People for the most part
look after their bodies without looking after their minds. This is
why, even though they may experience physical pleasure to some
extent, they don't have much mental pleasure to speak of. The major
factor, the mind, rarely feels pleasure even when there's pleasure
in the minor factor, the body. The body is a minor factor when
compared to the mind. The mind is the major factor in each person,
but instead of taking good care of this major factor, this basis for
the body, we hardly ever look after it at all.
If the mind were not more solid and lasting than
the body, it would have disintegrated long ago and wouldn't have
been able to oversee the body as long as it has. But the reason it
has been able is because it is very solid and lasting enough to
stand up to the onslaught of the various things that are always
coming into contact with it -- namely the sights, sounds, smells,
tastes, and tactile sensations that come flowing in through the eye,
ear, nose, tongue, and body. They gather in at the mind in the same
way that all rivers flow together and gather in the sea.
All sorts of worthless and filthy preoccupations
come flowing into the mind at all times, turning it from something
precious into a trash can. This is why we can't find any marvels,
any happiness in it at all. So to receive training in the Dhamma of
the mind is something very important for this major factor within
us. If the mind has Dhamma and reason within it, then whatever it
displays in word and deed is correct and good and seldom ever falls
off target. Whatever our actions, they'll seldom fall off target.
The heart will be happy and the body quite normal. If diseases arise
in the body, they won't cause any trouble that will have an effect
on the mind or create any sort of mental illness within it. But when
defilements fill the heart, they make it troubled and upset. If we
simply complain about the effects without removing the causes, it
won't serve any purpose at all. For this reason, the right way to
act is to make sure you don't waste your birth as a human being.
How many years have passed from the day of your birth up to now? How
many months and years have you experienced? How much work? How much
suffering? How much have you gained from all the various things
you've encountered? Have you ever tallied these things up to see how
much you've profited or lost? When you leave this life and head
for the next, what will you have to hold on to as basic provisions
for what lies ahead?
The work of the world is something you can do
until you die and you'll never come to the end of it. No matter
what, you'll have to let go of it and die. The day you die is the
only time you'll be free as far as the work of the world is
concerned. This is the way it is for everyone. No matter who we are,
no matter where we live, none of us is free. We're only free to die.
Why? Because death transcends all our work, which has to be
abandoned at the moment of death.
If we wait for free time in which to provide for
the mind, we'll never be free until the day we die. That's when
we'll be free -- free to die. So while we're still alive and able to
think things through both within us and without, we should hurry and
make an effort in all activities that will be to our benefit. There
is still time to start, and in particular, to meditate. This is an
extremely important food and sustenance for the mind. It's called
Dhamma -- Dhamma medicine -- medicine that can cure the mind of its
restlessness and anxiety, giving rise instead to the pleasure of
peace because we have the food of the Dhamma to nourish us.
As the first step in training the mind, we're
taught to choose one 'Dhamma theme' (kammatthana)or another
as a means of controlling and looking after the mind. Otherwise, it
will go straying off to its old habitual occupations and cause
suffering and discontent to the point where we're constantly
disturbed and distracted. This is why we're taught to meditate on
'Buddho, Dhammo, or Sangho,' to be mindful of the breath, or to
combine 'Buddho' with the breath, thinking 'Bud' with
the in-breath and 'dho' with the out-breath, whichever theme
seems most suited to our temperament. In focusing on these things,
you should focus your awareness exclusively in the heart. For
example, when you focus on the inand- out breath, make yourself
aware of each time the breath comes in and each time it goes out
until the end of the time you've set to meditate. You can focus on
the feeling of the breath at any point that seems most prominent in
your awareness. Whichever point the feeling of the breath is
clearest -- such as the tip of the nose, for example -- is the point
you should focus on, the point you should be mindful of. Make sure
you know when the breath comes in and when it goes out. If you want,
you can combine it with 'Buddho', thinking 'Bud' with
the in-breath and 'dho' with the out-breath. Keep your
attention exclusively with the breath. You don't have to go thinking
about any other issues outside of the work you're doing -- focusing
on the breath -- right now in the present.
This way, as mindfulness gradually becomes more
steady and continuous, the mind won't have any chance to slip out
after the various preoccupations that can cause it harm. It will
settle further and further into stillness. At the same time, the
breath -- which was coarse or blatant when you first began focusing
on it -- will gradually become more and more refined. It may even
reach the stage where it disappears altogether from your sense of
awareness. This is because it's so refined -- so refined that it
disappears. At that moment there's no breath and only knowingness
remains. This is one of the things that can happen in your
The heart at that point is very quiet and very
amazing. The breath has disappeared without leaving a trace, and the
body disappears at the same instant. What this means is that it
disappears in your sense of feeling, not that the actual body goes
away anywhere. It's still sitting right there, but your awareness
isn't involved with any sense of 'body' at all. It's simply
knowingness pure and simple, entirely on its own. This is called 'a
quiet mind.' The mind is its own self on this level and it develops
a strange, uncanny, and amazing feeling of pleasure.
As soon as the mind becomes quiet and
disentangled from all activities, there's no sense of time or place,
because the mind isn't giving meaning to anything with thoughts of
time or place. There's simply knowingness maintaining itself in that
state. This is the feeling of pleasure that can come from
meditation. You can, if you want, call it one of the fruits of
As for those who repeat 'Buddho' as their theme,
the same sort of thing happens. If you focus on 'Buddho' without
coordinating it with the breath, simply be aware of each repetition
of 'Buddho, Buddho, Buddho'. You don't have to go thinking about how
the results are going to appear. Maybe someone has tried to scare
you, saying, "Watch out. If you meditate, you may get a vision like
this or like that, and then you'll go crazy." There are lots of
people who say this sort of thing, but for the most part they
themselves have never meditated. They just like to go around saying
these things to scare those people who are all too ready to believe
this sort of thing, because they're people of the same sort -- quick
to believe these things, quick to get scared, quick to find excuses
for being lazy so that they end up never meditating at all. So watch
out for people like this, because there are all sorts of
anti-Buddhists lurking around in Buddhist circles. Don't say I
didn't warn you.
People with principles, who have seen, as a
result of meditation, the relationship of cause and effect within
themselves won't believe these sorts of comments. Why? Because the
Buddha, in teaching the world, wasn't teaching it to go crazy. He
wasn't a crazy teacher, so how could he teach the world to be crazy?
When people who practice the Dhamma follow it correctly in line with
the principles he taught, how can they go crazy? It's out of the
question. So don't be fooled into believing such things or you'll
miss out on a precious opportunity.
Now, it can happen that people do go crazy when
they meditate because they deviate from the Dhamma and let their
minds stray away from the principles taught by the Buddha. For
example, while they're repeating 'Buddho, Buddho, Buddho' to
themselves they send their minds out to see this or know that, and
then get so carried away with what they see that they forget their
meditation-word and start believing their visions. When this
happens, it can lead to bad results. Yet even though people like
this go crazy because they've deviated from the principles of
meditation and the principles of the religion, other people take it
as an excuse to go around criticising the religion and saying that
meditation will make you go crazy.
Actually, when you meditate there's nothing much
you have to do. Simply focus on repeating 'Buddho, Buddho, Buddho'
in the mind. You don't have to paint pictures in your imagination
that heaven is like this or nibbāna
is like that, that heavenly beings are like this or that, as
you've learned from books. People who have actually seen heavenly
beings have seen them with their intuitive knowledge in line with
the principles of their knowing nature, but we see them only through
our imagination, speculation, and guesswork. Sometimes we actually
fool ourselves with our own picture painting, because we like that
sort of thing, and once we fool ourselves the result is craziness --
a mind wild and restless, with no Dhamma principles to hold to. Some
people of this sort actually go insane, so this is a potential
pitfall we should watch out for.
Thus you shouldn't speculate about results at
all. Simply work away at the repetition of your meditation-word.
This is the work that, once it becomes continuous, will gradually
produce results, step by step. There's no time or place that will
give rise to results while you meditate unless you do the work, that
is, unless you think of your meditation-word in this way.
This is the important principle that underwrites
your meditation. If your mind and meditation-word keep in contact
with the breath, you can be sure that nothing frightening or
unnerving will happen. The lies that people who have never meditated
may tell you about meditation are simply a smokescreen, that's all.
There's no truth to them. The truth is what I have told you just now
in line with the principles of the Dhamma which the Buddha taught.
So begin meditating in the way I've explained, and you won't go
crazy. Instead, you're sure to gain nothing but knowledge in dealing
both with your inner and your outer activities -- and at the same
time, you'll develop splendour in your heart.
As for those who practice mindfulness of
breathing, there's one important point I haven't yet fully
explained. That is when you meditate to the level where the breath
becomes refined -- more and more refined, more and more refined --
and the mind is aware of it stage by stage to the point where the
breath disappears, leaving nothing but knowingness pure and simple.
It may happen that at this point you start to get worried, which is
another way you can fool yourself. So I'd like to insert a few
remarks here so that you'll understand.
When it happens that the breath disappears from
your sense of awareness, you might begin to worry: "If the breath
disappears, won't I die?" If you think this you're fooling
yourself, because when this happens you're sure to become afraid
that you'll die, with the result that the breath immediately
reappears. That's as far as you'll get and things won't get any
more refined than that. So to get past any obstacle created when
the breath disappears during your meditation you should tell
yourself that: "Even though the breath may disappear, the mind is
still here with the body, so I won't die." This is enough to get rid
of the problem of your fear of death at that point, which is simply
a momentary distraction.
Actually, when you fall asleep, which is similar
to dying, you don't pay any attention to whether or not the breath
disappears -- and you don't die. When you meditate, your awareness
is much more alert and refined than that; you know that the breath
has disappeared because of the alertness of your meditation, so you
should be even more discriminating than when you fall asleep --
instead, you get afraid! This shows that you're not up on the tricks
of the defilements.
So to be up on their tricks, you should remind
yourself of the truth: "The breath has disappeared, but the mind is
still with the body, so I won't die." Just this is enough to make
the mind break through to a more refined level where the whole body
disappears together with the breath. The defilements won't
impinge on your awareness at all. This is called reaching the point
of refinement in breathing meditation. Some people can stay at this
level for hours, others don't stay very long. It all depends on the
strength of the individual meditator.
What you'll gain as a result in that moment is
the refinement of the mind that is simply aware, all by itself --
simply aware of itself at that moment, not involved with any
preoccupations at all. This is called 'one-pointedness of mind.' If
the mind isn't involved with any object at all, so that only
knowingness remains, that's called one-pointedness. It is at one
with the knowingness, not paired with any object or meditation-word
at all, because at that point it has completely let go of its
meditation-word. All that remains is the knowingness staying there
by itself. This is called one-pointedness of mind.
This is the way meditation develops as it becomes
progressively clearer and clearer to the heart of the person doing
it. If you actually follow the principles of the Lord Buddha's
Dhamma, there's nowhere else you can go. You'll have to come to the
truth. In other words, the results you receive will have to follow
in line with the causes you've practised correctly. However much
pleasure you receive when the mind settles down, it will immediately
hit you: "This is what pleasure is" -- because the pleasure
you feel in the heart at that point is unlike any other pleasure
you've ever experienced. It's a pleasure more uncanny and amazing
than any other pleasure in the world.
This is why the religion has lasted up to the
present. If it weren't for this, it would have vanished long ago,
because its flavour would have been no match for the flavours of the
world. It wouldn't have had any solid worth, any marvels to compete
with the world at all. It would have folded up long ago because no
one would have been interested enough to keep it going up to the
present. But the fact that it has lasted is because it's more
worthwhile than any of the worlds on the three levels of the cosmos.
Even just the stage of the quiet mind lets us see something of the
marvels that lie within us, in our bodies and minds. Never before
have we ever seen the strange and amazing things that come from that
quietness, but now that we're meditating and the mind becomes quiet,
there they are!
And now that these results appear, we start
becoming persistent. We make the effort. We have the time -- all of
our own accord -- because we've gained conviction from the results
we've clearly seen. Now the question of finding time, finding a
place to meditate or quiet the mind or make an effort in the area of
the mind, is no longer a problem. Once the mind is content to do
these things, it finds time for these things of its own accord.
This is one step in the course of meditation. This is the way it is
when we meditate. We have to practice so as to reach the level of
meditation where the mind becomes still.
Next comes the level of wisdom. This is genuine
'insight meditation.' It's a common expression among people that
they're going to practice insight meditation, or vipassanā.
Actually, vipassanā means
clear insight that comes from having investigated with wisdom. The
word meditation covers both tranquillity and insight meditation, but
usually we say we're going to practice vipassanā
or insight meditation when we actually mean simply that we're
going to meditate.
Actual insight meditation means to contemplate
and investigate. Once the mind becomes quiet and peaceful, it's
bound to develop approaches to use when we make it investigate and
analyse the physical properties and khandhas, or the topics
of impermanence (anicca), discontent (dukkha) and
not-self (anattā). We've
read in the texts that: "Wherever there is impermanence, there is
discontentment. Wherever there is discontentment, there is
not-self." We've seen other people grow old, die, and be separated
from their loved ones -- but we should realise that we too are
subject to separation, we too are impermanent, discontented, and
not-self just like them. We have to bring these truths inward to
ourselves. We grow older day by day, day by day. From the day of our
birth we've kept growing progressively older and older, changing
step by step. This is called impermanence.
Pain and suffering have stuck right with us ever
since the day we were born. The moment we came out of the womb, we
fell unconscious. We were in shock because the pain was so great.
Some infants die in the womb, some die the moment they leave it
because they can't take the great pain. Pain and suffering have been
right here with us, from the time we were small up to the present --
so where are we going to harbour any doubts about impermanence,
discontentment, and not-self? These things are heaped on top of us
in full measure at all times.
Impermanence means changing with every moment.
Even now, you've been sitting here for just a little while and
already you're tired. The body has changed. It's changed from what
it was and has begun to ache.
Not-self. What in the body and the khandhas
can you hold to as having any lasting worth? The body is simply
an assemblage of the four properties of earth, water, wind, and fire
-- that's all. As for the khandhas, there are five.
Khandha means group, heap, or assemblage. The first khandha,
rupa, refers to the body. Vedanā
ā refers to feelings of
pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain. These are another
group or heap. Saññā
refers to memory which bestows significance and meaning on things.
Sankhāra refers to
thought and imagination. Viññāna
refers to consciousness arising whenever the eye meets with a
visual object, the ear meets with a sound, and so on. Altogether,
these things are called the five heaps. So where is there anything
of substance in these five heaps to which you can hold to, saying:
"This is me?"
This is what insight meditation is -- separating
things out to find the truth, the truth in our own bodies and minds.
But because we're ignorant and unable to see the truth, we say that
"This is me ... That's mine." When any of these things change, we
become sad, upset, and depressed. There are lots of people who
become mentally ill because their thinking goes all out of bounds.
'Mental illness' here means the mental distress or turmoil we all
suffer from, not necessarily the heavy mental illnesses where people
lose their senses and go out of their minds. When we investigate,
separating the properties and khandhas with our wisdom in
this way, we'll see that our wisdom can develop techniques and
approaches capable of cutting away defilements stage by stage, until
they can cut away all defilements connected with the five
When we say "That's me ... This is me," it's
because the mind and the khandhas seem to be one and the
same, so we can't tell them apart. When wisdom has analysed and
investigated them through the power of the knowledge it has
developed to a high level of proficiency, it can tell these things
apart. It knows: "This is the body ... This is feeling ... This is
memory ... This is thought ... This is consciousness." The body is
the body, this thing is this thing, that thing is that -- but we're
not this or that thing. We can tell them apart and separate them out
step by step, until we can separate the heart out from the
defilements and effluents (āsava)
that lie buried within it, and there's nothing at all left in
the heart. This is where it's called truly 'Buddho'. The result of
practising meditation, when we reach the final stage, is that the
heart becomes truly 'Buddho', just like the 'Buddho' of the Lord
Buddha. This doesn't mean the same 'Buddho' as his. Instead it means
that in comparing them, the purity of ours is equal to the purity of
his, but that his range as a Buddha is greater than ours as
disciples, in line with the greater power of his potential and
capabilities, which are issues outside the question of purity.
A person's capabilities can be known by hearing
his teachings. The Buddha's knowledge has to be in line with his
level, while that of the disciples is fully in line with theirs; but
as for the question of purity, they are all equals. The Buddha
taught: "There is nothing superior to one with no evil." From the
Buddha down to his final Arahant disciple, their purity is equal,
with no gradations at all. Right here is where the similarity lies.
This is the result of developing the mind through meditation. We
practise it step by step, removing defilements step by step until
they are all absolutely gone, leaving nothing but purity. This
purity is what experiences the ultimate level of happiness. There is
nothing higher than this form of happiness. It's called the highest
transcendent quality, a quality transcending the world.
"Transcending the world" means that it transcends the physical
properties, transcends the khandhas, transcends everything.
There is nothing superior to this thing that is pure. This is the
fruit of meditation. The Buddha attained it before anyone else in
the world in those days, and has led the way for all Buddhists who
practice in his footsteps, down to those of us practising right now.
The Buddha taught the religion reasonably, in
terms of cause and effect. We should follow in line with the
principles he taught, and the effects -- the results -- are sure to
appear accordingly. Where the causes exist, the results have to
appear. If people practice correctly and in line with the Dhamma
principles he taught, how will they not meet with the results?
The Dhamma is a well-taught Dhamma, not an
empty-handed one, so how can those who practise it not reap results?
When they say that the paths (magga), fruitions (phala)
and nibbāna have
disappeared, where have they disappeared? -- aside from disappearing
from those who aren't interested in the practice. Even in the time
of the Buddha, these things didn't exist for those who weren't
interested. But they did exist for those who were interested and
practised in line with the principles the Buddha taught.
The same holds true for the present. The middle
way is always right in the centre of the truth, right on-target,
always appropriate for removing defilements. No matter which
defilement, no matter what sort, it can never escape the power of
this middle way. This is why this way is a Dhamma absolutely right
for removing the defilements of the beings of the world. It's called
the middle way. The middle way now and the middle way of the
Buddha's time -- how can they differ? There's no difference between
them at all, because they're the same well-taught Dhamma. The
defilements are the same now as they were then. The middle way, the
tool for removing them, is the same now as it was then. When we use
it to eliminate the defilements, how can they not fall away? The
power of our correct practice in line with the principles of the
middle way will have to give the same results now as it gave then.
But the paths, fruitions, and nibbāna
don't exist for those who don't practise, no matter what the
time or era. They exist only for those who practise, and they appear
in greater or lesser meas- ure in line with the strength of each
individual's practice. That's all there is to it.
This is called the well-taught Dhamma, the Dhamma
that leads those who practice it away from suffering and discontent,
step by step, until they are absolutely released. There is nothing
to surpass the Dhamma of the Buddha in completely removing
defilements from the heart. This is why we can be confident in our
There is no one in the world who can speak more
correctly and accurately than a teacher with no more defilements, a
teacher who speaks entirely from the truth. The Buddha never spoke
dishonestly or deceptively in the way of the world, for things like
deception are an affair of defilements. The Dhamma is something that
has to be spoken forthrightly, straightforwardly, in line with the
truth. When people practice in line with the truth, how will they
not know the truth? They have to know. This is where the greatness
lies. It doesn't lie anywhere else. So don't go doubting and groping
around like blind people oblivious to the Dhamma, the Buddha's
representative, filling our nation.
In conclusion, I ask that you all take this and
think it over. If anything I have said here is too hard-hitting for
your ears or hearts, I ask your forgiveness, because today's Dhamma
has been 'Forest Dhamma' [*]. I hope it will be at least of some use
to you all.
[*] Dhamma learned from the practice, rather than
from the study of books.