition to not seeing the value
of this ascetic practice, they may see it as unbecoming or
inappropriate, both in the monastery and in society at large,
in that all sorts of food -- meat dishes, desserts, etc. --
get mixed together in the one bowl. They may even think that
it's ugly or messy -- which is an opinion of the defilements
trying to efface the truth of the Dhamma. There are few who
see the value of any of the thirteen ascetic practices, even
though all thirteen are tools for us monks to wash away defilement.
It's well known that the defilements and the Dhamma have always
worked at cross-purposes from time immemorial. Those who give
their hearts and lives in homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha will practice in line with what the Buddha taught.
Those who give their hearts and lives in homage to the cycle
of defilement will practice in line with the opinions of defilement.
So to whom are we going to pay homage now? Hurry up and decide.
Don't delay. Otherwise the defilements will pull you up to
the chopping block -- don't say I didn't warn you. The Dhamma
has already been taught, so hurry up and start walking. Don't
waste your time being afraid that it's out of date, or you
won't be able to make a step.
-- the practice of wearing robes made from cast-off cloth:
This is to counteract our feeling for price, ostentation,
pride, and excess -- the type of beauty that promotes defilement
and steps all over the Dhamma -- so that these things don't
encumber the hearts of meditators whose duty is to eliminate
the defilements in order to promote the Dhamma and nourish
the heart to be gracious and fine. The items of consumption
we collect from what is thrown away are good for killing the
defilements of greed, ostentation, and excess, love for beauty
and haughtiness. Sages have thus praised and followed this
practice all along up to the present. We can see their footprints
in using this method to kill defilement as a treat for our
hearts and eyes so that we won't die in vain in having followed
the homeless life.
practice of going for alms: This is so that we'll perform
our duties in line with the Buddha's instructions -- pindiyalopa-bhojanam
nissaya pabbajja, 'The life gone forth is supported by
means of almsfood' -- instructions we received on the day
of our ordination. Don't be lazy. Don't forget yourself because
of whatever other gifts of food you may receive. Whoever may
present them, see them as extraneous. They're not more necessary
than the food we get by going for alms with the strength of
our own legs -- which is our duty as monks who do their work
properly. This is the really appropriate way to gain food
in line with the pindiyalopa-bhojanam in the instructions
we receive during our ordination. Listen! It's fitting, appropriate,
which is why the Buddha taught us to go for alms, something
of first-place importance in our pure work as monks.
The Buddha went for alms throughout his career. The few times
he didn't were when he was staying in a place where it wasn't
appropriate -- as when he was living in the Prileyya Forest,
and the elephants looked after him because there were no people
around. So there were only a few times when the Buddha made
exceptions to this practice. Pubbanhe pindapatanca
-- in the five duties of the Buddha -- 'In the morning he
would go for alms for the sake of the beings of the world.'
Listen to that!
At four in the afternoon he would give instructions to his
lay following: kings, generals, financiers, landowners, merchants,
and ordinary people in general.
bhikkhu-ovadam: After dark he would exhort the monks.
This is the second of his duties as a Buddha.
deva-panhanam: After midnight he would answer the questions
posed by the various levels of the heavenly beings -- from
the lowest up to the highest -- and give them instructions.
This is the third of his duties.
vilokanam: In the last watch of the night he would survey
the beings of the world, using his superior intuition to see
what beings might be caught in the net of his knowledge whom
he should go to teach first -- whoever might be prepared to
receive the teaching and whose lives might be in danger, so
that he shouldn't wait long before going to teach them. This
is the fourth duty.
pindapatanca: The following morning he would then go out
for alms on a regular basis. These are the five duties of
the Buddha that he normally wouldn't abandon. He'd abandon
them only on special occasions. For example, going for alms:
When he was staying in the Prileyya Forest, he couldn't go
for alms, so he put that duty aside. But otherwise he viewed
going for alms as a necessary duty, which is why we have to
teach monks to view going for alms as a right activity, as
extremely appropriate work. For monks, there is no work in
searching for their livelihood more appropriate than going
for alms. No matter who might have the faith to bring gifts
of food, no matter how much, we should view it as extraneous
gains, a luxury, and not as more necessary than the food gained
by going for alms. This is so that we don't forget ourselves
and become entangled in that sort of thing.
The Buddha teaches monks not to forget themselves, not to
be lazy, because the defilement of laziness is important,
and to forget ourselves is no mean vice -- for we tend to
become haughty when there are many people respecting us, and
especially when they are people of high status. When we have
a large following, we tend to throw out our chest and put
on airs. Even though we don't have stripes, it's as if we
paint them on to be a royal tiger showing off his rank. Since
when were they ever a small matter, the defilements of monks?
This is why the Buddha taught us to stamp out these ugly defilements
in the society of Buddhists and monks by not forgetting ourselves.
However many people come to respect us, that's their business.
Our business is not to forget our duties. Don't forget that
monks' business is monks' business. To forget yourself
is none of your business as a monk. Even lay people who
are mindful don't forget themselves. They're always even in
the way they place themselves in relation to others. We're
monks -- meditating monks at that -- which is even more of
a delicate matter. It's our business to be mindful of ourselves
and to use our discernment to scrutinize events that come
to involve us at all times, not to be careless and forgetful
in any circumstances. This is how we show our colors as monks
who see danger in what is dangerous.
are members of the Sakyan lineage, the lineage of the Buddha,
who was sharper and more intelligent than anyone else in the
three levels of the cosmos. For what reason, should we make
fools of ourselves over the baits of the world, which fill
the earth and aren't anywhere nearly as difficult to find
as the Dhamma? To forget ourselves, to swell up with pride
because of extraneous gains or the respect of people at large:
Is this our proper honor and pride as sons of the Sakyan?
It's simply because we see the superlative Dhamma as something
lower than these things that we monks don't think or come
to our senses enough to fear their danger in the footsteps
of our Teacher.
purisam hanti -- 'Homage kills a man.' Fish die because
they are tempted by bait. If we monks don't die because of
things like this, what does make us die? Consider this carefully.
Did the Buddha give this teaching to stupid fish or to those
of us monks who are moving toward the hook at the moment?
Be aware of the fact that the outside is bait, but inside
the bait is the hook. If you don't want to meet with disaster,
be careful not to bite the hook.
from the bowl: This is a very important activity, but
we don't see its importance. Ordinarily, we who have ordained
in the religion have no vessel for our food more appropriate
than our bowl. Even monogrammed plates and gold platters aren't
more appropriate than the bowl. Only the bowl is appropriate
for monks when they eat. Nothing else is better or more fitting.
We each have only one bowl and put everything in there together.
The Buddha has already set us a solid example.
Or is it that when food gets mixed together like that, it'll
spoil our digestion -- as most people say, and we've already
heard many times. If that's the case, then when it all gets
mixed in the stomach, won't it spoil our digestion? How many
stomachs do we have in our belly? How many vessels are in
there for us to put our separate sorts of food in? This one
for desserts, this one for meat dishes, this one for spicy
curry, this one for hot curry: Are there any? Are there different
vessels for putting our separate sorts of food in, to keep
our digestion from spoiling? We simply see that when food
is mixed in the bowl, it'll spoil our digestion, but not when
it's mixed in the stomach. This view -- fearing that our digestion
will be spoiled -- is for the sake of promoting our tongues
and stomachs, not for promoting the mind and the Dhamma through
our various practices.
If there is anything toxic in the food -- whether or not it's
mixed in the bowl -- then when it's eaten, it can spoil our
digestion, with no relation to whether or not it's mixed together,
because the toxicity lies with the things that are toxic,
and not with the mixing together. When it's eaten, it's toxic.
But if the food isn't toxic, then when it's mixed it isn't
toxic, so where will it get any toxicity? The food is beneficial,
without any harm or toxicity mixed in. When it's placed together
in the bowl, it's still food. When it's eaten and goes to
the stomach, it's a benefit to the body.
So we as monks and meditators should be observant of the differences
between Dhamma and not-Dhamma, which are always effacing each
other. For example: Eating food from the bowl spoils your
digestion. Eating outside of the bowl improves your digestion
and fattens the defilements -- but the Dhamma grovels and
can't get up because not-Dhamma has kept stomping on it in
this way without mercy from every side all along.
when food is mixed in the bowl, it's an excellent sermon.
Before eating, we contemplate. While eating, we contemplate
the incongruity of food and we're bound to get unusual tactics
for training the mind from the food that is mixed together
-- because we don't eat for enjoyment, for beautification,
for pride, or for recklessness. We eat enough to keep the
body going, to practice the holy life so as to take the defilements
and the mental effluents -- poisons that are buried deep,
cluttering the heart -- and wash them away by contemplating
them aptly, using these ascetic practices as our tools.
food that is brought afterwards: This too is to prevent
us from being greedy and forgetting ourselves. Even when there's
a lot of food -- more than enough -- greed, you know, has
no land of enough. That's good. This is good. The more food
there is, the wider our mouth, the longer our tongue, the
bigger our stomach. These are always overtaking the Dhamma
without let-up. This is sweet. That's aromatic. This is rich
-- everything keeps on being good. There's no brake on our
wheels -- no mindfulness -- at all. Actually, the word 'good'
here is a title conferred by defilement to erase our contentment
with little, our fewness of wants as meditators, without our
realizing it. This is why we tend to be carried away by the
lullaby of the defilements' word 'good.'
As for whether the Dhamma is good or not, that's another matter
entirely. If the food is sweet, we know. If it's aromatic,
we know. If the mind is attached to the flavor, we have to
try to know. To be careful. To thwart the defilement that
wants to get a lot and eat a lot. The Dhamma has us take just
enough, or just a little, in keeping with the Dhamma; to eat
just enough for the body, or just a little, without being
greedy for food or other items of consumption. We eat just
enough to keep going. We aren't stuffed and lethargic, aiming
more at our beds than at the persistent effort to abandon
We monks, when we eat a lot and have a lot of extraneous gains,
get fat and strong, but the mind forgets itself and doesn't
feel like meditating. This is good for nothing at all. We
simply have food fattening the body, without any Dhamma to
fatten the mind. The mind that used to have Dhamma to some
extent gets thinner and more emaciated day by day. If it's
never had any Dhamma -- such as the Dhamma of concentration
-- the situation is even worse. It has no goals at all. The
ascetic practices thus have to put a brake on our greed for
food so that the mind can have a chance to follow the Dhamma.
The defilements won't have to be fattened, the body will be
light, the mind will be still and light while making its effort
-- more easily stilled than when the belly is stuffed tight
with food. This is something really embarrassing in meditating
monks: the way we take our stomachs, instead of the Dhamma,
to show off to the world.
in the forest: How does it differ from living in villages?
It has to differ, which is why the Buddha taught us to live
there. And living in an ordinary forest vs. living
in a lonely forest: How does this feel to the person living
there? For a person aiming at the Dhamma, there's a big difference
between living in a forest and living in a lonely forest,
including the effort required to make the mind quiet. In a
lonely forest, the mind becomes still easily because we aren't
complacent. We're watchful over ourselves. Wherever we're
mindful and alert, that's the effort of practice. Defilement
is afraid of people who are mindful and alert, who are
always watchful over themselves. It's not afraid of complacent
people. The Buddha thus opened the way, using the ascetic
practices, for us to take victory over defilement. This is
the way that will stamp out defilement. It's not the case
that he opened the way through the ascetic practices for defilement
to stomp all over the heart.
the ascetic practices, for those who follow them, are ways
of subduing defilement. For example, living under the shade
of a tree, in appropriate forests and mountains: The Buddha
and his Noble Disciples all came into being in purity from
these things, so we as meditators should reflect on this.
We shouldn't forget ourselves. However many material gains
we may receive, we shouldn't forget ourselves because of them,
for that's not the way of those who follow in the footsteps
of the Buddha and his Noble Disciples.
No matter how many people come to respect us, that's their
business. We in practicing the Dhamma should beware of that
sort of thing, because it's a concern and a distraction, an
inconvenience in the practice. We shouldn't get involved in
anything but the contact between the heart and the Dhamma
at all times. That's what's appropriate for us. If the mind
becomes a world of rebirth, it'll outstrip the worldliness
of the world to the point where it has no limits or bounds.
The more people come to respect us -- and our defilements
as monks and human beings are always ready to welcome this
-- the more pride we feel, the more we forget ourselves. We
swell up more than a river overflowing its banks, because
this is a matter of defilement, not of the Dhamma. Matters
of the Dhamma have to be even. They require us to be mindful
at all times and not to forget ourselves. This is the path
followed by those who have practiced to lift themselves beyond
suffering and stress. Those of us who want to gain release
like them have to practice like them -- or like students who
have teachers. We shouldn't practice haphazardly, claiming
to be smart and not listening to anyone. That's the path of
practice taking us up on the chopping block with the onions
and garlic, not the path taking us to the paths, fruitions,
These are things I have felt ever since I was a young monk,
and so I've been able to hold to them as good lessons all
along. There were times when I saw people coming to show respect
to my teachers, and it gave rise to a strange sort of feeling
in my heart -- the feeling that I'd like to have them respect
me in the same way -- but at the same time I knew that the
mind was base and was giving rise to an obscene desire, so
I didn't encourage it. I kept blocking it and was always conscious
of my own fault in feeling that way.
When I really began to practice, I knew even more clearly
that that was a wrong notion, that to think in that way wasn't
right at all. It was like the toad trying to compare himself
to the ox. My teacher's status was that of a teacher. My status
was that of a toad lurking underground. How could I try to
compare myself with him if I didn't want to burst like the
toad in Aesop's fable? That fable is a very good lesson for
those who practice properly for the sake of release.
practice of visiting the cemetery: Why visit the cemetery?
We people have to see evidence with our own eyes if we're
going to come to our senses. Visiting cemeteries is for the
sake of seeing human death. Cemeteries in the past weren't
like they are today. Unburied bodies were scattered all over
the place -- old bodies and new, scattered around like logs.
When you saw them, you'd see clear evidence with your own
The Buddha gave instructions on how to visit a cemetery. Go
from the upwind side, he said, not from the downwind side.
Don't begin by looking at new corpse. Look at the old ones
first. Keep contemplating the theme of your meditation and
gradually move on until you know that the mind has enough
mindfulness and discernment to contemplate a new corpse. Only
then should you move on to a new corpse -- because a new corpse
still has regular features. If the person who just died had
beautiful features, it might cause desire to flare up, and
you'd end up with an out-of-the-ordinary meditation theme,
which is why you have to be careful.
Buddha taught stage by stage, to visit the cemetery at intervals
or in steps, and to contemplate it at intervals in keeping
with your capabilities. He wouldn't have you go storming right
in, for that wouldn't be fitting. He taught all the steps.
Don't be in a hurry to contemplate a corpse that hasn't fallen
apart or been bitten, a corpse that is still new and hasn't
swollen or grown foul. Don't be in a hurry to approach such
a corpse. And be especially careful with a corpse of the opposite
sex -- that's what he said -- until the mind is capable enough
in its contemplation. Then you can contemplate anything.
Once we've contemplated death outside until we gain clear
evidence, we then turn inward to contemplate the death in
our own body until we catch on to the principle within the
mind. Then the external cemetery gradually becomes unnecessary,
because we've caught on to the principle within ourselves
and don't need to rely on anything outside. We contemplate
our body to see it as a cemetery just like the external cemetery,
both while it's alive and after it dies. We can compare each
aspect with the outside, and the mind gradually runs out of
problems of its own accord.
practice of not lying down: This is simply a way of training
ourselves to make a great effort. It doesn't mean that we
take not-lying-down as a constant practice. We may resolve,
for example, not to lie down tonight as our ascetic practice.
This is a practice to be observed on occasion -- or you might
resolve not to lie down for two or three nights running, depending
on the resolution you make.
practice of living in whatever dwelling is assigned to one:
This is another ascetic practice. They're all ways of getting
monks to subdue the defilement of forgetting oneself.
A monk who observes the ascetic practices well, who is solid
in his observance of them, is one who is solid in his practice,
truly intent on the Dhamma, truly intent on subduing defilement.
He's not a person ordained to do nothing or who forgets himself.
All thirteen ascetic practices are tools for subduing the
defilements of those who follow them. There's nothing about
them that anyone can criticize -- except for Devadatta and
A monk who doesn't observe any of these practices is an empty
monk who forgets himself, who has nothing but the outside
status of a monk. He wraps himself in a yellow robe, calls
himself venerable -- and becomes haughty as a result. Even
more so when he's given ecclesiastical rank: If the heart
is taken with that sort of thing, it'll have to get excited
over its shadow, without any need for backup music to get
it going. The mind gets itself going through the power of
the clay on its head, thinking that it has a crest. Since
when has this defilement ever been willing to yield to anyone?
People of this sort forget all the affairs of monks and become
part of the world -- going even further than the world. Rank
is given for the sake of encouraging good practice and conduct,
but if the mind becomes haughty, rank becomes a way of destroying
oneself, killing oneself with various assumptions. The King
bestows ranks and names, this and that, and we assume them
to be a crest. Actually, they're just a bit of clay stuck
on our head, not a natural crest. If you want a natural crest,
then follow the practice well. What could be finer than to
be 'venerable' in line with the principles of nature? The
word 'venerable' means excellent, so why be enthralled with
dolls and clay?
be venerable doesn't mean that just our name is excellent.
We have to be excellent in our practice and conduct,
in line with such principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya as the
ascetic practices. If we're solid in the ascetic practices,
we'll gradually become excellent people in line with the principles
of our practice and ultimately in line with the principles
of nature -- excellent not just in name, but through the nature
of a mind made spotless and pure. A name can be established
any old day. You can even build it up to the sky if you want.
They establish names just to flatter one another as a matter
of custom. This is an affair of the world. They keep conferring
titles on one another. Those who confer the titles have good
intentions, so we have to repay those good intentions by setting
our hearts on the practice in line with the principles of
the Dhamma and Vinaya, and on observing our duties as monks
to the full. This is in keeping with their purpose in conferring
titles so as to encourage monks to be good.
At any rate, don't take the conferring of titles... Don't
take the title and use it to destroy yourself with pride and
conceit. The highest perfection in line with natural principles,
with no need to confer titles, is to practice well. Observe
the precepts well. Don't violate or overstep them. Make the
mind still and calm with meditation. Whichever theme you focus
on, be earnest and mindful with it. When you investigate,
investigate right on down so as to give rise to astuteness.
Analyze the properties (dhatu), the khandhas,
and the sense media (ayatana) so as to see them as
they are in line with their reality, as I've already explained
What are the properties? The four physical properties: earth,
water, wind, and fire. These are the primal properties, the
things that exist originally and get combined until a mind
comes in and lays claim to ownership, so that they're called
a living being or an individual, even though the various parts
are just physical properties in line with their natural principles.
No matter who confers titles on them as being a living being
or an individual or whatever, they don't turn into that. They
remain physical properties as they originally were. We should
come to know this with our own discernment through investigating.
The sense media or connections: There are internal sense media
and external ones. The internal ones are the eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, body, and mind. The external ones are sights, sounds,
smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas that make contact
with the internal sense media, giving rise to cognition and
then to all sorts of assumptions, most of which go off in
the wrong directions. We should analyze these things so as
to see them well. This is called vipassana, which means
seeing clearly -- knowing clearly and seeing truly, not knowing
in counterfeit or illusory ways.
So we should perform our duties correctly and to the full.
Our heart is always hoping to depend on us, because it can't
get by on its own. It's been oppressed and coerced by greed,
anger, and delusion all along, which is why it's always calling
for our help. So what can we use to help this heart that is
always oppressed and coerced so as to release it from danger,
if we don't use our practice of concentration, discernment,
conviction, and persistence as a means of advancing and uprooting
so as to help it escape from the danger of the things that
At present we've come to strip off the danger in the heart.
We must try every way we can to remove it. The main principle
in the practice is to have the solidity -- the heart -- of
a warrior, ready to die in the battle of washing the world
out of the heart. If we don't gain victory, we're prepared
to die, offering our life in homage to the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha. Don't retreat in defeat, or you'll lose face,
and the defilements will taunt you for a long time to come.
You won't be able to stand your feelings of inadequacy and
embarrassment in the face of the cycle of defilement. Whichever
world you go to, there will be nothing but defilements trailing
you and taunting you: 'What are you looking for, being born
and bearing this mass of suffering, you good-for-nothing person,
you? Whenever we fight, you lose miserably every time. You've
never had the word "victory" at all.' Listen to that, fighters
for the sake of completing the holy life! Do the taunts of
the defilements sting? I myself would be stung to the quick.
Even if I died, I wouldn't forget. So how do we feel? Are
we spurred on to fight with them by giving our lives?
Buddha was a noble warrior to the last inch. His every movement
was bravery in the fight with defilement, without retreat,
to the point where the defilements were annihilated and he
became the Teacher of the world to whom we pay homage up to
the present. The footprints of his practice are still fresh
in every word, every phrase of the well-taught Dhamma, which
hasn't been corrupted or effaced. So hold to him as a principle
in the heart, a principle in the practice, until you have
no breath left to breathe. Don't let him go.
The land of victory, when all the defilements fall back in
defeat: You don't have to ask about it. You'll know it on
your own through the Dhamma immediately apparent to every
person who practices to that point. The Buddha didn't lay
any exclusive claims on it, but bestowed it as the wealth
of every person who practices in dignity in the midst of this
world of inconstancy, stress, and not-self. When the khandhas
no longer carry on, we will attain full anupadisesa-nibbana
with nothing more to worry about.
The Dhamma is something secure and complete. On the side of
its causes, it's a Dhamma right for remedying and removing
defilement of every sort. There's no defilement that lies
above this Dhamma at all. The Buddha taught it rightly in
every way, in every facet, for remedying defilement of every
sort. Nothing excels this Dhamma -- in particular, the Dhamma
of the middle way, which is summarized as virtue, concentration,
and discernment. This is the Dhamma of causes, the methods
with which we should train ourselves and which the Buddha
taught us in full. As for the Dhamma of results, it comes
in stages. The mind is solid and doesn't stray or lean in
line with its preoccupations. It has stillness and calm: This
is the mind centered in concentration. The mind is courageous
and capable, astute and aware all-around in terms of the things
that become involved with it both within and without: This
is the mind with discernment. And when it's even more astute
and refined than that, to the point of being astute all-around
and attaining release, then the entire mind is Dhamma. In
other words, the mind is the Dhamma, the Dhamma is the mind
-- oneness -- without any adversaries paired with it as before.
My own impression -- and whether I'm right or wrong, please
decide for yourselves -- but I'm certain that the Dhamma of
the doctrine (sasana-dhamma), the teaching of the Buddha,
refers for the most part to causes. The Buddha explained the
causes, the practices to follow so as to remedy and remove
defilement or to develop the various forms of goodness. The
results are happiness. The teachings are simply directions
showing the way.
As for the genuine Dhamma appearing from the practice, whether
or not we give it names, it's a Dhamma in the principles of
nature. It's Dhamma that we can't easily reach to touch. This
is the Dhamma that's said to exist with the world at all times.
As for the Dhamma of the doctrine taught by the Buddhas, this
can disappear from time to time, as has happened with each
of the long line of Buddhas who have gained Awakening. This
in itself shows the inconstancy of the Dhamma of the doctrine
for us to see clearly -- unlike the Dhamma in the principles
of nature, which has existed from the very beginning and has
no involvement with inconstancy, stress, or not-self in any
way that would give rise to that Dhamma or make it end.
The tactics given by each of the Buddhas to the world are
called the Dhamma of the doctrine. These aren't the genuine
Dhamma. They're tactics -- different off-shoots -- actions
and modes displayed by the genuine Dhamma, means for letting
go and striving, teaching us to let go, teaching us to strive
using various methods, saying that the results will be like
this or that.
for the genuine Dhamma of results in the principles of nature,
that's something to be known exclusively in the heart of the
person who practices. This Dhamma can't really be described
correctly in line with its truth. We can only talk around
it. And particularly with release: This can't be correctly
described at all, because it's beyond all conventions and
speculations. It can't be described. Even though we may know
it with our full heart, we can't describe it. Like describing
the flavor and fullness that come from eating: Even though
eating is something in the realm of conventional reality that
can be described, and though we all have savored the flavor
and eaten our fill, still we can't describe these things at
all in line with their truth.
Dhamma that can't be described: That's the genuine Dhamma.
It doesn't have the word 'vanishes' or 'disappears' -- simply
that the world can't reach in to know it and touch it. As
for annihilating this Dhamma, it can't be annihilated. When
we practice in line with the tactics given by each of the
Buddhas, we can touch it and become aware of it. The heart
becomes an awareness of the Dhamma, a right and fitting vessel
for the Dhamma -- and there is no vessel more appropriate
for receiving each level of the Dhamma than the heart. When
it enters into the Dhamma in full measure, the heart becomes
one with the Dhamma. The heart is the Dhamma. The Dhamma is
the heart. Oneness. There is nothing but oneness, not becoming
two with anything else.
This Dhamma of oneness: Our ability to reach and to know it
depends on our individual practice. It doesn't depend on the
time or place or on anyone else. The important point is simply
that our practice be right and appropriate. It will foster
the mind in making contact with the Dhamma step by step to
the highest step. So we should be intent and make determination
the basis for our practice.
Don't forget the phrase, Buddham saranam gacchami --
I go to the Buddha for refuge -- as I have already explained
it to you. Dhammam saranam gacchami -- I go to the
Dhamma for refuge. This I have also explained. Sangham
saranam gacchami -- I go to the Sangha for refuge. Don't
forget the ways in which the Noble Disciples practiced. Virtually
all of them went through hardships to the brink of death before
becoming our Sangham saranam gacchami. It's not the
case that they were spoonfed, while we practice with hardship
and difficulties to the brink of death. That's not the case
at all. They went through difficulties just like ours -- or
far greater than ours -- before becoming our Sangham saranam
gacchami. They came from all levels of society, some from
royal families and noble families leading a very delicate
life. They had the ranks of kings, courtiers, and financiers,
all the way down to ordinary farmers and slaves.
Coming from different classes of society -- and some of them
having lived in comfort in their homes -- when they went forth
to practice, they had to train and fit their thoughts, words,
and deeds into a single mould, the mould of the sons of the
Sakyan. So why wouldn't they have had trouble? Why wouldn't
they have had difficulties? The way they ate in their homes
was one thing; when they went forth to become monks, they
had to ask others for alms. Instead of getting to eat this,
they got that. Instead of getting hot food, they got cold
food. Instead of getting to eat a lot, they got just a little,
not in keeping with their wants. So how wasn't this difficult?
It had to be difficult. But after they had finished eating,
the important thing was training the mind to subdue defilement.
Defilement has been the adversary, the foremost opponent of
the Dhamma within the heart all along. There is no adversary
stronger, smarter, or trickier than the defilements that have
held power over the hearts of living beings for so long.
this reason, we have to produce enough mindfulness, discernment,
conviction, and persistence to subdue defilement. Otherwise
we'll be deficient in the fight. To be deficient in the fight
is no good at all. It's sure to make us deficient in the results
we'll obtain. So the production of mindfulness, discernment,
conviction, and persistence to be appropriate for subduing
defilement of every sort, step by step, is the path of victory
for the meditator who is to gain complete results, who will
one day be free and independent for sure.
Virtually all of the Noble Disciples practiced in this way
until reaching release. They gained release from suffering
through struggle before becoming our saranam gacchami.
So don't forget. Our refuges -- Sangha saranam gacchami
-- weren't spoonfed people. They were people who struggled
to the brink of death just like us. Think of them and hold
to them as examples. Don't take the diddly-shit affairs of
the world, which have no value or standards, as the principles
in your heart, or you'll become irresolute and good for nothing,
unable to find any goodness, any release from stress, any
happiness or prosperity, any standards at all to your dying
day. When this is the case, fullness and satisfaction in your
work and in the results of your work won't exist in your heart.
So be intent on practicing.
The Dhamma of the Buddha is always shining new. Don't forget
that it's always shining new. Majjhima patipada --
the middle way -- is a shining-new Dhamma, not tarnished,
shabby, or worn out like objects we've used for a long time.
Majjhima means right in the middle -- the Dhamma that
has been appropriate for curing defilements of every sort
all along. Ultimately it becomes majjhima in the principles
of nature, because it has cured defilement and brought release
within the mind. The mind becomes a majjhima mind,
always even within itself.
So don't take anyone as your model more than the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha. By and large, the mind tends to take lowly things
as its model, which is why we have to say, 'Don't take anyone
as your model other than the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.'
The meditation masters who have practiced rightly, appropriately,
and well as a good example for us who aim at studying with
them: They too derived their model from the Buddha, Dhamma,
If we get weak or discouraged, we should reflect on the cemeteries
of birth and death that will burn us forever: Is there anything
good about them? The struggle involved in the effort of the
practice, even though it involves hardship, is a means of
cutting back on our becoming and birth. More than that, it
completely eliminates becoming and birth, which are a massive
heap of stress, from the heart, so that we can freely pass
by and gain release. There are none of the various sorts of
defilement -- even the most subtle -- infiltrating or coercing
such a heart. This is what it means to be free in every way,
above the world of rebirth -- which is a conventional reality
-- through the power of our persistent endeavor. For this
reason, we should take persistence, endeavor, and effort as
our basis for victory, or as our basis for the practice. We
are then sure one day of attaining release from suffering
and stress. No one has the power to coerce us or decide our
score. We are the ones who'll decide our score for ourselves.
Very well then. That's all I'll discuss for now.
Four Frames of Reference
way of practice that follows the aims of the Buddha and the
true Dhamma is to be truly intent on acting rightly. Every
sort of duty that is ours to do should be done intently. When
doing a task of any sort, even a small one, if we lack intentness,
it won't get finished in a presentable way at all, because
intentness -- which is a matter of mindfulness and principles
in the heart that can bring a task to completion -- is lacking
in ourselves and in our work. To have mindfulness and principles
of the heart in ourselves and in our work is, in and of itself,
to be making the effort of the practice, regardless of whether
the work is internal or external. If a person lacks intentness
as a means of keeping his work in focus, then even if he is
a craftsman capable of making things solid and beautiful,
his lack of intentness will reduce the quality and beauty
of his work. For this reason, intentness and concentration
are important factors that shouldn't be overlooked by those
who aim at full results in their work.
We have gone forth from the household life. We're meditators.
We should display intentness in our every duty and be deliberate
in our every task. Even when we sweep the monastery compound,
clean our quarters and the meeting hall, set out sitting mats
and drinking water, in all our movements, comings and going,
even when looking right and glancing left, we should be
mindful at every moment. This is what it means to be making
the effort of the practice. In developing the habit of mindfulness,
we have to use our work as our training ground. Every external
task of every sort is a duty. Walking meditation and sitting
meditation are duties. If we're mindful in doing our duties,
it means that our effort in the practice hasn't lapsed. To
train ourselves in the habits of those who are intent on the
higher levels of Dhamma, we must begin -- with urgency --
by training ourselves to be mindful in every task of every
sort from the very beginning. For the sake of the certainty
and stability of your future, develop mindfulness as a habit
from this moment onward until you have it constantly present
within you, every moment you act and every moment you rest.
When the time comes to make the mind still, mindfulness will
come to stick close by the heart and be established as soon
as you make the effort, just as you want it to. At the same
time, your mindfulness will have enough strength to force
the mind into stillness at will. For the most part, when people
are unable to make their minds still as they like, it's because
mindfulness, which is the primary factor, isn't strong enough,
and so the mind easily finds the opening to slip out after
other preoccupations -- like an inquisitive child who has
no one to watch over him and who can thus get into danger
any time at all. The mind that's always carried away, without
any mindfulness to look after it, is thus always getting disturbed
to the point where it can never find any stillness and peace.
The guardians of the mind are mindfulness and discernment,
which continually watch over it all the time it is thinking
about various issues, and which continually try to reason
with the mind to free it from the issues that come to involve
it. When the mind is constantly hearing the logic of its discernment,
it will be unable to disobey its discernment by thinking about
and becoming attached to any issues any longer.
train mindfulness and discernment to become progressively
stronger and not to deteriorate, please train them in the
method already mentioned. Don't let yourself be careless in
any useful activity of any sort, no matter how small. Otherwise
the carelessness that's already the lord of the heart will
become a chronic disease taking deep root in the heart, ruining
every aspect of your practice. Try to train yourself in the
habit of being dependable and intent in your proper activities,
within and without, at all times. Don't let carelessness or
negligence incubate in your character at all, because people
who have trained themselves in the habit of being true to
their every duty are sure to be able to succeed in every sort
of activity, whether inner or outer, without any obstacle
to thwart them. Even when they train their hearts, which is
the important job within, they are sure to succeed with circumspection
in such a way that they will find nothing with which they
can fault themselves -- because outer activities and inner
activities both point to the same heart in charge of them.
If the heart is habitually careless, then when it takes charge
of any inner task, it's bound to ruin the task, without leaving
even a scrap for itself to take as its refuge.
So for a bright future in the tasks that form your livelihood
and source of happiness, you should train yourself in the
habit of being dependable and true in your duties. Perform
each task to the utmost of your ability. Then when you turn
inward to perform your inner work for the sake of stillness
or for the sake of discernment and discovery, you will be
able to perform both sorts of work with precision and circumspection
because of the habits you have developed in training yourself
to be true and circumspect all along. To follow the practice
from the beginning to the highest level depends mainly on
your basic habits. The 'beginning' of the practice and the
'end' both refer to the one heart whose condition of awareness
will develop when it's modified by the Dhamma, both in terms
of causes -- the striving of the practice -- and in terms
of the results, or happiness, just as a child gradually develops
from infancy to adulthood when nourished by food and all sorts
of other factors. The beginning of the practice thus refers
to the training of the mind in the beginning stages so as
to change its habits and sensibilities, making them reasonable
and right, until it is knowledgeable and can maintain itself
without any deviations from the reasonability and rightness
appropriate to it. But when we come right down to it, the
beginning and end of the practice are like a piece of fruit:
We can't say exactly where it begins and where it ends. When
we look at it, it's simply a piece of fruit.
The same sort of thing holds true with the mind. We talk about
the beginning or the end of the practice in the sense that
the mind has its various preoccupations, coarse and refined,
mixed in with it. In modifying them, we have to keep coming
up with new techniques, changing those preoccupations from
their original state to more and more refined levels that
should be called, where suitable, the beginning or the end
of the path. Those of you listening should make yourselves
reach this sort of understanding of the defilements and evil
qualities in the heart that are given such a variety of names
that they can go beyond the bounds of what the suppositions
of a single mind can keep track of and resolve. Otherwise
you won't have any techniques for curing yourselves of the
condition just mentioned.
me stress once more the principle that guarantees sure results:
Train yourself in the habit of being solid and true in
your work and duties at all times. Don't be unsteady,
uncertain, or undependable. If you say you'll go, go. If you
say you'll stay, stay. If you say you'll do something, do
it. Once you've settled on a time or a task, keep to it. Be
the sort of person who writes with his hand and erases with
his hand. Don't be the sort who writes with his hand and erases
with his foot. In other words, once we've made a vow, no one
else can come in and destroy that vow, and yet we ourselves
are the ones who destroy it: This is what is meant by writing
with the hand and erasing with the foot, which is something
very unseemly. We have to be true to our plans and always
decisive. Once we've determined that a particular task is
worthwhile and right, we should give our life to that task
and to our determination. This way we'll become dependable
and self-reliant. The virtues we are maintaining will become
dependable virtues and won't turn into virtues floating in
the wind. Our practice of concentration will become dependable
concentration on every level and won't turn into concentration
floating in the wind, i.e., concentration only in name but
without the actuality of concentration in the heart. And when
we develop each level of discernment, it will be dependable
discernment, in keeping with the truthfulness of our character,
and won't turn into discernment floating in the wind, i.e.,
discernment only in name but without any ingenuity in freeing
ourselves. What I've said so far is so that you will see the
drawbacks of being undependable and desultory, without any
inner truthfulness, and so that if you hope for genuine progress
in terms of the world and the Dhamma, you'll look for a way
to give these things a wide berth.
Now I'd like to say more about mindfulness and discernment,
the factors that can make your character more stable and circumspect.
You should always be aware that discernment isn't something
that you can cook up like food. It comes from considering
things carefully. A person without discernment is unable to
complete his tasks with any sort of finesse and unable to
protect his valuables -- in the sense of the world or of the
Dhamma -- from danger. For this reason, the important factors
in maintaining and practicing the teachings of the religion
are mindfulness and discernment. Whenever an event, whether
good or bad, makes contact with the mind, mindfulness and
discernment should take it up immediately. This way you
can be alert to good and bad events in time and can prevent
the heart from straying after things that will harm it.
For the most part, whenever an issue arises, whether it's
sudden or not, the heart can be swayed or harmed in line with
that issue because it lacks the mindfulness and discernment
to observe and inspect things carefully beforehand. It then
sees everything as worth pursuing, and so you let the mind
follow along with things without your being aware of it. By
the time you realize what has happened, time has been wasted,
and it's too late to put a stop to the mind, so you let things
follow their own course until they all turn to ashes, without
any way of being remedied. Don't think that this comes
from anything other than a lack of the mindfulness and discernment
that can lead out to freedom. If not for this, who would
be willing to sacrifice his or her own worth -- with a value
above that of anything else in the world -- for the sake of
this sort of failure? Yet it's unavoidable and we have to
give in -- all of us -- for when the chips are down, it's
normal that mindfulness will lapse, and we won't be able to
latch onto anything in time. We'll then let things follow
their own course in line with the force of events too strong
for the mind to withstand.
it is only right that we should prepare ourselves from this
moment onward to be ready for the events that lie in wait
around us, within and without, and are ready to strike at
any time or place. Even though it's still morning (even though
you're still alive), don't let yourself delay. To be prepared
is to strive to have a firm basis, both within and without,
for your living and dying. Whether you live here or there,
whether death will happen here or there, whether you live
in this world or the next, or whether you're coming to this
world or going to the next, you should prepare yourself, beginning
now, in the immediate present. Otherwise, when life is up,
you won't be able to prepare anything in time. I've never
seen any Teacher's Dhamma that says to prepare yourself tomorrow
or next month or next year or in the next life, which would
simply encourage people to be complacent. I've seen the Dhamma
say only that you should make yourself a refuge both within
and without right now while you're alive. Even though
days, nights, months, and years, this world and the next,
are always present in the cosmos, they're not for worthless
people who are born and die in vain without doing anything
of any benefit to the world or the Dhamma at all.
In particular, now that we are monks and meditators -- which
is a peaceful way of life, a way of life that the world trusts
and respects, a way of life that more than any other in the
world gives us the opportunity to do good for ourselves and
others -- we should be fully prepared in our affairs as monks
and shouldn't let ourselves be lacking. For our behavior as
monks to be gracious in a way pleasing and inspiring to others,
we must use mindfulness and discernment as our guardians,
looking after our every movement. A person with mindfulness
and discernment looking after his behavior is gracious within
and without, and maintains that graciousness in a way that
never loses its appeal at any time. When we use mindfulness
and discernment to straighten out things within us -- namely,
the mind and its mess of preoccupations -- the mind immediately
becomes clean, clear, and a thing of value.
Remember the Dhamma you have studied and heard, and bring
it inward to blend with your practice and to support it. Keep
your mindfulness and discernment right with the heart and
with your every movement. Wherever the eye looks or the
ear listens, mindfulness and discernment should follow them
there. Whatever the tongue, nose, and body come into contact
with -- no matter how good or bad, coarse or refined -- mindfulness
and discernment should keep track of those things and pry
intelligently into their causes every time there's a contact.
Even when ideas occur in the mind itself, mindfulness and
discernment must keep track and investigate them without break
-- because those who have gained release from the world of
entanglements in the heart have all acted in this way. They
have never acted like logs thrown away on the ground where
children can climb up to urinate and defecate on them day
and night. If anyone acts like a log, defilements and cravings
from the various directions -- namely, from sights, sounds,
smells, tastes, and tactile sensations -- will come in through
the openings of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body to
urinate and defecate on the heart that is making itself into
a log because it doesn't have any intelligence or circumspection
with regard to its inner and outer preoccupations. It simply
lets cravings and defilements urinate and defecate on it day
and night. This isn't at all fitting for those who aim at
freedom from the cycle -- i.e., who aim at nibbana
-- because the nibbana of the Buddha and his disciples
is not a lazy nibbana or a log's nibbana. Those
who want the Buddha's nibbana in their hearts must
try to conform to the tracks left by the practice of the Buddha
and his disciples. In other words, they must make an effort
to develop mindfulness, discernment, conviction, and persistence
to keep abreast of the events occurring within and without
at all times. Don't act like a log, simply going through the
motions of walking, sitting, meditating, sitting like a stump
in the middle of a field without any sense of circumspection
in the heart. This sort of going through the motions isn't
any different from the way people in general normally act.
be a disciple of the Tathagata, whose fame has spread throughout
the three levels of the cosmos, you should try to revive the
mindfulness and discernment lying dormant in the heart so
that they can support your efforts in extracting all the various
defilements and cravings coming from the heart that at the
moment is like a log. Greed, anger, delusion, laziness, discontent,
jealousy, possessiveness: All of these things are excrement
piled on the heart. Once mindfulness and discernment have
been trained as we have mentioned, they will become stronger
day by day, more and more accustomed to working, in the same
way that we get accustomed to other forms of work. When we
bring them to bear on the effort of the practice within the
heart, they will be able to understand the affairs of the
heart in due time, without taking long.
In order to be principled and methodical in your training,
keep your awareness constantly with the body. Keep
mindfulness focused there and use discernment to investigate
within the sphere of the body. To do this is to follow the
principles of the frames of reference (satipatthana)
and the Noble Truths (ariya-sacca), which form the
path of all the Noble Ones.
There are four frames of reference: the body, feelings, the
mind, and phenomena. 'The body' refers to every part of the
body. This is termed kayanupassana satipatthana. 'Feelings'
refers to pleasure, pain, and indifference. This is termed
vedananupassana satipatthana. 'The mind' refers to
the mental states that are fashioned by the mind and color
it. This is termed cittanupassana satipatthana. 'Phenomena'
refers to anything, material or mental, that is the object
or focal point of the mind's investigation. This is termed
In investigating the four frames of reference, be sure to
come to a right understanding from the outset that body, feelings,
mind, and phenomena as frames of reference are a class
separate from the mind that possesses them as frames of reference.
Otherwise you'll get discouraged or upset when they exhibit
change as part of their normal nature or as a result of the
investigation, which is something that may happen in the course
of the practice. In other words, these four factors normally
undergo change that can give rise to pleasure or displeasure.
When we are investigating them, they continue to undergo change,
which can make the meditator pleased or displeased or sometimes
even discouraged and fed up with the investigation. I mention
this so that you'll be forewarned when it happens and will
make yourself understand with circumspection that the mind
in charge of the frames of reference hasn't changed along
with its frame of reference in any way. Once you have come
to a right understanding, you can become confident in your
investigation of the frames of reference. No matter which
frame of reference -- body, feelings, mind, or phenomena --
exhibits change or disappears, the heart -- a phenomenon that
doesn't change or die -- will be able to investigate to the
full extent of its strength and come to a clear comprehension
of these four factors step by step without being affected
by the pleasures and pains in the body and mind, which are
the conditions exhibited by the frames of reference.
investigating the body, you can deal either with the internal
body or with external bodies, depending on the situation and
what comes easiest to the heart. 'The internal body' refers
to every part of your own body. 'External bodies' refers to
the bodies of other people and animals. 'The body within the
body' refers to any one part of the body. All of these things
will show themselves to be disgusting and dismaying to the
person who uses discernment to investigate them and know them
as they actually are. Inside and out, both the internal
body and external bodies, all share in the same characteristics.
They always have to be washed and cleaned -- and thus the
care of the body is a constant duty for everyone in the world.
The things that are used to care for the body, to keep it
alive and presentable, are thus the best-selling merchandise
all over the world. The investigation of the body so as to
see clearly with discernment into its origins, needs, and
behavior, is thus a means of cutting off a well-spring of
worries and stress in the heart -- because even a huge mountain
of solid rock reaching to the clouds would never weigh on
the heart causing it any stress, but the khandhas --
such as the physical khandha, or body -- oppress and
weigh on the heart at all times to the point where we can
find no chance to put them down. The affairs of stress that
are related to the khandhas thus converge on the heart
responsible for them. For this reason, the mind in charge
of the khandhas should gain an all-around understanding
of the khandhas, both in their good and their bad aspects,
so as to manage them smoothly and comfortably, and not always
be abused by them.
Normally, the khandhas take advantage of us all day
long. Every move we make is for their sake. If the
mind can find a way out by becoming wise to its khandhas
-- even while it is still responsible for them -- it can then
be in a position to contend with them and won't have to take
on all their stresses and pains. At the same time, the stresses
and pains in the khandhas won't set up shop to sell
us all their suffering. Thus those who investigate the khandhas
so as to see their benefits and drawbacks with discernment
aren't destined to take on pain and nothing but pain from
the khandhas. They are sure to find a way to reduce
and relieve the tensions and strains in their hearts.
In investigating the body, you have to investigate it repeatedly,
time and again -- as required for your understanding, and
not as determined by your laziness -- until you really see
clearly that the body is nothing but a body, and is
in no way a being, a person, one's self, or another. This
is called the contemplation of the body as a frame of reference.
As for feelings, the mind, and phenomena, you should realize
that they are all present in this same body, but their characteristics
are somewhat different, which is why they are given different
names. Make sure that you understand this point well. Otherwise
the four frames of reference and the four Noble Truths will
turn into a cause of stress -- a source of worries and doubts
-- while you are practicing, because of your confusion about
where these phenomena begin and end.
for feelings, there are three: pleasure, pain, and indifference
-- neither pleasure nor pain. Feelings coming from the body
and those coming from the mind have these same three sorts.
To investigate them, you should ferret them out and examine
them in line with their characteristics, but don't take
the body to be a feeling. Let the body be the body. Let
the feeling be a feeling -- in the same way as seeing a tiger
as a tiger, and an elephant as an elephant. Don't take the
tiger to be an elephant, or else your evidence won't be in
line with the truth, and the issue will spread until it can
never be resolved. In other words, ferret out and investigate
the feeling displaying itself in the present moment so as
to see how it arises, how it takes a stance, and how it disbands.
The bases for the arising of all three kinds of feeling are
the body and mind, but the feelings themselves aren't the
body, nor are they the mind. They keep on being feelings both
in their arising and in their disbanding. Don't understand
them as being anything else or you'll be understanding
them wrongly. The cause of stress will arise in that moment,
and you won't be able to find any way to remedy or escape
from it. Your investigation, instead of leading to the discernment
that will release you from stress and its cause, will turn
into a factory producing stress and its cause at that moment
without your realizing it.
The way feelings behave is to arise, take a stance, and disband.
That's all there is to them every time. And there's no 'being,'
'person,' 'our self,' or another to them at all. As soon as
we invest them with the ideas of 'being' or 'person,' they
will appear in terms of beings and persons, which are the
powers giving rise to the cause of stress in that moment,
and we'll immediately be intensifying stress. Meditators should
thus use their discernment to be circumspect in dealing with
feelings. If you don't take feelings to be yourself while
you are investigating them, all three sorts of feelings will
appear clearly as they truly are in line with the principles
of the frames of reference and the Noble Truths. No matter
how these feelings may change for good or bad, it will be
a means of fostering the discernment of the person investigating
them each moment they exhibit movement and change. The notions
of 'being,' 'person,' 'our self,' or 'another' won't have
an opening by which to slip into these three sorts of feelings
at all. There will be just what appears there: feelings
as nothing but feelings. No sense of sorrow, discontent,
discouragement, infatuation, or pride will be able to arise
in any way while these three sorts of feelings are displaying
their behavior, because we have come to a proper understanding
of them -- and all the time that we as meditators have a proper
understanding of feelings while they are arising, we are said
to have the contemplation of feelings as a frame of reference
in the heart.
The mind as a frame of reference is not a level of mind different
or apart from the other three frames of reference, which is
why it is termed a frame of reference just like the body,
feelings, and phenomena. If we were to make a comparison with
timber, the mind on this level is like an entire tree,
complete with branches, bark, softwood, roots, and rootlets,
which is different from the timber put to use to the point
where it has become a house. To contemplate the mind as
a frame of reference is thus like taking a tree and cutting
it up into timber as you want. To investigate the mind
on this level, we should focus on the thought-formations of
the mind as the target or topic of our investigation, because
these are the important factors that will enable us to know
the defilement or radiance of the mind. If we don't know them,
then even if the mind suffers defilement and stress all day
long, we won't have any way of knowing. If we want to know
the mind, we must first understand the thought-formations
that condition the mind in the same way that seasonings give
various flavors to food. The fact that the mind displays such
an infinite variety of forms, becoming so changed from its
original state as to bewilder itself, not knowing the reason
and how to cure it, giving in to events with no sense of good
or evil, right or wrong, is all because of the thought-formations
that condition it.
this reason, the mind as a frame of reference is a mind entangled
with its preoccupations and conditioned by its thought-formations.
The investigation of thought-formations is thus related to
the mind, because they are things interrelated by their very
nature. If we understand thought-formations, we will begin
to understand the mind, and if we understand the mind, we
will understand more about thought-formations -- starting
with thought-formations from the blatant to the intermediate
and subtle levels, and the mind from the blatant to the intermediate
and subtle levels. These levels of thought-formations and
the mind come from the fact that the mind can become involved
with blatant, intermediate, or subtle preoccupations. People
contemplating the mind as a frame of reference should thus
make themselves understand from the very outset that the
mind and its conditions, or thought-formations, are two different
sorts of things. They aren't one and the same. Otherwise
the mind and its thought-formations will become entangled
and this will complicate the investigation as I have already
The point to focus on is the arising and involvement of thought-formations
-- what preoccupations they touch on -- as well as their disbanding
together with the disbanding of their preoccupations. Try
to observe and keep track of the movements of these thought-formations
that come out from the mind to focus on preoccupations of
the past or future, both blatant and subtle. Always be aware
that thought-formations and preoccupations of every sort that
are interrelated must arise and disband together. They
can't be made to behave otherwise. Thus the notions of 'being,'
'person,' 'self,' or 'other' shouldn't be brought in to refer
to the mind, because they will immediately turn into a cause
of stress. Try to observe until you see this in the course
of the investigation, and you will see, as the Buddha taught,
that the mind is simply a mind and nothing else -- not a being,
a person, self, other, or whatever. When we contemplate the
mind in this way, the heart will not be upset or infatuated
with the fashionings and conditions, the pleasures and pains
of the mind. This is what it means to have the mind as a frame
'Phenomena' (dhamma) as a frame of reference covers
anything that serves as a focal point of the heart. On the
refined level, it refers to the heart itself. External phenomena
are of many kinds. Internal phenomena include every part of
the body, all three kinds of feelings, and the mind on the
level of a frame of reference. All of this is included in
the contemplation of phenomena as a frame of reference. The
contemplation of the body, feelings, and mind together --
all four frames of reference at once -- is, from the standpoint
of forest Dhamma,  the contemplation
of phenomena as a frame of reference. If this is in any
way wrong, due to my lack of skill in understanding and explaining
the matter, I ask forgiveness of all my listeners and readers,
because I always feel at a loss every time I mention the topic
of forest Dhamma in any of my talks or writings. For this
reason, I ask that my readers, when reading about forest Dhamma,
try to cultivate a fairly open mind toward every passage so
that they won't get upset while they are reading.
When, in the course of the investigation, the four frames
of reference are brought together in the contemplation of
phenomena so that they become a single level of Dhamma, this
is a point in the practice more amazing and unexpected than
anything that has gone before. This is because in the beginning
steps of the investigation the body is like a piece of wood
in the raw state. Feelings are in a raw state. The mind is
in a raw state. Even phenomena are in a raw state, because
the investigation itself is like a piece of wood in the raw
state, so that the things investigated are all in the
same state. But when we plane and polish things with the effort
of the practice, everything in the area of the practice gradually
changes its condition.
I have mentioned here concerning the contemplation of phenomena
as a frame of reference is a fairly refined level of Dhamma,
so we can't help but be grateful for the groundwork laid during
the raw state of the investigation on the beginning levels.
When we investigate phenomena in the final stages, if feels
very different from the beginning stages, even though they
are the same four frames of reference. When we reach the final
stages, it appears to the mind that all four frames of reference
-- body, feelings, mind, and phenomena -- connect so that
they all come under contemplation of phenomena as a frame
of reference. They converge completely so that there is no
sense that this is the body, that's a feeling, this is the
mind, that's a phenomenon. They all seem to come together
on a single level of Dhamma.
In dealing with the body, feelings, and mind, I've given a
fairly adequate explanation of the methods of investigation
for remedying and freeing the mind, but now that we come to
the topic of phenomena, the discussion seems to have dealt
entirely with my own experiences. Nevertheless, I hope that
you will approach it with the attitude I've just mentioned
and put it into practice in a way suited to your own temperament.
The results are sure to come out directly in line with what
I've explained to you.
To summarize the four frames of reference: There is the body,
which covers the internal body, external bodies, and the body
within the body. There are feelings -- internal feelings,
external feelings, and feelings within feelings. (The issue
of feelings is fairly complex, so I'd like to insert a few
opinions here: Internal feelings are feelings or moods in
the mind. External feelings are feelings in the body.) There
is the mind -- the inner mind, the outer mind, and the mind
within the mind. 'The inner mind' refers to mental states
that deal with preoccupations exclusively within the mind.
'The outer mind' refers to mental states involved with external
preoccupations. 'The mind within the mind' refers to any single
mental current out of the many mental currents that come out
of the heart. And then there are phenomena -- inner phenomena,
outer phenomena, and phenomena within phenomena. 'Inner phenomena'
are the refined states or preoccupations that are objects
or focal points of the mind, and also the mind itself, which
is the converging point of all mental objects. 'Outer phenomena'
refers to every kind of external condition capable of being
an object of the mind. 'Phenomena within phenomena' refers
to any single condition out of the many conditions that are
the focal points of the mind.
Thus the terms 'body within the body', 'feelings within feelings',
'the mind within the mind', and 'phenomena within phenomena'
refer to any single part or instance of these things. For
example, any one hair out of the many hairs on the head, any
one tooth out of the many teeth we have: These are termed
the body within the body. A person investigating any one part
of the body in general is said to be contemplating the body
within the body. The same holds true for feelings, mind, and
phenomena, but I won't go into detail on this point for fear
that we won't have enough time. Let's save it for a later
four frames of reference, from the point of view of forest
Dhamma, are present in full measure in our own bodies and
minds. This doesn't mean, though, that their external
aspects are irrelevant. This is a point you will see clearly
when you work at the frames of reference until you can connect
them entirely on the level of contemplation of phenomena.
The mind won't feel compelled to search for anything external
to help in its practice. Simply investigating exclusively
in the area of the body and mind, using the four frames of
reference complete in the body and mind, will be enough to
cure it of its problems.
the beginning level, though, everything internal and external
is relevant. But as you reach the stage of letting go step
by step, those various conditions will lose their relevance.
Even the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena, which are the
necessary terms of the frames of reference, have to be
let go. They shouldn't be held to or borne as a burden
on the heart. They must all be let go when your investigation
fully reaches the point of dhamma anatta: Phenomena
are not-self. Then later you can turn around to contemplate
and connect them again as a pastime for the mind in the present,
once the mind has gone beyond and yet is still in charge of
Meditators, if they are firm and unflinching in the practice
of the frames of reference, are sure to see a variety of extraordinary
and amazing things arising at intervals in their minds. When
the time comes to reap the results on the level of Dhamma
corresponding to the causes that have been properly developed,
the results will have to appear stage by stage as the attainment
of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship.
There is no need to doubt this.
So know that whether we contemplate the four frames of reference
or the four Noble Truths, they are one and the same path for
the sake of release from suffering and stress. Even though
there may be some differences, they differ only in name. In
terms of their basic principles, they are one and the same.
Those who work at the four frames of reference and those who
work at the four Noble Truths are performing the same branch
of work, because stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the
path to its disbanding are the same level of truth as the
body, feelings, mind, and phenomena -- in the same way as
when different people do different jobs in a single factory,
the profits from their labor all go to the same factory.
To summarize the final results that come from working at the
frames of reference and the Noble Truths step by step: In
the beginning the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena are
in a raw state. Stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the
path to its disbanding are in a raw state, because the practice
is in a raw state of planing and polishing back and forth
without any feel for the heaviness or lightness, depth or
shallowness, breadth or narrowness of the Dhamma, and without
any sense of right or wrong, good or bad in the practice,
because it's something we have never done before. No one,
from our great-grandparents down to our parents and other
relatives, has ever told us that the frames of reference and
Noble Truths are like this or that, that they should be put
into practice this or that way so as to give results of this
or that sort -- for they themselves had no way of knowing.
What's worse, they have taken these excellent frames of reference
and Noble Truths and thrown them away underground, underwater
and into the fire time and again. We are simply their children,
grandchildren, and great-grand-children: How can we boast
that we're wise and all-knowing in these matters? We simply
have to admit our own ignorance. Even though it's true that
the frames of reference and Noble Truths have been excellent
Dhamma from the very beginning, when they reach us they have
to start as Dhamma in the raw state, because we ourselves
are people in the raw state. Even our practice is practice
in the raw state. But as we practice persistently, without
retreating, and as our understanding into the Dhamma and the
practice gradually appears bit by bit, day by day, and slowly
begins to take shape, our conviction in the teachings of the
Buddha grows continually stronger and more deeply rooted.
The things that used to be mysterious gradually come to be
revealed for what they truly are.
example, the four frames of reference and four Noble Truths,
even though they were always right with us, used to be as
if buried out of sight, without our being aware of them. We
listened to monks giving sermons and imagined things to be
far away, beyond the range of our ears and eyes. We never
thought at all to refer these teachings inwardly to ourselves,
the converging points of the Dhamma. When the monks finished
their sermons, the results could be summarized as this: 'We
don't have the capability of reaching the Dhamma that has
been taught, because it's infinitely deep and exceedingly
subtle. The Dhamma explained and we the listeners lie on opposite
sides of the world.' The thought never occurred to us that
all of us -- teachers and listeners alike -- are in the same
world of the frames of reference and the four Noble Truths,
and that the matters explained were entirely our own affairs
without the slightest deviation. These sorts of misunderstandings
can happen to all of us.
But when the truth -- such as the frames of reference -- starts
revealing itself in the course of our practice, these teachings
turn step by step into a map for the mind. We see the body,
feelings, mind, and phenomena as if they were a piece of paper
covered with symbols and signs showing us the way to proceed
so as to gain release from suffering and stress. The frames
of reference and Noble Truths, within and without, become
symbols and signs showing the way for the mind to proceed
on all sides, as if they were saying, 'Hurry up and follow
these arrows showing the way to safety. The enemy is in a
frenzy searching for you right nearby and is waiting in ambush
for you everywhere. Don't be lulled into thinking that
any of these places are safe. Only if you hurry through
this jungle will you reach safety.' Our persistence in the
practice then grows stronger, together with the mindfulness
and discernment we have been training by using the frames
of reference and Noble Truths as our whetstone and path. The
body, feelings, mind, and phenomena that we used to investigate
erratically and unevenly now become Dhamma on a common level
and can all be investigated so as to be brought together and
subsumed under the level of contemplation of pure phenomena.
When the mind takes the contemplation of phenomena as its
frame of reference until it is skilled and thoroughly sure
of itself, the contemplation of phenomena (dhamma)
turns to deal exclusively with the affairs of the mind. At
this stage you could say that the Dhamma becomes the mind,
or the mind becomes Dhamma. Once the mind has entered purely
into the contemplation of phenomena, then external conditions
-- sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and
ideas, together with the senses of sight, hearing, smell,
taste, feeling, and ideation, which used to be like a solid
mountain of rock, obstructing the mind so that it could find
no way out -- fade away and vanish from the imagination. The
body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance
that were like clouds obscuring the heart are now dispersed
bit by bit from their shapes -- the suppositions of conventional
reality -- by the winds of mindfulness, discernment, conviction,
and persistence, until they fade away to the point where almost
nothing is left. What is left is simply a vapor arising
from the heart: This is a level of phenomena that hasn't yet
been destroyed but can't display itself openly because strong
mindfulness and discernment have it surrounded and are constantly
probing after it to destroy it at all times. Finally this
level of phenomena -- the mind of unawareness (avijja)
-- is utterly destroyed by mindfulness and discernment, using
the truth of dhamma anatta -- phenomena are not-self
-- and the teaching that all phenomena are unworthy of attachment.
The notions of being, person, self, or others, when they no
longer have any conventional suppositions in which to find
shelter, must now float away of their own accord.
moment that mindfulness and discernment have completed their
duties toward the frames of reference, a nature that is extraordinary
and amazing appears in all its fullness. All problems are
resolved without any chance of continuation, because cause
and effect between the khandhas and the mind have come
to a full and lasting truce. Even though they still live together,
they no longer quarrel the way they used to. Each is free
in line with its truth. The word yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana
-- knowledge and vision of things as they are -- in the understanding
of forest Dhamma means living with no mistrust between
the khandhas and mind, the world and the Dhamma, the inside
and the out. The heart and all things everywhere are no
longer enemies as they used to be, and the heart can now put
all things to their proper uses.
I ask that all of you as monks and meditators listen to this
so that it goes straight to the heart, and make an effort
until your practice goes straight to the heart as well. All
of this dhamma will appear as a treasure of infinite worth
in the hearts of those who are intent, and nothing will ever
be able to separate them from it. The effort made for an honorable
victory like that of the Buddha -- a victory unmatched by
anything else in the world -- is the effort to take victory
over oneself, as the Pali says,
have jitam seyyo: It is better to take victory over oneself.
This seems to be enough explanation for the time being, so
now, at the end of this talk, I ask that the power of the
Triple Gem safeguard and protect each and every one of you
so that you meet with ease in body and mind, and so that you
progress in virtue, concentration, and discernment until you
can overcome all obstacles to the realm of security and peace
that is nibbana.
Work of a Contemplative
in this monastery we practice not in line with people's wishes
and opinions, but in line for the most part with the principles
of the Dhamma and Vinaya, the principles of the religion.
We do this for the sake of the public at large who rely on
the religion as a guiding principle in what is good and right,
and who rely on the good and right behavior of monks and novices,
the religious leaders for Buddhists at large. For this reason,
I'm not interested in treating anyone out of a sense of deference
over and above the principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya that
are the basis of the religion. If our minds start to bend
under the influence of the views and opinions of any one person
or of the majority -- who have no limits or standards -- then
monasteries and the religion will come to have no limits or
standards. Monasteries that bend under the influence of the
world, without any sense of reason as an underlying support,
will have no order or standards, and will become monasteries
without any of the substance of the religion remaining in
them at all. Those who look for things of value to revere
and respect -- in other words, intelligent people -- won't
be able to find anything good of any substance that will have
a hold on their hearts, because there will be nothing but
worthless and counterfeit things filling the monasteries,
filling the monks, the novices, the nuns, filling everything
everywhere. In homes as well as in monasteries, in the area
of the world as well as the Dhamma, everything will get mixed
into being one with what is counterfeit and lacking in any
value or worth.
For this reason, we have to keep things in their separate
places. The religion and the world, even though they may dwell
together, are not the same thing. A monastery -- whether it's
located in a village, outside of a village, or in a forest
-- is not the same as a village. The people who come to stay
there are not the same as ordinary people. The monastery has
to be a monastery. The monks have to be monks with their own
independent Dhamma and Vinaya that don't come under or depend
on any particular individual. This is an important principle
that can have a hold on the hearts of intelligent people who
are searching for principles of truth to revere and respect
or to be their inspiration. I view things from this angle
more than from any other. Even the Buddha, our Teacher, viewed
things from this angle as well, as we can see from the time
he was talking with Ven. Nagita.
When a crowd of people shouting and making a big racket came
to see the Buddha, he said, 'Nagita, who is that coming our
way, making a commotion like fish-mongers squabbling over
fish? We don't aspire to this sort of thing, which is a destruction
of the religion. The religion is something to guard and preserve
so that the world will find peace and calm -- like clear,
clean water well-guarded and preserved so that people in general
can use it to drink and bathe at their convenience. The religion
is like clear, clean water in this way, which is why we don't
want anyone to disturb it, to make it muddy and turbid.' This
is what the Buddha said to Ven. Nagita. He then told Ven.
Nagita to send the crowd back, telling them that their manner
and the time of day -- it was night -- were not appropriate
for visiting monks who live in quiet and solitude. Polite
manners are things that intelligent people choose to use,
and there are plenty of other times to come. This is a time
when the monks want quiet, so they shouldn't be disturbed
in a way that wastes their time and causes them difficulties
without serving any kind of purpose at all.
This is an example set by our Teacher. He wasn't the sort
of person to mingle and associate with lay people at all times
without any reasonable limits or rules, the way things currently
are -- as if the religion were a distillery, and we monks
and novices were distributing liquor so that the public could
be drunk without ever sobering up for a day. Actually, the
religion is medicine for curing drunkenness. Monks and novices
are supposed to be doctors for curing their own drunkenness
and that of the world. They're not supposed to sell liquor
and intoxicants to the point where they have no sense of shame.
people set foot in the monastery, we say that they come in
good faith -- and so we make allowances and compromises until
we forget ourselves, forget the Dhamma and Vinaya, and forget
the good standards of monasteries and monks to the point where
we destroy ourselves, the monastery, and the religion bit
by bit, day by day, and everything turns into mud. Home-dwellers
and monastery-dwellers can't find any principles to hold to.
Monks are full of excrement -- i.e., the worthless things
in the monasteries and in the monks and novices themselves.
For this reason, each of us who has ordained in the religion
should reflect a great deal on these matters. Don't see
anything as having greater value than the Dhamma and Vinaya,
which are the major principles for uniting the hearts of Buddhists
in confidence, conviction, and peace. If the principles of
the Dhamma and Vinaya are lacking or deficient, the benefits
received by Buddhists will have to be deficient in turn, until
there is nothing to which their hearts can hold. Even though
the teachings of the religion fill the texts, and copies of
the Canon fill every monastery, still the important essence
that should be put into practice so that people can be inspired
to take this essence into their hearts and put it into practice
themselves for the sake of what is beneficial and auspicious,
doesn't exist -- even though the religion still exists. This
is something we can clearly see at present.
important factors that can make the religion prosper and
can serve as witnesses to the people who become involved with
it for the sake of all things meritorious and auspicious are
the monks and novices. If the monks and novices are intent
on behaving in line with the principles of the Dhamma and
Vinaya as taught by the Buddha, they are the ones who will
preserve the good pattern of the religion and of the paths,
fruitions, and nibbana without a doubt. People will
be able to take them as their standard -- because there are
still plenty of intelligent people left in the world. As for
stupid people, even though they may overflow the world, they
have no sure standards. If they feel pleased, they praise
you. That praise simply comes out of their stupidity and serves
no purpose. If they feel displeased, they criticize you. That
criticism serves no purpose, either for them or for you. If
intelligent people praise you, though, that can be taken to
heart and benefits both parties, them as well as you. If they
praise the Sangha, they praise it in line with the principles
of the truth and of their intelligence. At the same time,
those members of the Sangha who hold to reason can make themselves
a field of merit for them as well, so that they too can benefit.
Even if they criticize us, they have their reasons that should
be taken as food for thought. Thus we who practice should
make ourselves well aware of this point.
Wherever you go, don't forget that you are a practitioner
of the religion, a representative of our Teacher in following
the religion and proclaiming it through your practice. This
doesn't mean that you have to teach the public to understand
the Dhamma. Even the practices you follow rightly are a visible
example that can make them feel conviction in the religion
from what they see. Even more so when you can explain the
Dhamma correctly in line with the principles of the practice
following the teachings of the Buddha: This is all the more
the right and proper proclamation of the religion for good
people to hold to in their hearts. The religion will come
to flourish more and more in the hearts of Buddhists.
you go, wherever you stay, don't forget the basic principles
-- virtue, concentration, and discernment -- which are the
basic principles of our work as contemplative. These are the
essential principles of each monk's work. This is where we
become 'sons of the Sakyan (sakya-putta), of the victorious
Buddha,' disciples of the Tathagata, and not when we simply
shave our heads and don the yellow robe. That's something
anyone can do and isn't important. What's important is behaving
in line with our duties.
Virtue. We should be careful to maintain our precepts so that
they aren't broken or stained. We should be careful, using
mindfulness and discernment in our every activity. Whatever
else may get broken, don't let your precepts get broken,
for they are the invaluable treasure of your status as a monk,
something on which you can truly stake your life.
Concentration. If it hasn't yet arisen, try to train the heart
and bring it under control, coming down hard on its unruliness
caused by the power of defilement, so that you can have it
in hand in your efforts with the practice. Use mindfulness
and discernment to block its recklessness so that it can settle
down in peace and quiet. This is our samadhi treasure
Discernment is intelligence and ingenuity. Discernment is
of use in all places at all times. Both in your internal and
in your external activities, always make use of your discernment.
Especially in your internal activities, when you're investigating
the various kinds of defilements and mental effluents, discernment
becomes especially important. Discernment and mindfulness
shouldn't be separated. They have to perform their duties
together. Mindfulness is what keeps watch over the work discernment
is doing. Whenever mindfulness lapses, that work won't accomplish
its full aims. For this reason, mindfulness is a necessary
quality that must always be kept fastened on your work.
These things are our work as contemplatives. Remember them
and always take them to heart. Don't be apathetic, or you'll
become a shameless monk, callous to the fact that the world
is bowing down to you at all times.
Now that the Rains Retreat is over, we'll each go our separate
ways in line with duty and necessity and the laws of inconstancy,
stress, and not-self. These are things we can't prevent, because
they are big matters, the way of nature. Even I myself: I'm
not sure how much longer I'll be able to stay with you all,
because I lie under the law of inconstancy, too. So while
we are still living together, I want you to be intent on training
yourselves with your full hearts, in keeping with the fact
that you've come to study, to train yourselves, and to practice.
word 'discernment,' which I mentioned a moment ago, means
to investigate and unravel the various factors that become
involved with us within and without. (And here I have to ask
forgiveness of the men and women interested in the Dhamma
who fall under the condition I'm about to discuss. Please
reflect on it in all fairness.) The body: Usually it's the
body of the opposite sex. As the Dhamma says, there is
no sight that's a greater enemy to the state of a contemplative
than the sight of the opposite sex. The same holds true
for the voice, the smell, the taste, and the touch of the
opposite sex. These are the foremost dangers that face contemplatives,
so we have to show greater care and restraint toward these
things than toward anything else. Mindfulness and discernment
have to unravel these important points more than they have
to deal with any other work.
The body. We should analyze it with our discernment so as
to see it clearly. The words 'the body of a woman' or 'the
body of a man' are simply names given in line with convention.
Actually, it's not a woman or a man. It's simply an ordinary
body just like ours, covered all over with skin. If we look
inside, there's flesh, tendons, and bones. It, like us, is
all full of filthy and repulsive things. There's no part that's
basically any different from our own body. There's simply
the label in our mind that says 'woman' or 'man.' This word
'woman' or 'man' is engraved deeply within the heart by the
heart's own suppositions, even though it's not a truth, and
is simply a supposition.
The same with the voice: It's just an ordinary sound, and
yet we label it the voice of the opposite sex and so it stabs
deep into the heart -- especially for those of us who are
ordained -- and goes clear through, to the point where we
forget ourselves. The heart gets cut at the stem, even though
we continue to live. The stem of the heart is torn, rotten,
and putrid, and yet we don't die. Instead, we listen with
pleasure to the song of our heart's being cut at the stem,
without ever wearying of it or having enough.
The smell: It's an ordinary smell, just like ours, because
it's the smell of a person. Even if we bring perfumes and
scents from the realms of the devas and Brahmas to rub down
that body, the smell is the smell of those things, not the
smell of a woman or man, not the least little bit. So analyze
this and make careful distinctions.
The taste is simply the touch. The touch of that body is no
different from one part of our own body touching another part.
Each of the parts is just earth, water, wind, and fire, just
like ours. We can't see that there's any difference. So we
have to investigate clearly like this and then make comparisons,
comparing the sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch of the
woman or man with our own sight, sound, smell, taste, and
touch. There's no difference in terms of the principles of
nature and of the truth, aside from the mind's conferring
titles in line with its thoughts.
For this reason, we must use discernment to unravel things.
Don't let suppositions of any kind that will be your enemies
infiltrate or destroy your heart. Shake them off using discernment,
which is a truth, coming down to the truth that these things
are just sights, just sounds, just smells, just tastes, just
tactile sensations, all of which pass by and disappear like
other things. This is without a doubt the right way to contemplate
that can gradually uproot our attachments and misconceptions
concerning these matters.
object you may investigate in the world, it's full of inconstancy,
stress, and lack-of-self. There's nothing lasting to be found.
All things depend on one thing or another, and then fall apart.
Whatever the object: If it exists in the world, it has
to fall apart. If it doesn't fall apart, we will. If it
doesn't break up, we'll break up. If it doesn't leave, we'll
leave -- because this world is full of leaving and separation
through the principles of nature. So investigate in this way
with discernment to see clearly before these things leave
us or we leave them, and then let them go in line with their
truth. When we can do this, the mind will be at its ease.
Here we've been talking about discernment on the level of
investigating sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile
sensations. Whether within or without, on the blatant or the
subtle level, this is how all of these things are investigated.
Concentration I've already explained to some extent. Concentration
refers to the stability and solidity of the heart, beginning
with its small moments of stillness and peace, all the way
up to the refined and stable levels of stillness and peace.
If the mind isn't trained, isn't improved, isn't forced with
various tactics backed up by mindfulness, discernment, conviction,
and persistence, it won't be able to attain peace till its
dying day. It will die in vain. It will die restless and confused,
straying off to 108 different preoccupations. It won't have
any mindfulness or self-awareness. It will die without any
principles or standards to hold to. It will die just as a
kite whose string is cut when it's up in the air floats wherever
the wind blows. Even while it's still living, it lives without
any principles or standards, because of its absent-mindedness
and heedlessness, its lack of any sense of reason for it to
follow. It lives simply drifting. If we live simply drifting,
without any good principles to hold to, then when we go, we'll
have to go simply drifting. What purpose will it serve?
What goodness and certainty can we have for our destination?
So as long as we're alive and aware as we currently are, we
should build certainty for ourselves in our hearts by being
strong and unflinching in matters that are of solid worth.
Then we can be certain of ourselves both as we live and when
we die. We won't be upset or affected by life or death, by
being separated from other beings or our own bodies -- something
we all have to meet with, because these are things lying within
It's not the case that discernment arises automatically on
the heels of concentration when the mind has been centered.
It has to be exercised and trained to think, explore, and
investigate. Only then will discernment arise, with concentration
as its support. Concentration on its own can't turn into
discernment. It has to remain as concentration. If we
don't use discernment to investigate, concentration simply
makes the mind refreshed and calm, content with its preoccupation
in tranquillity, not hungering to think here or there, not
confused or straying -- because once the mind is still, it's
calm and refreshed with the Dhamma in line with the level
of its stillness. We then take the mind that has been refreshed
by tranquillity and use it with discernment to investigate
and unravel various things, none of which in this world lie
over and beyond inconstancy, stress, and not-self. All things
are filled with these same conditions, so use discernment
to contemplate -- from whatever angle most suits your temperament
-- by investigating these things with interest, with the desire
really to know and see them as they truly are. Don't simply
investigate without any intention or mindfulness in control.
particular, the theme of unattractiveness: This is a good,
a very good cure for the mind obsessed with lust and passion.
However strong the lust, that's how strongly you should investigate
unattractiveness until you can see your own body and that
of others throughout the world as a cemetery of fresh corpses.
Lust won't have a chance to flare up when discernment has
penetrated to the knowledge that the body is filled with repulsiveness.
Who would feel lust for repulsiveness? Who would feel lust
for things with no beauty? For things that are disgusting?
This is one form of the medicine of unattractiveness, one
of the prime medicines for curing the disease of lust and
craving. Once you've made a really full investigation, make
the mind grow still in a restricted range. Once the mind has
investigated unattractiveness many, many times, to the point
where it becomes proficient, adept at contemplating external
bodies as well as the internal body, able to visualize things
in whatever way you want, then the mind will converge to
the level of unattractiveness within itself and see the
harm of the pictures of unattractiveness it paints as being
one form of illusion. It will then let go of both sides: both
the side of unattractiveness and the side of attractiveness.
Both attractiveness and unattractiveness are labels coupled
with the affairs of lust. Once we have investigated and fully
understood both sides, the word 'attractive' will dissolve
and no longer have meaning. The word 'unattractive' will dissolve
and no longer have meaning. That which gives the meaning of
'attractive' and 'unattractive' is the mind or, in other words,
sañña. We are now wise to sañña
as being what labels things. We see the harm of this labeling,
and so it will no longer be able to go out interpreting in
such a way as to make the mind grasp and be attached again.
When this is the case, the mind lets go of both attractiveness
and unattractiveness -- or of beauty and ugliness -- by seeing
that they are simply dolls for training the mind and discernment
as long as the mind is still attached to them, and the discernment
for investigating to uproot them is not yet proficient enough.
When the mind is proficient and realizes the causes and effects
of both sides -- both attractiveness and unattractiveness
-- it can at the same time turn around to know its own labeling
that goes out to dress this thing up as attractive and that
as unattractive. When it knows this labeling clearly, the
labeling disbands. The mind can see its harm, in that this
labeling is the culprit. The unattractive object isn't the
culprit. The attractive object isn't the culprit. Instead,
the labeling that says 'attractive' and 'unattractive'
is the culprit deceiving us and making us become attached.
This is where things start coming inward. Our investigation
comes inward like this and lets go, step by step.
When the mind has reached this stage, then whether we focus
on attractiveness or unattractiveness, it will appear in the
mind, without our having to create an external image to exercise
with, just as when we travel and have passed progressively
along a road. The image appears in the mind. The moment it
appears there, we immediately know that sañña
can label only as far as this and can't go labeling outside.
Even though the image appears in mind, we know clearly that
the phenomenon that appears there as attractive or unattractive
comes from sañña in the same way. We
know the image that appears in the mind as well as the sañña
labeling it, also as an image in the mind. Finally, the images
in the mind vanish. The sañña -- the
labels, the interpretations -- disband. We know that the labels
that used to fool us into seeing things as attractive and
unattractive and all sorts of other ways without limit --
that used to fool us into falling for both of these sides
-- have disbanded. There is nothing further to deceive the
heart. This is how unattractiveness is investigated in line
with the principles of the practice -- but you won't find
this anywhere in the texts. You'll find it only if you search
for the truth in the principles of nature that exist with
the body and mind -- the location of the four Noble Truths
and the four frames of reference -- coming down finally to
the text of the heart. That's where you'll find the things
I've explained here.
is the body. We can know clearly that every part of the body
is simply a physical phenomenon. And what is there in these
physical phenomena? All the parts -- hair of the head, hair
of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow,
spleen, heart, liver, membranes, kidneys, lungs, intestines,
stomach, gorge, feces -- are just physical phenomena, things
separate from the mind. If we consider them as unattractive,
they've been unattractive all along, even before we considered
them. And who is it that gives them meaning, saying that this
is attractive or that is unattractive? When did these things
ever give themselves meanings? When did they ever say they
were attractive or unattractive? They don't label or say anything
at all. Whatever their truth is, that's how it's always been
in line with its nature from the very beginning -- and they
don't know their meaning. What knows their meaning is sañña.
The one that falls for their meaning is also sañña,
which comes out of this deluded mind. Once we are wise to
this labelling, all these things disappear. Each has its separate
reality. This is what it means to be wise to these things.
Feelings (vedana) are the feelings of pleasure, pain,
and indifference that arise from the body. The body is a phenomenon
that has existed since before these feelings arose. Pains
arise, remain, and then vanish. The body is the body. The
pain is a pain. Each is a separate reality. Investigate and
analyze them so as to see them for what they are -- just a
feeling, just a body -- without regarding them as a being,
a person, us or anyone else, ours or anyone else's. The feeling
isn't us, ours, or anyone else's. It's simply something that
appears for a moment and disappears for a while, in line with
its nature. That's what the truth is.
means labeling. Whatever it labels -- things near, far, past,
present, or future -- whatever it labels, it vanishes immediately.
It keeps vanishing -- arising and vanishing, arising and vanishing
-- so how can we regard it as a self, a being, a person? Here
we're referring to discernment on the refined level, penetrating
down in line with the truth that is clear to our heart without
our having to ask anyone else.
means thought-formation: forming good thoughts, bad thoughts,
neutral thoughts. Whatever it forms is simply a matter of
arising and vanishing, arising and vanishing. We can't get
any sense out of these thought-formations at all if saññas
don't take up where they leave off and turn them into issues.
As for saññas, we already know them clearly,
so what is there to form thoughts, pick up where they leave
off and grasp at them, turning them into long issues? All
there is, is just the arising and vanishing in the mind. This
is thought-formation. It's one reality, which the Buddha calls
the sankhara khandha. Khandha means heap or
aggregate. Rupa khandha means the physical heap. Vedana
khandha means the heap of feelings. Sañña
khandha means the heap of labels, the aggregate of labels.
Sankhara khandha means the heap of thought-formations,
the aggregate of thought-formations.
khandha means the aggregate or heap of cognizance, that
which takes note the moment external things make contact,
as when visual images make contact with the eye and cognizance
occurs. As soon as the object passes, this cognizance vanishes.
No matter what thing it takes note of, it's always ready to
vanish with that thing. What sense or substance can we get
out of these five khandhas? How can we assume them
to be us or ours?
is what the issues of the five khandhas are like. They've
occurred this way, appeared this way, arisen and vanished
this way one after another continually from the day of our
birth to the present moment. We can't find any meaning or
substance in them at all, unless the mind labels and interprets
them, grasping onto them as being itself or belonging to itself
and then carrying their weight -- which is heavier than an
entire mountain -- within itself, without any reward. Its
only reward is suffering and stress, because its own delusion
has caused these things to reward it.
When the mind has investigated and seen these things clearly
with sharp discernment, then the body is true in its body
way, in line with the principles of nature that are made clear
with discernment. Feelings of pain, pleasure, and indifference
in the body are known clearly in line with their truth. Feelings
in the mind -- the pleasure, pain, and indifference arising
in the mind -- are the factor the mind continues to be interested
in investigating. Even though we may not yet be abreast of
these things, they have to be alerting the mind to investigate
them at all times, because on this level we aren't yet able
to keep abreast of feelings in the mind -- in other words,
the pleasure, pain, and indifference exclusively in the mind
that aren't related to feelings in the body.
Cognizance is simply a separate reality. We see this clearly
as it truly is. The mind has no more doubts that would cause
it to latch onto these things as its self, because each is
a separate reality. Even though they dwell together, they're
like a piece of fruit or an egg placed in a bowl. The bowl
has to be a bowl. The egg placed there is an egg. They aren't
one and the same. The mind is the mind, which lies in the
bowl of the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and
cognizance, but it's not the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations,
or cognizance. It's simply the mind, pure and simple, inside
there. When we clearly make the distinction between the mind
and the khandhas, that's how it is.
Now that the mind clearly understands the body, feelings,
labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, with nothing more
to doubt, all that remains is the fidgeting and rippling exclusively
within the mind. This rippling is a subtle form of sankhara
that ripples within the mind, a subtle form of pleasure, a
subtle form of stress, a subtle form of sañña
appearing in the mind. That's all there is. The mind will
investigate and analyze these things at all times with automatic
mindfulness and discernment.
The mind on this level is very refined. It has let go of all
things. The five khandhas no longer remain, but it
hasn't yet let go of itself: its awareness. This awareness,
though, is still coated with unawareness.
is called unawareness converging. It converges in the mind
and can't find any way out. The paths of unawareness are out
the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, leading to sights,
sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. Once mindfulness
and discernment have been able to cut these paths step by
step, unawareness has no way out. It doesn't have any following,
so it just goes 'blip... blip... blip...' within itself, taking
just the mind as the support onto which it latches because
it can't find any way out. It displays itself as a subtle
feeling of pleasure, a subtle feeling of stress, a radiance
that's extremely amazing as long as discernment isn't yet
all-around and can't yet destroy it. The mind keeps contemplating
matter how radiant or magnificent it may be, any conventional
reality -- no matter how refined -- has to display a symptom
of one sort or another that will arouse the mind's suspicions
enough to make it look for a way to remedy the situation.
Thus the pleasure and stress that are refined phenomena appearing
exclusively within the mind, together with the brightness
and marvelousness, have unawareness as their ringleader; but
because we have never encountered them before, we're deluded
into holding onto them when we first investigate into this
point, and are lulled sound asleep by unawareness so that
we grasp onto the radiance -- to the pleasure, to the marvelousness,
or to the magnificence arising from the unawareness embedded
in the mind -- as being our self. And so we assume the mind
complete with unawareness to be our self, without our realizing
what we are doing.
But not for long -- because of the power of super-mindfulness
and super-discernment, qualities that by now are uncomplacent.
They keep scrutinizing, investigating, and analyzing back
and forth in line with their nature on this level. The time
will have to come when they know for sure by noticing the
subtle pleasure that behaves just slightly in an irregular
manner. Even though stress displays itself just barely, in
line with this level of the mind, it's enough to make us suspicious:
'Eh -- why does the mind have symptoms like this? It's not
constant.' The magnificence displaying itself in the mind,
the marvelousness displaying itself in the mind, display irregularities
just barely, but enough for mindfulness and discernment to
catch sight of them.
Once they catch sight of these things, they get suspicious
and take them as the point to be investigated at that moment.
So now the mind -- this sort of awareness -- becomes the target
of their investigation. They focus down on this point to find
out, 'What is this? We've investigated everything of every
sort to the point where we've been able to uproot it all,
stage by stage, but this knowing nature, so bright, so amazing:
What exactly is it?'
Mindfulness and discernment keep focusing on down and investigating.
This point thus becomes the target of a full-scale investigation,
the battlefield of automatic mindfulness and discernment at
that moment. Before long, they are able to destroy the mind
of unawareness that is so superlative, so amazing and magnificent
from the viewpoint of unawareness, smashing and scattering
it completely so that nothing, not even an atom, is left remaining
in the heart.
When the nature on which we ignorantly conferred such titles
as superlative and amazing is dissolved away, something on
which we don't have to confer the titles of superlative or
not-superlative appears in full measure. That nature is
purity. And this purity: When we compare it with the mind
of unawareness that we once held to be superlative and supreme,
the mind of unawareness is like a pile of cow dung, while
the nature that had been concealed by unawareness, once it
is revealed, is like pure gold. Pure gold and squishy cow
dung: Which has greater value? Even a baby sucking his thumb
can answer, so we needn't waste our time and expose our stupidity
by making comparisons.
is the investigation of the mind. This level, when we have
reached it, is where things are severed completely from becoming
and birth in the mind, severed completely from all unawareness
and craving. 'Avijja-paccaya sankhara' -- 'With unawareness
as condition, there occur thought-formations' -- is completely
severed and becomes 'avijjayatveva asesaviraga-nirodha
sankhara-nirodho, sankhara-nirodha viññana-nirodho...'
-- 'Simply with the disbanding of unawareness, with no remaining
passion, thought-formations disband. With the disbanding of
thought-formations, cognizance disbands...' all the way to
'this is the disbanding of this entire mass of stress.'
When unawareness has disbanded, the formations that are the
cause of stress disband and keep disbanding, just as the Buddha
said, while the formations that continue as part of the khandhas
become formations pure and simple, and aren't a cause of stress.
The cognizance that appears in the heart is cognizance pure
and simple, and not cognizance as a cause of stress. 'Viññana-paccaya
namarupam, namarupam-paccaya salayatanam, salyatana-paccaya
phasso' -- whatever is a physical or mental phenomenon,
a sense medium, or a sensory contact is simply its own simple
nature. It can't provoke the mind that has finished its task
to the point of 'evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa
nirodho hoti' -- 'This is the disbanding of this entire
mass of stress.' The words, 'evametassa kevalassa'
-- 'all things mentioned here' -- have absolutely disbanded.
This is called disbanding in full measure.
When we disband defilement, craving, and unawareness, when
we disband the world of rebirth, where do we disband it if
not in the mind, which is the essence of the world of rebirth,
the essence of unawareness, the essence of birth, aging, illness,
and death. The seeds of birth, aging, illness, and death --
namely, passion and craving, with unawareness as their ringleader
-- lie only here in the mind. When they are completely scattered
from the mind, there is simply 'nirodho hoti' -- 'This
is the disbanding...'
This, then, is the work of the practice in line with the principles
of the Buddha's teachings. From the time of the Buddha down
to the present, these principles have remained constant. There
are no deficiencies or excesses in the principles of the Dhamma
taught by the Buddha that would make it unable to keep up
with the tricks and deceits of the various forms of defilement.
This is why it's called the middle way: the Dhamma always
appropriate for curing every sort of defilement to the point
where defilement no longer remains. This is how you should
understand the power of the middle way. Hold to this path
in your practice, because release from suffering and stress
is something with a value transcending all three levels of
existence. And what do we see in any of the three levels
of existence that is more fantastic than the release of the
heart from all suffering and stress? When we see this
clearly with our reason, our efforts in the practice will
be able to advance. We'll be ready to die in the battle. If
it means death, then go ahead and die -- die in the battle
for victory over the defilements that have smothered the heart
for so long. There is no teaching, no tool at all that can
attack the defilements and strike them down like the middle
way taught by the Lord Buddha.
this reason, we can be secure and confident in the words,
'Buddham saranam gacchami' -- 'I go for refuge in the
Buddha' -- in that he practiced so that both the causes and
the results -- everything of every sort -- were perfect and
complete, before taking the Dhamma to teach the world. 'Svakkhato
bhagavata dhammo' -- 'The Dhamma of the Blessed One is
well taught.' He taught it well in every facet from having
comprehended and seen the truth of every thing of every sort.
'Sangham saranam gacchami' -- 'I go for refuge in the
Sangha.' The Noble Disciples who practiced in line with the
principles of the Buddha's Dhamma -- without slacking or weakening,
enabling themselves to expel defilement from their hearts,
making their hearts superlative and becoming our refuge --
did so without going outside the principles of this middle
way. So I ask that you listen to this and take it to heart.
Don't set your heart on the deceitful and counterfeit issues
filling the world of rebirth. Set your heart on the truth
of the Dhamma, the truth of the practice. You will see the
truth continually appearing in your heart in the midst of
all the counterfeit things in the heart and throughout the
world. Don't harbor any doubts, for that would be to linger
over the defilements that know no end.
practicing the Dhamma, aim at the qualities of the heart --
virtue, concentration, and discernment -- more than at material
things. As for material things, if we have just enough
to get by, that's plenty enough. Wherever you go... We are
born from human beings. We monks come from people. People
have homes; we monks need places to stay -- enough to provide
ordinary shelter -- but they should be just enough to get
by. Don't make them fancy. Don't go competing with the world
outside. That would simply foster your own defilements and
make you known throughout the world in a way that the defilements
would ridicule. Make yourself known instead for your virtue,
concentration, and discernment, your conviction and persistence.
Make yourself known for having striven to cure yourself or
extricate yourself, to gain release from defilement and the
mass of stress in the cycle of rebirth. This is what it means
genuinely and directly to enhance your stature. Don't abandon
your efforts. Make it to the other shore of this turning,
churning cycle in this lifetime -- which is much surer than
any other lifetime, any other time or place.
And don't forget, wherever you go: Don't get involved in construction
work. Everywhere we go these days, there's construction work
and monks involved in it. It's enough to make you sick. As
soon as they meet each other: 'How's it going with your meeting
hall?' 'How's it going with your school? Are you finished
yet? How much has it cost?' Whenever there's a project, whatever
the project, they go harassing lay people, gathering up funds,
so that the lay people have to spend money and get embroiled
too, without any respite. Let the lay people have enough money
so that they can stash some of it away. They practically kill
themselves just to scrape together a little cash, but instead
of being able to use it to provide for their stomachs, for
their families, their children, and other essentials, and
for making merit at their leisure, they end up having to hand
it all over to help the monks who harass them by fund-raising
to the point where they're left empty-handed. This is the
religion of harassing the world, which the Buddha never practiced
and never taught us to practice. So I want you all to understand
this. The Buddha never acted this way. This is the religion
of material objects, the religion of money, not the religion
of Dhamma following the example of the Buddha.
around us: Monks' dwellings as large as Doi Inthanon. 
How many stories do they have? They stretch up to the sky.
How luxurious are they? How much do they make you sick to
your heart? Even my own dwelling, I can't help feeling embarrassed
by it, even though I stay there against my will and have to
put up with the embarrassment. They sent the money to build
it without letting me know in advance. I'm ashamed of the
fact that while I have asked for alms all my life, my dwelling...
even a palace in heaven is no match for it, while the people
who give alms live in shacks no bigger than your fist. What's
appropriate, what's fitting for monks who are habitually conscious
of danger, is to live wherever you can squeeze yourself in
to sit and lie down. But as for your effort in the practice,
I ask that you be solid and stable, diligent and persevering.
Don't waste your time by letting any job become an obstacle,
because exterior work, for the most part, is work that destroys
your work at mental development for the sake of killing and
destroying defilement. This is the major task in body and
mind for monks who aim at release and feel no desire to come
back to be reborn and die, to carry the mass of major and
minor sufferings in levels of becoming and birth any more.
There's no danger greater than the danger of defilement smothering
the heart, able to force and coerce the heart into suffering
everything to which the Dhamma doesn't aspire. There's no
suffering greater than the suffering of a person oppressed
by defilement. If we don't fight with defilement while we're
ordained, will we be able to fight with it after we die? The
vagaries of life and the body are things we can put up with,
but don't put up with the oppression of defilement any longer,
for that wouldn't be at all fitting for monks who are disciples
of the Tathagata.
Whether things may be just enough to get by, or however much
they may be lacking, be sure to look to the Tathagata as your
refuge at all times. Don't let things that are unnecessary
for monks become luxurious beyond all reason -- such as building
things to the point of competing with the world outside and
being crazy for hollow rank and fame, without being interested
in building the Dhamma to revive the heart from its stupor.
The people of the world live in flimsy little shacks that
are ready to collapse at a sneeze. Whatever they get, they
deny their own stomachs and their families so that they can
make merit and give donations to monks. But monks live in
many-storied mansions -- fancier and more luxurious than those
of heavenly beings -- as if they had never lived in tiny shacks
with their parents before becoming ordained. And who knows
what they have decorating their mansions in competition with
the world outside? It makes you more embarrassed than a young
bride when her mother-in-law sneezes and passes wind so loud
she practically faints. We forget that our heads are shaved:
Why don't we ever think about what that means? Aren't we becoming
too shameless? This isn't in line with the principles of the
religion that teach those who are ordained to cure their defilements
by seeing the dangers in worldly comforts. These sorts of
things clutter up the religion and the hearts of us monks,
so I ask that you not think of getting involved in them. Be
conscious always of the fact that they aren't the principles
of the Dhamma for curing defilement in a way the heart can
see clearly. Instead, they're means for making monks forget
themselves and become involved in the business of defilement,
which is none of their business as monks at all.
The primary principle of the Dhamma for monks is 'rukkhamula-senasanam
nissaya pabbajja, tatha te yava-jivam ussaho karaniyo'
-- 'Once you have ordained in the religion of the Buddha,
you are to live under the shade of trees, in forests and mountains,
in caves, under overhanging cliffs, in the open, by haystacks,
which are all places suitable for killing defilement, for
wiping out the defilements in your hearts. Try to act in this
way all of your life.' Everything else -- such as the things
termed 'extraneous gains' (atireka-labho) -- are unnecessary
work the Buddha would have us do is the contemplation of kesa,
loma, nakha, danta, taco; taco,
danta, nakha, loma, kesa: hair
of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin; skin, teeth,
nails, hair of the body, hair of the head, and from there
on to the 32 parts of the body -- beginning with hair of the
head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons,
bones, marrow, spleen, heart, liver, membranes, kidneys, lungs,
intestines, stomach, gorge, and feces -- which exist in each
of us. 'Try to unravel these things with your discernment
so as to see them as they truly are. When you have completed
this work with the full mindfulness and discernment of heroes,
then release from suffering -- that tremendous treasure --
will be yours.' Listen to that! Isn't it far removed from
the way we like to take our pleasure with the scraps and leftovers
that the Buddha taught us to relinquish in every word, every
phrase, every book of the Dhamma?
We ourselves are the adversaries of the teachings of the religion.
We luxuriate in everything the Dhamma criticizes. Lay people
are no match for us. Whenever they get anything good, they
use it to make merit and give to monks. Whatever they eat
and use is just so as to get by. All they ask for is good
things to give to monks, in line with their nature as merit-seekers,
while we monks have become luxury-seekers. Our dwellings are
fine, the things we use are fine, and on top of that some
of us have radios, TV sets, cars... If you compare this with
the basic rules of the Dhamma and Vinaya, it makes you more
heartsick than you can say. How is it that we have the stomach
to kill the Buddha red-handed this way with our shameless
and unthinking ostentation as monks? It really makes you embarrassed.
So I ask that each of you reflect a great deal on these matters.
If you've ordained really for the sake of the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha -- and not for the sake of being adversaries of
the Buddha's teachings -- I ask that you reflect on the Dhamma
and the path followed by the Buddha more than on any other
matter. No time excels the time of the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha that they have set as an example for us to
follow. This is a very important principle. I ask that you
all follow the principles of the time of the Buddha. The results,
which are refreshing and satisfying, are sure to appear in
line with the principles of the well-taught Dhamma, the Dhamma
that leads out from suffering. There's no way to doubt this.
These things I've practiced to a fair extent myself. I used
to be a junior monk too, you know. When I went to study and
train with my teachers -- and especially Ven. Acariya Mun
-- I really listened. I listened to him speak. He would speak
half in earnest, half in jest, in the ordinary way of teachers
talking with their students, but I would never listen in jest.
I always listened in earnest and took things to heart. I had
the greatest imaginable love and fear and respect for him.
I'd hold to every facet of what he'd say that I could put
into practice. What I've been able to teach my students is
due to the power of what he taught me. For this reason, even
though in this monastery we may conduct ourselves somewhat
differently from other monasteries in general, I'm confident
in line with the principles of reason and of the Dhamma and
Vinaya so that I'm not worried about the matter. I don't think
that what we do is wrong, because I have the example of the
Buddha's teaching and of my teachers -- everything of every
sort that follows the original patterns -- which is why I've
led my fellow meditators to practice this way all along. Whether
this is right or wrong, we have to decide in line with the
principles of reason. Deference to people is an affair of
the world, an affair of individuals, and not an affair of
the Dhamma and Vinaya, which are fixed principles for the
practice. Speaking in line with the Dhamma for the sake of
understanding and right practice: That's the genuine Dhamma.
For this reason, an unwillingness to speak the truth for fear
of stepping on someone's toes is not a trait for those who
aim at the Dhamma together.
seems enough for now, so I'll ask to stop here.
Fangs of Unawareness
excerpt from a talk given July 16, 1982
state of mind with its unawareness is a magnificent mind,
bold and daring -- not only radiant, but also bold and daring
as well, and reckless because of its daring, in thinking that
it's smart. It's not reckless in the ordinary way. It's reckless
in line with its nature as a state of mind of this sort. This
is called the nine forms of mana, or conceit. The nine
forms of conceit lie right here. The Buddha explains this
in the five higher fetters (sanyojana): passion for
form, passion for formlessness, conceit, restlessness, and
unawareness. Conceit means to assume -- to assume that the
state of mind blended into one with unawareness is one's self,
that it's 'me' or 'mine', and then taking it to make comparisons:
'How is it with those people or these people? Are their minds
on a par with mine? Higher than mine? Lower than mine?' This
is why there are nine forms of conceit. In other words, three
times three is nine. For example, our mind is lower than theirs,
and we assume it to be lower than theirs, higher than theirs,
or on a par. Our mind is on a par with theirs, and we assume
it to be lower than theirs, higher than theirs, or on a par.
Our mind is higher than theirs, and we assume it to be lower
than theirs, higher than theirs, or on a par.
The refined level of defilement takes this state of mind out
to make the comparison -- because it's in the phase where
it has fangs. Its fangs are growing sharp. The fangs of unawareness:
They're called conceit, or self-assumption. Once this state
is dissolved, what is there to assume? What is there to be
radiant? To be defiled? To be bold and daring? To be afraid?
There isn't anything, once that nature dissolves through the
power of investigation.
These things, you know, are phenomena that create problems
in line with their level. Their level is subtle, so they manage
to create subtle problems. Blatant defilements create blatant
problems. Subtle defilements create subtle problems. When
the defilements are gone, there's nothing to create any problems.
There are no more problems in any way, no more conditions
for conventional reality to make further connections. All
that remains is absolute purity, which is why there are no
Absolute purity is a condition for what? What problems does
it create? The Buddha says that we run out of problems. This
is where they run out. However many levels of becoming and
birth there may be in the mind, it has known them step by
step until it reaches the converging point, leaving just the
seeds of these things that get planted here and there as birth.
So we burn them up with tapas, the fire of our effort,
until they are completely eradicated. So now are there any
levels of becoming and birth to make further connections?
Whom do we have to ask? Even if the buddha were sitting
right in front of us, we wouldn't ask him, because the truth
is the same for us as it is for him. There's nothing different
enough for us to ask. This is why the Dhamma is said to be
sanditthiko: We know it and see it ourself. Paccattam
veditabbo viññuhi: Those who know it, know
it for themselves alone. This means that only those who know
it from the practice can know it. It can't be made available
to anyone else.
This is what the Buddha calls vusitam brahmacariyam:
It's the end of the job. The earth-shattering job is done
-- earth-shattering because becoming and birth build themselves
up with earth, water, wind, and fire; or because any level
of becoming and birth is a matter of convention, which is
now overturned. This is why we say it's earth-shattering.
So what is there to move in and take up residence in the mind?
we can watch defilement. Once we have completely killed defilement
in this mind, then how can defilement be kept hidden from
us when it displays itself in anyone else's mind or actions?
This mind can't help but know it every time. As they say,
defilement ordinarily rules us completely without our knowing
it, but how can the Buddha and the arahants have any trouble
seeing? They see in the flash of an eye and they're already
disgusted. Those who know, know to the point where they're
disgusted: What do you say to that? As for us, we're the
blind living with the blind. We don't know our own affairs
or those of anyone else. Neither side knows, but each side
thinks that it knows, assumes that it knows, assumes that
it's right -- and so both sides argue and bite each other
like dogs because their inner eyes don't see. They don't have
the eye of discernment like the Buddha and the Noble Disciples.
This is the way it is with defilement: It has to assume itself
and exalt itself. The more vile it is, the more it assumes
itself to be good. This is the way defilement is. It has never
submitted to the truth of the Dhamma from time immemorial.
For this reason, we practice to stamp out these things. Don't
let them linger in the heart. Stamp them out till they're
completely scattered and smashed, and then you can be at your
ease: the mind completely open and yet a reservoir for the
quality of purity, without an inkling of convention passing
in. If we were to make a comparison with conventional reality,
it's an outer space mind, but that's just a manner of speaking.
Outer Space of the Mind
who practice in earnestness, trying to develop and improve
the qualities in their hearts step by step, beginning with
virtue, the stages of concentration, and the levels of discernment,
are -- to make a comparison -- like the people who build a
rocket or a satellite to travel in outer space. They have
to put their vehicle into good shape. Otherwise it won't get
off the ground -- because the things that can act as obstacles
to their vehicle are many. The object that's going to travel
in space has to be developed in order to be completely suited
to its environment in every way. Before they can get it safely
past its obstacles, they need to have made ample calculations.
Even then, there are times when mishaps occur. But once the
vehicle has been thoroughly developed, it can travel easily
in outer space without any mishaps of any sort. This is an
analogy for the minds of those who practice, who have developed
their inner qualities and put them in to shape.
The heart is what will step out beyond the realm of conventional
realities that exert a gravitational pull on it, into the
outer space beyond convention: to vimutti, or release.
The things that act as obstacles, preventing it from stepping
out, are the various kinds of defilement.
For this reason, we have to make a very great effort. The
defilements have various levels of crudeness and subtlety,
so in developing the heart so as to pass through the crudeness
and subtlety of the various levels of conventional reality
-- and of the defilements in particular -- we must try to
make it just right. We must use whatever qualities are needed
to get the mind past the crudeness of conventional realities
or defilement, stage by stage, by means of our practice, by
means of our efforts to improve and develop it. Our persistence
has to be strong. Our efforts, our endeavors in all ways have
to be strong. Mindfulness and discernment are the important
factors that will take the heart beyond the various obstacles
thwarting it step by step. All of the techniques and strategies
taught by the Buddha in the area of meditation are means for
developing the heart so that it will be suited to transcending
the realm of conventional reality and reaching outer space:
What is it like, the outer space of the Dhamma? They no longer
doubt about whether the outer space of the world exists or
not. The things that lie within conventional reality are known
to exist. Outer space beyond our atmosphere is another level
of conventional reality. Outer space: What is it like? Does
it exist? How does our world in the atmosphere differ from
the things outside the world of our atmosphere called outer
space? Both of these levels exist.
The mind that lies in the realm of conventional reality --
surrounded and controlled -- is like the various objects in
the world trapped by the pull of gravity at all times. The
mind is trapped by the pull of defilement in just the same
way. It can't escape, which is why it must develop its strength
to escape from the world of this gravitational pull. This
gravitational pull is something the Buddha has already explained.
In brief, there is craving for sensuality, craving for becoming,
and craving for no becoming. The details -- the branches and
offshoots -- are more than can be numbered. They fill this
world of conventional realities. They are all factors that
make the mind attached and entangled -- loving, hating, and
resenting different things, different beings, different people.
All these factors can be adversaries to the heart and come
from the preoccupations of the heart itself that labels things
and misinterprets them.
this reason, the principles of the Dhamma that the Buddha
taught in the area of meditation for developing and modifying
the heart are very appropriate for helping us as meditators
to escape from all the things in our hearts that exert a pull
on us or weigh us down. These things are hard to remove, hard
to remedy, hard to sever, which is why we need a Teacher to
guide us. If we had no Teacher, the living beings in the three
realms of the cosmos -- no matter how many thousands or millions
of forms and levels there are -- would all be as if deaf and
blind. Not one of them would be able to escape from this darkness
and blindness. This is why we should have a heartfelt sense
of the awesomeness of the arising of a Buddha, who leads living
beings to escape from this gravitational pull, from this oppressiveness,
safely and in large numbers -- to the point where no one else
can compare -- beginning with each Buddha's foremost disciples
and on to the end of his dispensation, when his teachings
no longer exist in the hearts of living beings, which is the
final point in his work of ferrying living beings from all
sorts of blindness, darkness, suffering, and stress.
Our present Buddha performed these duties with the full mindfulness
and discernment of his great mercy and compassion, beginning
with the day of his Awakening. It's as if he took a large
ship and cast anchor in the middle of the ocean in order to
gather the living beings of various kinds and strengths adrift
in the water on the verge of death and bring them on board
stage by stage. Those who take an interest in the Dhamma are
like beings who struggle to get on board the Buddha's ship
that has cast anchor in the middle of the sea. They keep climbing
on board, climbing on board, until the day when the beings
of the world have no more belief in the teachings of the religion.
That's when the ship will no longer have any function. Those
who are still left in the sea will have to stay there adrift,
with no more way of escape. They are the ones who are to become
food for the fishes and turtles.
Those who have come on board, though, are the various stages
of those who have been able to escape, as mentioned in the
four types of individuals, beginning with the ugghatitaññu,
vipacitaññu and neyya. These are
the ones who have come on board. How high or low they are
able to go depends on their individual capabilities. There
are those who escape completely -- those free of defilement;
there are those on the verge of escape -- the non-returners
(anagami); those in the middle -- the once-returners
(sakidagami); and then the stream-winners (sotapanna);
and finally ordinary good people. Here we're referring to
the Buddha's ship in its general sense. He uses it to salvage
living beings, beginning from the day of his Awakening until
the point when the teachings of the religion have no more
meaning in the world's sensibilities. That's the final point.
Those who remain are the diseased who can find no medicine
or physician to treat their illnesses and are simply awaiting
their day to die.
So now we are swimming and struggling toward the Buddha's
large ship by making the effort of the practice. In particular,
now that we have ordained in the Buddha's religion and have
developed a feel for his teaching, this makes us even more
moved, even more convinced of all the truths that he taught
rightly about good and evil, right and wrong, hell, heaven,
the Brahma worlds, and nibbana, all of which are realities
that actually exist.
We have followed the principles of the Buddha's Dhamma, and
in particular the practice of meditation. Try to build up
your strength and ability without flagging, so as to resist
and remove all the things that coerce or exert a gravitational
pull on the heart. Don't let yourself become accustomed to
their pull. They pull you to disaster, not to anything
else. They're not forces that will pull you to what is auspicious.
They'll pull you to what's inauspicious, step by step, depending
on how much you believe, give in, and are overcome by their
pull. Suffering will then appear in proportion to how much
you unconsciously agree, give in, and are overcome by their
pull. Even though there are the teachings of the religion
to pull you back, the mind tends to take the lower path more
than the path of the religion, which is why it is set adrift.
But we're not the type to be set adrift. We're the type who
are swimming to release using the full power of our intelligence
you are, whatever you do, always be on the alert with mindfulness.
Don't regard the effort of the practice as tiring, as something
wearisome, difficult to do, difficult to get right, difficult
to contend with. Struggle and effort: These are the path for
those who are to gain release from all stress and danger,
not the path of those headed downward to the depths of hell,
blind and in the dark by day and by night, their minds consumed
by all things lowly and vile.
The Noble Ones in the time of the Buddha practiced in earnest.
With the words, 'I go to the Buddha for refuge,' or 'I go
to the Sangha for refuge,' we should reflect on their Dhamma,
investigating and unraveling it so as to see the profundity
and subtlety of their practice. At the same time, we should
take their realizations into our hearts as good examples to
follow, so that we can conduct ourselves in the footsteps
of their practices and realizations.
'I go to the Buddha for refuge.' We all know how difficult
it was for him to become the Buddha. We should engrave it
in our hearts. Our Teacher was the first pioneer in our age
to the good destination for the sake of all living beings.
Things were never made easy for him. From the day of his renunciation
to the day of his Awakening, it was as if he were in hell
-- there's no need to compare it to being in prison -- because
he had been very delicately brought up in his royal home.
When he renounced the household life, he faced great difficulties
in terms of the four necessities. In addition, there were
many, many defilements in his heart related to his treasury
and to the nation filled with his royal subjects. It weighed
heavily on his heart at all times that he had to leave these
things behind. He found no comfort or peace at all, except
when he was sound asleep.
As for us, we don't have a following, don't have subjects,
have never been kings. We became ordained far more easily
than the Buddha. And when we make the effort of the practice,
we have his teachings, correct in their every aspect, as our
guide. Our practice isn't really difficult like that of the
Buddha, who had to struggle on his own with no one to guide
him. On this point, we're very different. We have a much lighter
burden in the effort of the practice than the Buddha, who
was of royal birth.
Food, wherever we go, is full to overflowing, thanks to the
faith of those who are already convinced of the Buddha's teachings
and are not lacking in interest and faith for those who practice
rightly. For this reason, monks -- wherever they go -- are
not lacking in the four necessities of life, which is very
different from the case of the Buddha.
All of the Noble Disciples who followed in the Buddha's footsteps
were second to him in terms of the difficulties they faced.
They had a much easier time as regards the four necessities
of life, because people by and large had already begun to
have faith and conviction in the teachings. But even so, the
disciples didn't take pleasure in the four necessities more
than in the Dhamma, in making the single-minded effort to
gain release from suffering and stress. This is something
very pleasing, something very worthy to be taken as an example.
They gave their hearts, their lives -- every part of themselves
-- in homage to the Buddha and Dhamma, to the point where
they all became homage to the Sangha within themselves. In
doing so, they all encountered difficulties, every one of
the Dhamma is something superior and superlative, whoever
meets it has to develop and prosper through its power day
by day, step by step, to a state of superlative excellence.
As for the defilements, there is no type of defilement that
can take anyone to peace, security, or excellence of any kind.
The defilements know this. They know that the Dhamma far excels
them, so they disguise themselves thoroughly to keep us from
knowing their tricks and deceits. In everything we do, they
have to lie behind the scenes, showing only their tactics
and strategies, which are nothing but means of fooling living
beings into falling for them and staying attached to them.
This is very ingenious on their part.
For this reason, those who make the effort of the practice
are constantly bending under their gravitational pull. Whether
we are doing sitting meditation, walking meditation -- whatever
our posture -- we keep bending and leaning under their pull.
They pull us toward laziness and lethargy. They pull us toward
discouragement and weakness. They pull us into believing that
our mindfulness and discernment are too meager for the teachings
of the religion. They pull us into believing that our capacities
are too meager to deserve the Dhamma, to deserve the paths,
fruitions, and nibbana, or to deserve the Buddha's
teachings. All of these things are the tactics of the pull
of defilement to draw us solely into failure, away from the
Dhamma. If we don't practice the Dhamma so as to get above
these things, we won't have any sense at all that they are
all deceits of defilement. When we have practiced so as to
get beyond them step by step, though, they won't be able to
remain hidden. No matter how sharp and ingenious the various
kinds of defilement may be, they don't lie beyond the power
of mindfulness and discernment. This is why the Buddha saw
causes and effects, benefits and harm, in a way that went
straight to his heart, because of his intelligence that transcended
For this reason, when he taught the Dhamma to the world, he
did so with full compassion so that living beings could truly
escape from danger, from the depths of the world so full of
suffering. He wanted the beings of the world to see the marvelousness,
the awesomeness of the Dhamma that had had such an impact
within his heart, so that they too would actually see as he
did. This is why his proclamation of the Dhamma was done in
full measure, for it was based on his benevolence. He didn't
proclaim it with empty pronouncements or as empty ceremony.
That sort of thing didn't exist in the Buddha. Instead, he
was truly filled with benevolence for the living beings of
His activities as Buddha -- the five duties of the Buddha
we are always hearing about -- he never abandoned, except
for the few times he occasionally set them aside in line with
events. But even though he set them aside, it wasn't because
he had set his benevolence aside. He set them aside in
keeping with events and circumstances. For example, when he
spent the rains alone in the Prileyya Forest, he had no following,
and none of the monks entered the forest to receive instruction
from him, which meant that this activity was set aside. Other
than that, though, he performed his duties to the full because
of his benevolence, with nothing lacking in any way.
is a matter of his having seen things clearly in his heart:
the harm of all things dangerous, and the benefits of all
things beneficial. The Buddha had touched and known them in
every way, which is why he had nothing to doubt. His teaching
of the Dhamma regarding harms and benefits was thus done in
full measure. He analyzed harm into all its branches. He analyzed
benefits into all their branches and completely revealed the
differing degrees of benefits they gave. The beings of the
world who had lived drearily with suffering and stress for
untold aeons and were capable of learning of the excellence
of the Dhamma from the Buddha: How could they remain complacent?
Once they had heard the teachings of the religion truly resonating
in their very own ears and hearts -- because of the truth,
the honesty, the genuine compassion of the Buddha -- they
had to wake up. The beings of the world had to wake up. They
had to accept the truth.
That truth is of two kinds. The truth on the side of harm
is one kind of truth: It really is stressful, and the origin
of stress really creates stress to burn the hearts of living
beings. As for the path, it really creates ease and happiness
for living beings. Those who listened to these truths, listened
with all their hearts. This being the case, the strength of
will they developed, their conviction, and their clear vision
of both harm and benefits all gathered to become a strength
permeating the one heart of each person. So why shouldn't
these things reveal their full strength and manifest themselves
as persistence, effort, earnestness, and determination in
every activity for the sake of gaining release from all dangers
and adversity by means of the Dhamma?
This is why the disciples who heard the Dhamma from the Buddha,
from the mouth of the foremost Teacher, felt inspired and
convinced. Many of them even came to see the Dhamma and gain
release from suffering and stress, step by step to the point
of absolute release, right there in the Buddha's presence.
As we've seen the texts say: When the Buddha was explaining
the Dhamma for the sake of those who could be taught, his
followers -- such as the monks -- attained the Dhamma to ultimate
release, nibbana, in no small numbers. This is what
happens when truth meets with truth. They fit together
easily with no difficulty at all. Those who listened did so
by really seeing the benefits and harm, really convinced by
the reasons of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha, which is why
they gained clear results right then and there.
The Dhamma -- both the harm and benefits that the Buddha explained
in his day and age, and that existed in the hearts of his
listeners in that day and age: In what way is it different
from the truths existing in our hearts at present? They're
all the same nature of truth, the same Noble Truths. They
don't lie beyond the four Noble Truths, either in the Buddha's
time or in the present.
The Buddha's instructions were the truth of the path, teaching
people to have virtue, concentration, and discernment so that
they could truly understand the affairs of stress straight
to the heart and remove the cause of stress, which is a thorn
or a spear stabbing the heart of living beings, creating suffering
and stress that go straight to the heart as well. The truth
of stress exists in our bodies and minds. The truth of the
origin of stress reveals itself blatantly in our hearts in
our every activity. What can reveal itself only intermittently,
or not at all, is the path -- even though we are listening
to it right now.
What is the path? Mindfulness and discernment. Right View
and Right Attitude: These things refer to the levels
of discernment. If we add Right Mindfulness, then when
we have these three qualities nourishing the heart, Right
Concentration will arise because of our right activities.
Right Activity, for those who are to extricate themselves
from stress, refers primarily to the work of removing defilement
-- for example, the work of sitting and walking meditation,
the work of guarding the heart with mindfulness, using mindfulness
and discernment continually to investigate and contemplate
the different kinds of good and bad things making contact
with us at all times. This is called building the path within
we bring the path out to contend with our adversary -- the
origin of stress -- what facet is the adversary displaying?
The facet of love? What does it love? What exactly is the
object it loves? Here we focus mindfulness and discernment
in on unraveling the object that's loved. What is the object
in actuality? Unravel it so as to see it through and through,
being really intent in line with the principles of mindfulness
and discernment. Reflect back and forth, again and again,
so as to see it clearly. The object that's loved or lovable
will fade away of its own accord because of our discernment.
Mindfulness and discernment wash away all the artifice, all
that is counterfeit in that so-called love step by step until
it is all gone. This is the discernment we build up in the
heart to wash away all the artifices, all the filth with which
the defilements plaster things inside and out.
Outside, they plaster these things on sights, sounds, smells,
tastes, and tactile sensations. Inside, they plaster them
on labels -- sañña -- that go out our
eyes... They plaster things beginning with our eyes, ears,
nose, tongue, and body, stage by stage. There's nothing but
the plaster of defilement. When we meet with these things,
seeing them or hearing them, sañña --
labels and interpretations -- and sankhara -- thought-formations
-- appear in the mind. These continue plastering layer on
For this reason, we must use discernment to investigate. Whatever
is plastered outside, wash that plastering away. Then turn
around to wash away the plastering inside. When we have seen
these things clearly with discernment, how can discernment
help but turn to find the important culprit, the deceiver
inside? It has to turn inside. In using mindfulness
and discernment, this is how we must use them. When we investigate,
this is how we investigate -- and we do it earnestly. This
is Right Activity in the area of the practice.
Speech: As I've said before, we speak in line with the
ten topics of effacement (sallekha-dhamma). We don't
bring matters of the world, politics, commerce, matters of
women and men, matters of defilement and craving to converse
among ourselves so as to become distracted and conceited,
piling on more defilement and stress, in line with the things
we discuss. With the topics of effacement -- that's what the
Buddha called them -- we speak of things that will strengthen
our will to make persistent effort, making us convinced and
inspired with the Dhamma. At the same time, these topics are
warnings against heedlessness and means of washing away the
various kinds of defilement when we hear them from one another.
This is Right Speech in the area of the practice.
Livelihood: Feed your heart with Dhamma. Don't bring in
poison -- greed, anger, delusion, or lust -- to feed the heart,
for these things will be toxic, burning the heart and making
it far more troubled than any poisonous substances could.
Try to guard your heart well with mindfulness and discernment.
The savor of the Dhamma, beginning with concentration as its
basis, will appear as peace and calm within the heart in proportion
to the levels of concentration. Then use discernment to unravel
the various things that the mind labels and interprets, so
as to see them clearly step by step. This is called Right
Livelihood -- guarding the heart rightly, feeding it correctly
with the nourishment of the Dhamma, and not with the various
kinds of defilement, craving, and mental effluents that are
like poisons burning the heart. Reduce matters to these terms,
meditators. This is called Right Livelihood in the practice
as I've said before, means persistence in abandoning all forms
of evil. This covers everything we've said so far. The Buddha
defines this as persistence in four areas, or of four sorts,
 but since I've already explained
this many times, I'll pass over it here.
Mindfulness: What does the Buddha have us keep in mind?
All the things that will remove defilement. For example, he
has us keep the four frames of reference in mind: being mindful
as we investigate the body; being mindful as we investigate
feelings; being mindful as we investigate the mind; being
mindful as we investigate phenomena that involve the mind,
arise in the mind, arise and then vanish, vanish and then
arise, matters of past and future appearing in the present
all the time. We keep investigating in this way. If we investigate
so as to make the mind progress in tranquillity meditation,
Right Mindfulness means using mindfulness to supervise our
mental repetition. From there it turns into Right Concentration
within the heart. This is called building the Dhamma, building
tools for clearing our way, loosening the things that bind
and constrict the heart so that we can make easy progress,
so that we aren't obstructed and blocked by the force of the
things I have mentioned.
Only the religion, or only the Dhamma, can remove and scatter
all the things that have bound us for countless aeons, clearing
them away so that we can make easy progress. When the mind
is centered in concentration, then confusion and turmoil are
far away. The mind is still and dwells in comfort and ease.
When the mind develops discernment from investigating and
contemplating the things that obstruct it, it makes easy progress.
The sharper its discernment, the wider the path it can clear
for itself. Its going is smooth. Easy. It advances by seeing
and knowing the truth, without being deluded or deceiving
itself. Genuine discernment doesn't deceive itself, but instead
makes smooth progress. It unravels all the things that obstruct
it -- our various attachments and misconstruings -- so as
to see them thoroughly, as if it were slashing away the obstacles
in its path so that it can progress step by step as I've already
explained to you.
The most important basis for its investigation is the body.
Bodies outside or the body inside, investigate them carefully
and thoroughly, for they're all Noble Truths. They're all
the path, both inside and out. Investigate and unravel them
so as to see them clearly -- and while you're investigating
them, don't concern yourself with any other work more than
with the work of investigation. Use discernment to investigate
in order really to know, really to see these things as
they are, and uproot the counterfeit labels and assumptions
that say that they're pretty and beautiful, lovely and attractive.
Investigate so as to penetrate to the truth that there
is nothing at all beautiful or attractive about them.
They're thoroughly filthy and repulsive: your body and the
bodies of others, all without exception. They're all filled
with filthy and repulsive things. If you look in line with
the principles of the truth, that's how they are. Discernment
investigates, peering inward so as to see clear through --
from the skin outside on into the inside, which is putrid
with all kinds of filth -- for the sake of seeing clearly
exactly what is pretty, what is beautiful, what is lovely
and attractive. There's nothing of the sort in any body. There
are only the lying defilements that have planted these notions
we have really investigated on in, we see that these notions
are all false. The genuine truth is that these bodies aren't
pretty or beautiful. They're nothing but repulsive. When they
fall apart, what are they? When they fall apart, earth is
earth -- because earth is what it already was when it was
still in the body. The properties of water, wind, and fire
were already water, wind, and fire when they were in the body.
When the body falls apart, where do these things ever become
gods and Brahmas, heaven and nibbana? They have to
be earth, water, wind, and fire in line with their nature.
This is how discernment investigates and analyzes so as to
see clearly. This is how we use clear-seeing discernment to
clear away the things obstructing and distorting our vision.
Now there's no more such thing as being constricted or blocked.
Our discernment, if we use it, has to be discernment all the
Wherever discernment penetrates, it sees clearly, clears away
its doubts, and lets go, step by step, until it lets go
once and for all from having known thoroughly. Once it
has investigated blatant things so as to know them clearly,
where will the mind then go? Once it has investigated blatant
things and known them clearly, it's as if it has completely
uprooted the blatant defilements that have planted thorns
in different objects, such as our own body. So now where will
the defilements go? Will they fly away? They can only shrink
inward to find a hiding place when they are chased inside
and attacked by mindfulness and discernment.
Feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance: These
are simply individual conditions by their nature, but they
are under the control of defilement. Defilement is the basis
from which they spring, so it has to regard itself as being
in charge. It uses labels to make them defilement. It forms
thought-formations so as to make them defilement. It cognizes
and takes note so as to make these things defilement. However
many feelings arise, it makes them all defilement. Defilement
can't make things into Dhamma. It has to be defilement all
the day long. This is how it builds itself in its various
So. Investigate on in. Slash on in. Feelings of pleasure and
pain: They exist both in the body and in the mind. Feeling
isn't defilement. If we look in line with the principles of
nature, it's simply a reality. The assumption that
'I'm pained' or 'I'm pleased' -- delusion with pain, delusion
with pleasure, delusion with feelings of indifference in the
body and mind: These things are defilement. The assumptions
and delusions are defilement. When we really investigate inward,
the various feelings aren't defilement; these four mental
phenomena aren't defilement.
Once we've spotted our assumptions and construings, they retreat
inward. The feelings that still exist in the body and mind,
even though they aren't yet thoroughly understood, are still
greatly lightened. We begin to gain an inkling of their ways,
step by step. We're not deluded to the point of complete blindness
as we were before we investigated. Whichever aspects of feeling
are blatant and associated with the body, we know clearly.
We can let go of bodily feelings. We can understand them.
As for feelings remaining in the mind, for the most part they're
refined feelings of pleasure. We know and let go of them in
the same way when the path gains power. These feelings of
pleasure are like fish in a trap: No matter what, there's
no way they can escape getting cooked. They can't swim down
into large ponds and lakes as they used to. They can only
sit waiting for their dying day. The same holds true for the
refined feeling of pleasure -- which is a conventional reality
-- within the heart. It can only wait for the day it will
be disbanded as a convention when the ultimate ease, which
is not a convention, comes to rule the heart through the complete
penetration of mindfulness and discernment. So investigate
on in until you understand, reaching the point of letting
go with no more concerns.
is sañña labeling? Labeling this, labeling
that, making assumptions about this and that: These are all
affairs of defilement using sañña. When
cognizance (viññana) takes note, it too
is turned into defilement. So we investigate these things,
using discernment in the same way as when we investigate feelings.
We then understand. When we understand, these things become
simply cognizance taking note, simply sañña
labeling, without labeling so as to be defilement, without
taking note so as to be defilement. Defilement then retreats
further and further inward.
Ultimately, these five issues -- namely, the physical khandha,
our body; the vedana khandha, feelings in the body
(as for feelings in the mind, let's save those for the moment);
the sañña khandha, the sankhara khandha,
and the viññana khandha -- are all clearly
known in the heart, with no more doubts. The defilements gather
inward, converge inward. They can't go out roaming, because
they'll get slashed to bits by mindfulness and discernment.
So they have to withdraw inward to find a hiding place. This,
in actuality, is what the investigation is like, and not otherwise.
In our investigation as meditators, when discernment reaches
any particular level, we'll know for ourselves, step by step.
Both defilement and discernment: We'll know both sides at
the same time. When discernment is very strong, defilement
grows weaker. Mindfulness and discernment become even more
courageous and unflinching. The words laziness and lethargy,
which are affairs of defilement, disappear. We keep moving
in with persistence day and night. This is the way it is when
the path gains strength. As meditators you should take note
of this and practice so as to know it and see it, so as to
make it your own treasure arising in your heart. Your doubts
will then be ended in every way.
We now take this atomic mindfulness and discernment and shoot
it into the central point of conventional reality, the point
that causes living beings to founder in the wheel of the cycle
(vatta) so that they can't find their way out, don't
know the way out, don't know the ways of birth, don't know
who has been born as what, where they have died, what burdens
of suffering and stress they have carried. Mindfulness and
discernment go crashing down into that point until it is scattered
to pieces. And so now how can we not know what it is that
has caused us to take birth and die? There is only defilement
that is the important seed causing us to take birth and die,
causing us to suffer pain and stress. The true Dhamma hasn't
caused us to suffer. It has brought us nothing but pleasure
and ease in line with its levels, in line with the levels
of what is noble and good. The things that give rise to major
and minor sufferings are all affairs of defilement. We can
see this clearly. We can know this clearly. Especially when
defilement has been completely scattered from the heart, it's
as if the earth and sky collapse. How can this not send a
tremor through the three levels of the cosmos? -- because
this thing is what has wandered throughout the three levels
of the cosmos. When it has been made to collapse within the
heart, what is the heart like now? How does the outer space
of the Dhamma differ from the outer space of the world? Now
we know clearly. The outer space of this purified mind: Is
it annihilation? The outer space of the world isn't annihilation.
If it were annihilation, they wouldn't call it outer space.
It's a nature that exists in line with the principles of its
nature as outer space.
outer space of the mind released from all forms of gravitational
pull, i.e., conventional reality: What is it like? Even though
we've never known it before, when we come to know it, we won't
have any doubts. Even though we've never seen it before, when
we come to see it, we won't have any doubts. Even though we've
never experienced it before, when we come to experience it,
we won't have any doubts. We won't have to search for witnesses
to confirm it, the way we do with conventions in general.
It's sanditthiko -- immediately apparent -- and only
this fits perfectly with our heart and that outer space mind.
This is what we referred to at the beginning when we talked
about the outer space of the world and the outer space of
the mind. The outer space of the mind -- the mind of nibbana
-- is like that. Just where is it annihilated? Who experiences
the outer space of the mind? If it were annihilation, who
could experience it? As for where it will or won't be
reborn, we already know that there's no way for it to be reborn.
We know this clearly. We've removed every defilement or conventional
reality that would lead to rebirth. Conventional reality is
the same thing as defilement. All things -- no matter how
subtle -- that have been dangers to the heart for such a long
time have been completely destroyed. All that remains is the
pure outer space of the mind: the mind that is pure. You can
call it outer space, you can call it anything at all, because
the world has its conventions, so we have to make differentiations
to use in line with the conventions of the world so as not
When we reach the level of the outer space mind, how does
it feel for the mind to have been coerced, oppressed, and
subject to the pull of all things base and vile, full of stress
and great sufferings for aeons and aeons? We don't have to
reflect on how many lifetimes it's been. We can take the principle
of the present as our evidence. Now the mind is released.
We've seen how much suffering there has been and now we've
abandoned it once and for all. We've absolutely destroyed
its seeds, beginning with 'avijja-paccaya sankhara'
-- 'With unawareness as condition there occur mental formations.'
All that remains is 'avijjayatveva asesa-viraga-nirodha'
sankhara-nirodho' -- 'Simply with the disbanding of unawareness,
with no remaining passion, thought-formations disband.' That's
the outer space of the mind.
The mind released from all gravitational forces: Even though
it's still alive and directing the khandhas, there's
nothing to bar its thoughts, its vision, its knowledge. There's
nothing to obstruct it, nothing to make it worried or relieved,
nothing to make it brave, nothing to make it afraid. It is
simply its own nature by itself, always independent in that
For this reason, knowledge of all truths has to be completely
open to this unobstructed and unoppressed mind. It can know
and see. If we speak of matters related to the body and khandhas,
we can speak in every way without faltering, because there's
nothing to hinder us. Only the defilements are what kept us
from seeing what we saw and from describing the things we
should have been able to describe, because we didn't know,
we didn't see. What we knew was bits and pieces. We didn't
know the full truth of these various things. When this was
the case, how could we know clearly? How could we speak clearly?
All we knew was bits and pieces, so when we spoke, it had
to be bits and pieces as well.
once we've shed these things, everything is wide open. The
mind is free, vast, and empty, without limits, without bounds.
There's nothing to enclose or obscure it. When we know, we
really know the truth. When we see, we really see the truth.
When we speak, we can speak the truth. You can call the mind
brave or not-brave as you like, because we speak in line with
what we experience, what we know and see, so why can't we
speak? We can know, we can see, so why can't we speak? --
for these things exist as they have from the beginning. When
the Buddha proclaimed the Dhamma to the world, he took the
things that existed and that he saw in line with what he had
known -- everything of every sort -- and proclaimed them to
the world. Think of how broad it was, the knowledge of the
Buddha, how subtle and profound -- because nothing was concealed
or mysterious to him. Everything was completely opened to
him. This is why he's called lokavidu -- one who knows
the world clearly -- through the vastness of his mind that
had nothing to enclose or conceal it at all.
udapadi: 'Brightness arose.' His mind was bright toward
the truth both by day and by night. This is how the Buddha
knew. The Noble Disciples all knew in the same way, except
that his range and theirs differed in breadth. But as for
knowing the truth, it was the same for them all.
Here we've described both the benefits and the harm of the
things involved with the mind -- in other words, both the
Dhamma and the defilements -- for you as meditators to listen
to and contemplate in earnestness.
So. Let's try to develop our minds so as to shoot out beyond
this world of conventional realities to see what it's like.
Then we won't have to ask where the Buddha is, how many Buddhas
there have been, whether the Noble Disciples really exist
or how many they are -- because the one truth that we know
and see clearly in our hearts resonates to all the Buddhas,
all the Noble Disciples, and all the Dhamma that exists. We
won't have any doubts, because the nature that knows and exists
within us contains them all: all the Buddhas, the community
of Noble Disciples, and all the Dhamma that exists. It's a
nature just right in its every aspect, with nothing for us
This is the place -- if we speak in terms of place -- where
we run out of doubts about everything of every sort. We oversee
the khandhas, which are simply conventions of the world,
just as all the Noble Disciples do while they are still living.
As for the mind, it has gained release and remains released
in that way. As we have said, even though it remains in the
midst of the world of conventions, this nature is its own
nature, and those other things are their own affairs. Each
is a separate reality that doesn't mingle, join, or have an
effect on the others. When we say release from the world,
this is what we mean.
All of the Dhammas I have mentioned here: When do they exist?
And when don't they exist? The Dhamma exists at all times
and in all places. It's akaliko, timeless. So I ask
that you penetrate into the Dhamma of these four Noble Truths.
You'll be right on target with the results of the Buddha and
the Noble Disciples; and there's no doubt but that you'll
be right on target with the results of the Buddha's and the
Noble Disciples' work. Their workplace is in these four Noble
Truths, and the results that come from the work are the paths,
fruitions, and nibbana. They arise right here. They're
located right here. When we have practiced and reached them
fully and completely, there will be nothing for us to question.
is why there won't be any reason to doubt the time of the
Buddha as compared to our own time, as to whether the Dhamma
of the Buddha was different because the defilements are now
different from what they were then. The defilements then
and now are all of the same sort. The Dhamma is all of the
same sort. If we cure defilement in the same way, we're
bound to gain release in the same way. There is no other way
to gain release, no matter what the day and age. There is
only this one way: following the way of the path, beginning
with virtue, concentration, and discernment, to eliminate
defilement, the cause of stress -- in particular, craving
for sensuality, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming
-- completely from the heart. As for nirodha, the cessation
of stress: When defilement is disbanded, from where will any
more suffering or stress arise? When defilement and stress
are disbanded for good, that's the outer space of the mind.
As for the Noble Truths, they're activities, or our workplace.
The result that comes from these four Noble Truths is something
else entirely. As I've always been telling you: What is it
that knows that stress and the cause of stress disband? When
the path has performed its duties to the full and has completely
wiped out the cause of stress, then nirodha -- the
cessation of stress -- appears in full measure, after which
it disbands as well, because it too is a conventional reality.
As for the one who knows that the cause of stress has disbanded
by being eradicated through the path so as to give rise to
the cessation of stress: The one who knows this is the
pure one -- the outer space of the mind -- and that's
the end of the matter.
So investigate carefully. Listen carefully when you listen
to the Dhamma while putting it to use. When we work, we can't
let go of our tools. For instance, if we're working with an
ax, the ax has to be at hand. If we're working with a knife,
the knife has to be at hand. If we're working with a chisel,
the chisel has to be at hand. But when we've finished our
work, we let go of our chisel, we let go of our various tools.
So here the virtue, concentration, and discernment that are
called the path are our tools in the work of eliminating defilement.
We have to keep them right at hand while we are working. When
we have eliminated defilement until it's completely defeated
and nothing is left, these tools are phenomena that let go
of themselves of their own accord, without our having to force
As I've always been saying, the teachings on inconstancy,
stress, and not-self are our path. We can't let go of them.
We have to investigate things with mindfulness and discernment
so as to see them clearly in line with the principles of inconstancy,
stress, and not-self. Once we're ready and we've run the full
course, we let go of these principles in line with the truth.
We don't call anything not-self. Each thing is a separate
reality, with no quarreling. This is the Dhamma: It has many
stages, many levels, so those who listen have to make distinctions,
because in this talk I've discussed many stages on many levels,
back and forth, so as to make things plain for those listening.
summarize: The marketplace of the paths, fruitions, and nibbana
is located in the Noble Truths. It isn't located anywhere
else. So, whatever else, make sure that you attain them. Accelerate
your efforts to the full extent of your ability. Use all the
mindfulness and discernment you have to contemplate and investigate
things in order to see them clearly. See what it's like to
set them spinning as a wheel of Dhamma, which the Buddha has
described as super-mindfulness and super-discernment. When
we start out practicing, how can they immediately become super-mindfulness
and super-discernment? When children are born, they don't
immediately become adults. They have to be nourished and guarded
and cared for. Think of how much it takes, how much it costs,
for each child to become an adult as we all have. Mindfulness
and discernment need to be nourished and guarded in just the
same way. When we nourish and guard them unceasingly, unflaggingly,
they grow bold and capable until they become super-mindfulness
and super-discernment. Then they attack the defilements --
no matter what the sort -- until the defilements are slashed
to pieces with nothing left, so that we attain purity -- release
and nibbana -- within our own heart, which will then
have the highest value. Whether or not anyone else confers
titles on it, we ourselves don't confer titles. We've reached
sufficiency, so what is there to gain by conferring titles?
All that's left is the gentleness and tenderness of purity,
blended into one with benevolence. The entire mind is filled
The Buddha taught the beings of the world through his benevolence.
His mind was completely gentle toward every living being in
the three levels of the cosmos. He didn't exalt or demean
any of them at all. 'Sabbe satta' -- 'May all living
beings who are fellows in suffering, birth, aging, illness,
and death' -- 'avera hontu' -- 'be free from enmity'...
all the way to 'sukhi attanam pariharantu' -- 'may
they maintain themselves with ease.' 
That was his benevolence. He gave equality to all living beings.
He didn't lean, because his mind didn't have anything to lean.
It didn't have any defilements infiltrating it that could
make it lean. The things leaning this way and that are all
affairs of defilement. When there's pure Dhamma, the mind
keeps its balance with pure fairness, so there's no leaning.
It's a principle of nature that stays as it is.
So I ask that you all take this and earnestly put it into
practice. Gain release so as to see it clearly in your heart.
How do they compare: this heart as it's currently coerced
and oppressed, and the heart when it has attained release
from coercion and oppression. How do they differ in value?
Come to see this clearly in your own heart. You won't see
it anywhere else. Sanditthiko: It's immediately apparent
within the person who practices.
So then. This seems to be enough explanation for now.
Be an Inner Millionaire
search for inner wealth is much the same as the search for
outer wealth. In searching for outer wealth, intelligent people
have no problems: They can find it easily. But stupid people
have lots of difficulties. Look around and you'll see that
poor people are many, while rich people are few. This shows
that stupid people are many, while intelligent people are
few, which is why there are more poor people than rich people.
In the search for inner wealth -- virtue and goodness -- the
same holds true: It depends more on ingenuity than on any
other factor. If we're stupid, then even if we sit right at
the hem of the Buddha's robe or the robe of one of his Noble
Disciples, the only result we'll get will be our own stupidity.
To gain ingenuity or virtue from the Buddha or his Noble Disciples
is very difficult for a stupid person, because inner wealth
depends on ingenuity and intelligence. If we have no ingenuity,
we won't be able to find any inner wealth to provide happiness
and ease for the heart.
External wealth is something we're all familiar with. Money,
material goods, living things, and things without life: All
of these things are counted as wealth. They are said to belong
to whoever has rights over them. The same holds true with
the virtue and goodness we call merit. If unintelligent people
search for merit and try to develop virtue and goodness like
the people around them, the results will depend on their ingenuity
and stupidity. If they have little ingenuity, they'll gain
As for those of us who have ordained in the Buddha's religion,
our aim is to develop ourselves so as to gain release from
suffering and stress, just like a person who aims single-mindedly
at being a millionaire.
People in the world have basically three sorts of attitudes.
The first sort: Some people are born in the midst of poverty
and deprivation because their parents are ignorant, with no
wealth at their disposal. They make their living by begging.
When they wake up in the morning, they go begging from house
to house, street to street, sometimes getting enough to eat,
sometimes not. Their children fall into the same 'kamma
current'. That's the kind of potential they've developed,
so they have to be born to impoverished parents of that sort.
They just don't have it in them to think of being millionaires
like those in the world of the wealthy. The parents to whom
they are born act as a mould, so they are lazy and ignorant
like their parents. They live in suffering with their parents
and go out begging with them, sometimes eating their fill,
this is still better than other sorts of people. Some parents
are not only poor, but also earn their living by thievery
and robbery. Whatever they get to feed their children, they
tell their children what it is and where it came from. The
children get this sort of education from their parents and
grow up nourished by impure things -- things gained through
dishonesty, thievery, and robbery -- so when they grow up,
they don't have to think of looking for work or for any education
at the age when they should be looking for learning, because
they've already received their education from their parents:
education in stealing, cheating, thievery and robbery, laziness
and crookedness. This is because their parents have acted
as blackboards covered with writing: their actions and the
manners of their every movement. Every child born to them
receives training in how to act, to speak, and to think. Everything
is thus an education from the parents, because the writing
and teachings are all there on the blackboard of the parents.
Laziness, dishonesty, deceit, thievery: Every branch of evil
is there in the writing on the blackboard. The children learn
to read, to draw, to write, all from their parents, and fill
themselves with the sort of knowledge that has the world up
in flames. As they begin to grow up, they take over their
parents' duties by pilfering this and that, until they gradually
become hoodlums, creating trouble for society at large. This
is one of the major fires burning away at society without
stop. The reasons that people can be so destructive on a large
scale like this can come either from their parents, from their
own innate character, or from associating with evil, dishonest
people. This is the sort of attitude found in people of one
The second sort of people have the attitude that even though
they won't be millionaires, they will still have enough to
eat and to use like people in general, and that they will
be good citizens like the rest of society so that they can
maintain a decent reputation. People of this sort are relatively
hard-working and rarely lazy. They have enough possessions
to get by on a level with the general run of good citizens.
When they have children, the children take their parents as
examples, as writing on the blackboard from which they learn
their work, their behavior, and all their manners. Once they
gain this knowledge from their parents, they put it to use
and become good citizens themselves, with enough wealth to
get by without hardships, able to keep up with the world so
that they don't lose face or cause their families any shame.
They can relate to the rest of society with confidence and
without being a disgrace to their relatives or to society
in general. They behave in line with their ideals until they
become good citizens with enough wealth to keep themselves
out of poverty. These are the attitudes of the second sort
The third sort of people have attitudes that differ from those
of the first two sorts in that they're determined, no matter
what, to possess more wealth than anyone else in the world.
They are headed in this direction from the very beginning
because they have earned the opportunity to be born in families
rich in virtue and material wealth. They learn ingenuity and
industriousness from their parents, because their parents
work hard at commerce and devote themselves fully to all their
business activities. Whatever the parents do, the children
will have to see. Whatever the parents say with regard to
their work inside or outside the home, near or far, the children
-- who are students by nature -- will have to listen and take
it to heart, because the children are not only students, but
also their parents' closest and most trusted helpers. The
parents can't overlook them. Eventually they become the supervisors
of the parents' workers inside and outside the home and in
all the businesses set up by their parents. In all of the
activities for which the parents are responsible, the children
will have to be students and workers, at the same time keeping
an eye and an ear out to observe and contemplate what is going
on around them. All activities, whether in the area of the
world, such as commerce, or in the area of the Dhamma -- such
as maintaining the precepts, chanting, and meditating -- are
things the children will have to study and pick up from their
parents shouldn't be complacent in their good and bad activities,
acting as they like and thinking that the children won't be
able to pick things up from them. This sort of attitude is
not at all fitting, because the way people treat and mistreat
the religion and the nation's institutions comes from what
they learn as children. Don't think that it comes from anywhere
else, for no one has ever put old people in school.
We should thus realize that children begin learning the principles
of nature step by step from the day they are born until their
parents send them for formal schooling. The principles of
nature are everywhere, so that anyone who is interested --
child or adult -- can study them at any time, unlike formal
studies and book learning, which come into being at some times
and change or disappear at others. For this reason, parents
are the most influential mould for their children in the way
they look after them, give them love and affection, and provide
their education, both in the principles of nature and in the
basic subjects that the children should pick up from them.
This is because all children come ready to learn from the
adults and the other children around them. Whether they will
be good children or bad depends on the knowledge they pick
up from around them. When this is stored up in their hearts,
it will exert pressure on their behavior, making it good or
bad, as we see all around us. This comes mainly from what
they learn of the principles of nature, which are rarely taught
in school, but which people pick up more quickly than anything
that school-teachers teach.
Thus parents and teachers should give special attention to
every child for whom they are responsible. Even when parents
put their children to work, helping with the buying and selling
at home, the children are learning the livelihood of buying
and selling from their parents -- picking up, along the way,
their parents' strong and weak points. We can see this from
the way children pick up the parents' religion. However good
or bad, right or wrong the religion may be -- even if it's
worshipping spirits -- the children are bound to pick up their
parents' beliefs and practices. If the parents cherish moral
virtue, the children will follow their example, cherishing
moral virtue and following the practices of their parents.
This third sort of person is thus very industrious and hard-working,
and so reaps better and more outstanding results than the
other two sorts.
When we classify people in this way, we can see that people
of the first sort are the laziest and most ignorant. At the
same time, they make themselves disreputable and objects of
the scorn of good people in general. People of the second
sort are fairly hard-working and fairly well-off, while those
of the third sort are determined to be wealthier than the
rest of the world and at the same time are very hard-working
because, since they have set their sights high, they can't
just sit around doing nothing. They are very persevering and
very persistent in their work, going all out to find ways
to earn wealth, devoting themselves to their efforts and to
being ingenious, circumspect, and uncomplacent in all their
activities. People of this sort, even if they don't become
millionaires, are important and deserve to be set up as good
examples for the people of the nation at large.
We monks fall into the same three sorts. The first sort includes
those who are ordained only in name, only as a ceremony, who
don't aim for the Dhamma, for reasonability, or for what's
good or right. They aim simply at living an easy life because
they don't have to work hard like lay people. Once ordained,
they become very lazy and very well-known for quarreling with
their fellow monks. Instead of gaining merit from being ordained,
as most people might think, they end up filling themselves
and those around them with suffering and evil.
second sort of monk aims at what is reasonable. If he can
manage to gain release from suffering, that's what he wants.
He believes that there is merit and so he wants it. He believes
that there is evil, so he wants really to understand good
and evil. He is fairly hard-working and intelligent. He follows
the teachings of the Dhamma and Vinaya well and so doesn't
offend his fellow monks. He is interested in studying and
diligently practicing the threefold training of virtue, concentration,
and discernment. He takes instruction easily, has faith in
the principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya, is intent on his
duties, and believes in what is reasonable.
The third sort of monk becomes ordained out of a true sense
of faith and conviction. Even if he may not have had much
of an education from any teachers in the beginning, once he
has become ordained and gains instruction from his teachers
or from the texts that give a variety of reasons showing how
to act so as to head toward evil and how to strive so as to
head toward the good, he immediately takes it as a lesson
for training himself. The more he studies from his teachers,
the stronger his faith and conviction grow, to the point where
he develops a firm, single-minded determination to gain release
from suffering and stress. Whether sitting, standing, walking,
or lying down, he doesn't flag in his determination. He is
always firmly intent on gaining release from suffering and
stress. He's very persistent and hard-working. Whatever he
does, he does with his full heart, aiming at reason, aiming
at the Dhamma.
This third sort of monk is the uncomplacent sort. He observes
the precepts for the sake of real purity and observes them
with great care. He is uncomplacent both in training his mind
in concentration and in giving rise to discernment. He is
intent on training the basic mindfulness and discernment he
already has as an ordinary run-of-the-mill person, so that
they become more and more capable, step by step, making them
the sort of mindfulness and discernment that can keep abreast
of his every action until they become super-mindfulness and
super-discernment, capable of shedding all defilements and
mental effluents from the heart. He thus becomes one of the
amazing people of the religion, earning the homage and respect
of people at large.
In the area of the world there are three sorts of people,
and in the area of the Dhamma there are three sorts of monks.
Which of the three are we going to choose to be? When we come
right down to it, each of these three types refers to each
of us, because we can make ourselves into any of them,
making them appear within us -- because these three types
are simply for the purpose of comparison. When we refer them
to ourselves, we can be any of the three. We can be the type
who makes himself vile and lazy, with no interest in the practice
of the Dhamma, with no value at all; or we can make ourselves
into the second or third sort. It all depends on how our likes
and desires will affect our attitudes in our thoughts, words,
and deeds. Whichever type we want to be, we should adapt our
thoughts, words, and deeds to fit the type. The affairs of
that sort of person will then become our own affairs, because
none of these sorts lies beyond us. We can change our behavior
to fit in with any of the three. If we are going to be the
third sort of person, then no matter what, we are sure to
release ourselves from suffering and stress someday in the
future or in this very lifetime.
So be uncomplacent in all your activities, mindful of your
efforts and actions, and discerning with regard to your affairs
at all times. Don't let the activities of your thoughts, words,
and deeds go straying down the wrong path. Try to train your
mindfulness and discernment to stay involved with your activities
at all times. To safeguard these sorts of things isn't as
difficult as safeguarding external wealth, because inner wealth
stays with us, which makes it possible to safeguard it.
a monk, you have only one duty. When sitting, be aware that
you're sitting. Whatever issue you think about, know that
you're thinking. Don't assume that any issue comes from anywhere
other than from a lapse of mindfulness in your own heart,
which makes wrong issues -- from minor ones to major ones
-- start spreading to your own detriment. All of this comes
from your own lack of watchfulness and restraint. It doesn't
come from anything else. If you want to gain release from
suffering and stress in this lifetime, then see the dangers
of your own errors, your complacency, and your lack of mindfulness.
See them as your enemies. If, in your eyes, the currents of
the mind that spin to give rise to the cravings and mental
effluents termed the origin of stress are something good,
then you're sure to go under. Be quick to shed these things
immediately. Don't let them lie fermenting in your heart.
Those who see danger in the round of rebirth must see the
danger as lying in the accumulation of defilement. Your duties
in the practice are like the fence and walls of a house that
protect you stage by stage from danger. In performing your
duties that constitute the effort of the practice, you have
to keep your mindfulness with those duties and not let it
lapse. Nourish your mindfulness and discernment so that they
are always circumspect in all your affairs. Don't let them
flow away on the habitual urges of the heart. You can then
be sure that the affairs of the mind will not in any way lie
beyond the power of your effort and control.
So I ask that each of you be mindful -- and don't let your
mindfulness conjecture ahead or behind with thoughts of the
past or future. Always keep it aware of your activities, and
you will be able to go beyond this mass of suffering and stress.
Even if your mind hasn't yet attained stillness, it will begin
to be still through the power of mindfulness. There is no
need to doubt this, for the mind can't lie beyond the power
of mindfulness and discernment coupled with persistent effort.
Of the famous meditation masters of our present era, Ven.
Acariya Mun is the one I admire and respect the most. In my
opinion, he is the most outstanding teacher of our day and
age. Living and studying with him, I never saw him act in
any way at odds with the Dhamma and Vinaya. His behavior was
in such harmony with the Dhamma and Vinaya that it was never
a cause for doubt among those who studied with him. From my
experience in living with him, I'd say that he was right in
line with the path of those who practice rightly, straightly,
methodically, and nobly. He never strayed from this path at
When he would tell us about the beginning stages of his practice,
he'd talk about how he had tried to develop mindfulness. He
liked to live alone. If others were living with him, they
would get in the way of his meditation. If he could get away
on his own, he'd find that mindfulness and discernment were
coupled with his efforts at all times. He would stay with
his efforts both day and night. It was as if his hand was
never free from its work. Mindfulness converged with his mind
so that they were never willing to leave their endeavors.
had resolved never to return to this world of continual death
and rebirth. No matter what, he would have to gain release
from suffering and stress in this lifetime and never ask to
be reborn again. Even being born into this present lifetime
had him disgusted enough, but when he also saw the birth,
aging, illness, and death of human beings and living beings
in general, day and night, together with the blatant sufferings
caused by the oppression and cruelties of the strong over
the weak, it made him feel even greater dismay, which is why
he asked not to be reborn ever again. The way he asked not
to be reborn was to take the effort of the practice as the
witness within his heart. Wherever he lived, he asked to
live with the effort of the practice. He didn't want anything
else that would delay his release from suffering. This is
what he would tell us when the opportunity arose.
Whatever knowledge or understanding he had gained in the various
places he had lived, he wouldn't keep from us. When he lived
there, his mind was like that; when he lived here, his mind
was like this. He even told us about the time his mind realized
the land of its hopes.
The way each person's mind progresses is purely an individual
matter. It's not something we can imitate from one another.
Even the various realizations we have and the means of expression
we use in teaching ourselves, our fellow meditators, and people
in general, have to be a matter of our own individual wealth,
in line with our habits and capabilities, just as a millionaire
with lots of wealth uses his own millionaire's wealth, while
a poor person with little wealth makes use of his own
wealth. Each person, no matter how rich or poor, makes use
of the wealth he or she has been able to accumulate.
In the area of habits and capabilities, how much we may possess
depends entirely on ourselves. These aren't things we can
borrow from one another. We have to depend on the capabilities
we develop from within. This is why our habits, manners, and
conversation, our knowledge and intelligence, our shallowness
and depth differ from person to person in line with our capabilities.
Even though I studied with Ven. Acariya Mun for a long time,
I can't guarantee that I could take his Dhamma as my own
and teach it to others. All I can say is that I depend
on however much my own knowledge and capabilities may be,
in line with my own strengths, which is just right for me
and doesn't overstep the bounds of what is fitting for me.
As for Ven. Acariya Mun, he was very astute at teaching. For
example, he wouldn't talk about the major points. He'd
talk only about how to get there. As soon as he'd get
to the major points, he'd detour around them and reappear
further on ahead. This is the way it would be every time.
He was never willing to open up about the major points. At
first I didn't understand what his intentions were in acting
this way, and it was only later that I understood. Whether
I'm right or wrong, I have to ask your forgiveness, for he
was very astute, in keeping with the fact that he had taught
so many students.
were two reasons why he wouldn't open up about the major points.
One is that those who weren't really intent on the Dhamma
would take his teachings as a shield, claiming them to be
their own as a way of advertising themselves and making a
living. The other reason is that the Dhamma that was a principle
of nature he had known and might describe was not something
that could be conjectured about in advance. Once those
who were strongly intent on the Dhamma reached those points
in their investigation, if they had heard him describe those
points beforehand, would be sure to have subtle assumptions
or presuppositions infiltrating their minds at that moment,
and so they would assume that they understood that level of
Dhamma when actually those assumptions would be a cause
for self-delusion without their even realizing it.
As far as these two considerations are concerned, I must admit
that I'm very foolish because of my good intentions toward
those who come intent on studying with me. I'm not the least
bit secretive. I've revealed everything all along, without
holding anything back, not even the things that should be
held back. I've been open to the full extent of my ability,
which has turned into a kind of foolishness without my being
aware of it. This has caused those who are really intent on
studying with me to misunderstand, latching onto these things
as assumptions that turn into their enemies, concealing the
true Dhamma, all because I may lack some circumspection with
regard to this second consideration.
Ven. Acariya Mun was very astute both in external and in internal
matters. On the external level, he wouldn't be willing to
disclose things too readily. Sometimes, after listening to
him, you'd have to take two or three days to figure out what
he meant. This, at least, was the way things were for me.
Whether or not this was the way they were for my fellow students,
I never had the chance to find out. But as for me, I'd use
all my strength to ponder anything he might say that seemed
to suggest an approach to the practice, and sometimes after
three days of pondering the riddle of his words I still couldn't
make heads or tails of it. I'd have to go and tell him, 'What
you said the other day: I've been pondering it for three days
and still can't understand what you meant. I don't know where
to grab hold of it so that I can put it to use, or how much
meaning your words had.'
He'd smile a bit and say, 'Oh? So there's someone actually
pondering what I say?'
So I'd answer, 'I'm pondering, but pondering out of stupidity,
not with any intelligence.'
He'd then respond a little by saying, 'We all have to start
out by being stupid. No one has ever brought intelligence
or wealth along at birth. Only after we set our mind on learning
and pondering things persistently can we become intelligent
and astute to the point where we can gain wealth and status,
and can have other people depend on us. The same holds true
with the Dhamma. No one has ever been a millionaire in the
Dhamma or an arahant at birth.'
That's all he would say. He wouldn't disclose what the right
way would be to interpret the teaching that had preoccupied
me for two or three days running. It was only later that I
realized why he wouldn't disclose this. If he had disclosed
it, he would have been encouraging my stupidity. If we
get used simply to having things handed to us ready-made from
other people, without producing anything with our own intelligence,
then when the time comes where we're in a tight spot and can't
depend on anything ready-made from other people, we're sure
to go under if we can't think of a way to help ourselves.
This is probably what he was thinking, which is why he wouldn't
solve this sort of problem when I'd ask him.
with him wasn't simply a matter of studying teachings about
the Dhamma. You had to adapt and accustom yourself to the
practices he followed until they were firmly impressed in
your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Living with him a long
time was the way to observe his habits, practices, virtues,
and understanding, bit by bit, day by day, until they were
solid within you. There was a lot of safety in living with
him. By and large, people who studied with him have received
a great deal of trust and respect, because he himself was
all Dhamma. Those who lived with him were bound to pick up
that Dhamma in line with their abilities. At the same time,
staying with him made you accustomed to being watchful and
restrained. If you left him, and were intent on the Dhamma,
you'd be able to take care of yourself using the various approaches
you had gained from him.
When you'd stay with him, it was as if the paths, fruitions,
and nibbana were right within reach. Everything you
did was solid and got results step by step. But when you left
him, it wouldn't be that way at all. It would turn into the
other side of the world: If the mind didn't yet have a firm
basis, that's the way it would usually be. But if the mind
had a firm basis -- in other words, if it had concentration
and discernment looking after it -- then you could benefit
from living anywhere. If any doubts arose that you couldn't
handle yourself, you'd have to go running back to him for
advice. Once he'd suggest a solution, the problem would usually
disappear in an instant, as if he had cut it away for you.
For me, at least, that's the way it would be. Sometimes I
would have left him for only five or six days when a problem
started bothering me, and I couldn't stand to wait another
two or three days. If I couldn't solve this sort of problem
the moment it arose, then the next morning I'd have to head
right back to him, because some of these problems could be
very critical. Once they arose, and I couldn't solve them
myself, I'd have to hurry back to him for advice. But other
problems aren't especially critical. Even when they arise,
you can wait. Problems of this sort are like diseases. When
some diseases arise, there's no need to hurry for a doctor.
But with other diseases, if we can't get the doctor to come,
we have to go to the doctor ourselves. Otherwise our life
will be in danger.
When these critical sorts of problems arise, if we can't handle
them ourselves, we have to hurry to find a teacher. We
can't just leave them alone, hoping that they'll go away on
their own. The results that can come from these problems
that we don't take to our teachers to solve: At the very least,
we can become disoriented, deluded, or unbalanced; at worst,
we can go crazy. When they say that a person's meditation
'crashes,' it usually comes from this sort of problem that
he or she doesn't know how to solve -- isn't willing to solve
-- and simply lets fester until one of these two sorts of
results appear. I myself have had these sorts of problems
with my mind, which is why I'm telling you about them so that
you can know how to deal with them.
The day Ven. Acariya Mun died, I was filled with a strong
sense of despair from the feeling that I had lost a mainstay
for my heart, because at the time there was still a lot of
unsettled business in my heart, and it was the sort of knowledge
that wasn't willing to submit easily to anyone's approaches
if they weren't right on target -- the way Ven. Acariya Mun
had been, and that had given results -- with the spots where
I was stuck and that I was pondering. At the same time, it
was a period in which I was accelerating my efforts at full
speed. So when Ven. Acariya Mun died, I couldn't stand staying
with my fellow students. My only thought was that I wanted
to live alone. So I tried to find a place where I could stay
by myself. I was determined that I would stay alone until
every sort of problem in my heart had been completely resolved.
Only then would I stay with others and accept students as
the occasion arose.
Ven. Acariya Mun's death, I went to bow down at his feet and
then sat there reflecting with dismay for almost two hours,
my tears flowing into a pool at his feet. At the same time,
I was pondering in my heart the Dhamma and the teachings he
had been so kind to give me during the eight years I had lived
with him. Living together for such a long time as this, even
a husband and wife or parents and children who love one another
deeply are bound to have some problems or resentments from
time to time. But between Ven. Acariya Mun and the students
who had come to depend on his sheltering influence for such
a long time, there had never been any issues at all. The longer
I had stayed with him, the more I had felt an unlimited love
and respect for him. And now he had left me and all my well-intentioned
fellow students. Anicca vata sankhara: Formations --
how inconstant they are! His body lay still, looking noble
and more precious than my life, which I would have readily
given up for his sake out of my love for him. My body was
also still as I sat there, but my mind was in agitation from
a sense of despair and my loss of his sheltering influence.
Both bodies were subject to the same principle of the Dhamma
-- inconstancy -- and followed the teaching that says, 'uppajjitva
nirujjhanti': Having been born, they are bound to die.
There's no other way it could be.
But as for Ven. Acariya Mun, he had taken a path different
from that of conventional reality, in line with the teaching,
'tesam vupasamo sukho': In their stilling is ease.
He had died in this lifetime, lying still for just this brief
span of time so that his students could reflect with resignation
on the Dhamma, but from now on he would never be reborn to
be a source for his students' tears again. His mind had now
separated from becoming and birth in the same way that a rock
split into two pieces can never be truly rejoined.
So I sat there, reflecting with despair. The problems in my
heart that I had once unburdened with him: With whom would
I unburden them now? There was no longer anyone who could
unburden and erase my problems the way he had. I was left
to fend for myself. It was as if he had been a doctor who
had cured my illnesses countless times and who was the one
person with whom I had entrusted my life -- and now the doctor
who had given me life was gone. I'd have to become a beast
of the forest, for I had no more medicine to treat my inner
While I was sitting there, reminiscing sadly about him with
love, respect, and despair, I came to a number of realizations.
How had he taught me while he was still alive? Those were
the points I'd have to take as my teachers. What was the point
he had stressed repeatedly? 'Don't ever stray from your
foundation, namely "what knows" within the heart. Whenever
the mind comes to any unusual knowledge or realizations that
could become detrimental, if you aren't able to investigate
your way past that sort of knowledge, then turn the mind back
within itself and, no matter what, no damage will be done.'
That was what he had taught, so I took hold of that point
and continued to apply it in my own practice to the full extent
of my ability.
To be a senior monk comes from being a junior monk, as we
see all around us and will all experience. We all meet with
difficulties, whether we're junior or senior. This is the
path we all must take. We must follow the path of difficulty
that is the path toward progress, both in the area of the
world and in the area of the Dhamma. No one has ever become
a millionaire by being lazy or by lying around doing nothing.
To be a millionaire has to come from being persevering, which
in turn has to take the path of difficulty -- difficulty for
the sake of our proper aims. This is the path wealthy and
astute people always follow.
in the area of the Dhamma, we should realize that difficulty
is the path of sages on every level, beginning with the Buddha
himself. The Dhamma affirms this: Dukkhassanantaram sukham
-- people gain ease by following the path of difficulty. As
for the path to suffering, sukhassanantaram dukkham
-- people gain difficulties by following the path of ease.
Whoever is diligent and doesn't regard difficulty as an obstacle,
whoever explores without ceasing the conditions of nature
all around him, will become that third sort of person: the
sort who doesn't ask to be reborn in this world, the sort
who tesam vupasamo sukho -- eradicates the seeds for
the rebirth of any sort of formation, experiencing an ease
undisturbed by worldly baits, an ease that is genuinely satisfying.
So. I ask that all of you as meditators keep these three sorts
of people in mind and choose for yourselves which of the three
is the most outstanding within you right now -- because we
can all make ourselves outstanding, with no need to fear that
it will kill us. The effort to gain release from suffering
and stress in the Lord Buddha's footsteps isn't an executioner
waiting to behead the person who strives in the right direction.
Be brave in freeing yourself from your bonds and entanglements.
The stress and difficulties that come as a shadow of the khandhas
are things that everyone has to bear as a burden. We can't
lie to one another about this. Each person has to suffer from
worries and stress because of his or her own khandhas.
Know that the entire world has to suffer in the same way you
do with the khandhas you are overseeing right now.
Don't let yourself be content to cycle through birth, aging,
illness, and death. Be uncomplacent at all times. You
shouldn't have any doubts about birth, because the Buddha
has already told us that birth and death are out-and-out suffering.
Don't let yourself wonder if they are flowers or sweets or
any sort of food you can eat to your satisfaction. Actually,
they are nothing but poison. They are things that have deceived
us all in our stupidity to be born and to die in heaps in
this world of suffering and stress. If we die in a state of
humanity, there's some hope for us because of the openings
for rebirth we have made for ourselves through the power of
our good deeds. But there are not just a few people out there
who are foolish and deluded, and who thus have no way of knowing
what sorts of openings for rebirth their kamma will
lead them to.
So for this reason, see the danger in repeated birth and death
that can give no guarantees as to the state in which you'll
take birth and die. If it's a human state, as we see and are
at present, you can breathe easily to some extent, but there's
always the fear that you'll slip away to be reborn as a common
animal for people to kill or beat until you're all battered
and bruised. Now that's really something to worry about.
If you die, you die; if you survive, you live and breathe
in fear and trembling, dreading death with every moment. How
many animals are dragged into the slaughter-houses every day?
This is something we don't have to explain in detail. It's
simply one example I mention to remind you of the sufferings
of the living beings of the world. And where is there any
shelter that can give a sure sense of security to the heart
of each person overseeing his or her heap of life?
As meditators we should calculate the profits and losses,
the benefits and drawbacks that come from the khandhas
in each 24 hour period of day and night. The discontent we
feel from being constantly worried: Isn't it caused by the
khandhas? What makes us burdened and worried? We sit,
stand, walk, and lie down for the sake of the khandhas.
We eat for the sake of the khandhas. Our every movement
is simply for the sake of the khandhas. If we don't do
these things, the khandhas will have to break apart
under the stress of suffering. All we can do is relieve things
a little bit. When they can no longer take it, the khandhas
will break apart.
The five khandhas are really a heavy burden.
Even though the earth, rocks, and mountains may be heavy,
they stay to themselves. They've never weighed us down or
oppressed us with difficulties. Only these five khandhas
have burdened and oppressed us with difficulties with their
every movement. Right from the day the khandhas begin
to form, we have to be troubled with scurrying around for
their sake. They wield tremendous power, making the entire
world bend under their sway until the day they fall apart.
We could say that we are slaves to the khandhas from
the day we're born to the day we die. In short, what it all
comes down to is that the source of all worries, the source
of all issues lies in the khandhas. They are the supreme
commanders, making us see things in line with their wants.
This being the case, how can anything wonderful come from
them? Even the khandhas we will take on as a burden
in our next birth will be the same sort of taking-birth-and-dying
khandhas, lording it over us and making us suffer all
So investigate these things until you can see them clearly
with discernment. Of all the countless lifetimes you may have
been through over the aeons, take this present lifetime before
you as your evidence in reviewing them all. Those who aren't
complacent will come to know that khandhas in the past
and khandhas that will appear in the future all have
the same characteristics as the khandhas that exist
with us in the present. All I ask is that you force your mind
to stay in the frame of the three characteristics (ti-lakkhana),
which are present throughout the body and mind at all times.
No matter how wild and resistant the mind may be, it can't
withstand the strength of mindfulness and discernment backed
up by persistent effort.
As long as mindfulness and discernment aren't yet agile, you
have to force them; but as soon as they gain enough strength
to stand on their own, they'll be like a fire and its light
that always appear together. Once mindfulness and discernment
have been trained to be authoritative, then wherever you are,
you're mindful and discerning. It's not the case that you
will always have to force them. They're like a child: When
it's first born, it doesn't have the strength and intelligence
to care for itself, so its parents have to take on the duty
of caring for it in every way until it matures and becomes
able to survive on its own. The parents who used to look after
it are then no longer burdened with that duty. The same holds
true with mindfulness and discernment. They gain strength
step by step from being trained without ceasing, without letting
them slide. They develop day by day until they become super-mindfulness
and super-discernment at the stage where they perform their
duties automatically. Then every sort of thing that used to
be an enemy of the heart will be slain by super-mindfulness
and super-discernment until nothing remains. All that remains
is a heart entirely 'buddho,' 'Dhammo' will
become a marvel at that very same moment through the power
of super-mindfulness and super-discernment.
So I ask that all of you as meditators make the effort. See
the burden of birth, aging, illness, and death that lies ahead
of you as being at least equal to the burden of birth, aging,
illness, and death present in living beings and formations
all around you. It may even be more -- who knows how much
more? For this reason, you should make sure that you gain
release from it in this lifetime in a way clear to your own
heart. Then wherever you live, you'll be at your ease
-- with no need to bother with any more problems of birth
or death anywhere at all -- simply aware of this heart
that is pure.
ask that you all contemplate this and strive with bravery
in the threefold training of virtue, concentration, and discernment.
The goal you set for yourself in that third sort of person
will one day be you. There's no need to doubt this.
That's enough for now, so I'll ask to stop here.
Grain of Sand
from a talk given April 10, 1982
we investigate, we have to investigate over and over, time
and time again, many, many times until we understand and are
fully sure. The mind will then let go of its own accord. There's
no way we can try to force it to let go as long as we haven't
investigated enough. It's like eating: If we haven't reached
the point where we're full, we're not full. There's no way
we can try to make ourselves full with just one or two spoonfuls.
We have to keep on eating, and then when we're full we stop
of our own accord. We've had enough.
The same holds true with investigating. When we reach the
stage where we fully know, we let go of our own accord: all
our attachments to the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations,
cognizance, step by step until we finally penetrate with our
discernment into the mind itself -- the genuine revolving
wheel, the revolving mind -- until it is smashed to pieces
with nothing left. That's the point -- that's the point
where we end our problems in fighting with defilement. That's
where they end -- and our desire to go to nibbana ends
right there as well.
The desire to go to nibbana is part of the path. It's
not a craving. The desire to gain release from suffering and
stress is part of the path. It's not a craving. Desire has
two sorts: desire in the area of the world and desire in the
area of the Dhamma. Desire in the area of the world is craving.
Desire in the area of the Dhamma is part of the path. The
desire to gain release from suffering, to go to nibbana,
strengthens the Dhamma within us. Effort is the path. Persistence
is the path. Endurance is the path. Perseverance in every
way for the sake of release is the path. Once we have fully
come into our own, the desire will disappear -- and at that
point, who would ask after nibbana?
Once the revolving wheel, the revolving mind has been smashed
once and for all, there is no one among any of those who have
smashed that revolving mind from their hearts who wants to
go to nibbana or who asks where nibbana lies.
The word 'nibbana' is simply a name, that's all. Once
we have known and seen, once we have attained the genuine
article within ourselves, what is there to question?
This is what it means to develop the mind. We've developed
it from the basic stages to the ultimate stage of development.
So. Now, no matter where we live, we are sufficient unto ourselves.
The mind has built a full sufficiency for itself, so it can
be at its ease anywhere at all. If the body is ill -- aching,
feverish, hungry, or thirsty -- we are aware of it simply
as an affair of the body that lies under the laws of inconstancy,
stress, and lack of self. It's bound to keep shifting and
changing in line with its nature at all times -- but we're
not deluded by it. The khandhas are khandhas.
The pure mind is a pure mind by its nature, with no need to
force it to know or to be deluded. Once it's fully true from
every angle, everything is true. We don't praise or criticize
anything at all, because each thing is its own separate reality
-- so why is there any reason to clash? If one side is true
and the other isn't, that's when things clash and fight all
the time -- because one side is genuine and the other side
false. But when each has its own separate reality, there's
Contemplate the mind so as to reach this stage, the stage
where each thing has its own separate reality. Yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana:
the knowledge and vision of things as they are. The mind knows
and sees things as they are, within and without, through and
through, and then stays put with purity. If you were to say
that it stays put, it stays put with purity. Whatever it thinks,
it simply thinks. All the khandhas are khandhas
pure and simple, without a single defilement to order their
thinking, labeling, and interpreting any more. There are simply
the khandhas pure and simple -- the khandhas
without defilements, or in other words, the khandhas
of an arahant, of one who is free from defilement like the
Lord Buddha and all his Noble Disciples. The body is simply
a body. Feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance
are each simply passing conditions that we use until their
time is up. When they no longer have the strength to keep
going, we let them go in line with their reality. But as for
the utterly true nature of our purity, there is no problem
who have reached full release from conventional realities
of every sort, you know, don't assume themselves to be more
special or worse than anyone else. For this reason, they don't
demean even the tiniest of creatures. They regard them all
as friends in suffering, birth, aging, illness, and death,
because the Dhamma is something tender and gentle. Any mind
in which it is found is completely gentle and can sympathize
with every grain of sand, with living beings of every sort.
There's nothing rigid or unyielding about it. Only the defilements
are rigid and unyielding. Proud. Conceited. Haughty and vain.
Once there's Dhamma, there are none of these things. There's
only the unvarying gentleness and tenderness of mercy and
benevolence for the world at all times.
Non-returner. A person who has abandoned the five lower fetters
that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see sanyojana),
and who after death will appear in one of the Brahma worlds
called the Pure Abodes, there to attain nibbana, never
again to return to this world.
Inconstant; unsteady; impermanent.
Nibbana with no fuel remaining (the analogy is to an
extinguished fire whose embers are cold) -- the nibbana
of the arahant after his passing away.
Way to deprivation -- extra-marital sexual relations; indulgence
in intoxicants; indulgence in gambling; associating with bad
A person who has abandoned all ten of the fetters that bind
the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see sanyojana), whose
heart is free of mental effluents (see asava), and
who is thus not destined for future rebirth. An epithet for
the Buddha and the highest level of his Noble Disciples.
Noble Truth. The word 'ariya' (noble) can also mean
ideal or standard, and in this context means 'objective' or
'universal' truth. There are four: stress, the origin of stress,
the disbanding of stress, and the path of practice leading
to the disbanding of stress.
Mental effluent or pollutant -- sensuality, becoming, views,
Unawareness; ignorance; obscured awareness; delusion about
the nature of the mind.
Sense medium. The inner sense media are the sense organs --
eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The outer sense
media are their respective objects.
'Wings to Awakening' -- seven sets of principles that are
conducive to Awakening and that, according to the Buddha,
form the heart of his teaching:  the four frames of reference
(see satipatthana);  four right exertions (sammappadhana)
-- the effort to prevent evil from arising in the mind, to
abandon whatever evil has already arisen, to give rise to
the good, and to maintain the good that has arisen;  four
bases of success (iddhipada) -- desire, persistence,
intentness, circumspection;  five dominant factors (indriya)
-- conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, discernment;
 five strengths (bala) -- identical with ; 
seven factors for Awakening (bojjhanga) -- mindfulness,
investigation of phenomena, persistence, rapture, serenity,
concentration, equanimity; and  the eightfold path (magga)
-- Right View, Right Attitude, Right Speech, Right Activity,
Right Livelihoood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right
'Great One' -- an inhabitant of the heavens of form or formlessness.
(buddha): Awake; enlightened.
'Shining One' -- an inhabitant of the heavens of sensual bliss.
A cousin of the Buddha who tried to effect a schism in the
Sangha and who has since become emblematic for all Buddhists
who work knowingly or unknowingly to undermine the religion
(dharma): Phenomenon; event; the way things are in and
of themselves; their inherent qualities; the basic principles
that underlie their behavior. Also, principles of behavior
that human beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the
right natural order of things; qualities of mind they should
develop so as to realize the inherent quality of the mind
in and of itself. By extension, 'Dhamma' is used also to refer
to any doctrine that teaches such things. Thus the Dhamma
of the Buddha refers both to his teachings and to the direct
experience of nibbana, the quality to which those teachings
Property; element; impersonal condition. The four physical
properties or elements are earth (solidity), water (liquidity),
wind (motion), and fire (heat). The six properties include
the above four plus space and cognizance.
Ascetic practices that monks may choose to undertake if and
when they see fitting. There are thirteen, and they include,
in addition to the practices mentioned in the body of this
book, the practice of using only one set of three robes, the
practice of not by-passing any donors on one's alms path,
the practice of eating no more than one meal a day, and the
practice of living under the open sky.
Stress; suffering; pain; distress; discontent.
Thus; in this way. This term is used in Thailand as a formal
closing to a sermon.
(karma): Intentional acts that result in becoming and
Heap; group; aggregate. Physical and mental components of
the personality and of sensory experience in general (see
rupa, vedana, sañña, sankhara,
Defilement -- passion, aversion, and delusion in their various
forms, which include such things as greed, malevolence, anger,
rancor, hypocrisy, arrogance, envy, miserliness, dishonesty,
boastfulness, obstinacy, violence, pride, conceit, intoxication,
Path. Specifically, the path to the disbanding of stress.
The four transcendent paths -- or rather, one path with four
levels of refinement -- are the path to stream-entry (entering
the stream to nibbana, which ensures that one will
be reborn at most only seven more times), the path to once-returning,
the path to non-returning, and the path to arahantship.
Middle; appropriate; just right.
(nirvana): Liberation; the unbinding of the mind from
mental effluents, defilements, and the fetters that bind it
to the round of rebirth (see asava, kilesa,
and sanyojana). As this term is used to refer also
to the extinguishing of fire, it carries the connotations
of stilling, cooling, and peace. (According to the physics
taught at the time of the Buddha, a burning fire seizes or
adheres to its fuel; when extinguished, it is unbound.)
Cessation; disbanding; stopping.
Discernment; insight; wisdom; intelligence; common sense;
Fruition. Specifically, the fruition of any of the four transcendent
paths (see magga).
Body; physical phenomenon; sense datum.
Condition of nature; any phenomenon, event, property, or quality
as experienced directly in and of itself.
Once-returner. A person who has abandoned the first three
of the fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth
(see sanyojana), has weakened the fetters of sensual
passion and irritation, and who after death is destined to
be reborn in this world only once more.
Son of the Sakyan. An epithet for Buddhist monks, the Buddha
having been a native of the Sakyan Republic.
Topic of effacement (effacing defilement) -- having few wants,
being content with what one has, seclusion, uninvolvement
in companionship, persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment,
release, and the direct knowing and seeing of release.
Concentration; the practice of centering the mind in a single
sensation or preoccupation.
Conventional reality; convention; relative truth; anything
conjured into being by the mind.
Self-awareness; presence of mind; clear comprehension.
Self-evident; immediately apparent; visible here and now.
The community of the Buddha's disciples. On the conventional
level, this refers to the Buddhist monkhood. On the ideal
level, it refers to those of the Buddha's followers, whether
lay or ordained, who have attained at least the first of the
transcendent paths (see magga) culminating in nibbana.
Label; allusion; perception; act of memory or recognition;
Fetter that binds the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see vatta)
-- self-identification views, uncertainty, grasping at precepts
and practices; sensual passion, irritation; passion for form,
passion for formless phenomena, conceit, restlessness, and
Mindfulness; alertness; self-collectedness; powers of reference
Frame of reference; foundation of mindfulness -- body, feelings,
mind, and phenomena, viewed in and of themselves as they occur.
Stream winner. A person who has abandoned the first three
of the fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth
(see sanyojana) and has thus entered the 'stream' flowing
inexorably to nibbana, which ensures that one will
be reborn at most only seven more times.
Craving -- the cause of stress -- which takes three forms:
craving for sensuality, for becoming, and for no becoming.
The purifying 'heat' of meditative practice.
One who has become true. A title for the Buddha.
Three characteristics inherent in all conditioned phenomena
-- being inconstant, stressful, and not-self.
Of swift understanding. After the Buddha attained Awakening
and was considering whether or not to teach the Dhamma, he
perceived that there were four categories of beings: those
of swift understanding, who would gain Awakening after a short
explanation of the Dhamma, those who would gain Awakening
only after a lengthy explanation (vipacitaññu);
those who would gain Awakening only after being led through
the practice (neyya); and those who, instead of gaining
Awakening, would at best gain only a verbal understanding
of the Dhamma (padaparama).
Rains Retreat. A period from July to October, corresponding
roughly to the rainy season, in which each monk is required
to live settled in a single place and not wander freely about.
The cycle of death and rebirth. This refers both to the death
and rebirth of living beings and to the death and rebirth
of defilement in the mind.
Feeling -- pleasure (ease), pain (stress), or neither pleasure
The disciplinary rules of the monastic order. The Buddha's
own name for the religion he founded was 'this dhamma-vinaya'
-- this doctrine and discipline.
Cognizance; consciousness; sensory awareness.
Clear intuitive insight into physical and mental phenomena
as they arise and disappear, seeing them as they are in terms
of the three characteristics and the four Noble Truths (see
ti-lakkhana and ariya-sacca).
anything in this translation is inaccurate or misleading, I
ask forgiveness of the author and reader for having unwittingly
stood in their way. As for whatever may be accurate, I hope
the reader will make the best use of it, translating it a few
steps further, into the heart, so as to attain the truth to
which it points.
A small umbrella-like tent used by meditating monks. [Go
The Dhamma learned from practice, and not from the study of
books. [Go back]
The tallest mountain in Thailand. [Go back]
Making the effort (1) to prevent evil from arising, (2) to
abandon evil that has arisen, (3) to give rise to the good,
and (4) to maintain and perfect the good that has arisen.
The full passage: Sabbe satta sukhita hontu, avera hontu,
abyapajjha hontu, anigha hontu, sukhi attanam pariharantu:
May all living beings be happy, free from enmity, free from
affliction, free from anxiety. May they maintain themselves
with ease. [Go back]