Ajaan Thate Desaransi
(Phra Nirodharansi Gambhirapaññacariya)
from the Thai by
in Thailand B.E. 2532 (CE 1984)
© 1994 The Abbot, Metta Forest Monastery
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When you go to study meditation with any
group or teacher who is experienced in a particular form of
meditation, you should first make your heart confident that
your teacher is fully experienced in that form of meditation,
and be confident that the form of meditation he teaches is the
right path for sure. At the same time, show respect for the
place in which you are to meditate. Only then should you begin
Teachers in the past used to require a dedication ceremony
as a means of inspiring confidence before you were to study
meditation. They would have you make an offering of five pairs
of beeswax candles and five pairs of white flowers -- this
was called the five khandha -- or eight pairs of beeswax
candles and eight pairs of white flowers -- this was called
the eight khandha -- or one pair of beeswax candles
each weighing 15 grams and an equal number of white flowers.
Then they would teach you their particular form of meditation.
This ancient custom has its good points. There are many other
ceremonies as well, but I won't go into them. I'll mention
only a very simple, easy-to-follow ceremony a little further
Only after you have inspired confidence
in your heart as already mentioned should you go to the teacher
experienced in that form of meditation. If he is experienced
in repeating samma araham, he will teach you to repeat
samma araham, samma araham, samma araham. Then he'll
have you visualize a bright, clear jewel two inches above
your navel, and tell you to focus your mind right there as
you continue your repetition, without letting your mind slip
away from the jewel. In other words, you take the jewel as
the focal point of your mind.
If you go to a teacher experienced
in meditating on the rising and falling of the abdomen, he'll
have you meditate on rising and falling, and focus your mind
on the different motions of the body. For instance, when you
raise your foot, you think raising. When you place
your foot, you think placing, and so on; or else he'll
have you focus continually on being preoccupied with the phenomenon
of arising and passing away in every motion or position of
If you go to a teacher experienced in psychic powers, he'll
have you repeat na ma ba dha, na ma ba dha, and focus
the mind on a single object until it takes you to see heaven
and hell, deities and brahmas of all sorts, to the point where
you get carried away with your visions.
you go to a teacher experienced in breath meditation, he'll
have you focus on your in-and-out breath, and have you keep
your mind firmly preoccupied with nothing but the in-and-out
If you go to a teacher experienced in meditating on buddho,
he'll have you repeat buddho, buddho, buddho, and have
you keep the mind firmly in that meditation word until you're
fully skilled at it. Then he'll have you contemplate buddho
and what it is that's saying buddho. Once you see that
they are two separate things, focus on what's saying buddho.
As for the word buddho, it will disappear, leaving
only what it is that was saying buddho. You then focus
on what it is that was saying buddho as your object.
People of our time -- or of any time, for that matter -- regardless
of how educated or capable they may be (I don't want to criticize
any of us as tending to believe in things whose truth we haven't
tested, because after all we all want to know and see the
truth) and especially those of us who are Buddhists: Buddhism
teaches causes and effects that are entirely true, but why
is it that we have to fall for the claims and advertisements
we hear everywhere? It must be because people at present are
impatient and want to see results before they've completed
the causes, in line with the fact that we're supposed to be
in an atomic age.
Buddhism teaches us to penetrate into the heart and mind,
which are mental phenomena. As for the body, it's a physical
phenomenon. Physical phenomena have to lie under the control
of mental phenomena. When we begin to practice meditation
and train the mind to be quiet and untroubled, I can't see
that we're creating any problems at that moment for anyone
at all. If we keep practicing until we're skilled, then we'll
be calm and at peace. If more and more people practice this
way, there will be peace and happiness all over the world.
As for the body, we can train it to be peaceful only as long
as the mind is in full control. The minute mindfulness lapses,
the body will get back to its old affairs. So let's try training
the mind by repeating buddho.
Steps to Practicing Meditation
Before practicing meditation on the word
buddho, you should start out with the preliminary steps.
In other words, inspire confidence in your mind, as already
mentioned, and then bow down three times, saying:
Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava
-- The Blessed One is pure and fully self-awakened.
Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi
-- To the Blessed, Awakened One, I bow down.
(Bow down once.)
Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo
-- the Dhamma is well-taught by the Blessed One.
-- To the Dhamma, I bow down.
(Bow down once.)
-- The Community of the Blessed One's disciples have conducted
-- To the Community, I bow down.
(Bow down once.)
tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhassa.
of the virtues of the Buddha, the foremost teacher of the
world, released from suffering and defilement of every sort,
always serene and secure. Then bow down three times.)
These preliminary steps are simply an example. There's nothing
wrong with chanting more than this if you have more to chant,
but you should bow down to the Buddha as the first step each
time you meditate, unless the place in which you're meditating
* * *
Now, sit in meditation, your right leg on top of left, your
hands palm-up in your lap, your right hand on top of your
left. Sit straight. Repeat the word buddho in your
mind, focusing your attention in the middle of your chest,
at the heart. Don't let your attention stray out ahead or
behind. Be mindful to keep your mind in place, steady in its
one-pointedness, and you'll enter into a state of concentration.
When you enter into concentration, the mind may go so blank
that you don't even know how long you are sitting. By the
time you come out of concentration, many hours may have passed.
For this reason, you shouldn't fix a time limit for yourself
when sitting in meditation. Let things follow their own course.
The mind in true concentration is the mind in a state of one-pointedness.
If the mind hasn't reached a state of one-pointedness, it
isn't yet in concentration, because the true heart is only
one. If there are many mental states going on, you haven't
penetrated into the heart. You've only reached the mind.
you practice meditation, you should first learn the difference
between the heart and the mind, for they aren't the same thing.
The mind is what thinks and forms perceptions and ideas about
all sorts of things. The heart is what simply stays still
and knows that it's still, without forming any further thoughts
at all. Their difference is like that between a river and
waves on the river.
All sciences and all defilements are able to arise because
the mind thinks and forms ideas and strays out in search of
them. You'll be able to see these things clearly with your
own heart once the mind becomes still and reaches the heart.
Water is something clean and clear by its very nature. If
anyone puts dye into the water, it will change in line with
the dye. But once the water is filtered and distilled, it
will become clean and clear as before. This is an analogy
for the heart and the mind.
Actually, the Buddha taught that the mind is identical with
the heart. If there is no heart, there is no mind. The mind
is a condition. The heart itself has no conditions. In practicing
meditation, no matter what the teacher or method: If it's
correct, it'll have to penetrate into the heart.
you reach the heart, you will see all your defilements, because
the mind gathers all defilements into itself. So now how you
deal with them is up to you.
When doctors are going to cure a disease, they first have
to find the cause of the disease. Only then can they treat
it with the right medicine.
As we start meditating longer and longer, repeating buddho,
buddho, buddho, the mind will gradually let go of its
distractions and restlessness, and gather in to stay with
buddho. It will stay firm, with buddho its sole
preoccupation, until you see that the state of mind that says
buddho is identical with the mind itself at all times,
regardless of whether you're sitting, standing, walking, or
lying down. No matter what your activity, you'll see the mind
bright and clear with buddho. Once you've reached this
stage, keep the mind there as long as you can. Don't be in
a hurry to want to see this or be that -- because desire
is the most serious obstacle to the concentrated mind.
Once desire arises, your concentration will immediately deteriorate,
because the basis of your concentration -- buddho --
isn't solid. When this happens, you can't grab hold of any
foundation at all, and you get really upset. All you can think
of is the state of concentration in which you used to be calm
and happy, and this makes the mind even more agitated.
Practice meditation the same way farmers grow rice. They're
in no hurry. They scatter the seed, plow, harrow, plant the
seedlings, step by step, without skipping any of the steps.
Then they wait for the plants to grow. Even when they don't
yet see the rice appearing, they're confident that the rice
is sure to appear some day in the future. Once the rice appears,
they're convinced that they're sure to reap results. They
don't pull on the rice plants to make them come out with rice
when they want it. Anyone who did that would end up with no
results at all.
The same holds true with meditation. You can't be in a hurry.
You can't skip any of the steps. You have to make yourself
firmly confident that, "This is the meditation word that will
make my mind concentrated for sure." Don't have any doubts
as to whether the meditation word is right for your temperament,
and don't think that, "That person used this meditation word
with these or those results, but when I use it, my mind doesn't
settle down. It doesn't work for me at all." Actually, if
the mind is firmly set on the meditation word you're repeating,
then no matter what the word, it's sure to work -- because
you repeat the word simply to make the mind steady and firm,
that's all. As for any results apart from that, they all depend
on each person's individual potential and capabilities.
Once in the Buddha's time there was a monk sitting in meditation
near a pond who saw a heron diving down to catch fish and
eat them. He took that as his meditation subject until he
succeeded in becoming an arahant. I've never seen a heron
eating fish mentioned as a subject in any of the meditation
manuals, but he was able to use it to meditate until he attained
arahantship -- which illustrates what I've just said.
When the mind is intent on staying within the bounds of its
meditation word buddho, with mindfulness in control,
it's sure to grow out of its rebelliousness. We have to train
and restrain it, because we're looking for peace and contentment
for the mind. Ordinarily, the mind tends to be preoccupied
with looking for distraction, as I've already explained, and
for the most part it strays off to this sort of distraction:
When we start meditating buddho, buddho, buddho, as
soon as we focus the mind on buddho, it won't stay
there. It'll run out to think of whatever work we are about
to start or have left undone. It thinks about doing this and
doing that until it gets all worked up, afraid that the work
won't come out well or won't succeed. The work we've been
assigned by other people or that we're doing on our own will
be a waste of time or will cause us to lose face if we don't
do as we've been told...
is one of the distractions that prevent new meditators from
attaining concentration. You have to pull your mind back to
buddho, buddho, buddho, and tell yourself, "Thoughts
of this sort aren't the path to peace; the true path to peace
is to keep the mind with buddho and nothing else" --
and then keep on repeating buddho, buddho, buddho...
After a moment, the mind will go straying out again, this
time to your family -- your children, your wife or husband:
How are they getting along? Are they healthy? Are they eating
well? If you're far apart, you wonder about where they're
staying, what they're eating. Those who have left home think
about those at home. Those at home think about those who have
gone far away -- afraid that they aren't safe, that other
people will molest them, that they have no friends, that they're
lonely -- thinking in 108 different ways, whatever the mind
can imagine, all of which exaggerate the truth.
Or if you're still young and single, you think about having
fun with your friends -- the places you used to go together,
the good times you had, the things you used to do -- to the
point where you actually say something or laugh out loud.
This sort of defilement is the worst of the bunch.
When you're meditating buddho, buddho, buddho, your
defilements see that the situation is getting out of hand
and that you'll escape from their control, so they look for
things to tie you down even more tightly all the time. Never
from the day of your birth have you ever practiced concentration
at all. You've simply let the mind follow the moods of the
defilements. Only now have you begun to practice, so when
you repeat buddho, buddho, buddho to get the mind to
settle down with buddho, it's going to wriggle away
in the same way that fish try to wriggle back into the water
when they're tossed up on land. So you have to pull the mind
back to buddho.
is something cool and calm. It's the path for giving rise
to peace and contentment -- the only path that will release
us from the suffering and stress in this world.
So you pull the mind back to buddho. This time it begins
to settle down. As soon as you feel that it's staying put,
you begin to get a sense that when the mind stays put, it's
rested and at ease in a way different from when it's not still,
when it's restless and upset. You make up your mind to be
careful and alert to keep the mind in that state and... Oops.
There it goes again. Now it's taking your financial interests
as an excuse, saying that if you don't do this or search for
that, you'll miss out on a really great opportunity. So you
focus your mind on that instead of your meditation word. As
for where buddho has gone, you haven't the least idea.
By the time you realize that buddho has disappeared,
it's already too late -- which is why they say that the mind
is restless, slippery, and hard to control, like a monkey
that can never sit still.
Sometimes, after you've been sitting in meditation a long
time, you begin to worry that your blood won't be flowing
properly, that your nerves will die from lack of blood, that
you'll grow numb and end up paralyzed. If you're meditating
far from home or in a forest, it's even worse: You're afraid
that snakes will bite you, tigers will eat you, or ghosts
will haunt you, making all kinds of scary faces. Your fear
of death can whisper to you in all sorts of way, all of which
are simply instances of you yourself scaring yourself. The
truth is nothing at all like what you imagine. Never from
the day of your birth have you ever seen a tiger eat even
a single person. You've never once seen a ghost -- you don't
even know what it would look like, but you fashion up pictures
to scare yourself.
The obstacles to meditation mentioned here are simply examples.
There are actually many, many more. Those who meditate will
find this out for themselves.
you hold buddho close to the heart, and use your mindfulness
to keep the mind with nothing but buddho, no dangers will
come your way. So have firm faith in buddho. I
guarantee that there will be no dangers at all -- unless you've
done bad kamma in the past, which is something beyond anyone's
power to protect you from. Even the Buddha himself can't protect
you from it.
When people begin meditating, their confidence tends to be
weak. No matter what their meditation subject, these sorts
of defilements are sure to interfere, because these defilements
form the basis of the world and of the mind. The minute we
meditate and make the mind one-pointed, the defilements see
that we're going to get away from them, so they come thronging
around so that we won't be able to escape from the world.
When we see how really serious and harmful they are, we should
make our minds forthright and our confidence solid and strong,
telling ourselves that we've let ourselves be deceived into
believing the defilements for many lifetimes; it's time now
that we be willing to believe the Buddha's teachings and take
buddho as our refuge. We then make mindfulness solid
and fix the mind firmly in buddho. We give our lives
to buddho and won't let our minds slip away from it.
When we make this sort of commitment, the mind will drop straight
into one-pointedness and enter concentration.
When you first enter concentration, this is what it's like:
You'll have no idea at all of what concentration or one-pointedness
of mind is going to feel like. You're simply intent on keeping
mindfulness firmly focused on one object -- and the power
of a mind focused firmly on one object is what will bring
you to a state of concentration. You won't be thinking at
all that concentration will be like this or like that, or
that you want it to be like this or like that. It will simply
take its own way, automatically. No one can force it.
At that moment you'll feel as if you are in another world
(the world of the mind), with a sense of ease and solitude
to which nothing else in the world can compare. When the mind
withdraws from concentration, you'll regret that that mood
has passed, and you'll remember it clearly. All that we say
about concentration comes from the mind that has withdrawn
from that state. As long as it's still gathered in that state,
we aren't interested in what anyone else says or does.
You have to train the mind to enter this sort of concentration
often, so as to become skilled and adept, but don't try to
remember your past states of concentration, and don't let
yourself want your concentration to be like it was before
-- because it won't be that way, and you'll just be making
more trouble for yourself. Simply contemplate buddho, buddho,
and keep your mind with your mental repetition. What it does
then is its own business.
After the mind has first attained to concentration, it won't
be the same way the next time around, but don't worry about
it. Whatever it's like, don't worry about it. Just make sure
that you get it centered. When the results come out in many
different ways, your understanding will broaden and you'll
come to develop many different techniques for dealing with
What I've mentioned here is simply to be taken as an example.
When you follow these instructions, don't give them too much
weight, or they will turn into allusions to the past, and
your meditation won't get anywhere. Simply remember them as
something to use for the sake of comparison after your meditation
has begun to progress.
No matter what method you use -- buddho, rising &
falling, or samma araham -- when the mind is about
to settle down in concentration, you won't be thinking that
the mind is about to settle down, or is settling down, or
anything at all. It'll settle down automatically on its own.
You won't even know when you let go of your meditation word.
The mind will simply have a separate calm and peace that isn't
in this world or another world or anything of the sort. There's
no one and nothing at all, just the mind's own separate state,
which is called the world of the mind. In that state there
won't be the word 'world' or anything else. The conventional
realities of the world won't appear there, and so no insight
of any sort will arise in there at all. The point is simply
that you train the mind to be centered and then compare it
to the state of mind that isn't centered, so that you can
see how they differ, how the mind that has attained concentration
and then withdraws to contemplate matters of the world and
the Dhamma differs from the mind that hasn't attained concentration.
The heart and the mind. Let's talk some more about the heart
and mind so that you'll understand. After all, we're talking
about training the mind in concentration: If you don't understand
the relationship between the heart and the mind, you won't
know where or how to practice concentration.
Everyone born -- human or animal -- has a heart and mind,
but the heart and mind have different duties. The mind thinks,
wanders, and forms ideas of all sorts, in line with where
the defilements lead it. As for the heart, it's simply what
knows. It doesn't form any ideas at all. It's neutral -- in
the middle -- with regard to everything. The awareness that's
neutral: That's the heart.
The heart doesn't have a body. It's a mental phenomenon. It's
simply awareness. You can place it anywhere at all. It doesn't
lie inside or outside the body. When we call the heart-muscle
the heart, that's not the true heart. It's simply an organ
for pumping blood throughout the body so as to keep it alive.
If the heart-muscle doesn't pump blood throughout the body,
life can't last.
People in general are always talking about the heart: "My
heart feels happy... sad... heavy... light... down..." Everything
is a matter of the heart. Abhidhamma experts, however, speak
in terms of the mind: the mind in a wholesome state, the mind
in an unwholesome state, the mind in a neutral state, the
mind on the level of form, the mind on the formless level,
the mind on the transcendent level, and so on, but none
of them know what the real heart and mind are like.
The mind is what thinks and forms ideas. It has to make use
of the six senses as its tools. As soon as the eye sees a
visual object, the ear hears a sound, the nose smells an aroma,
the tongue tastes a flavor, the body comes into contact with
a tactile sensation -- cold, hot, hard or soft -- or the intellect
thinks of an idea in line with its defilements, good or bad:
If any of these things are good, the mind is pleased; if they're
bad, it's displeased. All of this is an affair of the mind,
or of defilement. Aside from these six senses, there's nothing
the mind can make use of. In the texts they are analyzed into
the six faculties, the six elements, the six forms of contact,
and all sorts of other things, but all these things lie within
the six senses. So these are characteristics of the mind:
that which can never sit still.
When you train the mind -- or, in other words, practice concentration
-- you have to get control over the mind that's wriggling
after the six senses, as already explained, and make it stop
still with one thing: its meditation word, buddho.
Don't let it go straying out ahead or behind. Make it stay
still, and know that it's staying still: That's the heart.
The heart has nothing to do with any of the six senses, which
is why it's called the heart.
When people in general talk about the heart of something,
they're referring to its center. Even when they talk about
their own hearts, they point to the center of the chest. Actually,
the heart doesn't lie in any particular place at all -- as
I have already explained -- although it lies right in the
center of everything.
If you want to understand what the heart is, you can try an
experiment. Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for a moment.
At that point there won't be anything at all except for one
thing: neutral awareness. That's the heart, or 'what knows.'
But if you try to catch hold of the heart in this way, you
can't hold on to it for very long -- only as long as you can
hold your breath -- but you can give it a try just to see
what the true heart is like.
(Holding the breath can help reduce physical pain. People
who are suffering from great pain have to hold their breath
as one way -- fairly effective -- of relieving their pain.)
Once you realize that the heart and mind have different duties
and characteristics like this, you'll find it easier to train
the mind. Actually, the heart and the mind are really the
same thing. As the Buddha said, the mind is identical with
the heart. When we practice concentration, it's enough just
to train the mind; once the mind is trained, that's where
we'll see the heart.
Once the mind has been fully trained by using mindfulness
to keep it with buddho as its only preoccupation, it
won't go straying after different things, and instead will
gather into oneness. The meditation word will disappear without
your being aware of it, and you'll feel a sense of peace and
ease that nothing else can equal. Those who have never experienced
this ease before, when they first experience it, won't be
able to describe it, because no one else in the world has
ever experienced that kind of peace and ease. Even though
other people have experienced it, it's not the same.
For this reason, you find it hard to describe -- although
you can describe it to yourself. If you try to describe it
to others, you have to use similes and analogies before they'll
understand you. Things of this sort are personal: Only you
can know them for yourself.
In addition, if you've developed a lot of potential in previous
lifetimes, all sorts of amazing things can happen. For example,
you may gain knowledge of heavenly beings or hungry ghosts.
You may learn about your own past and future, and that of
other people: In that particular lifetime you were like this;
in the future you'll be like that. Even though you didn't
intend to know these things, when the mind attains concentration
it can know on its own in a very amazing way.
This sort of thing is something that really fascinates beginning
meditators. When it happens to them, they like to brag to
other people. When those people try to meditate, but don't
get the knowledge or abilities, they become discouraged, thinking
that they don't have the merit or potential to meditate, and
they begin to lose faith in the practice.
As for those who see these sorts of things, when that knowledge
or ability deteriorates -- because they've been carried away
by external things and haven't taken the heart as their foundation
-- they won't be able to grab hold of anything at all. When
they think of the things they used to know, their minds become
even more stirred up. People who like to brag will take the
old things they used to see and talk about them in glowing
terms. Avid listeners really love to listen to this sort of
thing, but avid meditators are unimpressed -- because true
meditators like to listen only to things that are present
The Buddha taught that whether his teachings will flourish
or degenerate depends on those who practice them. The teachings
degenerate when meditators get just a little bit of knowledge
and then go bragging to other people, talking about external
matters with no substance at all, instead of explaining the
basic principles of meditation. When they do this, they make
the religion degenerate without their even realizing it.
Those who make the religion flourish are those who speak about
things that are useful and true. They don't speak just for
the fun of it. They speak in terms of cause and effect: "When
you meditate like this, repeating the meditation word in this
way, it will make the mind gather into one and snuff out its
defilements and restlessness like this..."
you meditate on buddho, be patient. Don't be in a hurry.
Be confident in your meditation word and use mindfulness to
keep the mind with its buddho. Your confidence is what
will make the mind firm and unwavering, able to let go of
all its doubts and uncertainties. The mind will gather in
on its meditation word, and mindfulness will keep it solely
with buddho at all times. Whether you sit, stand, walk,
lie down, or whatever work you do, mindfulness will be alert
to nothing but buddho. If your mindfulness is still
weak, and your techniques still few, you have to hold on to
buddho as your foundation. Otherwise your meditation
won't progress; or even if it does progress, it won't have
concentration to be strong, the mind has to be resolute.
When mindfulness is strong and the mind resolute, you decide
that this is what you want: "If I can't catch hold of buddho,
or see buddho in my heart, or get the mind to stay
put solely with buddho, I won't get up from my meditation.
Even if my life will end, I don't care." When you do this,
the mind will gather into one faster than you realize it.
The meditation word buddho, or whatever it is that
may have been bothering or perplexing you, will vanish in
the flash of an eye. Even your body, which you've been attached
to for so long, won't appear to you. All that remains is the
heart -- simple awareness -- cool, calm, and at ease.
People who practice meditation really like it when this happens.
The next time around, they want it to happen again, and so
it doesn't happen again. That's because the desire keeps it
from happening. Concentration is something very subtle and
sensitive. You can't force it to be like this or that -- and
at the same time you can't force the mind not to enter
If you're impatient, things get even more fouled up. You have
to be very patient. Whether or not the mind is going to attain
concentration, you've meditated on buddho in the past,
so you just keep meditating on buddho. Act as if you
had never meditated on buddho before. Make the mind
neutral and even, let the breath flow gently, and use mindfulness
to focus the mind on buddho and nothing else. When
the time comes for the mind to enter concentration, it will
do it on its own. You can't arrange the way it will happen.
If it were something you could arrange, all the people in
the world would have become arahants long ago.
Knowing how to meditate, but not doing it right; having done
it right once, and wanting it to be that way again, and yet
it doesn't happen: All of these things are obstacles in practicing
meditating on buddho, you have to get so that you're quick
and adept. When a good or a bad mood strikes you, you
have to be able to enter concentration immediately. Don't
let the mind be affected by that mood. Whenever you think
of buddho, the mind gathers immediately: When you can
do this, your mind will be solid and able to rely on itself.
When you've practiced so that you're adept and experienced
in this way, after a while you'll find that your defilements
and attachments to all things will gradually disappear on
their own. You don't have to go clearing away this or that
defilement, telling yourself that this or that defilement
has to be removed with this or that teaching or this or that
method. Be content with whatever method you find works for
you. That's plenty enough.
To have the defilements gradually disappear with the method
I've just explained is better than trying to arrange things,
entering the four levels of absorption, sustained thought,
rapture and pleasure, leaving just one-pointedness and equanimity;
or trying to arrange the first stage of the path to nibbana
by abandoning self-identity views, uncertainty, and attachment
to precepts & practices; or by looking at your various
defilements, telling yourself, "With that defilement, I was
able to contemplate in such-and-such a way, so I've gone beyond
that defilement. I have so-and-so many defilements left. If
I can contemplate in such-and-such a way, my defilements will
be finished" -- but you don't realize that the state of
mind that wants to see and know and attain these things is
a defilement fixed firmly in the mind. When you finish your
contemplation, the mind is back in its original state and
hasn't gained anything at all. On top of that, if someone
comes along and says something that goes against the way you
see things, you start disagreeing violently, like a burning
fire into which someone pours kerosene.
So hold firmly to your meditation word, buddho. Even
if you don't attain anything else, at least you've got your
meditation word as your foundation. The various preoccupations
of the mind will lessen or may even disappear, which is better
than not having any foundation to hold to at all.
Actually, all meditators have to hold firmly to their meditation
word. Only then can they be said to be meditation with
a foundation. When their meditation deteriorates, they'll
be able to use it as something to hold to.
The Buddha taught that people who make the effort to abandon
defilement have to act like old-time warriors. In the past,
they'd have to build a fortress with strong walls, moats,
gates, and towers to protect themselves from enemy attack.
When an intelligent warrior went out to battle and saw that
he was no match for the enemy, he would retreat into his fortress
and defend it so that the enemy couldn't destroy it. At the
same time, he'd gather enough troops, weapons, and food (i.e.,
make his concentration forthright and strong) and then go
out to resume his fight with the enemy (i.e., all the forms
is a very important strength. If you don't have concentration,
where will your discernment gain any strength? The discernment
of insight meditation isn't something that can be fashioned
into being by arrangement. Instead, it arises from concentration
that has been mastered until it is good and solid.
Even those who are said to attain Awakening with 'dry insight':
If they don't have any mental stillness, where will they get
any insight? It's simply that their stillness isn't fully
mastered. Only when we put the matter this way does it make
When your concentration is solid and steady to the point where
you can enter and leave it at will, you'll be able to stay
with it long and contemplate the body in terms of its unattractiveness
or in terms of its physical elements. Or, if you like, you
can contemplate the people of the world until you see them
all as skeletons. Or you can contemplate the entire world
as empty space...
Once the mind is fully centered, then no matter whether you
are sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, the mind will
be centered at all times. You'll be able to see clearly how
your own defilements -- greed, anger, and delusion, which
arise from the mind -- arise from this and that cause,
how they remain in this or that way, and you'll be
able to find means to abandon them with this or that
This is like the water in a lake that has been muddy for hundreds
and hundreds of years suddenly becoming clear so that you
can see all the things lying along the lake-bottom -- things
you never dreamed were there before. This is called insight
-- seeing things as they truly are. Whatever sort of truth
they have, that's the truth you see, without deviating from
Forcing the mind to be still can make it let go of defilement,
but it lets go in the same way a person cuts grass, cutting
just the part above ground, without digging up the roots.
The roots are sure to send up new shoots when rain falls again.
In other words, you do see the harm of the preoccupations
that arise from the six senses, but as soon as you see it,
you retreat into stillness without contemplating those preoccupations
as carefully as you do when the mind is in concentration.
In short, you simply want stillness, without wanting to spend
any time in contemplation -- like a ground lizard that relies
on its hole for safety. As soon as it sees an enemy coming,
it runs into its hole, escaping danger only for a while.
If you want to uproot your defilements, then when you see
that defilement springs from the six senses -- for instance,
the eye sees a visual object or the ear hears a sound, contact
is made that causes you to be pleased or displeased, happy
or sad, and then you grab onto it as your preoccupation, making
the mind murky, disturbed, and upset, sometimes to the point
where you can't eat or sleep, and can even commit suicide
-- when you see this clearly, make your concentration firm
and then focus your mind exclusively on examining that particular
preoccupation. For instance, if the eye sees an attractive
visual object that makes you feel pleased, focus on examining
just that sense of pleasure, to find out whether it arises
from the eye or from the visual object.
If you examine the visual object, you see that it's just a
physical phenomenon. Whether it's good or bad, it doesn't
try to persuade you to be pleased or displeased, or to make
you love it or hate it. It's simply a visual object that appears
and then disappears in line with its own nature.
When you turn to examine the eye that sees the visual object,
you find that the eye goes looking for objects and, as soon
as it finds one, light gets reflected into the optic nerves
so that all kinds of visible forms appear. The eye doesn't
try to persuade you to be pleased or displeased, to love or
to hate anything. Its duty is simply to see. Once it has seen
a visible form, the form disappears.
As for the other senses and their objects, attractive or unattractive,
they should be examined in just the same way.
When you contemplate in this way, you'll see clearly that
all the things in the world that become objects of defilement
do so because of these six senses. If you contemplate the
six senses so that you don't tag along after them, defilements
won't arise within you. On the contrary: Insight and discernment
will arise instead, all because of these same six senses.
The six senses are the media of goodness and evil. We'll head
for a good or a bad destination in the next life because of
the way we use them.
The world seems broad because the mind isn't centered and
is left free to wander among the objects of the six senses.
The world will narrow down when the mind has been trained
in concentration so that it lies under your control and can
contemplate the six senses exclusively within it. In other
words, when the mind is fully concentrated, the outer senses
-- the eye seeing forms, the ear hearing sounds, and so on
-- won't appear at all. All that will appear are the forms
and sounds that are mental phenomena present exclusively in
that concentration. You won't be paying any attention to the
outer senses at all.
When your concentration is fully solid and strong, you'll
be able to contemplate this world of the mind, which
gives rise to sensory contact, perceptions, preoccupations,
and all defilements. The mind will withdraw from everything
leaving just the heart, or simple awareness.
The heart and the mind have different characteristics. The
mind is what thinks, forming perceptions and preoccupations
to the point of latching on, holding them to itself. When
it sees the suffering, harm, and stress that come from holding
onto all the defilements, it will go and withdraw from all
preoccupations and defilements. The mind will then be the
heart. This is how the heart and mind differ.
The heart is what's neutral and still. It doesn't think anything
at all. It's simply aware of its stillness. The heart is a
genuinely neutral or central phenomenon. Neutral with no past,
no future, no good, no evil: That's the heart. When we talk
about the heart of anything, we mean its center. Even the
human heart, which is a mental phenomenon, we say lies in
the center of the chest. But where the real heart is, we don't
know. Try focusing your attention on any part of the body
and you'll feel the awareness of that spot. Or you can focus
your attention outside the body -- on a post or the wall of
a house, for example -- and that's the spot you'll be aware
So we can conclude that the true heart is still and neutral
awareness. Wherever there's neutral awareness, that's where
the heart is.
When people in general talk about the heart, that's not the
true heart. It's simply a set of muscles and valves for pumping
blood throughout the body to keep it alive. If this pump doesn't
send blood throughout the body, the body can't live. It'll
have to die. The same holds true with the brain. The mind
thinks of good and evil by using the brain as its tool. The
nervous system of the brain is a physical phenomenon. When
its various causal factors are cut off, this physical phenomenon
can't last. It has to stop.
But as for the mind, which is a mental phenomenon, Buddhism
teaches that it continues to exist and can take birth again.
This mental phenomenon will stop only when insight discerns
its causal factors and uproots their underlying causes.
None of the various subjects and sciences of the world have
an end point. The more you study them, the more they fan out.
Only Buddhism can teach you to reach an end. In the first
stage, it teaches you to acquaint yourself with your body,
to see how it's made up of various things (the 32 parts) put
together, and what their duties are. At the same time, Buddhism
teaches you to see that the body is inherently unattractive.
It teaches you to acquaint yourself with this world (the world
of a human being), which is made up of suffering and stress,
and which will ultimately have to fall apart by its very nature.
So now that we've received this body -- even though it's full
of foul and unattractive things, and even though it's made
up of all kinds of suffering and stress -- we're still able
to depend on it for a while, so we should use it to do good
to repay our debts to the world before we leave it at death.
The Buddha teaches that although the nature of a person (this
world) is to fall apart and die, the mind -- the overseer
of this world -- must come back to be reborn as long as it
still has defilements. Thus he teaches us to practice concentration,
which is an affair exclusively of the mind. Once we have practiced
concentration, we will feel every sensory contact inside,
just at the mind. We won't be concerned with our seeing and
hearing at the eye or the ear. Instead, we'll be aware of
the sensory contact right at the mind. This is what it means
to narrow down the world.
The senses are the best means for taking the measure of your
own mind. When sensory contact strikes the mind, does it have
an impact on you? If it has a lot of impact, that shows that
your mindfulness is weak and your foundation is still shaky.
If it has only a little impact, or no impact at all, that
shows that your mindfulness is strong and you're fully able
to care for yourself.
These things are like Devadatta, who created trouble for the
Bodhisattva all along. If not for Devadatta, the Bodhisattva
wouldn't have been able to bring his character to full perfection.
Once his character had been fully perfected, he was able to
gain Awakening and become the Buddha. Before gaining Awakening,
he had to withstand the massive armies of temptation; and
right after his Awakening, the three daughters of temptation
came to test him once more. As a result, the people of the
world have praised him ever since for having conquered defilement
in this world once and for all.
long as the inner senses still exist, mental contact is still
a preoccupation. Thus those who know, having seen the
harm of these things, are willing to withdraw from them, leaving
just the heart that's neutral... neutral... neutral, with
no thinking, no imagining, no fashioning of anything at all.
When this is the case, where will this world be formed? This
is how the Buddha teaches us to reach the world's end.