I have been invited by the abbot to give you a teaching, so I ask
you all to sit quietly and compose your minds. Due to the language
barrier we must make use of a translator, so if you do not pay
proper attention you may not understand.
My stay here has
been very pleasant. Both the Master and you, his followers, have
been very kind, all friendly and smiling, as befits those who are
practicing the true Dhamma. Your property, too, is very inspiring,
but so big! I admire your dedication in renovating it to establish a
place for practicing the Dhamma.
Having been a
teacher for many years now, I've been through my share of
difficulties. At present there are altogether about forty branch
monasteries  of my monastery, Wat Nong
Ba Pong, but even these days I have followers who are hard to teach.
Some know but don't bother to practice, some don't know and don't
try to find out. I don't know what to do with them. Why do human
beings have minds like this? Being ignorant is not so good, but even
when I tell them, they still don't listen. I don't know what more I
can do. People are so full of doubts in their practice, they're
always doubting. They all want to go to nibbana, but they
don't want to walk the path. It's baffling. When I tell them to
meditate they're afraid, or if not afraid then just plain sleepy.
Mostly they like to do the things I don't teach. When I met the
Venerable Abbot here I asked him what his followers were like. He
said they're the same. This is the pain of being a teacher.
The teaching I will
present to you today is a way to solve problems in the present
moment, in this present life. Some people say that they have so much
work to do they have no time to practice the Dhamma. "What can we
do?" they ask. I ask them, "Don't you breathe while you're working?"
"Yes, of course we breathe!" "So how come you have time to breathe
when you're so busy?" They don't know what to answer. "If you simply
have sati while working you will have plenty of time to
meditation is just like breathing. While working we breathe, while
sleeping we breathe, while sitting down we breathe... Why do we have
time to breathe? Because we see the importance of the breath, we can
always find time to breathe. In the same way, if we see the
importance of meditation practice we will find the time to practice.
Have any of you ever
suffered? ... have you ever been happy?... Right here is the truth,
this is where you must practice the Dhamma. Who is it who is happy?
The mind is happy. who suffers? The mind suffers. Wherever these
things arise, that's where they cease. Have you experienced
happiness? ... Have you experienced suffering? ... this is our
problem. If we know suffering,  the
cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the way leading to the
end of suffering we can solve the problem.
There are two kinds
of suffering: ordinary suffering and the extraordinary kind.
Ordinary suffering is the suffering which is the inherent nature of
conditions: standing is suffering, sitting is suffering, lying down
is suffering. This is the suffering that is inherent in all
conditioned phenomena. Even the Buddha experienced these things, he
experienced comfort and pain, but he recognized them as conditions
in nature. He knew how to overcome these ordinary, natural feelings
of comfort and pain through understanding their true nature. Because
he understood this "natural suffering" those feelings didn't upset
The important kind
of suffering is the second kind, the suffering that creeps in from
the outside, the "extraordinary suffering." If we are sick we may
have to get an injection from the doctor. When the needle pierces
the skin there is some pain which is only natural. When the needle
is withdrawn that pain disappears. This is like the ordinary kind of
suffering, it's no problem, everybody experiences it. The
extraordinary suffering is the suffering that arises from what we
call upadana, grasping onto things. This is like having an
injection with a syringe filled with poison. This is no longer an
ordinary kind of pain, it is the pain which ends in death. This is
similar to the suffering which arises from grasping.
Wrong view, not
knowing the impermanent nature of all conditioned things, is another
kind of problem. Conditioned things are the realm of samsara.
 Not wanting things to change -- if we
think like this we must suffer. When we think that the body is
ourselves or belonging to us, we are afraid when we see it change.
Consider the breath: once it comes in it must go out, having gone
out it must come in again. This is its nature, this is how we manage
to live. Things don't function in that way. This is how conditions
are but we don't realize it.
Suppose we lost
something. if we thought that object was really ours, we would brood
over it. If we couldn't see it as a conditioned thing faring
according to the laws of nature we would experience suffering. But
if you breathe in, can you live? Conditioned things must naturally
change in this way. To see this is to see the Dhamma, to see
aniccam, change. We live dependent on this change. When we know
how things are then we can let go of them.
The practice of
Dhamma is to develop an understanding of the way of things so that
suffering doesn't arise. If we think wrongly we are at odds with the
world, at odds with the Dhamma and with the truth. Suppose you were
sick and had to go into hospital. Most people think, "Please don't
let me die, I want to get better." This is wrong thinking, it will
lead to suffering. You have to think to yourself, "If I recover I
recover, if I die I die." this is right thinking, because you can't
ultimately control conditions. If you think like this, whether you
die or recover, you can't go wrong, you don't have to worry. Wanting
to get better at all costs and afraid of the thought of dying...this
is the mind which doesn't understand conditions. You should think,
"If I get better that's fine, if I don't get better that's fine."
This way we can't go wrong, we don't have to be afraid or cry,
because we have tuned ourselves in to the way things are.
The Buddha saw
clearly. His teaching is always relevant, never out-dated. It never
changes. In the present day it's still the way they are, they
haven't changed. By taking this teaching to heart we can gain the
reward of peace and well-being.
In the teachings
there is the reflection of "not-self": "this is to listen to this
kind of teaching because they are attached to the idea of self. This
is the cause of suffering. You should take note of this.
Today a woman asked
about how to deal with anger. I told her that the next time she gets
angry, to wind up her alarm clock and put it in front of her. Then
to give herself two hours for the anger to go away. If it was really
her anger she could probably tell it to go away like this: "In two
hours be gone!" But it isn't really ours to command. Sometimes in
two hours it's still not gone, at other times in one hour it's gone
already. Holding onto anger as a personal possession will cause
suffering. If it really belonged to us it would have to obey us. If
it doesn't obey us that means it's only a deception. Don't fall for
it. Whether the mind is happy or sad, don't fall for it. Whether the
mind loves or hates, don't fall for it, it's all a deception.
Have any of you ever
been angry? When you are angry does it feel good or bad? If it feels
bad then why don't you throw that feeling away, why bother to keep
it? How can you say that you are wise and intelligent when you hold
on to such things? Since the day you were born, how many times has
the mind tricked you into anger? Some days the mind can even cause a
whole family to quarrel, or cause you to cry all night. And yet we
still continue to get angry, we still hold onto things and suffer.
If you don't see suffering you will have to keep suffering
indefinitely, with no chance for respite. The world of samsara
is like this. If we know the way it is we can solve the problem.
teaching states that there is no better means to overcome suffering
than to see that "this is not my self," "this is not mine." This is
the greatest method. But we don't usually pay attention to this.
When suffering arises we simply cry over it without learning from
it. Why is that so? We must take a good hard look at these things,
to develop the Buddho, the one who knows.
Take note, some of
you may not be aware that this is Dhamma teaching. I'm going to give
you some Dhamma that's outside the scriptures. Most people read the
scriptures but don't see the Dhamma. Today I am going to give you a
teaching that's outside the scriptures. Some people may miss the
point or not understand it.
Suppose two people
are walking together and see a duck and a chicken. One of them says,
"Why isn't that chicken like the duck, why isn't the duck like the
chicken?" He wants the chicken to be a duck and the duck to be a
chicken. It's impossible. If it's impossible, then even if that
person were to wish for the duck to be a chicken and the chicken to
be a duck for the rest of his life it would not come to pass,
because the chicken is a chicken and the duck is a duck. As long as
that person thought like that he would suffer. The other person
might see that the chicken is a chicken and the duck is a duck, and
that's all there is to it. There is no problem. He sees rightly. If
you want the duck to be a chicken and the chicken to be a duck you
are really going to suffer.
In the same way, the
law of aniccam states that all things are impermanent. If you
want things to be permanent you're going to suffer. Whenever
impermanence shows itself you're going to be disappointed. One who
sees that things are naturally impermanent will be at ease, there
will be no conflict. The one who wants things to be permanent is
going to have conflict, maybe even losing sleep over it. This is to
be ignorant of aniccam, impermanence, the teaching if the
If you want to know
the Dhamma where should you look? You must look within the body and
the mind. You won't find it in the shelves of a bookcase. To really
see the Dhamma you have to look within your own body and mind. There
are only these two things. The mind is not visible to the physical
eye, it must be seen with the "mind's eye." Before the Dhamma can be
realized you must know where to look. The Dhamma that is in the body
must be seen in the body. And with what do we look at the body? We
look at the body with the mind. You won't find the Dhamma looking
anywhere else, because both happiness and suffering arise right
here. Or have you seen happiness arising in the trees? Or from the
rivers, or the weather? Happiness and suffering are feelings which
arise in our own bodies and minds.
Therefore the Buddha
tells us to know the Dhamma right here. The Dhamma is right here, we
must look right here. The Master may tell you to look at the Dhamma
in the books, but if you think that this is where the Dhamma really
is, you'll never see it. Having looked at the books you must reflect
on those teachings inwardly. Then you can understand the Dhamma.
Where does the real Dhamma exist? It exists right here in this body
and mind of ours. This is the essence of contemplation practice.
When we do this,
wisdom will arise in our minds. When there is wisdom in our minds,
then no matter where we look there is Dhamma, we will see aniccam,
dukkham, and anatta at all times. Aniccam means
transient. Dukkham -- if we cling to the things that are
transient we must suffer, because they are not us or ours (anatta).
But we don't see this, we always see them as being our self and
belonging to us.
This means that you
don't see the truth of convention. You should understand
conventions. For example, all of us sitting here have names. Are our
names born with us or are they assigned to us afterwards? Do you
understand? This is convention. Is convention useful? Of course it's
useful. For example, suppose there are four men, A, B, C, and D.
They all must have their individual names for convenience in
communicating and working together. If we wanted to speak to Mr. A
we could call Mr. A and he would come, not the others. This is the
convenience of convention. But when we look deeply into the matter
we will see that really there isn't anybody there. We will see
transcendence. There is only earth, water, wind and fire, the four
elements. This is all there is to this body of ours.
But we don't see it
in this way because of the clinging power of Attavadupadana.
 If we were to look clearly we
would see that there isn't really much to what we call a person. The
solid part is the earth element, the fluid part is the water
element, the part which provides heat is called the fire element.
When we break things down we see that there is only earth, water,
wind and fire. Where is the person to be found? There isn't one.
That's why the
Buddha taught that there is no higher practice than to see that
"this is not my self and does not belong to me" They are simply
conventions. If we understand everything clearly in this way we will
be at peace. If we realize in the present moment the truth of
impermanence, that things are not our self or belonging to us, then
when they disintegrate we are at peace with them, because they don't
belong to anybody anyway. They are merely the elements of earth,
water, wind and fire.
It's difficult for
people to see this, but even so it's not beyond our ability. If we
can see this we will find contentment, we will not have so much
anger, greed or delusion. There will always be Dhamma in our hearts.
There will be no need for jealousy and spite, because everybody is
simply earth, water, wind and fire. There's nothing more to them
than this. When we accept this truth we will see the truth of the
If we could see the
truth of the Buddha's teaching we wouldn't have to use up so many
teachers! It wouldn't be necessary to listen to teachings everyday.
When we understand then we simply do what's required of us. But what
makes people so difficult to teach is that they don't accept the
teaching and argue with the teachers and the teaching. In front of
the teacher they behave a little better, but behind his back they
become thieves! People are really difficult to teach. The people in
Thailand are like this, that's why they have to have so many
Be careful, if
you're not careful you won't see the Dhamma. You must be
circumspect, taking the teaching and considering it well. Is this
flower pretty?...Do you see the ugliness within this flower?...For
how many days will it be pretty?...What will it be like from now
on?...Why does it change so?...In three or four days you have to
take it and throw it away, right? It loses all its beauty. People
are attached to beauty, attached to goodness. If anything is good
they just fall for it completely. The Buddha tells us to look at
pretty things as just pretty, we shouldn't become attached to them.
If there is a pleasant feeling we shouldn't fall for it. Goodness is
not a sure thing, beauty is not a sure thing. Nothing is certain.
There is nothing in this world that is a certainty. This is the
truth. The things that aren't true are the things that change, such
as beauty. The only truth it has is in its constant changing. If we
believe that things are beautiful, when their beauty fades our mind
loses its beauty too. When things are no longer good our mind loses
its goodness too. When they are destroyed or damaged we suffer
because we have clung to them as being our own. The Buddha tells us
to see that these things are simply constructs of nature. Beauty
appears and in not many days it fades. To see this is to have
Therefore we should
see impermanence. If we think something is pretty we should tell
ourselves it isn't, if we think something is ugly we should tell
ourselves it isn't. Try to see things in this way, constantly
reflect in this way. We will see the truth within untrue things, see
the certainty within the things that are uncertain.
Today I have been
explaining the way to understand suffering, what causes suffering,
the cessation of suffering and the way leading to the cessation of
suffering. When you know suffering you should throw it out. Knowing
the cause of suffering you should throw it out. Practice to see the
cessation of suffering. See aniccam, dukkham and anatta and
suffering will cease.
ceases where do we go? What are we practicing for? We are practicing
to relinquish, not in order to gain anything. There was a woman this
afternoon who told me that she is suffering. I asked her what she
wants to be, and she said she wants to be enlightened. I said, "As
long as you want to be enlightened you will never become
enlightened. Don't want anything."
When we know the
truth of suffering we throw out suffering. When we know the cause of
suffering then we don't create those causes, but instead practice to
bring suffering to its cessation. The practice leading to the
cessation of suffering is to see that "this is not a self," "this is
not me or them." Seeing in this way enables suffering to cease. It's
like reaching our destination and stopping. That's cessation. That's
getting close to nibbana. To put it another way, going
forward is suffering, retreating is suffering and stopping is
suffering. Not going forward, not retreating and not stopping...is
anything left? Body and mind cease here. This is the cessation of
suffering. Hard to understand, isn't it? If we diligently and
consistently study this teaching we will transcend things and reach
understanding, there will be cessation. This is the ultimate
teaching of the Buddha, it's the finishing point. The Buddha's
teaching finishes at the point of total relinquishment.
Today I offer this
teaching to you all and to the Venerable Master also. If there is
anything wrong in it I ask your forgiveness. But don't be in a hurry
to judge whether it is right or wrong, just listen to it first. If I
were to give you all a fruit and tell you it's delicious, you should
take note of my words, but don't believe me offhand, because you
haven't tasted it yet. The teaching I give you today is the same. If
you want to know whether the "fruit" is sweet or sour you have to
slice a piece off and taste it. Then you will know its sweetness or
sourness. Then you could believe me, because then you'd have seen
for yourself. So please don't throw this "fruit" away, keep it and
taste it, know its taste for yourself.
The Buddha didn't
have a teacher, you know. An ascetic once asked him who his teacher
was, and the Buddha answered that he didn't have one. 
The ascetic just walked off shaking his head. The Buddha was being
too honest. He was speaking to one who couldn't know or accept the
truth. That's why I tell you not to believe me. The Buddha said that
to simply believe others is foolish, because there is no clear
knowing within. That's why the Buddha said "I have no teacher." This
is the truth. But you should look at this is the right way. If you
misunderstand it you won't respect your teacher. Don't go saying "I
have no teacher." You must rely on your teacher to tell you what is
right and wrong, and then you must practice accordingly.
Today is a fortunate
day for all of us. I have had a chance to meet with all of you and
the venerable teacher. You wouldn't think that we could meet like
this because we live so far apart. I think there must be some
special reason that we have been able to meet in this way. The
Buddha taught that everything that arises must have a cause. Don't
forget this. There must be some cause. Perhaps in a previous
existence we were brothers and sisters in the same family. It's
possible. Another teacher didn't come, but I did. Why is that?
Perhaps we are creating the causes in the present moment itself.
This is also possible.
I leave you all with
this teaching. May you be diligent and arduous in the practice.
There is nothing better than the practice of Dhamma, Dhamma is the
supporter of the whole world. People are confused these days because
they do not know the Dhamma. If we have the Dhamma with us we will
be content. I am happy to have had this opportunity to help you and
the venerable teacher in developing the practice of Dhamma. I leave
you with my heartfelt good wishes. Tomorrow I will be leaving, I'm
not sure where for. This is only natural. When there is coming there
must be going, when there is going there must be coming. This is how
the world is. We shouldn't be overjoyed or upset by the changes in
the world. There is happiness and then there is suffering; there is
suffering and then there is happiness; there is gain and then there
is loss; there is loss and then there is gain. This is the way
In the Buddha's time
there were disciples of the Buddha who didn't like him, because the
Buddha exhorted them to be diligent, to be heedful. those who were
lazy were afraid of the Buddha and resented him. When he died, one
group of disciples cried and were distressed that they would no
longer have the Buddha to guide them. These ones were still not
clever. Another group of disciples were pleased and relieved that
they would no longer have the Buddha on their backs telling them
what to do. A third group of disciples were equanimous. They
reflected that what arises passes away as a natural consequence.
There were these three groups. Which group do you identify with? Do
you want to be one of the pleased ones or what? The group of
disciples who cried when the Buddha passed away had not yet realized
the Dhamma. The second group were those who resented the Buddha. He
was always forbidding them from doing the things they wanted to do.
They lived in fear of the Buddha's scorn and reprimands, so when he
passed away they were relieved.
These days things
aren't much different. It's possible that the teacher here has some
followers who are resentful towards him. They might not show it
outwardly but it's there in the mind. It's normal for people who
still have defilements to feel this way. Even the Buddha had people
hating him. I myself have followers who resent me also. I tell them
to give up evil actions but they cherish their evil actions. So they
hate me. There are plenty like this. May all of you who are
intelligent make yourselves firm in the practice of Dhamma.
At the time of printing this book (1992), there are about one
hundred branch monasteries, big and small, of Wat Nong Ba Pong.
Dukkha: "Suffering" is a most inadequate translation, but it is the
one most commonly found. "Dukkha" literally means "intolerable,"
"unsustainable," "difficult to endure," and can also mean
"imperfect," "unsatisfying," or "incapable of providing perfect
Samsara: The world of delusion.
One of the Four Bases of Clinging: Kamupadana, clinging to
sense objects; silabbatupadana: clinging to rites and
rituals; ditthupadana: clinging to views, and
attavadupadana, clinging to the idea of self.
after his enlightenment, the Buddha was walking on his way to
Benares and was approached by a wandering ascetic, who said, "Your
features are clear, friend, your bearing serene ... who is your
teacher?" The Buddha answered that there was no-one in this world
who could claim to be his teacher, because he was completely
self-enlightened. The Brahmin could not understand his answer, and
walked off, muttering, "Well, good for you, friend, good for you."