Bhante Gunaratana – Do it Yourself
posted by theravada
april 30, 2012
:: English Postings - Englische Beiträge
(Editors remark: Bhante G is 85 years old now, so please notice the
remarkable biological youth of the Dhamma practioner…) He looks like ~
The Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant, spent twenty-
five years with the Buddha serving him. The Buddha asked him several
times to strive hard and attain enlightenment. He had known all the
Dhamma and theories of meditation. However, as he enjoyed serving the
Buddha and other fellow bhikkhus, he neglected his own attainment of
enlightenment until finally a great pressure came from the 499 Arahants
assembled to hold the first Buddhist council. They insisted that he
should attain enlightenment before the designated date for the council
planned for the third month after the Buddha’s passing away.
Buddha had already said: “Monks, meditate. Don’t be heedless. Don’t let
your mind be filled with defilements. Don’t weep and wail saying: This
life is full of trouble, full of misery, full of pain, full of agony.”
The mind not developed through the practice of mindfulness meditation
creates tension, anxiety and worry. Don’t keep crying and repeating the
same mistakes. You cannot run away from reality. Life is not rosy. It
has ups-and-downs and bumps all over. These are facts we face every day.
The practice of mindfulness meditation is similar to a the shock
absorbers in a car. If the shock absorbers are not good, you will see
how difficult it will be when you drive. This vehicle of ours – the body
and mind, this combination – is full of such difficult moments. There is
no place to run away from them. Even if you go to the moon (not an
impossibility these days), still you will go with your body and mind
filled with all kinds of impediments still existing in the mind. You
cannot leave them here and go over there. They follow persistently and
doggedly wherever you go, and they keep bothering you, day and night.
Most people experiment with three solutions.
They perceive the problem is “over there, in the world.” Therefore, they
think that by correcting the world, trying to solve society’s ills, they
can solve their problems. They wish to make the environment “proper,
beautiful” and free from problems. Only then can they live happily. So
they get engrossed and, sometimes, even obsessed, in trying to
straighten out society. Of course, the desire to improve society’s ills,
itself, is commendable. They see suffering and become compassionate and
then act. They may keep themselves fully occupied trying to correct the
society’s ills. They might think that they keep themselves out of
trouble without realizing that they actually are forgetting their own
nagging problems. They continue to have their own pains and suffering
unattended primarily because they do not have time for themselves. These
people are very compassionate, understanding, ready to render their
service to the society selflessly or without any reward from the
society. We read many wonderful accounts of many such noble persons who
at the expense of their own attainment of enlightenment dedicate their
lives to the society. External activities might hinder solving one’s own
Although we live in society with people, each one of us has a little
world of our own, views about the world, our own perception and
understanding of the world. Each follows his or her perceptions, and
views of the world. We may sometimes think that all the problems we
experience are generated from the outer world. Therefore, we turn our
energies to the world believing involvement in doing something to
correct society will solve our problems.
The second line of thinking which people pursue to solve their problems
is to think that there is no problem at all. They believe that
everything is imaginary. They think: “I exist by myself, I am most
important, and I am all alone, and nothing else matters to me.” The
third way to solve personal problems is to run away from our problems.
may receive temporary solace, temporary comfort thinking either the
problem exists over there in the external world or it does not exist, or
diverting our attention to something, ignoring that there is a problem,
or running away from the problem.
The real solution lies in none of these methods. The real solution,
according to the Buddha’s teaching, is to discover a way to purify the
instrument, the agent, which makes the world happy or unhappy, peaceful
or miserable, pleasant or painful. That which creates problems and
suffering for everybody. This instrument is our mind. Purification of
this mind is one of the purposes of mindfulness meditation.
we all know, all our thoughts, words and deeds originate in the mind.
Mind is the forerunner. All conditions which we experience are
mind-made. They are created in the mind, directed and led by the mind.
Mind puts them into action. “All actions are all led by the mind: mind
is their master, mind is their maker. Act or speak with a defiled state
of mind, then suffering follows like the cart-wheel that follows the
foot of the ox. All actions are all led by the mind; mind is their
master, mind is their maker. Act or speak with a pure state of mind,
then happiness follows like a shadow that remains behind without
departing.” (Dhammapada 1-2)
The analogy of the ox pulling the cart is most appropriate to illustrate
our problems. The ox pulling the cart does not enjoy pulling the cart.
He is not happy with this burden; it is not a pleasure. This poor bull
pulling the cart has a terrible time. The whole burden of the cart is on
his shoulders, and he will be in pain. The bull would have done better
if he had not been born a bull. The condition of the bull is compared to
the condition of ignorance, and stupidity – not seeing the truth as is.
An unenlightened life is full of ignorance and given to defilements of
all kinds. Therefore, an unenlightened person committing thoughts,
words, and deeds with impure minds suffers very much like the bull who
always suffers by pulling this heavy cart. On the other hand, when we
speak or do something with a pure mind we feel happy, and have no
regrets, no pain, no suffering following us.
Our purpose in life is to improve ourselves everyday and become happy.
We do many things to gain happiness. However, most of the things we do
to gain happiness may generate unhappiness, pain, suffering and trouble
because our minds are not pure. It is the pure mind that can generate
happiness, not the impure mind. Therefore, the first purpose of
practicing meditation is to purify our mind; that generates peace and
The second purpose of meditation is to overcome sorrow and lamentation.
When a meditator begins to see the truth he or she can bear and conquer
sorrow and lamentation caused by impermanence.
The third purpose is to overcome suffering and disappointment caused by
greed and hatred.
The fourth purpose of meditation is to tread the wise path, the correct
path which leads to liberation from grief, sorrow, disappointment, pain
and lamentation. This is the path of mindfulness – the only path that
liberate us from suffering.
The fifth purpose of meditation is to liberate ourselves completely and
totally from mental pain and defilements and to free our minds from
greed, hatred and delusion.
These five purposes are very noble purposes. All other purposes of
meditation may be overlooked because none of them is capable of
generating these results making us really peaceful and happy by
eliminating our problems. We don’t try to ignore or avoid them but
mindfully we face and tackle them as they arise in our minds.
Certain people simply want to meditate without having any background
knowledge of meditation. They think knowledge of the theory of
meditation is an impediment. This attitude can be compared to the
attitude of a traveler who wishes to go to a definite destination – let
us say Washington DC. The traveler has great confidence in his ability
and believes his confidence alone is sufficient to get him there. This
person may have a vehicle – a car. Then, getting into the car, sitting
behind the steering wheel, he starts to drive. However, there has been
no preparation for the journey. There is no knowledge of the roads or
the conditions of the roads or of the weather. He hasn’t even consulted
a map. All he has is a car and confidence and some experience in
driving. The car may carry a sufficient quantity of gas, oil, and other
items, so, the traveler gets into the car and starts driving. He may be
on the road for a long time spending a good deal of money on gas, time
and energy. Indeed, driving will lead him somewhere, but not necessarily
to his destination. A wise driver, on the other hand, studies the map in
detail, determines the detours, and may ask others who are more
the driver wishes to go to Washington DC and if there is a place called
Washington DC, the driver will find it. Similarly, we need to have a
goal in meditation. We want to reach this goal and realize our purpose.
And we do need some guidelines. We do not necessarily need a great deal
of philosophical and speculative theory. The guidelines are road signs
to follow so that we will know (not guess) if we are heading in the
right direction. Certainly confidence is necessary, but in itself, is
not sufficient. In addition, we need understanding and knowledge of the
Then what is meditation? How do we reach this goal of purifying the
mind, overcoming grief and lamentation, overcoming pain and
disappointment, treading the path leading to liberation from pain,
suffering and samsara – this world of birth and death?
There is a way to attain it. When we refer to “the Way” it may turn many
people off. They might think the speaker is trying to sell something and
trying to deprecate everything in the world, and say “If this is the
only way, we are not prepared to buy it.” Now, when you wish to go to
Washington DC, there are a number of ways to get there. Flying is the
quickest way these days, of course. In other times, we would use a car
or boat, or only our two feet. Whatever the means of transportation, we
have to cover a specific distance to arrive in Washington DC. What is
essential is that we get there – whether by slow or fast means.
Therefore, “the Way” means “The Way of Mindfulness” that transverses a
certain distance or area to realize our destination.
This way of Mindfulness does not, however, lie in a geographical area or
in space. It is in our own mind. We have to do certain things. That
doing is also “the Way” — the way to cultivate our minds to accomplish
this journey. Cultivating the mind means practicing mindfulness. When no
mindfulness is present, when we are unmindful all the time, we are
entrapped by “red herrings.” We are caught in all kinds of confusion. We
don’t understand things as they really are. To enable us to get to our
destination, we need a clear understanding of where we are. Clear
understanding is born from mindfulness. No matter what else we do or
other practices we engage in they have their own purposes and goals. We
learn that they do not purify the mind.
The very word meditation means cultivation. We know what we mean when we
say, “We cultivate a land.” We know that there has to be a land and some
means of cultivating it. We have to do certain things, such as cutting
down the trees to clear the land, remove weeds and other things, and
till it over and over and fertilize it. Then we can plant seeds and
nourish it and grow certain crops. Similarly in the practice of
meditation, we need to mentally cultivate the mind. We do not need to
sit in one place just waiting for something to happen. We may wait
indefinitely, or for a very long time, without anything happening. We
might say that we have spent so much time in meditation. Sitting in one
place doing nothing is not meditation. And also simply watching our
breath all the time is inadequate and insufficient. Of course,
mindfulness of breath is an important part of meditation. Simply
watching the breath without any mindfulness may be called the practice
of tranquillity meditation, however, it is not Right Concentration
without mindfulness. We begin, however, with watching our breath. This
meditation which is totally distinct to Buddhism is called Vipassana
meditation or Insight meditation. There are guidelines for the practice
of Insight or Vipassana meditation. These guidelines are given in the
Sutta called the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
These Four Foundations of Mindfulness are: Mindfulness of the Body,
Mindfulness of Feeling, Mindfulness of the mind and Mindfulness of
Mental Objects. We will explain them in turn.
Let me take the first part – Mindfulness of the Body. Mindfulness of the
body is divided into six sections. The first of them is Mindfulness of
breathing. Now, why is the breath included in the mindfulness of the
body? The breath is a part of our body. This body, as we know it, is
made up of four basic elements: the element of extension (solid parts),
the element of cohesion (the liquid part), the element of heat
(radiation) and the element of air (oscillation or movement). Therefore,
when we try to practice mindfulness of the body we begin with the
mindfulness of the breath which is the element of air.
this meditation, we do not dwell upon some imaginative fairy land. We
are not trying to induce self hypnosis. We are not trying to discover
the hidden, mystical elements of the universe. We are not trying to
become absorbed in the whole universe. We are not trying to become “One”
with the whole universe. All these are interesting words. We are trying
to use this personality of ours: our own body and mind. We watch
mindfully this body and mind and their activities, we investigate them
because they are what we carry with us wherever we go. This body and
mind is our laboratory. All we have to work with is there — the raw
material, chemical substance, gases, heat, air, water, extension — all
are there. It is in this body, in this personality that we find all
this. My laboratory is my body and mind. I always try to watch them
within me. I cannot work in your laboratory. You have to work in your
own laboratory. Most of us forget our own laboratories and try to get
into somebody else’s laboratory. We try to see what so-and-so is eating,
what so-and-so is doing, whom so-and-so is associating with, where
so-and-so is going, what so-and-so is reading, how much money so-and-so
has, etc. We always forget our own laboratories. We may never know what
is in this laboratory within ourselves. We, in this practice of Insight
meditation, become introspective, mindful and careful to watch what is
happening here in this mind and body in the present moment. That is what
Vipassana meditation is all about; methodical investigation in the
laboratory within ourselves.
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