Rains Retreat I don't have much strength, I'm not well, so I've come
up to this mountain here to get some fresh air. People come to visit
but I can't really receive them like I used to because my voice is
just about had it, my breath is just about gone. You can count it a
blessing that there is still this body sitting here for you all to
see now. This is a blessing in itself. Soon you won't see it. The
breath will be finished, the voice will be gone. They will fare in
accordance with supporting factors, like all compounded things. The
Lord Buddha called it khaya vayam, the decline and
dissolution of all conditioned phenomena.
How do they decline?
Consider a lump of ice. Originally it was simply water...they freeze
it and it becomes ice. But it doesn't take long before it's melted.
Take a big lump of ice, say as big as this tape recorder here, and
leave it out in the sun. You can see how it declines, much the same
as the body. It will gradually disintegrate. In not many hours or
minutes all that's left is a puddle of water. This is called
khaya vayam, the decline and dissolution of all compounded
things. It's been this way for a long time now, ever since the
beginning of time. When we are born we bring this inherent nature
into the world with us, we can't avoid it. At birth we bring old
age, sickness and death along with us.
So this is why the
Buddha said khaya vayam, the decline and dissolution of all
compounded things. All of us sitting here in this hall now, monks,
novices, laymen and laywomen, are without exception "lumps of
deterioration." Right now the lump is hard, just like the lump of
ice. It starts out as water, becomes ice for a while and then melts
again. Can you see this decline in yourself? Look at this body. It's
aging every day ... hair is aging, nails are aging...everything is
You weren't like
this before, were you? You were probably much smaller than this. Now
you've grown up and matured. From now on you will decline, following
the way of nature. The body declines just like the lump of ice.
Soon, just like the lump of ice, it's all gone. All bodies are
composed of the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire. A body
is the confluence of earth, water, wind, and fire, which we proceed
to call a person. Originally it's hard to say what you could call
it, but now we call it a "person." We get infatuated with it, saying
it's a male, a female, giving it names, Mr., Mrs., and so on, so
that we can identify each other more easily. But actually there
isn't anybody there. There's earth, water, wind and fire. When they
come together in this known form we call the result a "person." Now
don't get excited over it. If you really look into it there isn't
That which is solid
in the body, the flesh, skin, bones and so on, are called the earth
element. Those aspects of the body which are liquid are the water
element. The faculty of warmth in the body is the fire element,
while the winds coursing through the body are the wind element.
At Wat Ba Pong we
have a body which is neither male or female. It's the skeleton
hanging in the main hall. Looking at it you don't get the feeling
that it's a man or a woman. People ask each other whether it's a man
or a woman and all they can do is look blankly at each other. It's
only a skeleton, all the skin and flesh are gone.
People are ignorant
of these things. Some go to Wat Ba Pong, into the main hall, see the
skeletons...and then come running right out again! They can't bear
to look. They're afraid, afraid of the skeletons. I figure these
people have never seen themselves before. Afraid of the skeletons...
they don't reflect on the great value of a skeleton. To get to the
monastery they had to ride in a car or walk... if they didn't have
bones how would they be? Would they be able to walk about like that?
But they ride their cars to Wat Ba Pong, go into the main hall, see
the skeletons and run straight back out again! They've never seen
such a thing before. They're born with it and yet they've never seen
it. It's very fortunate that they have a chance to see it now. Even
older people see the skeletons and get scared... What's all the fuss
about? This shows that they're not at all in touch with themselves,
they don't really know themselves. Maybe they go home and still
can't sleep for three or four days... and yet they're sleeping with
a skeleton! They get dressed with it, eat food with it, do
everything with it... and yet they're scared of it.
This shows how out
of touch people are with themselves. How pitiful! They're always
looking outwards, at trees, at other people, at external objects,
saying "this one is big," "that's small," "that's short," "that's
long." They're so busy looking at other things they never see
themselves. To be honest, people are really pitiful. They have no
In the ordination
ceremonies the ordinees must learn the five basic meditation themes:
kesa, head hair; loma, body hair; nakha, nails;
danta, teeth; taco, skin. Some of the students and
educated people snigger to themselves when they hear this part of
the ordination ceremony..."What's the Ajahn trying to teach us here?
Teaching us about hair when we've had it for ages. He doesn't have
to teach us about this, we know it already. Why bother teaching us
something we already know?" Dim people are like this, they think
they can see the hair already. I tell them that when I say to "see
the hair" I mean to see it as it really is. See body hair as it
really is, see nails, teeth and skin as they really are. That's what
I call "seeing" -- not seeing in a superficial way, but seeing in
accordance with the truth. We wouldn't be so sunk up to the ears in
things if we could see things as they really are. Hair, nails,
teeth, skin ... what are they really like? Are they pretty? Are they
clean? Do they have any real substance? Are they stable? No...
there's nothing to them. They're not pretty but we imagine them to
be so. They're not substantial but we imagine them to be so.
Hair, nails, teeth,
skin... people are really hooked on these things. The Buddha
established these things as the basic themes for meditation, he
taught us to know these things. They are Transient, Imperfect and
Ownerless; they are not "me" or "them." We are born with and deluded
by these things, but really they are foul. Suppose we didn't bathe
for a week, could we bear to be close to each other? We'd really
smell bad. When people sweat a lot, such as when a lot of people are
working hard together, the smell is awful. We go back home and rub
ourselves down with soap and water and the smell abates somewhat,
the fragrance of the soap replaces it. Rubbing soap on the body may
make it seem fragrant, but actually the bad smell of the body is
still there, temporarily suppressed. When the smell of the soap is
gone the smell of the body comes back again.
Now we tend to think
these bodies are pretty, delightful, long lasting and strong. We
tend to think that we will never age, get sick or die. We are
charmed and fooled by the body, and so we are ignorant of the true
refuge within ourselves. The true place of refuge is the mind. The
mind is our true refuge. This hall here may be pretty big but it
can't be a true refuge. Pigeons take shelter here, geckos take
shelter here, lizards take shelter here...We may think the hall
belongs to us but it doesn't. We live here together with everything
else. This is only a temporary shelter, soon we must leave it.
People take these shelters for refuge.
So the Buddha said
to find your refuge. That means to find your real heart. This heart
is very important. People don't usually look at important things,
they spend most of their time looking at unimportant things. For
example, when they do the house cleaning they may be bent on
cleaning up the house, washing the dishes and so on, but they fail
to notice their own hearts. Their heart may be rotten, they may be
feeling angry, washing the dishes with a sour expression on their
face. That their own hearts are not very clean they fail to see.
This is what I call "taking a temporary shelter for a refuge." They
beautify house and home but they don't think of beautifying their
own hearts. They don't examine suffering. The heart is the important
thing. The Buddha taught to find a refuge within your own heart:
Attahi attano natho -- "Make yourself a refuge unto yourself."
Who else can be your refuge? The true refuge is the heart, nothing
else. You may try to depend on other things but they aren't a sure
thing. You can only really depend on other things if you already
have a refuge within yourself. You must have your own refuge first
before you can depend on anything else, be it a teacher, family,
friends or relatives.
So all of you, both
laypeople and homeless ones who have come to visit today, please
consider this teaching. Ask yourselves, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
Ask yourselves, "Why was I born?" Some people don't know. They want
to be happy but the suffering never stops. Rich or poor, young or
old, they suffer just the same. It's all suffering. And why? Because
they have no wisdom. The poor are unhappy because they don't have
enough, and the rich are unhappy because they have too much to look
In the past, as a
young novice, I gave a Dhamma discourse. I talked about the
happiness of wealth and possessions, having servants and so on... A
hundred male servants, a hundred female servants, a hundred
elephants, a hundred cows, a hundred buffaloes...a hundred of
everything! The laypeople really lapped it up. But can you imagine
looking after a hundred buffaloes? Or a hundred cows, a hundred male
and female servants...can you imagine having to look after all of
that? Would that be fun? People don't consider this side of things.
They have the desire to possess...to have the cows, the buffaloes,
the servants... hundreds of them. But I say fifty buffaloes would be
too much. Just twining the rope for all those brutes would be too
much already! But people don't consider this, they only think of the
pleasure of acquiring. They don't consider the trouble involved.
If we don't have
wisdom everything round us will be a source of suffering. If we are
wise these things will lead us out of suffering. Eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, body and mind...Eyes aren't necessarily good things, you
know. If you are in a bad mood just seeing other people can make you
angry and make you lose sleep. Or you can fall in love with others.
Love is suffering, too, if you don't get what you want. Love and
hate are both suffering, because of desire. Wanting is suffering,
wanting not to have is suffering. Wanting to acquire things... even
if you get them it's still suffering because you're afraid you'll
lose them. There's only suffering. How are you going to live with
that? You may have a large, luxurious house, but if your heart isn't
good it never really works out as you expected.
should all take a look at yourselves. Why were we born? Do we ever
really attain anything in this life? In the countryside here people
start planting rice right from childhood. When they reach seventeen
or eighteen they rush off and get married, afraid they won't have
enough time to make their fortunes. They start working from an early
age thinking they'll get rich that way. They plant rice until
they're seventy or eighty or even ninety years old. I ask them.
"From the day you were born you've been working. Now it's almost
time to go, what are you going to take with you?" They don't know
what to say. All they can say is, "Beats me!" We have a saying in
these parts, "Don't tarry picking berries along the way ... before
you know it, night falls." Just because of this "Beats me!" They're
neither here nor there, content with just a "beats me"... sitting
among the branches of the berry tree, gorging themselves with
berries... "Beats me, beats me..."
When you're still
young you think that being single is not so good, you feel a bit
lonely. So you find a partner to live with. Put two together and
there's friction! Living alone is too quiet, but living with others
When children are
small the parents think, "When they get bigger we'll be better off."
They raise their children, three, four, or five of them, thinking
that when the children are grown up their burden will be lighter.
But when the children grow up they get even heavier. Like two pieces
of wood, one big and one small. You throw away the small one and
take the bigger one, thinking it will be lighter, but of course it's
not. When children are small they don't bother you very much, just a
ball of rice and a banana now and then. When they grow up they want
a motorcycle or a car! Well, you love your children, you can't
refuse. So you try to give them what they want. Problems...Sometimes
the parents get into arguments over it..."Don't go and buy him a
car, we haven't got enough money!" But when you love your children
you've got to borrow the money from somewhere. Maybe the parents
even have to go without to get the things their children want. Then
there's education. "When they've finished their studies, we'll be
right." There's no end to the studying! What are they going to
finish? Only in the science of Buddhism is there a point of
completion, all the other sciences just go round in circles. In the
end it's real headache. If there's a house with four or five
children in it the parents argue every day.
The suffering that
is waiting in the future we fail to see, we think it will never
happen. When it happens, then we know. that kind of suffering, the
suffering inherent in our bodies, is hard to foresee. When I was a
child minding the buffaloes I'd take charcoal and rub it on my teeth
to make them white. I'd go back home and look in the mirror and see
them so nice and white...I was getting fooled by my own bones,
that's all. When I reached fifty or sixty my teeth started to get
loose. When the teeth start falling out it hurts so much, when you
eat it feels as if you've been kicked in the mouth. It really hurts.
I've been through this one already. So I just got the dentist to
take them all out. Now I've got false teeth. My real teeth were
giving me so much trouble I just had them all taken out, sixteen in
one go. The dentist was reluctant to take out sixteen teeth at once,
but I said to him, "Just take them out, I'll take the consequences."
So he took them all out at once. Some were still good, too, at least
five of them. Took them all out. But it was really touch and go.
After having them out I couldn't eat any food for two or three days.
Before, as a young
child minding the buffaloes, I used to think that polishing the
teeth was a great thing to do. I loved my teeth, I thought they were
good things. But in the end they had to go. The pain almost killed
me. I suffered from toothache for months, years. Sometimes both my
gums were swollen at once.
Some of you may get
a chance to experience this for yourselves someday. If your teeth
are still good and you're brushing them everyday to keep them nice
and white...watch out! They may start playing tricks with you later
Now I'm just letting
you know about these things...the suffering that arises from within,
that arises within our own bodies. There's nothing within the body
you can depend on. It's not too bad when you're still young, but as
you get older things begin to break down. Everything begins to fall
apart. Conditions go their natural way. Whether we laugh or cry over
them they just go on their way. It makes no difference how we live
or die, makes no difference to them. And there's no knowledge or
science which can prevent this natural course of things. You may get
a dentist to look at your teeth, but even if he can fix them they
still eventually go their natural way. Eventually even the dentist
has the same trouble. Everything falls apart in the end.
These are things
which we should contemplate while we still have some vigor, we
should practice while we're young. If you want to make merit then
hurry up and do so, don't just leave it up to the oldies. Most
people just wait until they get old before they will go to a
monastery and try to practice Dhamma. Women and men say the same
thing..."Wait till I get old first." I don't know why they say that,
does an old person have much vigor? Let them try racing with a young
person and see what the difference is. Why do they leave it till
they get old? Just like they're never going to die. When they get to
fifty or sixty years old or more..."Hey, Grandma! Let's go to the
monastery!" "You go ahead, my ears aren't so good any more." You see
what I mean? When her ears were good what was she listening to?
"Beats me!" ... just dallying with the berries. Finally when her
ears are gone she goes to the temple. It's hopeless. She listens to
the sermon but she hasn't got a clue what they're saying. People
wait till they're all used up before they'll think of practicing the
Today's talk may be
useful for those of you who can understand it. These are things
which you should begin to observe, they are our inheritance. They
will gradually get heavier and heavier, a burden for each of us to
bear. In the past my legs were strong, I could run. Now just walking
around they feel heavy. Before, my legs carried me. Now, I have to
carry them. When I was a child I'd see old people getting up from
their seat..."Oh!" Getting up they groan, "Oh!" There's always this
"Oh!" But they don't know what it is that makes them groan like
Even when it gets to
this extent people don't see the bane of the body. You never know
when you're going to be parted from it. what's causing all the pain
is simply conditions going about their natural way. People call it
arthritis, rheumatism, gout and so on, the doctor prescribes
medicines, but it never completely heals. In the end it falls apart,
even the doctor! This is conditions faring along their natural
course. This is their way, their nature.
Now take a look at
this. If you see it in advance you'll be better off, like seeing a
poisonous snake on the path ahead of you. If you see it there you
can get out of its way and not get bitten. If you don't see it you
may keep on walking and step on it. And then it bites.
If suffering arises
people don't know what to do. Where to go to treat it? They want to
avoid suffering, they want to be free of it but they don't know how
to treat it when it arises. And they live on like this until they
get old...and sick...and die...
In olden times it
was said that if someone was mortally ill one of the next of kin
should whisper "Bud-dho, Bud-dho" in their ear. What are they
going to do with Buddho? what good is Buddho going to be for them
when they're almost on the funeral pyre? Why didn't they learn
Buddho when they were young and healthy? Now with the breaths coming
fitfully you go up and say, "Mother...Buddho, Buddho!" Why waste
your time? You'll only confuse her, let her go peacefully.
People don't know
how to solve problems within their own hearts, they don't have a
refuge. They get angry easily and have a lot of desires. Why is
this? Because they have no refuge.
When people are
newly married they can get on together all right, but after age
fifty or so they can't understand each other. Whatever the wife says
the husband finds intolerable. Whatever the husband says the wife
won't listen. They turn their backs on each other.
Now I'm just talking
because I've never had a family before. Why haven't I had a family?
Just looking at this word "household" 
I knew what it was all about. What is a "household"? This is a
"hold": If somebody were to get some rope and tie us up while we
were sitting here, what would that be like? That's called "being
held." Whatever that's like, "being held" is like that. There is a
circle of confinement. The man lives within his circle of
confinement, and the woman lives within her circle of confinement.
When I read this
word "household" ... this is a heavy one. This word is no trifling
matter, it's a real killer. The word "hold" is a symbol of
suffering. You can't go anywhere, you've got to stay within your
circle of confinement.
Now we come to the
word "house." This means "that which hassles." Have you ever toasted
chilies? The whole house chokes and sneezes. This word "household"
spells confusion, it's not worth the trouble. Because of this word I
was able to ordain and not disrobe. "Household" is frightening.
You're stuck and can't go anywhere. Problems with the children, with
money and all the rest. But where can you go? You're tied down.
There are sons and daughters, arguments in profusion until your
dying day, and there's nowhere else to go to no matter how much
suffering it is. The tears pour out and they keep pouring. The tears
will never be finished with his "household," you know. If there's no
household you might be able to finish with the tears but not
matter. If you haven't come across it yet you may later on. Some
people have experienced it already to a certain extent. Some are
already at the end of their tether..."Will I stay or will I go?" At
Wat Ba Pong there are about seventy or eighty huts (kuti).
when they're almost full I tell the monk in charge to keep a few
empty, just in case somebody has an argument with their
spouse...Sure enough, in no long time a lady will arrive with her
bags..."I'm fed up with the world, Luang Por." "Whoa! Don't say
that. Those words are really heavy." Then the husband comes and says
he's fed up too. After two or three days in the monastery their
They say they're fed
up but they're just fooling themselves. When they go off to a kuti
and sit in the quiet by themselves, after a while the thoughts
come..."When's the wife going to come and ask me to go home?" They
don't really know what's going on. What is this "world-weariness" of
theirs? They get upset over something and come running to the
monastery. At home everything looked wrong...the husband was wrong,
the wife was wrong...after three days' quiet thinking..."Hmmm, the
wife was right after all, it was I who was wrong." "Hubby was right,
I shouldn't have got so upset." They change sides. This is how it
is, that's why I don't take the world too seriously. I know its ins
and outs already, that's why I've chosen to live as a monk.
I would like to
present today's talk to all of you for homework. Whether you're in
the fields or working in the city, take these words and consider
them... "Why was I born? What can I take with me?" Ask yourselves
over and over. If you ask yourself these questions often you'll
become wise. If you don't reflect on these things you will remain
ignorant. Listening to today's talk, you may get some understanding,
if not now, then maybe when you get home. Perhaps this evening. When
you're listening to the talk everything is subdued, but maybe things
are waiting for you in the car. When you get in the car it may get
in with you. When you get home it may all become clear..."Oh, that's
what Luang Por meant. I couldn't see it before."
I think that's
enough for today. If I talk too long this old body gets tired.
There is a play on words in the Thai language here based on the word
for family -- Krorp krua -- which literally means
"kitchen-frame" or "roasting circle." In the English translation we
have opted for a corresponding English word rather than attempt a
literal translation of the Thai.