This book contains two sets of newly revised Dhamma talks. The 1980 edition of Amata Dhamma has been completely revised and has new additions, including its new title, To the Last Breath. Directions for Insight — the second part of this book — was only slightly revised, although it now has its proper title back, which somehow had become lost in the first printing. (It was then printed as Directing to Self Penetration.)
As Acharn Panyavaddho explained in the introduction he wrote for the 1980 Amata Dhamma: "(six) of these (seven) talks were given for the benefit of Mrs. Pow-panga Vathanakul, who had been staying in Wat Pa Bahn Tahd, Udorn-thani, Thailand, since the beginning of November 1975. The other talk, The Middle Way (of Practice), was actually given to the assembly of bhikkhus at the Wat in 1962, and was one which Mrs. Pow-panga found useful... She stayed at Wat Pa Bahn Tahd for almost four months and Ven. Acharn Maha Boowa gave about 130 talks during that period."1
The second part of this collection, Directions for Insight, seems to fit in well with the general approach of To the Last Breath. (In fact, both have the same flavor — the taste of freedom — which is the true liberation of heart, without regard to gender, race or age.) It is made up of six Dhamma Talks by Acharn Kor Khao-suan-luang. Khun Phoon Phongphanit, a lay disciple of Acharn Kor, suggested a joint translation (with the editor) of these six Dhamma talks,2 originally printed (in Thai) under the title Na Naew Mong Darn Ny. They form one booklet of a series printed over the years by Upasika Kee Nanayon, who used the pen name Kor Khao-suan-luang. Khun Phoon Phongphanit should receive special thanks for all his work in seeing that translation into print.
The first translation of To the Last Breath (or Amata Dhamma as it was then) was mainly the work of Ven. Bhikkhu A-j-. The present editor, who also assisted at that time, has now completely revised the whole translation and so must bear responsibility for the errors.
Any merit arising from my work on this book, may it be dedicated to my mother. May she find peace and happiness.
1. For more about this, see the new section: Epilogue. Other translations of similar Dhamma Talks by Ven. Acharn Maha Boowa are: Straight from the Heart; Things As They Are; Forest Dhamma; The Dhamma Teaching of Acariya Maha Boowa in London; Kammatthana.
2. Please note that this year (1995) a new translation of four of these Talks has appeared, which, to a certain extent, supersedes this pioneer translation. They are contained in a superb collection of Acharn Kor's Dhamma entitled An Unentangled Knowing, The Teachings of a Thai Buddhist Lay Woman, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Dhamma Dana Publications, c/o Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, 149 Lockwood Road, Barre, Massachusetts 01005, USA.) They can also be found in electronic format on many Buddhist BBSs.
Anyone who has visited the forest monasteries of Thailand will need no introduction. They will have seen Acharns1 who teach in a spontaneous and direct way, and who live as they teach. This is Forest Dhamma, vigorous but without pretension, inspiring one to live and practice the Way rather than reading about it. Yet here is a book — and a translation of a book at that — that can only attempt to offer a partial view of certain aspects of that Teaching.
This is especially so with the first part of this collection of Dhamma talks, To the Last Breath. For these were given under quite special circumstances: A person, quite knowledgeable about Buddhism, is dying of cancer. The emphasis is therefore very much on dealing with pain, suffering and, finally, death. And pointing towards that which is beyond suffering and death.
These circumstances mean that the beginning fundamentals of Dhamma practice are generally assumed to be already understood. (Khun Pow and the other listeners were already well practiced in developing Dhamma in their actions and speech.)2 For those new to Dhamma, however, it is important to remember the special context and to take into account the other Dhamma qualities that make an essential foundation that will need to be cultivated. The Lord Buddha gave an important example of this when he would begin his Dhamma Teaching (to those newly interested) with the Progressive or Graduated Sermon:3
"Then the Lord delivered a graduated discourse to 'Kutadanta,' on generosity, on morality and on heaven, showing the danger, degradation and corruption of sense-desires, and the profit of renunciation. And when the Lord knew that Kutadanta's mind was ready, pliable, free from the hindrances, joyful and calm, then he preached a sermon on Dhamma in brief: on suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path..." 4
It is this 'joyful, calm, pliable, ready mind' — already settled firmly upon foundations of generosity and morality — that is receptive to the powerful Truths about pain, suffering and death. It is at this point that the emphasis changes to energetic striving, to overcoming the obstacles that prevent insight and pin us blindly to the wheel of birth and death.
"Then the Lord said to the monks: 'Now, monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay — strive on untiringly.' These were the Tathagata's last words." 5
In this book you will find both these aspects. There are constant references to 'gradually'... 'steadily'... 'step by step'... 'level by level' (of the Graduated Teaching). These lead into a growing emphasis on earnestness and diligence in practice.
Any translation is the impossible search for just the right word. The expression that conveys both the sense and accuracy in a pleasing way; and that also brings with it the spirit of the original. This translation is much more of a blind groping. First, there is the wide language and cultural gap between Thai and English. Then there is the change of medium from the living word to the printed page, which must always lose the dynamism of the original experience.6 Finally, and perhaps the most important point, there is the great profundity of Dhamma, which is really beyond the translators' level of understanding. The reader will therefore need to make due allowance for the deficiencies in this translation effort. The only way truly to understand is to translate it back into your own life, your own experience and practice.
Even with its errors and inadequacies this book is the result of a great effort by many people. It will have all been worth while if a single person finds some truth in it that can help him or her face up to their situation, their illness and pain. Insight into that suffering may they go beyond a mere book's description to true liberation.
1. Meditation Teachers.
2. See Epilogue.
3. Anupubbikatha. Also see the Appendix.
4. Thus Have I Heard. Page 141/29. (D.i.148) (Maurice Walshe, trans.; London: Wisdom Publications, 1987.)
5. ibid., p. 270/67. (D.ii.156).
6. To help with these points, Pali terms have been kept to a minimum or put in the Glossary. Repetitions — which spoken Thai delights in with its musical variations of words and phrases; and which also serve to reinforce the Dhamma themes — have sometimes been deleted.
Six Dhamma Talks
on centering the mind
Acharn Kor Khao-suan-luang
* * *
Biographical Note 1
Kee Nanayon was born in 1901 in the provincial town of Rajburi, about 100 kilometres west of Bangkok. When she was young, she liked to visit the nearby Buddhist monastery, especially on the weekly Observance Day when she listened to Dhamma from the monks and kept the Eight Precepts. Sometimes she would rest from her work around the house by developing tranquillity meditation in any suitably quiet corner.
Khao-suan-luang is the name of a secluded, picturesque hill about 20 kilometres from Rajburi, near where her uncle and aunt lived. Whenever she visited them, she always felt comfortable there and eventually in 1945 persuaded her relatives to move their house over to the hill. This was the beginning — the first three members — of the community that was later to develop there.
Upasika Kee attracted Dhamma students, and residents included both female lay devotees and white-robed nuns. She taught her disciples to develop meditation, to chant at least every morning and evening, and to avoid stimulants like coffee, cigarettes and meat. They could listen to her talks and try to follow the example of her simple way of living. She made herself comfortable on the barest necessities and never indulged in luxuries, either in food or material things. Strictly keeping the Eight Precepts and constantly trying to guard the sense doors were basic to her practice.
In later years she developed corneal ulcers and eventually became blind. She passed away in 1978 but her community still continues with about thirty residents.
These Dhamma talks were given mainly to the women who stayed at her center to practice meditation. (Men could visit to listen to the Dhamma talks but were not permitted to stay.) After listening with calmed, centered minds, they would all sit in meditation together. Some nuns or lay devotees would take on the special practice and go into retreat alone in a separate meditation hut. It was known as 'guarding the sense doors', and could last for one or two weeks.
1. For more information see the new translation of four of these Talks, which, to a certain extent, supersedes this pioneer translation. The introductory article, Upasika Kee Nanayon and the Social Dynamic of Theravadin Buddhist Practice is especially interesting. They are contained in a superb collection of Acharn Kor's Dhamma entitled An Unentangled Knowing, The Teachings of a Thai Buddhist Lay Woman, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. (Dhamma Dana Publications, c/o Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, 149 Lockwood Road, Barre, Massachusetts 01005, USA.) They can also be found in electronic format on many Buddhist BBSs.
(My) Dhamma talks given to those practicing at Khao-suan-luang on the weekly Observance Day have regularly been printed, and this book continues the series. They aim to encourage and support Dhamma practice following the Way of the Lord Buddha and his Noble Disciples whose brilliance dispels the darkness of every age and time. Devotion to practice always brings great benefit in leading to the end of suffering.
I wish to acknowledge the generosity of all those who have joined together to make merit by printing this book to be given away freely as a pure gift of Dhamma to anyone interested in practice. Other books in this series have already been widely distributed to various monasteries and libraries, and as opportunity allows we hope to continue this service.
23rd April 1972
1st November, B.E. 2506 (1963)
As you steadily develop your self-inspection, carefully note where it is heading so that any lapse or imprudence in your daily life can be corrected. Failing to uphold a high standard will cause a continuous deterioration in the mind due to selfishness. You must persevere with the self-inspection because any lapse will cause this disease of selfishness to spread its infection everywhere. Whenever you become neglectful, make sure that you then purge any selfishness that has arisen. This is especially necessary when it flares up in force, but even when it manifests more subtly, it still needs to be thoroughly searched out. If you do not eradicate this virulent disease, your practice cannot be considered to accord with the Lord Buddha's Teaching.
It's therefore imperative that your self-inspection becomes comprehensive, and that it is based and develops out of the Five or Eight Precepts. Generally, the precepts can reduce selfishness at one level and then our mind-development can come in and remove it at a medium level. This is something you should all understand quite well. Finally, however, mindfulness and wisdom will need to become engaged in eradicating the selfishness that results from overlooking the truth about impermanence, suffering, and not- self. With repeated attention, your concern will deepen and the defilements — craving and clinging — and self, in its various manifestations, can be disposed of. It's not seeing the impermanence and deception of things that permits desire to grasp hold and cherish them. This disease is made even more difficult to treat by our predilection in examining other people before ourselves.
To be able to turn within and apprehend self with its machinations concealed deep in one's nature, does indeed require potent mindfulness and wisdom. Yet also actually to get rid of them isn't so simple, and one really only manages to view self's deceptions and desires. These multifarious schemes of greed are worthy of great attention and need to be carefully examined. Any shortcoming will force the practice to veer off course and may end by actually facilitating and increasing one's sense of self.
In the beginning, we should be content with what we already have so as not to feed and inflate this sense of self. Greed for anything — however coarse or refined, no matter how attractive — must be put aside. This is something each one of us must see and understand for ourselves; but because it can be all so misleading and deceptive, that isn't so easy. The predicament is compounded because 'self' is always looking out for distractions to involve us in. Should we enquire what it is grasping for, what it is in turmoil over — it just pretends not to have heard. It is only interested in wanting more and more, without end.
A basic feature of human beings is the enterprise they apply when acquiring things. The defilements possess a certain cleverness in procuring, but not in giving up or forgoing. If only this could be transposed so that instead we became creative in bestowing and giving away. The benefit would be great because the grasping at things would stop and gradually, with intensive contemplation, the basic attachment would be destroyed. Blocking the defilements from taking their fill by cutting off their nutriment is following the Way of the Noble Disciple. But the other way, the way of deception and sponsoring self, makes one a firm follower of Maara, the Evil One, who personifies the defilements. Instead of dispensing things one then endlessly acquires and consumes them.
There are, therefore, two possible ways to go. You have to discern in yourself the existence of the acute disease of selfishness, with its 'getting-cleverness'. Yet, if you aren't sharp enough, you'll be fooled by self's duplicity: "The more [things acquired] the merrier," as Maara would say. Ask yourself, "Am I really following the way to enlightenment or is it the way of Maara and selfishness? On which path does my proficiency really lie?" This is something to always question.
The household stores in this area have been donated for the use of those who come here to practice Dhamma. Be careful never to appropriate such communal property to yourself and always ask about such things first. Grabbing this and that to make yourself as comfortable as possible, even if it may have been done unthinkingly, is still the same as theft. These communal household utensils should therefore not be requisitioned as your own; even those things donated specifically for your use should, on occasion, be brought out and shared. In that case there is no attachment and one does not plan just for one's own convenience. Otherwise, the instinct of 'self' — which needs to appropriate things to itself — is too manipulative and cunning, and its villainy is so difficult to see. One then mistakenly endorses the dictum, the more I can get the better, and such selfishness puts one under the domination of Mara.
Now that we have become disciples of the Lord Buddha, how can we possibly be like that? If we should see that the greed arisen in ourselves becomes particularly grasping, then the only way out is to give up the thing (that we're grasping at). Let go of it! Under no circumstances should you quietly appropriate it on the side. Absolutely not! I will tell you plainly, anyone living in a religious community who behaves in such a way will only go from bad to worse, because there is no sense of shame or fear of doing evil. Without these two fundamental principles as a foundation, how can Dhamma possibly be built up? Though one might be knowledgeable and skilled in reciting the scriptures, one can't even put right such an underlying character defect. A personality that knows no bounds to its greed really seems disgusting, or rather the disease that infects that mind does. What can we do to cleanse such a mind? Anyway, to associate with extremely selfish people will inflame the disease still more and its infection will penetrate deep into the mind.
All this remains a hidden subject which people don't wish to speak about. It's not pleasant talk for it disturbs and disconcerts with its sinister implications. It's only through mindfulness and wisdom examining within yourself that you'll be able to know the deceit of the defilements and greed. How can they all be eradicated? This is not a matter about which you can be halfhearted. You'll have to disavow and give away as much as possible. Anything that is involved in upholding such selfishness must be relinquished. Don't agree amongst yourselves that everyone may grab as much as they can, but rather encourage one another to give as much as possible. Failure to do this will cause the mind to fall into anguish, because you twist round and infect yourself with the dirt and disease of selfishness. Who else can possibly come and treat you?
When you decide to examine this malignant disease, you'll have to recall all this for yourself, because nobody else will want to discuss it with you. Even though they too are saturated with the same infection, they prefer to talk of other matters. The occasional giving away of various things is relatively easy, but to relinquish self is both recondite and extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the effort is worthwhile because this self is the sole source of all suffering. Should this root not be destroyed it will continue to sprout and flourish, so we must turn and apprehend this self.
The Lord Buddha has laid down the Recollections of the Four Requisites [of life], which, for the monks, are: robe material, alms food, shelter, and medicine. He said that if they weren't considered merely as material exigencies, as elements,1 free of all ideas of self, then the yellow robe, the lump of rice, the hut and medicines would all burst into flame. Even though we may not be monks and only beginners in Dhamma practice, if we really have the determination to be rid of the defilements and self, then there's no loss in trying to follow a similar basic rule. If we don't, imagine how the defilements, craving, clinging, and self will relentlessly proliferate. So we have to make our choice: simply to follow the old way, or to strive towards the ending of self. Each one of you should take this to heart. Turning to examine internally is difficult, but even modest application will result in great benefit. Actually catching the deceit of self in the act of plunging one still deeper into suffering, and being able, there and then, to wipe it out — this is truly a reward beyond price.
The failure to implement this eradication, this giving up of self, lays the basis for the intensification of suffering. For, by not bringing it in for examination, it is able to grow freely. You may be able to quote and recite the scriptures — and even skillfully teach others — yet the mind remains impure and confused. By clearly seeing this you will feel revulsion for everything involved with this craving and desire. You will start to give generously and to make sacrifices, no matter how difficult it seems, and thereby suffering can no longer secure a hold. Each small renunciation builds its own reward in the mind until there is complete victory.
Anyone having a strong tendency towards stinginess — which is a particular defilement — seems unable to give anything up. They are reluctant to examine themselves or admit that they can possibly harbor a disease as severe as selfishness. If they would frequently make an inspection, that sort of defilement wouldn't dare to show its face. But by being negligent the defilement grows strong and bold, and is capable of the most selfish and despicable acts. Such people will then be able to appropriate the property of a community, such as we have here, for their own selfish purposes.
By turning to a constant probing of your mind, you'll be able to succeed in the giving up of unworthy attachments. Whatever you do will then become Dhamma, and will be of assistance to our companions in [this world of] birth, sickness, old age and death. The getting rid of selfishness will also allow you to come to the aid of others, without caring about the hardships involved. Without self we are truly on the noble way.
The practice of Dhamma needs orderliness in daily life. Any slackness is inappropriate. Another point here is that any shortcomings in behavior allow defilements a chance to come forth more easily. Orderliness helps to arouse mindfulness, which may in its turn forestall the defilements. Disregard for rules and regulations brings nothing, whereas conscientiously abiding by them can bring benefit. They give one a sense of how properly to respond to any situation, and this is necessary because we still can't completely understand by ourselves. The Lord Buddha knew the situation from every side, whereas we are surrounded by darkness and ignorance. This means we can't be sure of ourselves — either externally or internally — and so must depend on Dhamma and the Way it points out to us. The decision — to follow Dhamma or to wander away — remains with each one of you.
Anyone who wishes to be rid of their defilements and suffering, will need vigilance as an asset of mind and must then be diligent and persevere. Forever encountering the scorching fire of suffering, they will finally have to stop, turn and set themselves the task of struggling to be free. Without a clear and thorough understanding about oneself, the defilements will thrive and spread their virulent infection, which can only bring more and more suffering. We must therefore reinforce our mindfulness and wisdom, for no other instrument can fight and destroy the defilements.
The persistent quest to train the mind needs mindfulness and wisdom to point the way. Halfheartedness merely wastes time and one remains the same unmitigated fool. When you come to realize this the benefits from the resulting effort are immense. Eventually, you will be able to destroy the defilements, relinquish all attachment and the mind will transcend suffering. But any failure to achieve this will see you swept away by the power of craving and defilements. Negligence and carelessness will allow them to lead you away by the nose; they'll pull you here and drag you there. This is why the Lord Buddha emphasized, in so many ways, the necessity of letting go, sacrificing and disentangling yourself. This is the way to excise the cancer from the mind.
This kind of malignant disease is very insidious and though it may reveal a few symptoms, it's usually not enough to alert one to the situation. Eventually, it will usually triumph and sometimes you may even submit to its terms with alacrity. Your examination therefore must be circumspect and alert, otherwise it's like plugging one hole in a leaking boat only to find it's leaking elsewhere. There are six holes or apertures — the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind — and if you have no control over them, they are left open to follow after emotional objects. And this causes great suffering. You must use mindfulness and wisdom to seek out and review the true situation present within yourself, and this must become the most important activity throughout the day.
Our life is for working on the elimination of the defilements, not for anything else. Yet the defilements and suffering continue to hover about, and if we aren't equal to their threat we'll surely get burnt. We need to pull ourselves around and question how to deal with this, for then we'll be heading for great success. While we still have breath and our body isn't yet rotting in its coffin, we must take counsel and search for a way to eradicate the root infection of this terrible disease, the germ of defilements and craving. This cancer, which has gnawed deeply into the mind, can only be remedied with Dhamma. The Lord Buddha prescribed his Dhamma medicines with their various properties. Each one of us must carefully select from them and blend what is correct and most suitable, and then use it to destroy the root infection. All this necessitates great circumspection.
Should your self-inspection remain insufficient to destroy the defilements, they will grow stronger and burn like an unseen fire inside the mind. Introspection is the extinguisher to use, so that when you notice greed arising for an object, you can snuff it out and let go of it. Now, look at the mind, is it free or entangled in turmoil? If you don't persevere, it can only end in your getting burnt. No matter how smart you think you are, you always seem to succumb to greed. Greed seizes the commander's position and you make no attempt to dislodge it — and even go out to receive it in with compliments. The mind is then the oppressed slave of desire, and has fallen into delusion, with the grasping of this and that. There's no obvious way out of such wretched entanglement; we just don't know how to escape the dilemma that viciously encircles our mind.
We are trapped by our lack of true resolve and finally, when we are at our wit's end, we become slaves to the defilements just as before. The more often we submit to them the more their power grows. The only true way to overthrow them is strenuously to bring mindfulness and wisdom to bear. We can then examine, from all angles, the suffering they bring until the mind refuses to stay a slave any longer. It's no use just making an external show of it, because the greater the fuss the more stubborn the defilements become. Yet, we also can't be halfhearted about it. You must have the appropriate response for whatever the situation brings. You can't rush in with massive good intention to wipe them out, but must first carefully focus and enhance mindfulness and wisdom. This will all require great circumspection, and all these points will need to be remembered.
To genuinely understand, the mind will have to investigate in every posture, with every breath. It will then be equal to the task of stopping those moods and tendencies that continually fabricate notions, without reason or value, under the compulsion of delusion. Without true determination, practice becomes halfhearted. This leads to distraction and a waste of valuable time, with it all being nothing more than delusion. We must turn our vision within and persevere until we see clearly. Once we are adept, it's actually more enjoyable to look inside than out. Externally there is just the dissolution of things seen — why be so engrossed in that? But the inner eye can penetrate to the clear light and then to the Truth of Dhamma. By seeing the nature of the dissolution of all determinations,2 new insight will arise as to that nature that doesn't deteriorate, a nature that can't be altered but just is.
If your all-round mindfulness and wisdom remain insufficient and weak, the defilements will be overwhelming. However, if you can persistently build up mindfulness and wisdom, the strength of the defilements will proportionally decline. You'll notice that though the mind was previously confused, it has now become resolute. It's able to see the impermanence of things more clearly, so that they can be let go of. This insight into impermanence empowers mindfulness and wisdom to move towards an even deeper discernment. Yet this penetration must be truly focused, otherwise the slightest inattention will be disruptive. If it doesn't wander off target, even for a moment, then this is truly the way to control the defilements. Negligence, however, means that they can never be threatened and they'll regroup stronger than ever.
Mindfulness and clear comprehension must be developed in every posture, with every breath. We must make the effort so that the mind is attentive and doesn't drift away following various emotional objects, or lose itself in the confusion of concocting thoughts. You should be forewarned here about the tendency to think, "I know!", when you don't really know at all. Until the mind penetrates to true insight there must always be doubt and uncertainty; but when you begin truly to see, such doubts fall away and speculation is no longer necessary. One truly knows. How can you be certain that you have true insight? When the mind truly comprehends, the defilements and suffering are really eliminated. However, if one just thinks that one sees — whilst having no real insight — then one can't possibly destroy the defilements and suffering.
This insight penetrates into the mind, for this is where the desire for things is activated and that which blocks out Dhamma resides. When this concocting stops, one sees through to the nature of mind that is without the fire and anguish of desire. This can be seen anytime when one focuses properly and with determination. One can see other things, why not this? Just truly look and you will certainly see!
But you must look correctly to be able to penetrate, otherwise you won't see anything. If you grasp at things — which goes against the basic principles of true knowledge — and then try to go straight on to the truth, it's probable that you'll get all twisted and an element of pride, or something similar, will insinuate itself. The only way is to see the arising and ceasing of things, merely seeing and understanding without grasping. See! This is the way to freedom from attachment. It has been said, "See the world as if it were empty," and we must similarly see our moods, as they arise and cease, as empty. When the mind truly realizes the transience of things, the deceit of the world and our moods, it doesn't grasp at them any more. This is the free mind. There are many levels to this but even a temporary experience is still of benefit; just don't go and grasp after anything!
The free mind that is called vimokkha — attaining to true and final release — we find described in one of the scriptures3 we chant: "vimokkha is not subject to change." Those levels of freed mind that change are not true vimokkha, so we must continue to examine each level and press for the fruit, which is always freedom from attachment. It doesn't matter how many levels one has to work through until it finally doesn't change, which is when it is without any aim or attachment for anything. This is the true way to penetrative insight.
May all of you who practice Dhamma, work tirelessly to see and know this truth.
16th November, B.E. 2506 (1963)
We all have suffering, and the most important task of our life is to let go and be rid of it. The mind is besieged by defilements and is left helpless owing to its deficient study of Dhamma. It is continually scorched with suffering and unless we turn to Dhamma it will be consumed throughout this life and on into the next. Only Dhamma practice can extinguish and release us from suffering.
This practice of Dhamma is precisely a constant self- examination, because body and mind are the basis of our existence. The condition of changing, which they naturally exhibit, needs to be correctly examined. Otherwise you will follow the unthinking 'normal' course, understanding nothing and grasping after things which only go to compound your suffering. This, however, is difficult to see and will require your full attention and concern. In examining the unrest and anxiety of the mind, you'll find it emerges from the disease of greed, hatred and delusion. The desire for things can only bring turmoil to the mind and it's like a virulent infection has taken hold.
It's normal to be afraid of bodily disease, but the affliction of the defilements, which disturb and depress the mind, doesn't concern us at all. We choose not to recognize the seriousness of this infection and sometimes, in our ignorance, even to aggravate matters. To actually get down to eliminating the defilements is therefore difficult and unattractive, especially with the myriad outside distractions that stir up desire. The indifferent, common person just spins with their desires, leaving the mind dizzy and unbalanced all the time. This is plainly suffering and torment, yet if we don't concern ourselves with this affliction, don't struggle to overcome the tendency to follow our desires, then we must abjectly submit to it. It's our ignorance concerning the defilement's successful infiltration and infection of the mind that makes this disease so difficult to see.
You must turn your attention away from external things and set it on your own body and mind. Whether mind or body,1 it's all subject to impermanence and change. Yet this is difficult for the ordinary person to comprehend. It's like what we think of as the growth of people; from their mother's womb onwards there is continual change and transformation so that this growth really refers to change. Nothing remains immutable in this world.
The decline and decay of either the body or material things shouldn't be so difficult to notice, and yet it still somehow escapes our attention. The mind and mental states are constantly changing but instead of seeing this we grasp at the sight or sound of any object experienced, and this drops us into even more suffering.
If we could penetrate to the actual experience of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tangibles and mind objects, we would find a continual change, a constant arising and passing away. How does the old emotional object pass away, how does a new one arise? How is it that the mind is overpowered by the defilements into conceivings and imaginings that proliferate out of hand? But we pay no interest to such matters and are consequently overwhelmed by suffering, which extends into actions and speech full of intense greed, hatred and delusion. This incessant torment of the defilements — hotter than the hottest fire — can only be relieved through the practice of Dhamma. Yet the ordinary worldling, though being roasted alive, behaves as if she is immune to the fire and pays it no attention. She even smiles and thinks herself content in habitually grasping at transient things as 'me' and 'mine'. She doesn't realize that whatever she reaches out to, and falls in love with, is forever out of reach, edging towards dissolution. This all needs the deepest examination, so as to see the truth and not fall into attachment and delusion.
People learn from the scriptures of such diseases as the fetters2 or underlying tendencies,3 but they don't turn to check them out in themselves. One takes up words and translates their definitions, yet one doesn't see that the wrong view of holding to personality4 is the direct source of all one's suffering and torment. One not only fails to comprehend this plain truth, but then one turns and unthinkingly submits to upholding such wrong view. This is why the mind is in such a state of profound ignorance.
It is normal for people to have knowledge about many things, sometimes to the extent that they can't relax and must be forever researching new matters. They know what's good, what's right — they know it all! Whatever the subject, they manage to concoct an answer, finally spiralling out into wild conceptualizations. They simply know too much! This style of knowledge is that of the defilements and craving; its antidote is the knowledge arising from mindfulness and wisdom that penetrates to the truth of the mind. If we should give free rein to this obsession with wild imaginings, the mind will exhaust itself and we will eventually suffer a nervous breakdown. If we allow ourselves to get into such a state then we'll end up insane. Some cases may stay deluded until their death and, on being reborn, they will return to that same delusion. This transpires from a lack of critical examination and from not trusting in the application of Dhamma. Tranquilizers and similar drugs for the mentally ill merely relieve the external symptoms but do not get to the root cause. A radical cure depends on the control of one's own mind, using mindfulness and wisdom to brake and critically check, enabling the mind to free itself from its delusions. This is the complete cure of Dhamma.
That Dhamma practice should be able to cure every kind of illness should merit some thought. Each stage in your understanding of Dhamma will depend on mindfulness and wisdom. Those who show no interest in Dhamma — no matter how great their knowledge of worldly matters — will fall under the domination of the defilements and become subject to birth, old age, sickness and death. Once you come to understand Dhamma, following the Lord Buddha, the mind will become bright, calm and pure. This knowledge is of far more value than that which you have acquired for your livelihood's sake, or that which you obtained by being pleasurably — but temporarily! — engrossed in various entertainments.
When you come around to constantly examining your mind, you'll see that when anxiety arises the mind is not free and will not accept the truth of the Lord Buddha's words: "Go out from desire in happiness." Being burned alive in the maw of desire through indulging in the five sense strands — sight, sound, smell, taste, touch — is hardly 'going out from desire with happiness'. But if you correctly see that the penalty of desire is suffering, it will cease to gratify and the mind will be freed from desire. At that moment, when the mind is unattached to sense objects and is free of desire, you can penetrate to more profound levels and truly know whether it is really happiness. The free mind will know of itself that happiness is not being overwhelmed by suffering or aroused to passion. The mind without passion will immediately incline solely towards freedom. Is this what you want, or are you satisfied with lust and insatiable desire? Consider carefully and make your choice.
Inclining the mind towards freedom and release from the entanglements of passion and lust brings a natural state of purity and calm. Surely, compared to this freedom and happiness, the turmoil of sense desires will seem loathsome and repellent. If you don't reflect upon this you'll become absorbed and lost in never-ending desires and passions, caught and confined in the cage of craving. Held in the grip of this disease so difficult to cure, isn't it high time you turned to radically curing it by destroying its root infection?
When the mind fixes on a desired object, you must reflect and see the harm and suffering that arise and compare it with the happiness of the mind freed from desire. You must constantly examine this suffering and the freedom from suffering in your own mind, attending to it with every in- and out-breath. The principle is set down in the scriptures in the Foundations of Mindfulness, which describes many different ways to examine and reflect. But if you don't actually apply them in your practice, no matter how many of the texts you read, it will be of no benefit. You will continue merely groping along in the dark without understanding anything. To detect this insidious disease requires mindfulness and wisdom, and these must be nurtured and applied so that they become well established. If you only do this sporadically and irresolutely, you will always end in laxity and make no progress in Dhamma practice. It is just this progress that leads to a lessening of suffering and a decline in desire — as you will see for yourself. You'll realize that the most direct way of practice is constant reflection and examination, and will see how best this can be applied in your daily life. Those of us here who devote our lives to Dhamma through following the training rule of chastity5 must especially consider this carefully.
This way of Dhamma practice needs an earnest application of mindfulness and wisdom, persevering with them until true knowledge arises. But initially, how should one investigate so that new understanding may arise where previously there was ignorance? When the mind is possessed by ignorance and delusion, you can't relax or be indifferent but must concern yourself energetically with escaping from that which brings harm and suffering. You must discern what it is that brings brightness and clarity to the mind.
If this isn't done, the mind will tend to be seduced by surrounding sense objects and you are left with just scholarly knowledge and talk. In fact, your mind truly doesn't know what is what, and any scrap of insight that does genuinely arise will not be followed up. You'll relax, become preoccupied with things, and neglect the practice. It is therefore important to be very careful about this and bring mindfulness and wisdom to bear so that they can be steadily trained and perfected. When you can penetrate to the truth of impermanence, suffering and not-self, even if just for a moment, you'll see that this is truly the perfect way to extinguish all suffering. Whatever remains undiscerned must be earnestly investigated and related to what one already knows. This leads to disattachment from self and others, from 'mine' and 'theirs'. Just a momentary insight gives value to your life, otherwise you'll remain in the continual darkness of ignorance and ceaseless imaginings. The mind being caught in constant turmoil is truly a wretched state of affairs.
Meditation must therefore be steadfastly developed. You must build it up as an asset of the mind and not be concerned only with eating, sleeping and other bad habits. You must watch over the mind so that it stays under the direction of mindfulness and wisdom, always pulling it back and never leading it out to other concerns that are a waste of time. A first step in the practice is the code of conduct, necessary because otherwise things only slide into distraction and confusion. You must therefore place yourself under precepts and discipline, for it's this that can bring great benefit. You'll then come to see that this life is meant only for training yourself towards the elimination of defilements and suffering; and doing it before the body itself is laid out in its coffin. Without this concern for practice and for finding a suitably quiet place, the mind will tend to overextend itself with notions of conceit. Therefore you must all decide on the way to go, blocking the wandering of the mind after sense objects and moods, and bringing it back to investigate within yourself so as to steadily develop calm and tranquillity.
The Lord Buddha rightly set down various methods for developing meditation, including mindfulness of breathing. If we don't take up one of these methods as a basis for practice, even though it may still be possible to gain results they will be unsteady and fleeting. But with a basis of practice to aid one, the mind can be brought under the control of mindfulness and clear comprehension, without fading into distraction. How should each of us go about this to obtain the desired results? In your daily life, how can you improve your practice? These questions warrant great concern and consideration. Don't be careless and forgetful. Whatever you do in your practice — including the guarding of the sense doors6 — must be followed through steadfastly without vacillation or distraction. Otherwise time flies by, your life ebbs away, and you achieve nothing. Inattentive and halfhearted, how can you expect to escape from suffering? What a waste — be earnest!
Such concern, when it arises authentically, enables you to correct and right yourself. It steadily wears away at your distraction. Your investigation should center on impermanence, the suffering involved in such change, and the lack of self in all of it. You then must focus on the central point of 'knowing' and penetrate through to clearly understand impermanence, suffering, and not-self in both body and mind. When you succeed in clearly realizing this, you can truly be called wise, awakened and happy through Dhamma. If it is genuine insight you'll no longer feel any attachment or involvement with anything. You will be free of feelings of 'me' and 'mine'. Does this sound appealing? I'm not talking about trivial matters. This is serious — I tell you plainly — and you must concern yourselves seriously. Halfhearted listening to what I say is no use, you must really try to gain insight within yourself. This brings such great rewards that it deserves your special attention. Above all things concentrate your attention on this.
May Dhamma be the guiding light in your life.
6th November, B.E. 2513 (1970)
Concern for Dhamma practice is of the greatest value because it leads on to wisdom. Its steady development will allow you to '(inwardly) read yourself,' by using a careful examination of suffering and the harm caused by the defilements. Occasionally, you'll be able clearly to discern the situation and resolve to get free. The mind is then calm and serene, without those agitating thoughts that, through one's negligence, had previously been allowed a free rein.
The principle of self-examination is a tool of vital importance and requires regular and specific development. It brings the mind to stability by securing it with mindfulness is essential. Otherwise, the mind will waver and vacillate following contact with various objects, which will eventually lead to proliferating imaginings and turmoil. By controlling the six sense doors — which means having mindfulness constantly in attendance — one lays a deep, immovable foundation. This can be compared to driving piles into firm ground rather than mud, where they would sway under any external force. Mindfulness is therefore necessary for controlling the mind, so that it is stable and can withstand contact with objects, neither craving them nor being repelled by them.
This firm mindfulness must be maintained in each posture and with every breath, and this will effectively check the mind's wild chasing after sense objects. Otherwise, the mind will be like a rudderless ship, battered by wind and waves (which are the sense objects) and drifting helplessly. Mindfulness is therefore essential in securing the mind, allowing it to stabilize and investigate for insight.
Initially, in order to establish a foundation of mindfulness, you'll have to concentrate on centering and balancing the mind in impartiality. At this stage, there's no need to speculate or be concerned about any matter. If you can fortify and hold this centeredness, it will become the base and standard for your investigation. But this impartiality needs careful checking to make sure that it's not just a state of indifference and inertia, or absent-minded preoccupation. You must be neither scattered nor engrossed in things. Sitting straight-backed in meditation; maintaining mindfulness and centeredness is all that is required. There's no need to think of anything. The mind is firm, unswayed by whatever may arise, be it pleasant or painful feelings. One's attention is locked onto the stability of mind, and excludes all feelings (and moods) and it's this that leads to equanimity.
Guard against any inclination towards either absent-mindedness or infatuation with some object. So that if you're sitting in meditation, after thirty minutes of the hour's session the mind is established and continues to be so for the remaining time. When changing posture to standing, walking or lying down, notice that though the body has shifted, the mind is still centered and unshaken. Mindfulness, which must be sustained with every breath, is the kingpin in this, forestalling the imaginings and concoctions of mind. Then, with the mind centered and neutral, the intense concentration on the in- and out-breath can be relaxed to a suitably moderate level. In the hour's session, the mind will then be without worries and distracting thoughts. Afterwards, you'll start to notice that in whatever you do or say, the mind has a natural 'poise with knowingness'.
When the mind is thus stationed, it will have all-round protection so that contact with external objects will not affect its stability. Even if it should be drawn out for a moment, it will quickly and without coercion return to maintaining its base. What had previously stimulated attraction or repulsion, a pull to this or that side, is rendered ineffectual because the mind is now centered and neutral. Any wandering or distraction can be countered by a critical examination of the virtues and attributes of the centered, stable mind.
The foundation of mindfulness must be deeply laid within every posture and constantly developed in every action. Once the base is set, the mind becomes compliant, calm and free of imaginings and turmoil. It steadily grows more refined and is able to penetrate and examine, knowing both its stability and its disinterestedness in those brief external contacts. Any craving can thus be disposed with. When changing your position — perhaps in response to painful bodily feeling — the mind will neither fix on the pain, nor on the new pleasant feeling (with the improved circulation), but will be intent in itself. This stability permits you comfortably to avoid the cravings involved with feelings. The ordinary untrained mind on the other hand will be irritated into pursuing pleasant feelings. With repeated practice, the foundation's piles are driven deeper and deeper, so that there is no swaying under the impact of sense objects and moods. No longer are you restlessly drawn out after sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles; no longer indulging in meaningless thought fabrications because of your lack of mindfulness.
This stability of mind needs constant attention and strengthening. Then the examination of impermanence and not- self, which usually deceive the mind, can be set up. The mind, like a mischievous monkey, tends to wander away. Yet even monkeys can be caught and trained, and so it is with the mind. It must be first caught and tied with mindfulness, then tamed and disciplined.
The training of the mind can neither be excessively forced nor abandoned to complacency. Everyone must find out for themselves exactly what brings results. If you are only casually mindful, the mind will lack a foundation and be easily distracted by sense objects and moods. It will then be impossible to brake, to calm down and free yourself. The firm establishing of mindfulness in every posture — standing, walking, sitting or lying down — becomes essential so that the monkey is tethered and can only circle its post, without being able to get into mischief.
Once the mind is trained, it will be calm and capable of self-examination. However, any obsessive imaginings show up a deficiency and you'll have to train yourself further, because it's precisely this lack of firmness that underlies all your turmoil. Why should the mind be so wild and disobedient? Practice — so that it calms down and rests in stability.
At this stage, the mind is stabilized and supported by mindfulness in all postures. Any distraction occurs for only a moment and without attachment. You'll now have to perfect this so that all distractive imaginings and moods, arising from contact with external objects, are subdued and completely cease.
This training isn't so very difficult. The vital point is being aware of the mind's centeredness in whichever of the various meditation subjects you choose to use. If attention wanders, always bring it back to the established mind, and the foundation will continue to be laid. Such mindfulness is then always available for investigation, because the firmly settled mind is also able to see clearly. It can discern the truth and falseness within oneself, whereas the unsettled mind can only swing around to haunt and jumble everything up to fool you. The established mind can therefore get rid of the defilements and suffering from every side.
This way of practice depends very much on diligence and perseverance in establishing the mind. Then, just as a firmly anchored post isn't shaken in a storm, so the various defilements with their resulting anguish and distress can no longer afflict the mind. When this is realized, you'll no longer go out with fondness for this thing or aversion for that. Such equanimity can then become a basis for investigation and insight. But initially, in stabilizing the mind to a deeper level, there's no need to involve yourself with any thinking processes. Preoccupations and absent-mindedness must both be guarded against, for it's at this point that delusion and the machinations of craving takes over. The firmly settled mind might waver a little but it will quickly correct itself so that the basis of mindfulness can be used for examining impermanence, suffering and not-self.
In the beginning stages, though not absolutely essential, it's better to concentrate on stabilizing the mind. If you try to focus the mind without such stability it's liable to fly off into uncontrolled imaginings. Therefore, settle your mind, steadily focusing it so that it develops to the profound level imbued with freedom.
The torment of the defilements with their domination of the sense-doors will then be overthrown. This is because with such firm control over the mind, the eyes and ears, the nose, tongue and touch will also be guarded. Without a firm foundation of mindfulness there is no restraint of the senses, for the eyes want to look, the ears want to hear and come into contact with the myriad sense objects. With the mind centered, it's already protected and so there's no need to guard the actual senses themselves. Then, whatever you say, the mind is settled without harking after notions of: "That's good — I like it; That's bad — I dislike it; That's pretty... That's ugly..." The mind is no longer fixed on externals, but keeps to the principle of being centered and uninvolved.
Every experience is now received with impartiality because five of the six sense doors have been closed, and the mind is centered and steady. When sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or tangibles arise, the mind isn't attracted but remains centered, controlling all. Just like that. Try it.
It is now the end of the Rainy Season. During this week, you should all make an extra special effort to establish the heart with mindfulness. In the Lord Buddha's time, it was during this period — when the lotus and water lily bloom — that a meeting was arranged between the Lord Buddha and his senior disciples. They had just finished training newly ordained monks and novices during the Rains. As in other years, I want to stress this again to encourage you to make the mind steadfast. When this is achieved the mind will bloom, unwithered by the defilements, heat and myriad afflictions. So you should all try for this during the coming seven days.
Watch over the firmly centered mind so that it receives constant support. Except, that is, for when you're asleep and even then the mind should be centered right up to the last wakeful moment. Try it, and you'll find on Awakening that the mind has remained centered. It will be free of craving and all the suffering this involves. Then you'll be able to see for yourself how the mind gently blooms.
With the mind established it is naturally cooled and soothed without effort. You can be assured that this mind will neither be scorched by the defilements nor led into self-inflicted craving and torment. The fires of lust, hatred and delusion can't touch it. But please understand that this can only be achieved with genuine exertion and constant mindfulness. Playing about and being irresolute will only hand you over to the torments of the defilements.
Dhamma practice is one of restraint and steadfastness, clear of any mischievous pursuits after sense distractions. Whatever you do, whether eating or excreting, make sure the mind is established within. When you realize this state, the mind will be unshaken by turmoil and free of weakness. It will be established in a freedom beyond harm from those things that had burnt it. It is free for through introspection it no longer grasps and embraces such things, and is therefore constantly protected. In such a state there are no thoughts of self, there's just the stabilized mind. Sustain it for seven days and you will know the results for yourself. So please persevere!
Each day keep a check and record of your progress. Don't become lax and erratic. Keep the mind steady and don't weaken in your resolve — really try to make an end of suffering! If you are irresolute, you will fall for the provocations of wanting things and doing things, and thereby you'll enslave yourself and suffer.
Your daily life should give good opportunity for self- examination. Enter the battlefield. Firmly center yourself. The uprising feelings and moods should be seen as neutral without involvement in notions of good or bad. Everything is halted in centeredness because without intention there is no good or bad or self. Sustain this centeredness and freedom from self, and know exactly how the lotus blooms. If it doesn't bud and flower, know that it's withering and rotting in the heat of the defilements and your inattention. Please apply yourselves to establishing the mind, and do your best to bring the lotus to bloom. Make sure it doesn't become scorched in the fire of the defilements.
13th November, B.E. 2513 (1970)
We are meeting here again today and some of you have already spoken to me of your practice. I would like further to emphasize that your development of mindfulness and self- inspection requires a suitable basis in effort and perseverance. We have all heard about the mind being enshrouded in defilements, and we can only falter and slip back by not pressing on with practice. If the mind lacks energy, it's time to increase and maintain the pressure of practice, thereby enabling us to break through with insight. Such insight isn't merely a matter of 'thinking it out', for it's an examination based in the concentrated mind, which is calm and stabilized to a sufficient degree. This calm, centered mind, without imaginings or thought fabrications, without positive or negative reactions to emotional objects, requires a careful and subtle investigation into its various conditions without disturbing its balance. A cursory understanding is hardly true knowledge, for one knows merely the external calm or those characteristics of mind that still sway under the defilements, without any lucid insight.
Make the effort to analyze and examine within, searching for the understanding to help you along and constantly sharpening your investigation. If you aren't at this investigative stage, true knowledge won't arise because your knowledge and mindfulness are still at a relatively superficial level. Taking the physical body up for examination, you can analyze it as either made up of the various elements — earth, water, fire, air — or inspect aspects of its loathsomeness. This will lead to an understanding about the body, which can be advanced in each posture so that your thoughts never wander off course. Your work is meticulously to focus on and destroy the defilements in whatever guise they appear.
The qualities of heedfulness and non-distraction will advance your practice along smoothly. It's as if one becomes experienced and proficient in treating and eradicating the subtle disease within the mind — which is the malady of nescience and delusion. Normally, we can't comprehend even the grosser aspects of this condition, but when it's been stilled by firmly establishing the mind we'll be able to penetrate through to the deeper levels and discern the deceit and cunning of the defilements. With this seeing and understanding you'll be ready to renounce them as they swerve away to find a sight or sound, a delicious taste or smell. Whether it's aimed at the relishing of bodily contact or pleasant mental contact, you must be wise to it all. But this is difficult to perceive because we still have so many desires for pleasure at a very coarse level, involving pleasant feeling together with perception, thought and awareness. Thus we are infatuated by their guiles, fall into negligence, and end up understanding nothing.
This is a subtle affair because such alluring pleasures are really only concerned with lust, sexual desire and craving. These instigate the mind to swerve out through the five senses after delightful objects remembered from before. Long past impressions — whether good or bad — are conjured up, which we deludedly grasp at and sink ourselves in anguish and total sorrow.
To understand these myriad disease-carrying germs within yourself is difficult. Although you may well discern and dispose of some of the more external problems, overall it's of little help. Wherever they are concentrated together, this master- problem is stubborn and determined to remain master however much you may try to overcome it. Remember that if your mindfulness and wisdom aren't yet strong enough, the battle will also upset the basic calmness of mind.
Dhamma practice requires a careful balancing — neither too tense nor too slack — so that you always strive with the appropriate response, which is the Middle Way. You will have to notice in yourself the state of mind that is controlled by mindfulness and wisdom, and constantly support and sustain it with diligent attention. This allows calm and stability to arise for longer periods until you become intimately acquainted with it. At times you will recognize the need to put on extra pressure to force the results because, even though it may be hard to do, you can't just give up halfheartedly. Weakness means there's no way to stop the mind drifting back into its old wilful ways, so you must apply force: strong mindfulness and wisdom, vigorous exertion to the point of sacrificing life if need be. When the time comes to battle it out you'll have steadfastly to fight on, sometimes using a vow to fortify your resolve, until you can vanquish the mind's stubborn obsession with coarse pleasure and desire for things. Otherwise the mind scrambles distractedly after whatever attracts and lures it through the senses. Unable to resist, it becomes increasingly frantic and agitated.
The easy-going acceptance of whatever 'comes up' means that when it is desire that arises, you go overboard for it. This then becomes a habitual attitude of giving free rein to your desires, because the defilements now know your weak spot and will continually tempt and provoke you. It's like breaking an addiction to betel nut and cigarettes, or indulgence in meat eating. Even though it's on a very coarse level such habits are still very difficult to break because craving constantly waits for its chance to tempt you. "Just a little bit," it invites, "it doesn't really matter... just a taste." They entice like the bait on the hook, for as soon as the fish is bold enough to take one nibble, and then another, it's sure to be caught. So whenever we fall for a pleasant taste, the defilements are waiting to draw in the line while we struggle helplessly, impaled on the baited hook.
You must realize that the overcoming of the defilements isn't a trivial affair, but requires steadfast practice. Weakness won't do, but you must also consider and gauge your strength in this battle because the defilements have the power of a demon yet lie hidden deep within your personality. How can you harass them to force them out? In some cases, for instance in breaking an addiction, you can have a full-blooded fight and complete victory without also killing yourself in the process. But an all out battle isn't always called for — especially in those deeper, more refined aspects that require a more subtle, gradual approach and need careful thinking out.
You must learn how steadily to undermine the defilements' roots so that they gradually weaken. When your base of mindfulness and wisdom is strong enough, you'll then be able to turn the tide against them. However, if you still find yourself out-manoeuvred you'll need carefully to analyze the situation. Otherwise the defilements will frustrate your every effort, for when they decide they want something they'll brush mindfulness and wisdom aside and insist, "I must have that! I won't listen to any objections!". They really are that stubborn. So this isn't a trifling matter. It's as if you are face to face with your enemy, confronted by a man-eater of a wild beast. What will you do?
This confrontation with the defilements needs very careful handling. If they should appear right before your eyes, are your mindfulness and wisdom sufficient to counter them? This is the horde of the enemy1 come to offer battle, to burn and destroy. How should we handle them? What stratagem can we use to overcome them right there and then? Confronted with bodily or mental pain or, worse still, with desired bodily or mental pleasure — what to do?
The pleasant feeling is a much more treacherous affliction because of its insidious ability to mislead us, without our even realizing it. But you can be sure that nobody is seduced by unpleasant feeling because it's just too painful! So how can you find in this present, existing confrontation a means of disengaging yourself from both the pleasant and the unpleasant? It's not a matter of practicing and accepting the pleasant but rejecting the painful. It's not like that at all. You must see through to both characteristics and realize that both pleasure and pain are impermanent and therefore unsatisfactory. If you don't discern this you will fall for the deception of craving that is only interested in pleasure, whether it's of the fleshly variety or whatever. In every posture isn't there always an obsession with finding pleasure?
By trying to lose yourself in pleasure with its multifarious forms — it doesn't matter what as long as it gives only pleasure — you'll fall unaware into the mire of suffering. You'll be stuck there because of a lack of investigation into impermanence, suffering and not-self. You will be deceived into welcoming bodily and mental pleasure as beneficial, whereas on careful examination they are found to be suffering. By understanding all of this, you'll start really to comprehend the truth of impermanence.
When the mind no longer continually insists on pleasure, your suffering and anguish will lighten. Furthermore, you'll see that in reality there is no pleasure to grasp hold of anyway — but only suffering. Your grasping should therefore start to come under control. When we have chanted the scriptures together, it has been about this: "r pa, vedanaa, sanyaa..." — "form, feeling, perception2... are all suffering". Yet you still fail to penetrate to the truth of this within yourself — which is made up of just these things. Without a new perspective on true knowledge, you must fall into delusion, trying to attain pleasure, always pleasure. When in fact all you get is suffering. You shut your eyes and ears, and refuse to understand anything. If you really did understand, the mind would become much more peaceful, calming down from its wild chasings after nonexistent pleasures.
Craving is an initiative that startles and frantically agitates the mind. It arises from the desire for pleasure, so you will have to investigate to see that: such pleasure doesn't really exist; that the natural state is one of suffering; and that it isn't 'me' or 'mine'. You will need to analyze and differentiate. First, take the integrated body apart into its separate elements without allowing any of them to be seized on as being 'me' or 'mine'. Continually go over and over it in this way, until you realize its truth.
The same idea is contained in the Recollection of Using the Requisites of Life (which are robes, food, shelter, and medicine) that we chant together. If we don't analyze and understand this properly, then we must fall into the delusion of loving and pining after this body — "it's me, it's mine!" We repeatedly seize upon it without quite realizing what we're doing, even though Dhamma teaching is ready and waiting and complete. We may have tried in a cursory way to consider it all, yet only achieved a very vague understanding that tended to wander away into distraction. Such investigation does not penetrate because the mind has no foundation and is not based in calm. The mind chases after and fabricates various agitating concerns, yet never catches anything of real importance. It's like a half-blind man seeing a blur and managing, as time flies by, just to snatch the odd idea or two.
Those who are unconcerned with pursuing Dhamma, who are indifferent about what is right and wrong, remain unquestioning and have no uncertainty or doubt. They are enveloped in the darkness of ignorance. When you start to examine Dhamma, any points not yet fully understood must naturally arise as doubts or queries: "What's this? How should I understand that? How can I dispose of this?". These questions need to be taken up and worked at. If you don't, it plainly shows your lack of mindfulness and wisdom. However, a cursory investigation, picking it up and then leaving it unfinished, means you will never be able to penetrate to the root principles of practice. You'll know a little — and that's all. With mindfulness and wisdom still underdeveloped and an exertion effort that's inadequate, you will lack the courage to penetrate into the Noble Truth.
Trying to estimate for oneself about what's right in one's practice may become self-deception, which will then make it impossible to overcome suffering. If you happen to understand something, don't go out and brag about it or else it will turn and befuddle you in many inextricable ways. Wise people and sages have always been careful to press on with their investigations — even if they really have gained some insight — never getting stuck and satisfied with their present level of practice. They never boast about their accomplishments, for that would surely be the mark of a fool. The clever person constantly searches out the obstacles ahead, which are always more subtle than those already overcome. They never rest content with the present lucidity, but always want to penetrate further. With the defilements still burning and scorching one, how can one afford to stop to brag of such and such an achievement — even if it might be a genuine insight? Without a firm foundation, you'll always need to be careful and cautious about this.
In your investigations with mindfulness and wisdom, it's the danger of carelessness and heedlessness that takes on the greatest significance. Only when heedful can you reckon to keep abreast with your life's span, the term of which is always ebbing away. But what exactly is this heedfulness, this avoidance of negligence? This is the vital question. If you remain ignorant of it, however much tranquillity you may gain — by guarding the sense doors, for instance — will eventually falter and you're back with the old turmoil.
Be careful! The defilements will provoke and force you to speak and bray; they won't allow you to keep your mouth closed and quiet. Without understanding the underlying intentions and basic situation, you will only deceive yourself and end up going the rounds, bragging of your past attainments: "I attained calm for so many years...". It's a deceiving of both yourself and others. For, in reality, you are still in bondage to stupidity, following the dictates of the defilements within yourself, without even realizing it. Then, if anyone should offer praise, the ears prick up and you puff yourself out. Instead of explaining about suffering and the harm of the defilements that you have managed to understand, you just boast about yourself.
You can't just bumble foolishly along, for this Way demands the alertness of mindfulness and wisdom. After proper examination, you'll find there's nothing to be idly amused and preoccupied about; that both externally and internally it's all really one great deception. It's like being alone in mid-ocean with no island or shore in sight. Can you now afford just to sit back and relax, or make a temporary show of effort and then boast about it? Of course not!
When a person's investigation penetrates through to ever more subtle levels of mind, they will steadily become both calmer and more reserved as well. This is comparable to the increasing knowledge and mature circumspection of the child as it develops to become a teenager and then an adult. Mindfulness and wisdom must be continually developed in this way so that you can discern, in whatever arises, what is right or wrong, true or false. This will enable you to relinquish and let go of it all. Attaining to this true Dhamma practice will make your path through life smooth and even. Otherwise, you'll fall into boasting of temporary success in techniques of tranquillity practice and eventually find yourself in even greater distress. This is where the defilements proliferate and one plunges headlong into their conflagration. You'll (cockily) elevate your head into a mass of internal fire!
Use the torch of mindfulness and wisdom to neutralize and extinguish the blaze of the defilements that sears your mind. Do so with an increasing faith in your own efforts Don't allow the defilements a chance to insinuate their 'command post' with its various stratagems. You must be alert and equal to them. Be circumspect — don't fall for them! Whatever rationale they come up with can only succeed when your mindfulness and wisdom are deficient. The defilements lead you away by the nose, openly scorching you with their fire, yet you are still able to open your mouth to brag and boast! Turn and inspect this in yourself. Check every aspect, because right and wrong, truth and falsity, are all within. It's not a matter of external observations. Any external damage is nothing compared to the internal hurt from the defilements' blaze.
When 'I myself' raises its head, if you are not wholeheartedly committed to Dhamma practice, there's no way you can overcome suffering. A little knowledge, a little renunciation, can't get to the root problem that lies buried deep down. This must be dug out. It's not just a matter of resting easy after some temporary and superficial success. This won't do because the defilements lie deep in the basis of personality, which can only be searched out with the delicate but thorough examination of mindfulness and wisdom. Otherwise, if you stay on the coarse level, you can practice until your body lies rotting in its coffin, but it won't have affected the basic personality problem.
Anyone with a careful and scrupulous manner of practice is able to see their own deficiencies and faults of character. They will need to control and overturn pride in all its aspects, not allowing it to act big, to become inflated. However, the actual elimination of this disease isn't so easy. For those who haven't persevered with a rigorous enough self-inspection, the process may actually only increase their conceit, their bragging and 'teaching'. Yet should they turn within and discern the conceit and deceit of self, a profound feeling of weariness and sadness will arise. One will pity oneself for the stupidity of such self- deception. So you must set yourself to battle on. However much pain, however many tears — persevere! Don't be only concerned with pleasure seeking. Determine that, "Come what may, I will keep on with my striving, with my practice of chastity, throughout this life."
Don't grumble about the first small difficulty, that, "It's a waste of time. I'm quite content with giving in to the defilements." And then quit the task. You must take just the opposite stance. When temptations and provocations to 'grab this, take a lot of that' arise — don't indulge, don't take! However marvellous it seems, give a firm refusal, "I don't want it." This is the only way to withstand the snares and deceptions of the defilements. They scare and trick in every manner of ways, so that even if you get wise to one stratagem they simply change to another, and another...
Acknowledge the situation:
"I have been continually and variously deceived by the wiles of the defilements, and I'm still ignorant of the truth inside myself. Other people may fool me a little but the defilements do so all the time. I fall for them and follow them the whole way. My trust in the Lord Buddha is nothing compared to my belief in these defilements. I'm a disciple of the demons of desire, passively allowing myself to be led ever deeper into their jungle wilderness."
If you can't see this for yourself then you really are out there, lost and being burned alive among the corpses of that jungle charnel ground. There, the demons forever spit and roast you with desires and every form of distress.
Though you may have come to stay in a place void of distractions, these demons are still at work, persuading, tempting and trying to draw you away. Just notice how the saliva flows when you come across any delicious object. So you must make the decision to be either a warrior or a victim, and in your practice to struggle to overcome this horde of defilements and desires. Be always on your guard, no matter which way they enter to seduce and deceive you. Nobody else can come in to lead you away, but the demons of your own desires can and do so with relish.
You must break this bondage through scrupulous attention and examination of yourself and thereby attain freedom. Strenuously develop your mindfulness and wisdom, gaining insight and letting go of everything, until all your suffering is extinguished.
21st November, B.E. 2513 (1970)
Today, I wish to comment on the principles of Dhamma practice, because when applied properly they steadily offer insight into the truth and falseness within oneself. This is valued highly because all of us must come to see in ourselves the (Four) Truths of Suffering, its Origin, its Cessation, and the Way Leading to its Cessation. Whoever remains totally ignorant of this falls into the suffering of the world. Even though they may reside in a monastery they won't gain any benefit from their vocation. It's the same for those who live at home: all they possess there are precepts, because lack of true understanding means their practice will tend to wander away towards worldly pleasures and, finally, suffering.
The practice of investigation must continue until one comprehends suffering and its origin, the power base of defilements in the mind. The steady elimination of these defilements is truly the Supreme Way. Those who don't practice at all are left behind, blind and ignorant in the midst of defilements. They are led unaware into suffering and, unless they find Dhamma and the way of practice, they are doomed to birth and death, making kamma for their next round of suffering.
When you catch sight — through your practice — of what suffering is really about, you will strive to overcome it and never again be heedless of the danger. This means a constant struggle for victory, always cutting away at your faults until arriving at the more subtle aspects of suffering, craving and defilement. A deep probing and a delicate examination are required, while a mere superficial inspection proves inadequate. Therefore, the mind must be firmly established with mindfulness and focused inwards without any outside distractions. When you do turn within, you will be able to see the truth of suffering and its origin, craving and the defilements. You will then know their features and traits, and be able to destroy them.
Truly speaking, Dhamma practice is only concerned with one thing: it all comes down to suffering and its origin. This is the central, pivotal point in human life, and even all the animals are in this same predicament. Ignorance and wrong view insinuate a propensity to grab and consume every sort of thing, but right view will clearly reveal the truth of suffering and its origin.
You can also think of it in terms of fixing attention on seeing the truth, for without fixing on suffering you can only remain ignorant. The unsecured mind will always tend to drift away, following and becoming absorbed in emotional objects. Therefore, when you try to focus attention on Dhamma, the mind — which has been habitually allowed to wander away — may well resist and struggle. You must then rely on repeated effort to secure the mind until you realize the way to tame it and bring it back under constant control. It then becomes easier because the mind no longer tends towards distraction. However stubborn a problem it may have appeared at first, it can now always be tamed and brought back to calm.
But never underestimate the strength of the defilements. Should the mind prove intractable, you must apply maximum effort to seek out the reasons why it won't calm down. A halfhearted approach won't succeed, for it needs a 'fight to the death' attitude. If your only concern is for pleasure and comfort, then be assured you will never gain release from the domination of the defilements.
The mastery of the defilements envelops the whole of the basic personality structure, making it formidably hard for anyone to find out the truth about themselves. A mere smattering of knowledge certainly won't stop you from going astray. You'll thereby abandon the quest and involve yourself in various excursions, without recognizing the vital importance of Dhamma practice. You'll no longer bother to be strict and vigorous in the Dhamma work, but instead will absorb yourself in grabbing things under the defilement's direction. By weakly groping along like this the clear seeing of suffering is made all the more difficult by allowing the mind to abscond. It is concerned only with swallowing the defilement's bait. When the defilements announce their slight discomfort, you will quickly pander to them and take the lure. You neither appreciate the power and mastery of craving, as it swerves away after sights, tastes, smells and sounds, nor the resulting harm of such obsessions.
This ceaseless activity means you will never be able to bring the mind to stillness. It leaves one squarely sunk in suffering even though you may try to shut your eyes to it all. Through Dhamma practice one gradually realizes one's situation, and this conveys a steady easing of the suffering — as long as you aren't heedless. Whereas before you were always defeated and burned, now you prevail by turning the flame of mindfulness and wisdom back onto the defilements. So abandon your delinquent and heedless ways, and realize for yourself the benefits of Dhamma. When you take Dhamma to heart, it will keep the practice progressing, but inadequate effort will only reap you more and more misery. Resolve to practice until your final breath!
Don't be feeble and easily led astray. Those with mindfulness and wisdom will understand this advice, but those deficient and unpracticed will instead swallow the defilement's lures. Rather than surmounting suffering, their practice will then regress to its former state. Their attempt at skillfullness will mutate — through delusion — to become suffering and unskillfulness. They will criticize Dhamma practice as being futile and bad. If such a person submits to the defilements, Dhamma practice becomes impossible.
The practice of Dhamma involves great struggle and endurance. It's comparable to rowing against the current, for one needs great exertion to succeed. Going counter to the defilements is just as demanding, for they're always waiting their chance to drag one down to a lower level. If you aren't alert and don't utilize the Lord Buddha's Dhamma in examining yourself, your strength will fail. This is because mindfulness and wisdom remain weak and vacillating, especially when compared to the strength of the defilements. If you go over and combine with these tempters and agitators, you will be led wildly astray into turbulent obsessions.
Dhamma practice is, then, a going against the current of suffering — because suffering is the crux of the problem. This is where you must focus your practice, because it's only by actually seeing suffering that you will be drawn to discover its root source. Wisdom will then be able to track down exactly where suffering springs from. For those with mindfulness and wisdom the arising of suffering is taken as the ideal opportunity to search out its original source — to be able cut it off there. Such investigation proceeds on many levels, from the coarse to the refined. It therefore also requires consultation and advice, so that you won't stumble. Otherwise you might fancy that you can figure it all out in your head. And that won't do at all.
There are many principles of Dhamma that the Lord Buddha left for our examination. However, it's not mandatory to learn about every one of them. Taking up just some of the more important schemes, such as the five aggregates1 or name-and-form,2 will be of much value. However, it does require a rigorous all-round examination, not just an occasional probe. This will lead to the arising of a feeling of weariness with the whole situation, so that the shackles of lust are loosened. Alertly guarding the sense-doors with tight supervision, will enable mindfulness to outdo any lapses into negligence. Whether talking, acting or thinking, be aware of whatever leads you into error. This persistent sustaining of mindfulness must continue with resolution, for it is the way to end your suffering. Mindfulness and wisdom stay retarded because the concern and interest in you are still not sensitive and subtle enough. The more refined and circumspect you become, the more mindfulness and wisdom are strengthened. So the Lord Buddha said: "Develop yourselves fully. Make mindfulness strong in the mind."3
The development of your practice through daily tasks follows on from the examination and control of the mind. This will become evident in its accomplishments and benefits, whether great or small. Increase your effort and don't be so easily disheartened. Don't forfeit such a golden opportunity, for your life is steadily dwindling and ebbing away.
The development of mindfulness and wisdom leads on to Dhamma maturity. However, if your defilements are gross and your wisdom coarse, you will have to take extra special care when you arrive at old age — and that eventually comes to us all. So grasp this moment to develop the faculties4 of faith, energy, mindfulness, samadhi and wisdom; all in balance together. Keep up a steadfast scrutiny and investigation and you'll find that the temptations of the world have lost their appeal. When you can see them as poisoned bait, the longing for worldly gains will cease. Dhamma then becomes the refuge and beacon of your life. With this assurance in yourself, you can only stride forward without any slipping back, while any uncertainty about the merit of Dhamma practice will make you waver and turn astray. So be very careful that you aren't pulled away towards the chasm and pit of fire.
If you can't free yourself you will be tugged at from every direction, because the basic game plan is the tendency to be dragged down. But for those who are more circumspect and have enough mindfulness and wisdom to discern suffering, there's no more falling away and no more worldly hardships to endure. You will then feel a weariness and distaste for lust, and the temptations of the world will lose their color and attractiveness. Your Dhamma practice will shake off whatever misled you into grasping at alluring objects. You will recognize that death may come soon — it isn't so very far away — and then there'll be no concern for owning or supervising worldly treasures, however vast. With such realization, a great disenchantment and coolness towards worldly pleasures will arise, and they will lose all their luster. They will no longer be cherished and esteemed, however, whenever required for Dhamma they may still be of use. Your ardour cools down. After all, even this body that is perceived as 'me' and 'mine' is steadily wearing out and falling apart.
Defilement and desire stand ready with their troublemaking for any lapse into careless abandon. They then stab and punch through with the suffering involved in name-and-form and the five aggregates. When your investigation really penetrates, the gross external concerns about good and bad people or things are all swept away. Your attention is then wholly fixed on insight to destroy this eminent self, this conceit of self. External affairs fade in importance because the vital concern is the penetration to lucidity within, where the bright light arises.
This bright clarity of insight isn't the same as common or ordinary light. You must know it for yourself, otherwise it evades description. Mindfulness and wisdom will cleanse the mind: ejecting, renouncing, eliminating and liberating according to their ability. Any lack of mindfulness and wisdom, with its scrutiny and renunciation, leaves one surrounded by internal darkness — a gloom permeated with fire. The defilements conceal their poisonous fuel so that the internal fires always blaze fiercely — what can be more terrifying than this? Even though this conflagration may lack substance, as soon as there is contact with objects it flares up.
The bombs dropped on people are nothing compared to the three bombs of lust, hatred and delusion. These are perpetually tearing the mind apart, whereas an air raid brings death in just the one lifetime. But until there is practice of Dhamma you won't be able to comprehend the gravity of the situation, which is like a slow roasting of the mind by the defilements whenever there is (sense-) contact. To catch sight of the defilement's cunning agility so that one can destroy them, requires proper tools and careful attention to avoid heedlessness.
Those who stay and practice here without the concerns and involvements of the world will find they can progress relatively quickly. Depending on the proficiency of mindfulness and wisdom, they will be able to refine their investigation and reduce suffering. Each one of you will know for yourself the extent to which a life dedicated to Dhamma practice is advancing towards the end of suffering. People who can never find any free time to come and rest here, and those who come but don't truly leave their worldly concerns behind, will be lost in a fog of diversions and preoccupations. They often like to claim: "It doesn't matter where you practice. One can practice anywhere." This is really just hot air. In actual fact their practice is stuck in the groove of the defilements. Yet they still manage to brag about being able to practice "anywhere at all". One might remark that their mind and mouth are out of alignment. Their mind, though seething under the attack and heat of defilements and craving, isn't aware of their predicament. It's as if something lives in filth and prefers to exist and die in that filth.
Those people whose mindfulness and wisdom remain quite coarse will quite happily play about in the mire of their sullied minds. Those with a more mature and penetrating mindfulness and wisdom, will feel disgust at such filth. As one's insight grows, so this feeling of revulsion deepens and intensifies. One then sees the danger in preoccupations, delusions and desire, because they're entirely concerned with suffering. One sees that it's all a matter of impermanence, suffering and not-self. Then the questions: "What do I want from life? What was I born for?" arise. Those who are ignorant answer: "My life is for acquiring money and things to get rich." But that sort of life is the same as falling into hell! Anyone who understands the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, realizes that there's absolutely nothing that is worth wishing for, or concerning oneself with. Everything ought to be relinquished and released.
Those who are still attached to the five aggregates, thinking, 'they are my self,' must investigate to see that each of them really embraces suffering. Alternatively, in a more condensed format, they should realize that name-and-form is suffering, or, even more broadly, that body and mind are suffering. When you can see all of this from the coarse to the subtle level, you will be able to rise above pleasure and pain, for both are then given up. However, without a full understanding you will still yearn for pleasure, and the more you desire the more you will suffer. This also applies to any attachment based in the peace and happiness arising from tranquillity-meditation. This then becomes almost like an addiction. One craves and must consume the narcotic that, one considers, is able to bring one pleasure. Insight into the nature of the continual craving and its concomitant suffering never occurs to the addict. They want and they get the drug, and think themselves very happy and contented!
The feature that continually foils the addict's bid to break their habit, is that after taking the drug they feel quite content. Thus it is with sensual desire: it is sated only to flare up again when the briefly assuaged appetite returns. People think that the gratification of an intense longing brings even greater pleasure, without realizing the inherent danger and suffering it involves. Such is the state of those with weak wisdom and gross defilements. They don't see the turmoil of desire as suffering, and instead of extinguishing it, they try to allay it by taking poison. This poison is the pandering to the craving so that it's briefly gratified, then having to do it again, and again, and again, until one is stupefied and deluded.
A person with mindfulness and wisdom focuses on the question: "Why must I repeatedly indulge my desires?". They realize that it's the craving itself that must be attacked, because by overcoming this one element, they will not only escape the frantic effort to satisfy the craving, but will also do away with future desire. This is the way that enables one to transcend suffering. However, the obsession with the pleasure taken in consuming things, makes the disowning of such desire an arduous task.
All one knows about is how to feed on the bait and this makes one afraid to forgo and stop. It's the dread of the addict not getting his drug, or, on another level, the meat-eater not being able to give up their attachment to tastes. It's all a matter of being a s]ave to desire. If you can't overcome such gross cravings, how can you ever deal with the much more subtle longings rotting within yourself? With just a little persuasion, off you go, swallowing the coarsest of baits, fussily arranging it to suit and satisfy. You'll notice neither your exhaustion nor comprehend that the source of all the terrible suffering that deludes and dominates all creatures in the world is found right here in this process. Even though the Lord Buddha's Teaching sets out the most appropriate way to investigate and meditate to get to the root of all this, you ignore it and continue to swallow the bait. Staying immersed in pleasure, you can only apply yourself to follow defilements and desire.
Our practice here is concerned with going against the current of craving and the deviating mind. It means a multifaceted supervision together with restraint regarding any sense-contacts — sight, sound, smell or taste, for example. Such contacts arise to lure and obsess one into liking some object and then, swiftly tiring of it, racing frantically after something else. Continuing on in this way can only lead to complete agitation.
The malignancies in the mind are many and if you don't know how to curb and eliminate them, you can't help but fall under their menacing power. Those who have seen the nature of suffering will make it a life and death struggle. Just as the Lord Buddha did, when he was prepared to give his life to overcome suffering. Don't think it's something that can be done with ease and leisure. In each of his lives the future-Buddha5 had to endure hardship and suffering to help himself and others. We too must be willing to sacrifice all possessions and wealth, however great.
It just can't be done in comfort. Dhamma practice is a battle and struggle, and whoever endures and perseveres will gain success and peerless victory. This supreme victory means that any problem can be examined and then resolved. So please keep on trying. It's not a matter of gaining some limited success and then turning away to something else for after every successful encounter mindfulness and wisdom will be strengthened. So you must be on your guard and inspect whatever arises through the sense doors — the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.
With application, your mindfulness will become sharper and more penetrating, and you will start to understand about releasing and extinguishing. It's similar to grasping a live, glowing coal and perceiving its heat — and therefore quickly releasing it. Dhamma practice is of supreme worth, but victory over the might of the defilements is arduous and should never be underestimated. Therefore, strenuously apply yourself to reinforcing mindfulness and wisdom, and the defilements will correspondingly lose their potency. This is called progress in Dhamma, because it's the quenching of the suffering within. So while you still have life and strength, apply it all to this task.
The Lord Buddha declared: "Whatever is still unclear, make it clear; whatever is not penetrated, pierce it through; whatever is not complete, finish it off". So don't be feeble and vacillating, always making excuses. The leaving-home for 'ordination' is also considered a sacrifice. In the Lord Buddha's time, people from every level of the householder's life — royalty, the very wealthy, the middle class, ordinary citizens — went forth, cutting themselves off from home and family and entering the Lord Buddha's clan, with no return. He said that the falling-back into the former, petty life was bad. The Lord Buddha's only concern was earnestly to pull people out of suffering. So if we want to escape we must follow his example, cutting away worry and concern for former relatives by entering the lineage of the Lord Buddha. This life and practice under the Lord Buddha's discipline is truly the supreme way and refuge.
Those who follow the principles and discipline of Dhamma will pledge their life to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Even those who have only managed an occasional taste of its resulting peace, without penetrating to the whole truth, will make their commitment. They realize that there is no alternative way that leads to freedom from suffering. When their mindfulness and wisdom become more penetrating, they will see that on this shore there is only anguish, with a never-ending circle of birth and death. They then become determined to cross to the farther shore, making unceasing effort to renounce self.
There is nothing mysterious about this 'crossing over to the farther shore'. But first you must give up the view of self in the five aggregates, by investigating to see them all as suffering — none of them are 'me' or 'mine'.
Focus on not grasping or holding. The Lord Buddha once spoke of the past as below, the future as above and the present as in the middle. He also said that unskillfulness was below, skillfullness was above and neutrality6 a was in the middle. To each of these characteristics he said: "Don't grasp them!". You should not even grasp at what you think is Nibbana, the farther shore. Consider the scope of the true realization of non- attachment concerning any object. Those of you who can't fathom why even Nibbana isn't to be grasped at, must reflect on this: Nothing must be either grasped or held. This is set down as a Dhamma principle and is really the perfect summary of them all.
'Determined things' and 'non-determined things' submit to 'all things are not-self'.7 They should not be grasped and held. This summarizes the whole matter, including the investigation to see the Dhamma Truth in both the world and in the Teaching. One's mindfulness and wisdom need to see through the world, penetrating from determined things to the non-determined, from the worldly to the world-transcending. Yet this is all concerned with what's inside oneself, and not with anything external.
This insight into the essence of Dhamma requires a deep and profound understanding. Then it's just a matter of releasing and letting go. The dictum: 'Don't grasp', will suffice throughout your practice, from beginning to end. By not holding to 'me' or 'mine', it can be said that you are truly following the Lord Buddha's Way, and will eventually win through to the complete cessation of all suffering. Then mindfulness and wisdom will penetrate throughout, without attachment to matter, feeling, perception, conditions and consciousness.
The Lord Buddha explained about ignorance, about delusion concerning form, about craving that arises in the mind making it agitated, and about kamma, the action that seeks to obtain what is desired. When you perceive this, your practice will be correctly aimed at eliminating desire and understanding yourself in both body and mind. This needs a repeated examination to stop the concern and obsession with external things. The deeper your understanding the more pathetic such desires appear. They are simply not worth the total absorption they demand. Such exuberant distractions originated in ignorance, resulting in a continued raving about people or involvements in the myriad things. Your talk becomes pervaded with worldly concerns: "this is good, that is bad; she is good, he is bad." In such a condition, you won't be able to see either the affliction of desire or the defilements within yourself.
The Lord Buddha resolved Mogharaja's Problem,8 by advising him to see the world as empty, as not-self, as being composed of elements and aggregates. The aggregates (and so on) must be stripped away, and concepts and assumptions such as 'person' or 'animal' (and so on) must be disestablished. The elements, aggregates, sense bases and concepts, need to be all exposed so that there's no more grasping at them. What remains is the Deathless Dhamma. This is without birth or death, and is also called the World-Transcending Dhamma or Nibbaana.
There are many names, but they all essentially refer to the same thing. When mundane things are spurned, the result is the Transcendent Dhamma, the Non-Determined Dhamma, Pure Dhamma. Just consider the running-on, the coursing-on from birth to death, from death to birth in the different realms of existence. Then decide if Nibbana is really worth attaining. On that farther shore, there's no suffering, no birth or death, because the 'King of Death' can't reach there. Yet because we can't fathom this out, we persist in repeatedly choosing to be born on this nether shore, amidst its endless suffering.
With true understanding about suffering, your course will become firmly set straight for the farther shore, where all desires and defilements are extinguished. Insight allows the penetration to see the common characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self in the aggregates. Those with mindfulness and wisdom must concentrate on annihilating the defilements, for should its 'germ' remain, it will lead to renewed suffering. Therefore, steadily investigate, release and eliminate — this is certainly the right way to proceed. But do you care about any of this? It's not as if there's some mystery involved; every one of you, whether woman or man, can come to accomplish it. So develop yourselves through right moral behavior, through calming and stabilizing the mind, and through mindfulness and wisdom. Then you will realize its true worth.
The stupid person enjoys dismissing Dhamma with: "Why should I bother?". Such a person can neither safeguard precepts, nor bring the mind to calm, and they turn away from that greatest of all tasks, the resolute striving to end suffering. It is these people who are crazily rushing around, snatching and consuming, competing together until they all lie rotting in their coffins. Exactly where is the value in any of this? We've gone astray for far too long already, our lives almost spent after spanning the years. It doesn't matter which generation you come from. The air you breathe isn't just for your convenience and comfort, but for you to learn about suffering and the way to extinguish your suffering. Don't imagine that your family and relatives are anything fundamental — you are alone. You came alone and you'll go alone. It's the same for all of us. Only when there isn't any self to go, is Dhamma-insight achievable. If there is still a self to be born, then you are stuck in the orbit of suffering. So it's up to each one of you to investigate for a way of escape.
Those who trust in the Lord Buddha will have to go the same Dhamma way. Those who would rather count on the demons and defilements will thrust themselves down into the mire. They may then try to bully and be assertive, but their only gain will be more suffering. True understanding on the other hand, leads to a profound weariness and a loosening of the bonds of lust. However, if people appear to understand while still going out following after desires, then they truly are a disciple of the demons. They declare a weariness and fatigue with it all, but really their mind isn't at all tired and finds it still very attractive. It still wants to get, to have, to possess. Yet insight can still arise through self-inspection of mind, and then the stupidity and delusion start to diminish. They will come to their senses, from misguided delusions, and will realize the foolishness of self-praise and conceit. This is the way steadily to rid oneself of such folly.
Your investigations must always be directed within, As self-inspection steadily becomes increasingly subtle and penetrating, your investigations must always be directed within. It's not concerned with expert knowledge in external affairs, but with the seeing within yourself of all that's impermanent, suffering and not-self. Ignorance stands as the source of any misguided attraction, but you've already closed your eyes and ears, and even tried to show off your presumed knowledge. You won't be able to blame anyone else though, for you'll see that it's all due to your own foolishness. This means that you must strive to clear up such backwardness before you die. Don't waste your breath in gratifying desires, to get, to be and generally to make merry. For this is being possessed by the demons of the defilements, with their multifarious mania to procure and become great and famous. Focusing on this conceit will subdue it, and it will then withdraw until its death; for you'll start to realize that 'more conceit means more suffering.'
When your practice spins fully within yourself, you will be able steadily to clean out the defilements and find your reward in the emptied mind. But if you continue to connive with the conceits, they will sweep away any Dhamma virtue you may have. Then, only the demons will keep you company; for it's only when they are all driven out that their antithesis, the virtuous ones, will enter in. Turmoil and unrest are the manifestations of your possession by demons, while freedom, serenity and peace demonstrate your fellowship with the virtuous.
Will all of you please go and check how many of these demons have been driven out. Is the situation improving? When they show their faces, point your finger at them and accuse them of being demons and devils, come to eat your heart and drink your blood. Previously you've allowed them in, but now you can stop them and reduce your suffering. The former bloated self shrivels as the demons lose their power. Conceit of self withers away. It's like administering antitoxin to someone bitten by a rabid dog, for by fixing one's attention back on to the disease one eliminates it.
The mind is then undisturbed and at peace, because the dictum, 'Don't grasp or hold anything', has been followed to the final cessation of suffering.
28th November, B.E. 2513 (1970)
Those who practice Dhamma by developing mindfulness and wisdom will come truly to understand the way to extinguish suffering. If they should ever lapse into heedlessness and grasp on to something, their steady training in controlling the mind will quickly notice and check the situation. This, in itself, is of great benefit. The important point about defilements and suffering is that they lie deep down in the personality structure; thus one must probe and examine within oneself.
We are all intimately acquainted with observing external things and should realize that they bring unrest and they clutter the mind. We must therefore aim to achieve a condition of mind characterized by centeredness, and a stability of mindfulness. You should notice in yourself the extent of the mind's restraint under various circumstances and whether mindfulness is sustained in every posture. How should we handle the mind as it loses its balance through its habitual tendency to allow thoughts to proliferate out of control? How can we bring it back under control? You must realize that the mind without calm is full of endless imaginings and thought fabrications. It is all aimed at acquiring and obtaining, and that this is suffering. You must continually examine within yourself to see that such things are all impermanent, subject to change, to arising and ceasing, and are suffering. This must be seen clearly and distinctly.
When we understand this arising and ceasing — by turning to examine such conditions inside oneself — we will realize that it's neither something good nor bad. It is just a natural process of arising, persisting and ceasing. Try to penetrate and see this. The regular cleansing of the mind will show up any impurity, like dirt in an otherwise tidy room. Each moment you should clean out any attachment. Whatever should arise, persist and then cease — don't grasp and hold onto it! Take this principle of 'not wanting, not grasping' deeply to heart, for then the mind will be undisturbed and free. This is such a worthwhile realization. It doesn't involve extensive knowledge — we just penetrate to see the impermanence in form, feeling, perception, conditions and consciousness.
Alternatively, you can examine the continually changing emotions within yourself, as they arise and cease. Even if you don't go astray by chasing after these moods, perceptions and notions, you should still carefully stabilize the mind so that it doesn't grasp after anything — including any memory or thought which may arise. Just concentrate on doing this and you will sweep clean the mind, wiping out whatever suffering is present. Every condition arises and then ceases, comes and disappears. Don't go and grasp hold of anything, thinking it's good or bad, or taking it as oneself. Stop all such thinking and conceptualizing. When you understand this, the mind will calm down of itself; it will naturally become free. Whatever thoughts arise, see that they just come and will go, so don't grasp at them. Then there's not much else to do. Just carefully scrutinize and detach yourself from any entanglements within. There are then no fantasies and thought fabrications about the past or future. They've all stopped. Things arise and cease — just that.
When you truly penetrate to see the present, with its arisings and ceasings, it's really no great affair at all. Whatever one thinks about will naturally come to a close. But if you can't foresee its cessation, then whatever comes up will be grasped and held, plunging you into turmoil and continuing thought proliferations. You must stop this stream of conceivings and imaginings. Cut it off! Secure mindfulness and fix your total attention on the mind, and the chain of thought and fantasy — which had become an obsession — can be broken and stopped. You can do this at any time and the mind will always release its hold and become still and free. This must then be guarded as the normal state of mind by repeatedly keeping the thought proliferations in check. Whenever they run out of control you must be aware of the situation and stop them. You should practice like this until you become skilled, until the mind is no longer stuck in its obsessions.
Take the driver of a motor car as a model. Whenever he or she wants to stop, the brakes can immediately be applied. It's the same with the runaway mind, for when mindfulness is in attendance it will brake at once. Whatever the situation, with mindfulness firmly established, you will be able to stop, disengage and free the mind. This is by far the quickest and easiest way to deal with any circumstance that may arise. Any other way is not quick enough to cope. This method of self- reflection and self-knowledge is very worthwhile, because anyone can apply it at any time. Even right here where there is speaking and listening, always bring the mind back to its normal state.
Before we knew anything about all this, we allowed the mind to go chasing after concerns and fantasies, spinning a web to trap ourselves in all kinds of difficulties. Whatever meditation technique we tried wasn't really able to stop the confused dreaming. Don't underestimate this method because of its apparent simplicity. Please train yourself to become skillful in its application to combat any emotion that may intrude or any opinion that may interject itself. When such opinions and conceits issue forth, cry: "Halt! First stop and listen to what I have to say." But the self and such conceits will immediately counter with their own arguments, even before you've finished telling them.
This is similar to suddenly encountering a wild animal, such as a tiger or poisonous snake. Lacking any escape route you will have to stop and radiate loving-kindness.1 Likewise, this will be able to quench the defilements and the self, which is ever ready to emerge and show its face. You must be able to hold back the defilements, otherwise they will vastly expand their power. By enduring and holding them back you will allow mindfulness time to adapt to the situation. Then, if a halt is called, it will be able to stop it all immediately, without any resistance.
If you sit in meditation for one hour it must be in order to know the state of the mind with mindfulness, not just for pleasure-seeking. By realizing the mind's condition you can make it firmly established; and then you will lose interest in pleasant feelings or desires. Even if painful feeling should arise, don't commit your attention to it. Keep mindfulness constantly established, not allowing the mind to swerve away dependent on what pleases or displeases. Detach yourself from everything; for it's all just suffering involved with the aggregates, which are all impermanent. Feeling is impermanent; the body is impermanent. That's the way it is.
Craving is characterized by wanting pleasure: by being fully satisfied in any pleasurable feeling that arises; by abandoning oneself to entrancement with that pleasure; and by wanting that pleasure to last as long as possible. But what about the suffering and pain that stand opposed to it? If one sits a long time the body becomes stiff and painful, and the mind becomes agitated as the craving insists one change position. It suggests one should do this or that, but instead you must train yourself to become detached and see it as merely the suffering involved in the aggregates. Then the mind's agitation and anxiety will be allayed. If this can't be fully achieved, never mind, just make sure there's no struggle to change the situation. You must restrain and extinguish the desire and agitation. If the mind is still very agitated and frantic, don't change your posture even if it is extremely painful. Wait and calmly observe the extent of the pain and catch the right moment to change positions. Carefully straighten out your leg, with the mind remaining firmly concentrated and unattached. This may last for five minutes, after which the pain should have subsided. However, you should remain in complete control of the mind so that one's centeredness is not disturbed by attraction towards the pleasant feeling that has replaced the pain.
This control needs to be established in all postures, and especially when pleasant feeling arises because there will then be a tendency to become entranced by it. Even the feeling of equanimity — when there's neither pain nor pleasure — can be entrancing, so mindfulness must always be in attendance. You should realize that, in truth, feeling is impermanent and suffering. There's really no happiness involved at all. You will need to examine to see both pleasant and unpleasant feeling in the same light. This should be repeated until you are no longer enamoured with pleasant feeling. Otherwise it will lead to great suffering because craving wants only unalloyed pleasure, which simply does not exist in this world of suffering. If the mind can go beyond pleasure, pain and feeling, then it is truly going the transcendent way. But please understand right here that if you haven't truly transcended feeling, there will still be desire for pleasure, and therefore grasping and holding onto suffering. So this is something you must check out, should you consider yourself detached from all feeling.
You should thoroughly train yourself to deal with the feeling that arises from bodily pain. However, the pleasant feeling, stemming from the subtle form of sensual desire, isn't so easily understood and you may then (mis-)take it for happiness. You will want to obtain happiness and this is where craving comes in. It's therefore always taught that wanting and lust must be abandoned and given up. Lust here means wanting only pleasure. Satisfaction in lust or dissatisfaction in lust indicate that the mind is helplessly entangled in the tastes of both bodily and mental feeling.
Sometimes bodily feeling can manifest as great pain and anguish, and mindfulness should be used to find relief through stopping and detaching from the mind's frantic struggling. Then, even though the body is upset, the mind doesn't follow after it. However, this needs to be practiced first under moderate conditions before the situation becomes critical.
If you eagerly gather up the sensations stemming from the defilements, your load of suffering will increase more and more. To think that it's all very comfortable and trouble-free is falling into enchantment with feeling. Don't do it! You must carefully follow through with every type of feeling to see it all as impermanent, suffering and not-self. If you can disengage from feeling you will become totally disenchanted with the pleasant feeling involved in the five aggregates. When you don't investigate and aren't circumspect enough, you will fall into desire and pining; just notice whether the mind is free or not.
The mind entangled and satiated in its desires is obviously dirty and sullied. This occurs because the mind deludedly grasps after things, which brings struggle and extreme agitation. If the mind is still attached to feeling — whether pleasant, unpleasant or neither pleasant nor unpleasant — it must endure suffering. You should investigate to see impermanence, suffering and not-self in both body and mind, and not grasp or hold onto anything. Whether looking out or in, you will then not be attached to anything and realize that this is indeed freedom. The deeper you penetrate, the more you will realize that non-attachment is the overcoming of suffering. This is the easiest way to end suffering, but if you don't properly understand, it really is the hardest way. It is therefore imperative to train and investigate so that you can detach yourself and gain true release from the mind and its grasping. Then, when you command the mind to stop and detach, to release and be free, it truly does find freedom.
This way of knowing the mind is of the greatest value, yet we never seem concerned enough to be as resourceful as possible in ridding ourselves of suffering. With such a relaxed and intermittent effort you will never understand exactly where and how to remedy, to eliminate and relinquish. You will whirl around with attachments and suffering. You must know how to find your way to the end of suffering and not just sit back, taking it easy. Look around and use mindfulness and wisdom as the means to free yourself from such conceits as 'me' and 'mine' and from all attachments.
If you are lacking in mindfulness and wisdom you will never be able to extinguish suffering, for each and every defilement is stubborn and difficult to overcome. You need to understand how each of the sixteen defilements2 arises; although they won't all arise simultaneously. By seeing the characteristics of their birth you will then be able to detach yourself from them. Initially, you must clearly recognize them all as being 'hot and bothersome.' When one is discontented this is relatively easy, but when one is happy and contented it's much more difficult. You have to find the normal state of mind, body and speech.
Normal here means being disinterested and impartial, and involves the keeping of pure precepts. In guarding the sense doors this normality3 becomes an important indicator of failed vigilance when, for example, one is being attracted or repelled by an object that contacts the senses. If you become careless and indulge in desire, then it's no longer just a small lapse but a very damaging failure that stains one's precepts and virtue. The result is always agitation and distress. So even in apparently minor affairs don't carelessly dismiss any desire as negligible, thinking it doesn't matter. Always be mindful, with wisdom ready to remedy and eliminate. By assiduous investigation even a very dangerous situation can be relieved and put down, and such incidents will then become more and more infrequent.
The intermediate (level) defilements, such as the five hindrances,4 must be similarly considered. The first hindrance is sensual desire: the satisfaction in sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles. The dissatisfaction in such sense experience is aversion. Both attraction and repulsion sully the mind making it agitated and frantic, unable to come to calm. The important point to recognize here is that when the mind is dominated by the five hindrances, it is in a state of distress and suffering. Can you recognize these intermediate defilements that shroud your mind?
The hindrance of sensual desire can be likened to dye which clouds clear water, making it murky; and this turbidity equates with suffering. Aversion as a hindrance is irritability and dissatisfaction, and the hindrance of sloth-and-torpor is a state of drowsiness and lassitude. This is a condition of burying oneself in sleep and childish forgetfulness. All the hindrances — including the final two; restless thought proliferations that interminably burden the mind, and sceptical doubt — cloak and cloud the mind in darkness. You must therefore forcefully struggle to investigate these hindrances so that they, and every form of defilement from the gross to the subtle level, are weakened and ejected.
The practice of Dhamma is a very subtle and profound task requiring mindfulness and wisdom to probe and comprehend body and mind. Repeatedly strive to see the truth of the body that is impermanent, suffering and composed of mere elements. If you don't practice in this way to achieve insight, you will be left vainly groping about with no chance of extricating yourself from the mass of suffering. The mind is full of intrigue and trickery that can adapt and expand in myriad ways. Sometimes you may gain some insight through mindfulness and wisdom, becoming calm, clear and free, only to find the defilements intruding to spoil and cloak the mind in total darkness. Then thought obsessions becloud your lucidity.
Each one of you must find a special means or stratagem to employ in understanding about yourself so that you don't get lost in a maze of distractions. The obsessional thought proliferations together with heedlessness are of vital concern. To become disheartened and indifferent to this danger means that your enemies effectively bar your way, thwarting your penetration to Dhamma. You must find a way to destroy them and this needs proper attention5 — a resourceful, clever and ingenious attack. Carefully probe to see how they originated and how they cease. Repeatedly attend to the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self. When you truly see impermanence you will also know how to put down the defilements and craving, or at least how to weaken and thin them out. It's as if we take up a broom and sweep out whatever attachments arise until eventually there's nothing left to grasp at, because everything was found to be tainted with impermanence and swept away.
By persevering in your investigation to see impermanence, suffering and not-self you will gain relief and ease, for you will be far from attachments. This is the wonder of Dhamma: ease of body and mind and complete freedom from entanglement in the defilements. It's nescience that enshrouds the mind and causes one to wander about entranced by sights and sounds, a victim under the tyranny of craving and the defilements. Mindfulness and wisdom will break your entrancement by seeing that really there's no self involved in any of it, only things that arise and cease. Such insight sweeps away every trace of 'me' and 'mine', leaving pure Dhamma with neither pleasure nor suffering.
The Lord Buddha declared, "Sabbe dhammaa anattaa" — All things are not-self."... There's just Dhamma that is essential but not-self. This doesn't mean the wrong view of complete annihilationism, but the extinction of all attachment and holding 'me' and 'mine'. There's only that which is called the Undying Dhamma6 — without birth, without aging, without pain and without death. Only the defilements and suffering are annihilated. This is also known as 'Sunyo', the voidness of a substantial self. This Undying Dhamma is the true marvel that the Lord Buddha discovered and expounded to awaken us. Shouldn't we therefore hurry to penetrate through the impermanence, suffering and not-self in the five aggregates, to that condition of Dhamma that is without birth, old age, illness and death? This is also called Nibbaana, Sunyataa and the Undetermined Dhamma. They are really the same but have been given various mundane names and titles. Don't grasp at them! Just stay in the condition of mind free of self.
The Path, Fruit and Nibbaana are not something to hope for in a future life by developing a vast heap of Perfections.7 Some people like to point out that the Lord Buddha had to accumulate so many, many virtues — but what about yourself? You don't consider how many lives have passed, yet you still haven't attained to the Goal. It's all because of your stupidity in ever devising excuses.
The Lord Buddha expounded principles of Dhamma such as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Four Noble Truths and the Three Marks. These are to be found inside yourself, so probe and examine and search out the defilements within. Then disengage and eject them and all their concerns for 'me' and 'mine', to overcome all suffering. It's not a case of excusing oneself from exertion by relying on the miraculous powers of some object or by building up the perfections. Bring the mind back to the present defilements — is it better to eliminate them or fall in with them? Does that lead to suffering? You must find out the truth within yourself about getting rid of stupidity and the delusion that living in the structure of suffering is really happiness. Each one of us is stuck in such delusion because we won't open our eyes to the predicament. You must discuss together, gain advice and dig out the truth so that mindfulness and wisdom can lead to self-knowledge. This acknowledgement and seeing of the defilements and suffering within yourself brings great benefits. But you must also consult about this to learn the basic truths of suffering, its origin and the way of investigating body, mind and Dhamma to extinguish that suffering. Then your suffering will diminish because mindfulness and wisdom probe and extract the defilements that burn in the mind.
With correct Dhamma practice and insight your suffering will decline. This will, of itself, encourage and attract other people to follow your example without having to go out to proclaim your success. Here, there's nothing like: "I received this diploma or that degree." Our talk is all about suffering, defilements and not-self. True penetration using mindfulness and wisdom can scrape away all the defilements; but only if you persevere and take advantage of this opportune moment to achieve such results in yourself. Don't abandon your life to the service of the defilements and craving. You must constantly adjust your exertion to make it increasingly effective in destroying craving and extinguishing suffering. The renouncing of self and defilements is essential because of the resulting state of peace and freedom in the mind. You must concern yourself with this, otherwise the defilements will never be destroyed and, together with every other ignorant person in the world, you will only find vexation and suffering.
Maara, the Evil One, attempted to stop the Lord Buddha's exertion by telling him that within seven days he was to become a World Ruling Monarch. But the Lord Buddha was wise to such deceptions and trickery and answered, "I know that already!". The Lord Buddha had the ability instantly to know such things for himself, so Maara was continually defeated.
But what about us? Are you a disciple of the Lord Buddha or still a follower of Maara? When a temptation appears — there you go, following him the whole way, never wearying of the lust involved. Disciples of the Lord Buddha must turn against the stream of craving and establish themselves in pure precepts and virtue, the perfect qualities of self control. By exertion, from the level of precepts to that of developing calm and wisdom to see impermancnce, suffering and not-self, they attain to the end of suffering. This level of not-self is also where high-wisdom must be brought to bear.
But the essential point is never to believe the wiles of the defilements. Whether it's the canker of nescience or of craving, you must establish mindfulness and wisdom to check, clear and renounce. Temptations will then fail and stop because you reject their offers. One doesn't want, one relinquishes. If you accept and follow their lure, then you will fall for more and more desire until the mind is frantic and aflame. But by steadily turning away and resisting, such cravings lessen and diminish until finally they cease.
The training of the mind takes desire for its battlefield. Otherwise it is like an addict who, with no intention to beat his habit, becomes inescapably a slave to his own craving. You must establish mindfulness as your rampart, and wisdom as the weapon you use to break through and destroy. You can then make steady progress, penetrating to an ever deepening awareness of the structure of craving. By self-penetration you will be able to destroy the defilements and realize the escape route used by all the Noble Disciples. You will then see that it was because of one's own previous blindness that one felt able to assert that Nibbana didn't exist.
The true elimination of suffering is only concerned with yourself in this present moment. By being mindful you can stop and disengage yourself, so that suffering is relieved. As your Dhamma practice develops, the defilements steadily lose strength. It's Ehipassiko — inviting one to come and see — because everyone is capable of extinguishing suffering. By discerning the impermanence, suffering and not-self in everything, and breaking off all attachments, the mind is free, becoming Dhamma. There's no need to rush out to follow anyone else, whether heavenly protectors or miracle men, because success is wholly found within the mind. One penetrates thoroughly, clearing out all attachments, making the mind worthy of Ehipassiko. But if the mind is still full of defilements, one's invitation is to come and see oneself being burned alive! Therefore such an invitation always has a double edge. When craving and attachments are entirely quenched, one knows right there and then that one is free. So come and see this liberated mind right now! You are perfectly capable of realizing this for yourself. It's not so difficult.
To enter and examine the mind is easy because it's evident in every posture and at every moment. You don't have to take any trip by car or boat to see the various forms of truth and falsehood within yourself. But if you only learn about external things by studying mundane affairs as worldly people do, you can never gain insight. You must turn within to learn about Dhamma, truly penetrating to the impermanence, suffering and not-self of body, feeling, mind and mind-objects. One sees each thing as: impermanent — it arises, persists and ceases; suffering, therefore one doesn't grasp it; and it's all free of self. It all comes together in this state of Dhamma and then, if one has true insight, it's simple for the mind to gain freedom. But if you understand wrongly — it's like switching an electric light off instead of on. With proper understanding one flicks the switch and all is light, while wrong understanding plunges one into instant darkness.
It's the same with the mind: insight brings light and improper understanding brings darkness. You need to examine to see why there is a constant wanting of things. Such concerns are all suffering based in ignorance, wishful thinking and fantasizing about self, people and possessions. It's all frantic and nonstop news and information gathering. But by concentrating the mind within you will find there's no problem or concern. It's just a detaching and emptying. Dhamma arises here as easily as the defilements can develop on the opposite side. So you must choose: either the bright or dark side; to stop and be free or to continue rushing frantically about. Make this decision within yourself. Dhamma insight is remarkable, for, if one begins by seeing correctly, it leads on to full penetration. If one becomes snagged on any obstacle, one must then probe and examine to see where one's attachment still lies. Then it will all become clear.
You have learned and followed the ways of the defilements long enough. Now turn and use mindfulness and wisdom to investigate them. Don't continue conniving with them! Resist their advances and refuse to follow them! When you understand this, you will find that all desire and delinquency, all love and hatred, are completely swept away. But without insight the self inflates with desires for this and that, masterly arranging its banquet fantasies. Just consider the following: People are just like actors in a large theater. It's a drama of life with a cast of Maara and demons, and hero and heroine — all contained within yourself! You must rip away the conventional forms to reveal the pure Dhamma that remains. This is freedom from self and everything will end there.
The language used in these talks is that of Forest Dhamma. This means that apart from some Paali quotations — usually taken from the chants that many of the listeners would be familiar with, and most of the monks would have learned by heart — it is usually ordinary Thai. Many Thai words are rooted in Paali and this can be seen in their spelling. However, both the present pronunciation and the meaning of the word have often been transformed. Forest Dhamma therefore should not be treated as if it was classical Paali, and scholars should beware of trying to track definitions through the text. It's important to remember that this is an oral teaching, which afterwards was warmed up between pages.
Acharn (Thai); aacariya (Pali): (meditation) teacher.
Akaaliko: not delayed; timeless. A quality of Dhamma.
Akusala: In Pali it means unwholesome, demeritorious. It is part of a piece ritually chanted at funerals and therefore is given another Forest Dhamma meaning: un-clever, unskilled. See kusala.
Amata: the deathless state; the Undying; Nibbaana; immortal; ambrosia.
Anaagaamii: a never-returner; nonreturner. See Ariya.
Appanaa: See Samaadhi.
Arahant: worthy one; one who has attained Nibbaana. See Ariya.
Ariya: Noble One. It has four stages, with Path (magga) and Fruit (phala) for each stage: Sotaapanna; Sakadaagaamii; Anaagaamii; Arahant.
Arom (Thai); aaramma.na (Pali): The original Pali means: sense-objects; an object of consciousness. Modern Thai: mood, temper, spirits, disposition. In this work it is an important term and is translated as: preoccupation, mood, emotional object, object.
Attaa: self; soul; ego; personal entity. (contrast anattaa.) Mind; the whole personality, as in the phrase from the Dhammapada: "Attaa hi attano naatho, kohi naatho paro siyaa?". This is concerned with attaadhipateyya, which is self-dependence and self-reliance, and a central theme of these Dhamma talks.
Avijjaa: ignorance; nescience; lack of knowledge; delusion.
Bahn (Thai): village.
Bahp (Thai); paapa (Pali): evil, wrong action; demerit; bad; base; wicked. (contrast boon.)
Bhaavanaa: heart/mind development; meditation.
Boon (Thai); punya (Pali): merit; meritorious (-action); virtue; righteousness; good works; good. (contrast bahp.)
Brahmacariya: the Holy life; religious life; strict chastity.
Buddha: the Awakened One; Enlightened One.
Buddho: often used as a meditation word ('mantra') "Buddho... ", being the recollection of Buddha. (See kamma.t.thaana.)
Citta: (Pali); Chit, chit-chai (Thai): heart; mind. A central term. In To the Last Breath it is usually translated as 'heart', while in Directions for Insight it is more often 'mind'. (In fact it is more like 'heart-mind'.) For similar usage in the Suttas see: Mano, Citta, Vinyaa.na; R. Johannson; University of Ceylon Review. Peredeniya. Vol. 23. 1965.
Daana: giving; alms-giving; charity; generosity; benevolence. See Appendix.
Dhamma: the Teachings (of the Buddha); the Truth; the Supramundane; virtue. dhamma: thing; phenomenon; nature; condition.
Dhaatu: an element; natural condition; earth, water, fire and air.
Di.t.thi: view; opinion; (often) wrong view.
Dosa: hatred; anger; ill-will; aversion.
Dukkha: suffering. See Noble Truths.
Ehipassiko: inviting to come and see; inviting inspection. An attribute of Dhamma.
Kamma.t.thaana: subjects of meditation; the act of meditation. The subjects often mentioned in this book are: Buddhaanussati — recollection of the Buddha; contemplation on the virtues of the Buddha. Kaayagataasati — mindfulness occupied with the body; contemplation on the 32 impure parts of the body. AAnaapaanasati — mindfulness on breathing. (For more see A. I. 30,41; Vism. 197.) It is also sometimes used as a general term describing the way of practice of meditation monks in N.E. Thailand.
Khandha: aggregate; category. Usually the Five Aggregates: ruupa; vedanaa; sanyaa; sa.nkhaara; vinyaa.na.
Khun (Thai): The equivalent of Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
Kilesa: defilements; impurities; impairments. These include: greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, wrong view, doubt or uncertainty, sloth, restlessness, shamelessness, lack of moral concern.
Kusala: wholesome; meritorious; moral; skillful. It is part of a piece ritually chanted at funerals and therefore is given another Forest Dhamma meaning: clever, skilled. See akusala.
Magga: the Path; the Way. See Noble Truths.
Maagha-puuja: Worship on the Full-Moon Day of the third lunar month in commemoration of the Great Assembly of Disciples.
Ma.ngala (Sutta): auspicious; (the thirty-eight) blessings.
Maara: the Evil One; Death; the Tempter; Defilements personified.
Mettaa: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill.
Moha: delusion; ignorance; dullness.
Naama: mind; name; mental factors; mentality. See ruupa.
Nyaa.na: knowledge; wisdom; insight.
Nyaa.nadassana: knowing and seeing, perfect knowledge; vision through wisdom.
Nekkhamma: renunciation; letting go; giving up the world; self- denial.
Nibbaana: the extinction of the fires of greed, of hatred and of ignorance; the extinction of all defilements and suffering; the Unconditioned.
Nirodha: cessation. See Noble Truths.
Niivara.na: the (five) hindrances; obstacles.
Noble Truths: Dukkha: suffering; misery; woe; discontent; anguish; anxiety; pain. Samudaya: the Cause, Origin or Source of Suffering; Nirodha: the Cessation or Extinction of Suffering. Magga: the Path; the Way; the Noble Eightfold Path.
Opanayiko: worthy of inducing in and by one's own mind; worthy of realizing; to be tried by practice; leading onward. An attribute of Dhamma.
Paali: the language of the texts of the Theravada Canon.
Panyaa (Pali/Thai): wisdom. Often coupled with mindfulness. See sati.
Paaramii: (the ten) Perfections; stages of spiritual perfection on the path to Awakening.
Parikamma: (Pali: preliminary action, preparation.) Thai: preparatory meditation, such as the (silent) repetition of "Buddho".
Parinibbaana: the Final Passing Away of the Lord Buddha; final release.
Pariyatti: the Scriptures; study of them; the Teachings to be studied.
Patipatti: putting into practice.
Pativedha: penetration; realization; insight.
Pa.tisandhi-vinyaa.na: relinking; rebirth; reunion; conception.
Phala: fruit; result; consequence; effect. See magga.
Pi.n.dapaata: food received in the alms-bowl (of a Bhikkhu); alms- gathering; to go on an almsround.
Puujaa: worship (external and mental); honor; veneration; devotional offering.
Puthujjana: a worldling; worldly person; ordinary person. As opposed to ariya.
Ruupa: matter; form; material; body; shape; corporeality. See naama.
Sabhaava dhamma: principle of nature; natural condition; natural phenomenon.
Sacca (-Dhamma): truth, truthfulness; Truth.
Saddhaa: faith; confidence.
Sakadaagaamii: a once-returner. See ariya.
Sakkaaya-di.t.thi: (the delusion of) self-view; belief in a personal self.
Samaadhi: concentration; one-pointedness of mind; the condition of mind when focused, centered and still.
Sama.na: recluse; holy one; a Buddhist monk.
Sammati; Sammuti (Thai/Pali): conventional; mundane; supposed; assumed; generally accepted.
Samudaya: Cause. See Noble Truth.
Sa.myojana: (the ten) Fetters (that bind to the round of rebirth).
Sa.ngha (Saavaka Sa.ngha): (the noble) community, one of the Three Jewels; the Order.
Sankhaara: determinations; compounded things; mental formations (see Khandha). In Forest Dhamma this is the processing, concocting and fabricating of thoughts.
Sanyaa: perception; idea; ideation; (see Khandha). In Forest Dhamma this is the aspect of remembering (past perceptions).
Sara.na: refuge; help; protection; guide; remembrance.
Saranagamana: taking refuge (in the Three Jewels); going for refuge.
Saasada (Thai), Satthu (Pali): the Master; the Great Teacher (the Lord Buddha).
Saasana: teaching; message; doctrine; a religion.
Sati: mindfulness; awareness; attentiveness. In Forest Dhamma it is often coupled with wisdom (panyaa). (In Thai common usage sati-panya means: intelligence; intellect.)
Saavaka: a (noble) disciple; hearer; follower.
Siila: virtue; morality; moral conduct; a precept; training rule. See Appendix.
Sotaapanna: a stream-enterer; one who has attained the first stage of Ariya.
Sugato: Well-gone; Well-farer; sublime. An epithet of Buddha.
Sukha: happiness; ease; joy; comfort; pleasure; physical or bodily happiness or ease. As opposed to dukkha.
Sutta: a discourse from the Pali Canon.
Svaakkhaata: well-taught; well proclaimed. An attribute of Dhamma.
Ta.nhaa: craving; desire; thirst.
Tapa: exertion; ascetic practice; (burning out).
Tathaagata: the Accomplished One; the Thus-come; the Thus-gone. An epithet of the Lord Buddha. Sometimes used as a pronoun when the Lord Buddha is quoted as saying something himself.
Ti-lakkha.na: the Three Characteristics, Marks or Signs; also called the Common Characteristics, viz., impermanence, suffering and not-self.
Upaadaana: attachment; clinging; grasping; holding.
Uposatha: Observance Day (for the monks).
Va.t.ta (-cakka): the round of rebirth, of existences; (the cycle or wheel of rebirth).
Vedanaa: feeling. See Khandha.
Vimutti (-nyaanadassana): deliverance; release; liberation; freedom; (knowledge of that deliverance).
Vinyaa.na: consciousness. See Khandha.
Viriya: effort; energy; vigour; endeavor; exertion.
Visuddhi: purity; purification.
Wat (Thai): a monastery.
As this book is mainly concerned with meditation, here are some Sutta passages with descriptions of generosity (daana) and moral precepts (siila).
In contrast to the modern emphasis on consuming and possessing, the Lord Buddha spoke of the virtue of giving and being content with whatever one has. There are always circumstances where one can give. For instance, one can offer one's time, help and sympathy. And one can for-give.
If one has wealth, he explained the use of possessions; the benefits which one should get from wealth; reasons for earning and having wealth:
i) to make oneself, one's parents, children, wife, servants and workmen happy and live in comfort.
ii) to share this happiness and comfort with one's friends.
iii) to make oneself secure against all misfortunes.
iv) to make the fivefold offering:
to relatives, by giving help to them.
to guests, by receiving them.
to the departed, by dedicating merit to them.
to the king, (i.e., to the government) by paying taxes and duties and so on.
to the deities, i.e., those beings who are worshipped according to one's faith.
v) to support those monks and spiritual teachers who lead a pure and diligent life.
Sappurisa Daana: Gifts of a good man
i) to give clean things.
ii) to give choice things.
iii) to give at fitting times.
iv) to give suitable things.
v) to give with discretion.
vi) to give repeatedly or regularly.
vii) to calm one's mind on giving.
viii) to be glad after giving.
The basic guidelines for the actions and speech of any Buddhist can be appreciated by anyone, of any religion or none. There is no dogma involved, it is a plain and simple way of living without harming or hurting any creature.
The other feature to bear in mind is that it is accepted voluntarily by the individual. This is not something that one is commanded to receive. It is the individual's volition that changes a list of precepts into a way of living. With that change, the appreciation and mindfulness of one's actions and speech become more subtle and which automatically leads on to meditation.
There are the basic Five Precepts and these become more refined with the Eight Precepts. Everyone who listened to the original Dhamma talks (in this book) would be keeping (at least temporarily) the Eight Precepts.
These Precepts can be received by simply saying:
"I undertake the training rule/precept...
i) to abstain from taking life.
ii) to abstain from taking what is not given.
*iii) to abstain from sexual misconduct.
iv) to abstain from false speech.
v) to abstain from intoxicants causing heedlessness."
*iii) "to abstain from unchastity.
vi) to abstain from untimely eating.
vii) to abstain from dancing, singing, music and unseemly shows, from wearing garlands, smartening with scents, and embellishment with unguents.
viii) to abstain from the use of high and large luxurious couches."
[Taken from the Dictionary of Buddhism, compiled by Ven. Phra Debvedi (Prayudh Payutto), Bangkok, B.E. 2528 (1985)]