Seekers of goodness who
have gathered here please listen in peace. Listening to the Dhamma in
peace means to listen with a one-pointed mind, paying attention to
what you hear and then letting go. Listening to the Dhamma is of great
benefit. While listening to the Dhamma we are encouraged to firmly
establish both body and mind in samadhi, because it is one kind
of dhamma practice. In the time of the Buddha people listened to
Dhamma talks intently, with a mind aspiring to real understanding, and
some actually realized the Dhamma while listening.
This place is well suited
to meditation practice. Having stayed here a couple of nights I can
see that it is an important place. On the external level it is already
peaceful, all that remains is the internal level, your hearts and
minds. So I ask all of you to make an effort to pay attention.
Why have you gathered here
to practice meditation? It's because your hearts and minds do not
understand what should be understood. In other words, you don't truly
know how things are, or what is what. You don't know what is wrong and
what is right, what it is that brings you suffering and causes you to
doubt. So first you have to make yourselves calm. The reason that you
have come here to develop calm and restraint is that your hearts and
minds are not at ease. Your minds are not calm, not restrained. They
are swayed by doubting and agitation. This is why you have come here
today and are now listening to the Dhamma.
I would like you to
concentrate and listen carefully to what I say, and I ask permission
to speak frankly because that's how I am. Please understand that even
if I do speak in a forceful manner, I am doing so out of good will. I
ask your forgiveness if there is anything I say that upsets you,
because the customs of Thailand and those of the West are not the
same. Actually, speaking a little forcefully can be good because it
helps to stir people up who might otherwise be sleepy or drowsy, and
rather than rousing themselves to hear the Dhamma allow themselves to
drift instead into complacency and as a result never understand
Although there may appear
to be many ways to practice really there is only one. As with fruit
trees, it is possible to get fruit quickly by planting a cutting, but
the tree would not be resilient or long lasting. Another way is to
cultivate a tree right from the seed, which produces a strong and
resilient tree. Practice is the same.
When I first began to
practice I had problems understanding this. As long as I still didn't
know what's what, sitting meditation was a real chore, even bringing
me to tears on occasion. Sometimes I would be aiming too high, at
others not high enough, never finding the point of balance. To
practice in a way that's peaceful means to place the mind neither too
high or too low, but at the point of balance.
I can see that it's very
confusing for you, coming from different places and having practiced
in different ways with different teachers. Coming to practice here you
must be plagued with all kinds of doubts. One teacher says you must
practice in one way, another says you should practice another way. You
wonder which method to use, unsure of the essence of the practice. The
result is confusion. There are so many teachers and so many teachings
that nobody knows how to harmonize their practice. As a result there
is a lot of doubt and uncertainty.
So you must try not to
think too much. If you do think, then do so with awareness. But so far
your thinking has been done with no awareness. First you must make
your mind calm. Where there is knowing there is no need to think,
awareness will arise in its place, and this will in turn become wisdom
(pañña). But the ordinary kind of thinking is not wisdom, it is
simply the aimless and unaware wandering of the mind, which inevitably
results in agitation. This is not wisdom.
At this stage you don't
need to think. You've already done a great deal of thinking at home,
haven't you? It just stirs up the heart. You must establish some
awareness. Obsessive thinking can even bring you tears, just try it
out. Getting lost in some train of thought won't lead you to the
truth, it's not wisdom. The Buddha was a very wise person, he'd learnt
how to stop thinking. In the same way you are practicing here in order
to stop thinking and thereby arrive at peace. If you are already calm
it is not necessary to think, wisdom will arise in its place.
To meditate you do not have
to think much more than to resolve that right now is the time for
training the mind and nothing else. Don't let the mind shoot off to
the left or to the right, to the front or behind, above or below. Our
only duty right now is to practice mindfulness of the breathing. Fix
your attention at the head and move it down through the body to the
tips of the feet, and then back up to the crown of the head. Pass your
awareness down through the body, observing with wisdom. We do this to
gain an initial understanding of the way the body is. Then begin the
meditation, noting that at this time your sole duty is to observe the
inhalations and exhalations. Don't force the breath to be any longer
or shorter than normal, just allow it to continue easily. Don't put
any pressure on the breath, rather let it flow evenly, letting go with
each in-breath and out-breath.
You must understand that
you are letting go as you do this, but there should still be
awareness. You must maintain this awareness, allowing the breath to
enter and leave comfortably. There is no need to force the breath,
just allow it to flow easily and naturally. Maintain the resolve that
at this time you have no other duties or responsibilities. Thoughts
about what will happen, what you will know or see during the
meditation may arise from time to time, but once they arise just let
them cease by themselves, don't be unduly concerned over them.
During the meditation there
is no need to pay attention to sense impressions. Whenever the mind is
affected by sense impingement, wherever there is a feeling or
sensation in the mind, just let it go. Whether those sensations are
good or bad is unimportant. It is not necessary to make anything out
of those sensations, just let them pass away and return your attention
to the breath. Maintain the awareness of the breath entering and
leaving. Don't create suffering over the breath being too long or too
short, simply observe it without trying to control or suppress it in
any way. In other words, don't attach. Allow the breath to continue as
it is, and the mind will become calm. As you continue the mind will
gradually lay things down and come to rest, the breath becoming
lighter and lighter until it becomes so faint that it seems like it's
not there at all. Both the body and the mind will feel light and
energized. All that will remain will be a one-pointed knowing. You
could say that the mind has changed and reached a state of calm.
If the mind is agitated,
set up mindfulness and inhale deeply till there is no space left to
store any air, then release it all completely until none remains.
Follow this with another deep inhalation until you are full, then
release the air again. Do this two or three times, then re-establish
concentration. The mind should be calmer. If any more sense
impressions cause agitation in the mind, repeat the process on every
occasion. Similarly with walking meditation. If while walking, the
mind becomes agitated, stop still, calm the mind, re-establish the
awareness with the meditation object and then continue walking.
Sitting and walking meditation are in essence the same, differing only
in terms of the physical posture used.
Sometimes there may be
doubt, so you must have sati, to be the one who knows,
continually following and examining the agitated mind in whatever form
it takes. This is to have sati. Sati watches over and
takes care of the mind. You must maintain this knowing and not be
careless or wander astray, no matter what condition the mind takes on.
The trick is to have
sati taking control and supervising the mind. Once the mind is
unified with sati a new kind of awareness will emerge. The mind
that has developed calm is held in check by that calm, just like a
chicken held in a coop...the chicken is unable to wander outside, but
it can still move around within the coop. Its walking to and fro
doesn't get it into trouble because it is restrained by the coop.
Likewise the awareness that takes place when the mind has sati
and is calm does not cause trouble. None of the thinking or sensations
that take place within the calm mind cause harm or disturbance.
Some people don't want to
experience any thoughts or feelings at all, but this is going too far.
Feelings arise within the state of calm. The mind is both experiencing
feelings and calm at the same time, without being disturbed. When
there is calm like this there are no harmful consequences. Problems
occur when the "chicken" gets out of the "coop." For instance, you may
be watching the breath entering and leaving and then forget yourself,
allowing the mind to wander away from the breath, back home, off to
the shops or to any number of different places. Maybe even half an
hour may pass before you suddenly realize you're supposed to be
practicing meditation and reprimand yourself for your lack of sati.
This is where you have to be really careful, because this is where the
chicken gets out of the coop -- the mind leaves its base of calm.
You must take
care to maintain the awareness with sati and try to pull the
mind back. Although I use the words "pull the mind back," in fact the
mind doesn't really go anywhere, only the object of awareness has
changed. You must make the mind stay right here and now. As long as
there is sati there will be presence of mind. It seems like you
are pulling the mind back but really it hasn't gone anywhere, it has
simply changed a little. It seems that the mind goes here and there,
but in fact the change occurs right at the one spot. When sati
is regained, in a flash you are back with the mind without it having
to be brought from anywhere.
When there is total
knowing, a continuous and unbroken awareness at each and every moment,
this is called presence of mind. If your attention drifts from the
breath to other places then the knowing is broken. Whenever there is
awareness of the breath the mind is there. With just the breath and
this even and continuous awareness you have presence of mind.
There must be both sati
and sampajañña. Sati is recollection and sampajañña
is self awareness. Right now you are clearly aware of the breath. This
exercise of watching the breath helps sati and sampajañña
develop together. They share the work. Having both sati and
sampajañña is like having two workers to lift a heavy plank of
wood. Suppose there are two people trying to lift some heavy planks,
but the weight is so great, they have to strain so hard, that it's
almost unendurable. Then another person, imbued with goodwill, sees
them and rushes in to help. In the same way, when there is sati
and sampajañña, then pañña (wisdom) will arise at the
same place to help out. Then all three of them support each other.
With pañña there
will be an understanding of sense objects. For instance, during the
meditation sense objects are experienced which give rise to feelings
and moods. You may start to think of a friend, but then pañña
should immediately counter with "It doesn't matter," "Stop" or "Forget
it." Or if there are thoughts about where you will go tomorrow, then
the response would be, "I'm not interested, I don't want to concern
myself with such things." Maybe you start thinking about other people,
then you should think, "No, I don't want to get involved." "Just let
go," or "It's all uncertain and never a sure thing." This is how you
should deal with things in meditation, recognizing them as "not sure,
not sure," and maintaining this kind of awareness.
You must give up all the
thinking, the inner dialogue and the doubting. Don't get caught up in
these things during the meditation. In the end all that will remain in
the mind in its purest form are sati, sampajañña and
pañña. whenever these things weaken doubts will arise, but try to
abandon those doubts immediately, leaving only sati,
sampajañña and pañña. Try to develop sati like this
until it can be maintained at all times. Then you will understand
sati, sampajañña and samadhi thoroughly.
Focusing the attention at
this point you will see sati, sampajañña, samadhi
and pañña together. Whether you are attracted to or repelled by
external sense objects, you will be able to tell yourself, "It's not
sure." Either way they are just hindrances to be swept away till the
mind is clean. all that should remain is sati, recollection;
sampajañña, clear awareness; samadhi, the firm and
unwavering mind; and pañña, or consummate wisdom. For the time
being I will say just this much on the subject of meditation.
Now about the tools or aids
to meditation practice -- there should be metta (goodwill) in
your heart, in other words, the qualities of generosity, kindness and
helpfulness. These should be maintained as the foundation for mental
purity. For example, begin doing away with lobha, or
selfishness, through giving. When people are selfish they aren't
happy. Selfishness leads to a sense of discontent, and yet people tend
to be very selfish without realizing how it affects them.
You can experience this at
any time, especially when you are hungry. Suppose you get some apples
and you have the opportunity to share them with a friend; you think it
over for a while, and, sure, the intention to give is there all right,
but you want to give the smaller one. To give the big one would
be...well, such a shame. It's hard to think straight. You tell them to
go ahead and take one, but then you say, "Take this one!"...and give
them the smaller apple! This is one form of selfishness that people
usually don't notice. Have you ever been like this?
You really have to go
against the grain to give. Even though you may really only want to
give the smaller apple, you must force yourself to give away the
bigger one. Of course, once you have given it to your friend you feel
good inside. Training the mind by going against the grain in this way
requires self-discipline -- you must know how to give and how to give
up, not allowing selfishness to stick. Once you learn how to give, if
you are still hesitating over which fruit to give, then while you are
deliberating you will be troubled, and even if you give the bigger
one, there will still be a sense of reluctance. But as soon as you
firmly decide to give the bigger one the matter is over and done with.
This is going against the grain in the right way.
Doing this you win mastery
over yourself. If you can't do it you will be a victim of yourself and
continue to be selfish. All of us have been selfish in the past. This
is a defilement which needs to be cut off. In the Pali scriptures,
giving is called "dana,"
which means bringing happiness to others. It is one of those
conditions which help to cleanse the mind from defilement. Reflect on
this and develop it in your practice.
You may think that
practicing like this involves hounding yourself, but it doesn't
really. Actually it's hounding craving and the defilements. If
defilements arise within you, you have to do something to remedy them.
Defilements are like a stray cat. If you give it as much food as it
wants it will always be coming around looking for more food, but if
you stop feeding it, after a couple of days it'll stop coming around.
It's the same with the defilements, they won't come to disturb you,
they'll leave your mind in peace. So rather than being afraid of
defilement, make the defilements afraid of you. To make the
defilements afraid of you, you must see the Dhamma within your minds.
Where does the Dhamma
arise? It arises with our knowing and understanding in this way.
Everyone is able to know and understand the Dhamma. It's not something
that has to be found in books, you don't have to do a lot of study to
see it, just reflect right now and you can see what I am talking
about. Everybody can see it because it exists right within our hearts.
Everybody has defilements, don't they? If you are able to see them
then you can understand. In the past you've looked after and pampered
your defilements, but now you must know your defilements and not allow
them to come and bother you.
The next constituent of
practice is moral restraint (sila). Sila watches over
and nurtures the practice in the same way as parents look after their
children. Maintaining moral restraint means not only to avoid harming
others but also to help and encourage them. At the very least you
should maintain the five precepts, which are:
1. Not only to kill or
deliberately harm others, but to spread goodwill towards all beings.
2. To be honest, refraining
from infringing on the rights of others, in other words, not stealing.
3. Knowing moderation in
sexual relations: In the household life there exists the family
structure, based around husband and wife. Know who your husband or
wife is, know moderation, know the proper bounds of sexual activity.
Some people don't know the limits. One husband or wife isn't enough,
they have to have a second or third. The way I see it, you can't
consume even one partner completely, so to have two or three is just
plain indulgence. You must try to cleanse the mind and train it to
know moderation. Knowing moderation is true purity, without it there
are no limits to your behavior. When eating delicious food, don't
dwell too much on how it tastes, think of your stomach and consider
how much is appropriate to its needs. If you eat too much you get
trouble, so you must know moderation. Moderation is the best way. Just
one partner is enough, two or three is an indulgence and will only
4. To be honest in speech
-- this is also a tool for eradicating defilements. You must be honest
and straight, truthful and upright.
5. To refrain from taking
intoxicants. You must know restraint and preferably give these things
up altogether. People are already intoxicated enough with their
families, relatives and friends, material possessions, wealth and all
the rest of it. That's quite enough already without making things
worse by taking intoxicants as well. These things just create darkness
in the mind. those who take large amounts should try to gradually cut
down and eventually give it up altogether. Maybe I should ask your
forgiveness, but my speaking in this way is out of a concern for your
benefit, so that you can understand that which is good. You need to
know what is what. What are the things that are oppressing you in your
everyday lives? What are the actions which cause this oppression? Good
actions bring good results and bad actions bring bad results. These
are the causes.
Once moral restraint is
pure there will be a sense of honesty and kindness towards others.
This will bring about contentment and freedom from worries and
remorse. Remorse resulting from aggressive and hurtful behavior will
not be there. This is form of happiness. It is almost like a heavenly
state. There is comfort, you eat and sleep in comfort with the
happiness arising from moral restraint. This is the result;
maintaining moral restraint is the cause. This is a principle of
Dhamma practice -- refraining from bad actions so that goodness can
arise. If moral restraint is maintained in this way, evil will
disappear and good will arise in its place. This is the result of
But this isn't the end of
the story. Once people have attained some happiness they tend to be
heedless and not go any further in the practice. They get stuck on
happiness. They don't want to progress any further, they prefer the
happiness of "heaven." It's comfortable but there's no real
understanding. You must keep reflecting to avoid being deluded.
Reflect again and again on the disadvantages of this happiness. It's
transient, it doesn't last forever. Soon you are separated from it.
It's not a sure thing, once happiness disappears then suffering arises
in its place and the tears come again. Even heavenly beings end up
crying and suffering.
So the Lord Buddha taught
us to reflect on the disadvantages, that there exists an
unsatisfactory side to happiness. Usually when this kind of happiness
is experienced there is no real understanding of it. The peace that is
truly certain and lasting is covered over by this deceptive happiness.
This happiness is not a certain or permanent kind of peace, but rather
a form of defilement, a refined form of defilement to which we attach.
Everybody likes to be happy. Happiness arises because of our liking
for something. As soon as that liking changes to dislike, suffering
arises. We must reflect on this happiness to see its uncertainty and
limitation. Once things change suffering arises. This suffering is
also uncertain, don't think that it is fixed or absolute. This kind of
reflection is called Adinavakatha,. the reflection on the
inadequacy and limitation of the conditioned world. This means to
reflect on happiness rather than accepting it at face value. Seeing
that it is uncertain, you shouldn't cling fast to it. You should take
hold of it but then let it go, seeing both the benefit and the harm of
happiness. To meditate skillfully you have to see the disadvantages
inherent within happiness. Reflect in this way. When happiness arises,
contemplate it thoroughly until the disadvantages become apparent.
When you see that things
are imperfect your heart will come to understand the
Nekkhammakatha, the reflection on renunciation. The mind will
become disinterested and seek for a way out. Disinterest comes from
having seen the way forms really are, the way tastes really are, the
way love and hatred really are. By disinterest we mean that there is
no longer the desire to cling to or attach to things. There is a
withdrawal from clinging, to a point where you can abide comfortably,
observing with an equanimity that is free of attachment. This is the
peace that arises from practice.