didn't come here today to give any formal sermon or lecture, but to have
an informal chat among friends. I hope that you all agree to this, so that
we can speak and listen to each other without formality and rituals, even
if our talk here becomes somewhat different or unusual. Further, I intend
to speak only about the most essential matters, important topics that
people consider to be profound. Therefore, if you don't listen carefully
you may find it difficult to follow and might misunderstand, especially
those of you who haven't heard the previous talks in this series.
The last talk was called "What To Do To Be Void." This time I
intend to talk about "No Religion." If you find the subject strange or
incomprehensible, or if you simply don't agree, please take the time to
think it over. But remember, it isn't necessary to believe or subscribe to
what I say right away.
When we meet together like this, I feel there is something which
prevents us from understanding each other and this thing is simply the
problem of language itself. You see, there are two kinds of language. One
is the conventional language that ordinary people speak, what I call
People language is used by the ordinary people who don't
understand Dhamma very well and by those worldly people who are so dense
that they are blind to everything but material things. Then, there is the
language which is spoken by those who understand reality (Dhamma),
especially those who know and understand reality in the ultimate sense.
This is another kind of language. Sometimes, when only a few words or even
just a few syllables are uttered, the ordinary listener finds Dhamma
language paradoxical, completely opposite to the language he speaks. We
can call it "Dhamma language." You always must take care to recognize
which language is being spoken.
People who are blind to the true reality (Dhamma) can speak only
people language, the conventional language of ordinary people. On the
other hand, people who have genuinely realized the ultimate truth (Dhamma)
can speak either language. They can handle people language quite well and
are also comfortable using Dhamma language, especially when speaking among
those who know reality, who have already realized the truth (Dhamma).
Amongst those with profound understanding, Dhamma language is used almost
exclusively; unfortunately, ordinary people can't understand a word.
Dhamma language is understood only by those who are in the know. What is
more, in Dhamma language it isn't even necessary to make a sound. For
example, a finger is pointed or an eyebrow raised and the ultimate meaning
of reality is understood. So, please take interest in these two kinds of
language - people language and Dhamma language.
To illustrate the importance of language, let's consider the
following example. Ordinary, ignorant worldly people are under the
impression that there is this religion and that religion, and that these
religions are quite different, so different that they're opposed to each
other. Such people speak of "Christianity," "Islam," "Buddhism,"
"Hinduism," "Sikhism," and so on, and consider these religions to be
different, separate, and incompatible. These people think and speak
according to their personal feelings and thus turn the religions into
enemies. Because of this mentality, there come to exist different
religious which are hostilely opposed to each other.
Those who have penetrated to the essential nature of religion
will regard all religions as being the same. Although they may say there
is Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, Islam, or whatever, they will also say that
all religious are inwardly the same. However, those who have penetrated to
the highest understanding of Dhamma will feel that the thing called
"religion" simply doesn't exist at all. There is no Buddhism; there is no
Christianity and there is no Islam. How can they be the same or in
conflict when they don't even exist? It just isn't possible. Thus, the
phrase "no religion!" is actually Dhamma language of the highest level.
Whether it will be understood or not is something else, depending upon the
listener, and has nothing to do with the truth or with religion.
I'd like to give a simple example of people language, the
language of materialism. "Water" will suffice. People who don't know much
about even the simplest things think that there are many different kinds
of water. They view these various kinds of water as if they have nothing
in common. They distinguish rain-water, well-water, underground-water,
canal-water, swamp-water, ditch-water, gutter-water, sewer-water,
toilet-water, urine, diarrhea, and many other kinds of water from each
other. Average people will insist that these waters are completely
different, because such people take external appearances as their
A person with some knowledge, however, knows that pure water can
be found in every kind of water. If we take rain-water and distill it, we
will get pure water. If we take river-water and distill it, we will get
pure water. If we take canal-water, sewer-water, or toilet-water, and
distill it, we will still end up with pure water. A person with this
understanding knows that all those different kinds of water are the same
as far as the water component is concerned. As for those elements which
make it impure and look different, they aren't the water itself. They may
combine with water, and alter water, but they are never water itself. If
we look through the polluting elements, we can see the water that is
always the same, for in every case the essential nature of water is the
same. However many kinds of water there may seem to be, they are all the
same as far as the essential nature of water is concerned. When we look at
things from this viewpoint, we can see that all religions are the same. If
they appear different it's because we are making judgments on the basis of
On an even more intelligent level, we can take that pure water
and examine it further. Then, we must conclude that there is no water,
only two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. There's no water left. That
substance which we have been calling "water" has disappeared, it's void.
The same is true everywhere, no matter where we find the two parts of
hydrogen and one part of oxygen. In the sky, in the ground, or wherever
these parts happen to be found, the state of water has disappeared and the
term "water" is no longer used. For one who has penetrated to this level
of truth, there is no such thing as "water."
In the same way, one who has attained to the ultimate truth sees
that there's no such thing as "religion." There is only a certain nature
which can be called whatever we like. We can call it "Dhamma," we can call
it "Truth," we can call it "God," "Tao," or whatever, but we shouldn't
particularize that Dhamma or that Truth as Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism,
Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, or Islam, for we can neither capture nor
confine it with labels and concepts. Still, such divisions occur because
people haven't yet realized this nameless truth for themselves. They have
only reached the external levels, just as with canal-water, muddy water,
and the rest.
The Buddha intended for us to understand and be able to see that
there is no "person," that there is no separate individual, that there are
only Dhamma or natural phenomena. Therefore, we shouldn't cling to the
belief that there is this religion and that religion. We added the labels
"Buddhism," "Islam," and "Christianity" ourselves, long after the founders
lived. None of the great religious teachers ever gave a personal name to
their teachings, like we do today. They just went about teaching us how to
Please try to understand this correctly. When the final level is
reached, when the ultimate truth is realized, not even man exists. There
is only nature, only Dhamma. This reality can't be considered to be any
particular thing; it can't be anything other than Dhamma. It can't be
Thai, Chinese, Indian, Arab, or European. It can't be black, brown,
yellow, red, or white. It can't be eastern or western, southern or
northern. Nor can it be Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, or anything else. So
please try to reach this Dhamma, for then you will have reached the heart
of all religions and of all things, and finally come to the complete
cessation of suffering.
Although we call ourselves "Buddhists" and profess Buddhist
principles, we haven't yet realized the truth of Buddhism, for we are
acquainted with only a tiny aspect of our own Buddhism. Although we be
monks, nuns, novices, lay devotees, or whatever, we are aware of only the
bark, the outer covering which makes us think our religion is different
from other religions. Because we have failed to understand and haven't yet
realized our own truth, we look down upon other religions and praise only
our own. We think of ourselves as a special group and of others as
outsiders or foreigners. We believe that they are wrong and only we are
right, that we are special and have a special calling, and that only we
have the truth and the way to salvation. We have many of these blind
beliefs. Such ideas and beliefs show that we are still ignorant, very
foolish indeed, just like little babies who know only their own bellies.
Tell a small child to take a bath and to wash with soap to get all the
dirt off; the little child will scrub only her belly. She doesn't know to
wash all over. She will never think of washing behind her ears or between
her toes or anywhere like that. She merely scrubs and polishes her tummy
In this same way as the child, most of the adherents of Buddhism
know only a few things, such as how to take and how to get. Even while
doing good, supporting the temples and monks, and observing the precepts,
their only objective is to get something, they even want to get more in
return than they gave. When they make offerings, some people expect back
ten times what they gave, some a hundred times, some a thousand, and some
even more. In this case, it would be more accurate to say that these
people know nothing at all, for they are acquainted only with how to get
and how to take. That isn't Buddhism at all. It's the religion of getting
and taking. If ever they can't get or can't take something, they are
frustrated and they suffer. Real Buddhism is to know how to get without
getting and take without taking so that there is no frustration and no
suffering at all.
This must be spoken about very often in order to acquaint
everyone with the heart of Buddhism, which is Non-Attachment. Buddhism is
about not trying to seize or grasp anything, to not cling or attach to
anything, not even to the religion itself, until finally we realize that
there is no Buddhism after all. That means, if we speak directly, that
there is no Buddha, no Dhamma, and no Sangha! (The Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha (or Community) are the beloved Triple Gem which most Buddhists
cherish as the basis of their faith.) However, if we speak in this way,
nobody will understand; they will be shocked and frightened.
Those who do understand, see that the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the
Sangha are the same thing, that is, just Dhamma or just Nature itself. The
compulsion to seize and hang onto things as persons and individuals, as
this and that, doesn't exist in them. Everything is non-personal, that is,
is Dhamma or Nature in its pure state or whatever we wish to call it. But
we dare not think like this. We are afraid to think that there is no
religion, that there is no Buddha, Dhamma, or Sangha. Even if people were
taught or forced to think in this way, they still wouldn't be able to
understand. In fact, they would have a totally distorted understanding of
what they thought and would react in the opposite way to what was
For this reason, after the passing away of the Buddha, there
appeared many new systems of religious practice. The teachings were
reorganized into descending levels, with lower, more accessible aspects,
so that even if someone wished to make offerings in order to gain heavy
benefits in return, equal to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times their
"merits," it could be done. This was a preliminary arrangement so that the
rewards for good deeds would be a bait to attract people and keep them
from going astray. As a starting point, people were encouraged to hang on
to the good and its rewards as much as possible. If they continued to do
so, they would eventually discover that it was unnecessary to cling, or be
attached to goodness. They would come to see that any such attachment is
unsatisfying and painful. Thus, they would gradually disentangle
themselves from the habit of attachment. This is how Dhamma leads through
successively higher levels and is why the practice of Dhamma in its
earliest stage is based on "gaining merit" to let people get something
they really like at the start.
step on the path of Dhamma is to voluntarily choose to live a plain and
simple life, a pure life, in which one isn't led astray or intoxicated by
anything. On this level, there is still a sense of the "I" who is enjoying
this mode of happiness, but it's a better, more developed "I."
The next highest level of Dhamma is to not let any traces of the
"I" remain at all. It's finished. The mind no longer has the feeling of
being "I," of being a self, and there is no way that suffering or
dissatisfaction can happen, since there is no "I" to suffer. Suffering
can't occur because this ego-less-ness is the highest possible happiness,
if we speak in people language. If we speak in Dhamma language, however,
there is nothing to say. There is nothing to get nothing to have nothing
to be - no happiness, no suffering, nothing at all. We call this
"void-ness." Everything still exists, but it's free and void of any
feeling of being "I" or "mine." For this reason we say "void-ness."
To see that everything is void is to see things as being neither
an aspect of oneself nor in anyway possessed by oneself. The words "void"
and "void-ness" in the common language of ignorant people mean that
nothing exists, but in the language of the Buddha, the Awakened One, the
words "void" and "void-ness" mean everything exists, but without
attachment to any of it in terms of "I" or "mine." That there isn't
clinging or attachment to things as being "I" and "mine" is void-ness of I
and void-ness of mine. When the words "void" and "void-ness" are used in
this way, it's the void-ness of Dhamma language. To use "void" in the
sense that nothing actually exists is the language of worldly people who
are trapped in their senses, is the language of materialism, is the
language of householders who know nothing but their homes. Here,
"void-ness" has given us another example of the difference between people
language and Dhamma language.
We should always keep in mind this truth about language and
discriminate whether the words we hear, read, and use are people language
or Dhamma language. For example, the Buddha said, "Kill your father and
kill your mother, then you shall attain Nibbána." "Kill your father and
mother, be an ungrateful child, then you shall attain Nibbána." The Buddha
didn't mean that we should take this literally and kill our flesh and
blood parents. Instead, he meant that ignorance is a kind of father and
craving is a kind of mother. The two give birth to ego-consciousness and
subsequently all forms of selfishness and sin. There's no reason in feel
any gratitude toward them; destroy them immediately and Nibbána is
To speak in this fashion is to use the Dhamma language which the
ordinary person is unable to understand. He must study and inquire, think
and reflect, until finally he understands. But the Noble ones, those who
have realized Dhamma already, will understand immediately, though only a
few words are spoken and without any explanation or advice. Just one word
is enough for them to understand, without further explanation, because
they know Dhamma language thoroughly.
The words "birth" and "death" require the same discrimination
regarding language. In people language, the word "birth" means to be born
from a mothers womb. In Dhamma language, however, the word "birth" means
some form of attachment is born. This kind of birth happens every time we
allow the arising of a thought or feeling which involves grasping and
clinging to something as "I" or "mine," such as, "I am," "I have," "I
think," and "I do." This is the birth of the "I" or the ego.
For example, think like a criminal and one is instantly born as a
criminal. A few moments later those thoughts disappear, one thinks like a
normal human being again and is born as a human being once more. If a few
moments later one has foolish thoughts, right then one is born as a fool.
If one then thinks in an increasingly foolish and dull manner, one will be
born as an animal immediately. Whenever an attachment is felt intensely -
when it burns inside one with the heat of fire - one is born as a demon in
hell. Whenever one is so hungry and thirsty that one could never be
satiated, one is born as an insatiably hungry ghost. When one is overly
cautions and timid without reason, one is born a cowardly titan. Thus, in
a single day one can be born any number of times in many different forms,
since a birth takes place each and every time there arises any form of
attachment to the idea of being something. Each conception of "I am," "I
was," or "I will" is simultaneously a birth. This is the meaning of
"birth" in Dhamma language. Therefore, whenever one encounters the word
"birth," one must be very careful to understand its meaning in each
"Birth is suffering." These words mean that the egoistic kind of
birth described above is always painful and ugly. That is to say, if we
allow "I" to be born in any manner, suffering occurs immediately. If we
live simply and directly in the awareness of "not-being-I," it's like
remaining unborn and never experiencing suffering. Although physical birth
has happened long ago, there is no further spiritual birth of the egoistic
On the other hand, whenever an egoistic thought or feeling
arises, there is suffering at once and the suffering always fits the
particular kind of "I" that is being born. If "I" is human, it suffers
like a human. If "I" is an angel, it suffers angelically. If "I" is
demonic, it suffers hellishly. The manner of the grasping and clinging can
change repeatedly, even being born as beast, hungry ghosts, and cowardly
titans. In one day, there may be many birth many dozens of births, and
every one of them is unsatisfactory, frustrating, and painful. To destroy
this kind of birth is Nibbána.
2. Animals, demons, hungry ghosts (peta), and cowardly
titans (asura) are the inhabitants of the "lower realms" in
traditional Buddhist cosmology.
Concerning death, there's no need to speak about what happens
after the people language version. Why talk about what happens once we're
in the coffin? Instead, please deal with this most urgent issue of
ego-birth, that is, don't get born and there will be no suffering. Without
the feeling of being born, there is no person anymore and all the problem
disappear with it. That is all. When there isn't this continual being
born, there is no longer a "somebody" to have problems. It's as simple as
that. The time remaining in life is no longer an issue once we know how to
experience the fact that this "I" will never be born again. This can be
called "non-birth." You may call it "death" if you prefer.
So you see, between people language and Dhamma language the words
"birth" and "death" have opposite meanings. The same situation exists in
the scriptures of other religions, especially those of Christianity. As a
result, the Christians don't understand their own Bible, just as we
Buddhists don't understand the Tipitaka (Buddhist scriptures). Thus,
whenever members of the two meet, they end up arguing until they are blue
in the face. The quarrels are simply unbelievable; they fight to the end.
Therefore, let us develop some understanding concerning this matter of
people language and Dhamma language.
We have discussed the word "birth" in a Buddhist context, now let
us consider a word from the Christian scriptures, such as "life." Matthew
says that Jesus Christ "surrendered his life as a ransom for many" (Matt.
20:28). Elsewhere, Jesus said, "If you would enter life, keep the
commandments" (Matt. 19:17). These two statements show that the word
"life" has more than one meaning. In the first statement, "life" is used
in its people language sense. Jesus allowed them to kill the life of his
body, which is the ordinary meaning of "life." "Life" in the second
passage is the same word "life," but it now refers to a life that can
never be killed. It's a life which will never know death. By this we see
that even the simple word "life" can have two very different meanings.
The word "die" provides another example. In people language, "to
die" means that the bodily functions have stopped, which is the kind of
death we can see with our eyes. However, "die" in the language used by God
has quite a different meaning, such as when he spoke to Adam and Eve in
the Garden of Eden telling them not to eat the fruit of a certain tree,
"for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gen. 2:17). Eventually,
Adam and Eve ate that fruit, but we know that they didn't die in the
ordinary sense, the kind that puts people into coffins. That is, their
bodies didn't die. Instead, they died in another way, in the Dhamma
language sense, which is a spiritual death much more cruel than being
buried in a coffin. This fate worse than death was the appearance of
enormous sin in their minds, that is, they began to think in dualistic
terms - good and evil, male and female, naked and clothed, husband and
wife, and so on. The pairs of opposites proliferated making the pain very
heavy, so much so that their minds were flooded by a suffering so severe
that it's impossible to describe. All this has been passed down through
the years and inherited by everyone living in the present era.
The consequences have been so disastrous that the Christians give
the same "Original Sin" to the first appearance of dualistic thinking.
Original Sin first happened with that primordial couple and then was
passed on to all their descendants down to this very day. This is what God
meant by the word "death"; whenever we partake of this fruit of dualism
(from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil") we must die right then
and there. This is the meaning of "death" in Christian language.
"Death" has the same meaning in the language of the Buddha. Why
is this so? Because both religions are pointing to the same truth
concerning attachment and dualism. Whenever dualistic thoughts arise there
is bound to be suffering, which is death. Death means the end of
everything good, the end of happiness, the end of peace, the end of
everything worthwhile. This is the meaning of "death" in Dhamma language.
Most of us die this way many times each day.
It's called "death" because it makes the heart heavy. It always
creates a feeling of frustration and depression to some degree, not to
mention worry, restlessness, and anxiety. The more intelligent and clever
a person is, the more often one dies and the more profound the deaths. The
clever person's deaths are much more special and creative than those of an
We must know how to avoid death in order to be in accord with the
teachings of the Buddha and Jesus (along with the other prophets). The
objective of Buddhism is the same as of Christianity: don't let this
original sin overpower you; don't let dualistic attachment dominate your
heart or your mind. Refuse to let it dominate the mind ever again.
We must always be aware of the true nature of Dhamma, that in
reality there is no duality of any sort - no gain, no loss, no happiness,
no suffering, no good, no evil, no merit, no sin, no male, no female.
There is absolutely nothing at all that can be separated and polarized
into opposites. Rather than buy into them, we ought to transcend.
The dualistic pairs are the basis of all attachment, so don't
fall for their tricks. Don't attach to any of them. Try to understand that
these things can never be seized and held onto because they are
impermanent, lack any real substance, and are not-self. Try to go about
your business with a mind that is unattached. Work with a mind that clings
to nothing and is free from all forms of attachment. This is called
"working with a void mind."
We should perform every kind of task with a void mind, no matter
whether it's at the office or at home. Even rest and recreation should be
done with a void mind, a mind that always remains unattached and free
because it's above all dualities. If we work with a busy mind, a mind that
is restless and always grasping and clinging to one thing or idea after
another, a mind that is over-burdened with attachments, then there is
suffering and we must inevitably be born in a lowly state. The lower
realms spoken of by traditional Buddhists happen right then and there;
birth as a demon in hell, as a beast, as a hungry ghost, or as a cowardly
titan takes place at that very moment. This is the most serious problem
facing humanity, it's the most original sin, and it's death in Dhamma
language. Therefore, we should live, work, and play without attachments.
a short verse of mine which I'd like to discuss.
work of all kinds with a mind that is void
And to the void-ness surrender all of the fruits;
Eat the food of void-ness as the holy ones do,
You'll have died to yourself from the very start.
people are unable to understand this verse and they keep saying that the
author is crazy. Nonetheless, it isn't so difficult to explain.
That we should do every kind of work with a void mind is a
warning that the busy and agitated mind which jumps into things with
attachment always becomes dark and clouded with delusion, is full of
worries and fears, and becomes gloomy and insecure. If people insist on
keeping this up, before long they are sure to suffer a nervous breakdown
or some other kind of illness. If they let these mental diseases and
related physical ailments accumulate, they end up confined to a sick bed.
Even though they may be intelligent, talented, and sophisticated people
who do important work and earn a great deal of money, they will still end
up being confined to bed with nervous breakdowns, ulcers, and other
disorders caused by insecurity and anxiety. All of these illnesses begin
with attaching and clinging to such things as fame and money, profit and
loss, happiness and unhappiness, and praise and blame.
So, don't get involved with these things. Get free of all such
attachments and the mind will be void. The mind will be brilliantly
intelligent, as clear and sharp as possible. Then, do your work with just
such a void mind as this. All your needs will be satisfied without the
least bit of frustration or suffering. Sometimes, it will even seem to be
a Dhammic sort of fun. Best of all, working like this is the kind of
Dhamma practice which frees us from the false distinction between
practicing Dhamma at the temple and working at home. Such a dichotomy is
rather foolish; it's what happens when people think only in people
According to Dhamma language, we must practice Dhamma in this
body and mind at the same time that we do our work with this same body and
mind. Both work and Dhamma practice are done in the same place or the same
thing. The practice of Dhamma is there in the work; the work in itself is
Dhamma practice. In other words, to do work of any kind without grasping
or clinging is a way to practice Dhamma. Wherever and whenever we practice
non-attachment, there and then is Dhamma practice.
Accordingly, whether we are engaged in training the mind to be
unattached and calm, or whether we are working to earn a living in some
occupation or another, if we do so with a void mind that forms no
attachments, right there is the practice of Dhamma. It doesn't matter if
we are in an office, a factory, a cave, or whatever. To work like this
without getting involved in attachments, obsession, and ego is what is
meant by " Do work of all kinds with a mind that is void. "
The result of working this way is that we enjoy ourselves while
working, and that the work is done well because our minds are very clear
and sharp then, and there are no worries about things like money. The
things we need are acquired in the usual ways and all this without the
attachment forged by grasping and straining.
This brings us in the second line of the verse which is " And
to the void-ness surrender all of the fruits. " When our work bears
fruit in the form of money, fame, influence, status, and so forth, we must
give it all to void-ness. Don't be so stupid as to cling to these things
as "belonging to me" - "my money," "my success," "my talent," or "my"
anything. This is what is meant by not attaching to the results of our
Most of us blindly cling to our successes and so our experiences
of success increase our selfish desires and defilements (kilesa).
Let ourselves be careless for only a moment and we will fall into pain
immediately due to the weight of attachments and anxieties. In truth, this
kind of mental or spiritual pain is always happening. Before long, if we
aren't careful, the pain manifest itself physically in the body as well.
Some people have nervous breakdowns or go insane, while others develop one
of the numerous varieties of neuroses so prevalent in the world today,
even though they may be famous, knowledgeable, and wealthy. All this pain
results from the fact that people the world over have misunderstood,
abused, and ignored their own religious.
We shouldn't think that the teaching of non-attachment is found
only in Buddhism. In fact, it can be found in every religion, although
many people don't notice because it's expressed in Dhamma language. Its
meaning is profound, difficult to see, and usually misunderstood.
Please forgive me, I don't mean to be insulting, but I feel that
many religious people don't yet understand their own religion. For
instance, in the Christian Bible, St. Paul advises us to "Let those who
have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though
they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not
rejoicing, and those that buy as though they had no goods, and those who
deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it" (Cor.7:29-31).
This passage is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible; anyone
can look it up. It should be understood in the same way as our basic
Buddhist theme of non-attachment. That is, if you have a wife, don't
attach to having her; if you have a husband, don't cling to having him. If
you have painful or sorrowful experiences, don't cling to them as "I" or
"mine" and it will be as if they never happened. That is, don't be sad
about them. Don't attach to joy, goods, and worldly dealings, either.
Unfortunately, the fact is that most people - whatever their
religion - are dominated by these things. They let themselves suffer
intolerably over such matters until finally they go insane or commit
suicide. But those of us who follow St. Paul's advice can go on as if
nothing had happened. That kind of suffering doesn't happen to us, we
remain fine. We buy things without taking anything home, which means we
never get attached to what we buy and take home. We bought it, we brought
it home, but it's like we didn't buy anything, because we don't give birth
to the thought that we possess something.
This is how to buy and live as though having no goods, but if you
discuss this passage with some Christians, you will find that they don't
understand it at all. Even some of the clergy, the teachers of their
religion, couldn't explain to me correctly how to practice in accordance
with St. Paul's instructions. Their explanations were vague and obscure.
They beat around the bush and didn't give any practical interpretation of
the passage. In fact, this passage has the same meaning as "Do work of
all kinds with a mind that is void and to the void-ness surrender all of
the fruits," which, of course, many Buddhism don't understand either.
The third line of the verse is "Eat the food of void-ness as
the holy ones do." Here, some people might ask, "Then, what do we
eat?" If everything is void or given away to the void-ness, what will
there be to eat? The answer is to eat food that belongs to void-ness, the
same way that the Noble Ones do. We work with a void mind and turn all the
rewards over to void-ness. Void-ness then stockpiles it all and preserves
it safely. When it's time to eat, we can eat from the stock of void-ness
If you earn a million dollars from your work and store it in a
safe or the bank, offer it to void-ness and don't think "it's mine, it
belongs to me!" When you spend the money, do so with the same void mind.
Simply use the money to buy some food to eat, or whatever we need to
consume. This is what is meant by "Eat the food of void-ness as the
holy ones do."
In this line, "holy ones" means those who understand deeply and
have no attachments. We ourselves ought to eat in the same way that these
liberated ones eat. The Buddha ate food and all the enlightened disciples
ate foods. So, we aren't saying that a Buddha doesn't have to eat food
anymore, but from whomever he gets his food, it's always the food of
void-ness, for it's received and eaten without any feelings of possession
or attachment. And yet, a Buddha always has more than enough to eat. This
is the meaning of "Eat the food of void-ness as the holy ones do."
We can do the same. When we give all the rewards of our work to
void-ness, they don't disappear. Nothing is lost. Physically, in worldly
terms, everything is still there. It's stored and protected in the usual
ways and the law still recognizes that it belongs to us. If someone tries
to snatch it away, we can battle to protect our rights in court, but
always with the same void mind. That is, we needn't get angry or upset, we
needn't suffer, we needn't feel personally involved, we needn't attach. In
fact, with complete non-attachment we will be able to argue our case even
better. We needn't create any problems for ourselves, things won't become
complicated and difficult, and we will be able to protect our rights most
To pursue this point a little further: even when caught in an
argument or involved in a lawsuit we should be restrained and mindful at
all times so that the mind is free of attachment. Take care not to be
attached or emotionally involved. In other words, first make sure the mind
is void, then argue and fight out the case to the finish. In this way, we
will have the advantage. Our side will debate more cleverly, will argue
more skillfully, and will experience a higher level of victory.
Even in cases when we are forced to be insulting, use the usual
words but do so with a void mind. This may sound funny and hopelessly
impractical, but it really is possible. The word "void" includes such
strange aspects; they are all implications of working with a void mind,
willingly giving all that we get to void-ness, and always eating food from
the pantry of void-ness.
The fourth, final, and most important line of the verse is "You'll
have died to yourself from the very start." We already have died to
ourselves - that precious inner "me" is gone - from the very first moment.
This means that when we re-examine the past and reflect upon it with
clarity, mindfulness, and wisdom, we will know for a fact that there never
was a "person" or "individual." We will see that there are only the basic
processes of life (khandha), the sensory media (ayatana),
the elements (dhatu), and natural phenomena (Dhammas). Even
the things we had previously clung to as existing no longer exist. They
died in that moment.
Everything has died at the moment of its birth. There never was
an "I" and there never was a "mine." In the past, we were stupid enough to
lug "I" and "mine" around all the time. Now, however, we know the truth
that even in retrospect they never were what we took them to be. They're
not-me, they're not-mine, the me-ing and my-ing died from the very start
right up to this moment. They're finished, even in the future. Don't ever
again fall for any "I" and "mine" in your experiences. Simply stop
thinking in terms of "I" and "mine." So you see, we needn't interpret this
verse to mean that we must physically kill ourselves. One has to be
trapped in ones ego to understand it in such a way; such an interpretation
is too physical, too superficial, and too childish.
This "I," this ego, is just a mental concept, a product of
thought. There's nothing substantial or permanent upon which it's based.
There's only an ever-changing process flowing according to causes and
conditions, but ignorance misconstrues this process to be a permanent
entity, a "self," and an "ego." So don't let attached thoughts and
feelings based on "I" and "mine" arise. All pains and problems will end
right there and then, so that the body becomes insignificant, no longer a
cause of worry. It's merely a collection of the five aggregates (khandha),
functioning according to causes and conditions, pure in its own nature.
These five aggregates or component processes of life are naturally free of
attachment and selfishness. As for the inner aspect, those habits of
desire and selfishness, try to do without them. Keep striving to prevent
them from being born until the defilements and selfishness have no more
opportunities to pollute the heart. In this way, we force ourselves to
die, that is, we die through the elimination of polluting selfishness and
defilements (kilesa). Just don't allow any egoistic consciousness,
that's the meaning of "death" in Dhamma language. Without anything
masquerading as "I" and "mine," where can suffering take place? Suffering
can only happen to an "I" and its "mine". So you see, possessing "I" and
"mine" is the heart of suffering. Should there be some happiness, as soon
as clinging comes in the happiness becomes painful, yet one more way to
Ignorant people are always attaching to something; they don't
know how to live without clinging to "I" and "mine." As a result, even
beneficial things are converted into causes of suffering. Happiness is
turned into pain; goodness is turned into pain; praise, fame, honor and
the like are all turned into forms of suffering. As soon as we try to
seize and hang on to them, they all become unsatisfactory, painful, and
ugly. Among good and evil, virtue and sin, happiness and unhappiness, gain
and loss, and all other dualistic pairs, suffering inevitably happens
whenever we attach to either pole of one pair or another. Clinging to one
pole also traps us in its opposite partner.
When we are intelligent enough not to cling or be attached to any
form of dualism, then we will no longer suffer because of these things.
Good and evil, happiness and suffering, virtue and sin, and the rest, will
never be painful again. We realize that they are merely natural phenomena,
the ordinary stuff of nature. They all are naturally void and so there is
no suffering inherent in any of them.
These are the consequences of not having an ego, of not having
any "I" and "mine" in the mind. Outwardly, we may say "I" and "my"
according to social conventions, but don't let them exist in the mind or
heart. As St. Paul said, "Let those who have wives live as though they had
none, and those that mourn as though they weren't mourning ... and those
who buy as though they had no goods."
Externally, we should behave the same as others do; eat like they
eat, work like they work, and speak like they speak. Speak in their people
language: "this is my house, this is mine." There's nothing wrong in using
these words when necessary, but don't let the mind fall for them. Leave
such words outside, don't let them into the mind, don't believe them. We
ought always to train ourselves this way, that is "mouth is one and mind
another." The mouth says one thing, but the heart knows otherwise.
Actually, this phrase is usually an insult used to condemn liars
and conmen, not something to be encouraged. In the end, however, it can be
turned around and applied to a person who really practices Dhamma, that
is, whose external behavior conforms with worldly conventions but whose
internal reality is another story. While the external expressions actually
take place, they don't manifest in the mind. We call this, "mouth is one
and mind another" or "external and internal do not correspond." A behavior
that we used to condemn and try to abandon because of its dishonesty and
crookedness becomes the most noble and excellent form of speech. Sometimes
Dhamma language seems rather strange!
To be honest in both mouth and mind, that is, speech and thought,
is people language, not Dhamma language. Ordinary people demand that our
words honesty reflect our thoughts, but when it comes to the Dhamma
language of the Buddha, we practice in the manner called "mouth is one and
mind another." In other words, the outside appears one way, while the
inside is the opposite. Outwardly, in our speech and actions, we may
possess all the things that others possess, but in the mind we possess
nothing. Inwardly, we are broke and bankrupt, without a penny to our
names. So please remember this saying - "mouth is one and mind another" -
in its Dhamma language meaning of course, not in the people language
understanding. Please give it some thought.
Another common teaching concerns humility. The Buddha taught us
not to boast or show off and Jesus Christ emphasized this point even more.
There are many pages in the Bible concerning this subject. In the Sermon
on the Mount, Jesus teaches us to do our religious practices - such as
praying, giving, charity, and fasting - in secret so as to not let others
to see (Matt. 5-7, especially 6). If it's something we want others to see,
that means we want to show off, which is attachment. If we apply his
teaching to our Buddhist practices, such as when we keep the special
precepts on the observance days (uposatha), we shouldn't dress up
or powder and perfume ourselves. Don't let anyone know we are keeping the
special precepts, just keep them strictly. Jesus stresses this point
in many ways, both in this sermon and elsewhere. When offering
prayers to God, fasting, or practicing austerities, don't let others see.
If we wish to give alms or make a donation to charity, do so secretly;
don't let others know who the giver is. Jesus teaches us to do
everything without anyone knowing. In other words, his aim is to
teach non-attachment. This kind of practice destroys selfishness and
Buddhists should be able to understand this principle of giving without
letting anyone know; giving in this way will destroy the giver's
self-centeredness much more than public giving. As you know, we like to
say, "sticking gold on the image's back." This saying can be interpreted
in two ways. As understood by foolish people, this should never be
done, because sticking gold leaf on the back of an image won't gain one
any honour, reputation, or other benefits.(*) On the other hand,
wise people take the words "sticking gold on the image's back" to mean
something good, because one doesn't receive any recognition, praise,
status, or honor from the act. One hasn't traded the goodness of the
act for any worldly benefits. Thus, one makes more merit than if one
were to stick the gold on the front of the image.
[* In Thailand, putting small squares of gold leaf onto Buddha images and
other respected objects is a popular form of making merit. According to
popular Thai belief, by affixing gold leaf to the eyes, mouth, forehead,
cheeks, etc., of a Buddha image, the one who affixes it will be reborn in
her next life with beautiful eyes, mouth, forehead, cheeks, etc., just
like those of the image decorated with gold. At the same time, her
merit making is seen by all.]
Here we see that the teachings of Christianity and Buddhism are the
same; they have the same meaning, namely, to destroy attachment. We
should do all religious duties and practices without others knowing.
In the end, it's like they don't exist any more and we don't exist either.
There's no good, no evil, no virtue, no sin, no happiness, no suffering,
and, finally, not even any religion. This is the highest level of
Now, let us consider the fact that non-attachment, the highest Dhamma, is
something wonderful, priceless, and extraordinary. It's the heart of
every religion. It's the essence of Dhamma. If there is a God,
it can only be found right here in non-attachment.
Non-attachment, the highest Dhamma, is wonderful precisely because
anyone seeking it need not invest anything. No money, gold, or
jewels are needed, not even a single penny. According to people
language, nothing can be obtained without an investment. If they
listen to people language, those who wish to gain merit, goodness, or
whatever must pay in money, silver, and gold, or invest their labor.
If they listen to Dhamma language, however, the reality is quite
different. The Buddha said that Nibbana is given free of charge.
Nibbana--the coolness and peace experienced when there's no
attachment--doesn't cost a penny. This means that we can practice
for the sake of Nibbana without spending any money along
the way. Jesus said what amounts to the same thing. He invited
us to drink the water of life for which there is no charge. He said
this at least three times. Further, he called us to enter eternal
life, which means to reach the state where we are one with God and
therefore will never die again.
"Let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life
without price" (Rev. 22:17). This call of Jesus is identical to what
is taught in Buddhism. The Buddha said that the Noble Path of
Liberation, the Liberating Results, and Nibbana are free of charge, no
monetary investment is required. We live according to the Noble
Eightfold Path, which means we give up this, give up that, and keep giving
up things until everything is surrendered. Give up everything and
take nothing back. Don't receive any payment and we won't have to
pay anything: we will realize what is called "the Noble Path, the
Liberating Results, and Nibbana." We can taste the flavor of Nibbana
without paying a penny.
We spend a lot of money trying to buy Nibbana, but the money just gets
in the way. It's like investing money in order to win a palace in
heaven; the two have nothing to do with each other. In fact, they
are incompatible. If we want to give charity, it should be solely
for the sake of others. Nibbana is our first concern and requires no
Why do we make donations then? Not for ourselves, of course, but
to help our fellow human beings so that they may also reach that which
requires no financial investment. So, we contribute money to
build temples and schools, we develop methods of teaching, and we publish
books in order to help our fellow human beings to travel on the right
path, to travel toward that which is obtained without payment -
Nibbana. Those of us who intend to earn merit with their gold and
silver should please think in this way.
If those who intend to invest their money for so-called spiritual
rewards don't reconsider, they will incur losses rather than make profits.
Not only will they fail to make a profit, they won't even be able to
recover their investment. And when there is no profit and no
breaking even, there is only loss. To act that way goes contrary to
the words of the Buddha who said, "It's free." Jesus also said that
Jesus added further that what "you received without pay, give without
pay" (Matt. 10:8). It seems that the Buddha never said quite the
same thing, but we can say, from the implications of his teaching, that he
could easily have spoken these words. If something is obtained for
free, we ought to pass it on for free, too. Don't be unwilling or
reluctant. Don't go taking advantage of people by claiming favors or
hinting that they'll benefit by helping one in such-and-such a way or
implying that students owe a debt of gratitude to their teachers.
All of that is inappropriate. When we get something for free, we
must give it away for free. Therefore, as the loftiest of all
things, the Dhamma of each religion is something to be obtained for free.
Once we have got it, we are obligated to pass it on to our fellow human
beings for free, also. Don't try to wheedle any benefits out of it
When we make contributions to religious causes, they are for a
particular purpose, which has no bearing on our realizing Nibbana.
Such contributions are meant to be instrumental in helping people who
don't yet see the way to be able to find it and eventually arrive at that
which is given away for free to everyone. In the end, they also will
obtain that precious thing which is obtained for free, without any
If we look carefully, we will see that the pinnacle, the most excellent
of things, which we get for free, is called "Nibbana" (as well as by many
other names). Jesus called it "Life." This state in which we
currently exist is death. Because everyone is dying, they don't
reach God, they don't reach the Ultimate. Yet, if we follow the
teachings of Jesus we are born again at once. After dying for so
long, we need to be reborn. When we are born anew, we are born into
eternal life, which is true life. The Buddha spoke in the same
fashion. He said that we don't realize that this existence is like
being dead, that is, that it's suffering. We must make the required
knowledge, we must awaken into a new world, newly born. Then there
will be no more suffering. To understand this is a fundamental
Up until this realization, we were dead, that is, full of "I" and
"mine." Always living under the burden of ego and egoism is death. Because
of "I" and "mine," we died over and over again. Now we are
reborn into eternal life, the life of Nibbana, the deathless life, the
immortality in which all "I" and "mine" end. The word "reborn" here
comes to mean a life without ego, free of "I" and "mine." This is
the true life which can never die. The five aggregates (khandha),
the basic processes of life, are now pure, the body and mind are free of
attachment and selfishness. Prior to this, the five aggregates, the
body-mind process, were continually being grasped at and clung to by means
of "I" and "my" and were always stained by these corrupt attachments.
That continuous "I" and "mine" was death.
When the polluting desires and attachments are completely gone there is
a new birth in the world of the Noble Ones. "Rebirth in the world of
the Noble Ones" is a people language expression. In Dhamma
language, we speak of "quenching it." Quench the "I" and the "mine";
quench ego and its selfishness. Then there's nothing. There
remains only supreme voidness, which is Nibbana. So says Dhamma
If we speak in people language, as Jesus Christ often did, we say that
one is reborn in the world of the Noble Ones and that one lives eternally
in the Kingdom of God. That's people language. When we
translate it into Dhamma language, we use the opposite words and speak of
"quenching." One language speaks of "rebirth," while the other talks
about "utter quenching." Only the words are different. In people
language we talk about being reborn; in Dhamma language we talk about
Therefore, let us live a life of total quenching, a life that douses the
flames of desire, a life of coolness. When we are burning, we are
dying. A person who is hot inside is like a demon in hell, an
animal, a hungry ghost, or a cowardly titan. Such a person is always
dying. His attachment to "I" is never quenched. His ego hasn't
yet been doused; it boils and bubbles inside him with the heat of fire. It
has to be cooled down.
To make things easier, we should remember that the word "nibbana" means
"to cool down." In India at the time of the Buddha, "nibbana" was a common
everyday word spoken in the houses, streets, and markets. When
something hot had cooled down, they used the word "nibbana" to describe
it. If the curry was too hot to eat, then cooled down enough
to be eaten, they would say the curry is "nibbana, so let's eat."(*)
[* Actually, the words takes on different forms as a verb, noun, and
adjective, and according to case and context. As Thai doesn't
conjugate words like the Indian languages, only the form "Nibbana" is
We can see that the word "nibbana" was not originally an exalted
religious term, but had an ordinary everyday usage in people language--the
cooling down of something hot. For example, if a red-hot charcoal
cools down until it can be picked up, we can call that "nibbana." If
we apply the term on a higher level, such as, to animals, then it refers
to animals which are no longer hot. The heat of animals is the
wildness and fierceness which is dangerous for humans. If a wild
elephant or wild bull is tamed and well-trained so that finally its
wildness, rebelliousness, and viciousness disappear and it's safe for
humans, we can say that it's "nibbana," meaning it has cooled down.
When we speak of humans, "hot" means a person who is burning and boiling
as if in hell or the other netherworlds. That isn't Nibbana.
After we discover the way to apply Dhamma to cool ourselves
off, we begin to nibbana, continue to nibbana, nibbana steadily, nibbana
until everything is thoroughly cool, which is the highest level of
Even now, we must nibbana to some extent in order to be able to sit here
and discuss Dhamma like this. Otherwise, if the flames were flaring
up within us now, we wouldn't be able to remain sitting here.
Therefore, we should understand that Nibbana is related to us at all
times, with every inhalation and exhalation. If this weren't so, if
we had no connection to Nibbana whatsoever, we would all go out of our
minds and die before we knew it. Fortunately, we have some
relationship with Nibbana nearly all the time. It may disappear
temporarily when lust, hatred, or delusion arise, when the mind is taken
over by defilements and selfishness. But when lust, hatred, and
delusion aren't present in our minds, we experience a small degree of
Nibbana, a brief taste or free sample of Nibbana. Due to the
benefits of these recurring glimpses of Nibbana, we don't go crazy and
don't die from overheat. We survive by virtue of Nibbana's
beneficial effects. Therefore, we should thank Nibbana and
acknowledge our gratitude to it by acting so as to have more and more
Nibbana for longer and longer periods of time. Keep calming and
cooling things, that is, destroy "I" and "mine." Don't let ego prick
up its ears and point its tail. With self-discipline and good
manners, keep the ego small and out of trouble. Lessen it,
reduce it, shrink it, until at last nothing remains, then you will get the
best thing that a human being can possibly get.
Whenever we quarrel due to opinions, pride, vanity, or stubbornness, it
shows that we have lost touch with Nibbana. At such moments, we are
crazy. If we argue, quarrel, or interfere with others at any
time--no matter whether over an ordinary affair or a religious one--we are
insane. In such moments, we aren't really human anymore, because
we've lowered ourselves to the level of arguing and fighting. And
so, as was said before, if people remain foolish they will think that
there are many different religions which are incompatible and opposed to
each other, which are enemies that must compete, fight, and destroy each
other. These are the most stupid and ignorant of people. They
cause and experience a great deal of trouble.
When religions are regarded as in opposition and conflict, people become
enemies as a result. Everyone thinks "We are right, they are wrong;
they are wrong, we are right," and so forth, and then there
is quarrelling and fighting. Such people are incredibly foolish.
What they are quarrelling about is only the outer shell. Everyone
should recognize that these are only external forms, they aren't the inner
When people of intelligence and wisdom get together concerning the
essentials of religion, they recognize that religions are all the same.
Though outwardly they may seem different, intelligent people know that the
inner spirit must be the same in all cases. The inner essence is the
same no matter how different the external forms are, just like we saw with
the analogy of water. The essential pure nature of water is always
the same, no matter how putrid or filthy it appears from the outside.
It isn't the water that is dirty, but the other elements that are mixed in
with the water that are dirty. We shouldn't take those other
elements. When we take those elements, it means we drink dirty
water; it means we swallow the filth, urine, excrement, or whatever,
and don't drink pure water.
Whenever there is a quarrel, whether it's among lay people, novices,
nuns, or monks, it means that the people involved are eating filth,
namely, the defilements of "I" and "mine." This should never happen;
it should be given up. Don't prick your ears and point your tails.
Don't puff yourself with ego and create these conflicts of pride.
That's letting things go too far. Rather, our duty is try to pacify
these things and cool them down.
How silly it's that the older a person gets, the more full of ego he or
she becomes. I beg your pardon for speaking so frankly, but some
facts can't be ignored. Why do people become more egoistic with age?
Because the older they get, the more accustomed they are to attachment;
"I" and "mine" accumulate and pile up inside us as we age. Further, people
have sons and daughters, so they puff themselves with ego and determine to
lord it over their children. "My son! How could he do that
without my permission!" When they have grandchildren, they become
even more puffed up and superior. Thus, elderly people are more
obsessed with "I" and "mine" than children are.
If we look back at childhood, we will find that children have very
little ego. Immediately after birth, it's very hard to find much ego
in them, while the child in the womb has hardly any traces of "I" or
"mine" at all. However, as we grow into adulthood and become fathers
and mothers, and later grandfathers and grandmothers, "I" and "mine"
develops in a multitude of forms and personalities. These
become deeply rooted in our minds and stick there with such tenacity that
they are very difficult to remove. Therefore, old folks should be
very careful and alert. They should try to return to being like
children again. To be like children is a kind of Dhamma practice
which leads to non-attachment and voidness. Otherwise, the older
they get, the further away from the Buddha and from Nibbana they will
In truth, as we grow older we should grow closer to the Buddha. In
other words, the more we age the younger we should be. The older we get,
the more youthful we should become. As we get older we should become
more light-hearted, cheerful, bright, and fresh. We shouldn't end up
dry and lifeless, so that we gradually wither away. Everybody should
become increasingly fresh, bright, and light-hearted as they grow older.
As we age, we should get closer to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha,
which means we understand Dhamma more and more. The more successful
we are in making the inner flames recede, the cooler we become. As
we get cooler, we feel increasingly more refreshed and hearty, we look
brighter and more lively. When we have cooled down absolutely, we
will absolutely sparkle with brightness and cheer. Therefore, the
more ancient we get, the more youthful we should become, and the more
cheerful and fresh we should look and feel.
The lively physical activity and fresh complexions of young people is
one kind of youth, while the youthfulness of Dhamma language -
of the mind, heart, and spirit--refers to a spiritual brightness, vigor,
and serenity that comes with having more Dhamma. This is the youthfulness
of heat subsiding so that coolness can enter and envelop us.
Consequently, we feel increasingly refreshed, vibrant, and cheerful.
So let all elderly people become fresh and full of life. May we all
become more youthful. Just let youthfulness grow inside us and that
problem of bickering and quarrelling will no longer exist.
Worse than that quarrelling is the habit of "extolling oneself while
putting down others." Vicious back-biting and name-calling has no
place among Buddhists and anyone who does such things has ceased to be a
Buddhist, except, perhaps, in name. Being a Buddhist in name alone
doesn't mean anything and can't be depended upon. Just
declaring oneself to be "Buddhist" because its written on one's birth
certificate or because one signed up at certain temples doesn't accomplish
much good because they aren't sincere. We must be genuine Buddhists
in the true sense of the word, which means to weaken and reduce "I" and
"mine" in order to be cool and thereby be closer to Nibbana. So we
needn't discuss atrocities like disparaging and oppressing others, or
extolling oneself while putting down others. These things should never
What to do about those who still engage in such behaviour? I don't
know what class to put them in: First grade? Kindergarten?
Nursery school? These are still too high; there should be some lower
class or grade for people who behave in such gross ways. In
Buddhism, genuine lay followers never do such things. Even those who
are at the kindergarten level and have not yet reached into the first
grade of primary school know better than to do such things. They
know that such behaviour is hot and has nothing to do with Dhamma or
Progressing through the upper grades, through the junior and senior
classes, there is less egoism until, finally, there is no more "I" and
"mine." On the highest level, there's no self, everything is void of
self. There's no "I," no "you," no "we," no "they," which
means there's no Buddhism, no Christianity, no Islam, and no
religion. How can different religions exist when there's no "we," no
"they," no "anybody," when there is nothing but Dhamma? There is
only pure nature itself (suddhidhamma pavattanti), nature is all that
exists - with either active aspects or still aspects, depending on
whether something is conditioned and transient or unconditioned and
absolute. Those who are in the upper grades already understand this.
Those who are in kindergarten and primary school should also know about
this so that they can prepare themselves to reach its level.
So don't get caught up in envy and jealousy, in insults and praises, in
harassing and interfering with others, in arguing and fighting, in
extolling oneself while putting down others. Such behaviour is
worthless. It's for those who don't know how to learn on even the
lowest level. It's too low to have a place in the network of
All of us begin at a point where we're full of clinging, then steadily
reduce the clinging until we don't cling to anything anymore, until we
reach the point where everything is voidness: void of "I" and void of
"mine." Understand that in essence everything has been void from the
start. Whether physical or mental, look deeply into it's essential
nature and it will turn out to be void. There is no clinging there
Whatever clinging there was has just now happened. Originally, there was
no attachment, just as all water originally is pure and clean. It's
pure as it forms in the clouds, but picks up fine particles of dust as it
falls through the sky. Once it falls on roofs and collects in
water jars, it becomes further contaminated. Even more contaminated is the
water in wells, streams, ponds, and swamps. Worse is the putrid
water found in ditches, sewers, and toilets. As we examine the
external changes, we should recognize that the dirty elements aren't the
water and aren't essential.
So look deeply into this very body and mind when they're in their
natural state, when they aren't polluted by any defiled objects. The pure,
natural, uncontaminated body-mind is the object of knowledge
and study. The "I," the ego, knowing this, knowing that, this is
good, that is good: this is just dirty stuff. They mix with
the mind, contaminate it, and muck it up. Naturally, in themselves,
our bodies and minds aren't dirty, but owing to stupidity and carelessness
the newly spawned defilements invade. It's these impure guests which
enter the mind and contaminate it. Why then do we take these
late-coming impurities to be "I," "me," or "my own true self"?
They're just new arrivals, there's nothing genuine about them. They're
just dirt, isn't it silly to take dirt as one's self? One ends up
with a dirty self, a dirty ego--no doubt about it.
The mind which is knowledgable and wise, which is awakened (Buddha),
doesn't take anything to be self. It doesn't take dirty things as
its "self." It doesn't take defilements to be "self." If it
must have a self, the voidness which is free of defilements must be the
self. The voidness of defilements doesn't attach or cling to
anything. Even though the mouth says "I am" or "I have," the mind
inside doesn't feel any attachment. "Mouth is one and mind another"
at all times. I hope that you will all practice in this way.
All I have said today is merely a chat among friends. If it were a
public lecture or formal sermon, these things couldn't be said like this.
It might create a big disturbance. However, this has been just an
informal talk within our small circle of friends, among those who should
be able to understand. I only mentioned these things because I
thought the people here are capable of understanding. Indeed, I hope that
everyone has listened carefully, has been able to follow, and will think
over the issues seriously. Those who see the truth of and agree with
these principles should try to live accordingly. Before long we will
progress to a higher level on the path to voidness and freedom from
suffering. Then we can do work of all kinds with a void mind and we
can give all of the fruits to voidness. We will be able to eat the
food of voidness. And so, we will be able to die completely from the
very beginning. That's the end. That's the end of being a
Buddhist; it's the end of all religions.
In people language they say, "Don't waste the opportunity of having been
born human and of having encountered Buddha-Dhamma." If we speak in
Dhamma language, however, we would have to say, "It's the end of
everything. There is nothing left to be a problem ever again." Such
a life can be called "eternal life," for there is no more birth, aging,
illness, or death.
Are you ready to die before dying?
* * * * * *
anatta, not-self, selflessness: the fact that all things lack
any lasting essence or substance which could properly be called a "self." (Cf. sunnata.)
dukkha, pain, hurt, suffering, dissatisfaction: literally,
"hard to bear"; the stressful quality of all experiences which are accompanied by desire, attachment, and ego. Dukkha is also said to be a universal characteristic of all
phenomena; because things are impermanent, they are undependable and can never satisfy us. The inherent decay and dissolution of
things is dukkha.
Dhamma, Nature, Natural Law, Duty, Truth: the way things naturally are and the way we must live so that things (dhammas) don't
become problems for us.
khandha, groups, heaps. aggregates: the five basic processes or sub-systems which make up human life, namely, body, feeling, perception, thought, and consciousness.
kilesa, defilement, pollution, impurity: the various manifestations of selfishness which defile the mind,
especially greed, anger, and delusion.
Nibbana, coolness: the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. The cool peacefulness of Nibbana manifests when the fires of defilement, selfishness, and suffering are
thoroughly and finally quenched.
noble eightfold path: the way of life leading to Nibbana, namely, right understanding, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Noble Ones: human beings who have eradicated all or almost all of the attachments and defilements. They are the exemplars of Buddhist life due to their wisdom, coolness, calmness, and compassion.
sunnata, voidness: the reality of being void and free of selfhood, ego, or anything that could be taken to be "I" or "mine." (See anatta.)
upadana, attachment, clinging, grasping: to hold onto some
thing foolishly, that is, to regard it as "I" or "mine"; to take things personally
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu has been the most important interpreter and reformer
of Thai Buddhist thought in this century. Since he began Suan Mokkh,
"The Garden of Liberation," in 1932, he has undertaken the most
innovative, influential, and wide-ranging study of the Pali scriptures of
Theravada Buddhism. These studies were the underpinning for his
experiments and researches into life and nature, out of which developed a
commanding body of work. His talks, lectures, and writings, along
with the monastic community he founded, have inspired many to take a fresh
look at Buddhism and religion.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu has always had a profound interest in other religions
and has made many friends among them. In particular, he has been in
dialogue with Christianity through foreign missionaries and local
Christians who were delighted to find a Buddhist monk who sought only to
understand their religion, without looking down on it. This book
reveals some of his thoughts on religion.
The sixtieth anniversary of Suan Mokkh was observed on May 27,
1992. Despite the after effects of a heart attack and minor strokes, Ajarn
Buddhadasa spent the last few years of his life as he had spent the
The Venerable Ajarn passed away at Suan Mokkh on July 8, 1993. Suan
Mokkh, aided by the Dhammadana Foundation and other supporters, carries on
his with his work.
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