Sense Contact the Fount of Wisdom
All of us have made up our minds to become bhikkhus and samaneras
in the Buddhist Dispensation in order to find peace. Now what is
true peace? True peace, the Buddha said, is not very far away, it
lies right here within us, but we tend to continually overlook it.
People have their ideas about finding peace but still tend to
experience confusion and agitation, they still tend to be unsure and
haven't yet found fulfillment in their practice. They haven't yet
reached the goal. It's as if we have left our home to travel to many
different places. Whether we get into a car or board a boat, no
matter where we go, we still haven't reached our home. As long as we
still haven't reached home we don't feel content, we still have some
unfinished business to take care of. This is because our journey is
not yet finished, we haven't reached our destination. We travel all
over the place in search of liberation.
All of you bhikkhus and samaneras here want peace,
every one of you. Even myself, when I was younger, searched all over
for peace. Wherever I went I couldn't be satisfied. Going into
forests or visiting various teachers, listening to Dhamma talks, I
could find no satisfaction. Why is this?
We look for peace in peaceful places, where there won't be
sights, or sounds, or odors, or flavors... thinking that living
quietly like this is the way to find contentment, that herein lies
But actually, if we live very quietly in places where nothing
arises, can wisdom arise? Would we be aware of anything? Think about
it. If our eye didn't see sights, what would that be like? If the
nose didn't experience smells, what would that be like? If the
tongue didn't experience flavors what would that be like? If the
body didn't experience feelings at all, what would that be like? To
be like that would be like being a blind and deaf man, one whose
nose and tongue had fallen off and who was completely numb with
paralysis. Would there be anything there? And yet people tend to
think that if they went somewhere where nothing happened they would
find peace. Well, I've thought like that myself, I once thought that
When I was a young monk just starting to practice, I'd sit in
meditation and sounds would disturb me, I'd think to myself,
"What can I do to make my mind peaceful?" So I took some
beeswax and stuffed my ears with it so that I couldn't hear
anything. All that remained was a humming sound. I thought that
would be peaceful, but no, all that thinking and confusion didn't
arise at the ears after all. It arose at the mind. That is the place
to search for peace.
To put it another way, no matter where you go to stay, you don't
want to do anything because it interferes with your practice. You
don't want to sweep the grounds or do any work, you just want to be
still and find peace that way. The teacher asks you to help out with
the chores or any of the daily duties but you don't put your heart
into it because you feel it is only an external concern.
I've often brought up the example of one of my disciples who was
really eager to "let go" and find peace. I taught about
"letting go" and he accordingly understood that to let go
of everything would indeed be peaceful. Actually right from the day
he had come to stay here he didn't want to do anything. Even when
the wind blew half the roof off his kuti he wasn't
interested. He said that that was just an external thing. So he
didn't bother fixing it up. When the sunlight and rain streamed in
from one side he'd move over to the other side. That wasn't any
business of his. His business was to make his mind peaceful. That
other stuff was a distraction, he wouldn't get involved. That was
how he saw it.
One day I was walking past and saw the collapsed roof.
"Eh? Whose kuti is this?"
Someone told me whose it was, and I thought, "Hmm.
Strange..." So I had a talk with him, explaining many things,
such as the duties in regard to our dwellings, the senasanavatta.
"We must have a dwelling place, and we must look after it.
"Letting go" isn't like this, it doesn't mean shirking our
responsibilities. That's the action of a fool. The rain comes in on
one side so you move over to the other side, then the sunshine comes
out and you move back to that side. Why is that? Why don't you
bother to let go there?" I gave him a long discourse on this;
then when I'd finished, he said,
"Oh, Luang Por, sometimes you teach me to cling and
sometimes you teach me to let go. I don't know what you want me to
do. Even when my roof collapses and I let go to this extent, still
you say it's not right. And yet you teach me to let go! I don't know
what more you can expect of me..."
You see? People are like this. They can be as stupid as this.
Are there visual objects within the eye? If there are no external
visual objects would our eyes see anything? Are their sounds within
our ears if external sounds don't make contact? If there are no
smells outside would we experience them. Where are the causes? Think
about what the Buddha said: All dhammas 48
arise because of causes. If we didn't have ears would we experience
sounds? If we had no eyes would we be able to see sights? Eyes,
ears, nose, tongue, body and mind these are the causes. It is
said that all dhammas arise because of conditions, when they
cease it's because the causal conditions have ceased. For resulting
conditions to arise, the causal conditions must first arise.
If we think that peace lies where there are no sensations would
wisdom arise? Would there be causal and resultant conditions? Would
we have anything to practice with? If we blame the sounds, then
where there are sounds we can't be peaceful. We think that place is
no good. Wherever there are sights we say that's not peaceful. If
that's the case then to find peace we'd have to be one whose senses
have all died, blind, and deaf. I thought about this...
"Hmm. This is strange. Suffering arises because of eyes,
ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. So should we be blind? If we
didn't see anything at all maybe that would be better. One would
have no defilements arising if one were blind, or deaf. Is this the
way it is?"...
But, thinking about it, it wall all wrong. If that was the case
then blind and deaf people would be enlightened. They would all be
accomplished if defilements arose at the eyes and ears. There are
the causal conditions. Where things arise, at the cause, that's
where we must stop them. Where the cause arises, that's where we
Actually, the sense bases of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body,
and mind are all things which can facilitate the arising of wisdom,
if we know them as they are. If we don't really know them we must
deny them, saying we don't want to see sights, hear sounds, and so
on, because they disturb us. If we cut off the causal conditions
what are we going to contemplate? Think about it. Where would there
be any cause and effect? This is wrong thinking on our part.
This is why we are taught to be restrained. Restraint is sila.
There is the sila of sense restraint: eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, body and mind: these are our sila, and they are our samadhi.
Reflect on the story Sariputta. At the time before he became a bhikkhu
he saw Assaji Thera going on almsround. Seeing him, Sariputta
"This monk is most unusual. He walks neither too fast nor
too slow, his robes are neatly worn, his bearing is
restrained." Sariputta was inspired by him and so approached
Venerable Assaji, paid his respects and asked him,
"Excuse me, sir, who are you?"
"I am a samana."
"Who is your teacher?"
"Venerable Gotama is my teacher."
"What does Venerable Gotama teach?"
"He teaches that all things arise because of conditions.
When they cease it's because the causal conditions have
When asked about the Dhamma by Sariputta, Assaji explained only
in brief, he talked about cause and effect. Dhammas arise because of
causes. The cause arises first and then the result. When the result
is to cease the cause must first cease. That's all he said, but it
was enough for Sariputta. 49
Now this was a cause for the arising of Dhamma. At that time
Sariputta had eyes, he had ears, he had a nose, a tongue, a body and
a mind. All his faculties were intact. If he didn't have his
faculties would there have been sufficient causes for wisdom to
arise for him? Would he have been aware of anything? But most of us
are afraid of contact. Either that or we like to have contact but we
develop no wisdom from it: instead we repeatedly indulge through
eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, delighting in and getting
lost in sense objects. This is how it is. These sense bases can
entice us into delight and indulgence or they can lead to knowledge
They have both harm and benefit, depending on our wisdom.
So now let us understand that, having gone forth and come to
practice, we should take everything as practice. Even the bad
things. We should know them all. Why? So that we may know the truth.
When we talk of practice we don't simply mean those things that are
good and pleasing to us. That's not how it is. In this world some
things are to our liking, some are not. These things all exist in
this world, nowhere else. Usually whatever we like we want, even
with fellow monks and novices. Whatever monk or novice we don't like
we don't want to associate with, we only want to be with those we
like. You see? This is choosing according to our likes. Whatever we
don't like we don't want to see or know about.
Actually the Buddha wanted us to experience these things. Lokavidu
look at this world and know it clearly. If we don't know the
truth of the world clearly then we can't go anywhere. Living in the
world we must understand the world. The Noble Ones of the past,
including the Buddha, all lived with these things, they lived in
this world, among deluded people. They attained the truth right in
this very world, nowhere else. They didn't run off to some other
world to find the truth. But they had wisdom. They restrained their
senses, but the practice is to look into all these things and know
them as they are.
Therefore the Buddha taught us to know the sense bases, our
points of contact. The eye contacts forms and sends them
"in" to become sights. The ears make contact with sounds,
the nose makes contact with odors, the tongue makes contact with
tastes, the body makes contact with tactile sensations, and so
awareness arises. Where awareness arises is where we should look and
see things as they are. If we don;t know these things as they really
are we will either fall in love with them or hate them. Where these
sensations arise is where we can become enlightened, where wisdom
But sometimes we don't want things to be like that. The Buddha
taught restraint, but restraint doesn't mean we don't see anything,
hear anything, smell, taste, feel or think anything. That's not what
it means. If practicers don't understand this then as soon as they
see or hear anything they cower and run away. They don't deal with
things. They run away, thinking that by so doing those things will
eventually lose their power over them, that they will eventually
transcend them. But they won't. They won't transcend anything like
that. If they run away not knowing the truth of them, later on the
same stuff will pop up to be dealt with again.
For example, those practicers who are never content, be they in
monasteries, forests, or mountains. They wander on "dhutanga
pilgrimage" looking at this, that and the other, thinking
they'll find contentment that way. They go, and then they come
back... didn't see anything. They try going to a mountain
top..."Ah! This is the spot, now I'm right." They feel at
peace for a few days and then get tired of it. "Oh, well, off
to the seaside." "Ah, here it's nice and cool. This'll do
me fine." After a while they get tired of the seaside as
well... Tired of the forests, tired of the mountains, tired of the
seaside, tired of everything. This is not being tired of things in
the right sense, 50
as Right View, it's simply boredom, a kind of Wrong View. Their view
is not in accordance with the way things are.
When they get back to the monastery..."Now, what will I do?
I've been all over and come back with nothing." So they throw
away their bowls and disrobe. Why do they disrobe? Because they
haven't got any grip on the practice, they don't see anything; go to
the north and don't see anything; go to the seaside, to the
mountains, into the forests and still don't see anything. So it's
all finished... they "die." This is how it goes. It's
because they're continually running away from things. Wisdom doesn't
Now take another example. Suppose there is one monk who
determines to stay with things, not to run away. He looks after
himself. He knows himself and also knows those who come to stay with
him. He's continually dealing with problems. For example, the Abbot.
If one is an Abbot of a monastery there are constant problems to
deal with, there's a constant stream of things that demand
attention. Why so? Because people are always asking questions. The
questions never end, so you must be constantly on the alert. You are
constantly solving problems, your own as well as other people's.
That is, you must be constantly awake. Before you can doze off they
wake you up again with another problem. So this causes you to
contemplate and understand things. You become skillful: skillful in
regard to yourself and skillful in regard to others. Skillful in
many, many ways.
This skill arises from contact, from confronting and dealing with
things, from not running away. We don't run away physically but we
"run away" in mind, using our wisdom. We understand with
wisdom right here, we don't run away from anything.
This is a source of wisdom. One must work, must associate with
other things. For instance, living in a big monastery like this we
must all help out to look after the things here. Looking at it in
one way you could say that it's all defilement. Living with lots of
monks and novices, with many laypeople coming and going, many
defilements may arise. Yes, I admit... but we must live like this
for the development of wisdom and the abandonment of foolishness.
Which way are we to go? Are we going to live in order to get rid of
foolishness or to increase our foolishness?
We must contemplate. Whenever eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or
mind make contact we should be collected and circumspect. When
suffering arises, who is suffering? Why did this suffering arise?
The Abbot of a monastery has to supervise many disciples. Now that
may be suffering. We must know suffering when it arises. Know
suffering. If we are afraid of suffering and don't want to face it,
where are we going to do battle with it? If suffering arises and we
don't know it, how are we going to deal with it? This is of utmost
importance we must know suffering.
Escaping from suffering means knowing the way out of suffering,
it doesn't mean running away from wherever suffering arises. By
doing that you just carry your suffering with you. When suffering
arises again somewhere else you'll have to run away again. This is
not transcending suffering, it's not knowing suffering.
If you want to understand suffering you must look into the
situation at hand. The teachings say that wherever a problem arises
it must be settled right there. Where suffering lies is right where
non-suffering will arise, it ceases at the place where it arises. If
suffering arises you must contemplate right there, you don't have to
run away. You should settle the issue right there. One who runs away
from suffering out of fear is the most foolish person of all. He
will simply increases his stupidity endlessly.
We must understand: suffering is none other than the First Noble
Truth, isn't that so? Are you going to look on it as something bad? Dukkha
sacca, samudaya sacca, nirodha sacca, magga sacca... 51
Running away from these things isn't practicing according to the
true Dhamma. When will you ever see the Truth of Suffering? If we
keep running away from suffering we will never know it. Suffering is
something we should recognize if you don't observe it when will
you ever recognize it? Not being content here you run over there,
when discontent arises there you run off again. You are always
running. If that's the way you practice you'll be racing with the
Devil all over the country!
The Buddha taught us to "run away" using wisdom. For
instance: suppose you had stepped on a thorn or splinter and it got
embedded in your foot. As you walk it occasionally hurts,
occasionally not. Sometimes you may step on a stone or a stump and
it really hurts, so you feel around your foot. But not finding
anything you shrug it off and walk on a bit more. Eventually you
step on something else, and the pain arises again.
Now this happens many times. What is the cause of that pain? The
cause is that splinter or thorn embedded in your foot. The pain is
constantly near. Whenever the pain arises you may take a look and
feel around a bit, but, not seeing the splinter, you let it go.
After a while it hurts again so you take another look.
When suffering arises you must note it, don't just shrug it off.
Whenever the pain arises..."Hmm... that splinter is still
there." Whenever the pain arises there arises also the thought
that that splinter has got to go. If you don't take it out there
will only be more pain later on. The pain keeps recurring again and
again, until the desire to take out that thorn is constantly with
you. In the end it reaches a point where you make up your mind once
and for all to get out that thorn because it hurts!
Now our effort in the practice must be like this. Wherever it
hurts, wherever there's friction, we must investigate. Confront the
problem, head on. Take that thorn out of your foot, just pull it
out. Wherever your mind gets stuck you must take note. As you look
into it you will know it, see it and experience it as it is.
But our practice must be unwavering and persistent. They call it viriyarambha
putting forth constant effort. Whenever an unpleasant feeling
arises in your foot, for example, you must remind yourself to get
out that thorn, don't give up your resolve. Likewise, when suffering
arises in our hearts we must have the unwavering resolve to try to
uproot the defilements, to give them up. This resolve is constantly
there, unremitting. Eventually the defilements will fall into our
hands where we can finish them off.
So in regard to happiness and suffering, what are we to do? If we
didn't have these things what could we use as a cause to precipitate
wisdom? If there is no cause how will the effect arise? All dhammas
arise because of causes. When the result ceases it's because the
cause has ceased. This is how it is, but most of us don't really
understand. People only want to run away from suffering. This sort
of knowledge is short of the mark. Actually we need to know this
very world that we are living in, we don't have to run away
anywhere. You should have the attitude that to stay is fine... and
to go is fine. Think about this carefully.
Where do happiness and suffering lie? Whatever we don't hold fast
to, cling to or fix on to, as if it weren't there. Suffering doesn't
arise. Suffering arises from existence (bhava). If there is
existence then there is birth. Upadana clinging or
attachment this is the pre-requisite which creates suffering.
Wherever suffering arises look into it. Don't look too far away,
look right into the present moment. Look at your own mind and body.
When suffering arises..."Why is there suffering?" Look
right now. When happiness arises, what is the cause of that
happiness? Look right there. Wherever these things arise be aware.
Both happiness and suffering arise from clinging.
The cultivators of old saw their minds in this way. There is only
arising and ceasing. There is no abiding entity. They contemplated
from all angles and saw that there was nothing much to this mind,
nothing is stable. There is only arising and ceasing, ceasing and
arising, nothing is of any lasting substance. While walking or
sitting they saw things in this way. Wherever they looked there was
only suffering, that's all. It's just like a big iron ball which has
just been blasted in a furnace. It's hot all over. If you touch the
top it's hot, touch the sides and they're hot it's hot all over.
There isn't any place on it which is cool.
Now if we don't consider these things we know nothing about them.
We must see clearly. Don't get "born" into things, don't
fall into birth. Know the workings of birth. Such thoughts as,
"Oh, I can't stand that person, he does everything
wrongly," will no longer arise. Or, "I really like so and
so...", these things don't arise. There remain merely the
conventional worldly standards of like and dislike, but one's speech
is one way, one's mind another. They are separate things. We must
use the conventions of the world to communicate with each other, but
inwardly we must be empty. The mind is above those things. We must
bring the mind to transcendence like this. This is the abiding of
the Noble Ones. We must all aim for this and practice accordingly.
Don't get caught up in doubts.
Before I started to practice, I thought to myself, "The
Buddhist religion is here, available for all, and yet why do only
some people practice while others don't? Or if they do practice,
they do so only for a short while then give up. Or again those who
don't give it up still don't knuckle down and do the practice? Why
is this?" So I resolved to myself, "Okay... I'll give up
this body and mind for this lifetime and try to follow the teaching
of the Buddha down to the last detail. I'll reach understanding in
this very lifetime... because if I don't I'll still be sunk in
suffering. I'll let go of everything else and make a determined
effort, no matter how much difficulty or suffering I have to endure,
I'll persevere. If I don't do it I'll just keep on doubting."
Thinking like this I got down to practice. No matter how much
happiness, suffering or difficulty I had to endure I would do it. I
looked on my whole life as if it was only one day and a night. I
gave it up. "I'll follow the teaching of the Buddha, I'll
follow the Dhamma to understanding Why is this world of delusion
so wretched?" I wanted to know, I wanted to master the
Teaching, so I turned to the practice of Dhamma.
How much of the worldly life do we monastics renounce? If we have
gone forth for good then it means we renounce it all, there's
nothing we don't renounce. All the things of the world that people
enjoy are cast off: sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings...
we throw them all away. And yet we experience them. So Dhamma
practicers must be content with little and remain detached. Whether
in regard to speech, in eating or whatever, we must be easily
satisfied: eat simply, sleep simply, live simply. Just like they
say, "an ordinary person," one who lives simply. The more
you practice the more you will be able to take satisfaction in your
practice. You will see into your own heart.
The Dhamma is paccattam, you must know it for yourself. To
know for yourself means to practice for yourself. You can depend on
a teacher only fifty percent of the way. Even the teaching I have
given you today is completely useless in itself, even if it is worth
hearing. But if you were to believe it all just because I said so
you wouldn't be using the teaching properly.
If you believed me completely then you'd be foolish. To hear the
teaching, see its benefit, put it into practice for yourself, see it
within yourself, do it yourself... this is much more useful. You
will then know the taste of Dhamma for yourself.
This is why the Buddha didn't talk about the fruits of the
practice in much detail, because it's something one can't convey in
words. It would be like trying to describe different colors to a
person blind from birth, "Oh, it's so white," or
"it's bright yellow," for instance. You couldn't convey
those colors to them. You could try but it wouldn't serve much
The Buddha brings it back down to the individual see clearly
for yourself. If you see clearly for yourself you will have clear
proof within yourself. Whether standing, walking, sitting or
reclining you will be free of doubt. Even if someone were to say,
"Your practice isn't right, it's all wrong," still you
would be unmoved, because you have your own proof.
A practicer of the Dhamma must be like this wherever he goes.
Others can't tell you, you must know for yourself. Sammaditthi,
Right View, must be there. The practice must be like this for every
one of us. To do the real practice like this for even one month out
of five or ten rains retreats would be rare.
Our sense organs must be constantly working. Know content and
discontent, be aware of like and dislike. Know appearance and know
transcendence. The Apparent and the Transcendent must be realized
simultaneously. Good and evil must be seen as co-existent, arising
together. This is the fruit of the Dhamma practice.
So whatever is useful to yourself and to others, whatever
practice benefits both yourself and others, is called
"following the Buddha." I've talked about this often. The
things which should be done, people seem to neglect. For example,
the work in the monastery, the standards of practice and so on. I've
talked about them often and yet people don't seem to put their
hearts into it. Some don't know, some are lazy and can't be
bothered, some are simply scattered and confused.
But that's a cause for wisdom to arise. If we go to places where
none of these things arise, what would we see? Take food, for
instance. If food doesn't have any taste is it delicious? If a
person is deaf will he hear anything? If you don't perceive anything
will you have anything to contemplate? If there are no problems will
there be anything to solve? Think of the practice in this way.
Once I went to live up north. At that time I was living with many
monks, all of them elderly but newly ordained, with only two or
three rains retreat. At the time I had ten rains. Living with those
old monks I decided to perform the various duties receiving
their bowls, washing their robes, emptying their spittoons and so
on. I didn't think in terms of doing it for any particular
individual, I simply maintained my practice. If others didn't do the
duties I'd do them myself. I saw it as a good opportunity for me to
gain merit. It made me feel good and gave me a sense of
On the uposatha 52
days I knew the required duties. I'd go and clean out the uposatha
hall and set out water for washing and drinking. The others didn't
know anything about the duties, they just watched. I didn't
criticize them, because they didn't know. I did the duties myself,
and having done them I felt pleased with myself, I had inspiration
and a lot of energy in my practice.
Whenever I could do something in the monastery, whether in my own
kuti or others," if it was dirty, I'd clean up. I didn't
do it for anyone in particular, I didn't do it to impress anyone, I
simply did it to maintain a good practice. Cleaning a kuti or
dwelling place is just like cleaning rubbish out of your own mind.
Now this is something all of you should bear in mind. You don't
have to worry about harmony, it will automatically be there. Live
together with Dhamma, with peace and restraint, train your mind to
be like this and no problems will arise. If there is heavy work to
be done everybody helps out and in no long time the work is done, it
gets taken care of quite easily. That's the best way.
I have come across some other types, though... although I used it
as an opportunity to grow. For instance, living in a big monastery,
the monks and novices may agree among themselves to wash robes on a
certain day. I'd go and boil up the jackfruit wood. 53
Now there'd be some monks who'd wait for someone else to boil up the
jackfruit wood and then come along and wash their robes, take them
back to their kutis, hang them out and then take a nap. They
didn't have to set up the fire, didn't have to clean up
afterwards... they thought they were on a good thing, that they were
being clever. This is the height of stupidity. These people are just
increasing their own stupidity because they don't do anything, they
leave all the work up to others. They wait till everything is ready
then come along and make use of it, it's easy for them. This is just
adding to one's foolishness. Those actions serve no useful purpose
whatsoever to them.
Some people think foolishly like this. They shirk the required
duties and think that this is being clever, but it is actually very
foolish. If we have that sort of attitude we won't last.
Therefore, whether speaking, eating or doing anything whatsoever,
reflect on yourself. You may want to live comfortably, eat
comfortably, sleep comfortably and so on, but you can't. What have
we come here for? If we regularly reflect on this we will be
heedful, we won't forget, we will be constantly alert. Being alert
like this you will put forth effort in all postures. If you don't
put forth effort things go quite differently... Sitting, you sit
like you're in the town, walking, you walk like you're in the
town... you just want to go and play around in the town with the
If there is no effort in the practice the mind will tend in that
direction. You don't oppose and resist your mind, you just allow it
to waft along the wind of your moods. This is called following one's
moods. Like a child, if we indulge all its wants will it be a good
child? If the parents indulge all their child's wishes is that good?
Even if they do indulge it somewhat at first, by the time it can
speak they may start to occasionally spank it because they're afraid
it'll end up stupid. The training of our mind must be like this. You
have to know yourself and how to train yourself. If you don't know
how to train your own mind, waiting around expecting someone else to
train it for you, you'll end up in trouble.
So don't think that you can't practice in this place. Practice
has no limits. Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, you
can always practice. Even while sweeping the monastery grounds or
seeing a beam of sunlight, you can realize the Dhamma. But you must
have sati at hand. Why so? Because you can realize the Dhamma at any
time at all, in any place, if you ardently meditate.
Don't be heedless. Be watchful, be alert. While walking on
almsround there are all sorts of feelings arising, and it's all good
Dhamma. When you get back to the monastery and are eating your food
there's plenty of good Dhamma for you to look into. If you have
constant effort all these things will be objects for contemplation,
there will be wisdom, you will see the dhamma. This is called dhamma-vicaya,
reflecting on Dhamma. It's one of the enlightenment factors. 54
If there is sati, recollection, there will be dhamma-vicaya
as a result. These are factors of enlightenment. If we have
recollection then we won't simply take it easy, there will also be
inquiry into Dhamma. These things become factors for realizing the
If we have reached this stage then our practice will know neither
day or night, it will continue on regardless of the time of day.
There will be nothing to taint the practice, or if there is we will
immediately know it. Let there be dhamma-vicaya within our
minds constantly, looking into Dhamma. If our practice has entered
the flow the mind will tend to be like this. It won't go off after
other things..."I think I'll go for a trip over there, or
perhaps this other place... over in that province should be
interesting..." That's the way of the world. Not long and the
practice will die.
So resolve yourselves. It's not just by sitting with your eyes
closed that you develop wisdom. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and
mind are constantly with us, so be constantly alert. Study
constantly. Seeing trees or animals can all be occasions for study.
Bring it all inwards. See clearly within your own heart. If some
sensation makes impact on the heart, witness it clearly for
yourself, don't simply disregard it.
Take a simple comparison: baking bricks. have you ever seen a
brick-baking oven? They build the fire up about two or three feet in
front of the oven, then the smoke all gets drawn into it. Looking at
this illustration you can more clearly understand the practice.
Making a brick kiln in the right way you have to make the fire so
that all the smoke gets drawn inside, none is left over. All the
heat goes into the oven, and the job gets done quickly.
We Dhamma practicers should experience things in this way. all
our feelings will be drawn inwards to be turned into Right View.
Seeing sights, hearing sounds, smelling odors, tasting flavors and
so on, the mind draws them all inward to be converted into Right
View. Those feelings thus become experiences which give rise to
"Not Sure!" The Standard of the Noble Ones
There was once a western monk, a student of mine. Whenever he saw
Thai monks and novices disrobing he would say, "Oh, what a
shame! Why do they do that? Why do so many of the Thai monks and
novices disrobe?" He was shocked. He would get saddened at the
disrobing of the Thai monks and novices, because he had only just
come into contact with Buddhism. He was inspired, he was resolute.
Going forth as a monk was the only thing to do, he thought he'd
never disrobe. Whoever disrobed was a fool. He'd see the Thais
taking on the robes at the beginning of the Rains Retreat as monks
and novices and then disrobing at the end of it..."Oh, how sad!
I feel so sorry for those Thai monks and novices. How could they do
such a thing?"
Well, as time went by some of the western monks began to disrobe,
so he came to see it as something not so important after all. At
first, when he had just begun to practice, he was excited about it.
He thought that it was really important thing, to become a monk. He
thought it would be easy.
When people are inspired it all seems to be so right and good.
There's nothing there to gauge their feelings by, so they go ahead
and decide for themselves. But they don't really know what practice
is. Those who do know will have a thoroughly firm foundation within
their hearts but even so they don't need to advertise it.
As for myself, when I was first ordained I didn't actually do
much practice, but I had a lot of faith. I don't know why, maybe it
was there from birth. The monks and novices who went forth together
with me, come the end of the Rains, all disrobed. I thought to
myself, "Eh? What is it with these people?" However, I
didn't dare say anything to them because I wasn't yet sure of my own
feelings, I was too stirred up. But within me I felt that they were
all foolish. "It's difficult to go forth, easy to disrobe.
These guys don't have much merit, they think that the way of the
world is more useful than the way of Dhamma." I thought like
this but I didn't say anything, I just watched my own mind.
I'd see the monks who'd gone forth with me disrobing one after
the other. Sometimes they'd dress up and come back to the monastery
to show off. I'd see them and think they were crazy, but they
thought they looked snappy. When you disrobe you have to do this and
that... I'd think to myself that that way of thinking was wrong. I
wouldn't say it, though, because I myself was still an uncertain
quantity. I still wasn't sure how long my faith would last.
When my friends had all disrobed I dropped all concern, there was
nobody left to concern myself with. I picked up the Patimokkha
and got stuck into learning that. There was nobody left to distract
me and waste my time, so I put my heart into the practice. Still I
didn't say anything because I felt that to practice all one's life,
maybe seventy, eighty or even ninety years, and to keep up a
persistent effort, without slackening up or losing one's resolve,
seemed like an extremely difficult thing to do.
Those who went forth would go forth, those who disrobed would
disrobe. I'd just watch it all. I didn't concern myself whether they
stayed or went. I'd watch my friends leave, but the feeling I had
within me was that these people didn't see clearly. That western
monk probably thought like that. he'd see people become monks for
only one Rains Retreat, and get upset.
Later on he reached a stage we call... bored; bored with the Holy
Life. He let go of the practice and eventually disrobed.
"Why are you disrobing? Before, when you saw the Thai monks
disrobing you'd say, 'Oh, what a shame! How sad, how pitiful.' Now,
when you yourself want to disrobe, why don't you feel sorry
He didn't answer. He just grinned sheepishly.
When it comes to the training of the mind it isn't easy to find a
good standard if you haven't yet developed a "witness"
within yourself. In most external matters we can rely on others for
feedback, there are standards and precedents. But when it comes to
using the Dhamma as a standard... do we have the Dhamma yet? Are we
thinking rightly or not? And even if it's right, do we know how to
let go of rightness or are we still clinging to it?
You must contemplate until you reach the point where you let go,
this is the important thing... until you reach the point where there
isn't anything left, where there is neither good nor bad. You throw
it off. This means you throw out everything. If it's all gone then
there's no remainder; if there's some remainder then it's not all
So in regard to this training of the mind, sometimes we may say
it's easy. it's easy to say, but it's hard to do, very hard. It's
hard in that it doesn't conform to our desires. Sometimes it seems
almost as if the angels 56
were helping us out. Everything goes right, whatever we think or say
seems to be just right. Then we go and attach to that rightness and
before long we go wrong and it all turns bad. This is where it's
difficult. We don't have a standard to gauge things by.
People who have a lot of faith, who are endowed with confidence
and belief but are lacking in wisdom, may be very good at samadhi
but they may not have much insight. They see only one side of
everything, and simply follow that. They don't reflect. This is
blind faith. In Buddhism we call this Saddha adhimokkha,
blind faith. They have faith all right but it's not born of wisdom.
But they don't see this at the time, they believe they have wisdom,
so they don't see where they are wrong.
Therefore they teach about the Five Powers (Bala): Saddha,
viriya, sati, samadhi, pa˝˝a. Saddha
is conviction; viriya is diligent effort; sati is
recollection; samadhi is fixedness of mind; pa˝˝a is
all-embracing knowledge. Don't say that pa˝˝a is simply
knowledge pa˝˝a is all-embracing, consummate knowledge.
The wise have given these five steps to us so that we can link
them, firstly as an object of study, then as a gauge to compare to
the state of our practice as it is. For example, saddha,
conviction. Do we have conviction, have we developed it yet? Viriya:
do we have diligent effort or not? Is our effort right or is it
wrong? We must consider this. Everybody has some sort of effort, but
does our effort contain wisdom or not?
Sati is the same. Even a cat has sati. When it sees
a mouse, sati is there. The cat's eyes stare fixedly at the
mouse. This is the sati of a cat. Everybody has sati,
animals have it, delinquents have it, sages have it.
Samadhi, fixedness of mind everybody has this as well.
A cat has it when its mind is fixed on grabbing the mouse and eating
it. It has fixed intent. That sati of the cat's is sati
of a sort; samadhi, fixed intent on what it is doing, is also
there. Pa˝˝a, knowledge, like that of human beings. It
knows as an animal knows, it has enough knowledge to catch mice for
These five things are called powers. Have these Five Powers
arisen from Right View, sammaditthi, or not? Saddha, viriya,
sati, samadhi, pa˝˝a have these arisen
from Right View? What is Right View? What is our standard for
gauging Right View? We must clearly understand this.
Right View is the understanding that all these things are
uncertain. Therefore the Buddha and all the Noble Ones don't hold
fast to them. They hold, but not fast. They don't let that holding
become an identity. The holding which doesn't lead to becoming is
that which isn't tainted with desire. Without seeking to become this
or that there is simply the practice itself. When you hold on to a
particular thing is there enjoyment, or is there displeasure? If
there is pleasure, do you hold on to that pleasure? If there is
dislike, do you hold on to that dislike?
Some views can be used as principles for gauging our practice
more accurately. Such as knowing such views as that one is better
than others, or equal to others, or more foolish than others, as all
wrong views. We may feel these things but we also know them with
wisdom, that they simply arise and cease. Seeing that we are better
than others is not right; seeing that we are equal to others is not
right; seeing that we are inferior to others is not right.
The right view is the one that cuts through all of this. So where
do we go to? If we think we are better than others, pride arises.
It's there but we don't see it. If we think we are equal to others,
we fail to show respect and humility at the proper times. If we
think we are inferior to others we get depressed, thinking we are
inferior, born under a bad sign and so on. We are still clinging to
the Five Khandhas, 57
it's all simply becoming and birth.
This is one standard for gauging ourselves by. Another one is: if
we encounter a pleasant experience we feel happy, if we encounter a
bad experience we are unhappy. Are we able to look at both the
things we like and the things we dislike as having equal value?
Measure yourself against this standard. In our everyday lives, in
the various experiences we encounter, if we hear something which we
like, does our mood change? If we encounter an experience which
isn't to our liking, does our mood change? Or is the mind unmoved?
Looking right here we have a gauge.
Just know yourself, this is your witness. Don't make decisions on
the strength of your desires. Desires can puff us up into thinking
we are something which we're not. We must be very circumspect.
There are so many angles and aspects to consider, but the right
way is not to follow your desires, but the Truth. We should know
both the good and the bad, and when we know them to let go of them.
If we don't let go we are still there, we still "exist,"
we still "have." If we still "are" then there is
a remainder, there are becoming and birth in store.
Therefore the Buddha said to judge only yourself, don't judge
others, no matter how good or evil they may be. The Buddha merely
points out the way, saying "The truth is like this." Now,
is our mind like that or not?
For instance, suppose a monk took some things belonging to
another monk, then that other monk accused him, "You stole my
things." "I didn't steal them, I only took them." So
we ask a third monk to adjudicate. How should he decide? He would
have to ask the offending monk to appear before the convened Sangha.
"Yes, I took it, but I didn't steal it." Or in regard to
other rules, such as parajika or sanghadisesa
offenses: "Yes, I did it, but I didn't have intention."
How can you believe that? It's tricky. If you can't believe it, all
you can do is leave the onus with the doer, it rests on him.
But you should know that we can't hide the things that arise in
our minds. You can't cover them up, either the wrongs or the good
actions. Whether actions are good or evil, you can't dismiss them
simply by ignoring them, because these things tend to reveal
themselves. They conceal themselves, they reveal themselves, they
exist in and of themselves. They are all automatic. This is how
Don't try to guess at or speculate about these things. As long as
there is still avijja (unknowing) they are not finished with.
The Chief Privy Councilor once asked me, "Luang Por, is the
mind of an anagami 58
"It's partly pure."
"Eh? An anagami has given up sensual desire, how is
his mind not yet pure?"
"He may have let go of sensual desire, but there is still
something remaining, isn't there? There is still avijja. If
there is still something left then there is still something left.
It's like the bhikkhus' alms bowls. There are "a large-size
large bowl; a medium-sized large bowl, a small-sized large bowl;
then a large-sized medium bowl, a medium-sized medium bowl, a
small-sized medium bowl; then there are a large-sized small bowl, a
medium-sized small bowl and a small-sized small bowl... No matter
how small it is there is still a bowl there, right? That's how it is
with this...sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami... they have all
given up certain defilements, but only to their respective levels.
Whatever still remains, those Noble Ones don't see. If they could
they would all be arahants. They still can't see all. Avijja
is that which doesn't see. If the mind of the anagami was
completely straightened out he wouldn't be an anagami, he
would be fully accomplished. But there is still something remaining.
"Is his mind purified?"
"Well, it is somewhat, but not 100%."
How else could I answer? He said that later on he would come and
question me about it further. He can look into it, the standard is
Don't be careless. Be alert. The Lord Buddha exhorted us to be
alert. In regards to this training of the heart, I've had my moments
of temptation too, you know. I've often been tempted to try many
things but they've always seemed like they're going astray of the
path. It's really just a sort of swaggering in one's mind, a sort of
conceit. Ditthi, views, and mana, pride, are there.
It's hard enough just to be aware of these two things.
There was once a man who wanted to become a monk here. He carried
in his robes, determined to become a monk in memory of his late
mother. He came into the monastery, laid down his robes, and without
so much as paying respects to the monks, started walking meditation
right in front of the main hall... back and forth, back and forth,
like he was really going to show his stuff.
I thought, "Oh, so there are people around like this,
too!" This is called saddha adhimokkha blind faith.
He must have determined to get enlightened before sundown or
something, he thought it would be so easy. He didn't look at anybody
else, just put his head down and walked as if his life depended on
it. I just let him carry on, but I thought, "Oh, man, you think
it's that easy or something?" In the end I don't know how long
he stayed, I don't even think he ordained.
As soon as the mind thinks of something we send it out, send it
out every time. We don't realize that it's simply the habitual
proliferation of the mind. It disguises itself as wisdom and waffles
off into minute detail. This mental proliferation seems very clever,
if we didn't know we would mistake it for wisdom. But when it comes
to the crunch it's not the real thing. When suffering arises where
is that so-called wisdom then? Is it of any use? It's only
proliferation after all.
So stay with the Buddha. As I've said before many times, in our
practice we must turn inwards and find the Buddha. Where is the
Buddha? The Buddha is still alive to this very day, go in and find
him. Where is he? At aniccam, go in and find him there, go
and bow to him: aniccam, uncertainty. You can stop right
there for starters.
If the mind tries to tell you, "I'm a sotapanna
now," go and bow to the sotapanna. He'll tell you
himself, "It's all uncertain." If you meet a sakadagami
go and pay respects to him. When he sees you he'll simply say
"Not a sure thing!" If there is an anagami go and
bow to him. He'll tell you only one thing..."Uncertain."
If you meet even an arahant, go and bow to him, he'll tell
you even more firmly, "It's all even more uncertain!"
You'll hear the words of the Noble Ones..."Everything is
uncertain, don't cling to anything."
Don't just look at the Buddha like a simpleton. Don't cling to
things, holding fast to them without letting go. Look at things as
functions of the Apparent and then send them on to Transcendence.
That's how you must be. There must be Appearance and there must be
So I say "Go to the Buddha." Where is the Buddha? The
Buddha is the Dhamma. All the teachings in this world can be
contained in this one teaching: aniccam. Think about it. I've
searched for over forty years as a monk and this is all I could
find. That and patient endurance. This is how to approach the
Buddha's teaching... aniccam: it's all uncertain.
No matter how sure the mind wants to be, just tell it "Not
sure!." Whenever the mind wants to grab on to something as a
sure thing, just say, "It's not sure, it's transient."
Just ram it down with this. Using the Dhamma of the Buddha it all
comes down to this. It's not that it's merely a momentary
phenomenon. Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, you
see everything in that way. Whether liking arises or dislike arises
you see it all in the same way. This is getting close to the Buddha,
close to the Dhamma.
Now I feel that this is more valuable way to practice. All my
practice from the early days up to the present time has been like
this. I didn't actually rely on the scriptures, but then I didn't
disregard them either. I didn't rely on a teacher but then I didn't
exactly "go it alone." My practice was all "neither
this nor that."
Frankly it's a matter of "finishing off," that is,
practicing to the finish by taking up the practice and then seeing
it to completion, seeing the Apparent and also the Transcendent.
I've already spoken of this, but some of you may be interested to
hear it again: if you practice consistently and consider things
thoroughly, you will eventually reach this point... At first you
hurry to go forward, hurry to come back, and hurry to stop. You
continue to practice like this until you reach the point where it
seems that going forward is not it, coming back is not it, and
stopping is not it either! It's finished. This is the finish. Don't
expect anything more than this, it finishes right here. Khinasavo
one who is completed. He doesn't go forward, doesn't retreat and
doesn't stop. There's no stopping, no going forward and no coming
back. It's finished. Consider this, realize it clearly in your own
mind. Right there you will find that there is really nothing at all.
Whether this is old or new to you depends on you, on your wisdom
and discernment. One who has no wisdom or discernment won't be able
to figure it out. Just take a look at trees, like mango or jackfruit
trees. If they grow up in a clump, one tree may get bigger first and
then the others will bend away, growing outwards from that bigger
one. Why does this happen? Who tells them to do that? This is
Nature. Nature contains both the good and the bad, the right and the
wrong. It can either incline to the right or incline to the wrong.
If we plant any kind of trees at all close together, the trees which
mature later will branch away from the bigger tree. How does this
happen? Who determines it thus? This is Nature, or Dhamma.
Likewise, tanha, desire, leads us to suffering. Now, if we
contemplate it, it will lead us out of desire, we will outgrow tanha.
By investigating tanha we will shake it up, making it
gradually lighter and lighter until it's all gone. The same as the
trees: does anybody order them to grow the way they do? They can't
talk or move around and yet they know how to grow away from
obstacles. Wherever it's cramped and crowded and growing will be
difficult, they bend outwards.
Right here is Dhamma, we don't have to look at a whole lot. One
who is astute will see the Dhamma in this. Trees by nature don't
know anything, they act on natural laws, yet they do know enough to
grow away from danger, to incline towards a suitable place.
Reflective people are like this. We go forth into the homeless
life because we want to transcend suffering. What is it that make us
suffer? If we follow the trail inwards we will find out. That which
we like and that which we don't like are suffering. If they are
suffering then don't go so close to them. Do you want to fall in
love with conditions or hate them?... they're all uncertain. When we
incline towards the Buddha all this comes to an end. Don't forget
this. And patient endurance. Just these two are enough. If you have
this sort of understanding this is very good.
Actually in my own practice I didn't have a teacher to give as
much teachings as all of you get from me. I didn't have many
teachers. I ordained in an ordinary village temple and lived in
village temples for quite a few years. In my mind I conceived the
desire to practice, I wanted to be proficient, I wanted to train.
There wasn't anybody giving any teaching in those monasteries but
the inspiration to practice arose. I traveled and I looked around. I
had ears so I listened, I had eyes so I looked. Whatever I heard
people say, I'd tell myself, "Not sure." Whatever I saw, I
told myself, "Not sure," or when the tongue contacted
sweet, sour, salty, pleasant or unpleasant flavors, or feelings of
comfort or pain arose in the body, I'd tell myself, "This is
not a sure thing"! And so I lived with Dhamma.
In truth it's all uncertain, but our desires want things to be
certain. what can we do? We must be patient. The most important
thing is khanti, patient endurance. Don't throw out the
Buddha, what I call "uncertainty" don't throw that
Sometimes I'd go to see old religious sites with ancient monastic
buildings, designed by architects, built by craftsmen. In some
places they would be cracked. Maybe one of my friends would remark,
"Such a shame, isn't it? It's cracked." I'd answer,
"If that weren't the case then there'd be no such thing as the
Buddha, there'd be no Dhamma. It's cracked like this because it's
perfectly in line with the Buddha's teaching." Really down
inside I was also sad to see those buildings cracked but I'd throw
off my sentimentality and try to say something which would be of use
to my friends, and to myself. Even though I also felt that it was a
pity, still I tended towards the Dhamma.
"If it wasn't cracked like that there wouldn't be any
I'd say it really heavy for the benefit of my friends... or
perhaps they weren't listening, but still I was listening.
This is a way of considering things which is very, very useful.
For instance, say someone were to rush in and say, "Luang Por!
Do you know what so and so just said about you?" or, "He
said such and such about you..." Maybe you even start to rage.
As soon as you hear words of criticism you start getting these moods
every step of the way. As soon as we hear words like this we may
start getting ready to retaliate, but on looking into the truth of
the matter we may find that... no, they had said something else
And so it's another case of "uncertainty." So why
should we rush in and believe things? Why should we put our trust so
much in what others say? Whatever we hear we should take note, be
patient, look into the matter carefully... stay straight.
It's not that whatever pops into our heads we write it all down
as some sort of truth. Any speech which ignores uncertainty is not
the speech of a sage. Remember this. As for being wise, we are no
longer practicing. Whatever we see or hear, be it pleasant or
sorrowful, just say "This is not sure!" Say it heavy to
yourself, hold it all down with this. Don't build those things up
into major issues, just keep them all down to this one. This point
is the important one. This is the point where defilements die.
Practicers shouldn't dismiss it.
If you disregard this point you can expect only suffering, expect
only mistakes. If you don't make this a foundation for your practice
you are going to go wrong... but then you will come right again
later on, because this principle is a really good one.
Actually the real Dhamma, the gist of what I have been saying
today, isn't so mysterious. Whatever you experience is simply form,
simply feeling, simply perception, simply volition, and simply
consciousness. There are only these basic qualities, where is there
any certainty within them?
If we come to understand the true nature of things like this,
lust, infatuation and attachment fade away. why do they fade away?
Because we understand, we know. We shift from ignorance to
understanding. Understanding is born from ignorance, knowing is born
from unknowing, purity is born from defilement. It works like this.
Not discarding aniccam, the Buddha This is what it
means to say that the Buddha is still alive. To stay that the Buddha
has passed into Nibbana is not necessarily true. In a more
profound sense the Buddha is still alive. It's much like how we
define the word "bhikkhu." If we define it as
"one who asks," 59
the meaning is very broad. We can define it this way, but to use
this definition too much is not so good we don't know when to
stop asking! If we were to define this word in a more profound way
we would say: "Bhikkhu one who sees the danger of Samsara."
Isn't this more profound? It doesn't go in the same direction as
the previous definition, it runs much deeper. The practice of Dhamma
is like this. If you don't fully understand it, it becomes something
else again. It becomes priceless, it becomes a source of peace.
When we have sati we are close to the Dhamma. If we have sati
we will see aniccam, the transience of all things. We will
see the Buddha and transcend the suffering of samsara, if not
now then sometime in the future.
If we throw away the attribute of the Noble Ones, the Buddha or
the Dhamma, our practice will become barren and fruitless. We must
maintain our practice constantly, whether we are working or sitting
or simply lying down. When the eye sees form, the ear hears sound,
the nose smells an odor, the tongue tastes a flavor or the body
experiences sensation... in all things, don't throw away the Buddha,
don't stray from the Buddha.
This is to be one who has come close to the Buddha, who reveres
the Buddha constantly. We have ceremonies for revering the Buddha,
such as chanting in the morning Araham Samma Sambuddho Bhagava...
This is one way of revering the Buddha but it's not revering the
Buddha in such a profound way as I've described here. It's the same
as with that word "bhikkhu." If we define it as
"one who asks" then they keep on asking... because it's
defined like that. To define it in the best way we should say "Bhikkhu
one who sees the danger of samsara."
Now revering the Buddha is the same. Revering the Buddha by
merely reciting Pali phrases as a ceremony in the mornings and
evenings is comparable to defining the word "bhikkhu"
as "one who asks." If we incline towards annicam,
dukkham and anatta 60
whenever the eye sees form, the ear hears sound, the nose smells an
odor, the tongue tastes a flavor, the body experiences sensation or
the mind cognizes mental impressions, at all times, this is
comparable to defining the word "bhikkhu" as "one who
sees the danger of samsara." It's so much more profound,
cuts through so many things. If we understand this teaching we will
grow in wisdom and understanding.
This is called patipada. Develop this attitude in the
practice and you will be on the right path. If you think and reflect
in this way, even though you may be far from your teacher you will
still be close to him. If you live close to the teacher physically
but your mind has not yet met him you will spend your time either
looking for his faults or adulating him. If he does something which
suits you, you say he's no good and that's as far as your
practice goes. You won't achieve anything by wasting your time
looking at someone else. But if you understand this teaching you can
become a Noble One in the present moment.
That's why this year 61
I've distanced myself from my disciples, both old and new, and not
given much teaching: so that you can all look into things for
yourselves as much as possible. For the newer monks I've already
laid down the schedule and rules of the monastery, such as:
"don't talk too much." Don't transgress the existing
standards, the path to realization, fruition and nibbana. Anyone who
transgresses these standards is not a real practicer, not one who
has with a pure intention to practice. What can such a person ever
hope to see? Even if he slept near me every day he wouldn't see me.
Even if he slept near the Buddha he wouldn't see the Buddha, if he
So knowing the Dhamma or seeing the Dhamma depends on practice.
Have confidence, purify your own heart. If all the monks in this
monastery put awareness into their respective minds we wouldn't have
to reprimand or praise anybody. We wouldn't have to be suspicious of
or favor anybody. If anger or dislike arise just leave them at the
mind, but see them clearly!
Keep on looking at those things. As long as there is still
something there it means we still have to dig and grind away right
there. Some say "I can't cut it, I can't do it," if we
start saying things like this there will only be a bunch of punks
here, because nobody cuts at their own defilements.
You must try. If you can't yet cut it, dig in deeper. Dig at the
defilements, uproot them. Dig them out even if they seem hard and
fast. The Dhamma is not something to be reached by following your
desires. Your mind may be one way, the truth another. You must watch
up front and keep a lookout behind as well. That's why I say,
"It's all uncertain, all transient."
This truth of uncertainty, this short and simple truth, at the
same time so profound and faultless, people tend to ignore. They
tend to see things differently. Don't cling to goodness, don't cling
to badness. These are attributes of the world. We are practicing to
be free of the world, so bring these things to an end. The Buddha
taught to lay them down, to give them up, because they only cause
When the group of five ascetics 62
abandoned the Buddha, he saw it as a stroke of luck, because he
would be able to continue his practice unhindered. With the five
ascetics living with him, things weren't so peaceful, he had
responsibilities. And now the five ascetics had abandoned him
because they felt that he had slackened his practice and reverted to
indulgence. Previously he had been intent on his ascetic practices
and self-mortification. In regards to eating, sleeping and so on, he
had tormented himself severely, but it came to a point where,
looking into it honestly, he saw that such practices just weren't
working. It was simply a matter of views, practicing out of pride
and clinging. He had mistaken worldly values and mistaken himself
for the truth.
For example if one decides to throw oneself into ascetic
practices with the intention of gaining praise this kind of
practice is all "world-inspired," practicing for adulation
and fame. Practicing with this kind of intention is called
"mistaking worldly ways for truth."
Another way to practice is "to mistake one's own views for
truth." You only believe yourself, in your own practice. No
matter what others say you stick to your own preferences. You don't
carefully consider the practice. this is called "mistaking
oneself for truth."
Whether you take the world or take yourself to be truth, it's all
simply blind attachment. The Buddha saw this, and saw that there was
no "adhering to the Dhamma," practicing for the truth. So
his practice had been fruitless, he still hadn't given up
Then he turned around and reconsidered all the work he had put
into practice right from the beginning in terms of results. What
were the results of all that practice? Looking deeply into it he saw
that it just wasn't right. It was full of conceit, and full of the
world. There was no dhamma, no insight into anatta (not self)
no emptiness or letting go. There may have been letting go of a
kind, but it was the kind that still hadn't let go.
Looking carefully at the situation, the Buddha saw that even if
he were to explain these things to the five ascetics they wouldn't
be able to understand. It wasn't something he could easily convey to
them, because those ascetics were still firmly entrenched in the old
way of practice and seeing things. The Buddha saw that you could
practice like that until your dying day, maybe even starve to death,
and achieve nothing, because such practice is inspired by worldly
values and by pride.
Considering deeply, he saw the right practice, samma patipada:
the mind is the mind, the body is the body. The body isn't desire or
defilement. Even if you were to destroy the body you wouldn't
destroy defilements. That's not their source. Even fasting and going
without sleep until the body was a shrivelled-up wraith wouldn't
exhaust the defilements. But the belief that defilements could be
dispelled in that way, the teaching of self-mortification, was
deeply ingrained into the five ascetics.
The Buddha then began to take more food, eating as normal,
practicing in a more natural way. When the five ascetics saw the
change in the Buddha's practice they figured that he had given up
and reverted to sensual indulgence. One person's understanding was
shifting to a higher level, transcending appearances, while the
other saw that that person's view was sliding downwards, reverting
to comfort. Self-mortification was deeply ingrained into the minds
of the five ascetics because the Buddha had previously taught and
practiced like that. Now he saw the fault in it. By seeing the fault
in it clearly, he was able to let it go.
When the five ascetics saw the Buddha doing this they left him,
feeling that he was practicing wrongly and that they would no longer
follow him. Just as birds abandon a tree which no longer offers
sufficient shade, or fish leave a pool of water that is too small,
too dirty or not cool, just so did the five ascetics abandon the
So now the Buddha concentrated on contemplating the Dhamma. He
ate more comfortably and lived more naturally. He let the mind be
simply the mind, the body simply the body. He didn't force his
practice in excess, just enough to loosen the grip of greed,
aversion, and delusion. Previously he had walked the two extremes: kamasukhallikanuyogo
if happiness or love arose he would be aroused and attach to
them. He would identify with them and wouldn't let go. If he
encountered pleasantness he would stick to that, if he encountered
suffering he would stick to that. These two extremes he called kamasukhallikanuyogo
The Buddha had been stuck on conditions. He saw clearly that
these two ways are not the way for a samana. Clinging to
happiness, clinging to suffering: a samana is not like this.
To cling to those things is not the way. Clinging to those things he
was stuck in the views of self and the world. If he were to flounder
in these two ways he would never become one who clearly knew the
world. He would be constantly running from one extreme to the other.
Now the Buddha fixed his attention on the mind itself and concerned
himself with training that.
All facets of nature proceed according to their supporting
conditions, they aren't any problem in themselves. For instance,
illnesses in the body. The body experiences pain, sickness, fever
and colds and so on. These all naturally occur. Actually people
worry about their bodies too much. That they worry about and cling
to their bodies so much is because of wrong view, they can't let go.
Look at this hall here. We build the hall and say it's ours, but
lizards come and live here, rats and geckoes come and live here, and
we are always driving them away, because we see that the hall
belongs to us, not the rats and lizards.
It's the same with illnesses in the body. We take this body to be
our home, something that really belongs to us. If we happen to get a
headache or stomach-ache we get upset, we don't want the pain and
suffering. These legs are "our legs," we don't want them
to hurt, these arms are "our arms," we don't want anything
to go wrong with it. We've got to cure all pains and illnesses at
This is where we are fooled and stray from the truth. We are
simply visitors to this body. Just like this hall here, it's not
really ours. We are simply temporary tenants, like the rats, lizards
and geckoes... but we don't know this. This body is the same.
Actually the Buddha taught that there is no abiding self within this
body but we go and grasp on to it as being our self, as really being
"us" and "them." When the body changes we don't
want it to do so. No matter how much we are told we don't
understand. If I say it straight you get even more fooled.
"This isn't yourself," I say, and you go even more astray,
you get even more confused and your practice just reinforces the
So most people don't really see the self. One who sees the self
is one who sees that "this is neither the self nor belonging to
self." He sees the self as it is in Nature. Seeing the self
through the power of clinging is not real seeing. Clinging
interferes with the whole business. It's not easy to realize this
body as it is because upadana clings fast to it all.
Therefore it is said that we must investigate to clearly know
with wisdom. This means to investigate the sankhara 63
according to their true nature. Use wisdom. To know the true nature
of sankhara is wisdom. If you don't know the true nature of sankhara
you are at odds with them, always resisting them. Now, it is better
to let go of the sankhara or to try to oppose or resist them.
And yet we plead with them to comply with our wishes. We look for
all sorts of means to organize them or "make a deal" with
them. If the body gets sick and is in pain we don't want it to be,
so we look for various Suttas to chant, such as Bojjhango,
the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta, the Anattalakkhanasutta
and so on. We don't want the body to be in pain, we want to protect
it, control it. These Suttas become some form of mystical
ceremony, getting us even more entangled in clinging. This is
because they chant them in order to ward off illness, to prolong
life and so on. Actually the Buddha gave us these teachings in order
to see clearly but we end up chanting them to increase our delusion.
Rupam aniccam, vedana anicca, sa˝˝a anicca, sankhara
anicca, vi˝˝anam aniccam... 64
We don't chant these words for increasing our delusion. They are
recollections to help us know the truth of the body, so that we can
let it go and give up our longing.
This is called chanting to cut things down, but we tend to chant
in order to extend them all, or if we feel they're too long we try
chanting to shorten them, to force nature to conform to our wishes.
It's all delusion. All the people sitting there in the hall are
deluded, every one of them. The ones chanting are deluded, the ones
listening are deluded, they're all deluded! All they can think is
"How can we avoid suffering?" Where are they ever going to
Whenever illnesses arise, those who know see nothing strange
about it. Getting born into this world entails experiencing illness.
However, even the Buddha and the Noble Ones, contracting illness in
the course of things, would also, in the course of things, treat it
with medicine. For them it was simply a matter of correcting the
elements. They didn't blindly cling to the body or grasp at mystic
ceremonies and such. They treated illnesses with Right View, they
didn't treat them with delusion. "If it heals, it heals, if it
doesn't then it doesn't" that's how they saw things.
They say that nowadays Buddhism in Thailand is thriving, but it
looks to me like it's sunk almost as far as it can go. The Dhamma
Halls are full of attentive ears, but they're attending wrongly.
Even the senior members of the community are like this, so everybody
just leads each other into more delusion.
One who sees this will know that the true practice is almost
opposite from where most people are going, the two sides can barely
understand each other. How are those people going to transcend
suffering? They have chants for realizing the truth but they turn
around and use them to increase their delusion. They turn their
backs on the right path. One goes eastward, the other goes west
how are they ever going to meet? They're not even close to each
If you have looked into this you will see that this is the case.
Most people are lost. But how can you tell them? Everything has
become rites and rituals and mystic ceremonies. they chant but they
chant with foolishness, they don't chant with wisdom. They study,
but they study with foolishness, not with wisdom. They know, but
they know foolishly, not with wisdom. So they end up going with
foolishness, living with foolishness, knowing with foolishness.
That's how it is. And teaching... all they do these days is teach
people to be stupid. They say they're teaching people to be clever,
giving them knowledge, but when you look at it in terms of truth,
you see that they're really teaching people to go astray and grasp
The real foundation of the teaching is in order to see atta,
the self, as being empty, having no fixed identity. It's void of
intrinsic being. But people come to the study of Dhamma to increase
their self-view, so they don't want to experience suffering or
difficulty. They want everything to be cozy. They may want to
transcend suffering, but if there is still a self how can they ever
Just consider... Suppose we came to possess a very expensive
object. The minute that thing comes into our possession our mind
changes..."Now, where can I keep it? If I leave it there
somebody might steal it"... We worry ourselves into a state,
trying to find a place to keep it. And when did the mind change? It
changed the minute we obtained that object suffering arose right
then. No matter where we leave that object we can't relax, so we're
left with trouble. Whether sitting, walking, or lying down, we are
lost in worry.
This is suffering. And when did it arise? It arose as soon as we
understood that we had obtained something, that's where the
suffering lies. Before we had that object there was no suffering. It
hadn't yet arisen because there wasn't yet an object for it to cling
Atta, the self, is the same. if we think in terms of
"my self," then everything around us becomes
"mine." Confusion follows. Why so? The cause of it all is
that there is a self, we don't peel off the apparent in order to see
the Transcendent. You see, the self is only an appearance. You have
to peel away the appearances in order to see the heart of the
matter, which is Transcendence. Upturn the apparent to find the
You could compare it to unthreshed rice. Can unthreshed rice be
eaten? Sure it can, but you must thresh it first. Get rid of the
husks and you will find the grain inside.
Now if we don't thresh the husks we won't find the grain. Like a
dog sleeping on the pile of unthreshed grain. Its stomach is
rumbling "jork-jork-jork," but all it can do is lie there,
thinking "Where can I get something to eat?" When it's
hungry it bounds off the pile of rice grain and runs off looking for
scraps of food. Even though it's sleeping right in top of a pile of
food it knows nothing of it. Why? It can't see the rice. Dogs can't
eat unthreshed rice. The food is there but the dog can't eat it.
We may have learning but if we don't practice accordingly we
still don't really know, just as oblivious as the dog sleeping on
the pile of rice grain. It's sleeping on a pile of food but it knows
nothing of it. When it gets hungry it's got to jump off and go
trotting around elsewhere for food. It's a shame, isn't it?
Now this is the same: there is rice grain but what is hiding it?
The husk hides the grain, so the dog can't eat it. And there is the
Transcendent. What hides it? The Apparent conceals the Transcendent,
making people simply "sit on top of the pile of rice, unable to
eat it," unable to practice, unable to see the Transcendent.
And so they simply get stuck in appearances time and again. If you
are stuck in appearances suffering is in store, you will be beset by
becoming, birth, old age, sickness and death.
So there isn't anything else blocking people off, they are
blocked right here. People who study the Dhamma without penetrating
to its true meaning are just like the dog on the pile of unthreshed
rice who doesn't know the rice. He might even starve and still find
nothing to eat. A dog can't eat unthreshed rice, it doesn't even
know there is food there. After a long time without food it may even
die... on top of that pile of rice! People are like this. No matter
how much we study the Dhamma of the Buddha we won't see it if we
don't practice. If we don't see it then we don't know it.
Don't go thinking that by learning a lot and knowing a lot you'll
know the Buddha Dhamma. That's like saying you've seen everything
there is to see just because you've got eyes, or that you've got
ears. You may see but you don't see fully. You see only with the
"outer eye," not with the "inner eye'; you hear with
the "outer ear," not with the "inner ear."
If you upturn the apparent and reveal the Transcendent you will
reach the truth and see clearly. You will uproot the Apparent and
But this is like some sort of sweet fruit: even though the fruit
is sweet we must rely on contact with and experience of that fruit
before we will know what the taste is like. Now that fruit, even
though no-one tastes it, is sweet all the same. But nobody knows of
it. The Dhamma of the Buddha is like this. Even though it's the
truth it isn't true for those who don't really know it. No matter
how excellent or fine it may be it is worthless to them.
So why do people grab after suffering? Who in this world wants to
inflict suffering on themselves? No-one, of course. Nobody wants
suffering and yet people keep creating the causes of suffering, just
as if they were wandering around looking for suffering. Within their
hearts people are looking for happiness, they don't want suffering.
Then why is it that this mind of ours creates so much suffering?
Just seeing this much is enough. We don't like suffering and yet why
do we create suffering for ourselves? It's easy to see... it can
only be because we don't know suffering, don't know the end of
suffering. That's why people behave the way they do. How could they
not suffer when they continue to behave in this way?
These people have micchaditthi 65
but they don't see that it's micchaditthi. Whatever we say,
believe in or do which results in suffering is all wrong
view. If it wasn't wrong view it wouldn't result in suffering. We
couldn't cling to suffering, nor to happiness or to any condition at
all. We would leave things be their natural way, like a flowing
stream of water. We don't have to dam it up, just let it flow along
its natural course.
The flow of Dhamma is like this, but the flow of the ignorant
mind tries to resist the Dhamma in the form of wrong view. And yet
it flies off everywhere else, seeing wrong view, that is, suffering
is there because of wrong view this people don't see. This is
worth looking into. Whenever we have wrong view we will experience
suffering. If we don't experience it in the present it will manifest
People go astray right here. What is blocking them off? The
Apparent blocks off the Transcendent, preventing people from seeing
things clearly. People study, they learn, they practice, but they
practice with ignorance, just like a person who's lost his bearings.
He walks to the west but thinks he's walking east, or walks to the
north thinking he's walking south. This is how far people have gone
astray. This kind of practice is really only the dregs of practice,
in fact it's a disaster. It's disaster because they turn around and
go in the opposite direction, they fall from the objective of true
This state of affairs causes suffering and yet people think that
doing this, memorizing that, studying such-and-such will be a cause
for the cessation of suffering. Just like a person who wants a lot
of things. He tries to amass as much as possible, thinking if he
gets enough his suffering will abate. This is how people think, but
their thinking is astray of the true path, just like one person
going northward, another going southward, and yet believing they're
going the same way.
Most people are still stuck in the mass of suffering, still
wandering in samsara, just because they think like this. If
illness or pain arise, all they can do is wonder how they can get
rid of it. They want it to stop as fast as possible, they've got to
cure it all costs. They don't consider that this is the normal way
of sankhara. Nobody thinks like this. The body changes and
people can't endure it, they can't accept it, they've got to get rid
of it at all costs. However, in the end they can't win, they can't
beat the truth. It all collapses. This is something people don't
want to look at, they continually reinforce their wrong view.
Practicing to realize the Dhamma is the most excellent of things.
Why did the Buddha develop all the Perfections? 66
So that he could realize this and enable others to see the Dhamma,
know the Dhamma, practice the Dhamma and be the Dhamma so that
they could let go and not be burdened.
"Don't cling to things." Or to put it another way:
"Hold, but don't hold fast." This is also right. If we see
something we pick it up..."Oh, it's this"... then we lay
it down. We see something else, pick it up... one holds, but not
fast. Hold it just long enough to consider it, to know it, then to
let it go. If you hold without letting go, carry without laying down
the burden, then you are going to be heavy. If you pick something up
and carry it for a while, then when it gets heavy you should lay it
down, throw it off. Don't make suffering for yourself.
This we should know as the cause of suffering. If we know the
cause of suffering, suffering cannot arise. For either happiness or
suffering to arise there must be the atta, the self. There
must be the "I" and "mine," there must be this
appearance. If when all these things arise the mind goes straight to
the Transcendent, it removes the appearances. It removes the
delight, the aversion and the clinging from those things. Just as
when something that we value gets lost... when we find it again our
Even before we see that object our worries may be relieved. At
first we think it's lost and suffer over it, but there comes a day
when we suddenly remember, "Oh, that's right! I put it over
there, now I remember!" As soon as we remember this, as soon as
we see the truth, even if we haven't laid eyes on that object, we
feel happy. This is called "seeing within," seeing with
the mind's eye, not seeing with the outer eye. If we see with the
mind's eye then even though we haven't laid eyes on that object we
are already relieved.
This is the same, When we cultivate Dhamma practice and attain
the Dhamma, see the Dhamma, then whenever we encounter a problem we
solve the problem instantly, right then and there. It disappears
completely, laid down, released.
Now the Buddha wanted us to contact the Dhamma, but people only
contact the words, the books and the scriptures. This is contacting
that which is about Dhamma, not contacting the actual Dhamma
as taught by our Great Teacher. How can people say they are
practicing well and properly? They are a long way off.
The Buddha was known as lokavidu, having clearly realized
the world. Right now we see the world all right, but not clearly.
The more we know the darker the world becomes, because our knowledge
is murky, it's not clear knowledge. It's faulty. This is called
"knowing through darkness," lacking in light and radiance.
People are only stuck here but it's no trifling matter. It's
important. Most people want goodness and happiness but they just
don't know what the causes for that goodness and happiness are.
Whatever it may be, if we haven't yet seen the harm of it we can't
give it up. No matter how bad it may be, we still can't give it up
if we haven't truly seen the harm of it. However, if we really see
the harm of something beyond a doubt then we can let it go. As soon
as we see the harm of something, and the benefit of giving it up,
there's an immediate change.
Why is it we are still unattained, still cannot let go? It's
because we still don't see the harm clearly, our knowledge is
faulty, it's dark. that's why we can't let go. If we knew clearly
like the Lord Buddha or the arahant disciples we would surely let
go, our problems would dissolve completely with no difficulty at
When your ears hear sound, then let them do their job. When your
eyes perform their function with forms, then let them do so. When
your nose works with smells, let it do its job. When your body
experiences sensations, then let it perform its natural functions
where will problems arise? There are no problems.
In the same way, all those things which belong to the Apparent,
leave them with the Apparent. And acknowledge that which is the
Transcendent. Simply be the "One Who Knows," knowing
without fixation, knowing and letting things be their natural way.
All things are just as they are.
All our belongings, does anybody really own them? Does our father
own them, or our mother, or our relatives? Nobody really gets
anything. That's why the Buddha said to let all those things be, let
them go. Know them clearly. Know then by holding, but not fast. Use
things in a way that is beneficial, not in a harmful way by holding
fast to them until suffering arises.
To know Dhamma you must know in this way. That is, to know in
such a way as to transcend suffering. This sort of knowledge is
important. Knowing about how to make things, to use tools, knowing
all the various sciences of the world and so on, all have their
place, but they are not the supreme knowledge. The Dhamma must be
known as I've explained it here. You don't have to know a whole lot,
just this much is enough for the Dhamma practicer to know and
then let go.
It's not that you have to die before you can transcend suffering,
you know. You transcend suffering in this very life because you know
how to solve problems. You know the apparent, you know the
Transcendent. Do it in this lifetime, while you are here practicing.
You won't find it anywhere else. Don't cling to things. Hold, but
You may wonder, "Why does the Ajahn keep saying this?"
How could I teach otherwise, how could I say otherwise, when the
truth is just as I've said it? Even though it's the truth don't hold
fast to even that! If you cling to it blindly it becomes a
falsehood. Like a dog... try grabbing its leg. If you don't let go
the dog will spin around and bite you. Just try it out. All animals
behave like this. If you don't let go it's got no choice but to
bite. The Apparent is the same. We live in accordance with
conventions, they are here for our convenience in this life, but
they are not things to be clung to so hard that they cause
suffering. Just let things pass.
Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we
refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are
wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it
arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being
suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering.
So I say, "Allow space, don't cling to things."
"Right" is just another supposition, just let it pass.
"Wrong" is another apparent condition, just let it be
that. If you feel you are right and yet others contend the issue,
don't argue, just let it go. As soon as you know, let go. This is
the straight way.
Usually it's not like this. People don't often give in to each
other. That's why some people, even Dhamma practicers who still
don't know themselves, may say things that are utter foolishness and
yet think they're being wise. They may say something that's so
stupid that others can't even bear to listen and yet they think they
are being cleverer than others. Other people can't even listen to it
and yet they think they are smart, that they are right. They are
simply advertising their own stupidity.
That's why the wise say, "Whatever speech disregards aniccam
is not the speech of a wise person, it's the speech of a fool. It's
deluded speech. it's the speech of one who doesn't know that
suffering is going to arise right there." For example, suppose
you had decided to go to Bangkok tomorrow and someone were to ask,
"Are you going to Bangkok tomorrow?"
"I hope to go to Bangkok. If there are no obstacles I'll
probably go." This is called speaking with the Dhamma in mind,
speaking with aniccam in mind, taking into account the truth,
the transient, uncertain nature of the world. You don't say,
"Yes, I'm definitely going tomorrow." If it turns out you
don't go what are you going to do, send news to all the people who
told you were going to? You'd be just talking non-sense.
There's still much more to it, the practice of Dhamma becomes
more and more refined. But if you don't see it you may think you are
speaking right even when you are speaking wrongly and straying from
the true nature of things with every word. And yet you may think you
are speaking the truth. To put it simply: anything that we say or do
that causes suffering to arise should be known as micchaditthi.
It's delusion and foolishness.
Most practicers don't reflect in this way. Whatever they like
they think is right and they just go on believing themselves. For
instance, they may receive some gift or title, be it an object, rank
or even words of praise, and they think it's good. They take it as
some sort of permanent condition. So they get puffed up with pride
and conceit, they don't consider, "Who am I? Where is this
so-called "goodness"? Where did it come from? Do others
have the same things?"
The Buddha taught that we should conduct ourselves normally. If
we don't dig in, chew over and look into this point it means it's
still sunk within us. It means these conditions are still buried
within our hearts we are still sunk in wealth, rank and praise.
So we become someone else because of them. We think we are better
than before, that we are something special and so all sorts of
Actually, in truth there isn't anything to human beings. Whatever
we may be it's only in the realm of appearances. If we take away the
apparent and see the Transcendent we see that there isn't anything
there. There are simply the universal characteristics birth in
the beginning, change in the middle and cessation in the end. This
is all there is. If we see that all things are like this then no
problems arise. If we understand this we will have contentment and
Where trouble arises is when we think like the five ascetic
disciples of the Buddha. They followed the instruction of their
teacher, but when he changed his practice they couldn't understand
what he thought or knew. They decided that the Buddha had given up
his practice and reverted to indulgence. If we were in that position
we'd probably think the same thing and there'd be no way to correct
it. Holding on to the old ways, thinking in the lower way, yet
believing it's higher. We'd see the Buddha and think he'd given up
the practice and reverted to indulgence, just like he'd given up the
practice and reverted to indulgence, just like those Five Ascetics:
consider how many years they had been practicing at that time, and
yet they still went astray, they still weren't proficient.
So I say to practice and also to look at the results of your
practice. Especially where you refuse to follow, where there is
friction. Where there is no friction, there is no problem, things
flow. If there is friction, they don't flow, you set up a self and
things become solid, like a mass of clinging. There is no give and
Most monks and cultivators tend to be like this. However they've
thought in the past they continue to think. They refuse to change,
they don't reflect. They think they are right so they can't be
wrong, but actually "wrongness" is buried within
"rightness," even though most people don't know that. How
is it so? "This is right"... but if someone else says it's
not right you won't give in, you've got to argue. What is this? Ditthi
mana... Ditthi means views, mana is the attachment
to those views. If we attach even to what is right, refusing to
concede to anybody, then it becomes wrong. To cling fast to
rightness is simply the arising of self, there is no letting go.
This is a point which gives people a lot of trouble, except for
those Dhamma practicers who know that this matter, this point, is a
very important one. they will take not of it. If it arises while
they're speaking, clinging comes racing on to the scene. Maybe it
will linger for some time, perhaps one or two days, three or four
months, a year or two. This is for the slow ones, that is. For the
quick response is instant... they just let go. Clinging arises and
immediately there is letting go, they force the mind to let go right
then and there.
You must see these two functions operating. Here there is
clinging. Now who is the one who resists that clinging? Whenever you
experience a mental impression you should observe these two
functions operating. There is clinging, and there is one who
prohibits the clinging. Now just watch these two things. Maybe you
will cling for a long time before you let go.
Reflecting and constantly practicing like this, clinging gets
lighter, becomes less and less. Right view increases as wrong view
gradually wanes. Clinging decreases, non-clinging arises. This is
the way it is for everybody. That's why I say to consider this
point. Learn to solve problems in the present moment.
1. That is, the
2. The Triple Gem:
The Buddha, the Dhamma, His teaching, and the Sangha,
the Monastic Order, or those who have realized the Dhamma.
3. Sati: Usually
translated into English as mindfulness, recollection is the more
accurate translation of the Thai words, "ra-luk dai."
means "development" or "cultivation"; but is
usually used to refer to cittabhavana, mind-development, or pa˝˝a-bhavana,
wisdom-development, or contemplation.
is a generic name given to the code of discipline of the Buddhist
Monastic Order, the rules of the monkhood. "Vinaya"
literally means "leading out," because maintenance of
these rules "leads out" of unskillful actions, and, by
extension, unskillful states of mind; in addition it can be said to
"lead out" of the household life, and, by extension,
attachment to the world.
6. This refers to
the Venerable Ajahn's early years in the monkhood, before he had
begun to practice in earnest.
7. The second sanghadisesa
offense, which deals with touching a woman with lustful intentions.
8. Referring to
pacittiya offense No. 36, for eating food outside of the allowed
time dawn till noon.
offenses of "wrong-doing," the lightest class of
offenses in the Vinaya, of which there are a great number; parajika
offenses of defeat, of which there are four, are the most
serious, involving expulsion from the Bhikkhu-Sangha.
Ajahn Mun Bhuridatto, probably the most renowned and highly
respected Meditation Master from the forest tradition in Thailand.
He had many disciples who have been teachers in their own right, of
whom Ajahn Chah is one. Venerable Ajahn Mun died in 1949.
Vannana "The Elementary Training" a Thai
Commentary on Dhamma-Vinaya based on the Pali Commentaries; the
Visuddhimagga "Path to Purity" Acariya
Buddhagosa's exhaustive commentary on Dhamma-Vinaya.
sense of shame; Ottappa fear of wrong-doing. Hiri
and ottappa are positive states of mind which lay a
foundation for clear conscience and moral integrity. Their arising
is based on a respect for oneself and for others. Restraint is
natural because of a clear perception of cause and effect.
the name to the offenses of various classes for a Buddhist monk.
a title given to monks who have studied Pali and completed up to the
fourth year or higher.
"receiving cloth" is a cloth used by Thai monks for
receiving things from women, from whom they do not receive things
directly. That Venerable Ajahn Pow lifted his hand from the
receiving cloth indicated that he was not actually receiving the
16. There are
very precise and detailed regulations governing the ordination
procedure which, if not adhered to, may render the ordination
17. The Vinaya
forbids bhikkhus from eating raw meat or fish.
18. Although it
is an offense for monks to accept money, there are many who do. Some
may accept it while appearing not to, which is probably how the
laypeople in this instance saw the Venerable Ajahn's refusal to
accept money, by thinking that he actually would accept it if they
didn't overtly offer it to him, but just slipped it into his bag.
The traditional way of making greeting or showing respect, as
with an Indian Namaste or the Thai wai. Sadhu
"It is well" a way of showing appreciation or
transgression of the precepts, a pacittiya offense.
A simplified synopsis of elementary Dhamma-Vinaya.
22. Many monks
undertake written examinations of their scriptural knowledge,
sometimes as Ajahn Chah points out to the detriment of their
application of the teachings in daily life.
in sense pleasures, indulgence in comfort.
a bhikkhu's dwelling place, a hut.
25. The cycle of
conditioned existence, the world of delusion.
a religious seeker living a renunciant life. Originating from the
Sanskrit term for "one who strives," the word signifies
someone who has made a profound commitment to spiritual practice.
27. One of the
many branch monasteries of Ajahn Chah's main monastery, Wat Ba Pong.
28. Concept (sammutti)
refers to supposed or provisional reality, while transcendence (vimutti)
refers to the liberation from attachment to or delusion within it.
29. Mara: the
Buddhist personification of evil, the Tempter, that force which
opposes any attempts to develop goodness and virtue.
30. The play on
words here between the Thai "phadtibut" (practice)
and "wibut" (disaster) is lost in the English.
31. These are
the two extremes pointed out as wrong paths by the Buddha in his
First Discourse. They are normally rendered as "Indulgence in
sense pleasures" and "Self mortification."
an eight-precept postulant, who often lives with bhikkhus and, in
addition to his own meditation practice, also helps them with
certain services which bhikkhus are forbidden by the Vinaya from
33. The level of
nothingness, one of the "formless absorptions," sometimes
called the seventh "jhana," or absorption.
Princess Yasodhara, the Buddha's former wife; Rahula, his son.
material or physical objects; nama immaterial or
mental objects the physical and mental constituents of being.
the state of liberation from all conditioned states.
37. The Thai
word for bhava "pop" would have been
a familiar term to Ajahn Chah's audience. It is generally understood
to mean "Sphere of rebirth." Ajahn Chah's usage of the
word here is somewhat unconventional, emphasizing a more practical
application of the term.
38. Both the red
ants and their eggs are used for food in North East Thailand, so
that such raids on their nests were not so unusual.
39. The first
line of the traditional Pali words of homage to the Buddha, recited
before giving a formal Dhamma talk. Evam is the traditional
Pali word for ending a talk.
the Thai "dhutanga" or forest-dwelling monks'
large umbrella from which, suspended from a tree, they hang a
mosquito net in which to stay while in the forest.
41. The body on
the first night had been that of a child.
42. The last
line of the traditional Pali lines listing the qualities of the
and Dhammayuttika are the two sects of Theravada sangha in Thailand.
44. A Thai
expression meaning, "Don't overdo it."
practices allowed by the Buddha over and above the general
disciplinary code, for those who which to practice more ascetically.
46. Part of a
Pali verse, traditionally recited at funeral ceremonies. The meaning
of the full verse if, "Alas, transient are all compounded
things/Having arisen, they cease/Being born, they die/The cessation
of all compounding is true happiness."
48. The word dhamma
can be used in different ways. In this talk, the Venerable Ajahn
refers to Dhamma the teachings of the Buddha; to dhammas
"things"; and to Dhamma the experience of
49. At that time
Sariputta had his first insight into the Dhamma, attaining sotapatti,
50. That is, nibbida,
disinterest in the lures of the sensual world.
51. The Truth of
Suffering, the Truth of its Cause, the Truth of its Cessation and
the Truth of the Way (leading to the cessation of suffering): The
Four Noble Truths.
days, held roughly every fortnight, on which monks confess their
offenses and recite the disciplinary precepts, the Patimokkha.
heartwood from the jackfruit tree is boiled down and the resulting
color used both to dye and to wash the robes of the forest monks.
the Seven Factors of Enlightenment: sati, recollection; dhamma-vicaya,
inquiry into dhammas; viriya, effort; piti,
joy; passadhi, peace; samadhi, concentration; and upekkha,
55. The central
body of the monastic code, which is recited fortnightly in the Pali
Mara the Mara, or Tempter, which appears in a seemingly
57. The Five Khandhas:
Form (rupa), feeling (vedana), perception (sa˝˝a),
conceptualization or mental formations (sankhara) and
sense-consciousness (vi˝˝ana). These comprise the
psycho-physical experience known as the "self."
(nonreturner): The third "level" of enlightenment, which
is reached on the abandonment of the five "lower fetters"
(of a total of ten) which bind the mind to worldly existence. The
first two "levels" are sotapanna
("stream-enterer") and sakadagami ("once-returner"),
the last being araham ("worthy or accomplished
59. That is, one
who lives dependent on the generosity of others.
Imperfection, and Ownerlessness.
61. 2522 of the
Buddhist Era, or 1979 CE.
62. The pa˝cavaggiya,
or "group of five," who followed the Buddha-to-be (Bodhisatta)
when he was cultivating ascetic practices, and who left him when he
renounced them for the Middle Way, shortly after which the
Bodhisatta attained Supreme Enlightenment.
conditioned phenomena. The Thai usage of this term usually refers
specifically to the body, though sankhara also refers to
64. Form is
impermanent, feeling is impermanent, perception is impermament,
volition is impermanent, consciousness is impermanent.
66. The ten paramita
(perfections): generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, effort,
patience, truthfulness, resolution, goodwill and equanimity.
impression, 1992. Transcribed from the print edition in 1994 by
David Savage under the auspices of the DharmaNet Dharma Book
Transcription Project, with the kind permission of the copyright
holder. Inquiries about this book may be directed to: The Abbot,
Wat Pah Nanachat, Bahn Bung Wai, Warinchamrab, Ubol Rajathani
34310, Thailand. Copyright ę 1992 The Sangha, Wat Pah
Nanachat. Reproduced and reformatted from Access to Insight
edition ę 1994 For free distribution. This work may be
republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any
medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such
republication and redistribution be made available to the public
on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other
derivative works be clearly marked as such.