When it comes to the
Dhamma, we have to understand that our opinions are one thing;
the Dhamma is something else.
As for the practice, start
out by establishing your powers of endurance and then
contemplate. Contemplate your activities, your comings and
goings. Contemplate what you're up to. Whatever arises, the
Buddha has us know all around. Whatever direction things come in
from, he has us know all around. If we know all around, whatever
comes at us from this way, we see it. Whatever comes at us from
that way, we see it. Right we know. Wrong we know. Happy we
know. Glad we know. We know all around.
But our minds, when they
contemplate, aren't yet all around. We know just this side but
leave that side wide open. It's like putting a fence around a
field or a house but it doesn't go all around. If we put it up
just on this side, thieves will come in that side, the side that
the fence hasn't gone around. Why is that? We haven't closed the
gate. Our fence isn't yet good. It's normal that they'll have to
come through that opening. So we contemplate again, adding more
fence, closing things off, continually.
Putting up a fence means
establishing mindfulness and always being alert. If we do this,
the Dhamma won't go anywhere else. It'll come right here. Good
and bad, the Dhamma we should see and should know, will arise
As for whatever we don't
need to know, we let it go for the time being. We don't waste
our time with the logs we aren't yet strong enough to lift. Wait
until we have a tractor or a ten-wheel truck before trying to
move them. Focus for the time being just on the things you can
lift. Keep at it, using your powers of endurance, bit by bit.
If you stick with this
steadily, your happy moods and sad moods, your desirable moods
and undesirable moods, will all come in right there. That's when
you get to watch them.
Your moods and
preoccupations are one thing; the mind is something else.
They're two different kinds of things. Usually when a mood hits,
one that we like, we go running after it. If it's one we don't
like, we turn our backs on it. When this is the case, we don't
see our own mind. We just keep running after our moods. The mood
is the mood; the mind is the mind. You have to separate them out
to see what the mind is like, what the mood is like.
As when we're sitting here
still: We feel at ease. But if someone comes along and insults
us, we go running after the mood. We've left our spot. The mind
that gets deluded by the mood goes running after the mood. We
become a moody person, a person who panders to his moods.
You have to understand
that all your moods are lies. There's nothing true to them at
all. They're far from the Buddha's teachings. All they can do is
lie to us about everything of every sort. The Buddha taught us
to meditate to see their truth the truth of the world.
The world is our moods,
our preoccupations. Our preoccupations are the world. If we
aren't acquainted with the Dhamma, aren't acquainted with the
mind, aren't acquainted with our preoccupations, we grab onto
the mind and its preoccupations and get them all mixed up.
"Whew! My mind feels no ease." It's like you have many minds,
and they're all in a turmoil. Actually, that's not the case. You
don't have many minds. You have many moods and preoccupations.
We're not acquainted with our own mind, so we keep running after
our preoccupations. If you sit meditating like that, things just
keep running along in that way.
The Buddha taught us to
look at things right there, right where they arise. When they
arise, they don't stay. They disband. They disband and then they
arise. When they arise, they disband but we don't want them to
be that way. When the mind is quiet, we want it to keep on being
quiet. We don't want it to get stirred up. We want to be at our
ease. Our views are in opposition to the truth. The Buddha
taught us first to see these things all around, from all sides.
Only then will the mind really be quiet and still. As long as we
don't know these things, as long as we don't understand our
moods, we become a moody person. We lay claim to our moods. This
turns into stubbornness and pride.
When we see this
happening, the Buddha tells us to turn our attention to
contemplating right there: "This kind of thinking is thinking;
this kind of knowing is knowing; when things are like this,
they're like this." Tell yourself that these things simply
follow their own nature. This is what moods are like. This is
what the mind is like. When this is the way things are, what can
you do to be at your ease? What can you do to be at your ease?
Well, just contemplate right there.
We don't want things to be
like that: That's the reason for our discomfort. No matter where
you go to run away from these things, they're still just like
that. So we should understand that these things are just the way
they are, that's all. That's the truth. To put it simply, that's
the Buddha, but we don't see him there. We think it's Devadatta,
not the Buddha at all. The inconstancy of the Dhamma
inconstancy, stress, and not-self: There's nothing wrong with
these things. They're just the way they are. We place too many
labels and intentions on them. When you can see that happening,
it's really good.
To put in simple terms:
Suppose that when you sit in concentration today the mind is
still. You think to yourself, "Mmm. This is really nice." Just
sitting there, you feel at ease. This keeps up for two or three
days. "Mmm. I really like this." Then the next day when you sit
down to meditate, it's like sitting on a red ants' nest. You
can't stay seated. Nothing works. You're all upset. You ask
yourself, "Why isn't it like the other day? Why was it so
comfortable then?" You can't stop thinking about the other day.
You want it to be like the other day. Right there is where
They're not constant or sure; they're not stable. They just keep
following their nature. The Buddha taught us to see that that's
the way they are. Whatever arises is just old stuff coming back.
There's nothing to it, but we fix labels and make rules about
things: "This I like. This I don't like." Whatever we like makes
us happy happy because of our delusion: happy because of our
delusion, not happy because it's right.
When the mind is quiet,
the Buddha tells us not to be intoxicated by it. When it's
distracted, he tells us not to be intoxicated by it. Things
happen in all kinds of ways. There's addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division. That's how we can calculate
numbers, but we want there to be just multiplication so that we
can have lots of everything. We want to do away with addition,
do away with subtraction, do away with division and our
calculations will all be stupid. If we had nothing but
multiplication, would we have any space to put everything? If
that's how we think, we'll stay in a turmoil. The Buddha said
that that sort of thinking has no discernment.
Stillness of mind
tranquility comes from being far away from preoccupations. If
you don't hear much of anything, the mind settles down and is
still. To get this kind of stillness, you have to go off into
seclusion, to a place that's quiet and still. If you can get
away from your preoccupations, not seeing this, not knowing
about that, the mind can settle down. But that's like a disease,
a disease like cancer. There's a swelling but it doesn't yet
hurt. It's not yet tormenting us, it doesn't yet hurt, so we
seem to be well as if there were no defilements in the mind.
That's what the mind is
like at times like that. As long as you stay there, it's quiet.
But when it comes out to look at sights and hear sounds, that's
the end of it. It's not at its ease anymore. How can you keep on
staying alone like that so as not to see sights, hear sounds,
smell aromas, taste flavors, or touch tactile sensations? Where
can you go? There's no place in the world like that at all.
The Buddha wanted us to
see sights, hear sounds, smell aromas, taste flavors, or touch
tactile sensations: hot, cold, hard, soft. He wanted us to be
acquainted with everything. He didn't want us to run away and
hide. He wanted us to look and, when we've looked, to
understand: "Oh. That's the way these things are." He told us to
give rise to discernment.
How do we give rise to
discernment? The Buddha said that it's not hard if we keep at
it. When distractions arise: "Oh. It's not for sure. It's
inconstant." When the mind is still, don't say, "Oh. It's really
nice and still." That, too, isn't for sure. If you don't believe
me, give it a try.
Suppose that you like a
certain kind of food and you say, "Boy, do I really like this
food!" Try eating it every day. How many months could you keep
it up? It won't be too long before you say, "Enough. I'm sick
and tired of this." Understand? "I'm really sick and tired of
this." You're sick and tired of what you liked.
We depend on change in
order to live, so just acquaint yourself with the fact that it's
all inconstant. Pleasure isn't for sure; pain isn't for sure;
happiness isn't for sure; stillness isn't for sure, distraction
isn't for sure. Whatever, it all isn't for sure. Whatever
arises, you should tell it: "Don't try to fool me. You're not
for sure." That way everything loses its value. If you can think
in that way, it's really good. The things you don't like are all
not for sure. Everything that comes along isn't for sure. It's
as if they were trying to sell you things, but everything has
the same price: It's not for sure not for sure in any way at
all. In other words, it's inconstant. It keeps moving back and
To put it simply, that's
the Buddha. Inconstancy means that nothing's for sure. That's
the truth. Why don't we see the truth? Because we haven't looked
to see it clearly. "Whoever sees the Dhamma sees the Buddha." If
you see the inconstancy of each and every thing, you give rise
to nibbida: disenchantment. "That's all this is: no big
deal. That's all that is: no big deal." The concentration in the
mind is no big deal.
When you can do that, it's
no longer hard to contemplate. Whatever the preoccupation, you
can say in your mind, "No big deal," and it stops right there.
Everything becomes empty and in vain: everything that's
unsteady, inconstant. It moves around and changes. It's
inconstant, stressful, and not-self. It's not for sure.
It's like a piece of iron
that's been heated until it's red and glowing: Does it have any
spot where it's cool? Try touching it. If you touch it on top,
it's hot. If you touch it underneath, it's hot. If you touch it
on the sides, it's hot. Why is it hot? Because the whole thing
is a piece of red-hot iron. Where could it have a cool spot?
That's the way it is. When that's the way it is, we don't have
to go touching it. We know it's hot. If you think that "This is
good; I really like it," don't give it your seal of guarantee.
It's a red-hot piece of iron. Wherever you touch it, wherever
you hold onto it, it'll immediately burn you in every way.
So keep on contemplating.
Whether you're standing or walking or whatever even when
you're on the toilet or on your almsround: When you eat, don't
make it a big deal. When the food comes out the other end, don't
make it a big deal. Whatever it is, it's inconstant. It's not
for sure. It's not truthful in any way. It's like touching a
red-hot piece of iron. You don't know where you can touch it
because it's hot all over. So you just stop touching it. "This
is inconstant. That's inconstant." Nothing at all is for sure.
Even our thoughts are
inconstant. Why are they inconstant? They're not-self. They're
not ours. They have to be the way they are. They're unstable and
inconstant. Boil everything down to that. Whatever you like
isn't for sure. No matter how much you like it, it isn't for
sure. Whatever the preoccupation, no matter how much you like
it, you have to tell yourself, "This isn't for sure. This is
unstable and inconstant." And keep on watching....
Like this glass: It's
really pretty. You want to put it away so that it doesn't break.
But it's not for sure. One day you put it right next to yourself
and then, when you reach for something, you hit it by mistake.
It falls to the floor and breaks. It's not for sure. If it
doesn't break today, it'll break tomorrow. If it doesn't break
tomorrow, it'll break the next day for it's breakable. We're
taught not to place our trust in things like this, because
Things that are
inconstant: The Buddha taught that they're the truth. Think
about it. If you see that there's no truth to things, that's the
truth. That's constant. For sure. When there's birth, there has
to be aging, illness, and death. That's something constant and
What's constant comes from
things that aren't constant. We say that things are inconstant
and not for sure and that turns everything around: That's
what's constant and for sure. It doesn't change. How is it
constant? It's constant in that that's the way things keep on
being. Even if you try to get in the way, you don't have an
effect. Things just keep on being that way. They arise and then
they disband, disband and then arise. That's the way it is with
inconstancy. That's how it becomes the truth. The Buddha and his
noble disciples awakened because of inconstant things.
When you see inconstancy,
the result is nibbida: disenchantment. Disenchantment isn't
disgust, you know. If you feel disgust, that's wrong, the wrong
kind of disenchantment. Disenchantment isn't like our normal
disgust. For example, if you live with your wife and children to
the point where you get sick and tired of them, that's not
disenchantment. It's actually a big defilement; it squeezes your
heart. If you run away from things like that, it's being sick
and tired because of defilement. That's not nibbida. It's
actually a heavy defilement, but we think it's disenchantment.
Suppose that you're kind
to people. Whatever you have, you want to give to them. You
sympathize with them, you see that they're pretty and lovely and
good to you. Your defilements are now coming around from the
other side. Watch out! That's not kindness through the Dhamma;
it's selfish kindness. You want something out of them, which is
why you're kind to them.
It's the same with
disenchantment. "I'm sick and tired of this. I'm not going to
stay any longer. I'm fed up." That's not right at all. It's a
big defilement. It's disenchantment only in name.
disenchantment is something else: leaving things alone, putting
them down. You don't kill them, you don't beat them, you don't
punish them, you're not nice to them. You just put them down.
Everything. The same with everything. That's how it has to be.
Only then can you say that your mind has let go, that it's
empty: empty of clinging, empty of attachment.
Emptiness doesn't mean
nobody exists. Or like this glass: It's not the case that it has
to not exist for us to say that it's empty. This thermos exists;
people exist; everything exists, but those who know feel in
their hearts that these things are truths, they're not for sure,
they simply follow their conditions: They're dhammas that arise
and disband, that's all.
Take this thermos: If we
like it, it doesn't react or say anything. The liking is all on
our side. Even if we hate it and throw it into the woods, it
still doesn't react. It doesn't respond to us. Why? Because it's
just the way it is. We like it or dislike it because of our own
attachment. We see that it's good or no good. The view that it's
good squeezes our heart. The view that it's no good squeezes our
heart. Both are defilements.
So you don't have to run
away from things like this. Just understand this principle and
keep contemplating. That's all there is to it. The mind will see
that these things are no big deal. They're just the way they
are. If we hate them, they don't respond. If we like them, they
don't respond. We're simply crazy of our own accord. Nothing
disturbs us, but we get all worked up. Try to see everything in
It's the same with the
body; it's the same with the mind; it's the same with the moods
and preoccupations that make contact: See them as inconstant,
stressful, and not-self. They're just the way they are. We
suffer because we don't want them to be that way. We want to get
things that we simply can't get.
Is there something you
"I guess it's like when I
want concentration. I want the mind to be quiet."
Okay, it's true that you
want that. But what's the cause that keeps your mind from being
quiet? The Buddha says that all things arise from causes, but we
want just the results. We eat watermelons but we've never
planted any watermelons. We don't know where they come from. We
see when they're sliced open and they're nice and red: "Mmm.
Looks sweet." We try eating them, and they taste good and sweet,
but that's all we know. Why watermelons are the way they are, we
have no idea.
That's because we aren't
all-around. All-around in what way? It's like watering
vegetables. Wherever we forget to water doesn't grow. Wherever
we forget to give fertilizer doesn't grow. Contemplate this
principle and you'll give rise to discernment.
When you've finished with
things outside, you look at your own mind. Look at the affairs
of your body and mind. Now that we're born, why do we suffer? We
suffer from the same old things, but we haven't thought them
through. We don't know them thoroughly. We suffer but we don't
really see suffering. When we live at home, we suffer
from our wife and children, but no matter how much we suffer, we
don't really see suffering so we keep on suffering.
It's the same when the
mind doesn't get concentrated. We don't know why it won't get
concentrated. We don't really see what's actually arising. The
Buddha told us to look for the causes of what's arising. All
things arise from causes.
It's like putting water in
a bottle and giving it to someone to drink. Once he's finished
drinking it, he'll have to come back and ask for more for the
water isn't water in a spring. It's water in a bottle. But if
you show the spring to the person and tell him to get water
there, he can sit there and keep on drinking water and won't ask
you for any more, for the water never runs out.
It's the same when we see
inconstancy, stress, and not-self. It goes deep, for we really
know, we know all the way in. Ordinary knowledge doesn't know
all the way in. If we know all the way in, it never grows stale.
Whatever arises, it's already right. When it disbands, it's
already right. As a result, it's right without stop.
The view that says,
"That's the way it is. It's right the way it is": That's when
you've got it. That's when you're skilled and at ease. You don't
have to suffer. The problems that we get involved with and cling
to will gradually unravel. As the Buddha said, see simply that
things arise and then disband, disband and then arise, arise and
then disband. Keep watching this Dhamma constantly, doing it
constantly, developing it constantly, cultivating it constantly,
and you'll arrive at a sense of disenchantment. Disenchanted
with what? Disenchanted with everything of every sort.
The things that come by
way of the ears, we already understand them; by way of the eyes,
we already understand them; by way of the nose, we already
understand them; by way of the tongue, we already understand
them. The things that arise at the mind, we already understand
them. They're all the same sort of thing all of them, the same
sort of thing: eko dhammo, one Dhamma. This Dhamma is
inconstant, stressful, and not-self. You shouldn't cling to
anything at all. That way, disenchantment will arise.
When the eye sees a form,
you already understand it. When the ear hears a sound, you
already understand it. You understand all about it. These things
will sometimes make us happy, sometimes sad, sometimes make us
feel love, sometimes make us feel hatred. We already know all
about these sorts of things. If we cling to them, they turn into
issues. If we let them go let forms go the way of forms,
sounds the way of sounds if we send them back and let them go
their own way: When we can stay at this level, the Buddha said
that we'll see all about inconstancy. Whatever the
preoccupations that arise, they're all empty and in vain.
They're all deceptions.
When we see through the
things that used to deceive us when we're intent on staying at
ease, mindful, alert, and discerning it's not that we see
anything else. We simply see that all the preoccupations that
arise are simply the way they are. Even if, while we're sitting
perfectly still, the mind thinks about this or that, it doesn't
matter. It's just an affair of thinking. You don't have to
believe what it's thinking about. If the mind is peaceful and
you feel, "Ah, it's nice and peaceful," the peace doesn't
matter, either. Peace is inconstant, too. There's nothing but
things that are inconstant. You can sit and watch the Dhamma
right there. Discernment arises: What reason is there to suffer?
We suffer over things that
never amount to much. We want to get this, we want it to be like
that, we want to be something. If you want to be an arahant, you
immediately suffer, right here and now. Arahants have stopped
wanting to be like this or like that, but we want to get this
and get that, to be this and be that so we're sure to suffer.
If you see that this spot is good or that spot is excellent, it
all comes out of you. If you see yourself, that's the end of
saying things like that.
I'll give you a simple
comparison. This food is good. This tray is worth this many
hundreds; that tray, this many tens. They're all nothing but
good things. When they're on plates: "This is mine. This is
yours." But when they've gone into the stomach and come out the
other end, nobody argues over whose is whose or would you
still want to argue? That's what it's like. When you're willing
to admit the way things are, that's just what it's like. If we
don't really understand, we argue over what's mine and what's
yours. But when they all come together as the same sort of
thing, nobody lays any claims. They're simply the condition they
are. No matter how wonderful the food might be, when it comes
out the other end, if you wanted to give it as a gift to your
brothers and sisters, no one would want it or would you still
want it? Nobody would fight over it at all.
For this reason, if we
gather things together as eko dhammo one single dhamma
and see that their characteristics are all the same, it gives
rise to disenchantment. This disenchantment isn't disgust. The
mind simply loosens its grip, it's had enough, it's empty, it's
sobered up. There's no love, no hatred, no fixating on anything.
If you have things, okay. If you don't, it's still okay. You're
at ease. At peace.
Nibbanam paramam sukham
Nibbanam paramam suρρam.
Nibbana is the ultimate
happiness. Nibbana is the ultimate peace, emptiness. Listen
carefully. Worldly happiness isn't the ultimate happiness.
Worldly emptiness isn't the ultimate emptiness. The ultimate
emptiness is empty of clinging. The ultimate happiness is peace.
There's peace and then there's emptiness, the ultimate
emptiness. At the moment, though, the mind is at peace but it's
not ultimate. It's happy, but it's not ultimate.
This is why the Buddha
described nibbana as the ultimate emptiness, its happiness as
the ultimate happiness. It changes the nature of happiness to be
peace. It's happy but not fixated on any object. Pains still
exist, but you see the pains and pleasures that arise as equal
to each other. They have the same price. The objects we like and
don't like are equal to each other.
But as for us right now,
these things aren't equal. The objects we like are really
pleasing. The objects we don't like, we want to smash. That
means they're not equal. But their reality is that they're
equal. So think in a way that makes them equal. They're not
stable. They're not constant like the food I mentioned just
now. "This is good. That's wonderful." But when they're all
brought together, they're equal. Nobody says, "Give me a little
more. I didn't get enough." It's all been brought together to
the way it is.
If we don't drop the
principles of inconstancy, stress, and not-self, we're on the
path. We see with every moment. We see the eye, we see the mind,
we see the body.
Like when you sit in
meditation. After a moment the mind goes off in a flash, so you
pull it back. No matter what you do, it won't stay. Try holding
your breath. Will it go away then? Yyb! It goes, but not far.
It's not going to go now. It circles around right here because
your mind feels like it's about to die.
The same with sounds. I
once stuffed my ears with beeswax. Noises bothered me, so I
stuffed my ears. Things were totally quiet, with just the sound
from within my ears themselves. Why did I do it? I contemplated
what I was doing; I didn't torment myself just out of stupidity.
I thought about the matter. "Oh. If people could become noble
ones from not hearing anything, then every deaf person would be
a noble one. Every blind person would be a noble one. They'd all
be arahants." So I listened to my thoughts, and Oh!
"Is there any use in
stuffing your ears? In closing your eyes? It's self-torment."
But I did learn from it. I learned and then stopped doing it. I
stopped trying to close things off.
Don't go wrestling and
attacking, don't go cutting down the trunks of trees that have
already died. It gets you nowhere. You end up tired and stand
there looking like a fool.
They were such a waste,
such a real waste, my early years as a meditator. When I think
about them, I see that I was really deluded. The Buddha taught
us to meditate to gain release from suffering, but I simply
scooped up more suffering for myself. I couldn't sit in peace,
couldn't lie down in peace.
The reason we live in
physical seclusion (kaya-viveka)is to get the mind in
mental seclusion (citta-viveka) from the objects that
stir up its moods. These things are synonyms that follow one
after the other. Upadhi-viveka refers to seclusion from
our defilements: When we know what's what, we can pull out of
them; we pull out from whatever the state the mind is in. This
is the only purpose of physical seclusion. If you don't have any
discernment, you can create difficulties for yourself when you
go off into physical seclusion.
When you go live in the
wilderness, don't get stuck on the wilderness. If you get stuck
on the wilderness, you become a monkey. When you see the trees,
you miss the trees. You start jumping around just like the
monkey you were before. The Buddha never taught us to be
this or be that. When you live in a peaceful place, the
mind becomes peaceful. "Mmm. Peace at last. The mind is at
peace." But when you leave the wilderness, is the mind at peace?
Not any more. So what do you do then?
The Buddha didn't have us
stay in the wilderness. He had us use the wilderness as a place
to train. You go to the wilderness to find some peace so that
your meditation will develop, so that you'll develop
discernment. That's so that when you go into the city and deal
with people, with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile
sensations, you'll have strength, you'll have your strategies.
You'll have your firm foundation for contemplating things, to
see how they're not for sure. Going to the wilderness in this
way is something that can really help give you strength. If you
think that you can live anywhere, that you can live with lots of
people, it's like a knife with a double-edged blade. If you
don't have inner strength, you can create difficulties for
It's like monks who study
the Abhidhamma. They say that when you study the Abhidhamma you
don't have to cling to anything, don't have to fixate on
anything. It's nice and easy. You don't have to observe the
precepts. You just focus right on the mind. That's what monks
who study the Abhidhamma say.
"As for women, what's the
matter with getting near them? Women are just like our mothers.
We ourselves were born right out of that spot." That's bragging
too much. They ordained just yesterday and yet they refuse to be
careful around women. That's not the real Abhidhamma. That's not
what the Abhidhamma says.
But they say that the
Abhidhamma is on a level higher than the human level. "When
you're that high, it doesn't matter whether you're near someone
or not. There's no near, no far. There's nothing to be afraid
of. Women are people just like us. Just pretend that they're
men. That way you can get near them, touch them, feel them. Just
pretend that they're men."
But is that the sort of
thing you can pretend? It's a double-edged blade. If we were
talking genuine Abhidhamma, there wouldn't be a problem. But
this Abhidhamma is fake.
The Buddha taught us to
live in the wilderness. The proper way, when a monk goes into
the wilderness, is to stay in a quiet place; to wander in the
quiet wilderness; not to be entangled with friends and
companions and other sorts of things. That's the right way to do
it. But most of us don't follow the right way. We live in a
quiet place and get attached to the quiet. As soon as we see a
form, it gives rise to defilement. In our ears there's nothing
but defilement. That's going too far. It lacks discernment.
If you bring things
together, they come together at the path the right path, or
right view. That's where things come together. If you have right
view, you can live with a large group of people and there's no
problem. You can live with a small group of people and there's
no problem. You can live in the forest or in a cave and there's
no problem. But this is something you can't just attain without
any effort. You have to get so that's the way the mind really
Make the mind know the
Dhamma. When it knows the Dhamma, make it see the Dhamma.
Practice the Dhamma so that the mind is Dhamma. You don't
want to be able just to speak about the Dhamma. It's something
very different. The Buddha taught all the way to the truth, but
we only go halfway, in half measures. That's why progress is
If we come to live in the
wilderness, we get to train ourselves like training ourselves
to grow rice. Once we plant it, it grows gradually. If nothing
eats it, it's okay. But what happens? As soon as the rice grains
begin to appear, a baby water buffalo comes to eat them. We
chase it away and look after the plant, but as soon as more
grains appear the baby water buffalo comes to eat them again,
keeps on eating as soon as the grains begin to fill out. If
that's the case, how are we going to get any rice?
The strategies you'll need
will grow from within the mind. Whoever has discernment gains
intuitive knowledge. Whoever has intuitive knowledge gains
discernment. That's the way it is. Are intuitive knowledge and
discernment different from each other? If you say they aren't,
why are there two different words? One is called intuitive
knowledge; one is called discernment. Can you have only
intuitive knowledge? No. You need to have discernment, too. Can
you have only discernment? No. You need to have intuitive
knowledge, too. Whoever has discernment gains intuitive
knowledge. Whoever has intuitive knowledge gains discernment.
These things arise from your own experience. You can't go
looking for them in this book or that. They arise in your own
mind. Don't be timid.
I once read in a Jataka
tale about our Buddha when he was still a bodhisatta. He was
like you: He had ordained and encountered a lot of difficulties,
but when he thought of disrobing he was ashamed of what other
people would think that he had ordained all these years and
yet still wanted to disrobe. Still, things didn't go the way he
wanted, so he thought he'd leave. He came across a squirrel
whose baby had been blown into the ocean by the wind. He saw the
squirrel running down to the water and then back up again. He
didn't know what it was doing. It ran down to the water and
stuck its tail in the water, and then ran up to the beach and
shook out its tail. Then it ran down and stuck its tail in the
water again. So he asked it, "What are you doing?"
"Oh, my baby has fallen
into the water. I miss it and I want to fetch it out."
"How are you going to do
"I'm going to use my tail
to bail water out of the ocean until it's dry so that I can
fetch my baby out."
"Oho. When will the ocean
ever go dry?"
"That's not the issue.
This is the way it is with the practice. You keep bailing out
the water, bailing out the water, and don't care whether it ever
goes dry. When you're going to be a Buddha, you can't abandon
When the bodhisatta heard
this, it flashed in his heart. He got up and pushed through with
his efforts. He didn't retreat. That's how he became the Buddha.
It's the same with us.
Wherever things aren't going well, that's where they will
go well. You make them happen where they aren't yet happening.
Wherever you're deluded, that's where knowledge will arise. If
you don't believe me, spit right here. That'll make it dirty.
But when you wipe it away, it'll be clean right here right
where it's dirty. It won't become clean out there in the grounds
of the monastery. Keep coming back to the same place over and
Ajahn Thongrat once said
to me, "Chah, drill the hole right in line with the dowel."
That's all he said. I had
just started practicing and didn't understand what he was
"If it comes low, jump
over its head." That's what he said.
"If it comes high, slip
I didn't know what he was
saying. So I went off to meditate and kept contemplating it.
Actually, he was telling
me how to solve my problems. "Drill the hole right in line with
the dowel" means, "Wherever the problem arises, contemplate
right there; wherever you're deluded, contemplate right there.
If you're attached to a sight, contemplate the sight. Right
around right there." That's what it means, "Drill the hole right
in line with the dowel." Don't go drilling far away. Drill right
there at the dowel.
It's the same as when we
step on a thorn. You take a needle and probe right there where
the thorn is. Don't go probing anywhere else. Probe right where
the thorn is stuck in your foot. Even if it hurts, you have to
endure it. Keep probing all around it and then pry it out.
That's how you get the thorn out. If the thorn is stuck in your
foot, but you go probing around your rear, when will you ever be
done with it?
So I contemplated this.
"Oh. Teachers meditate in line with the language of their own
minds. They don't go groping around in the formulations in the
books the way we do. Their own formulations arise from reality."
So what comes low and what
"If it comes low, jump
over its head. If it comes high, slip under it." I kept
contemplating this. Here he was talking about my moods and
preoccupations. Some of them come low; some of them come high.
You have to watch them to see how you can avoid them. If they
come low, jump over their heads. If they come high, slip under
them. Do what you can so that they don't hit you.
This is the practice. You
contemplate right where you're deluded so that you'll know right
there. Any other issue is just duck shit and chicken shit. You
don't have to go groping after it. That's how you have to take
things on in meditation.
But actually, it's not a
matter of taking. You take them on by abandoning them. This is
how the suppositions of language have things all backwards. You
let things go. You practice letting go. You don't have to become
a stream-winner or a once-returner. You don't have to make those
suppositions. You don't have to be those things. If you are
anything, it's a turmoil. If you are this or are
that, you are a problem. So you don't have to be
anything. There's nothing but letting go letting go and then
knowing in line with what things do. When you know in line with
what things do in every way, there's no more doubt. And you
Think about it in a simple
way. If someone yells at you but you don't rear up in response,
that's the end of the matter. It doesn't reach you. But if you
grab hold of it and won't let go, you're in bad shape. Why put
their words into yourself? If they yell at you, just leave it at
that. But if they yell at you over there in the ordination hall
and you bring it into your ears while you're sitting here, it's
as if you like to suffer. This is called not understanding
suffering. You stir things up with your thinking and give rise
to all kinds of issues.
The practice is actually
something short, and not at all long. If you say it's long, it's
longer than long. If you say it's short, it's shorter than
short. When it comes to the practice, you can't use your
ordinary ways of thinking.
You need to have patience
and endurance. You need to make an effort. Whatever happens, you
don't have to pick it up and carry it around. When things are a
certain way, that's all they are. When we see the Dhamma in this
way, we don't hold onto anything. Pleasure we know. Pain we
The Buddha and his arahant
disciples, when they gain awakening: It's not the case that
coconut-milk sweets aren't sweet for them. They're sweet in the
same way they're sweet for us. When the noble ones eat a sour
tamarind, they squeeze their eyes shut just like us. Do you
understand? Things are just the same way they were before,
simply that noble ones don't hold onto them or get fixated on
them. If you argue with them that the tamarind is sour, they'll
say, "Sour is fine. Sweet is fine. Neither sour nor sweet is
fine." That's what they'll say.
The same principle applies
here. When people come and say wrong things, we can hear them
and it doesn't matter. We just leave it at that. If you can do
this, then even though you're as old as you are now, you can be
young. You can get a lot younger.
You don't have to carry
these things over your shoulder. I've seen some old monks
wandering dhutanga-style, but I don't know what they're going
for. They carry huge umbrella tents. Old monks don't like small
umbrella tents the way young monks do, you know. They like to
carry around big umbrella tents. In the morning they fold up
their umbrella tents. As soon as the sun comes up, they fold up
their tents. They can't leave them up in the open fields to
protect themselves from the wind, for the tents won't stand up
to the wind. So they fold up their tents and carry them off
under the hot sun. Then in the evening they put their umbrella
tents up again. I don't know why there's no more sun. They
wake up the next day and fold up their tents and carry them off
under the hot sun again.
I did this sort of thing
until I got sick and tired of it. I went wandering dhutanga-style
but ended up suffering in the jungle. Then I realized that it
wasn't for the purpose of suffering in the jungle, so I kept
finding my way out of the jungle. That's why I became a
Actually, the reason why
the Buddha taught us to go into the wilderness is for us to gain
discernment. You encounter suffering, you encounter reality, so
that you can see and understand it, and eventually you get tired
of the actions that cause it. It's not that going into the
wilderness isn't good. It is good. It gives rise to
Speaking of dhutanga, it's
not a matter of slinging your bowl and umbrella tent over your
shoulder, exposing yourself to the sun and wind until you're
about to die, the way farmers go to sell water buffaloes in the
Central Plains. It's a matter of the practice. You learn to be
content with little. You learn a sense of moderation in eating,
a sense of moderation in sleep. You get to grow thin, to make
things shrink, make them shorter, gather them in well. It's like
casting a net for fish. You gather one end firmly under your
belt and then you gradually gather the net in, gather it in,
gradually, gradually. You tie off one end and then, when you've
got your fish, you quickly tie off the other. Tie up the fish
behind the gills and you've got it.
You don't have to look
elsewhere. You don't have to read a lot of books. Watch your own
mind. The basic principles lie right here. This way you can
meditate without getting deluded.
If people speak to you in
a way that grates against your ears, that makes you mad, tell
yourself, "It's not for sure. It's inconstant." If you eat
something delicious and think, "Mmm. It's really good," remind
yourself that it's not for sure. Whatever comes your way, tell
yourself, "It's not for sure." Why? Because that's where the
Dhamma lies. Gather things in, in the direction of the Buddha,
the direction of inconstancy. Inconstancy that things aren't
for sure: That's the Buddha on the level of the mind.
If you really see
inconstancy, you see the Dhamma. Why wouldn't you see it? for
the truth lies right there. If you see the Dhamma, you see the
Buddha. These things go in both directions. If you see the
Buddha, you see the Dhamma. When you see in this way, you can
live anywhere at all. When you sit, the Buddha is giving you a
sermon. When you lie down, he's giving you a sermon. Whatever
you do, he's giving you a sermon. The Dhamma arises and the
Dhamma looks after those who practice it, so that they don't
fall into the evil path.
When the Dhamma is in
charge, the mind is always aware of things. It knows that "This
is wrong. This is right. This is good. This is evil. This is
suffering. This is the cause of suffering. This is the
disbanding of suffering. This is the practice that reaches the
disbanding of suffering."
That's the path.
Everything gathers into the path. As you strengthen the path,
your defilements decrease. The defilements are like an army, you
know. If they increase, the path decreases. If the path gets
strengthened, the defilements gradually go away, go away. Their
strength decreases. You stay only with what's right. Whatever's
wrong, you give it up, give it all up, and the wrong path peters
That's when the right path
gets established, and you can live wherever you want. Gaining is
the same as losing; losing, the same as gaining. There's no
problem any more. The mind is at peace at peace through
discernment. When you see in this way, you're not fixated on
this or that. If someone brings you something to trade this for
that, you're not interested. You don't believe them. That's when
things are for sure. Remember this point well.
It's like knowing fruits:
This is an olive, this is a guava, this is a mango. Once you
know them, people can pour them all into a tray and someone can
pick them up one by one and ask you what they are.
The person can keep doing
this for a hundred trays of fruit, a thousand trays of fruit,
and you won't be deceived by any of them. You see a mango as a
mango, a guava as a guava whatever it is, you see it for what
it is. That's when things are for sure. Nobody can deceive you.
You can't wander off the path, for everything in the mind is the
right path. When you're sitting, you have right view. When
you're walking, you have right view. When you're lying down, you
have right view. The mind is all the same, always like it has
been: at ease, at peace. These sorts of things are hard to
Pleasure isn't the highest
level of Dhamma. It's peace because it's no longer disturbed by
pleasure or pain. It's empty. It stays unfixated, unattached.
Wherever you go, it keeps staying that way.
For instance, if
somebody's mood comes to hit you "You know, venerable father,
you're just like a dog" you stay at your ease. Once you're
sure of yourself, that's the way it is. But if they call you a
dog and you really become a dog, biting them, that shows
you're not sure of yourself. You're not for sure. Once you're
for sure, you're not anything. Why would you want to be
anything? Venerable Father Sii, Venerable Father Saa, Venerable
Father Maa: It's not the case that you've had these names all
along. They were given to you not all that long ago.
Like that eight-precept
man over there: Where did he come from? Was he born with a label
affixed to him? His parents gave him a name just a little while
ago. If they call you a person, what's there to get so happy
about? If they call you a dog, what's there to get so upset
about? Isn't that a sign you're already in sad shape?
So we keep on
contemplating, keep on looking, until we keep on getting it
right, getting it right. You get it right while you're sitting
down, right while you're lying down. Whatever you do, it's
right. It keeps on staying right. But if you start arguing about
the Dhamma, you can't escape suffering.
It's like the piece of
iron that's red-hot all over. It doesn't have any cool spot. If
you touch it on top, it's hot. If you touch it underneath, it's
hot. If you touch it on the sides, it's hot. Why is it hot?
Because the whole thing is a piece of red-hot iron. Where
would it be cool?
It's the same here. Once
you latch onto anything whatever it is you're immediately
wrong. Everything is wrong, everything is suffering. If you
latch onto what's evil, you suffer. If you latch onto what's
good, you suffer.
For the most part, the
good things are what lead people to be very deluded. They're
deluded by what's good. When good isn't just right, it's not
good, you know. Have you noticed the rainfall this year? It was
so good that it went past just right, flooding people's houses.
This is what happens when good goes past just right.
The Buddha taught us to be
"If it comes high, slip
"If it comes low, jump
over its head."
"Drill the hole right in
line with the dowel."
Take these three
principles with you. Focus right there, and the problem won't
get away from you. This is the genuine truth. This is what it's
like. Don't focus on whether you're old or young, or how many
days and nights have passed, or which day of the week it is.
Just keep working on your mind in this way.
In practicing, don't think
that you have to sit in order for it to be meditation, that you
have to walk back and forth in order for it to be meditation.
Don't think like that. Meditation is simply a matter of
practice. Whether you're giving a sermon, sitting here
listening, or going away from here, keep up the practice in your
heart. Be alert to what's proper and what's not.
Don't decide that it's
okay to observe the dhutanga practices during the Rains retreat
and then drop them when the retreat is over. It's not okay.
Things don't balance out in that way. It's like clearing a
field. We keep cutting away, cutting away, and then stop to rest
when we're tired. We put away our hoe and then come back a month
or two later. The weeds are now all taller than the stumps. If
we try to clear away the area we cleared away before, it's too
much for us.
Ajaan Mun once said that
we have to make our practice the shape of a circle. A circle
never comes to an end. Keep it going continually. Keep the
practice going continually without stop. I listened to him and I
thought, "When I've finished listening to this talk, what should
The answer is to make your
alertness akaliko: timeless. Make sure that the mind
knows and sees what's proper and what's not, at all times.
It's like the water in
this kettle. If you tilt it so that there's a long time between
the drops glug... glug those are called water drops.
If you tilt it a little further, the drops become more frequent:
glug-glug-glug. If you tilt it a little bit further, the
water flows in a stream. What does the stream of water stream
come from? It comes from the drops of water. If they're not
continuous, they're called drops of water.
The water here is like our
awareness. If you accelerate your efforts, if your awareness is
continuous, your mindfulness will become full. Both by day and
by night, it'll keep staying full like that. It becomes a stream
of water. As we're taught, the noble ones have continuous
mindfulness. The water is a stream of water. Make your awareness
continuous. Whenever there's anything wrong or lacking in any
way, you'll know immediately. Your awareness will be a circle,
all around. That's the shape of the practice.
It's not that you have to
drive yourself really hard. Some people get really earnest when
they sit in concentration: "Let my blood drain away, let my skin
split open, if I don't gain awakening I'm willing to die."
They've read that in the biography of the Buddha, but when it
comes to them, the body starts pulsating in pain all the way up
to the base of the skull. Their determination gradually
deflates, until they finally open their eyes to look at the
incense stick burning in front of them.
"Gosh, I thought it'd be
almost burned out, but there's still a lot left!"
So they take a deep breath
and make the determination that as long as the incense stick
hasn't burned all the way out, they won't open their eyes no
matter what. But after a while the pain gets really heavy and
dull at the base of the skull, so they open their eyes.
"Gosh, I thought it'd be
all burned out, but there's still a lot left!"
Eventually, they give up
even before the incense has burned out. Later they sit and
think, "I'm really a sad case." They don't know who to get mad
at, so they get mad at themselves. "I'm not true to my word."
They curse themselves.
"There's no hope for me.
I'm making a lot of bad kamma. I'm a denizen of hell." All kinds
"Why should I stay on as a
monk if I can't even do this? All my bad kamma is going to eat
up my head." They've given themselves a reason to jump ship.
"Wouldn't it be better to
live as a layperson and observe the five precepts?" They think
to themselves and don't tell anyone else. The more they think,
the more convinced they are.
Why should we set goals
for ourselves like that? The Buddha taught that when we
meditate, we should have a sense of ourselves. Like merchants
when they put merchandise into their carts: They have a sense of
what they're doing how many oxen they have, how big and strong
the oxen are, how big their carts are. They know that sort of
thing: how many sacks of rice they can put in each cart. They
know how much to put in, in line with the strength of their oxen
and the strength of their carts.
When you practice, it has
to be in line with your own strength. Here you have a single
cart and your ox is the size of your fist, and yet you want the
cart to carry as much as a ten-wheeled truck. You see
ten-wheeled trucks passing you on the road and you want to be
like them. But you're not a ten-wheeled truck. You're just a
cart. It's sure to break down. You're what's called a fruit
that's ripe even before it's half-ripe, food that's burned even
before it's cooked.
So in the end those
earnest meditators end up disrobing. After they've disrobed,
they start thinking again. "You know, back when I was ordained
things were going a lot better than they are now. Maybe I should
ordain again. That path was a lot brighter. It wasn't as dark as
this." After they think about it for a while, they ordain again.
Make a fresh start. At first they look like they're going to do
well, like a new boxer who doesn't yet need water. Their
strength is good, they're diligent, they make good progress. But
then they gradually grow weaker, weaker.
"It looks like I'm going
to fail again. This is my second time around and still it looks
like I won't make it. If I stay in the robes, I'm going to break
down even more. I'd better disrobe. I'm not going to get
anywhere. Some of the Buddha's disciples ordained and disrobed
up to seven times." They're now taking those who ordained and
disrobed seven times as their model. Don't take their bad
example as your model.
"They had to wait until
their seventh time before they gained awakening. Maybe if I give
it my all seven times I'll gain awakening like them." They keep
on talking nonsense.
There's nothing in the
Dhamma taught by the Buddha that lies beyond human capabilities.
Don't go focusing on things you can't see: heaven or nibbana up
there in the sky. All the Dhammas we need to know and see, the
Buddha explained in full. As for things you can't see, don't pay
them any mind. Don't pay them any attention. Look instead at the
present. How are you leading your life? If suffering arises, why
is there suffering? What's going on? How can you settle the
problem right there? What are you stuck on? It's attachment and
fixation. You grasp at the idea that you're better than other
people, or equal to other people, or worse than other people.
All kinds of things. When you live with other people, you get
disgusted with them. "This person is acting badly. That person
is acting badly." You go off to live by yourself and don't know
who to get disgusted with, so you end up disgusted with
Just like you said.