by Ajahn Chah
The Buddha taught to see the body in the body. What
does that mean? We are all familiar with the parts of the body, such as
hair, nails, teeth, and skin. So how do we see the body in the body? If we
recognize all these things as being impermanent, unsatisfactory, and
not-self, thatís what is called ďseeing the body in the body.Ē Then it
isnít necessary to go into detail and meditate on the separate parts. Itís
like having fruit in a basket. If we have already counted the pieces of
fruit, then we know whatís there, and when we need to, we can pick up the
basket and take it away, and all the pieces come with it. We know the
fruit is all there, so we donít have to count it again.
Having meditated on the thirty-two parts of the body and
recognized them as something not stable or permanent, then we no longer
need to weary ourselves separating them like this and meditating in such
detail. Just as with the basket of fruitówe donít have to dump all the
fruit out and count it again and again. But we do carry the basket along
to our destination, walking mindfully and carefully, taking care not to
stumble and fall.
When we see the body in the body, which means we see the Dhamma
in the body, knowing our own and othersí bodies as impermanent phenomena,
then we donít need the detailed explanations. Sitting here, we have
mindfulness constantly in control, knowing things as they are, and
meditation then becomes quite simple. Itís the same if we meditate on
Buddhoóif we understand what Buddho really is, then we donít need to
repeat the word ďBuddho.Ē It means having full knowledge and firm
awareness. This is meditation.
Still, meditation is generally not well understood. We practice
in a group, but we often donít know what itís all about. Some people think
meditation is really hard to do. ďI come to the monastery, but I canít
sit. I donít have much endurance. My legs hurt, my back aches, Iím in pain
all over.Ē So they give up on it and donít come anymore, thinking they
canít do it.
But in fact, samadhi is not sitting. Samadhi isnít walking. It
isnít lying down or standing. Sitting, walking, closing the eyes, opening
the eyes, these are all mere actions. Having your eyes closed doesnít
necessarily mean youíre practicing samadhi. It could just mean that youíre
drowsy and dull. If youíre sitting with your eyes closed but youíre
falling asleep, your head bobbing all over and your mouth hanging open,
thatís not sitting in samadhi. Itís sitting with your eyes closed. Samadhi
and eyes closed are two separate matters. Real samadhi can be practiced
with eyes open or eyes closed. You can be sitting, walking, standing, or
Samadhi means the mind firmly focused, with all-encompassing
mindfulness, restraint, and caution. You are constantly aware of right and
wrong, constantly watching all conditions arising in the mind. When it
shoots off to think of something, having a mood of aversion or longing for
something, you are aware of that. Some people get discouraged: ďI just
canít do it. As soon as I sit, my mind starts thinking of home. Thatís
evil (bahp).Ē Hey! If just that much is evil, the Buddha never would have
become Buddha. He spent five years struggling with his mind, thinking of
his home and his family. It was only after six years that he awakened.
Some people feel that these sudden arisings of thought are wrong
or evil. You may have an impulse to kill someone. But you are aware of it
in the next instant, you realize that killing is wrong, and so you stop
and refrain. Is there harm in this? What do you think? Or if you have a
thought about stealing something, and that is followed by a stronger
recollection that to do so is wrong and so you refrain from acting on it,
is that bad karma? Itís not that every time you have an impulse, you
instantly accumulate bad karma. Otherwise, how could there be any way to
liberation? Impulses are merely impulses. Thoughts are merely thoughts. In
the first instant, you havenít created anything yet. In the second
instant, if you act on it with body, speech, or mind, then you are
creating something. Ignorance (avijja) has taken control. If you have the
impulse to steal, and then you are aware of yourself and aware that this
would be wrong, this is wisdom, and there is knowledge (vijja) instead.
The mental impulse is not consummated.
This is the timely awareness, wisdom arising and informing our
experience. If there is the first mind-moment of wanting to steal
something, and then we act on it, that is the dhamma of delusion, and
actions of body, speech, and mind that follow the impulse will bring
This is how it is. Itís not that merely having the thoughts is
negative karma. If we donít have any thoughts, how will wisdom develop?
Some people simply want to sit with a blank mind. Thatís wrong
Iím talking about samadhi that is accompanied by wisdom. In
fact, the Buddha didnít wish for a lot of samadhi. He didnít want jhana
and samapatti. He saw samadhi as one component factor of the path. Sila,
samadhi, and panya are components or ingredients, like ingredients used in
cooking. Spices we use for cooking are for making food tasty. The point
isnít the spices themselves, but the food we eat. Practicing samadhi is
the same. The Buddhaís teachers, Udaka and Alara, put heavy emphasis on
practicing the jhanas, attaining various kinds of powers and clairvoyance.
But if you get that far, itís hard to undo. Some places teach this deep
tranquility, sitting with delight and enjoyment in quietude. Then the
meditators get intoxicated by their samadhi. If they have sila, they get
intoxicated by their sila. If they walk the path, they become intoxicated
by the path, dazzled by the beauty and wonders they experience, and they
donít reach the real destination.
The Buddha said that this is a subtle error; still, itís
something correct for those on a coarse level. But actually, what the
Buddha wanted was for us to have an appropriate measure of samadhi,
without getting stuck there. After we train in and develop samadhi, then
samadhi should develop wisdom.
Samadhi that is on the level of samatha, tranquility, is like a
rock covering grass. In samadhi that is sure and stable, when the eyes are
opened, wisdom is there. When wisdom has been born, it encompasses and
knows (ďrulesĒ) all things. So the Teacher did not want those refined
levels of concentration and cessation, because they become a diversion,
and the path is forgotten.
So what is necessary is not to be attached to sitting or any
other particular posture. Samadhi doesnít reside in having the eyes closed
or in the eyes open, or in sitting, standing, walking, or lying down.
Samadhi pervades all postures and activities. Older persons, who often
canít sit very well, can contemplate especially well and practice samadhi
easily, and they can develop a lot of wisdom.
How is it that they can develop wisdom? Everything is rousing
them. When they open their eyes, they donít see things as clearly as they
used to. Their teeth give them trouble and fall out. Their bodies ache
most of the time. Just that is the place of study. So really, meditation
is easy for old folks. Meditation is hard for youngsters. Their teeth are
strong, so they can enjoy their food. They sleep soundly. Their faculties
are intact, and the world is fun and exciting to them, so they get deluded
in a big way. For the old ones, when they chew on something hard, theyíre
soon in pain. Right there, the divine messengers (devadhuta) are talking
to them; theyíre teaching them every day. When they open their eyes, their
sight is fuzzy. In the morning their backs ache. In the evening, their
legs hurt. Thatís it! This is really an excellent subject to study. Some
of you older people will say you canít meditate. What do you want to
meditate on? Who will you learn meditation from?
This is seeing the body in the body and sensation in sensation.
Are you seeing them or are you running away from them? Saying you canít
practice because youíre too old is only wrong understanding. The question
is, are things clear to you? Elderly persons have a lot of thinking, a lot
of sensation, a lot of discomfort and pain. Everything appears! If they
meditate, they can really testify to it. So I say that meditation is easy
for old folks. They can do it best. Itís like the way everyone says, ďWhen
Iím old, Iíll go to the monastery.Ē If you understand this, itís true
alright. You have to see it within yourself. When you sit, itís true; when
you stand up, itís true; when you walk, itís true. Everything is a hassle,
everything is presenting obstaclesóand everything is teaching you. Isnít
that so? Can you just get up and walk away so easily now? When you stand
up, itís ďOy!Ē Or havenít you noticed? And itís ďOy!Ē when you walk. Itís
When youíre young, you can just stand up and walk, going on your
way. But you donít really know anything. When youíre old, every time you
stand up, itís ďOy!Ē Isnít that what you say? ďOy! Oy!Ē Every time you
move, you learn something. So how can you say itís difficult to meditate?
Where else is there to look? Itís all correct. The devadhuta are telling
you something. Itís most clear: sankhara are telling you they are not
stable or permanent, not you or yours. They are telling you this every
But we are thinking differently. We donít think that this is
right. We entertain wrong view, and our ideas are far from the truth. But
actually, old persons can see impermanence, suffering, and lack of self
and give rise to dispassion and disenchantment, because the evidence is
right there within them all the time. I think thatís good.
Having the sensitivity within yourself that is always aware of
right and wrong is called Buddho. Itís not necessary to be continually
repeating ďBuddho.Ē Youíve counted the fruit in your basket. Every time
you sit down, you donít have to go to the trouble of spilling out the
fruit and counting it again. You can leave it in the basket. But someone
with mistaken attachment will keep counting. Heíll stop under a tree,
spill it out and count, and put it back in the basket. Then heíll walk on
to the next stopping place and do it again. But heís just counting the
same fruit. This is craving itself. Heís afraid that if he doesnít count,
there will be some mistake. We are afraid that if we donít keep saying ďBuddho,Ē
weíll be mistaken. What is mistaken? Itís only the person who doesnít know
how much fruit there is who needs to count. Once you know, you can take it
easy and just leave it in the basket. When youíre sitting, you just sit.
When youíre lying down, you just lie down, because your fruit is all there
Practicing virtue, creating merit, we say, ďNibbana paccayo hotuĒómay
it be a condition for realizing Nibbana. To create conditions for
realizing Nibbana, making offerings is good. Keeping precepts is good.
Practicing meditation is good. Listening to Dhamma teachings is good. May
they become conditions for realizing Nibbana.
But what is Nibbana all about anyway? Nibbana is not grasping.
Nibbana is not giving meaning to things. Nibbana is letting go. Making
offerings and doing meritorious deeds, observing moral precepts,
meditating on lovingkindness, all these are for getting rid of defilements
and craving and making the mind emptyóempty of self-cherishing, empty of
concepts of self and other, not wishing for anything, not wishing to be or
Nibbana paccayo hotu: make it become a cause for Nibbana.
Practicing generosity is giving up, letting go. Listening to teachings is
for the purpose of gaining knowledge to give up and let go, to uproot
clinging to what is good and to what is bad. At first, we meditate to
become aware of the wrong and the bad. When we recognize them, we give
them up, and we practice what is good. Then, when some good is achieved,
donít get attached to that good. Remain halfway in the good, or above the
goodódonít dwell under the good. If we are under the good, then that good
pushes us around, and we become slaves to it. We are the slaves, and it
forces us to create all sorts of karma and demerit. It can lead us into
anything, and the result will be the same kind of unhappiness and
unfortunate circumstances we found ourselves in before.
Give up evil and develop merit--give up the negative and develop
what is positive. Developing merit, remain above merit. Remain above merit
and demerit, above good and evil. Keep on practicing with a mind that is
giving up, letting go, and getting free. Itís the same no matter what you
are doing: if you do it with a mind of letting go, then it is a cause for
realizing Nibbana. Free of desire, free of defilement, free of craving,
then it all merges with the path, meaning noble truth, meaning saccadhamma.
It is the four noble truths, having the wisdom that knows tanha, which is
the source of dukkha. Sensual desire, desire for becoming, desire not to
be (kamatanha, bhavatanha, vibhavatanha): these are origination, the
source. If you go there, if you are wishing for anything or wanting to be
anything, you are nourishing dukkha, bringing dukkha into existence,
because this is what gives birth to dukkha. These are the causes. If we
make the causes of dukkha, then dukkha will come about. The cause, the
place of origination, is tanha, this restless, anxious craving. One
becomes a slave to desire and creates all sorts of karma and wrongdoing
because of it, and thus suffering is born. To state it simply, dukkha is
the child of desire. Desire is the parent of dukkha. When there are
parents, dukkha can be born. When there are no parents, dukkha cannot come
aboutóthere will be no offspring.
This is where meditation should be focused. We should be seeing
all the forms of tanha that cause us to have desires. But talking about
desire can be confusing. Some people get the idea that any kind of desire,
such as desire for food and the material requisites for life, is tanha.
But we can have this kind of desire in an ordinary and natural way. When
youíre hungry and desire food, you can take a meal and be done with it.
Thatís quite ordinary. This is desire thatís within boundaries and doesnít
have ill effects. This kind of desire isnít sensuality. If itís
sensuality, then it becomes something more than desire. There will be
craving for more things to consume, seeking out flavors, seeking enjoyment
in ways that bring hardship and trouble, such as drinking liquor and
Some tourists told me about a place where people eat monkeysí
brains. They put a monkey in the middle of the table and cut open its
skull. Then they spoon out the brain to eat. Thatís eating like demons or
hungry ghosts. Itís not eating in a natural or ordinary way. Doing things
like this, then eating becomes tanha. They will say that the blood of
monkeys makes them strong, or the blood of elephants. So they try to get
hold of such animals, and when they eat them, theyíre drinking liquor and
beer too. This isnít ordinary eating; itís sensuality. Sometimes laborers
will catch newly born - by the tail, open their mouths, and swallow them.
They say it gives them energy. This isnít natural eating. Itís the way of
ghosts and demons mired in sensual craving. Itís eating coals, eating
fire, eating everything everywhere. This sort of desire is what is called
tanha. There is no moderation. Speaking, thinking, dressing, everything
such people do goes to excess. If our eating, sleeping, and other
necessary activities are done in moderation, then there is no harm in
them. So you should be aware of yourselves in regard to these things, and
then they wonít become the source of suffering. If we know how to be
moderate and thrifty in our needs, we can be comfortable.
Practicing meditation, creating merit and virtue, are not really
such difficult things to do, provided we understand them well. What is
wrongdoing? What is merit? Merit is what is good and beautiful, not
harming ourselves or others with our thinking, speaking, and acting. Then
there is happiness. Nothing negative is being created. Merit is like this.
Skillfulness is like this.
Itís the same with making offerings and giving charity. When we
give, what is it that we are trying to give away? Giving is for the
purpose of destroying self-cherishing, meaning belief in a self along with
selfishness. Selfishness is powerful, extreme suffering. Selfish people
always want to be better than others and to get more than others. A simple
example is how after they eat, they donít want to wash their dishes. They
let someone else do it. If they eat in a group, they will leave it to the
group. After they eat, they take off. This is selfishness, not being
responsible, and it puts a burden on others. What it really amounts to is
someone who doesnít care about himself, who doesnít help himself, and who
really doesnít love himself. In practicing generosity, we are trying to
cleanse our hearts of this attitude. This is called creating merit through
giving, in order to have a mind of compassion and caring towards all
living beings without exception.
If we people can be free of just this one thing, selfishness,
then we will be like the Lord Buddha. He wasnít out for himself, but
sought the good of all. If we people have the path and fruit arising in
our hearts like this, we can certainly progress. With this freedom from
selfishness, then all the activities of virtuous deeds, generosity,
offerings, and meditation will lead to liberation. Whoever practices like
this will become free and go beyondóbeyond all convention and appearance.
The basic principles of practice are not something beyond our
understanding. In practicing generosity (for example), if we lack wisdom,
there wonít be any merit. Without understanding, then we think that
generosity merely means giving things. ďWhen I feel like giving, Iíll
give. If I feel like stealing something, Iíll steal it. Then if I feel
generous, Iíll give something.Ē Itís like having a barrel full of water.
You scoop out a bucketful, then you pour back in a bucketful. Scoop it out
again, pour it in again, scoop it out and pour it inólike this, when will
you empty the barrel? Can you see an end to it? Can you see such practice
becoming a cause for realizing Nibbana? Will the barrel become empty? One
scoop out, one scoop in--can you see when it will be finished?
Going back and forth like this is vatta, the cycle itself. If
weíre talking about really letting go, giving up good as well as evil,
then thereís only scooping out. Even if thereís only a little bit, you
scoop it out. You donít put in anything more, and you keep scooping out.
Even if you only have a small scoop to use, you do what you can, and in
this way the time will come when the barrel is empty. If youíre scooping
out a bucket and pouring back a bucket, scooping out and then pouring
backówell, think about it. When will you see an empty barrel?
This Dhamma isnít something distant. Itís right there in the
barrel. You can do it at home. Try it. Can you empty a water barrel like
that? Do it all day tomorrow and see what happens.
Sabba papassa akaranam/kusalassupa sampada/sacitta pariyodapanam
(ďGiving up all evil, practicing what is good, purifying the mindĒ):
giving up wrongdoing first, we then start to develop the good. What is the
good and meritorious? Where is it? Itís like fish in the water. If we
scoop all the water out, weíll get the fishóthatís a simple way to put it.
If we scoop out and pour back in, the fish remain in the barrel. If we
donít remove all forms of wrongdoing, we wonít see merit, and we wonít see
what is true and right. Scooping out and pouring back, scooping out and
pouring back, we only remain as we were. Going back and forth like this,
we are only wasting our time, and whatever we do is meaningless. Listening
to teachings is meaningless. Making offerings is meaningless. All our
efforts to practice are in vain. We donít understand the principles of the
Buddhaís way, and our actions donít bear the desired fruit.
When the Buddha taught about practice, he wasnít only talking
about something for ordained people. He was talking about practicing well,
practicing correctly. Supatipanno means those who practice well.
Ujupatipanno means those who practice directly. Nyayapatipanno means those
who practice for the realization of path, fruition, and Nibbana.
Samicipatipanno are those who practice correctly (chorp jing: ďwith
appreciation for the truthĒ?). It could be anyone. These are the Sangha of
true disciples (savaka) of the Lord Buddha. Laywomen living at home can be
savaka. Laymen can be savaka. Bringing these qualities to fulfillment is
what makes one a savaka. One can be a true disciple of the Buddha and
Most of us in the Buddhist fold donít have such complete
understanding. Our knowledge doesnít go this far. We do our various
activities mostly thinking that we will get some kind of merit from them.
We think that listening to teachings or making offerings is meritorious.
Thatís what weíre told. But someone who gives offerings to get merit is
making bad karma.
You canít quite understand this. Someone who gives in order to
get merit has instantly accumulated bad karma. If you give in order to let
go and free the mind, that brings you merit. If you do it to get
something, thatís bad karma.
Listening to teachings to really understand the Buddhaís way is
difficult. The Dhamma becomes hard to understand because the practice that
people do, keeping precepts, sitting in meditation, giving, is for getting
something in return. We want merit, we want something. Well, if something
can be gotten, then who gets it? We get it. When that is lost, whose thing
is it thatís lost? The person who doesnít have something doesnít lose
anything. And when itís lost, who suffers over it?
Donít you think that living your life to get things brings you
suffering? Otherwise you can just go on as before, trying to get
everything. And yet, if we make the mind empty, then we gain everything.
Higher realms and Nibbana and all their accomplishmentsówe gain all of it.
In making offerings, we donít have any attachment or aim; the mind is
empty and relaxed. We can let go and put down. Itís like carrying a log
and complaining itís heavy. If someone tells you to put it down, youíll
say, ďIf I put it down, I wonít have anything.Ē Well, now you do have
somethingóyou have heaviness. But you donít have lightness. So do you want
lightness, or do you want to keep carrying? One person says to put it
down, the other says heís afraid he wonít have anything. Theyíre talking
past each other.
We want happiness, we want ease, we want tranquility and peace.
It means we want lightness. We carry the log, and someone sees us doing
this and tells us to drop it. We say we canít, because what would we have
then? But the other person says that if we drop it, then we can get
something better. The two have a hard time communicating.
If we make offerings and practice good deeds in order to get
something, it doesnít work out. What we get is becoming and birth. It
isnít a cause for realizing Nibbana. Nibbana is giving up and letting go.
If we are trying to get, to hold on, to give meaning to things, that isnít
a cause for realizing Nibbana. The Buddha wanted us to look here, at this
empty place of letting go. This is merit. This is skillfulness.
When we practice any sort of merit and virtue, once we have done
that, we should feel that our part is done. We shouldnít carry it any
further. We do it for the purpose of giving up defilements and craving. We
donít do it for the purpose of creating defilements and craving and
attachment. Then where will we go? We donít go anywhere. Our practice is
correct and true.
Most of us Buddhists, though we follow the forms of practice and
learning, have a hard time understanding this kind of talk. Itís because
Mara, meaning ignorance, meaning craving, the desire to get, to have, and
to be, enshrouds the mind. We only find temporary happiness. For example,
when we are filled with hatred towards someone, it takes over our minds
and gives us no peace. We think about the person all the time, thinking
what we can do to strike out at him. The thinking never stops. Then maybe
one day we get a chance to go to his house and curse him and tell him off.
That gives us some release. Does that make an end of our defilements? We
found a way to let off steam, and we feel better for it. But we havenít
gotten rid of the affliction of anger, have we? There is some happiness in
defilement and craving, but itís like this. Weíre still storing the
defilement inside, and when the conditions are right, it will flare up
again even worse than before. Then we will want to find some temporary
release again. Do the defilements ever get finished in this way?
Itís similar when someoneís spouse or children die, or when
people suffer big financial loss. They drink to relieve their sorrow. They
go to a movie to relieve their sorrow. Does it really relieve the sorrow?
The sorrow actually grows; but for the time being they can forget about
what happened, so they call it a way to cure their misery. Itís like if
you have a cut on the bottom of your foot that makes walking painful.
Anything that contacts it hurts, and you limp along complaining of the
discomfort. But if you see a tiger coming your way, youíll take off and
start running without any thought of your cut. Fear of the tiger is much
more powerful than the pain in your foot, so itís as if the pain is gone.
The fear made it something small.
You might experience problems at work or at home that seem so
big. Then you get drunk, and in that drunken state of more powerful
delusion, those problems no longer trouble you so much. You think it
solved your problems and relieved your unhappiness. But when you sober up,
the old problems are back. So what happened to your solution? You keep
suppressing the problems with drink, and they keep on coming back. You
might end up with cirrhosis of the liver, but you donít get rid of the
problems; and then one day you are dead.
There is some comfort and happiness here; itís the happiness of
fools. Itís the way that fools stop their suffering. Thereís no wisdom
here. These different confused conditions are mixed in the heart that has
a feeling of well-being. If the mind is allowed to follow its moods and
tendencies, it feels some happiness. But this happiness is always storing
unhappiness within it. Each time it erupts, our suffering and despair will
be worse. Itís like having a wound. If we treat it on the surface but
inside itís still infected, itís not cured. It looks OK for a while, but
when the infection spreads we have to start cutting. If the inner
infection is never cured, we can be operating on the surface again and
again with no end in sight. What can be seen from the outside may look
fine for a while, but inside, itís the same as before.
The way of the world is like this. Worldly matters are never
finished and done with. So the laws of the world in the various societies
are constantly resolving issues. New laws are always being established to
deal with different situations and problems. Something is dealt with for a
while, but thereís always a need for further laws and solutions. Thereís
never the internal resolution, only surface improvement. The infection
still exists within, so thereís always need for more cutting. People are
only good on the surface, in their words and their appearance. Their words
are good and their faces look kind, but their minds arenít so good.
When we get on a train and see some acquaintance there, we say,
ďOh, how good to see you! Iíve been thinking about you a lot lately! Iíve
been planning to go visit you!Ē But itís just talk. We donít really mean
it. Weíre being good on the surface, but weíre not so good inside. We say
the words, but then as soon as weíve had a smoke and taken a cup of coffee
with him, we split. Then if we run into him one day in the future, weíll
say the same things again: ďHey, good to see you! How have you been? Iíve
been meaning to go visit you, but I just havenít had the time.Ē Thatís the
way it is. People are superficially good, but theyíre usually not so good
The Great Teacher taught Dhamma and Vinaya. It is complete and
comprehensive. Nothing surpasses it, and nothing in it need be changed or
adjusted, because it is the ultimate. Itís complete, so this is where we
can stop. Thereís nothing to add or subtract, because it is something of
the nature not to be increased or decreased. It is just right. It is true.
So we Buddhists come to hear Dhamma teachings and study to learn
these truths. If we know them, then our minds will enter the Dhamma; the
Dhamma will enter our minds. Whenever a personís mind enters the Dhamma,
then the person has well-being, the person has a mind at peace. The mind
has a way to resolve difficulties, but has no way to degenerate. When pain
and illness afflict the body, the mind has many ways to resolve the
suffering. It can resolve it naturally, understanding this as natural and
not falling into depression or fear over it. Gaining something, we donít
get lost in delight. Losing it, we donít get excessively upset, but rather
we understand that the nature of all things is that having appeared, they
then decline and disappear. With such an attitude, we can make our way in
the world. We are lokavidu, knowing the world clearly. Then samudaya, the
cause of suffering, is not created, and tanha is not born. There is vijja,
knowledge of things as they really are, and it illumines the world. It
illumines praise and blame. It illumines gain (and loss). It illumines
rank (and disrepute). It clearly illumines birth, aging, illness, and
death in the mind of the practitioner.
That is someone who has reached the Dhamma. Such people no
longer struggle with life and are no longer constantly in search of
solutions. They resolve what can be resolved, acting as is appropriate.
That is how the Buddha taught: he taught those individuals who could be
taught. Those who could not be taught he discarded and let go of. Even had
he not discarded them, they were still discarding themselvesóso he dropped
them. You might get the idea from this that the Buddha must have been
lacking in metta, to discard people. Hey! If you toss out a rotten mango,
are you lacking in metta? You canít make any use of it, thatís all. There
was no way to get through to such people. The Buddha is praised as one
with supreme wisdom. He didnít merely gather everyone and everything
together in a confused mess. He was possessed of the divine eye and could
clearly see all things as they really are. He was the knower of the world.
And as the knower of the world, he saw danger in the round of
samsara. For us who are his followers, itís the same. If we know all
things as they are, that will bring us well-being. Where exactly are those
things that cause us to have happiness and suffering? Think about it well.
They are only things that we create ourselves. Whenever we create the idea
that something is us or ours, that is when we suffer. Things can bring us
harm or benefit, depending on our understanding. So the Buddha taught to
pay attention to ourselves, to our own actions, to the creations of our
own minds. Whenever we have extreme love or aversion to anyone or
anything, whenever we are particularly anxious, that will lead us into
great suffering. This is important, so take a good look at it. Investigate
these feelings of strong love or aversion, and take a step back. If you
get too close, theyíll bite. Do you hear this? If you grab at and caress
these things, they bite and they kick. When you feed grass to your
buffalo, you have to be careful. If youíre careful, then when it kicks, it
wonít kick you. If it bitesÖ (??? Canít make out the rest of this
sentenceólet it bite on its rope?). You have to feed it and take care of
it, but you should be smart enough to do that without getting bitten. Love
for children, relatives, wealth, and possessions will bite. Do you
understand this? When you feed it, donít get too close. When you give it
water, donít get too close. Pull on the rope when you need to. This is the
way of Dhamma, recognizing impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and lack of
self, recognizing the danger and employing caution and restraint in a
Ajahn Tongrat didnít teach a lot; he always told us, ďBe really
careful! Be really careful!Ē Thatís how he taught. ďBe really careful! If
youíre not really careful, youíll take it on the chin!Ē This is really how
it is. Even if he didnít say it, itís still how it is. If youíre not
really careful, youíll take it on the chin. Please understand this. Itís
not someone elseís concern. The problem isnít other people loving or
hating us. Others far away somewhere donít make us create karma and
suffering. Itís our possessions, our homes, our families where we have to
pay attention. Or what do you think? These days, where do you experience
suffering? Where are you involved in love, hate, and fear? Control
yourselves, take care of yourselves. Watch out you donít get bitten. If
they donít bite, they might kick. Donít think that these things wonít bite
or kick. If you do get bitten, make sure itís only a little bit. Donít get
kicked and bitten to pieces. Donít try to tell yourselves thereís no
danger. Possessions, wealth, fame, loved ones, all these can kick and bite
if youíre not mindful. If you are mindful, youíll be at ease. Be cautious
and restrained. When the mind starts grasping at things and making a big
deal out of them, you have to stop it. It will argue with you, but you
have to put your foot down. Stay in the middle as the mind comes and goes.
Put sensual indulgence away on one side. Put self-torment away on the
other side. Love to one side, hate to the other side. Happiness to one
side, suffering to the other side. Remain in the middle without letting
the mind go in either direction.
Like these bodies of ours. Earth, water, fire, and airówhere is
the person? There isnít any person. These few different things are put
together, and itís called a person. Thatís a falsehood. Itís not real,
only real in the way of convention. When the time comes, the elements
return to their old state. Weíve only come to stay with them for a while,
so we have to let them return. The part that is earth, send back to be
earth. The part that is water, send back to be water. The part that is
fire, send back to be fire. The part that is air, send back to be air. Or
will you try to go with them and keep something? We come to rely on them
for a while; when itís time for them to go, let them go. When they come,
let them come. All these phenomena (sabhava) appear and then disappear.
Thatís all. We understand that all these things are flowing, constantly
appearing and disappearing.
Making offerings, listening to teachings, practicing meditation,
whatever we do should be done for the purpose of developing wisdom.
Developing wisdom is for the purpose of liberation, freedom from all these
conditions and phenomena. When we are free, then no matter what our
situation, we donít have to suffer. If we have children we donít have to
suffer. If we work, we donít have to suffer. If we have a house, we donít
have to suffer. Itís like a lotus in the water. ďI grow in the water, but
I donít suffer because of the water. I canít be drowned or burned, because
I live in the water.Ē When the water ebbs and flows, it doesnít affect the
lotus. The water and the lotus can exist together without conflict. They
are together yet separate. Whatever is in the water nourishes the lotus
and helps it grow into something beautiful.
Here itís the same for us. Wealth, home, family, all defilements
of mind, they no longer defile us but rather they help us develop parami,
the spiritual perfections. In a grove of bamboo, the old leaves pile up
around the trees, and when the rain falls, they decompose and become
fertilizer. Shoots grow and the trees develop because of the fertilizer,
and we have a source of food and income. But it didnít look like anything
good at all. So be carefulóin the dry season, if you set fires in the
forest, theyíll burn up all the (future) fertilizer, and the fertilizer
will turn into fire that burns the bamboo. Then you wonít have any bamboo
shoots to eat. So if you burn the forest, you burn the bamboo fertilizer.
If you burn the fertilizer, you burn the trees and the grove dies.
Do you understand? You and your families can live in happiness
and harmony with your homes and possessions, free of danger of floods or
fire. If a family is flooded or burned, it is only because of the people
in that family. Itís just like the bambooís fertilizer. The grove can be
burned because of it, or the grove can grow beautifully because of it.
Things will grow beautifully and then not beautifully, and then
become beautiful again. Growing and degenerating, then growing again and
degenerating again, this is the way of worldly phenomena. If we know
growth and degeneration for what they are, we can find a conclusion to
them. Things grow and reach their limit. Things degenerate and reach their
limit. But we remain constant. Itís like when there was a fire in Ubon
city. People bemoaned the destruction and shed a lot of tears over it. But
things were rebuilt after the fire, and the new buildings are actually
bigger and a lot better than what we had before, and people enjoy the city
This is how it is with the cycles of loss and development.
Everything has its limits. So the Buddha wanted us to always be
contemplating. While we still have life, we should think about death.
Donít consider it something far away. If youíre poor, donít try to harm or
exploit others. Face the situation and work hard to help yourself. If
youíre well off, donít become forgetful in your wealth and comfort. Itís
not very difficult for everything to be lost. A rich person could become a
pauper in a couple of days. A pauper could become a rich person. Itís all
owing to the fact that these conditions are impermanent and unstable.
Thus, the Buddha said, ďAppamado maccuno padam: Heedlessness is the way to
death.Ē The heedless are like the dead. Donít be heedless! All beings and
all sankhara are unstable and impermanent. Donít form any attachment to
them at all! Happy or sad, progressing or falling apart, in the end it all
comes to the same place. Please understand this.
Living in the world and having this perspective, we can be free
of danger. Whatever we may gain or accomplish in the world because of our
good karma, it is still of the world and subject to decay and loss, so
donít get too carried away by it. Itís like a beetle scratching at the
earth. It can scratch up a pile thatís a lot bigger than itself, but itís
still only a pile of dirt. If it works hard, it makes a deep hole in the
ground, but itís only a hole in dirt. If a buffalo drops a load of dung
there, it will be bigger than the beetleís pile of earth, but it still
isnít anything that reaches to the sky. Itís all dirt. Worldly
accomplishments are like this. No matter how hard the beetles work,
theyíre just involved in dirt, making holes and piles.
People who have good worldly karma have the intelligence to do
well in the world. But no matter how well they do, theyíre still living in
the world. All the things they do are worldly and have their limits, like
the beetle scratching away at the earth. The hole may go deep, but itís in
the earth. The pile may get high, but itís just a pile of dirt. Doing
well, getting a lot, weíre just doing well and getting a lot in the world.
Please understand this and try to develop detachment. If you donít gain
much, have some contentment, understanding that itís only the worldly. If
you gain a lot, understand that itís only the worldly. Contemplate these
truths and donít be heedless. See both sides of things, not getting stuck
on one side. When something delights you, hold part of yourself back in
reserve, because that delight wonít last. When you have happiness, donít
go completely over to its side, because soon enough youíll be back on the
other side with unhappinessÖ.