- Food for the Heart
- Venerable Ajahn Chah
- Copyright ę 1992 The Sangha, Wat Pah Nanachat
One of the most notable features of Venerable Ajahn Chah's teaching was the emphasis he
gave to the Sangha, the monastic order, and its use as a vehicle for Dhamma practice. This
is not to deny his unique gift for teaching lay people, which enabled him to communicate
brilliantly with people from all walks of life, be they simple farmers or University
professors. But the results he obtained with teaching and creating solid Sangha
communities are plainly visible in the many monasteries which grew up around him, both
within Thailand and, later, in England, Australia, Europe and elsewhere. Ajahn Chah
foresaw the necessity of establishing the Sangha in the West if long-term results were to
This book is a collection of talks he gave to the monastic communities in Thailand.
They are exhortations given to the communities of bhikkhus, or Buddhist monks, at
his own monastery, Wat Ba Pong, and some of its branches. This fact should be born in mind
by the lay reader. These talks are not intended to, and indeed cannot, serve as an
introduction to Buddhism and meditation practice. They are monastic teachings, addressed
primarily to the lifestyle and problems particular to that situation. A knowledge of the
basics of Buddhism on the part of the listener was assumed. Many of the talks will thus
seem strange and even daunting to the lay reader, with their emphasis on conformity and
For the lay reader, then, it is essential to bear in mind the environment within which
these talks were given -- the rugged, austere, poverty-stricken North-East corner of
Thailand, birth place of most of Thailand's great meditation teachers and almost its
entire forest monastic tradition. The people of the North-East are honed by this
environment to a rugged simplicity and gentle patience which make them ideal candidates
for the forest monk's lifestyle. Within this environment, in small halls dimly lit by
paraffin lamps, surrounded by the assembly of monks, Ajahn Chah gave his teachings.
Exhortations by the master occurred typically at the end of the fortnightly recitation
of the Patimokkha, the monks' code of discipline. Their content would be decided by the
current situation -- slackness in the practice, confusion about the rules, or just plain
"unenlightenment." In a lifestyle characterized by simplicity and contentment
with little, complacency is an ongoing tendency, so that talks for arousing diligent
effort were a regular occurrence.
The talks themselves are spontaneous reflections and exhortations rather than
systematic teachings as most Westerners would know them. The listener was required to give
full attention in the present moment and to reflect back on his own practice accordingly,
rather than to memorize the teachings by rote or analyze them in terms of logic. In this
way he could become aware of his own shortcomings and learn how to best put into effect
the skillful means offered by the teacher.
Although meant primarily for a monastic resident -- be one a monk, nun or novice -- the
interested lay reader will no doubt obtain many insights into Buddhist practice from this
book. At the very least there are the numerous anecdotes of the Venerable Ajahn's own
practice which abound throughout the book; these can be read simply as biographical
material or as instruction for mind training.
From the contents of this book, it will be seen that the training of the mind is not,
as many believe, simply a matter of sitting with the eyes closed or perfecting a
meditation technique, but is, as Ajahn Chah would say, a great renunciation.
Fight greed, fight aversion, fight delusion...these are the enemy. In the practice of
Buddhism, the path of the Buddha, we fight with Dhamma, using patient endurance. We fight
by resisting our countless moods.
Dhamma and the world are inter-related. Where there is Dhamma there is the world, where
there is the world there is Dhamma. Where there are defilements there are those who
conquer defilements, who do battle with them. This is called fighting inwardly. To fight
outwardly people take hold of bombs and guns to throw and to shoot; they conquer and are
conquered. Conquering others is the way of the world. In the practice of Dhamma we don't
have to fight others, but instead conquer our own minds, patiently enduring and resisting
all our moods.
When it comes to Dhamma practice we don't harbor resentment and enmity amongst
ourselves, but instead let go of all forms of ill-will in our own actions and thoughts,
freeing ourselves from jealousy, aversion and resentment. Hatred can only be overcome by
not harboring resentment and bearing grudges.
Hurtful actions and reprisals are different but closely related. Actions once done are
finished with, there's no need to answer with revenge and hostility. This is called
"action" (kamma). "Reprisal" (vera) means to continue
that action further with thoughts of "you did it to me so I'm going to get you
back." There's no end to this. It brings about the continual seeking of revenge, and
so hatred is never abandoned. As long as we behave like this the chain remains unbroken,
there's no end to it. No matter where we go, the feuding continues.
The Supreme Teacher  taught the world, he had compassion
for all worldly beings. But the world nevertheless goes on like this. The wise should look
into this and select those things which are of true value. The Buddha had trained in the
various arts of warfare as a prince, but he saw that they weren't really useful, they are
limited to the world with its fighting and aggression.
Therefore, in training ourselves as those who have left the world, we must learn to
give up all forms of evil, giving up all those things which are the cause for enmity. We
conquer ourselves, we don't try to conquer others. We fight, but we fight only the
defilements; if there is greed, we fight that; if there is aversion, we fight that; if
there is delusion, we strive to give it up.
This is called "Dhamma fighting." This warfare of the heart is really
difficult, in fact it's the most difficult thing of all. We become monks in order to
contemplate this, to learn the art of fighting greed, aversion and delusion. This is our
This is the inner battle, fighting with defilements. But there are very few people who
fight like this. Most people fight with other things, they rarely fight defilements. They
rarely even see them.
The Buddha taught us to give up all forms of evil and cultivate virtue. This is the
right path. Teaching in this way is like the Buddha picking us up and placing us at the
beginning of the path. Having reached the path, whether we walk along it or not is up to
us. The Buddha's job is finished right there. He shows the way, that which is right and
that which is not right. This much is enough, the rest is up to us.
Now, having reached the path we still don't know anything, we still haven't seen
anything, so we must learn. To learn we must be prepared to endure some hardship, just
like students in the world. It's difficult enough to obtain the knowledge and learning
necessary for them to pursue their careers. They have to endure. When they think wrongly
or feel averse or lazy they must force themselves before they can graduate and get a job.
The practice for a monk is similar. If we determine to practice and contemplate, then we
will surely see the way.
Ditthimana is a harmful thing. Ditthi means "view" or
"opinion." All forms of view are called ditthi: seeing good as evil,
seeing evil as good...any way whatsoever that we see things. This is not the problem. The
problem lies with the clinging to those views, called mana; holding on to those
views as if they were the truth. This leads us to spin around from birth to death, never
reaching completion, just because of that clinging. So the Buddha urged us to let go of
If many people live together, as we do here, they can still practice comfortably if
their views are in harmony. But even two or three monks would have difficulty if their
views were not good or harmonious. When we humble ourselves and let go of our views, even
if there are many of us, we come together at the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. 
It's not true to say that there will be disharmony just because there are many of us.
Just look at a millipede. A millipede has many legs, doesn't it? Just looking at it you'd
think it would have difficulty walking, but actually it doesn't. It has its own order and
rhythm. In our practice it's the same. If we practice as the Noble Sangha of the
Buddha practiced, then it's easy. That is, supatipanno -- those who practice well; ujupatipanno
-- those who practice straightly; ˝anapatipanno -- those who practice to transcend
suffering, and samicipatipanno -- those who practice properly. These four
qualities, established within us, will make us true members of Sangha. Even if we
number in the hundreds or thousands, no matter how many we are, we all travel the same
path. We come from different backgrounds, but we are the same. Even though our views may
differ, if we practice correctly there will be no friction. Just like all the rivers and
streams which flow to the sea...once they enter the sea they all have the same taste and
color. It's the same with people. When they enter the stream of Dhamma, it's the one
Dhamma. Even though they come from different places, they harmonize, they merge.
But the thinking which causes all the disputes and conflict is ditthi-mana.
Therefore the Buddha taught us to let go of views. Don't allow mana to cling to
those views beyond their relevance.
The Buddha taught the value of constant sati, 
recollection. Whether we are standing, walking, sitting or reclining, wherever we are, we
should have this power of recollection. When we have sati we see ourselves, we see
our own minds. We see the "body within the body," "the mind within the
mind." If we don't have sati we don't know anything, we aren't aware of what
So sati is very important. With constant sati we will listen to the
Dhamma of the Buddha at all times. This is because "eye seeing forms" is Dhamma;
"ear hearing sounds" is Dhamma; "nose smelling odors" is Dhamma;
"tongue tasting flavors" is Dhamma; "body feeling sensations" is
Dhamma; when impressions arise in the mind, that is Dhamma also. Therefore one who has
constant sati always hears the Buddha's teaching. The Dhamma is always there. Why?
Because of sati, because we are aware.
Sati is recollection, sampaja˝˝a is self-awareness. This awareness is
the actual Buddho, the Buddha. When there is sati-sampaja˝˝a,
understanding will follow. We know what is going on. When the eye sees forms: is this
proper or improper? When the ear hears sound: is this the appropriate or inappropriate? Is
it harmful? Is it wrong, is it right? And so on like this with everything. If we
understand we hear the Dhamma all the time.
So let us all understand that right now we are learning in the midst of Dhamma. Whether
we go forward or step back, we meet the Dhamma -- it's all Dhamma if we have sati?
Even seeing the animals running around in the forest we can reflect, seeing that all
animals are the same as us. They run away from suffering and chase after happiness, just
as people do. Whatever they don't like they avoid; they are afraid of dying, just like
people. If we reflect on this, we see that all beings in the world, people as well, are
the same in their various instincts. Thinking like this is called "bhavana,"
 seeing according to the truth, that all beings are
companions in birth, old age, sickness and death. Animals are the same as human beings and
human beings are the same as animals. If we really see things the way they are our mind
will give up attachment to them.
Therefore it is said we must have sati. If we have sati we will see the
state of our own mind. Whatever we are thinking or feeling we must know it. This knowing
is called Buddho, the Buddha, the one who knows...who knows thoroughly, who knows
clearly and completely. When the mind knows completely we find the right practice.
So the straight way to practice is to have mindfulness, sati. If you are without
sati for five minutes you are crazy for five minutes, heedless for five minutes.
whenever you are lacking in sati you are crazy. Sati is essential. To have sati
is to know yourself, to know the condition of your mind and your life. This is to have
understanding and discernment, to listen to the Dhamma at all times. After leaving the
teacher's discourse, you still hear the Dhamma, because the Dhamma is everywhere.
So therefore, all of you, be sure to practice every day. Whether lazy or diligent,
practice just the same. Practice of the Dhamma is not done by following your moods. If you
practice following your moods then it's not Dhamma. Don't discriminate between day and
night, whether the mind is peaceful or not...just practice.
It's like a child who is learning to write. At first he doesn't write nicely -- big,
long loops and squiggles -- he writes like a child. After a while the writing improves
through practice. Practicing the Dhamma is like this. At first you are awkward...sometimes
calm, sometimes not, you don't really know what's what. Some people get discouraged. Don't
slacken off! You must persevere with the practice. Live with effort, just like the
schoolboy: as he gets older he writes better and better. From writing badly he grows to
write beautifully, all because of the practice from childhood.
Our practice is like this. Try to have recollection at all times: standing, walking,
sitting or reclining. When we perform our various duties smoothly and well, we feel peace
of mind. When there is peace of mind in our work it's easy to have peaceful meditation,
they go hand in hand. So make an effort. You should all make an effort to follow the
practice. This is training.
This practice of ours is not easy. We may know some things but there is still much that
we don't know. For example, when we hear teachings such as "know the body, then know
the mind within the body"; or "know the mind, then know the mind within the
mind." If we haven't yet practiced these things, then we hear them we may feel
baffled. The Vinaya  is like this. In the past I used
to be a teacher,  but I was only a "small
teacher," not a big one. Why do I say a "small teacher"? Because I didn't
practice. I taught the Vinaya but I didn't practice it. This I call a small
teacher, an inferior teacher. I say an "inferior teacher" because when it came
to the practice I was deficient. For the most part my practice was a long way off the
theory, just as if I hadn't learnt the Vinaya at all.
However, I would like to state that in practical terms it's impossible to know the Vinaya
completely, because some things, whether we know them or not, are still offenses. This is
tricky. And yet it is stressed that if we do not yet understand any particular training
rule or teaching, we must study that rule with enthusiasm and respect. If we don't know,
then we should make an effort to learn. If we don't make an effort, that is in itself an
For example, if you doubt...suppose there is a woman and, not knowing whether she is a
woman or a man, you touch her.  You're not sure, but still
go ahead and touch...that's still wrong. I used to wonder why that should be wrong, but
when I considered the practice, I realized that a meditator must have sati, he must
be circumspect. Whether talking, touching or holding things, he must first thoroughly
consider. The error in this case is that there is no sati, or insufficient sati,
or a lack of concern at that time.
Take another example: it's only eleven o'clock in the morning but at the time the sky
is cloudy, we can't see the sun, and we have no clock. Now suppose we estimate that it's
probably afternoon...we really feel that it's afternoon...and yet we proceed to eat
something. We start eating and then the clouds part and we see from the position of the
sun that it's only just past eleven. This is still an offense. 
I used to wonder, "Eh? It's not yet past mid-day, why is this an offense?"
An offense is incurred here because of negligence, carelessness, we don't thoroughly
consider. There is a lack of restraint. If there is doubt and we act on the doubt, there
is a dukkata  offense just for acting in the face of
the doubt. We think that it is afternoon when in fact it isn't. The act of eating is not
wrong in itself, but there is an offense here because we are careless and negligent. If it
really is afternoon but we think it isn't, then it's the heavier pacittiya offense.
If we act with doubt, whether the action is wrong or not, we still incur an offense. If
the action is not wrong in itself it is the lesser offense; if it is wrong then the
heavier offense is incurred. Therefore the Vinaya can get quite bewildering.
At one time I went to see Venerable Ajahn Mun.  At
that time I had just begun to practice. I had read the Pubbasikkha  and could understand that fairly well. Then I went on to read the Visuddhimagga,
where the author writes of the Silanidesa (Book of Precepts), Samadhinidesa
(Book of Mind-Training) and Pa˝˝anidesa (Book of Understanding)...I felt my head
was going to burst! After reading that, I felt that it was beyond the ability of a human
being to practice. But then I reflected that the Buddha would not teach something that is
impossible to practice. He wouldn't teach it and he wouldn't declare it, because those
things would be useful neither to himself nor to others. The Silanidesa is
extremely meticulous, the Samadhinidesa more so, and the Pa˝˝anidesa even
more so! I sat and thought, "Well, I can't go any further. There's no way
ahead." It was as if I'd reached a dead-end.
At this stage I was struggling with my practice...I was stuck. It so happened that I
had a chance to go and see Venerable Ajahn Mun, so I asked him: "Venerable Ajahn,
what am I to do? I've just begun to practice but I still don't know the right way. I have
so many doubts I can't find any foundation at all in the practice."
He asked, "What's the problem?"
"In the course of my practice I picked up the Visuddhimagga and read it,
but it seems impossible to put into practice. The contents of the Silanidesa, Samadhinidesa
and Pa˝˝anidesa seem to be completely impractical. I don't think there is anybody
in the world who could do it, it's so detailed and meticulous. To memorize every single
rule would be impossible, it's beyond me."
He said to me: "Venerable...there's a lot, it's true, but it's really only a
little. If we were to take account of every training rule in the Silanidesa that
would be difficult...true...But actually, what we call the Silanidesa has evolved
from the human mind. If we train this mind to have a sense of shame and a fear of
wrong-doing, we will then be restrained, we will be cautious....
"This will condition us to be content with little, with few wishes, because we
can't possibly look after a lot. When this happens our sati becomes stronger. We
will be able to maintain sati at all times. Wherever we are we will make the effort
to maintain thorough sati. Caution will be developed. Whatever you doubt don't say
it, don't act on it. If there's anything you don't understand, ask the teacher. Trying to
practice every single training rule would indeed be burdensome, but we should examine
whether we are prepared to admit our faults or not. Do we accept them?"
This teaching is very important. It's not so much that we must know every single
training rule, if we know how to train our own minds.
"All that stuff that you've been reading arises from the mind. If you still
haven't trained your mind to have sensitivity and clarity you will be doubting all the
time. You should try to bring the teachings of the Buddha into your mind. Be composed in
mind. Whatever arises that you doubt, just give it up. If you don't really know for sure
then don't say it or do it. For instance, if you wonder, "Is this wrong or not?"
-- that is, you're not really sure -- then don't say it, don't act on it, don't discard
As I sat and listened, I reflected that this teaching conformed with the eight ways for
measuring the true teaching of the Buddha: Any teaching that speaks of the diminishing of
defilements; which leads out of suffering; which speaks of renunciation (of sensual
pleasures); of contentment with little; of humility and disinterest in rank and status; of
aloofness and seclusion; of diligent effort; of being easy to maintain...these eight
qualities are characteristics of the true Dhamma-vinaya, the teaching of the
Buddha. anything in contradiction to these is not.
"If we are genuinely sincere we will have a sense of shame and a fear of
wrongdoing. We will know that if there is doubt in our mind we will not act on it nor
speak on it. The Silanidesa is only words. For example, hiri-ottappa  in the books is one thing, but in our minds it is
Studying the Vinaya with Venerable Ajahn Mun I learnt many things. As I sat and
listened, understanding arose.
So, when it comes to the Vinaya I've studied considerably. Some days during the
Rains Retreat I would study from six o'clock in the evening through till dawn. I
understand it sufficiently. All the factors of apatti 
which are covered in the Pubbasikkha I wrote down in a notebook and kept in my bag.
I really put effort into it, but in later times I gradually let go. It was too much. I
didn't know which was the essence and which was the trimming, I had just taken all of it.
When I understood more fully I let it drop off because it was too heavy. I just put my
attention into my own mind and gradually did away with the texts.
However, when I teach the monks here I still take the Pubbasikkha as my
standard. For many years here at Wat Ba Pong it was I myself who read it to the assembly.
In those days I would ascend the Dhamma-seat and go on until at least eleven o'clock or
midnight, some days even one or two o'clock in the morning. We were interested. And we
trained. After listening to the Vinaya reading we would go and consider what we'd
heard. You can't really understand the Vinaya just by listening to it. Having
listened to it you must examine it and delve into it further.
Even though I studied these things for many years my knowledge was still not complete,
because there were so many ambiguities in the texts. Now that it's been such a long time
since I looked at the books, my memory of the various training rules has faded somewhat,
but within my mind there is no deficiency. There is a standard there. There is no doubt,
there is understanding. I put away the books and concentrated on developing my own mind. I
don't have doubts about any of the training rules. The mind has an appreciation of virtue,
it won't dare do anything wrong, whether in public or in private. I do not kill animals,
even small ones. If someone were to ask me to intentionally kill an ant or a termite, to
squash one with my hand, for instance, I couldn't do it, even if they were to offer me
thousands of baht to do so. Even one ant or termite! The ant's life would have
greater value to me.
However, it may be that I may cause one to die, such as when something crawls up my leg
and I brush it off. Maybe it dies, but when I look into my mind there is no feeling of
guilt. There is no wavering or doubt. Why? Because there was no intention. Silam vadami
bhikkhave cetanaham: "Intention is the essence of moral training." Looking
at it in this way I see that there was no intentional killing. Sometimes while walking I
may step on an insect and kill it. In the past, before I really understood, I would really
suffer over things like that. I would think I had committed an offense.
"What? There was no intention." "There was no intention, but I wasn't
being careful enough!" I would go on like this, fretting and worrying.
So this Vinaya is something which can be disturb practicers of Dhamma, but it
also has its value, in keeping with what the teachers say -- "Whatever training rules
you don't yet know you should learn. If you don't know you should question those who
do." They really stress this.
Now if we don't know the training rules, we won't be aware of our transgressions
against them. Take, for example, a Venerable Thera of the past, Ajahn Pow of Wat Kow Wong
Got in Lopburi Province. One day a certain Maha, 
a disciple of his, was sitting with him, when some women came up and asked,
"Luang Por! We want to invite you to go with us on an excursion, will you
Luang Por Pow didn't answer. The Maha sitting near him thought that Venerable
Ajahn Pow hadn't heard, so he said,
"Luang Por, Luang Por! Did you hear? These women invited you to go for a
He said, "I heard."
The women asked again, "Luang Por, are you going or not?"
He just sat there without answering, and so nothing came of the invitation. When they
had gone, the Maha said,
"Luang Por, why didn't you answer those women?"
He said, "Oh, Maha, don't you know this rule? Those people who were here
just now were all women. If women invite you to travel with them you should not consent.
If they make the arrangements themselves that's fine. If I want to go I can, because I
didn't take part in making the arrangements."
"The Maha sat and thought, "Oh, I've really made a fool of
The Vinaya states that to make an arrangement, and then travel together with,
women, even though it isn't as a couple, is a pacittiya offense.
Take another case. Lay people would bring money to offer Venerable Ajahn Pow on a tray.
He would extend his receiving cloth,  holding it at one
end. But when they brought the tray forward to lay it on the cloth he would retract his
hand from the cloth. Then he would simply abandon the money where it lay. He knew it was
there, but he would take no interest in it, just get up and walk away, because in the Vinaya
it is said that if one doesn't consent to the money it isn't necessary to forbid laypeople
from offering it. If he had desire for it, he would have to say, "Householder, this
is not allowable for a monk." He would have to tell them. If you have desire for it,
you must forbid them from offering that which is unallowable. However, if you really have
no desire for it, it isn't necessary. You just leave it there and go.
Although the Ajahn and his disciples lived together for many years, still some of his
disciples didn't understand Ajahn Pow's practice. This is a poor state of affairs. As for
myself, I looked into and contemplated many of Venerable Ajahn Pow's subtler points of
The Vinaya can even cause some people to disrobe. When they study it all the
doubts come up. It goes right back into the past..."my ordination, was it proper?  Was my preceptor pure? None of the monks who sat in on my
ordination knew anything about the Vinaya, were they sitting at the proper
distance? Was the chanting correct?" The doubts come rolling on..."The hall I
ordained in, was it proper? It was so small..." They doubt everything and fall into
So until you know how to ground your mind it's really difficult. You have to be very
cool, you can't just jump into things. But to be so cool that you don't bother to look
into things is wrong also. I was so confused I almost disrobed because I saw so many
faults within my own practice and that of some of my teachers. I was on fire and couldn't
sleep because of those doubts.
The more I doubted, the more I meditated, the more I practiced. Wherever doubt arose I
practiced right at that point. Wisdom arose. Things began to change. It's hard to describe
the change that took place. The mind changed until there was no more doubt. I don't know
how it changed, if I were to tell someone they probably wouldn't understand.
So I reflected on the teaching Paccattam veditabbo vi˝˝uhi -- the wise must
know for themselves. It must be a knowing that arises through direct experience. Studying
the Dhamma-vinaya is certainly correct but if it's just the study it's still
lacking. If you really get down to the practice you begin to doubt everything. Before I
started to practice I wasn't interested in the minor offenses, but when I started
practicing, even the dukkata offenses became as important as the parajika
offenses. Before, the dukkata offenses seemed like nothing, just a trifle. That's
how I saw them. In the evening you could confess them and they would be done with. Then
you could transgress them again. This sort of confession is impure, because you don't
stop, you don't decide to change. There is no restraint, you simply do it again and again.
There is no perception of the truth, no letting go.
Actually, in terms of ultimate truth, it's not necessary to go through the routine of
confessing offenses. If we see that our mind is pure and there is no trace of doubt, then
those offenses drop off right there. That we are not yet pure is because we still doubt,
we still waver. We are not really pure so we can't let go. We don't see ourselves, this is
the point. This Vinaya of ours is like a fence to guard us from making mistakes, so
it's something we need to be scrupulous with.
If you don't see the true value of the Vinaya for yourself it's difficult. Many
years before I came to Wat Ba Pong I decided I would give up money. For the greater part
of a Rains Retreat I had thought about it. In the end I grabbed my wallet and walked over
to a certain Maha who was living with me at the time, setting the wallet down in
front of him.
"Here, Maha, take this money. From today onwards, as long as I'm a monk, I
will not receive or hold money. You can be my witness."
"You keep it, Venerable, you may need it for your studies"...The Venerable Maha
wasn't keen to take the money, he was embarrassed...
"Why do you want to throw away all this money?"
"You don't have to worry about me. I've made my decision. I decided last
From the day he took that money it was as if a gap had opened between us. We could no
longer understand each other. He's still my witness to this very day. Ever since that day
I haven't used money or engaged in any buying or selling. I've been restrained in every
way with money. I was constantly wary of wrongdoing, even though I hadn't done anything
wrong. Inwardly I maintained the meditation practice. I no longer needed wealth, I saw it
as a poison. Whether you give poison to a human being, a dog or anything else, it
invariably causes death or suffering. If we see clearly like this we will be constantly on
our guard not to take that "poison." When we clearly see the harm in it, it's
not difficult to give up.
Regarding food and meals brought as offerings, if I doubted them I wouldn't accept
them. No matter how delicious or refined the food might be, I wouldn't eat it. Take a
simple example, like raw pickled fish. Suppose you are living in a forest and you go on
almsround and receive only rice and some pickled fish wrapped in leaves. When you return
to your dwelling and open the packet you find that it's raw pickled fish...just throw it
away!  Eating plain rice is better than transgressing the
precepts. It has to be like this before you can say you really understand, then the Vinaya
If other monks wanted to give me requisites, such as bowl, razor or whatever, I
wouldn't accept, unless I knew them as fellow practicers with a similar standard of Vinaya.
Why not? How can you trust someone who is unrestrained? They can do all sorts of things.
Unrestrained monks don't see the value of the Vinaya, so it's possible that they
could have obtained those things in improper ways. I was as scrupulous as this.
As a result, some of my fellow monks would look askance at me..."He doesn't
socialize, he won't mix..." I was unmoved: "Sure, we can mix when we die. When
it comes to death we are all in the same boat," I thought. I lived with endurance. I
was one who spoke little. If others criticized my practice I was unmoved. Why? Because
even if I explained to them they wouldn't understand. They knew nothing about practice.
Like those times when I would be invited to a funeral ceremony and somebody would say,
"...Don't listen to him! Just put the money in his bag and don't say anything about
it...don't let him know."  I would say, "Hey,
do you think I'm dead or something? Just because one calls alcohol perfume doesn't make it
become perfume, you know. But you people, when you want to drink alcohol you call it
perfume, then go ahead and drink. You must be crazy!".
The Vinaya, then, can be difficult. You have to be content with little, aloof.
You must see, and see right. Once, when I was traveling through Saraburi, my group went to
stay in a village temple for a while. The Abbot there had about the same seniority as
myself. In the morning, we would all go on almsround together, then come back to the
monastery and put down our bowls. Presently the laypeople would bring dishes of food into
the hall and set them down. Then the monks would go and pick them up, open them and lay
them in a line to be formally offered. One monk would put his hand on the dish at the
other end. And that was it! With that the monks would bring them over and distribute them
to be eaten.
About five monks were traveling with me at the time, but not one of us would touch that
food. On almsround all we received was plain rice, so we sat with them and ate plain rice,
none of us would dare eat the food from those dishes.
This went on for quite a few days, until I began to sense that the Abbot was disturbed
by our behavior. One of his monks had probably gone to him and said, "Those visiting
monks won't eat any of the food. I don't know what they're up to."
I had to stay there for a few days more, so I went to the Abbot to explain.
I said, "Venerable Sir, may I have a moment please? At this time I have some
business which means I must call on your hospitality for some days, but in doing so I'm
afraid there may be one or two things which you and your fellow monks find puzzling:
namely, concerning our not eating the food which has been offered by the laypeople. I'd
like to clarify this with you, sir. It's really nothing, it's just that I've learned to
practice like this...that is, the receiving of the offerings, sir. When the lay people lay
the food down and then the monks go and open the dishes, sort them out and then have them
formally offered...this is wrong. It's a dukkata offense. Specifically, to handle
or touch food which hasn't yet been formally offered into a monk's hands,
"ruins" that food. According to the Vinaya, any monk who eats that food
incurs an offense.
"It's simply this one point, sir. It's not that I'm criticizing anybody, or that
I'm trying to force you or your monks to stop practicing like this...not at all. I just
wanted to let you know of my good intentions, because it will be necessary for me to stay
here for a few more days.
He lifted his hands in a˝jali,  "Sadhu!
Excellent! I've never yet seen a monk who keeps the minor rules in Saraburi. there aren't
any to be found these days. If there still are such monks they must live outside of
Saraburi. May I commend you. I have no objections at all, that's very good."
The next morning when we came back from almsround not one of the monks would go near
those dishes. The laypeople themselves sorted them out and offered them, because they were
afraid the monks wouldn't eat. From that day onwards the monks and novices there seemed
really on edge, so I tried to explain things to them, to put their minds at rest. I think
they were afraid of us, they just went into their rooms and closed themselves in in
For two or three days I tried to make them feel at ease because they were so ashamed, I
really had nothing against them. I didn't say things like "There's not enough
food," or "bring 'this' or 'that' food." Why not? Because I had fasted
before, sometimes for seven or eight days. Here I had plain rice, I knew I wouldn't die.
Where I got my strength from was the practice, from having studied and practiced
I took the Buddha as my example. Wherever I went, whatever others did, I wouldn't
involve myself. I devoted myself solely to the practice, because I cared for myself, I
cared for the practice.
Those who don't keep the Vinaya or practice meditation and those who do practice
can't live together, they must go separate ways. I didn't understand this myself in the
past. As a teacher I taught others but I didn't practice. This is really bad. When I
looked deeply into it, my practice and my knowledge were as far apart as earth and sky.
Therefore, those who want to go and set up meditation centers in the forest...don't do
it. If you don't yet really know, don't bother trying, you'll only make a mess of it. Some
monks think that going to live in the forest they will find peace, but they still don't
understand the essentials of practice. They cut grass for themselves,  do everything themselves...Those who really know the practice aren't
interested in places like this, they won't prosper. Doing it like that won't lead to
progress. No matter how peaceful the forest may be you can't progress if you do it wrong.
They see the forest monks living in the forest and go to live in the forest like them,
but it's not the same. The robes are not the same, eating habits are not the same,
everything is different. Namely, they don't train themselves, they don't practice. The
place is wasted, it doesn't really work. If it does work, it does so only as a venue for
showing off or publicizing, just like a medicine show. It goes no further than that. Those
who have only practiced a little and then go to teach others are not yet ripe, they don't
really understand. In a short time they give up and it falls apart. It just brings
So we must study somewhat, look at the Navakovada, 
what does it say? Study it, memorize it, until you understand. From time to time ask your
teacher concerning the finer points, he will explain them. Study like this until you
really understand the Vinaya.
Maintaining the Standard
Today we are meeting together as we do every year after the annual Dhamma examinations.
 At this time all of you should reflect on the importance
of carrying out the various duties of the monastery, those toward the preceptor and those
toward the teachers. These are what hold us together as a single group, enabling us to
live in harmony and concord. They are also what lead us to have respect for each other,
which in turn benefits the community.
In all communities, from the time of the Buddha till the present, no matter what form
they may take, if the residents have no mutual respect they cannot succeed. Whether they
be secular communities or monastic ones, if they lack mutual respect they have no
solidarity. If there is no mutual respect, negligence sets in and the practice eventually
Our community of Dhamma practicers has lived here for about twenty five years now,
steadily growing, but it could deteriorate. We must understand this point. But if we are
all heedful, have mutual respect and continue to maintain the standards of practice, I
feel that our harmony will be firm. Our practice as a group will be a source of growth for
Buddhism for a long time to come.
Now in regard to the study and the practice, they are a pair. Buddhism has grown and
flourished until the present time because of the study going hand in hand with practice.
If we simply learn the scriptures in a heedless way negligence sets in...For example, in
the first year here we had seven monks for the Rains Retreat. At that time, I thought to
myself, "Whenever monks start studying for Dhamma Examinations the practice seems to
degenerate." Considering this, I tried to determine the cause, so I began to teach
the monks who were there for the Rains Retreat -- all seven of them. I taught for about
forty days, from after the meal till six in the evening, every day. The monks went for the
exams and it turned out there was a good result in that respect, all seven of them passed.
That much was good, but there was a certain complication regarding those who were
lacking in circumspection. To study, it is necessary to do a lot of reciting and
repeating. Those who are unrestrained and unreserved tend to grow lax with the meditation
practice and spend all their time studying, repeating and memorizing. This causes them to
throw out their old abiding, their standards of practice. And this happens very often.
So it was when they had finished their studies and taken their exams I could see a
change in the behavior of the monks. There was no walking meditation, only a little
sitting, and an increase in socializing. There was less restraint and composure.
Actually, in our practice, when you do walking meditation, you should really determine
to walk; when sitting in meditation, you should concentrate on doing just that. Whether
you are standing, walking, sitting or lying down, you should strive to be composed. But
when people do a lot of study, their minds are full of words, they get high on the books
and forget themselves. They get lost in externals. Now this is so only for those who don't
have wisdom, who are unrestrained and don't have steady sati. For these people
studying can be a cause for decline. When such people are engaged in study they don't do
any sitting or walking meditation and become less and less restrained. Their minds become
more and more distracted. Aimless chatter, lack of restraint and socializing become the
order of the day. This is the cause for the decline of the practice. It's not because of
the study in itself, but because certain people don't make the effort, they forget
Actually the scriptures are pointers along the path of practice. If we really
understand the practice, then reading or studying are both further aspects of meditation.
But if we study and then forget ourselves it gives rise to a lot of talking and fruitless
activity. People throw out the meditation practice and soon want to disrobe. Most of those
who study and fail soon disrobe. It's not that the study is not good, or that the practice
is not right. It's that people fail to examine themselves.
Seeing this, in the second rains retreat I stopped teaching the scriptures. Many years
later more and more young men came to become monks. Some of them knew nothing about the
Dhamma-Vinaya and were ignorant of the texts, so I decided to rectify the situation,
asking those senior monks who had already studied to teach, and they have taught up until
the present time. This is how we came to have studying here.
However, every year when the exams are finished, I ask all the monks to re-establish
their practice. All those scriptures which aren't directly concerned with the practice,
put them away in the cupboards. Re-establish yourselves, go back to the regular standards.
Re-establish the communal practices such as coming together for the daily chanting. This
is our standard. Do it even if only to resist your own laziness and aversion. This
Don't discard your basic practices: eating little, speaking little, sleeping little;
restraint and composure; aloofness; regular walking and sitting meditation; meeting
together regularly at the appropriate times. Please make an effort with these, every one
of you. Don't let this excellent opportunity go to waste. Do the practice. You have this
chance to practice here because you live under the guidance of the teacher. He protects
you on one level, so you should all devote yourselves to the practice. You've done walking
meditation before, now also you should sit. In the past you've chanted together in the
mornings and evenings, and now also you should make the effort. These are your specific
duties, please apply yourselves to them.
Those who simply "kill time" in the robes don't have any strength, you know.
The ones who are floundering, homesick, confused...do you see them? These are the ones who
don't put their minds into the practice. They don't have any work to do. We can't just lie
around here. Being a Buddhist monk or novice you live and eat well, you shouldn't take it
for granted. Kamasukhallikanuyogo  is a danger.
Make an effort to find your own practice. Whatever is faulty, work to rectify, don't get
lost in externals.
One who has zeal never misses walking and sitting meditation, never lets up in the
maintenance of restraint and composure. Just observe the monks here. Whoever, having
finished the meal and any business there may be, having hung out his robes, walks
meditation -- and when we walk past his kuti  we
see the walking path a well-worn trail, and we see it often -- this monk is not bored with
the practice. This is one who has effort, who has zeal.
If all of you devote yourselves like this to the practice, then not many problems will
arise. If you don't abide with the practice, the walking and sitting meditation, there's
nothing more than just traveling around. Not liking it here you go traveling over there;
not liking it there you come touring back here. That's all there is to it, following your
noses everywhere. These people don't persevere, it's good enough. You don't have to do a
lot of traveling around, just stay here and develop the practice, learn it in detail.
Traveling round can wait till later, it's not difficult. Make an effort, all of you.
Prosperity and decline hinge on this. If you really want to do things properly, then
study and practice in proportion; use both of them together. It's like the body and the
mind. If the mind is at ease and the body free of disease and healthy, then the mind
becomes composed. If the mind is confused, even if the body is strong there will be
difficulty, let alone when the body experiences discomfort.
The study of meditation is the study of cultivation and relinquishment. What I mean by
study here is: whenever the mind experiences a sensation, do we still cling to it? Do we
still create problems around it? Do we still experience enjoyment or aversion over it? To
put it simply: Do we still get lost in our thoughts? Yes, we do. If we don't like
something we react with aversion; if we do like it we react with pleasure, the mind
becomes defiled and stained. If this is the case then we must see that we still have
faults, we are still imperfect, we still have work to do. There must be more relinquishing
and more persistent cultivation. This is what I mean by studying. If we get stuck on
anything, we recognize that we are stuck. We know what state we're in, and we work to
Living with the teacher or apart from the teacher should be the same. Some people are
afraid. They're afraid that if they don't walk meditation the teacher will upbraid or
scold them. This is good in a way, but in the true practice you don't need to be afraid of
others, just be wary of faults arising within your own actions, speech or thoughts. When
you see faults in your actions, speech or thoughts you must guard yourselves. Attano
jodayattanam -- "you must exhort yourself," don't leave it to others to do.
We must quickly improve ourselves, know ourselves. This is called "studying,"
cultivating and relinquishing. Look into this till you see it clearly.
Living in this way we rely on endurance, persevering in face of all defilements.
Although this is good, it is still on the level of "practicing the Dhamma without
having seen it." If we have practiced the Dhamma and seen it, then whatever is wrong
we will have already given up, whatever is useful we will have cultivated. Seeing this
within ourselves, we experience a sense of well-being. No matter what others say, we know
our own mind, we are not moved. We can be at peace anywhere.
Now the younger monks and novices who have just begun to practice may think that the
senior Ajahn doesn't seem to do much walking or sitting meditation. Don't imitate him in
this. You should emulate, but not imitate. To emulate is one thing, to imitate another.
The fact is that the senior Ajahn dwells within his own particular contented abiding. Even
though he doesn't seem to practice externally, he practices inwardly. Whatever is in his
mind cannot be seen by the eye. The practice of Buddhism is the practice of the mind. Even
though the practice may not be apparent in his actions or speech, the mind is a different
Thus, a teacher who has practiced for a long time, who is proficient in the practice,
may seem to let go of his actions and speech, but he guards his mind. He is composed.
Seeing only his outer actions you may try to imitate him, letting go and saying whatever
you want to say, but it's not the same thing. You're not in the same league. Think about
There's a real difference, you are acting from different places. Although the Ajahn
seems to simply sit around, he is not being careless. He lives with things but it is not
confused by them. We can't see this, whatever is in his mind is invisible to us. Don't
judge simply by external appearances, the mind is the important thing. When we speak, our
minds follow that speech. Whatever actions we do, our minds follow, but one who has
practiced already may do or say things which his mind doesn't follow, because it adheres
to Dhamma and Vinaya. For example, sometimes the Ajahn may be severe with his disciples,
his speech may appear to be rough and careless, his actions may seem coarse. Seeing this,
all we can see are his bodily and verbal actions, but the mind which adheres to Dhamma and
Vinaya can't be seen. Adhere to the Buddha's instruction: "Don't be heedless."
"Heedfulness is the way to the Deathless. Heedfulness is death." Consider this.
Whatever others do is not important, just don't be heedless, this is the important thing.
All I have been saying here is simply to warn you that now, having completed the exams,
you have a chance to travel around and do many things. May you all constantly remember
yourselves as practicers of the Dhamma; a practicer must be collected, restrained and
Consider the teaching which says "Bhikkhu: one who seeks alms." If we define
it this way our practice takes on one form...very coarse. If we understand this word the
way the Buddha defined it, as one who sees the danger of samsara,  this is much more profound.
One who sees the danger of samsara is one who sees the faults, the liability of
this world. In this world there is so much danger, but most people don't see it, they see
the pleasure and happiness of the world. Now the Buddha says that a bhikkhu is one who
sees the danger of samsara. What is samsara? The suffering of samsara
is overwhelming, it's intolerable. Happiness is also samsara. The Buddha taught us
not to cling to them. If we don't see the danger of samsara, then when there is
happiness we cling to the happiness and forget suffering. We are ignorant of it, like a
child who doesn't know fire.
If we understand Dhamma practice in this way..."Bhikkhu: one who sees the danger
of samsara"...if we have this understanding, walking, sitting or lying down,
wherever we may be, we will feel dispassion. We reflect on ourselves, heedfulness is
there. Even sitting at ease, we feel this way. Whatever we do we see this danger, so we
are in a very different state. This practice is called being "one who sees the danger
One who sees the danger of samsara lives within samsara and yet doesn't.
That is, he understands concepts and he understands their transcendence. Whatever such a
person says is not like ordinary people. Whatever he does is not the same, whatever he
thinks is not the same. His behavior is much wiser.
Therefore it is said: "Emulate but don't imitate." There are two ways --
emulation and imitation. One who is foolish will grab on to everything. You mustn't do
that! Don't forget yourselves.
As for me, this year my body is not so well. Some things I will leave to the other
monks and novices to help take care of. Perhaps I will take a rest. From time immemorial
it's been this way, and in the world it's the same: as long as the father and mother are
still alive, the children are well and prosperous. When the parents die, the children
separate. Having been rich they become poor. This is usually how it is, even in the lay
life, and one can see it here as well. For example, while the Ajahn is still alive
everybody is well and prosperous. As soon as he passes away decline begins to set in
immediately. Why is this? Because while the teacher is still alive people become
complacent and forget themselves. They don't really make an effort with the study and the
practice. As in lay life, while the mother and father are still alive, the children just
leave everything up to them. They lean on their parents and don't know how to look after
themselves. When the parents die they become paupers. In the monkhood it's the same. If
the Ajahn goes away or dies, the monks tend to socialize, break up into groups and drift
into decline, almost every time.
Why is this? It's because they forget themselves. Living off the merits of the teacher
everything runs smoothly. When the teacher passes away, the disciples tend to split up.
Their views clash. Those who think wrongly live in one place, those who think rightly live
in another. Those who feel uncomfortable leave their old associates and set up new places
and start new lineages with their own groups of disciples. This is how it goes. In the
present it's the same. This is because we are at fault. While the teacher is still alive
we are at fault, we live heedlessly. We don't take up the standards of practice taught by
the Ajahn and establish them within our own hearts. We don't really follow in his
Even in the Buddha's time it was the same, remember the scriptures? That old monk, what
was his name...? Subhadda Bhikkhu! When Venerable Maha Kassapa was returning from Pava he
asked an ascetic on the way, "Is the Lord Buddha faring well?" The ascetic
answered: "The Lord Buddha entered Parinibbana seven days ago."
Those monks who were still unenlightened were grief-stricken, crying and wailing. Those
who had attained the Dhamma reflected to themselves, "Ah, the Buddha has passed away.
He has journeyed on." But those who were still thick with defilements, such as
Venerable Subhadda, said:
"What are you all crying for? The Buddha has passed away. That's good! Now we can
live at ease. When the Buddha was still alive he was always bothering us with some rule or
other, we couldn't do this or say that. Now the Buddha has passed away, that's fine! We
can do whatever we want, say what we want...Why should you cry?"
It's been so from way back then till the present day.
However that may be, even though it's impossible to preserve entirely...Suppose we had
a glass and we took care to preserve it. Each time we used it we cleaned it and put it
away in a safe place. Being very careful with that glass we can use it for a long time,
and then when we've finished with it others can also use it. Now, using glasses carelessly
and breaking them every day, and using one glass for ten years before it breaks -- which
Our practice is like this. For instance, if out of all of us living here, practicing
steadily, only ten of you practice well, then Wat Ba Pong will prosper. Just as in the
villages: in the village of one hundred houses, even if there are only fifty good people
that village will prosper. Actually to find even ten would be difficult. Or take a
monastery like this one here: it is hard to find even five or six monks who have real
commitment, who really do the practice.
In any case, we don't have any responsibilities now, other than to practice well. Think
about it, what do we own here? We don't have wealth, possessions, and families any more.
Even food we take only once a day. We've given up many things already, even better things
than these. As monks and novices we give up everything. We own nothing. All those things
people really enjoy have been discarded by us. Going forth as a Buddhist monk is in order
to practice. Why then should we hanker for other things, indulging in greed, aversion or
delusion? To occupy our hearts with other things is no longer appropriate.
Consider: why have we gone forth? Why are we practicing? We have gone forth to
practice. If we don't practice then we just lie around. If we don't practice, then we are
worse off than lay people, we don't have any function. If we don't perform any function or
accept our responsibilities it's a waste of the samana's 
life. It contradicts the aims of a samana.
If this is the case then we are heedless. Being heedless is like being dead. Ask
yourself, will you have time to practice when you die? Constantly ask yourself, "When
will I die?" If we contemplate in this way our mind will be alert every second,
heedfulness will always be present. When there is no heedlessness, sati --
recollection of what is what -- will automatically follow. Wisdom will be clear, seeing
all the things clearly as they are. Recollection guards the mind, knowing the arising of
sensations at all times, day and night. that is to have sati. To have sati
is to be composed. To be composed is to be heedful. If one is heedful then one is
practicing rightly. This is our specific responsibility.
So today I would like to present this to you all. If in the future you leave here for
one of the branch monasteries or anywhere else, don't forget yourselves. The fact is you
are still not perfect, still not completed. You still have a lot of work to do, many
responsibilities to shoulder. Namely, the practices of cultivation and relinquishment. Be
concerned about this, every one of you. Whether you live at this monastery or a branch
monastery, preserve the standards of practice. Nowadays there are many of us, many branch
temples. All the branch monasteries owe their origination to Wat Ba Pong. We could say
that the branch monasteries. So, especially the teachers, monks and novices of Wat Ba Pong
should try to set the example, to be the guide for all the other branch monasteries,
continuing to be diligent in the practices and responsibilities of a samana.
Right Practice -- Steady Practice
Wat Wana Potiyahn  here is certainly very peaceful,
but this is meaningless if our minds are not calm. All places are peaceful. That some may
seem distracting is because of our minds. However, a quiet place can help to become calm,
by giving one the opportunity to train and thus harmonize with its calm.
You should all bear in mind that this practice is difficult. To train other things is
not so difficult, it's easy, but the human mind is hard to train. The Lord Buddha trained
his mind. The mind is the important thing. Everything within this body-mind system comes
together at the mind. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body all receive sensations and
send them into the mind, which is the supervisor of all the other sense organs. Therefore
it is important to train the mind. If the mind is well trained all problems come to an
end. If there are still problems it's because the mind still doubts, it doesn't know in
accordance with the truth. That is why there are problems.
So recognize that all of you have come fully prepared for practicing Dhamma. Whether
standing, walking, sitting or reclining, the tools you need with which to practice are
well-provided, wherever you are. They are there, just like the Dhamma. The Dhamma is
something which abounds everywhere. Right here, on land or in water...wherever...the
Dhamma is always there. The Dhamma is perfect and complete, but it's our practice that's
not yet complete.
The Lord, Fully Enlightened Buddha taught a means by which all of us may practice and
come to know this Dhamma. It isn't a big thing, only a small thing, but it's right. For
example, look at hair. If we know even one strand of hair, then we know every strand, both
our own and also that of others. We know that they are all simply "hair." By
knowing one strand of hair we know it all.
Or consider people. If we see the true nature of conditions within ourselves then we
know all the other people in the world also, because all people are the same. Dhamma is
like this. It's a small thing and yet it's big. That is, to see the truth of one condition
is to see the truth of them all. When we know the truth as it is all problems come to an
Nevertheless, the training is difficult. Why is it difficult? It's difficult because of
wanting, tanha. If you don't "want" then you don't practice. But if you
practice out of desire you won't see the Dhamma. Think about it, all of you. If you don't
want to practice you can't practice. You must first want to practice in order to actually
do the practice. Whether stepping forward or stepping back you meet desire. This is why
the cultivators of the past have said that this practice is something that's extremely
difficult to do.
You don't see Dhamma because of desire. Sometimes desire is very strong, you want to
see the Dhamma immediately, but the Dhamma is not your mind -- your mind is not yet
Dhamma. The Dhamma is one thing and the mind is another. It's not that whatever you like
is Dhamma and whatever you don't like isn't. That's not the way it goes.
Actually this mind of ours is simply a condition of Nature, like a tree in the forest.
If you want a plank or a beam it must come from the tree, but the tree is still only a
tree. It's not yet a beam or a plank. Before it can really be of use to us we must take
that tree and saw it into beams or planks. It's the same tree but it becomes transformed
into something else. Intrinsically it's just a tree, a condition of Nature. But in its raw
state it isn't yet of much use to those who need timber. Our mind is like this. It is a
condition of Nature. As such it perceives thoughts, it discriminates into beautiful and
ugly and so on.
This mind of ours must be further trained. We can't just let it be. It's a condition of
Nature...train it to realize that it's a condition of Nature. Improve on Nature so that
it's appropriate to our needs, which is Dhamma. Dhamma is something which must be
practiced and brought within.
If you don't practice you won't know. Frankly speaking, you won't know the Dhamma by
just reading it or studying it. Or if you do know it your knowledge is still defective.
For example, this spittoon here. Everybody knows it's a spittoon but they don't fully know
the spittoon. Why don't they fully know it? If I called this spittoon a saucepan, what
would you say? Suppose that every time I asked for it I said, "Please bring that
saucepan over here," that would confuse you. Why so? Because you don't fully know the
spittoon. If you did there would be no problem. You would simply pick up that object and
hand it to me, because actually there isn't any spittoon. Do you understand? It's a
spittoon due to convention. This convention is accepted all over the country, so it's
spittoon. But there isn't any real "spittoon." If somebody wants to call it a
saucepan it can be a saucepan. It can be whatever you call it. This is called
"concept." If we fully know the spittoon, even if somebody calls it a saucepan
there's no problem. Whatever others may call it we are unperturbed because we are not
blind to its true nature. This is one who knows Dhamma.
Now let's come back to ourselves. Suppose somebody said, "You're crazy!", or,
"You're stupid," for example. Even though it may not be true, you wouldn't feel
so good. Everything becomes difficult because of our ambitions to have and to achieve.
Because of these desires to get and to be, because we don't know according to the truth,
we have no contentment. If we know the Dhamma, are enlightened to the Dhamma, greed,
aversion and delusion will disappear. When we understand the way things are there is
nothing for them to rest on.
Why is the practice so difficult and arduous? Because of desires. As soon as we sit
down to meditate we want to become peaceful. If we didn't want to find peace we wouldn't
sit, we wouldn't practice. As soon as we sit down we want peace to be right there, but
wanting the mind to be calm makes for confusion, and we feel restless. This is how it
goes. So the Buddha says, "Don't speak out of desire, don't sit out of desire, don't
walk out of desire,...Whatever you do, don't do it with desire." Desire means
wanting. If you don't want to do something you won't do it. If our practice reaches this
point we can get quite discouraged. How can we practice? As soon as we sit down there is
desire in the mind.
It's because of this that the body and mind are difficult to observe. If they are not
the self nor belonging to self then who do they belong to? It's difficult to resolve these
things, we must rely on wisdom. The Buddha says we must practice with "letting
go," isn't it? If we let go then we just don't practice, right?...Because we've let
Suppose we went to buy some coconuts in the market, and while we were carrying them
back someone asked:
"What did you buy those coconuts for?"
"I bought them to eat."
"Are you going to eat the shells as well?"
"I don't believe you. If you're not going to eat the shells then why did you buy
Well what do you say? How are you going to answer their question? We practice with
desire. If we didn't have desire we wouldn't practice. Practicing with desire is tanha.
Contemplating in this way can give rise to wisdom, you know. For example, those coconuts:
Are you going to eat the shells as well? Of course not. Then why do you take them? Because
the time hasn't yet come for you to throw them away. They're useful for wrapping up the
coconut in. If, after eating the coconut, you throw the shells away, there is no problem.
Our practice is like this. The Buddha said, "Don't act on desire, don't speak from
desire, don't eat with desire." Standing, walking, sitting or
reclining...whatever...don't do it with desire. This means to do it with detachment. It's
just like buying the coconuts from the market. We're not going to eat the shells but it's
not yet time to throw them away. We keep them first. This is how the practice is. Concept
and Transcendence  are co-existent, just like a coconut.
The flesh, the husk and the shell are all together. When we buy it we buy the whole lot.
If somebody wants to accuse us of eating coconut shells that's their business, we know
what we're doing.
Wisdom is something each of us find for oneself. To see it we must go neither fast nor
slow. What should we do? Go to where there is neither fast nor slow. Going fast or going
slow are not the way.
But we're all impatient, we're in a hurry. As soon as we begin we want to rush to the
end, we don't want to be left behind. We want to succeed. When it comes to fixing their
minds for meditation some people go too far...They light the incense, prostrate and make a
vow, "As long as this incense is not yet completely burnt I will not rise from my
sitting, even if I collapse or die, no matter what...I'll die sitting" Having made
their vow they start their sitting. As soon as they start to sit Mara's  hordes come rushing at them from all sides. They've only sat for an
instant and already they think the incense must be finished. They open their eyes for a
peek..."Oh, There's still ages left!"
They grit their teeth and sit some more, feeling hot, flustered, agitated and
confused...Reaching the breaking point they think, "it must be finished by
now."...Have another peek..."Oh, no! It's not even half-way yet!"
Two or three times and it's still not finished, so they just give up, pack it in and
sit there hating themselves. "I'm so stupid, I'm so hopeless!" They sit and hate
themselves, feeling like a hopeless case. This just gives rise to frustration and
hindrances. This is called the hindrance of ill-will. They can't blame others so they
blame themselves. And why is this? It's all because of wanting.
Actually it isn't necessary to go through all that. To concentrate means to concentrate
with detachment, not to concentrate yourself into knots.
But maybe we read the scriptures, about the life of the Buddha, how he sat under the
Bodhi tree and determined to himself,
"As long as I have still not attained Supreme Enlightenment I will not rise from
this place, even if my blood dries up."
Reading this in the books you may think of trying it yourself. You'll do it like the
Buddha. But you haven't considered that your car is only a small one. The Buddha's car was
a really big one, he could take it all in one go. With only your tiny, little car, how can
you possibly take it all at once? It's a different story altogether.
Why do we think like that? Because we're too extreme. Sometimes we go too low,
sometimes we go too high. The point of balance is so hard to find.
Now I'm only speaking from experience. In the past my practice was like this.
Practicing in order to get beyond wanting...if we don't want, can we practice? I was stuck
here. But to practice with wanting is suffering. I didn't know what to do, I was baffled.
Then I realized that the practice which is steady is the important thing. One must
practice consistently. They call this the practice that is "consistent in all
postures." Keep refining the practice, don't let it become a disaster. Practice is
one thing, disaster is another. Most people usually
create disaster. When they feel lazy they don't bother to practice, they only practice
when they feel energetic. This is how I tended to be.
All of you ask yourselves now, is this right? To practice when you feel like it, not
when you don't: is that in accordance with the Dhamma? Is it straight? Is it in line with
the Teaching? This is what makes practice inconsistent.
Whether you feel like it or not you should practice just the same: this is how the
Buddha taught. Most people wait till they're in the mood before practicing, when they
don't feel like it they don't bother. This is as far as they go. This is called
"disaster," it's not practice. In the true practice, whether you are happy or
depressed you practice; whether it's easy or difficult you practice; whether it's hot or
cold you practice. It's straight like this. In the real practice, whether standing,
walking, sitting or reclining you must have the intention to continue the practice
steadily, making your sati consistent in all postures.
At first thought it seems as if you should stand for as long as you walk, walk for as
long as you sit, sit for as long as you lie down...I've tried it but I couldn't do it. If
a meditator were to make his standing, walking, sitting and lying down all equal, how many
days could he keep it up for? Stand for five minutes, sit for five minutes, lie down for
five minutes...I couldn't do it for very long. So I sat down and thought about it some
more. "What does it all mean? People in this world can't practice like this!"
Then I realized..."Oh, that's not right, it can't be right because it's impossible
to do. Standing, walking, sitting, reclining...make them all consistent. To make the
postures consistent the way they explain it in the books is impossible."
But it is possible to do this: The mind...just consider the mind. To have sati,
recollection, sampaja˝˝a, self awareness and pa˝˝a, all-round
wisdom...this you can do. This is something that's really worth practicing. This means
that while standing we have sati, while walking we have sati, while sitting
we have sati, and while reclining we have sati, -- consistently. This is
possible. We put awareness into our standing, walking, sitting, lying down -- into all
When the mind has been trained like this it will constantly recollect Buddho, Buddho,
Buddho...which is knowing. Knowing what? Knowing what is right and what is wrong at all
times. Yes, this is possible. This is getting down to the real practice. That is, whether
standing, walking, sitting or lying down there is continuous sati.
Then you should understand those conditions which should be given up and those which
should be cultivated. You know happiness, you know unhappiness. When you know happiness
and unhappiness your mind will settle at the point which is free of happiness and
unhappiness. Happiness is the loose path, kamasukhallikanuyogo. Unhappiness is the
tight path, attakilamathanuyogo.  If we know these
two extremes, we pull it back. We know when the mind is inclining towards happiness or
unhappiness and we pull it back, we don't allow it to lean over. We have this sort of
awareness, we adhere to the One Path, the single Dhamma. We adhere to the awareness, not
allowing the mind to follow its inclinations.
But in your practice it doesn't tend to be like that, does it? You follow your
inclinations. If you follow your inclinations it's easy, isn't it? But this is the ease
which causes suffering, like someone who can't be bothered working. He takes it easy, but
when the time comes to eat he hasn't got anything. This is how it goes.
So I've contended with many aspects of the Buddha's teaching in the past, but I
couldn't really beat him. Nowadays I accept it. I accept that the many teachings of the
Buddha are straight down the line, so I've taken those teachings and used them to train
both myself and others.
The practice which is important is patipada. What is patipada? It is
simply all our various activities, standing, walking, sitting, reclining and everything
else. This is the patipada of the body. Now the patipada of the mind: how
many times in the course of today have you felt low? How many times have you felt high?
Have there been any noticeable feelings? We must know ourselves like this. Having seen
those feelings can we let go? Whatever we can't yet let go of we must work with. When we
see that we can't yet let go of some particular feeling we must take it and examine it
with wisdom. Reason it out. Work with it. This is practice. For example when you are
feeling zealous, practice, and then when you feel lazy, try to continue the practice. If
you can't continue at "full speed" then at least do half as much. Don't just
waste the day away by being lazy and not practicing. Doing that will lead to disaster,
it's not the way of a cultivator.
Now I've heard some people say, "Oh, this year I was really in a bad way."
"I was sick all year. I couldn't practice at all."
Oh! If they don't practice when death is near when will they ever practice? If they're
feeling well do you think they'll practice? No, they only get lost in happiness. If
they're suffering they still don't practice, they get lost in that. I don't know when
people think they're going to practice! They can only see that they're sick, in pain,
almost dead from fever...that's right, bring it on heavy, that's where the practice is.
When people are feeling happy it just goes to their heads and they get vain and conceited.
We must cultivate our practice. What this means is that whether you are happy or
unhappy you must practice just the same. If you are feeling well you should practice, and
if you are feeling sick you should also practice. Those who think, "This year I
couldn't practice at all, I was sick the whole time"...if these people are feeling
well, they just walk around singing songs. This is wrong thinking, not right thinking.
This is why the cultivators of the past have all maintained the steady training of the
heart. If things are to go wrong, just let them be with the body, not in mind.
There was a time in my practice, after I had been practicing about five years, when I
felt that living with others was a hindrance. I would sit in my kuti and try to
meditate and people would keep coming by for a chat and disturbing me. I ran off to live
by myself. I thought I couldn't practice with those people bothering me. I was fed up, so
I went to live in a small, deserted monastery in the forest, near a small village. I
stayed there alone, speaking to no-one -- because there was nobody else to speak to.
After I'd been there about fifteen days the thought arose, "Hmm. It would be good
to have a novice or pa-kow  here with me. He could help
me out with some small jobs." I knew it would come up, and sure enough, there it was!
"Hey! You're a real character! You say you're fed up with your friends, fed up
with your fellow monks and novices, and now you want a novice. What's this?"
"No," it says, "I want a good novice."
"There! Where are all the good people, can you find any? Where are you going to
find a good person? In the whole monastery there were only no-good people. You must have
been the only good person, to have run away like this!"
...You have to follow it up like this, follow up the tracks of your thoughts until you
"Hmm. This is the important one. Where is there a good person to be found? There
aren't any good people, you must find goodness anywhere else, you must look within
yourself. If you are good in yourself then wherever you go will be good. Whether others
criticize or praise you, you are still good. If you aren't good, then when others
criticize you, you get angry, and when they praise you, you get pleased.
At that time I reflected on this and have found it to be true from that day up until
the present. Goodness must be found within. As soon as I saw this, that feeling of wanting
to run away disappeared. In later times, whenever I had that desire arise I let it go.
Whenever it arose I was aware of it and kept my awareness on that. Thus I had a solid
foundation. Wherever I lived, whether people condemned me or whatever they would say, I
would reflect that the point is not whether they were good or bad. Good or evil must be
seen within ourselves. However other people are, that's their concern.
Don't go thinking, "Oh, today is too hot," or, "Today is too cold,"
or, "Today is...". Whatever the day is like that's just the way it is. Really
you are simply blaming the weather for your own laziness. We must see the Dhamma within
ourselves, then there is a surer kind of peace.
So for all of you who have come to practice here, even though it's only for a few days,
still many things will arise. Many things may be arising which you're not even aware of.
There is some right thinking, some wrong thinking...many, many things. So I say this
practice is difficult.
Even though some of you may experience some peace when you sit in meditation, don't be
in a hurry to congratulate yourselves. Likewise, if there is some confusion, don't blame
yourselves. If things seem to be good, don't delight in them, and if they're not good
don't be averse to them. Just look at it all, look at what you have. Just look, don't
bother judging. If it's good don't hold fast to it; if it's bad, don't cling to it. Good
and bad can both bite, so don't hold fast to them.
The practice is simply to sit, sit and watch it all. Good moods and bad moods come and
go as is their nature. Don't only praise your mind or only condemn it, know the right time
for these things. When it's time for congratulations then congratulate it, but just a
little, don't overdo it. Just like teaching a child, sometimes you may have to spank it a
little. In our practice sometimes we may have to punish ourselves, but don't punish
yourself all the time. If you punish yourself all the time in a while you'll just give
yourself a good time and take it easy either. That's not the way to practice. We practice
according to the Middle Way. What is the Middle Way? This Middle Way is difficult to
follow, you can't rely on your moods and desires.
Don't think that only sitting with the eyes closed is practice. If you do think this
way then quickly change your thinking! Steady practice is having the attitude of practice
while standing, walking, sitting and lying down. When coming out of sitting meditation,
reflect that you're simply changing postures. If you reflect in this way you will have
peace. Wherever you are you will have this attitude of practice with you constantly, you
will have a steady awareness within yourself.
Those of you who, having finished their evening sitting, simply indulge in their moods,
spending the whole day letting the mind wander where it wants, will find that the next
evening when sitting meditation all they get is the "backwash" from the day's
aimless thinking. There is no foundation of calm because they have let it go cold all day.
If you practice like this your mind gets gradually further and further from the practice.
When I ask some of my disciples, "How is your meditation going?". They say,
"Oh, it's all gone now." You see? They can keep it up for a month or two but in
a year or two it's all finished.
Why is this? It's because they don't take this essential point into their practice.
When they've finished sitting they let go of their samadhi. They start to sit for
shorter and shorter periods, till they reach the point where as soon as they start to sit
they want to finish. Eventually they don't even sit. It's the same with bowing to the
Buddha-image. At first they make the effort to prostrate every night before going to
sleep, but after a while their minds begin to stray. Soon they don't bother to prostrate
at all, they just nod, till eventually it's all gone. They throw out the practice
Therefore, understand the importance of sati, practice constantly. Right
practice is steady practice. Whether standing, walking, sitting or reclining the practice
must continue. This means that practice, meditation, is done in the mind, not in the body.
If our mind has zeal, is conscientious and ardent, then there will be awareness. The mind
is the important thing. The mind is that which supervises everything we do.
When we understand properly then we practice properly. When we practice properly we
don't go astray. Even if we only do a little that is still all right. For example, when
you finish sitting in meditation, remind yourselves that you are not actually finishing
meditation, you are simply changing postures. Your mind is still composed. Whether
standing, walking, sitting or reclining you have sati with you. If you have this
kind of awareness you can maintain your internal practice. In the evening when you sit
again the practice continues uninterrupted. Your effort is unbroken, allowing the mind to
This is called steady practice. Whether we are talking or doing other things we should
try to make the practice continuous. If our mind has recollection and self-awareness
continuously, our practice will naturally develop, it will gradually come together. The
mind will find peace, because it will know what is right and what is wrong. It will see
what is happening within us and realize peace.
If we are to develop sila (moral restraint), or samadhi (firmness of
mind) we must first have pa˝˝a (wisdom). Some people think that they'll develop
moral restraint one year, samadhi the next year and the year after that they'll
develop wisdom. They think these three things are separate. They think that this year they
will develop, but if the mind is not firm (samadhi), how can they do it? If there
is no understanding, (pa˝˝a) how can they do it? Without samadhi or pa˝˝a,
sila will be sloppy.
In fact these three come together at the same point. When we have sila we have samadhi,
when we have samadhi we have pa˝˝a. They are all one, like a mango.
Whether it's small or fully grown, it's still a mango. When it's ripe it's still the same
mango. If we think in simple terms like this we can see it more easily. We don't have to
learn a lot of things, just to know these things, to know our practice.
When it comes to meditation some people don't get what they want, so they just give up,
saying they don't yet have the merit to practice meditation. They can do bad things, they
have that sort of talent, but they don't have the talent to do good. They throw it in,
saying they don't have a good enough foundation. This is the way people are, they side
with their defilements.
Now that you have this chance to practice, please understand that whether you find it
difficult or easy to develop samadhi is entirely up to you, not the samadhi.
If it is difficult, it is because you are practicing wrongly. In our practice we must have
"Right View" (sammaditthi). If our view is right then everything else is
right: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right
Effort, Right Recollection, Right Concentration -- the Eightfold Path. When there is Right
View all the other factors will follow on.
Whatever happens, don't let your mind stray off the track. Look within yourself and you
will see clearly. For the best practice, as I see it, it isn't necessary to read many
books. Take all the books and lock them away. Just read your own mind. You have all been
burying yourselves in books from the time you entered school. I think that now you have
this opportunity and have the time, take the books, put them in a cupboard and lock the
door. Just read your mind.
Whenever something arises within the mind, whether you like it or not, whether it seems
right or wrong, just cut it off with, "this is not a sure thing." Whatever
arises just cut it down, "not sure, not sure." With just this single ax you can
cut it all down. It's all "not sure."
For the duration of this next month that you will be staying in this forest monastery,
you should make a lot of headway. You will see the truth. This "not sure" is
really an important one. This one develops wisdom. The more you look the more you will see
"not sure"-ness. After you've cut something off with "not sure" it may
come circling round and pop up again. Yes, it's truly "not sure." Whatever pops
up just stick this one label on it all..."not sure." You stick the sign on
.."not sure"...and in a while, when its turn comes, it crops up
again..."Ah, not sure." Dig here! Not sure. You will see this same old one who's
been fooling you month in, month out, year in, year out, from the day you were born.
There's only this one who's been fooling you all along. See this and realize the way
When your practice reaches this point you won't cling to sensations, because they are
all uncertain. Have you ever noticed? Maybe you see a clock and think, "Oh, this is
nice." Buy it and see...in not many days you're bored with it already. "This pen
is really beautiful," so you take the trouble to buy one. In not many months you tire
of it again. This is how it is. Where is there any certainty?
If we see all these things as uncertain then their value fades away. All things become
insignificant. Why should we hold on to things that have no value? We keep them only as we
might keep an old rag to wipe our feet with. We see all sensations as equal in value
because they all have the same nature.
When we understand sensations we understand the world. The world is sensations and
sensations are the world. If we aren't fooled by sensations we aren't fooled by the world.
If we aren't fooled by the world we aren't fooled by sensations.
The mind which sees this will have a firm foundation of wisdom. Such a mind will not
have many problems. Any problems it does have it can solve. When there are no more
problems there are no more doubts. Peace arises in their stead. This is called
"Practice." If we really practice it must be like this.
Samma Samadhi -- Detachment Within Activity
Take a look at the example of the Buddha. Both in his own practice and in his methods
for teaching the disciples he was exemplary. The Buddha taught the standards of practice
as skillful means for getting rid of conceit, he couldn't do the practice for us. having
heard that teaching we must further teach ourselves, practice for ourselves. The results
will arise here, not at the teaching.
The Buddha's teaching can only enable us to get an initial understanding of the Dhamma,
but the Dhamma is not yet within our hearts. Why not? Because we haven't yet practiced, we
haven't yet taught ourselves. The Dhamma arises at the practice. If you know it, you know
it through the practice. If you doubt it, you doubt it at the practice. Teachings from the
Masters may be true, but simply listening to Dhamma is not yet enough to enable us to
realize it. The teaching simply points out the way to realize. To realize the Dhamma we
must take that teaching and bring it into our hearts. That part which is for the body we
apply to the body, that part which is for the speech we apply to the speech, and that part
which is for the mind we apply to the mind. This means that after hearing the teaching we
must further teach ourselves to know that Dhamma, to be that Dhamma.
The Buddha said that those who simply believe others are not truly wise. A wise person
practices until he is one with the Dhamma, until he can have confidence in himself,
independent of others.
On one occasion, while Venerable Sariputta was sitting, listening respectfully at his
feet as the Buddha expounded the Dhamma, the Buddha turned to him and asked,
"Sariputta, do you believe this teaching?"
Venerable Sariputta replied, "No, I don't yet believe it."
Now this is a good illustration. Venerable Sariputta listened, and he took note. When
he said he didn't yet believe he wasn't being careless, he was speaking the truth. He
simply took note of that teaching, because he had not yet developed his own understanding
of it, so he told the Buddha that he didn't yet believe -- because he really didn't
believe. These words almost sound as if Venerable Sariputta was being rude, but actually
he wasn't. He spoke the truth, and the Buddha praised him for it.
"Good, good, Sariputta. A wise person doesn't readily believe, he should consider
first before believing."
Conviction in a belief can take various forms. One form reasons according to Dhamma,
while another form is contrary to the Dhamma. This second way is heedless, it is a
foolhardy understanding, micchaditthi, wrong view. One doesn't listen to anybody
Take the example of Dighanakha the Brahmin. This Brahmin only believed himself, he
wouldn't believe others. At one time when the Buddha was resting at Rajagaha, Dighanakha
went to listen to his teaching. Or you might say that Dighanakha went to teach the Buddha
because he was intent on expounding his own views...
"I am of the view that nothing suits me."
This was his view. The Buddha listened to Dighanakha's view and then answered,
"Brahmin, this view of yours doesn't suit you either."
When the Buddha had answered in this way, Dighanakha was stumped. He didn't know what
to say. The Buddha explained in many ways, till the Brahmin understood. He stopped to
reflect and saw...
"Hmm, this view of mine isn't right."
On hearing the Buddha's answer the Brahmin abandoned his conceited views and
immediately saw the truth. He changed right then and there, turning right around, just as
one would invert one's hand. He praised the teaching of the Buddha thus:
"Listening to the Blessed One's teaching, my mind was illumined, just as one
living in darkness might perceive light. My mind is like an overturned basin which has
been uprighted, like a man who has been lost and finds the way."
Now at that time a certain knowledge arose within his mind, within that mind which had
been uprighted. Wrong view vanished and right view took its place. Darkness disappeared
and light arose.
The Buddha declared that the Brahmin Dighanakha was one who had opened the Dhamma Eye.
Previously Dighanakha clung to his own views and had no intention of changing them. But
when he heard the Buddha's teaching his mind saw the truth, he saw that his clinging to
those views was wrong. When the right understanding arose he was able to perceive his
previous understanding as mistaken, so he compared his experience with a person living in
darkness who had found light. This is how it is. At that time the Brahmin Dighanakha
transcended his wrong view.
Now we must change in this way. Before we can give up defilements we must change our
perspective. We must begin to practice rightly and practice well. Previously we didn't
practice rightly or well, and yet we thought we were right and good just the same. When we
really look into the matter we upright ourselves, just like turning over one's hand. This
means that the "One Who Knows," or wisdom, arises in the mind, so that it is
able to see things anew. A new kind of awareness arises.
Therefore cultivators must practice to develop this knowing, which we call Buddho, the
One Who Knows, in their minds. Originally the one who knows is not there, our knowledge is
not clear, true or complete. This knowledge is therefore too weak to train the mind. But
then the mind changes, or inverts, as a result of this awareness, called wisdom or
insight, which exceeds our previous awareness. That previous "one who knows" did
not yet know fully and so was unable to bring us to our objective.
The Buddha therefore taught to look within, opanayiko. Look within, don't look
outwards. Or if you look outwards then look within, to see the cause and effect therein.
Look for the truth in all things, because external objects and internal objects are always
affecting each other. Our practice is to develop a certain type of awareness until it
becomes stronger than our previous awareness. This causes wisdom and insight to arise
within the mind, enabling us to clearly know the workings of the mind, the language of the
mind and the ways and means of all the defilements.
The Buddha, when he first left his home in search of liberation, was probably not
really sure what to do, much like us. He tried many ways to develop his wisdom. He looked
for teachers, such as Udaka Ramaputta, going there to practice meditation...right leg on
left leg, right hand on left hand...body erect...eyes closed...letting go of
everything...until he was able to attain a high level of absorption samadhi.  But when he came out of that samadhi his old thinking
came up and he would attach to it just as before. Seeing this, he knew that wisdom had not
yet arisen. His understanding had not yet penetrated to the truth, it was still
incomplete, still lacking. Seeing this he nonetheless gained some understanding -- that
this was not yet the summation of practice -- but he left that place to look for a new
When the Buddha left his old teacher he didn't condemn him, he did as does the bee
which takes nectar from the flower without damaging the petals.
The Buddha then proceeded on to study with Alara Kalama and attained an even higher
state of samadhi, but when he came out of that state Bimba and Rahula  came back into his thoughts again, the old memories and
feelings came up again. He still had lust and desire. Reflecting inward he saw that he
still hadn't reached his goal, so he left that teacher also. He listened to his teachers
and did his best to follow their teachings. He continually surveyed the results of his
practice, he didn't simply do things and then discard them for something else.
Even when it came to ascetic practices, after he had tried them he realized that
starving until one is almost skeleton is simply a matter for the body. The body doesn't
know anything. practicing in that way was like executing an innocent person while ignoring
the real thief.
When the Buddha really looked into the matter he saw that practice is not a concern of
the body, it is a concern of the mind. Attakilamathanuyogo (self-mortification) --
the Buddha had tried it and found that it was limited to the body. In fact, all Buddhas
are enlightened in mind.
Whether in regard to the body or to the mind, just throw them all together as
Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless -- aniccam, dukkham and anatta.
They are simply conditions of Nature. They arise depending on supporting factors, exist
for a while and then cease. When there are appropriate conditions they arise again; having
arisen they exist for a while, then cease once more. These things are not a
"self," a "being," an "us" or a "them." There's
nobody there, simply feelings. Happiness has no intrinsic self, suffering has no intrinsic
self. No self can be found, there are simply elements of Nature which arise, exist and
cease. They go through this constant cycle of change.
All beings, including humans, tend to see the arising as themselves, the existence as
themselves, and the cessation as themselves. Thus they cling to everything. They don't
want things to be the way they are, they don't want them to be otherwise. For instance,
having arisen they don't want things to cease; having experienced happiness, they don't
want suffering. If suffering does arise they want it to go away as quickly as possible,
but even better if it doesn't arise at all. This is because they see this body and mind as
themselves, or belonging to themselves, and so they demand those things to follow their
This sort of thinking is like building a dam or a dike without making an outlet to let
the water through. The result is that the dam bursts. And so it is with this kind of
thinking. The Buddha saw that thinking in this way is the cause of suffering. Seeing this
cause, the Buddha gave it up.
This is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering. The Truths of Suffering, its Cause,
its Cessation and the Way leading to that Cessation...people are stuck right here. If
people are to overcome their doubts it's right at this point. Seeing that these things are
simply rupa and nama, or corporeality and mentality, it becomes obvious that
they are not a being, a person, an "us," or a "them." They simply
follow the laws of Nature.
Our practice is to know things in this way. We don't have the power to really control
these things, we aren't really their owners. Trying to control them causes suffering,
because they aren't really ours to control. Neither body nor mind are self or others. If
we know this as it really is then we see clearly. We see the truth, we are at one with it.
It's like seeing a lump of red hot iron which has been heated in a furnace. It's hot all
over. Whether we touch it on top, the bottom or the sides it's hot. No matter where we
touch it, it's hot. This is how you should see things.
Mostly when we start to practice we want to attain, to achieve, to know and to see, but
we don't yet know what it is we're going to achieve or know. There was once a disciple of
mine whose practice was plagued with confusion and doubts. But he kept practicing, and I
kept instructing him, till he began to find some peace. But when he eventually became a
bit calm he got caught up in his doubts again, saying, "What do I do next?"
There! the confusion arises again. He says he wants peace but when he gets it, he doesn't
want it, he asks what he should do next!
So in this practice we must do everything with detachment. How are we to detach? We
detach by seeing things clearly. Know the characteristics of the body and mind as they
are. We meditate in order to find peace, but in doing so we see that which is not
peaceful. This is because movement is the nature of the mind.
When practicing samadhi we fix our attention on the in and out-breaths at the
nose tip or the upper lip. This "lifting" the mind to fix it is called vitakka,
or "lifting up." When we have thus "lifted" the mind and are fixed on
an object, this is called vicara, the contemplation of the breath at the nose tip.
This quality of vicara will naturally mingle with other mental sensations, and we
may think that our mind is not still, that it won't calm down, but actually this is simply
the workings of vicara as it mingles with those sensations. Now if this goes too
far in the wrong direction, our mind will lose its collectedness, so then we must set up
the mind afresh, lifting it up to the object of concentration with vitakka. As soon
as we have thus established our attention vicara takes over, mingling with the
various mental sensations.
Now when we see this happening, our lack of understanding may lead us to wonder:
"Why has my mind wandered? I wanted it to be still, why isn't it still?" This is
practicing with attachment.
Actually the mind is simply following its nature, but we go and add on to that activity
by wanting the mind to be still and thinking "Why isn't it still?" Aversion
arises and so we add that on to everything else, increasing our doubts, increasing our
suffering and increasing our confusion. So if there is vicara, reflecting on the
various happenings within the mind in this way, we should wisely consider..."Ah, the
mind is simply like this." There, that's the One Who Knows talking, telling you to
see things as they are. The mind is simply like this. We let it go at that and the mind
becomes peaceful. When it's no longer centered we bring up vitakka once more, and
shortly there is clam again. Vitakka and vicara work together like this. We
use vicara to contemplate the various sensations which arise. When vicara
becomes gradually more scattered we once again "lift" our attention with vitakka.
The important thing here is that our practice at this point must be done with
detachment. Seeing the process of vicara interacting with the mental sensations we
may think that the mind is confused and become averse to this process. This is the cause
right here. We aren't happy simply because we want the mind to be still. This is the cause
-- wrong view. If we correct our view just a little, seeing this activity as simply the
nature of mind, just this is enough to subdue the confusion. This is called letting go.
Now, if we don't attach, if we practice with "letting go"...detachment within
activity and activity within detachment...if we learn to practice like this, then vicara
will naturally tend to have less to work with. If our mind ceases to be disturbed, then vicara
will incline to contemplating Dhamma, because if we don't contemplate Dhamma the mind
returns to distraction.
So there is vitakka then vicara, vitakka then vicara, vitakka
then vicara and so on, until vicara becomes gradually more subtle. At first vicara
goes all over the place. When we understand this as simply the natural activity of the
mind, it won't bother us unless we attach to it. It's like flowing water. If we get
obsessed with it, asking "Why does it flow?" then naturally we suffer. If we
understand that the water simply flows because that's its nature then there's no
suffering. Vicara is like this. There is vitakka, then vicara,
interacting with mental sensations. We can take these sensations as our object of
meditation, calming the mind by noting those sensations.
If we know the nature of the mind like this then we let go, just like letting the water
flow by. Vicara becomes more and more subtle. Perhaps the mind inclines to
contemplating the body, or death for instance, or some other theme of Dhamma. When the
theme of contemplation is right there will arise a feeling of well-being. What is that
well-being? It is piti (rapture). Piti, well-being, arises. It may manifest
as goose-pimples, coolness or lightness. The mind is enrapt. This is called piti.
There are also pleasures, sukha, the coming and going of various sensations; and
the state of ekaggatarammana, or one-pointedness.
Now if we talk in terms of the first stage of concentration it must be like this: vitakka,
vicara, piti, sukha, ekaggata. So what is the second stage like? As the mind becomes
progressively more subtle, vitakka and vicara become comparatively coarser,
so that they are discarded, leaving only piti, sukha, and ekaggata. This is
something that the mind does of itself, we don't have to conjecture about it, just to know
things as they are.
As the mind becomes more refined, piti is eventually thrown off, leaving only sukha
and ekaggata, and so we take note of that. Where does piti go to? It doesn't
go anywhere, it's just that the mind becomes increasingly more subtle so that it throws
off those qualities that are too coarse for it. Whatever's too coarse it throws out, and
it keeps throwing off like this until it reaches the peak of subtlety, known in the books
as the Fourth Jhana, the highest level of absorption. Here the mind has
progressively discarded whatever becomes too coarse for it, until there remain only ekaggata
and upekkha, equanimity. There's nothing further, this is the limit.
When the mind is developing the stages of samadhi it must proceed in this way,
but please let us understand the basics of practice. We want to make the mind still but it
won't be still. This is practicing out of desire, but we don't realize it. We have the
desire for calm. The mind is already disturbed and then we further disturb things by
wanting to make it calm. This very wanting is the cause. We don't see that this wanting to
calm the mind is tanha (craving). It's just like increasing the burden. The more we
desire calm the more disturbed the mind becomes, until we just give up. We end up fighting
all the time, sitting and struggling with ourselves.
Why is this? Because we don't reflect back on how we have set up the mind. Know that
the conditions of mind are simply the way they are. Whatever arises, just observe it. It
is simply the nature of the mind, it isn't harmful unless we don't understand its nature.
It's not dangerous if we see its activity for what it is. So we practice with vitakka
and vicara until the mind begins to settle down and become less forceful. When
sensations arise we contemplate them, we mingle with them and come to know them.
However, usually we tend to start fighting with them, because right from the beginning
we're determined to calm the mind. As soon as we sit the thoughts come to bother us. As
soon as we set up our meditation object our attention wanders, the mind wanders off after
all the thoughts, thinking that those thoughts have come to disturb us, but actually the
problem arises right here, from the very wanting.
If we see that the mind is simply behaving according to its nature, that it naturally
comes and goes like this, and if we don't get over-interested in it, we can understand its
ways as much the same as a child. Children don't know any better, they may say all kinds
of things. If we understand them we just let them talk, children naturally talk like that.
When we let go like this there is no obsession with the child. We can talk to our guests
undisturbed, while the child chatters and plays around. The mind is like this. It's not
harmful unless we grab on to it and get obsessed over it. That's the real cause of
When piti arises one feels an indescribable pleasure, which only those who
experience can appreciate. Sukha (pleasure) arises, and there is also the quality
of one-pointedness. There are vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and ekaggata. These five
qualities all converge at the one place. Even though they are different qualities they are
all collected in the one place, and we can see them all there, just like seeing many
different kinds of fruit in the one bowl. Vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and ekaggata
-- we can see them all in the one mind, all five qualities. If one were to ask, "How
is there vitakka, how is there vicara, how are there piti and sukha?..."
it would be difficult to answer, but when they converge in the mind we will see how it is
At this point our practice becomes somewhat special. We must have recollection and
self-awareness and not lose ourselves. Know things for what they are. These are stages of
meditation, the potential of the mind. Don't doubt anything with regard to the practice.
Even if you sink into the earth or fly into the air, or even "die" while
sitting, don't doubt it. Whatever the qualities of the mind are, just stay with the
knowing. This is our foundation: to have sati, recollection, and sampaja˝˝a,
self-awareness, whether standing, walking, sitting, or reclining. Whatever arises, just
leave it be, don't cling to it. Be it like or dislike, happiness or suffering, doubt or
certainty, contemplate with vicara and gauge the results of those qualities. Don't
try to label everything, just know it. See that all the things that arise in the mind are
simply sensations. They are transient. They arise, exist and cease. That's all there is to
them, they have no self or being, they are neither "us" nor "them."
They are not worthy of clinging to, any of them.
When we see all rupa and nama  in this
way with wisdom, then we will see the old tracks. We will see the transience of the mind,
the transience of the body, the transience of happiness, suffering, love and hate. They
are all impermanent. Seeing this, the mind becomes weary; weary of the body and mind,
weary of the things that arise and cease and are transient. When the mind becomes
disenchanted it will look for a way out of all those things. It no longer wants to be
stuck in things, it sees the inadequacy of this world and the inadequacy of birth.
When the mind sees like this, wherever we go, we see aniccam (Transience), dukkham
(Imperfection) and anatta (Ownerlessness). There's nothing left to hold on to.
Whether we go to sit at the foot of a tree, on a mountain top or into a valley, we can
hear the Buddha's teaching. All trees will seem as one, all beings will be as one, there's
nothing special about any of them. They arise, exist for a while, age and then die, all of
We thus see the world more clearly, seeing this body and mind more clearly. They are
clearer in the light of Transience, clearer in the light of Imperfection and clearer in
the light of Ownerlessness. If people hold fast to things they suffer. This is how
suffering arises. If we see that body and mind are simply the way they are, no suffering
arises, because we don't hold fast to them. Wherever we go we will have wisdom. Even
seeing a tree we can consider it with wisdom. Seeing grass and the various insects will be
food for reflection.
When it all comes down to it they all fall into the same boat. They are all Dhamma,
they are invariably transient. This is the truth, this is the true Dhamma, this is
certain. How is it certain? it is certain in that the world is that way and can never be
otherwise. There's nothing more to it than this. If we can see in this way then we have
finished our journey.
In Buddhism, with regard to view, it is said that to feel that we are more foolish than
others is not right: to feel that we are equal to others is not right; and to feel that we
better than others is not right...because there isn't any "we." This is how it
is, we must uproot conceit.
This is called lokavidu -- knowing the world clearly as it is. If we thus see
the truth, the mind will know itself completely and will sever the cause of suffering.
When there is no longer any cause, the results cannot arise. This is the way our practice
The basics which we need to develop are: firstly, to be upright and honest; secondly,
to be wary of wrong-doing; thirdly, to have the attribute of humility within one's heart,
to be aloof and content with little. If we are content with little in regards to speech
and in all other things, we will see ourselves, we won't be drawn into distractions. The
mind will have a foundation of sila, samadhi, and pa˝˝a.
Therefore cultivators of the path should not be careless. Even if you are right don't
be careless. And if you are wrong, don't be careless. If things are going well or you're
feeling happy, don't be careless. Why do I say "don't be careless"? Because all
of these things are uncertain. Note them as such. If you get peaceful just leave the peace
be. You may really want to indulge in it but you should simply know the truth of it, the
same as for unpleasant qualities.
This practice of the mind is up to each individual. The teacher only explains the way
to train the mind, because that mind is within each individual. We know what's in there,
nobody else can know our mind as well as we can. The practice requires this kind of
honesty. Do it properly, don't do it half-heartedly. When I say "do it
properly," does that mean you have to exhaust yourselves? No, you don't have to
exhaust yourselves, because the practice is done in the mind. If you know this then you
will know the practice. You don't need a whole lot. Just use the standards of practice to
reflect on yourself inwardly.
Now the Rains Retreat is half way over. For most people it's normal to let the practice
slacken off after a while. They aren't consistent from beginning to end. This shows that
their practice is not yet mature. For instance, having determined a particular practice at
the beginning of the retreat, whatever it may be, then we must fulfill that resolution.
For these three months make the practice consistent. You must all try. Whatever you have
determined to practice, consider that and reflect whether the practice has slackened off.
If so, make an effort to re-establish it. Keep shaping up the practice, just the same as
when we practice meditation on the breath. As the breath goes in and out the mind gets
distracted. Then re-establish your attention on the breath. When your attention wanders
off again bring it back once more. This is the same. In regard to both the body and the
mind the practice proceeds like this. Please make an effort with it.
The Flood of Sensuality
Kamogha...the flood of sensuality: sunk in sights, in sounds, in smells, in tastes, in
bodily sensations. Sunk because we only look at externals, we don't look inwardly. People
don't look at themselves, they only look at others. They can see everybody else but they
can't see themselves. It's not such a difficult thing to do, but it's just that people
don't really try.
For example, look at a beautiful woman. What does that do to you? As soon as you see
the face you see everything else. Do you see it? Just look within your mind. What is it
like to see a woman? As soon as the eyes see just a little bit the mind sees all the rest.
Why is it so fast?
It's because you are sunk in the "water." You are sunk, you think about it,
fantasize about it, are stuck in it. It's just like being a slave...somebody else has
control over you. When they tell you to sit you've got to sit, when they tell you to walk
you've got to walk...you can't disobey them because you're their slave. Being enslaved by
the senses is the same. No matter how hard you try you can't seem to shake it off. And if
you expect others to do it for you, you really get into trouble. You must shake it off for
Therefore the Buddha left the practice of Dhamma, the transcendence of suffering, up to
us. Take nibbana  for example. The Buddha was
thoroughly enlightened, so why didn't he describe nibbana in detail? Why did he
only say that we should practice and find out for ourselves. Why is that? Shouldn't he
have explained what nibbana is like?
"The Buddha practiced, developing the perfections over countless world ages for
the sake of all sentient beings, so why didn't he point out nibbana so that they
all could see it and go there too?" Some people think like this. "If the Buddha
really knew he would tell us. Why should he keep anything hidden?"
Actually this sort of thinking is wrong. We can't see the truth in that way. We must
practice, we must cultivate, in order to see. The Buddha only pointed out the way to
develop wisdom, that's all. He said that we ourselves must practice. Whoever practices
will reach the goal.
But that path which the Buddha taught goes against our habits. To be frugal, to be
restrained...we don't really like these things, so we say, "Show us the way, show us
the way to nibbana, so that those who like it easy like us can go there too."
It's the same with wisdom. The Buddha can't show you wisdom, it's not something that can
be simply handed around. The Buddha can show the way to develop wisdom, but whether you
develop much or only a little depends on the individual. Merit and accumulated virtues of
people naturally differ.
Just look at a material object, such as the wooden lions in front of the hall here.
People come and look at them and can't seem to agree: one person says, "Oh, how
beautiful," while another says, "How revolting!" It's the one lion, both
beautiful and ugly. Just this is enough to know how things are.
Therefore the realization of Dhamma is sometimes slow, sometimes fast. The Buddha and
his disciples were all alike in that they had to practice for themselves, but even so they
still relied on teachers to advise them and give them techniques in the practice.
Now, when we listen to Dhamma we may want to listen until all our doubts are cleared
up, but they'll never be cleared up simply by listening. Doubt is not overcome simply by
listening or thinking, we must first clean out the mind. To clean out the mind means to
revise our practice. No matter how long we were to listen to the teacher talk about the
truth we couldn't know or see that truth just from listening. If we did it would be only
through guesswork or conjecture.
However, even though simply listening to the Dhamma may not lead to realization, it is
beneficial. There were, in the Buddha's time, those who realized the Dhamma, even
realizing the highest realization -- arahantship, while listening to a discourse. But
those people were already highly developed, their minds already understood to some extent.
It's like a football. When a football is pumped up with air it expands. Now the air in
that football is all pushing to get out, but there's no hole for it to do so. As soon as a
needle punctures the football the air comes bursting out.
This is the same. The minds of those disciples who were enlightened while listening to
the Dhamma were like this. As long as there was no catalyst to cause the reaction this
"pressure" was within them, like the football. The mind was not yet free because
of this very small thing concealing the truth. As soon as they heard the Dhamma and it hit
the right spot, wisdom arose. They immediately understood, immediately let go and realized
the true Dhamma. That's how it was. It was easy. The mind uprighted itself. It changed, or
turned, from one view to another. You could say it was far, or you could say it was very
This is something we must do for ourselves. The Buddha was only able to give techniques
on how to develop wisdom, and so with the teachers these days. They give Dhamma talks,
they talk about the truth, but still we can't make that truth our own. Why not? There's a
"film" obscuring it. You could say that we are sunk, sunk in the water. Kamogha
-- the "flood" of sensuality. Bhavogha -- the "flood" of
"Becoming" (bhava) means "the sphere of birth." Sensual
desire is born at sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings and thoughts, identifying with
these things. The mind holds fast and is stuck to sensuality.
Some cultivators get bored, fed up, tired of the practice and lazy. You don't have to
look very far, just look at how people can't seem to keep the Dhamma in mind, and yet if
they get scolded they'll hold on to it for ages. They may get scolded at the beginning of
the Rains, and even after the Rains Retreat has ended they still haven't forgotten it.
Their whole lives they still won't forget it if it goes down deep enough.
But when it comes to the Buddha's teaching, telling us to be moderate, to be
restrained, to practice conscientiously...why don't people take these things to their
hearts? Why do they keep forgetting these things? You don't have to look very far, just
look at our practice here. For example, establishing standards such as: after the meal
while washing your bowls, don't chatter! Even this much seems to be beyond people. Even
though we know that chattering is not particularly useful and binds us to
sensuality...people still like talking. Pretty soon they start to disagree and eventually
get into arguments and squabbles. There's nothing more to it than this.
Now this isn't anything subtle or refined, it's pretty basic, and yet people don't seem
to really make much effort with it. They say they want to see the Dhamma, but they want to
see it on their own terms, they don't want to follow the path of practice. That's as far
as they go. All these standards of practice are skillful means for penetrating to and
seeing the Dhamma, but people don't practice accordingly.
To say "real practice" or "ardent practice" doesn't necessarily
mean you have to expend a whole lot of energy -- just put some effort into the mind,
making some effort with all the feelings that arise, especially those which are steeped in
sensuality. These are our enemies.
But people can't seem to do it. Every year, as the end of the Rains Retreat approaches,
it gets worse and worse. Some of the monks have reached the limit of their endurance, the
"end of their tether." The closer we get to the end of the Rains the worse they
get, they have no consistency in their practice. I speak about this every year and yet
people can't seem to remember it. We establish a certain standard and in not even a year
it's fallen apart. Almost finished the Retreat and it starts -- the chatter, the
socializing and everything else. It all goes to pieces. This is how it tends to be.
Those who are really interested in the practice should consider why this is so. It's
because people don't see the adverse results of these things.
When we are accepted into the Buddhist monkhood we live simply. And yet some of them
disrobe to go to the front, where the bullets fly past them every day -- they prefer it
like that. They really want to go. Danger surrounds them on all sides and yet they're
prepared to go. Why don't they see the danger? They're prepared to die by the gun but
nobody wants to die developing virtue. Just seeing this is enough...it's because they're
slaves, nothing else. See this much and you know what it's all about. People don't see the
This is really amazing, isn't it? You'd think they could see it but they can't. If they
can't see it even then, then there's no way they can get out. They're determined to whirl
around in samsara. This is how things are. Just talking about simple things like
this we can begin to understand.
If you were to ask them, "Why were you born?" They'd probably have a lot of
trouble answering, because they can't see it. They're sunk in the world of the senses and
sunk in becoming (bhava).  Bhava is the
sphere of birth, our birthplace. To put it simply, where are beings born from? Bhava
is the preliminary condition for birth. Wherever birth takes place, that's bhava.
For example, suppose we had an orchard of apple trees that we were particularly fond
of. That's a bhava for us if we don't reflect with wisdom. How so? Suppose our
orchard contained a hundred or a thousand apple trees...it doesn't really matter what kind
of trees they are, just so long as we consider them to be "our own" trees...then
we are going to be "born" as a "worm" in every single one of those
trees. We bore into every one, even though our human body is still back there in the
house, we send out "tentacles" into every one of those trees.
Now, how do we know that it's a bhava? It's a bhava (sphere of existence)
because of our clinging to the idea that those trees are our own, that that orchard is our
own. If someone were to take an ax and cut one of the trees down, the owner over there in
the house "dies" along with the tree. He gets furious, and has to go and set
things right, to fight and maybe even kill over it. That quarreling is the
"birth." The "sphere of birth" is the orchard of trees that we cling
to as our own. We are "born" right at the point where we consider them to be our
own, born from that bhava. Even if we had a thousand apple trees, if someone were
to cut down just one it'd be like cutting the owner down.
Whatever we cling to we are born right there, we exist right there. We are born as soon
as we "know." This is knowing through not-knowing: we know that someone has cut
down one of our trees. But we don't know that those trees are not really ours. This is
called "knowing through not-knowing." We are bound to be born into that bhava.
Vatta the wheel of conditioned existence, operates like this. People cling to bhava,
they depend on bhava. If they cherish bhava, this is birth . And if they
fall into suffering over that same thing, this is also a birth. As long as we can't let go
we are stuck in the rut of samsara, spinning around like a wheel. Look into this,
contemplate it. Whatever we cling to as being us or ours, that is a place for birth.
There must be a bhava, a sphere of birth, before birth can take place. Therefore
the Buddha said, whatever you have, don't "have" it. Let it be there but don't
make it yours. You must understand this "having" and "not having,"
know the truth of them, don't flounder in suffering.
The place that we were born from; you want to go back there and be born again, don't
you? All of you monks and novices, do you know where you were born from? You want to go
back there, don't you? Right there, look into this. All of you getting ready. The nearer
we get to the end of the retreat the more you start preparing to go back and be born
Really, you'd think that people could appreciate what it would be like, living in a
person's belly. How uncomfortable would that be? Just look, merely staying in your kuti
for one day is enough. Shut all the doors and windows and you're suffocating already. How
would it be to lie in a person's belly for nine or ten months? Think about it.
People don't see the liability of things. Ask them why they are living, or why they are
born, and they have no idea. Do you still want to get back in there? Why? It should be
obvious but you don't see it. Why can't you see it? What are you stuck on, what are you
holding onto? Think it out for yourself.
It's because there is a cause for becoming and birth. Just take a look at the preserved
baby in the main hall, have you seen it? Isn't anybody alarmed by it? No, no-one's alarmed
by it. A baby lying in its mother's belly is just like that preserved baby. And yet you
want to make more of those things, and even want to get back and soak in there yourself.
Why don't you see the danger of it and the benefit of the practice?
You see? That's bhava. The root is right there, it revolves around that. The
Buddha taught to contemplate this point. People think about it but still don't see.
They're all getting ready to go back there again. they know that it wouldn't be very
comfortable in there, to put their necks in the noose is really uncomfortable, they still
want to lay their heads in there. Why don't they understand this? This is where wisdom
comes in, where we must contemplate.
When I talk like this people say, "If that's the case then everybody would have to
become monks...and then how would the world be able to function?" You'll never get
everybody to become monks, so don't worry. The world is here because of deluded beings, so
this is no trifling matter.
I first became a novice at the age of nine. I started practicing from way back then.
But in those days I didn't really know what it was all about. I found out when I became a
monk. Once I became a monk I became so wary. The sensual pleasures people indulged in
didn't seem like so much fun to me. I saw the suffering in them. It was like seeing a
delicious banana which I knew was very sweet but which I also knew to be poisoned. No
matter how sweet or tempting it was, if I ate it I would die. I considered in this way
every time...every time I wanted to "eat a banana" I would see the
"poison" steeped inside, and so eventually I could withdraw my interest from
those things. Now at this age, such things are not at all tempting.
Some people don't see the "poison'; some see it but still want to try their luck.
"If your hand is wounded don't touch poison, it may seep into the wound."
I used to consider trying it out as well. When I had lived as a monk for five or six
years, I thought of the Buddha. He practiced for five or six years and was finished, but I
was still interested in the worldly life, so I thought of going back to it: "Maybe I
should go and "build the world" for a while, I would gain some experience and
learning. Even the Buddha had his son, Rahula. Maybe I'm being too strict?..."
I sat and considered this for some time, until I realized: "Yes, well, that's all
very fine, but I'm just afraid that this 'Buddha' won't be like the last one," a
voice in me said, "I'm afraid this 'Buddha' will just sink into the mud, not like the
last one." And so I resisted those worldly thoughts.
From my sixth or seventh rains retreat up until the twentieth, I really had to put up a
fight. These days I seem to have run out of bullets, I've been shooting for a long time.
I'm just afraid that you younger monks and novices have still got so much ammunition, you
may just want to go and try out your guns. Before you do, consider carefully first.
Speaking of sensual desire, it's hard to give up. It's really difficult to see it as it
is. We must use skillful means. Consider sensual pleasures as like eating meat which gets
stuck in your teeth. Before you finish the meal you have to find a toothpick to pry it
out. When the meat comes out you feel some relief for a while, maybe you even think that
you won't eat any more meat. But when you see it again you can't resist it. You eat some
more and then it gets stuck again. When it gets stuck you have to pick it out again, which
gives some relief once more, until you eat some more meat...That's all there is to it.
Sensual pleasures are just like this, no better than this. When the meat gets stuck in
your teeth there's discomfort. You take a toothpick and pick it out and experience some
relief. There's nothing more to it than this sensual desire...The pressure builds up and
up until you let a little bit out...Oh! That's all there is to it. I don't know what all
the fuss is about.
I didn't learn these things from anybody else, they occurred to me in the course of my
practice. I would sit in meditation and reflect on sensual pleasure as being like a red
ants' nest.  Someone takes a piece of wood and pokes the
nest until the ants come running out, crawling down the wood and into their faces, biting
their eyes and ears. And yet they still don't see the difficulty they are in.
However it's not beyond our ability. In the teaching of the Buddha it is said that if
we've seen the harm of something, no matter how good it may seem to be, we know that it's
harmful. Whatever we haven't yet seen the harm of, we just think it's good. If we haven't
yet seen the harm of anything we can't get out of it.
Have you noticed? No matter how dirty it may be people like it. This kind of
"work" isn't clean but you don't even have to pay people to do it, they'll
gladly volunteer. With other kinds of dirty work, even if you pay a good wage people won't
do it, but this kind of work they submit themselves to gladly, you don't even have to pay
them. It's not that it's clean work, either, it's dirty work. Yet why do people like it?
How can you say that people are intelligent when they behave like this? Think about it.
Have you ever noticed the dogs in the monastery ground here? There are packs of them.
They run around biting each other, some of them even getting maimed. In another month or
so they'll be at it. As soon as one of the smaller ones gets into the pack the bigger ones
are at him...out he comes yelping, dragging his leg behind him. But when the pack runs on
he hobbles on after it. He's only a little one, but he thinks he'll get his chance one
day. They bite his leg for him and that's all he gets for his trouble. For the whole of
the mating season he may not even get one chance. You can see this for yourself in the
These dogs when they run around howling in packs...I figure if they were humans they'd
be singing songs! They think it's such great fun they're singing songs, but they don't
have a clue what it is that makes them do it, they just blindly follow their instincts.
Think about this carefully. If you really want to practice you should understand your
feelings. For example, among the monks, novices or laypeople, who should you socialize
with? If you associate with people who talk a lot they induce you to talk a lot also. Your
own share is already enough, theirs is even more...put them together and they explode!
People like to socialize with those who chatter a lot and talk of frivolous things.
They can sit and listen to that for hours. When it comes to listening to Dhamma, talking
about practice, there isn't much of it to be heard. Like when giving a Dhamma talk: As
soon as I start off..."Namo Tassa Bhagavato' 
...they're all sleepy already. They don't take in the talk at all. When I reach the
"Evam" they all open their eyes and wake up. Every time there's a Dhamma talk
people fall asleep. How are they going to get any benefit from it?
Real Dhamma cultivators will come away from a talk feeling inspired and uplifted, they
learn something. Every six or seven days the teacher gives another talk, constantly
boosting the practice.
This is your chance, now that you are ordained. There's only this one chance, so take a
close look. Look at things and consider which path you will choose. You are independent
now. Where are you going to go from here? You are standing at the crossroads between the
worldly way and the Dhamma way. Which way will you choose? You can take either way, this
is the time to decide. The choice is yours to make. If you are to be liberated it is at
In the Dead of Night...
Take a look at your fear...One day, as it was nearing nightfall, there was nothing else
for it...If I tried to reason with myself I'd never go, so I grabbed a pa-kow and
"If it's time for it to die then let it die. If my mind is going to be so stubborn
and stupid then let it die"...that's how I thought to myself. Actually in my heart I
didn't really want to go but I forced myself to. When it comes to things like this, if you
wait till everything's just right you'll end up never going. When would you ever train
yourself? So I just went.
I'd never stayed in a charnel ground before. When I got there, words can't describe the
way I felt. The pa-kow wanted to camp right next to me but I wouldn't have it. I
made him stay far away. Really I wanted him to stay close to keep me company but I
wouldn't have it. I made him move away, otherwise I'd have counted on him for support.
"If it's going to be so afraid then let it die tonight."
I was afraid, but I dared. It's not that I wasn't afraid, but I had courage. In the end
you have to die anyway.
Well, just as it was getting dark I had my chance, in they came carrying a corpse. Just
my luck! I couldn't even feel my feet touch the ground, I wanted to get out of there so
badly. They wanted me to do some funeral chants but I wouldn't get involved, I just walked
away. In a few minutes, after they'd gone, I just walked back and found that they had
buried the corpse right next to my spot, making the bamboo used for carrying it into a bed
for me to stay on.
So now what was I do? It's not that the village was nearby, either, a good two or three
"Well, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die"...If you've never dared to do
it you'll never know what it's like. It's really an experience.
As it got darker and darker I wondered where there was to run to in the middle of that
"Oh, let it die. One is born to this life only to die, anyway."
As soon as the sun sank the night told me to get inside my glot.  I didn't want to do any walking meditation, I only wanted to get into my
net. Whenever I tried to walk towards the grave it was as if something was pulling me back
from behind, to stop me from walking. It was as if my feelings of fear and courage were
having a tug-of-war with me. But I did it. This is the way you must train yourself.
When it was dark I got into my mosquito net. It felt as if I had a seven-tiered wall
all around me. Seeing my trusty alms bowl there beside me was like seeing an old friend.
Even a bowl can be a friend sometimes! Its presence beside me was comforting. I had a bowl
for a friend at least.
I sat in my net watching over the body all night. I didn't lie down or even doze off, I
just sat quietly. I couldn't be sleepy even if I wanted to, I was so scared. Yes, I was
scared, and yet I did it. I sat through the night.
Now who would have the guts to practice like this? Try it and see. When it comes to
experiences like this who would dare to go and stay in a charnel ground? If you don't
actually do it you don't get the results, you don't really practice. This time I really
When day broke I felt, "Oh! I've survived!" I was so glad, I just wanted to
have daytime, no night time at all. I wanted to kill off the night and leave only
daylight. I felt so good, I had survived. I thought, "Oh, there's nothing to it, it's
just my own fear, that's all."
After almsround and eating the meal I felt good, the sunshine came out, making me feel
warm and cozy. I had a rest and walked a while. I thought, "This evening I should
have some good, quiet meditation, because I've already been through it all last night.
There's probably nothing more to it."
Then, later in the afternoon, wouldn't you know it? In comes another one, a big one
this time.  They brought the corpse in and cremated it
right beside my spot, right in front of my glot. This was even worse than last
"Well, that's good," I thought, "bringing in this corpse to burn here is
going to help my practice."
But still I wouldn't go and do any rites for them, I waited for them to leave first
before taking a look.
Burning that body for me to sit and watch over all night, I can't tell you how it was.
Words can't describe it. Nothing I could say could convey the fear I felt. In the dead of
night, remember. The fire from the burning corpse flickered red and green and the flames
pattered softly. I wanted to do walking meditation in front of the body but could hardly
bring myself to do it. Eventually I got into my net. The stench from the burning flesh
lingered all through the night.
And this was before things really started to happen...As the flames flickered softly I
turned my back on the fire.
I forgot about sleep, I couldn't even think of it, my eyes were fixed rigid with fear.
And there was nobody to turn to, there was only me. I had to rely on myself. I could think
of nowhere to go, there was nowhere to run to in that pitch black night.
"Well, I'll sit and die here. I'm not moving from this spot."
Here, talking of the ordinary mind, would it want to do this? Would it take you to such
a situation? If you tried to reason it out you'd never go. Who would want to do such a
thing? If you didn't have strong faith in the teaching of the Buddha you'd never do it.
Now, about 10 p.m., I was sitting with my back to the fire. I don't know what it was,
but there came a sound of shuffling from the fire behind me. Had the coffin just
collapsed? Or maybe a dog was getting the corpse? But no, it sounded more like a buffalo
walking steadily around.
"Oh, never min..."
But then it started walking towards me, just like a person!
It walked up behind me, the footsteps heavy, like a buffalo's, and yet not...The leaves
crunched under the footsteps as it made its way round to the front. Well, I could only
prepare for the worst, where else was there to go? But it didn't really come up to me, it
just circled around in front and then went off in the direction of the pa-kow. Then
all was quiet. I don't know what it was, but my fear made me think of many possibilities.
It must have been about half-an-hour later, I think, when the footsteps started coming
back from the direction of the pa-kow. Just like a person! It came right up to me,
this time, heading for me as if to run me over! I closed my eyes and refused to open them.
"I'll die with my eyes closed."
It got closer and closer until it stopped dead in front of me and just stood stock
still. I felt as if it were waving burnt hands back and forth in front of my closed eyes.
Oh! This was really it! I threw out everything, forgot all about Buddho, Dhammo and
Sangho. I forgot everything else, there was only the fear in me, stacked in full to the
brim. My thoughts couldn't go anywhere else, there was only fear. From the day I was born
I had never experienced such fear. Buddho and Dhammo had disappeared, I don't know where.
There was only fear welling up inside my chest until it felt like a tightly-stretched
"Well, I'll just leave it as it is, there's nothing else to do."
I sat as if I wasn't even touching the ground and simply noted what was going on. The
fear was so great that it filled me, like a jar completely filled with water. If you pour
water until the jar is completely full, and then pour some more, the jar will overflow.
Likewise, the fear built up so much within me that it reached its peak and began to
"What am I so afraid of anyway?" a voice inside me asked.
"I'm afraid of death," another voice answered.
"Well, then, where is this thing 'death'? Why all the panic? Look where death
abides. Where is death?"
"Why, death is within me!"
"If death is within you, then where are you going to run to escape it? If you run
away you die, if you stay here you die. Wherever you go it goes with you because death
lies within you, there's nowhere you can run to. Whether you are afraid or not you die
just the same, there's nowhere to escape death."
As soon as I had thought this, my perception seemed to change right around. All the
fear completely disappeared as easily as turning over one's own hand. It was truly
amazing. So much fear and yet it could disappear just like that! Non-fear arose in its
place. Now my mind rose higher and higher until I felt as if I was in the clouds.
As soon as I had conquered the fear, rain began to fall. I don't know what sort of rain
it was, the wind was so strong. But I wasn't afraid of dying now. I wasn't afraid that the
branches of the trees might come crashing down on me. I paid it no mind. The rain
thundered down like a hot-season torrent, really heavy. By the time the rain had stopped
everything was soaking wet.
I sat unmoving.
So what did I do next, soaking wet as I was? I cried! The tears flowed down my cheeks.
I cried as I thought to myself,
"Why am I sitting here like some sort of orphan or abandoned child, sitting,
soaking in the rain like a man who owns nothing, like an exile?"
And then I thought further, "All those people sitting comfortably in their homes
right now probably don't even suspect that there is a monk sitting, soaking in the rain
all night like this. What's the point of it all?" Thinking like this I began to feel
so thoroughly sorry for myself that the tears came gushing out.
"They're not good things anyway, these tears, let them flow right on out until
they're all gone."
This was how I practiced.
Now I don't know how I can describe the things that followed. I sat...sat and listened.
After conquering my feelings I just sat and watched as all manner of things arose in me,
so many things that were possible to know but impossible to describe. And I thought of the
Buddha's words...Paccattam veditabbo vi˝˝uhi --
"the wise will know for themselves."
That I had endured such suffering and sat through the rain like this...who was there to
experience it with me? Only I could know what it was like. There was so much fear and yet
the fear disappeared. Who else could witness this? The people in their homes in the town
couldn't know what it was like, only I could see it. It was a personal experience. Even if
I were to tell others they wouldn't really know, it was something for each individual to
experience for himself. The more I contemplated this the clearer it became. I became
stronger and stronger, my conviction become firmer and firmer, until daybreak.
When I opened my eyes at dawn, everything was yellow. I had been wanting to urinate
during the night but the feeling had eventually stopped. When I got up from my sitting in
the morning everywhere I looked was yellow, just like the early morning sunlight on some
days. When I went to urinate there was blood in the urine!
"Eh? Is my gut torn or something?" I got a bit of fright..."Maybe it's
really torn inside there."
"Well, so what? If it's torn it's torn, who is there to blame?" a voice told
me straight away. "If it's torn it's torn, if I die I die. I was only sitting here, I
wasn't doing any harm. If it's going to burst, let it burst," the voice said.
My mind was as if arguing or fighting with itself. One voice would come from one side,
saying, "Hey, this is dangerous!" Another voice would counter it, challenge it
and over-rule it.
My urine was stained with blood.
"Hmm. Where am I going to find medicine?"
"I'm not going to bother with that stuff. A monk can't cut plants for medicine
anyway. If I die, I die, so what? What else is there to do? If I die while practicing like
this then I'm ready. if I were to die doing something bad that's no good, but to die
practicing like this I'm prepared."
Don't follow your moods. Train yourself. The practice involves putting your very life
at stake. You must have cried at least two or three times. That's right, that's the
practice. If you're sleepy and want to lie down then don't let it sleep. Make the
sleepiness go away before you lie down. But look at you all, you don't know how to
Sometimes, when you come back from almsround and you're contemplating the food before
eating, you can't settle down, your mind is like a mad dog. The saliva flows, you're so
hungry. Sometimes you may not even bother to contemplate, you just dig in. That's a
disaster. If the mind won't calm down and be patient then just push your bowl away and
don't eat. Train yourself, drill yourself, that's practice. Don't just keep on following
your mind. Push your bowl away, get up and leave, don't allow yourself to eat. If it
really wants to eat so much and acts so stubborn then don't let it eat. The saliva will
stop flowing. If the defilements know that they won't get anything to eat they'll get
scared. They won't dare bother you next day, they'll be afraid they won't get anything to
eat. Try it out if you don't believe me.
People don't trust the practice, they don't dare to really do it. They're afraid
they'll go hungry, afraid they'll die. If you don't try it out you won't know what it's
about. Most of us don't dare to do it, don't dare to try it out, we're afraid.
When it comes to eating and the like I've suffered over them for a long time now so I
know what they're about. And that's only a minor thing as well. So this practice is not
something one can study easily.
Consider: What is the most important thing of all? There's nothing else, just death.
Death is the most important thing in the world. Consider, practice, inquire...If you don't
have clothing you won't die. If you don't have betel nut to chew or cigarettes to smoke
you still won't die. But if you don't have rice or water, then you will die. I see only
these two things as being essential in this world. You need rice and water to nourish the
body. So I wasn't interested in anything else, I just contented myself with whatever was
offered. As long as I had rice and water it was enough to practice with, I was content.
Is that enough for you? All those other things are extras, whether you get them or not
doesn't matter, the only really important things are rice and water.
"If I live like this can I survive?" I asked myself, "There's enough to
get by on all right. I can probably get at least rice on almsround in just about any
village, a mouthful from each house. Water is usually available. Just these two are
enough..." I didn't aim to be particularly rich.
In regards to the practice, right and wrong are usually co-existent. You must dare to
do it, dare to practice. If you've never been to a charnel ground you should train
yourself to go. If you can't go at night then go during the day. Then train yourself to go
later and later until you can go at dusk and stay there. Then you will see the effects of
the practice, then you will understand.
This mind has been deluded now for who knows how many lifetimes. Whatever we don't like
or love we want to avoid, we just indulge in our fears. And then we say we're practicing.
This can't be called "practice." If it's real practice you'll even risk your
life. If you've really made up your mind to practice why would you take an interest in
petty concerns?..."I only got a little, you got a lot." "You quarreled with
me so I'm quarreling with you..." I had none of these thoughts because I wasn't
looking for such things. Whatever others did was their business. Going to other
monasteries I didn't get involved in such things. However high or low others practiced I
wouldn't take any interest, I just looked after my own business. And so I dared to
practice, and the practice gave rise to wisdom and insight.
If your practice has really hit the spot then you really practice. Day or night you
practice. At night, when it's quiet, I'd sit in meditation, then come down to walk,
alternating back and forth like this at least two or three times a night. Walk, then sit,
then walk some more...I wasn't bored, I enjoyed it.
Sometimes it'd be raining softly and I'd think of the times I used to work the rice
paddies. My pants would still be wet from the day before but I'd have to get up before
dawn and put them on again. Then I'd have to go down to below the house to get the buffalo
out of its pen. All I could see of the buffalo would be covered in buffalo shit. Then the
buffalo's tail would be sore with athlete's foot and I'd walk along thinking, "Why is
life so miserable?" And now here I was walking meditation...what was a little bit of
rain to me? Thinking like this I encouraged myself in the practice.
If the practice has entered the stream then there's nothing to compare with it. There's
no suffering like the suffering of a Dhamma cultivator and there's no happiness like the
happiness of one either. There's no zeal to compare with the zeal of the cultivator and
there's no laziness to compare with them either. Practicers of the Dhamma are tops. That's
why I say if you really practice it's a sight to see.
But most of us just talk about practice without having done it or reached it. Our
practice is like the man whose roof is leaking on one side so he sleeps on the other side
of the house. When the sunshine comes in on that side he rolls over to the other side, all
the time thinking, "When will I ever get a decent house like everyone else?" If
the whole roof leaks then he just gets up and leaves. This is not the way to do things,
but that's how most people are.
This mind of ours, these defilements...if you follow them they'll cause trouble. The
more you follow them the more the practice degenerates. With the real practice sometimes
you even amaze yourself with your zeal. Whether other people practice or not, don't take
any interest, simply do your own practice consistently. Whoever comes or goes it doesn't
matter, just do the practice. You must look at yourself before it can be called
"practice." When you really practice there are no conflicts in your mind, there
is only Dhamma.
Wherever you are still inept, wherever you are still lacking, that's where you must
apply yourself. If you haven't yet cracked it don't give up. Having finished with one
thing you get stuck on another, so persist with it until you crack it, don't let up. Don't
be content until it's finished. Put all your attention on that point. While sitting, lying
down or walking, watch right there.
It's just like a farmer who hasn't yet finished his fields. Every year he plants rice
but this year he still hasn't gotten it finished, so his mind is stuck on that, he can't
rest content. His work is still unfinished. Even when he's with friends he can't relax,
he's all the time nagged by his unfinished business. Or like a mother who leaves her baby
upstairs in the house while she goes to feed the animals below: she's always got her baby
in mind, lest it should fall from the house. Even though she may do other things, her baby
is never far from her thoughts.
It's just the same for us and our practice -- we never forget it. Even though we may do
other things our practice is never far from our thoughts, it's constantly with us, day and
night. It has to be like this if you are really going to make progress.
In the beginning you must rely on a teacher to instruct and advise you. When you
understand, then practice. When the teacher has instructed you follow the instructions. If
you understand the practice it's no longer necessary for the teacher to teach you, just do
the work yourselves. Whenever heedlessness or unwholesome qualities arise know for
yourself, teach yourself. Do the practice yourself. The mind is the one who knows, the
witness. The mind knows for itself if you are still very deluded or only a little deluded.
Wherever you are still faulty try to practice right at that point, apply yourself to it.
Practice is like that. It's almost like being crazy, or you could even say you are
crazy. When you really practice you are crazy, you "flip." You have distorted
perception and then you adjust your perception. If you don't adjust it, it's going to be
just as troublesome and just as wretched as before.
So there's a lot of suffering in the practice, but if you don't know your own suffering
you won't understand the Noble Truth of Suffering. To understand suffering, to kill it
off, you first have to encounter it. If you want to shoot a bird but don't go out and find
it how will you ever to shoot it? Suffering, suffering...the Buddha taught about
suffering: The suffering of birth, the suffering you won't see suffering. If you don't
understand suffering you won't be able to get rid of suffering.
Now people don't want to see suffering, they don't want to experience it. If they
suffer here they run over there. You see? They're simply dragging their suffering around
with them, they never kill it. They don't contemplate or investigate it. If they feel
suffering here they run over there; if it arises there they run back here. They try to run
away from suffering physically. As long as you are still ignorant, wherever you go you'll
find suffering. Even if you boarded an airplane to get away from it, it would board the
plane with you. If you dived under the water it would dive in with you, because suffering
lies within us. But we don't know that. If it lies within us where can we run to escape
People have suffering in one place so they go somewhere else. When suffering arises
there they run off again. They think they're running away from suffering but they're not,
suffering goes with them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don't know
the cause of suffering then we can't know the cessation of suffering, there's no way we
can escape it.
You must look into this intently until you're beyond doubt. You must dare to practice.
Don't shirk it, either in a group or alone. If others are lazy it doesn't matter. Whoever
does a lot of walking meditation, a lot of practice...I guarantee results. If you really
practice consistently, whether others come or go or whatever, one rains retreat is enough.
Do it like I've been telling you here. Listen to the teacher's words, don't quibble, don't
be stubborn. Whatever he tells you to do go right ahead and do it. You needn't be timid of
the practice, knowledge will surely arise from it.
Practice is also patipada. What is patipada? Practice evenly,
consistently. Don't practice like Old Reverend Peh. One Rains Retreat he determined to
stop talking. He stopped talking all right but then he started writing
notes..."Tomorrow please toast me some rice." He wanted to eat toasted rice! He
stopped talking but ended up writing so many notes that he was even more scattered than
before. One minute he'd write one thing, the next another, what a farce!
I don't know why he bothered determining not to talk. He didn't know what practice is.
Actually our practice is to be content with little, to just be natural. Don't worry
whether you feel lazy or diligent. Don't even say "I'm diligent" or "I'm
lazy." Most people practice only when they feel diligent, if they feel lazy they
don't bother. This is how people usually are. But monks shouldn't think like that. If you
are diligent you practice, when you are lazy you still practice. Don't bother with other
things, cut them off, throw them out, train yourself. Practice consistently, whether day
or night, this year, next year, whatever the time...don't pay attention to thoughts of
diligence or laziness, don't worry whether it's hot or cold, just do it. This is called sammapatipada
-- Right Practice.
Some people really apply themselves to the practice for six or seven days, then, when
they don't get the results they wanted, give it up and revert completely, indulging in
chatter, socializing and whatever. Then they remember the practice and go at it for
another six or seven days, then give it up again...It's like the way some people work. At
first they throw themselves into it...then, when they stop, they don't even bother picking
up their tools, they just walk off and leave them there. Later on, when the soil has all
caked up, they remember their work and do a bit more, only to leave it again.
Doing things this way you'll never get a decent garden or paddy. Our practice is the
same. If you think this patipada is unimportant you won't get anywhere with the
practice. Sammapatipada is unquestionably important. Do it constantly. Don't listen
to your moods. So what if your mood is good or not? The Buddha didn't bother with those
things. He had experienced all the good things and bad things, the right things and wrong
things. That was his practice. Taking only what you like and discarding whatever you don't
like isn't practice, it's disaster. Wherever you go you will never be satisfied, wherever
you stay there will be suffering.
Practicing like this is like the Brahmans making their sacrifices. Why do they do it?
Because they want something in exchange. Some of us practice like this. Why do we
practice? Because we seek re-birth, another state of being, we want to attain something.
If we don't get what we want then we don't want to practice, just like the Brahmans making
their sacrifices. They do so because of desire.
The Buddha didn't teach like that. The cultivation of the practice is for giving up,
for letting go, for stopping, for uprooting. You don't do it for re-birth into any
There was once a Thera who had initially gone forth into the Mahanikai sect. But he
found it not strict enough so he took Dhammayuttika ordination. 
Then he started practicing. Sometimes he would fast for fifteen days, then when he ate
he'd eat only leaves and grass. He thought that eating animals was bad kamma, that
it would be better to eat leaves and grass.
After a while..."Hmm. Being a monk is not so good, it's inconvenient. It's hard to
maintain my vegetarian practice as a monk. Maybe I'll disrobe and become a pa-kow."
So he disrobed and became a pa-kow so that he could gather the leaves and grass for
himself and dig for roots and yams. He carried on like that for a while till in the end he
didn't know what he should be doing. He gave it all up. He gave up being a monk, gave up
being a pa-kow, gave up everything. These days I don't know what he's doing. Maybe
he's dead, I don't know. This is because he couldn't find anything to suit his mind. He
didn't realize that he was simply following defilements. The defilements were leading him
on but he didn't know it.
"Did the Buddha disrobe and become a pa-kow? How did the Buddha practice?
What did he do?" He didn't consider this. Did the Buddha go and eat leaves and grass
like a cow? Sure, if you want to eat like that go ahead, if that's all you can manage, but
don't go round criticizing others. Whatever standard of practice you find suitable then
persevere with that. "Don't gouge or carve too much or you won't have a decent
handle."  You'll be left with nothing and in the end
just give up.
Some people are like this. When it comes to walking meditation they really go at it for
fifteen days or so. They don't even bother eating, just walk. Then when they finish that
they just lie around and sleep. They don't bother considering carefully before they start
to practice. In the end nothing suits them. Being a monk doesn't suit them, being a pa-kow
doesn't suit them...so they end up with nothing.
People like this don't know practice, they don't look into the reasons for practicing.
Think about what you're practicing for. They teach this practice for throwing off. The
mind wants to love this person and hate that person...these things may arise but don't
take them for real. So what are we practicing for? Simply so that we can give up these
very things. Even if you attain peace, throw out the peace. If knowledge arises, throw out
the knowledge. If you know then you know, but if you take that knowing to be your own then
you think you know something. Then you think you are better than others. After a while you
can't live anywhere, wherever you live problems arise. If you practice wrongly it's just
as if you didn't practice at all.
Practice according to your capacity. Do you sleep a lot? Then try going against the
grain. Do you eat a lot? Then try eating less. Take as much practice as you need, using sila,
samadhi and pa˝˝a as your basis. Then throw in the dhutanga
practices also. These dhutanga  practices are for
digging into the defilements. You may find the basic practices still not enough to really
uproot the defilements, so you have to incorporate the dhutanga practices as well.
These dhutanga practices are really useful. Some people can't kill off the
defilements with basic sila and samadhi, they have to bring in the dhutanga
practices to help out. The dhutanga practices cut off many things. Living at the
foot of a tree...Living at the foot of a tree isn't against the precepts. But if you
determine the dhutanga practice of living in a charnel ground and then don't do it,
that's wrong. Try it out. What's like to live in a charnel ground? Is it the same as
living in a group?
DHU-TAN-GA: This translates as "the practices which are hard to do."
These are the practices of the Noble Ones. Whoever wants to be a Noble One must use the dhutanga
practices to cut the defilements. It's difficult to observe them and it's hard to find
people with the commitment to practice them, because they go against the grain.
Such as with robes; they say to limit your robes to the basic three robes; to maintain
yourself on almsfood; to eat only in the bowl; to eat only what you get on almsround, if
anyone brings food to offer afterwards you don't accept it.
Keeping this last practice in central Thailand is easy, the food is quite adequate,
because there they put a lot of food in your bowl. But when you come to the Northeast here
this dhutanga takes on subtle nuances -- here you get plain rice! In these parts
the tradition is to put only plain rice in the almsbowl. In central Thailand they give
rice and other foods also, but around these parts you get only plain rice. This dhutanga
practice becomes really ascetic. You eat only plain rice, whatever is brought to offer
afterwards you don't accept. Then there is eating once a day, at one sitting, from only
one bowl -- when you've finished eating you get up from your seat and don't eat again that
These are called dhutanga practices. Now who will practice them? It's hard these
days to find people with enough commitment to practice them because they are demanding,
but that is why they are so beneficial.
What people call practice these days is not really practice. If you really practice
it's no easy matter. Most people don't dare to really practice, don't dare to really go
against the grain. They don't want to do anything which runs contrary to their feelings.
People don't want to resist the defilements, they don't want to dig at them or get rid of
In our practice they say not to follow your own moods. Consider: we have been fooled
for countless lifetimes already into believing that the mind is our own. Actually it
isn't, it's just an impostor. It drags us into greed, drags us into aversion, drags us
into delusion, drags us into theft, plunder, desire and hatred. These things aren't ours.
Just ask yourself right now: do you want to be good? Everybody wants to be good. Now doing
all these things, is that good? There! People commit malicious acts and yet they want to
be good. That's why I say these things are tricksters, that's all they are.
The Buddha didn't want us to follow this mind, he wanted us to train it. If it goes one
way then take cover another way. When it goes over there then take cover back here. To put
it simply: whatever the mind wants, don't let it have it. It's as if we've been friends
for years but we finally reach a point where our ideas are no longer the same. We split up
and go our separate ways. We no longer understand each other, in fact we even argue, so we
break up. That's right, don't follow your own mind. Whoever follows his own mind, follows
its likes and desires and everything else, that person hasn't yet practiced at all.
This is why I say that what people call practice is not really practice...it's
disaster. if you don't stop and take a look, don't try the practice, you won't see, you
won't attain the Dhamma. To put it straight, in our practice you have to commit your very
life. It's not that it isn't difficult, this practice, it has to entail some suffering.
Especially in the first year or two, there's a lot of suffering. The young monks and
novices really have a hard time.
I've had a lot of difficulties in the past, especially with food. What can you expect?
Becoming a monk at twenty when you are just getting into your food and sleep...some days I
would sit alone and just dream of food. I'd want to eat bananas in syrup, or papaya salad,
and my saliva would start to run. This is part of the training. All these things are not
easy. This business of food and eating can lead one into a lot of bad kamma. Take
someone who's just growing up, just getting into his food and sleep, and constrain him in
these robes and his feelings run amok. It's like damming a flowing torrent, sometimes the
dam just breaks. If it survives that's fine, but if not it just collapses.
My meditation in the first year was nothing else, just food. I was so
restless...Sometimes I would sit there and it was almost as if I was actually popping
bananas into my mouth. I could almost feel myself breaking the bananas into pieces and
putting them in my mouth. And this is all part of the practice.
So don't be afraid of it. We've all been deluded for countless lifetimes now so coming
to train ourselves, to correct ourselves, is no easy matter. But if it's difficult it's
worth doing. Why should we bother with easy things? So those things that are difficult,
anybody can do the easy things. We should train ourselves to do that which is difficult.
It must have been the same for Buddha. If he had just worried about his family and
relatives, his wealth and his past sensual pleasures, he'd never have become the Buddha.
These aren't trifling matters, either, they're just what most people are looking for. So
going forth at an early age and giving up these things is just like dying. And yet some
people come up and say, "Oh, it's easy for you, Luang Por. You never had a wife and
children to worry about, so it's easier for you!" I say, "Don't get too close to
me when you say that or you'll get a clout over the head!"...as if I didn't have a
heart or something!
When it comes to people it's no trifling matter. It's what life is all about. So we
Dhamma practicers should earnestly get into the practice, really dare to do it. Don't
believe others, just listen to the Buddha's teaching. Establish peace in your hearts. In
time you will understand. Practice, reflect, contemplate, and the fruits of the practice
will be there. The cause and the result are proportional.
Don't give in to your moods. In the beginning even finding the right amount of sleep is
difficult. You may determine to sleep a certain time but can't manage it. You must train
yourself. Whatever time you decide to get up, then get up as soon as it comes round.
Sometimes you can do it, but sometimes as soon as you awake you say to yourself "get
up!" and it won't budge! You may have to say to yourself, "One...Two...if I
reach the count three and still don't get up may I fall into hell!" You have to teach
yourself like this. When you get to three you'll get up immediately, you'll be afraid of
falling into hell.
You must train yourself, you can't dispense with the training. You must train yourself
from all angles. Don't just lean on your teacher, your friends or the group all the time
or you'll never become wise. It's not necessary to hear so much instruction, just hear the
teaching once or twice and then do it.
The well trained mind won't dare cause trouble, even in private. In the mind of the
adept there is no such thing as "private" or "in public." All Noble
Ones have confidence in their own hearts. We should be like this.
Some people become monks simply to find an easy life. Where does ease come from? What
is its cause? All ease has to be preceded by suffering. In all things it's the same: you
must work before you get rice. In all things you must first experience difficulty. Some
people become monks in order to rest and take it easy, they say they just want to sit
around and rest awhile. If you don't study the books do you expect to be able to read and
write? It can't be done.
This is why most people who have studied a lot and become monks never get anywhere.
Their knowledge is of a different kind, on a different path. They don't train themselves,
they don't look at their minds. They only stir up their minds with confusion, seeking
things which are not conducive to calm and restraint. The knowledge of the Buddha is not
worldly knowledge, it is supramundane knowledge, a different way altogether.
This is why whoever goes forth into the Buddhist monkhood must give up whatever level
or status or position they have held previously. Even when a king goes forth he must
relinquish his previous status, he doesn't bring that worldly stuff into the monkhood with
him to throw his weight around with. He doesn't bring his wealth, status, knowledge or
power into the monkhood with him. The practice concerns giving up, letting go, uprooting,
stopping. You must understand this in order to make the practice work.
If you are sick and don't treat the illness with medicine do you think the illness will
cure itself? Wherever you are afraid you should go. Wherever there is a cemetery or
charnel ground which is particularly fearsome, go there. Put on your robes, go there and
contemplate, Anicca vata sankhara...  Stand and
walk meditation there, look inward and see where your fear lies. It will be all too
obvious. Understand the truth of all conditioned things. Stay there and watch until dusk
falls and it gets darker and darker, until you are even able to stay there all night.
The Buddha said, "Whoever sees the Dhamma sees the Tathagata. Whoever sees
the Tathagata sees Nibbana." If we don't follow his example how will we
see the Dhamma? If we don't see the Dhamma how will we know the Buddha? If we don't see
the Buddha how will we know the qualities of the Buddha? Only if we practice in the
footsteps of the Buddha will we know that what the Buddha taught is utterly certain, that
the Buddha's teaching is the supreme truth.
Sense Contact -- the Fount of Wisdom
All of us have made up our minds to become bhikkhus and samaneras  in the Buddhist Dispensation in order to find peace. Now
what is true peace? True peace, the Buddha said, is not very far away, it lies right here
within us, but we tend to continually overlook it. People have their ideas about finding
peace but still tend to experience confusion and agitation, they still tend to be unsure
and haven't yet found fulfillment in their practice. They haven't yet reached the goal.
It's as if we have left our home to travel to many different places. Whether we get into a
car or board a boat, no matter where we go, we still haven't reached our home. As long as
we still haven't reached home we don't feel content, we still have some unfinished
business to take care of. This is because our journey is not yet finished, we haven't
reached our destination. We travel all over the place in search of liberation.
All of you bhikkhus and samaneras here want peace, every one of you. Even
myself, when I was younger, searched all over for peace. Wherever I went I couldn't be
satisfied. Going into forests or visiting various teachers, listening to Dhamma talks, I
could find no satisfaction. Why is this?
We look for peace in peaceful places, where there won't be sights, or sounds, or odors,
or flavors...thinking that living quietly like this is the way to find contentment, that
herein lies peace.
But actually, if we live very quietly in places where nothing arises, can wisdom arise?
Would we be aware of anything? Think about it. If our eye didn't see sights, what would
that be like? If the nose didn't experience smells, what would that be like? If the tongue
didn't experience flavors what would that be like? If the body didn't experience feelings
at all, what would that be like? To be like that would be like being a blind and deaf man,
one whose nose and tongue had fallen off and who was completely numb with paralysis. Would
there be anything there? And yet people tend to think that if they went somewhere where
nothing happened they would find peace. Well, I've thought like that myself, I once
thought that way...
When I was a young monk just starting to practice, I'd sit in meditation and sounds
would disturb me, I'd think to myself, "What can I do to make my mind peaceful?"
So I took some beeswax and stuffed my ears with it so that I couldn't hear anything. All
that remained was a humming sound. I thought that would be peaceful, but no, all that
thinking and confusion didn't arise at the ears after all. It arose at the mind. That is
the place to search for peace.
To put it another way, no matter where you go to stay, you don't want to do anything
because it interferes with your practice. You don't want to sweep the grounds or do any
work, you just want to be still and find peace that way. The teacher asks you to help out
with the chores or any of the daily duties but you don't put your heart into it because
you feel it is only an external concern.
I've often brought up the example of one of my disciples who was really eager to
"let go" and find peace. I taught about "letting go" and he
accordingly understood that to let go of everything would indeed be peaceful. Actually
right from the day he had come to stay here he didn't want to do anything. Even when the
wind blew half the roof off his kuti he wasn't interested. He said that that was
just an external thing. So he didn't bother fixing it up. When the sunlight and rain
streamed in from one side he'd move over to the other side. That wasn't any business of
his. His business was to make his mind peaceful. That other stuff was a distraction, he
wouldn't get involved. That was how he saw it.
One day I was walking past and saw the collapsed roof.
"Eh? Whose kuti is this?"
Someone told me whose it was, and I thought, "Hmm. Strange..." So I had a
talk with him, explaining many things, such as the duties in regard to our dwellings, the senasanavatta.
"We must have a dwelling place, and we must look after it. "Letting go"
isn't like this, it doesn't mean shirking our responsibilities. That's the action of a
fool. The rain comes in on one side so you move over to the other side, then the sunshine
comes out and you move back to that side. Why is that? Why don't you bother to let go
there?" I gave him a long discourse on this; then when I'd finished, he said,
"Oh, Luang Por, sometimes you teach me to cling and sometimes you teach me to let
go. I don't know what you want me to do. Even when my roof collapses and I let go to this
extent, still you say it's not right. And yet you teach me to let go! I don't know what
more you can expect of me..."
You see? People are like this. They can be as stupid as this.
Are there visual objects within the eye? If there are no external visual objects would
our eyes see anything? Are their sounds within our ears if external sounds don't make
contact? If there are no smells outside would we experience them. Where are the causes?
Think about what the Buddha said: All dhammas 
arise because of causes. If we didn't have ears would we experience sounds? If we had no
eyes would we be able to see sights? Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind -- these are
the causes. It is said that all dhammas arise because of conditions, when they
cease it's because the causal conditions have ceased. For resulting conditions to arise,
the causal conditions must first arise.
If we think that peace lies where there are no sensations would wisdom arise? Would
there be causal and resultant conditions? Would we have anything to practice with? If we
blame the sounds, then where there are sounds we can't be peaceful. We think that place is
no good. Wherever there are sights we say that's not peaceful. If that's the case then to
find peace we'd have to be one whose senses have all died, blind, and deaf. I thought
"Hmm. This is strange. Suffering arises because of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body
and mind. So should we be blind? If we didn't see anything at all maybe that would be
better. One would have no defilements arising if one were blind, or deaf. Is this the way
But, thinking about it, it wall all wrong. If that was the case then blind and deaf
people would be enlightened. They would all be accomplished if defilements arose at the
eyes and ears. There are the causal conditions. Where things arise, at the cause, that's
where we must stop them. Where the cause arises, that's where we must contemplate.
Actually, the sense bases of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind are all things
which can facilitate the arising of wisdom, if we know them as they are. If we don't
really know them we must deny them, saying we don't want to see sights, hear sounds, and
so on, because they disturb us. If we cut off the causal conditions what are we going to
contemplate? Think about it. Where would there be any cause and effect? This is wrong
thinking on our part.
This is why we are taught to be restrained. Restraint is sila. There is the sila
of sense restraint: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind: these are our sila,
and they are our samadhi. Reflect on the story Sariputta. At the time before he
became a bhikkhu he saw Assaji Thera going on almsround. Seeing him, Sariputta
"This monk is most unusual. He walks neither too fast nor too slow, his robes are
neatly worn, his bearing is restrained." Sariputta was inspired by him and so
approached Venerable Assaji, paid his respects and asked him,
"Excuse me, sir, who are you?"
"I am a samana."
"Who is your teacher?"
"Venerable Gotama is my teacher."
"What does Venerable Gotama teach?"
"He teaches that all things arise because of conditions.
When they cease it's because the causal conditions have ceased."
When asked about the Dhamma by Sariputta, Assaji explained only in brief, he talked
about cause and effect. Dhammas arise because of causes. The cause arises first and then
the result. When the result is to cease the cause must first cease. That's all he said,
but it was enough for Sariputta. 
Now this was a cause for the arising of Dhamma. At that time Sariputta had eyes, he had
ears, he had a nose, a tongue, a body and a mind. All his faculties were intact. If he
didn't have his faculties would there have been sufficient causes for wisdom to arise for
him? Would he have been aware of anything? But most of us are afraid of contact. Either
that or we like to have contact but we develop no wisdom from it: instead we repeatedly
indulge through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, delighting in and getting lost in
sense objects. This is how it is. These sense bases can entice us into delight and
indulgence or they can lead to knowledge and wisdom.
They have both harm and benefit, depending on our wisdom.
So now let us understand that, having gone forth and come to practice, we should take
everything as practice. Even the bad things. We should know them all. Why? So that we may
know the truth. When we talk of practice we don't simply mean those things that are good
and pleasing to us. That's not how it is. In this world some things are to our liking,
some are not. These things all exist in this world, nowhere else. Usually whatever we like
we want, even with fellow monks and novices. Whatever monk or novice we don't like we
don't want to associate with, we only want to be with those we like. You see? This is
choosing according to our likes. Whatever we don't like we don't want to see or know
Actually the Buddha wanted us to experience these things. Lokavidu -- look at
this world and know it clearly. If we don't know the truth of the world clearly then we
can't go anywhere. Living in the world we must understand the world. The Noble Ones of the
past, including the Buddha, all lived with these things, they lived in this world, among
deluded people. They attained the truth right in this very world, nowhere else. They
didn't run off to some other world to find the truth. But they had wisdom. They restrained
their senses, but the practice is to look into all these things and know them as they are.
Therefore the Buddha taught us to know the sense bases, our points of contact. The eye
contacts forms and sends them "in" to become sights. The ears make contact with
sounds, the nose makes contact with odors, the tongue makes contact with tastes, the body
makes contact with tactile sensations, and so awareness arises. Where awareness arises is
where we should look and see things as they are. If we don;t know these things as they
really are we will either fall in love with them or hate them. Where these sensations
arise is where we can become enlightened, where wisdom can arise.
But sometimes we don't want things to be like that. The Buddha taught restraint, but
restraint doesn't mean we don't see anything, hear anything, smell, taste, feel or think
anything. That's not what it means. If practicers don't understand this then as soon as
they see or hear anything they cower and run away. They don't deal with things. They run
away, thinking that by so doing those things will eventually lose their power over them,
that they will eventually transcend them. But they won't. They won't transcend anything
like that. If they run away not knowing the truth of them, later on the same stuff will
pop up to be dealt with again.
For example, those practicers who are never content, be they in monasteries, forests,
or mountains. They wander on "dhutanga pilgrimage" looking at this, that
and the other, thinking they'll find contentment that way. They go, and then they come
back...didn't see anything. They try going to a mountain top..."Ah! This is the spot,
now I'm right." They feel at peace for a few days and then get tired of it. "Oh,
well, off to the seaside." "Ah, here it's nice and cool. This'll do me
fine." After a while they get tired of the seaside as well...Tired of the forests,
tired of the mountains, tired of the seaside, tired of everything. This is not being tired
of things in the right sense,  as Right View, it's simply
boredom, a kind of Wrong View. Their view is not in accordance with the way things are.
When they get back to the monastery..."Now, what will I do? I've been all over and
come back with nothing." So they throw away their bowls and disrobe. Why do they
disrobe? Because they haven't got any grip on the practice, they don't see anything; go to
the north and don't see anything; go to the seaside, to the mountains, into the forests
and still don't see anything. So it's all finished...they "die." This is how it
goes. It's because they're continually running away from things. Wisdom doesn't arise.
Now take another example. Suppose there is one monk who determines to stay with things,
not to run away. He looks after himself. He knows himself and also knows those who come to
stay with him. He's continually dealing with problems. For example, the Abbot. If one is
an Abbot of a monastery there are constant problems to deal with, there's a constant
stream of things that demand attention. Why so? Because people are always asking
questions. The questions never end, so you must be constantly on the alert. You are
constantly solving problems, your own as well as other people's. That is, you must be
constantly awake. Before you can doze off they wake you up again with another problem. So
this causes you to contemplate and understand things. You become skillful: skillful in
regard to yourself and skillful in regard to others. Skillful in many, many ways.
This skill arises from contact, from confronting and dealing with things, from not
running away. We don't run away physically but we "run away" in mind, using our
wisdom. We understand with wisdom right here, we don't run away from anything.
This is a source of wisdom. One must work, must associate with other things. For
instance, living in a big monastery like this we must all help out to look after the
things here. Looking at it in one way you could say that it's all defilement. Living with
lots of monks and novices, with many laypeople coming and going, many defilements may
arise. Yes, I admit...but we must live like this for the development of wisdom and the
abandonment of foolishness. Which way are we to go? Are we going to live in order to get
rid of foolishness or to increase our foolishness?
We must contemplate. Whenever eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind make contact we
should be collected and circumspect. When suffering arises, who is suffering? Why did this
suffering arise? The Abbot of a monastery has to supervise many disciples. Now that may be
suffering. We must know suffering when it arises. Know suffering. If we are afraid of
suffering and don't want to face it, where are we going to do battle with it? If suffering
arises and we don't know it, how are we going to deal with it? This is of utmost
importance -- we must know suffering.
Escaping from suffering means knowing the way out of suffering, it doesn't mean running
away from wherever suffering arises. By doing that you just carry your suffering with you.
When suffering arises again somewhere else you'll have to run away again. This is not
transcending suffering, it's not knowing suffering.
If you want to understand suffering you must look into the situation at hand. The
teachings say that wherever a problem arises it must be settled right there. Where
suffering lies is right where non-suffering will arise, it ceases at the place where it
arises. If suffering arises you must contemplate right there, you don't have to run away.
You should settle the issue right there. One who runs away from suffering out of fear is
the most foolish person of all. He will simply increases his stupidity endlessly.
We must understand: suffering is none other than the First Noble Truth, isn't that so?
Are you going to look on it as something bad? Dukkha sacca, samudaya sacca, nirodha
sacca, magga sacca...  Running away from these things
isn't practicing according to the true Dhamma. When will you ever see the Truth of
Suffering? If we keep running away from suffering we will never know it. Suffering is
something we should recognize -- if you don't observe it when will you ever recognize it?
Not being content here you run over there, when discontent arises there you run off again.
You are always running. If that's the way you practice you'll be racing with the Devil all
over the country!
The Buddha taught us to "run away" using wisdom. For instance: suppose you
had stepped on a thorn or splinter and it got embedded in your foot. As you walk it
occasionally hurts, occasionally not. Sometimes you may step on a stone or a stump and it
really hurts, so you feel around your foot. But not finding anything you shrug it off and
walk on a bit more. Eventually you step on something else, and the pain arises again.
Now this happens many times. What is the cause of that pain? The cause is that splinter
or thorn embedded in your foot. The pain is constantly near. Whenever the pain arises you
may take a look and feel around a bit, but, not seeing the splinter, you let it go. After
a while it hurts again so you take another look.
When suffering arises you must note it, don't just shrug it off. Whenever the pain
arises..."Hmm...that splinter is still there." Whenever the pain arises there
arises also the thought that that splinter has got to go. If you don't take it out there
will only be more pain later on. The pain keeps recurring again and again, until the
desire to take out that thorn is constantly with you. In the end it reaches a point where
you make up your mind once and for all to get out that thorn -- because it hurts!
Now our effort in the practice must be like this. Wherever it hurts, wherever there's
friction, we must investigate. Confront the problem, head on. Take that thorn out of your
foot, just pull it out. Wherever your mind gets stuck you must take note. As you look into
it you will know it, see it and experience it as it is.
But our practice must be unwavering and persistent. They call it viriyarambha --
putting forth constant effort. Whenever an unpleasant feeling arises in your foot, for
example, you must remind yourself to get out that thorn, don't give up your resolve.
Likewise, when suffering arises in our hearts we must have the unwavering resolve to try
to uproot the defilements, to give them up. This resolve is constantly there, unremitting.
Eventually the defilements will fall into our hands where we can finish them off.
So in regard to happiness and suffering, what are we to do? If we didn't have these
things what could we use as a cause to precipitate wisdom? If there is no cause how will
the effect arise? All dhammas arise because of causes. When the result ceases it's because
the cause has ceased. This is how it is, but most of us don't really understand. People
only want to run away from suffering. This sort of knowledge is short of the mark.
Actually we need to know this very world that we are living in, we don't have to run away
anywhere. You should have the attitude that to stay is fine...and to go is fine. Think
about this carefully.
Where do happiness and suffering lie? Whatever we don't hold fast to, cling to or fix
on to, as if it weren't there. Suffering doesn't arise. Suffering arises from existence (bhava).
If there is existence then there is birth. Upadana -- clinging or attachment --
this is the pre-requisite which creates suffering. Wherever suffering arises look into it.
Don't look too far away, look right into the present moment. Look at your own mind and
body. When suffering arises..."Why is there suffering?" Look right now. When
happiness arises, what is the cause of that happiness? Look right there. Wherever these
things arise be aware. Both happiness and suffering arise from clinging.
The cultivators of old saw their minds in this way. There is only arising and ceasing.
There is no abiding entity. They contemplated from all angles and saw that there was
nothing much to this mind, nothing is stable. There is only arising and ceasing, ceasing
and arising, nothing is of any lasting substance. While walking or sitting they saw things
in this way. Wherever they looked there was only suffering, that's all. It's just like a
big iron ball which has just been blasted in a furnace. It's hot all over. If you touch
the top it's hot, touch the sides and they're hot -- it's hot all over. There isn't any
place on it which is cool.
Now if we don't consider these things we know nothing about them. We must see clearly.
Don't get "born" into things, don't fall into birth. Know the workings of birth.
Such thoughts as, "Oh, I can't stand that person, he does everything wrongly,"
will no longer arise. Or, "I really like so and so...", these things don't
arise. There remain merely the conventional worldly standards of like and dislike, but
one's speech is one way, one's mind another. They are separate things. We must use the
conventions of the world to communicate with each other, but inwardly we must be empty.
The mind is above those things. We must bring the mind to transcendence like this. This is
the abiding of the Noble Ones. We must all aim for this and practice accordingly. Don't
get caught up in doubts.
Before I started to practice, I thought to myself, "The Buddhist religion is here,
available for all, and yet why do only some people practice while others don't? Or if they
do practice, they do so only for a short while then give up. Or again those who don't give
it up still don't knuckle down and do the practice? Why is this?" So I resolved to
myself, "Okay...I'll give up this body and mind for this lifetime and try to follow
the teaching of the Buddha down to the last detail. I'll reach understanding in this very
lifetime...because if I don't I'll still be sunk in suffering. I'll let go of everything
else and make a determined effort, no matter how much difficulty or suffering I have to
endure, I'll persevere. If I don't do it I'll just keep on doubting."
Thinking like this I got down to practice. No matter how much happiness, suffering or
difficulty I had to endure I would do it. I looked on my whole life as if it was only one
day and a night. I gave it up. "I'll follow the teaching of the Buddha, I'll follow
the Dhamma to understanding -- Why is this world of delusion so wretched?" I wanted
to know, I wanted to master the Teaching, so I turned to the practice of Dhamma.
How much of the worldly life do we monastics renounce? If we have gone forth for good
then it means we renounce it all, there's nothing we don't renounce. All the things of the
world that people enjoy are cast off: sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings...we
throw them all away. And yet we experience them. So Dhamma practicers must be content with
little and remain detached. Whether in regard to speech, in eating or whatever, we must be
easily satisfied: eat simply, sleep simply, live simply. Just like they say, "an
ordinary person," one who lives simply. The more you practice the more you will be
able to take satisfaction in your practice. You will see into your own heart.
The Dhamma is paccattam, you must know it for yourself. To know for yourself
means to practice for yourself. You can depend on a teacher only fifty percent of the way.
Even the teaching I have given you today is completely useless in itself, even if it is
worth hearing. But if you were to believe it all just because I said so you wouldn't be
using the teaching properly.
If you believed me completely then you'd be foolish. To hear the teaching, see its
benefit, put it into practice for yourself, see it within yourself, do it yourself...this
is much more useful. You will then know the taste of Dhamma for yourself.
This is why the Buddha didn't talk about the fruits of the practice in much detail,
because it's something one can't convey in words. It would be like trying to describe
different colors to a person blind from birth, "Oh, it's so white," or
"it's bright yellow," for instance. You couldn't convey those colors to them.
You could try but it wouldn't serve much purpose.
The Buddha brings it back down to the individual -- see clearly for yourself. If you
see clearly for yourself you will have clear proof within yourself. Whether standing,
walking, sitting or reclining you will be free of doubt. Even if someone were to say,
"Your practice isn't right, it's all wrong," still you would be unmoved, because
you have your own proof.
A practicer of the Dhamma must be like this wherever he goes. Others can't tell you,
you must know for yourself. Sammaditthi, Right View, must be there. The practice
must be like this for every one of us. To do the real practice like this for even one
month out of five or ten rains retreats would be rare.
Our sense organs must be constantly working. Know content and discontent, be aware of
like and dislike. Know appearance and know transcendence. The Apparent and the
Transcendent must be realized simultaneously. Good and evil must be seen as co-existent,
arising together. This is the fruit of the Dhamma practice.
So whatever is useful to yourself and to others, whatever practice benefits both
yourself and others, is called "following the Buddha." I've talked about this
often. The things which should be done, people seem to neglect. For example, the work in
the monastery, the standards of practice and so on. I've talked about them often and yet
people don't seem to put their hearts into it. Some don't know, some are lazy and can't be
bothered, some are simply scattered and confused.
But that's a cause for wisdom to arise. If we go to places where none of these things
arise, what would we see? Take food, for instance. If food doesn't have any taste is it
delicious? If a person is deaf will he hear anything? If you don't perceive anything will
you have anything to contemplate? If there are no problems will there be anything to
solve? Think of the practice in this way.
Once I went to live up north. At that time I was living with many monks, all of them
elderly but newly ordained, with only two or three rains retreat. At the time I had ten
rains. Living with those old monks I decided to perform the various duties -- receiving
their bowls, washing their robes, emptying their spittoons and so on. I didn't think in
terms of doing it for any particular individual, I simply maintained my practice. If
others didn't do the duties I'd do them myself. I saw it as a good opportunity for me to
gain merit. It made me feel good and gave me a sense of satisfaction.
On the uposatha  days I knew the required
duties. I'd go and clean out the uposatha hall and set out water for washing and
drinking. The others didn't know anything about the duties, they just watched. I didn't
criticize them, because they didn't know. I did the duties myself, and having done them I
felt pleased with myself, I had inspiration and a lot of energy in my practice.
Whenever I could do something in the monastery, whether in my own kuti or
others," if it was dirty, I'd clean up. I didn't do it for anyone in particular, I
didn't do it to impress anyone, I simply did it to maintain a good practice. Cleaning a kuti
or dwelling place is just like cleaning rubbish out of your own mind.
Now this is something all of you should bear in mind. You don't have to worry about
harmony, it will automatically be there. Live together with Dhamma, with peace and
restraint, train your mind to be like this and no problems will arise. If there is heavy
work to be done everybody helps out and in no long time the work is done, it gets taken
care of quite easily. That's the best way.
I have come across some other types, though...although I used it as an opportunity to
grow. For instance, living in a big monastery, the monks and novices may agree among
themselves to wash robes on a certain day. I'd go and boil up the jackfruit wood.  Now there'd be some monks who'd wait for someone else to
boil up the jackfruit wood and then come along and wash their robes, take them back to
their kutis, hang them out and then take a nap. They didn't have to set up the
fire, didn't have to clean up afterwards...they thought they were on a good thing, that
they were being clever. This is the height of stupidity. These people are just increasing
their own stupidity because they don't do anything, they leave all the work up to others.
They wait till everything is ready then come along and make use of it, it's easy for them.
This is just adding to one's foolishness. Those actions serve no useful purpose whatsoever
Some people think foolishly like this. They shirk the required duties and think that
this is being clever, but it is actually very foolish. If we have that sort of attitude we
Therefore, whether speaking, eating or doing anything whatsoever, reflect on yourself.
You may want to live comfortably, eat comfortably, sleep comfortably and so on, but you
can't. What have we come here for? If we regularly reflect on this we will be heedful, we
won't forget, we will be constantly alert. Being alert like this you will put forth effort
in all postures. If you don't put forth effort things go quite differently...Sitting, you
sit like you're in the town, walking, you walk like you're in the town...you just want to
go and play around in the town with the laypeople.
If there is no effort in the practice the mind will tend in that direction. You don't
oppose and resist your mind, you just allow it to waft along the wind of your moods. This
is called following one's moods. Like a child, if we indulge all its wants will it be a
good child? If the parents indulge all their child's wishes is that good? Even if they do
indulge it somewhat at first, by the time it can speak they may start to occasionally
spank it because they're afraid it'll end up stupid. The training of our mind must be like
this. You have to know yourself and how to train yourself. If you don't know how to train
your own mind, waiting around expecting someone else to train it for you, you'll end up in
So don't think that you can't practice in this place. Practice has no limits. Whether
standing, walking, sitting or lying down, you can always practice. Even while sweeping the
monastery grounds or seeing a beam of sunlight, you can realize the Dhamma. But you must
have sati at hand. Why so? Because you can realize the Dhamma at any time at all, in any
place, if you ardently meditate.
Don't be heedless. Be watchful, be alert. While walking on almsround there are all
sorts of feelings arising, and it's all good Dhamma. When you get back to the monastery
and are eating your food there's plenty of good Dhamma for you to look into. If you have
constant effort all these things will be objects for contemplation, there will be wisdom,
you will see the dhamma. This is called dhamma-vicaya, reflecting on Dhamma. It's
one of the enlightenment factors.  If there is sati,
recollection, there will be dhamma-vicaya as a result. These are factors of
enlightenment. If we have recollection then we won't simply take it easy, there will also
be inquiry into Dhamma. These things become factors for realizing the Dhamma.
If we have reached this stage then our practice will know neither day or night, it will
continue on regardless of the time of day. There will be nothing to taint the practice, or
if there is we will immediately know it. Let there be dhamma-vicaya within our
minds constantly, looking into Dhamma. If our practice has entered the flow the mind will
tend to be like this. It won't go off after other things..."I think I'll go for a
trip over there, or perhaps this other place...over in that province should be
interesting..." That's the way of the world. Not long and the practice will die.
So resolve yourselves. It's not just by sitting with your eyes closed that you develop
wisdom. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are constantly with us, so be constantly
alert. Study constantly. Seeing trees or animals can all be occasions for study. Bring it
all inwards. See clearly within your own heart. If some sensation makes impact on the
heart, witness it clearly for yourself, don't simply disregard it.
Take a simple comparison: baking bricks. have you ever seen a brick-baking oven? They
build the fire up about two or three feet in front of the oven, then the smoke all gets
drawn into it. Looking at this illustration you can more clearly understand the practice.
Making a brick kiln in the right way you have to make the fire so that all the smoke gets
drawn inside, none is left over. All the heat goes into the oven, and the job gets done
We Dhamma practicers should experience things in this way. all our feelings will be
drawn inwards to be turned into Right View. Seeing sights, hearing sounds, smelling odors,
tasting flavors and so on, the mind draws them all inward to be converted into Right View.
Those feelings thus become experiences which give rise to wisdom.
"Not Sure!" -- The Standard of the Noble Ones
There was once a western monk, a student of mine. Whenever he saw Thai monks and
novices disrobing he would say, "Oh, what a shame! Why do they do that? Why do so
many of the Thai monks and novices disrobe?" He was shocked. He would get saddened at
the disrobing of the Thai monks and novices, because he had only just come into contact
with Buddhism. He was inspired, he was resolute. Going forth as a monk was the only thing
to do, he thought he'd never disrobe. Whoever disrobed was a fool. He'd see the Thais
taking on the robes at the beginning of the Rains Retreat as monks and novices and then
disrobing at the end of it..."Oh, how sad! I feel so sorry for those Thai monks and
novices. How could they do such a thing?"
Well, as time went by some of the western monks began to disrobe, so he came to see it
as something not so important after all. At first, when he had just begun to practice, he
was excited about it. He thought that it was really important thing, to become a monk. He
thought it would be easy.
When people are inspired it all seems to be so right and good. There's nothing there to
gauge their feelings by, so they go ahead and decide for themselves. But they don't really
know what practice is. Those who do know will have a thoroughly firm foundation within
their hearts -- but even so they don't need to advertise it.
As for myself, when I was first ordained I didn't actually do much practice, but I had
a lot of faith. I don't know why, maybe it was there from birth. The monks and novices who
went forth together with me, come the end of the Rains, all disrobed. I thought to myself,
"Eh? What is it with these people?" However, I didn't dare say anything to them
because I wasn't yet sure of my own feelings, I was too stirred up. But within me I felt
that they were all foolish. "It's difficult to go forth, easy to disrobe. These guys
don't have much merit, they think that the way of the world is more useful than the way of
Dhamma." I thought like this but I didn't say anything, I just watched my own mind.
I'd see the monks who'd gone forth with me disrobing one after the other. Sometimes
they'd dress up and come back to the monastery to show off. I'd see them and think they
were crazy, but they thought they looked snappy. When you disrobe you have to do this and
that...I'd think to myself that that way of thinking was wrong. I wouldn't say it, though,
because I myself was still an uncertain quantity. I still wasn't sure how long my faith
When my friends had all disrobed I dropped all concern, there was nobody left to
concern myself with. I picked up the Patimokkha 
and got stuck into learning that. There was nobody left to distract me and waste my time,
so I put my heart into the practice. Still I didn't say anything because I felt that to
practice all one's life, maybe seventy, eighty or even ninety years, and to keep up a
persistent effort, without slackening up or losing one's resolve, seemed like an extremely
difficult thing to do.
Those who went forth would go forth, those who disrobed would disrobe. I'd just watch
it all. I didn't concern myself whether they stayed or went. I'd watch my friends leave,
but the feeling I had within me was that these people didn't see clearly. That western
monk probably thought like that. he'd see people become monks for only one Rains Retreat,
and get upset.
Later on he reached a stage we call...bored; bored with the Holy Life. He let go of the
practice and eventually disrobed.
"Why are you disrobing? Before, when you saw the Thai monks disrobing you'd say,
'Oh, what a shame! How sad, how pitiful.' Now, when you yourself want to disrobe, why
don't you feel sorry now?"
He didn't answer. He just grinned sheepishly.
When it comes to the training of the mind it isn't easy to find a good standard if you
haven't yet developed a "witness" within yourself. In most external matters we
can rely on others for feedback, there are standards and precedents. But when it comes to
using the Dhamma as a standard...do we have the Dhamma yet? Are we thinking rightly or
not? And even if it's right, do we know how to let go of rightness or are we still
clinging to it?
You must contemplate until you reach the point where you let go, this is the important
thing...until you reach the point where there isn't anything left, where there is neither
good nor bad. You throw it off. This means you throw out everything. If it's all gone then
there's no remainder; if there's some remainder then it's not all gone.
So in regard to this training of the mind, sometimes we may say it's easy. it's easy to
say, but it's hard to do, very hard. It's hard in that it doesn't conform to our desires.
Sometimes it seems almost as if the angels  were helping
us out. Everything goes right, whatever we think or say seems to be just right. Then we go
and attach to that rightness and before long we go wrong and it all turns bad. This is
where it's difficult. We don't have a standard to gauge things by.
People who have a lot of faith, who are endowed with confidence and belief but are
lacking in wisdom, may be very good at samadhi but they may not have much insight.
They see only one side of everything, and simply follow that. They don't reflect. This is
blind faith. In Buddhism we call this Saddha adhimokkha, blind faith. They have
faith all right but it's not born of wisdom. But they don't see this at the time, they
believe they have wisdom, so they don't see where they are wrong.
Therefore they teach about the Five Powers (Bala): Saddha, viriya, sati,
samadhi, pa˝˝a. Saddha is conviction; viriya is diligent
effort; sati is recollection; samadhi is fixedness of mind; pa˝˝a
is all-embracing knowledge. Don't say that pa˝˝a is simply knowledge -- pa˝˝a
is all-embracing, consummate knowledge.
The wise have given these five steps to us so that we can link them, firstly as an
object of study, then as a gauge to compare to the state of our practice as it is. For
example, saddha, conviction. Do we have conviction, have we developed it yet? Viriya:
do we have diligent effort or not? Is our effort right or is it wrong? We must consider
this. Everybody has some sort of effort, but does our effort contain wisdom or not?
Sati is the same. Even a cat has sati. When it sees a mouse, sati
is there. The cat's eyes stare fixedly at the mouse. This is the sati of a cat.
Everybody has sati, animals have it, delinquents have it, sages have it.
Samadhi, fixedness of mind -- everybody has this as well. A cat has it when its
mind is fixed on grabbing the mouse and eating it. It has fixed intent. That sati
of the cat's is sati of a sort; samadhi, fixed intent on what it is doing,
is also there. Pa˝˝a, knowledge, like that of human beings. It knows as an animal
knows, it has enough knowledge to catch mice for food.
These five things are called powers. Have these Five Powers arisen from Right View, sammaditthi,
or not? Saddha, viriya, sati, samadhi, pa˝˝a -- have
these arisen from Right View? What is Right View? What is our standard for gauging Right
View? We must clearly understand this.
Right View is the understanding that all these things are uncertain. Therefore the
Buddha and all the Noble Ones don't hold fast to them. They hold, but not fast. They don't
let that holding become an identity. The holding which doesn't lead to becoming is that
which isn't tainted with desire. Without seeking to become this or that there is simply
the practice itself. When you hold on to a particular thing is there enjoyment, or is
there displeasure? If there is pleasure, do you hold on to that pleasure? If there is
dislike, do you hold on to that dislike?
Some views can be used as principles for gauging our practice more accurately. Such as
knowing such views as that one is better than others, or equal to others, or more foolish
than others, as all wrong views. We may feel these things but we also know them with
wisdom, that they simply arise and cease. Seeing that we are better than others is not
right; seeing that we are equal to others is not right; seeing that we are inferior to
others is not right.
The right view is the one that cuts through all of this. So where do we go to? If we
think we are better than others, pride arises. It's there but we don't see it. If we think
we are equal to others, we fail to show respect and humility at the proper times. If we
think we are inferior to others we get depressed, thinking we are inferior, born under a
bad sign and so on. We are still clinging to the Five Khandhas,  it's all simply becoming and birth.
This is one standard for gauging ourselves by. Another one is: if we encounter a
pleasant experience we feel happy, if we encounter a bad experience we are unhappy. Are we
able to look at both the things we like and the things we dislike as having equal value?
Measure yourself against this standard. In our everyday lives, in the various experiences
we encounter, if we hear something which we like, does our mood change? If we encounter an
experience which isn't to our liking, does our mood change? Or is the mind unmoved?
Looking right here we have a gauge.
Just know yourself, this is your witness. Don't make decisions on the strength of your
desires. Desires can puff us up into thinking we are something which we're not. We must be
There are so many angles and aspects to consider, but the right way is not to follow
your desires, but the Truth. We should know both the good and the bad, and when we know
them to let go of them. If we don't let go we are still there, we still "exist,"
we still "have." If we still "are" then there is a remainder, there
are becoming and birth in store.
Therefore the Buddha said to judge only yourself, don't judge others, no matter how
good or evil they may be. The Buddha merely points out the way, saying "The truth is
like this." Now, is our mind like that or not?
For instance, suppose a monk took some things belonging to another monk, then that
other monk accused him, "You stole my things." "I didn't steal them, I only
took them." So we ask a third monk to adjudicate. How should he decide? He would have
to ask the offending monk to appear before the convened Sangha. "Yes, I took it, but
I didn't steal it." Or in regard to other rules, such as parajika or sanghadisesa
offenses: "Yes, I did it, but I didn't have intention." How can you believe
that? It's tricky. If you can't believe it, all you can do is leave the onus with the
doer, it rests on him.
But you should know that we can't hide the things that arise in our minds. You can't
cover them up, either the wrongs or the good actions. Whether actions are good or evil,
you can't dismiss them simply by ignoring them, because these things tend to reveal
themselves. They conceal themselves, they reveal themselves, they exist in and of
themselves. They are all automatic. This is how things work.
Don't try to guess at or speculate about these things. As long as there is still avijja
(unknowing) they are not finished with. The Chief Privy Councilor once asked me,
"Luang Por, is the mind of an anagami  pure
"It's partly pure."
"Eh? An anagami has given up sensual desire, how is his mind not yet
"He may have let go of sensual desire, but there is still something remaining,
isn't there? There is still avijja. If there is still something left then there is
still something left. It's like the bhikkhus' alms bowls. There are "a large-size
large bowl; a medium-sized large bowl, a small-sized large bowl; then a large-sized medium
bowl, a medium-sized medium bowl, a small-sized medium bowl; then there are a large-sized
small bowl, a medium-sized small bowl and a small-sized small bowl...No matter how small
it is there is still a bowl there, right? That's how it is with this...sotapanna,
sakadagami, anagami... they have all given up certain defilements, but only to their
respective levels. Whatever still remains, those Noble Ones don't see. If they could they
would all be arahants. They still can't see all. Avijja is that which
doesn't see. If the mind of the anagami was completely straightened out he wouldn't
be an anagami, he would be fully accomplished. But there is still something
"Is his mind purified?"
"Well, it is somewhat, but not 100%."
How else could I answer? He said that later on he would come and question me about it
further. He can look into it, the standard is there.
Don't be careless. Be alert. The Lord Buddha exhorted us to be alert. In regards to
this training of the heart, I've had my moments of temptation too, you know. I've often
been tempted to try many things but they've always seemed like they're going astray of the
path. It's really just a sort of swaggering in one's mind, a sort of conceit. Ditthi,
views, and mana, pride, are there. It's hard enough just to be aware of these two
There was once a man who wanted to become a monk here. He carried in his robes,
determined to become a monk in memory of his late mother. He came into the monastery, laid
down his robes, and without so much as paying respects to the monks, started walking
meditation right in front of the main hall...back and forth, back and forth, like he was
really going to show his stuff.
I thought, "Oh, so there are people around like this, too!" This is called saddha
adhimokkha -- blind faith. He must have determined to get enlightened before sundown
or something, he thought it would be so easy. He didn't look at anybody else, just put his
head down and walked as if his life depended on it. I just let him carry on, but I
thought, "Oh, man, you think it's that easy or something?" In the end I don't
know how long he stayed, I don't even think he ordained.
As soon as the mind thinks of something we send it out, send it out every time. We
don't realize that it's simply the habitual proliferation of the mind. It disguises itself
as wisdom and waffles off into minute detail. This mental proliferation seems very clever,
if we didn't know we would mistake it for wisdom. But when it comes to the crunch it's not
the real thing. When suffering arises where is that so-called wisdom then? Is it of any
use? It's only proliferation after all.
So stay with the Buddha. As I've said before many times, in our practice we must turn
inwards and find the Buddha. Where is the Buddha? The Buddha is still alive to this very
day, go in and find him. Where is he? At aniccam, go in and find him there, go and
bow to him: aniccam, uncertainty. You can stop right there for starters.
If the mind tries to tell you, "I'm a sotapanna now," go and bow to
the sotapanna. He'll tell you himself, "It's all uncertain." If you meet
a sakadagami go and pay respects to him. When he sees you he'll simply say
"Not a sure thing!" If there is an anagami go and bow to him. He'll tell
you only one thing..."Uncertain." If you meet even an arahant, go and bow
to him, he'll tell you even more firmly, "It's all even more uncertain!" You'll
hear the words of the Noble Ones..."Everything is uncertain, don't cling to
Don't just look at the Buddha like a simpleton. Don't cling to things, holding fast to
them without letting go. Look at things as functions of the Apparent and then send them on
to Transcendence. That's how you must be. There must be Appearance and there must be
So I say "Go to the Buddha." Where is the Buddha? The Buddha is the Dhamma.
All the teachings in this world can be contained in this one teaching: aniccam.
Think about it. I've searched for over forty years as a monk and this is all I could find.
That and patient endurance. This is how to approach the Buddha's teaching... aniccam:
it's all uncertain.
No matter how sure the mind wants to be, just tell it "Not sure!." Whenever
the mind wants to grab on to something as a sure thing, just say, "It's not sure,
it's transient." Just ram it down with this. Using the Dhamma of the Buddha it all
comes down to this. It's not that it's merely a momentary phenomenon. Whether standing,
walking, sitting or lying down, you see everything in that way. Whether liking arises or
dislike arises you see it all in the same way. This is getting close to the Buddha, close
to the Dhamma.
Now I feel that this is more valuable way to practice. All my practice from the early
days up to the present time has been like this. I didn't actually rely on the scriptures,
but then I didn't disregard them either. I didn't rely on a teacher but then I didn't
exactly "go it alone." My practice was all "neither this nor that."
Frankly it's a matter of "finishing off," that is, practicing to the finish
by taking up the practice and then seeing it to completion, seeing the Apparent and also
I've already spoken of this, but some of you may be interested to hear it again: if you
practice consistently and consider things thoroughly, you will eventually reach this
point...At first you hurry to go forward, hurry to come back, and hurry to stop. You
continue to practice like this until you reach the point where it seems that going forward
is not it, coming back is not it, and stopping is not it either! It's finished. This is
the finish. Don't expect anything more than this, it finishes right here. Khinasavo
-- one who is completed. He doesn't go forward, doesn't retreat and doesn't stop. There's
no stopping, no going forward and no coming back. It's finished. Consider this, realize it
clearly in your own mind. Right there you will find that there is really nothing at all.
Whether this is old or new to you depends on you, on your wisdom and discernment. One
who has no wisdom or discernment won't be able to figure it out. Just take a look at
trees, like mango or jackfruit trees. If they grow up in a clump, one tree may get bigger
first and then the others will bend away, growing outwards from that bigger one. Why does
this happen? Who tells them to do that? This is Nature. Nature contains both the good and
the bad, the right and the wrong. It can either incline to the right or incline to the
wrong. If we plant any kind of trees at all close together, the trees which mature later
will branch away from the bigger tree. How does this happen? Who determines it thus? This
is Nature, or Dhamma.
Likewise, tanha, desire, leads us to suffering. Now, if we contemplate it, it
will lead us out of desire, we will outgrow tanha. By investigating tanha we
will shake it up, making it gradually lighter and lighter until it's all gone. The same as
the trees: does anybody order them to grow the way they do? They can't talk or move around
and yet they know how to grow away from obstacles. Wherever it's cramped and crowded and
growing will be difficult, they bend outwards.
Right here is Dhamma, we don't have to look at a whole lot. One who is astute will see
the Dhamma in this. Trees by nature don't know anything, they act on natural laws, yet
they do know enough to grow away from danger, to incline towards a suitable place.
Reflective people are like this. We go forth into the homeless life because we want to
transcend suffering. What is it that make us suffer? If we follow the trail inwards we
will find out. That which we like and that which we don't like are suffering. If they are
suffering then don't go so close to them. Do you want to fall in love with conditions or
hate them?...they're all uncertain. When we incline towards the Buddha all this comes to
an end. Don't forget this. And patient endurance. Just these two are enough. If you have
this sort of understanding this is very good.
Actually in my own practice I didn't have a teacher to give as much teachings as all of
you get from me. I didn't have many teachers. I ordained in an ordinary village temple and
lived in village temples for quite a few years. In my mind I conceived the desire to
practice, I wanted to be proficient, I wanted to train. There wasn't anybody giving any
teaching in those monasteries but the inspiration to practice arose. I traveled and I
looked around. I had ears so I listened, I had eyes so I looked. Whatever I heard people
say, I'd tell myself, "Not sure." Whatever I saw, I told myself, "Not
sure," or when the tongue contacted sweet, sour, salty, pleasant or unpleasant
flavors, or feelings of comfort or pain arose in the body, I'd tell myself, "This is
not a sure thing"! And so I lived with Dhamma.
In truth it's all uncertain, but our desires want things to be certain. what can we do?
We must be patient. The most important thing is khanti, patient endurance. Don't
throw out the Buddha, what I call "uncertainty" -- don't throw that away.
Sometimes I'd go to see old religious sites with ancient monastic buildings, designed
by architects, built by craftsmen. In some places they would be cracked. Maybe one of my
friends would remark, "Such a shame, isn't it? It's cracked." I'd answer,
"If that weren't the case then there'd be no such thing as the Buddha, there'd be no
Dhamma. It's cracked like this because it's perfectly in line with the Buddha's
teaching." Really down inside I was also sad to see those buildings cracked but I'd
throw off my sentimentality and try to say something which would be of use to my friends,
and to myself. Even though I also felt that it was a pity, still I tended towards the
"If it wasn't cracked like that there wouldn't be any Buddha!"
I'd say it really heavy for the benefit of my friends...or perhaps they weren't
listening, but still I was listening.
This is a way of considering things which is very, very useful. For instance, say
someone were to rush in and say, "Luang Por! Do you know what so and so just said
about you?" or, "He said such and such about you..." Maybe you even start
to rage. As soon as you hear words of criticism you start getting these moods every step
of the way. As soon as we hear words like this we may start getting ready to retaliate,
but on looking into the truth of the matter we may find that...no, they had said something
else after all.
And so it's another case of "uncertainty." So why should we rush in and
believe things? Why should we put our trust so much in what others say? Whatever we hear
we should take note, be patient, look into the matter carefully...stay straight.
It's not that whatever pops into our heads we write it all down as some sort of truth.
Any speech which ignores uncertainty is not the speech of a sage. Remember this. As for
being wise, we are no longer practicing. Whatever we see or hear, be it pleasant or
sorrowful, just say "This is not sure!" Say it heavy to yourself, hold it all
down with this. Don't build those things up into major issues, just keep them all down to
this one. This point is the important one. This is the point where defilements die.
Practicers shouldn't dismiss it.
If you disregard this point you can expect only suffering, expect only mistakes. If you
don't make this a foundation for your practice you are going to go wrong...but then you
will come right again later on, because this principle is a really good one.
Actually the real Dhamma, the gist of what I have been saying today, isn't so
mysterious. Whatever you experience is simply form, simply feeling, simply perception,
simply volition, and simply consciousness. There are only these basic qualities, where is
there any certainty within them?
If we come to understand the true nature of things like this, lust, infatuation and
attachment fade away. why do they fade away? Because we understand, we know. We shift from
ignorance to understanding. Understanding is born from ignorance, knowing is born from
unknowing, purity is born from defilement. It works like this.
Not discarding aniccam, the Buddha -- This is what it means to say that the
Buddha is still alive. To stay that the Buddha has passed into Nibbana is not
necessarily true. In a more profound sense the Buddha is still alive. It's much like how
we define the word "bhikkhu." If we define it as "one who
asks,"  the meaning is very broad. We can define it
this way, but to use this definition too much is not so good -- we don't know when to stop
asking! If we were to define this word in a more profound way we would say: "Bhikkhu
-- one who sees the danger of Samsara."
Isn't this more profound? It doesn't go in the same direction as the previous
definition, it runs much deeper. The practice of Dhamma is like this. If you don't fully
understand it, it becomes something else again. It becomes priceless, it becomes a source
When we have sati we are close to the Dhamma. If we have sati we will see
aniccam, the transience of all things. We will see the Buddha and transcend the
suffering of samsara, if not now then sometime in the future.
If we throw away the attribute of the Noble Ones, the Buddha or the Dhamma, our
practice will become barren and fruitless. We must maintain our practice constantly,
whether we are working or sitting or simply lying down. When the eye sees form, the ear
hears sound, the nose smells an odor, the tongue tastes a flavor or the body experiences
sensation...in all things, don't throw away the Buddha, don't stray from the Buddha.
This is to be one who has come close to the Buddha, who reveres the Buddha constantly.
We have ceremonies for revering the Buddha, such as chanting in the morning Araham
Samma Sambuddho Bhagava... This is one way of revering the Buddha but it's not
revering the Buddha in such a profound way as I've described here. It's the same as with
that word "bhikkhu." If we define it as "one who asks" then
they keep on asking...because it's defined like that. To define it in the best way we
should say "Bhikkhu -- one who sees the danger of samsara."
Now revering the Buddha is the same. Revering the Buddha by merely reciting Pali
phrases as a ceremony in the mornings and evenings is comparable to defining the word "bhikkhu"
as "one who asks." If we incline towards annicam, dukkham and anatta  whenever the eye sees form, the ear hears sound, the nose
smells an odor, the tongue tastes a flavor, the body experiences sensation or the mind
cognizes mental impressions, at all times, this is comparable to defining the word
"bhikkhu" as "one who sees the danger of samsara." It's so much
more profound, cuts through so many things. If we understand this teaching we will grow in
wisdom and understanding.
This is called patipada. Develop this attitude in the practice and you will be
on the right path. If you think and reflect in this way, even though you may be far from
your teacher you will still be close to him. If you live close to the teacher physically
but your mind has not yet met him you will spend your time either looking for his faults
or adulating him. If he does something which suits you, you say he's no good -- and that's
as far as your practice goes. You won't achieve anything by wasting your time looking at
someone else. But if you understand this teaching you can become a Noble One in the
That's why this year  I've distanced myself from my
disciples, both old and new, and not given much teaching: so that you can all look into
things for yourselves as much as possible. For the newer monks I've already laid down the
schedule and rules of the monastery, such as: "don't talk too much." Don't
transgress the existing standards, the path to realization, fruition and nibbana. Anyone
who transgresses these standards is not a real practicer, not one who has with a pure
intention to practice. What can such a person ever hope to see? Even if he slept near me
every day he wouldn't see me. Even if he slept near the Buddha he wouldn't see the Buddha,
if he didn't practice.
So knowing the Dhamma or seeing the Dhamma depends on practice. Have confidence, purify
your own heart. If all the monks in this monastery put awareness into their respective
minds we wouldn't have to reprimand or praise anybody. We wouldn't have to be suspicious
of or favor anybody. If anger or dislike arise just leave them at the mind, but see them
Keep on looking at those things. As long as there is still something there it means we
still have to dig and grind away right there. Some say "I can't cut it, I can't do
it," -- if we start saying things like this there will only be a bunch of punks here,
because nobody cuts at their own defilements.
You must try. If you can't yet cut it, dig in deeper. Dig at the defilements, uproot
them. Dig them out even if they seem hard and fast. The Dhamma is not something to be
reached by following your desires. Your mind may be one way, the truth another. You must
watch up front and keep a lookout behind as well. That's why I say, "It's all
uncertain, all transient."
This truth of uncertainty, this short and simple truth, at the same time so profound
and faultless, people tend to ignore. They tend to see things differently. Don't cling to
goodness, don't cling to badness. These are attributes of the world. We are practicing to
be free of the world, so bring these things to an end. The Buddha taught to lay them down,
to give them up, because they only cause suffering.
When the group of five ascetics  abandoned the Buddha,
he saw it as a stroke of luck, because he would be able to continue his practice
unhindered. With the five ascetics living with him, things weren't so peaceful, he had
responsibilities. And now the five ascetics had abandoned him because they felt that he
had slackened his practice and reverted to indulgence. Previously he had been intent on
his ascetic practices and self-mortification. In regards to eating, sleeping and so on, he
had tormented himself severely, but it came to a point where, looking into it honestly, he
saw that such practices just weren't working. It was simply a matter of views, practicing
out of pride and clinging. He had mistaken worldly values and mistaken himself for the
For example if one decides to throw oneself into ascetic practices with the intention
of gaining praise -- this kind of practice is all "world-inspired," practicing
for adulation and fame. Practicing with this kind of intention is called "mistaking
worldly ways for truth."
Another way to practice is "to mistake one's own views for truth." You only
believe yourself, in your own practice. No matter what others say you stick to your own
preferences. You don't carefully consider the practice. this is called "mistaking
oneself for truth."
Whether you take the world or take yourself to be truth, it's all simply blind
attachment. The Buddha saw this, and saw that there was no "adhering to the
Dhamma," practicing for the truth. So his practice had been fruitless, he still
hadn't given up defilements.
Then he turned around and reconsidered all the work he had put into practice right from
the beginning in terms of results. What were the results of all that practice? Looking
deeply into it he saw that it just wasn't right. It was full of conceit, and full of the
world. There was no dhamma, no insight into anatta (not self) no emptiness or
letting go. There may have been letting go of a kind, but it was the kind that still
hadn't let go.
Looking carefully at the situation, the Buddha saw that even if he were to explain
these things to the five ascetics they wouldn't be able to understand. It wasn't something
he could easily convey to them, because those ascetics were still firmly entrenched in the
old way of practice and seeing things. The Buddha saw that you could practice like that
until your dying day, maybe even starve to death, and achieve nothing, because such
practice is inspired by worldly values and by pride.
Considering deeply, he saw the right practice, samma patipada: the mind is the
mind, the body is the body. The body isn't desire or defilement. Even if you were to
destroy the body you wouldn't destroy defilements. That's not their source. Even fasting
and going without sleep until the body was a shrivelled-up wraith wouldn't exhaust the
defilements. But the belief that defilements could be dispelled in that way, the teaching
of self-mortification, was deeply ingrained into the five ascetics.
The Buddha then began to take more food, eating as normal, practicing in a more natural
way. When the five ascetics saw the change in the Buddha's practice they figured that he
had given up and reverted to sensual indulgence. One person's understanding was shifting
to a higher level, transcending appearances, while the other saw that that person's view
was sliding downwards, reverting to comfort. Self-mortification was deeply ingrained into
the minds of the five ascetics because the Buddha had previously taught and practiced like
that. Now he saw the fault in it. By seeing the fault in it clearly, he was able to let it
When the five ascetics saw the Buddha doing this they left him, feeling that he was
practicing wrongly and that they would no longer follow him. Just as birds abandon a tree
which no longer offers sufficient shade, or fish leave a pool of water that is too small,
too dirty or not cool, just so did the five ascetics abandon the Buddha.
So now the Buddha concentrated on contemplating the Dhamma. He ate more comfortably and
lived more naturally. He let the mind be simply the mind, the body simply the body. He
didn't force his practice in excess, just enough to loosen the grip of greed, aversion,
and delusion. Previously he had walked the two extremes: kamasukhallikanuyogo -- if
happiness or love arose he would be aroused and attach to them. He would identify with
them and wouldn't let go. If he encountered pleasantness he would stick to that, if he
encountered suffering he would stick to that. These two extremes he called kamasukhallikanuyogo
The Buddha had been stuck on conditions. He saw clearly that these two ways are not the
way for a samana. Clinging to happiness, clinging to suffering: a samana is
not like this. To cling to those things is not the way. Clinging to those things he was
stuck in the views of self and the world. If he were to flounder in these two ways he
would never become one who clearly knew the world. He would be constantly running from one
extreme to the other. Now the Buddha fixed his attention on the mind itself and concerned
himself with training that.
All facets of nature proceed according to their supporting conditions, they aren't any
problem in themselves. For instance, illnesses in the body. The body experiences pain,
sickness, fever and colds and so on. These all naturally occur. Actually people worry
about their bodies too much. That they worry about and cling to their bodies so much is
because of wrong view, they can't let go.
Look at this hall here. We build the hall and say it's ours, but lizards come and live
here, rats and geckoes come and live here, and we are always driving them away, because we
see that the hall belongs to us, not the rats and lizards.
It's the same with illnesses in the body. We take this body to be our home, something
that really belongs to us. If we happen to get a headache or stomach-ache we get upset, we
don't want the pain and suffering. These legs are "our legs," we don't want them
to hurt, these arms are "our arms," we don't want anything to go wrong with it.
We've got to cure all pains and illnesses at all costs.
This is where we are fooled and stray from the truth. We are simply visitors to this
body. Just like this hall here, it's not really ours. We are simply temporary tenants,
like the rats, lizards and geckoes...but we don't know this. This body is the same.
Actually the Buddha taught that there is no abiding self within this body but we go and
grasp on to it as being our self, as really being "us" and "them."
When the body changes we don't want it to do so. No matter how much we are told we don't
understand. If I say it straight you get even more fooled. "This isn't
yourself," I say, and you go even more astray, you get even more confused and your
practice just reinforces the self.
So most people don't really see the self. One who sees the self is one who sees that
"this is neither the self nor belonging to self." He sees the self as it is in
Nature. Seeing the self through the power of clinging is not real seeing. Clinging
interferes with the whole business. It's not easy to realize this body as it is because upadana
clings fast to it all.
Therefore it is said that we must investigate to clearly know with wisdom. This means
to investigate the sankhara  according to their
true nature. Use wisdom. To know the true nature of sankhara is wisdom. If you
don't know the true nature of sankhara you are at odds with them, always resisting
them. Now, it is better to let go of the sankhara or to try to oppose or resist
them. And yet we plead with them to comply with our wishes. We look for all sorts of means
to organize them or "make a deal" with them. If the body gets sick and is in
pain we don't want it to be, so we look for various Suttas to chant, such as Bojjhango,
the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta, the Anattalakkhanasutta and so on. We don't
want the body to be in pain, we want to protect it, control it. These Suttas become
some form of mystical ceremony, getting us even more entangled in clinging. This is
because they chant them in order to ward off illness, to prolong life and so on. Actually
the Buddha gave us these teachings in order to see clearly but we end up chanting them to
increase our delusion. Rupam aniccam, vedana anicca, sa˝˝a anicca, sankhara
anicca, vi˝˝anam aniccam...  We don't chant
these words for increasing our delusion. They are recollections to help us know the truth
of the body, so that we can let it go and give up our longing.
This is called chanting to cut things down, but we tend to chant in order to extend
them all, or if we feel they're too long we try chanting to shorten them, to force nature
to conform to our wishes. It's all delusion. All the people sitting there in the hall are
deluded, every one of them. The ones chanting are deluded, the ones listening are deluded,
they're all deluded! All they can think is "How can we avoid suffering?" Where
are they ever going to practice?
Whenever illnesses arise, those who know see nothing strange about it. Getting born
into this world entails experiencing illness. However, even the Buddha and the Noble Ones,
contracting illness in the course of things, would also, in the course of things, treat it
with medicine. For them it was simply a matter of correcting the elements. They didn't
blindly cling to the body or grasp at mystic ceremonies and such. They treated illnesses
with Right View, they didn't treat them with delusion. "If it heals, it heals, if it
doesn't then it doesn't" -- that's how they saw things.
They say that nowadays Buddhism in Thailand is thriving, but it looks to me like it's
sunk almost as far as it can go. The Dhamma Halls are full of attentive ears, but they're
attending wrongly. Even the senior members of the community are like this, so everybody
just leads each other into more delusion.
One who sees this will know that the true practice is almost opposite from where most
people are going, the two sides can barely understand each other. How are those people
going to transcend suffering? They have chants for realizing the truth but they turn
around and use them to increase their delusion. They turn their backs on the right path.
One goes eastward, the other goes west -- how are they ever going to meet? They're not
even close to each other.
If you have looked into this you will see that this is the case. Most people are lost.
But how can you tell them? Everything has become rites and rituals and mystic ceremonies.
they chant but they chant with foolishness, they don't chant with wisdom. They study, but
they study with foolishness, not with wisdom. They know, but they know foolishly, not with
wisdom. So they end up going with foolishness, living with foolishness, knowing with
foolishness. That's how it is. And teaching...all they do these days is teach people to be
stupid. They say they're teaching people to be clever, giving them knowledge, but when you
look at it in terms of truth, you see that they're really teaching people to go astray and
grasp at deceptions.
The real foundation of the teaching is in order to see atta, the self, as being
empty, having no fixed identity. It's void of intrinsic being. But people come to the
study of Dhamma to increase their self-view, so they don't want to experience suffering or
difficulty. They want everything to be cozy. They may want to transcend suffering, but if
there is still a self how can they ever do so?
Just consider...Suppose we came to possess a very expensive object. The minute that
thing comes into our possession our mind changes..."Now, where can I keep it? If I
leave it there somebody might steal it"...We worry ourselves into a state, trying to
find a place to keep it. And when did the mind change? It changed the minute we obtained
that object -- suffering arose right then. No matter where we leave that object we can't
relax, so we're left with trouble. Whether sitting, walking, or lying down, we are lost in
This is suffering. And when did it arise? It arose as soon as we understood that we had
obtained something, that's where the suffering lies. Before we had that object there was
no suffering. It hadn't yet arisen because there wasn't yet an object for it to cling to.
Atta, the self, is the same. if we think in terms of "my self," then
everything around us becomes "mine." Confusion follows. Why so? The cause of it
all is that there is a self, we don't peel off the apparent in order to see the
Transcendent. You see, the self is only an appearance. You have to peel away the
appearances in order to see the heart of the matter, which is Transcendence. Upturn the
apparent to find the Transcendent.
You could compare it to unthreshed rice. Can unthreshed rice be eaten? Sure it can, but
you must thresh it first. Get rid of the husks and you will find the grain inside.
Now if we don't thresh the husks we won't find the grain. Like a dog sleeping on the
pile of unthreshed grain. Its stomach is rumbling "jork-jork-jork," but all it
can do is lie there, thinking "Where can I get something to eat?" When it's
hungry it bounds off the pile of rice grain and runs off looking for scraps of food. Even
though it's sleeping right in top of a pile of food it knows nothing of it. Why? It can't
see the rice. Dogs can't eat unthreshed rice. The food is there but the dog can't eat it.
We may have learning but if we don't practice accordingly we still don't really know,
just as oblivious as the dog sleeping on the pile of rice grain. It's sleeping on a pile
of food but it knows nothing of it. When it gets hungry it's got to jump off and go
trotting around elsewhere for food. It's a shame, isn't it?
Now this is the same: there is rice grain but what is hiding it? The husk hides the
grain, so the dog can't eat it. And there is the Transcendent. What hides it? The Apparent
conceals the Transcendent, making people simply "sit on top of the pile of rice,
unable to eat it," unable to practice, unable to see the Transcendent. And so they
simply get stuck in appearances time and again. If you are stuck in appearances suffering
is in store, you will be beset by becoming, birth, old age, sickness and death.
So there isn't anything else blocking people off, they are blocked right here. People
who study the Dhamma without penetrating to its true meaning are just like the dog on the
pile of unthreshed rice who doesn't know the rice. He might even starve and still find
nothing to eat. A dog can't eat unthreshed rice, it doesn't even know there is food there.
After a long time without food it may even die...on top of that pile of rice! People are
like this. No matter how much we study the Dhamma of the Buddha we won't see it if we
don't practice. If we don't see it then we don't know it.
Don't go thinking that by learning a lot and knowing a lot you'll know the Buddha
Dhamma. That's like saying you've seen everything there is to see just because you've got
eyes, or that you've got ears. You may see but you don't see fully. You see only with the
"outer eye," not with the "inner eye'; you hear with the "outer
ear," not with the "inner ear."
If you upturn the apparent and reveal the Transcendent you will reach the truth and see
clearly. You will uproot the Apparent and uproot clinging.
But this is like some sort of sweet fruit: even though the fruit is sweet we must rely
on contact with and experience of that fruit before we will know what the taste is like.
Now that fruit, even though no-one tastes it, is sweet all the same. But nobody knows of
it. The Dhamma of the Buddha is like this. Even though it's the truth it isn't true for
those who don't really know it. No matter how excellent or fine it may be it is worthless
So why do people grab after suffering? Who in this world wants to inflict suffering on
themselves? No-one, of course. Nobody wants suffering and yet people keep creating the
causes of suffering, just as if they were wandering around looking for suffering. Within
their hearts people are looking for happiness, they don't want suffering. Then why is it
that this mind of ours creates so much suffering? Just seeing this much is enough. We
don't like suffering and yet why do we create suffering for ourselves? It's easy to
see...it can only be because we don't know suffering, don't know the end of suffering.
That's why people behave the way they do. How could they not suffer when they continue to
behave in this way?
These people have micchaditthi  but they don't
see that it's micchaditthi. Whatever we say, believe in or do which results in
suffering is all wrong view. If it wasn't wrong view it wouldn't result in
suffering. We couldn't cling to suffering, nor to happiness or to any condition at all. We
would leave things be their natural way, like a flowing stream of water. We don't have to
dam it up, just let it flow along its natural course.
The flow of Dhamma is like this, but the flow of the ignorant mind tries to resist the
Dhamma in the form of wrong view. And yet it flies off everywhere else, seeing wrong view,
that is, suffering is there because of wrong view -- this people don't see. This is worth
looking into. Whenever we have wrong view we will experience suffering. If we don't
experience it in the present it will manifest later on.
People go astray right here. What is blocking them off? The Apparent blocks off the
Transcendent, preventing people from seeing things clearly. People study, they learn, they
practice, but they practice with ignorance, just like a person who's lost his bearings. He
walks to the west but thinks he's walking east, or walks to the north thinking he's
walking south. This is how far people have gone astray. This kind of practice is really
only the dregs of practice, in fact it's a disaster. It's disaster because they turn
around and go in the opposite direction, they fall from the objective of true Dhamma
This state of affairs causes suffering and yet people think that doing this, memorizing
that, studying such-and-such will be a cause for the cessation of suffering. Just like a
person who wants a lot of things. He tries to amass as much as possible, thinking if he
gets enough his suffering will abate. This is how people think, but their thinking is
astray of the true path, just like one person going northward, another going southward,
and yet believing they're going the same way.
Most people are still stuck in the mass of suffering, still wandering in samsara,
just because they think like this. If illness or pain arise, all they can do is wonder how
they can get rid of it. They want it to stop as fast as possible, they've got to cure it
all costs. They don't consider that this is the normal way of sankhara. Nobody
thinks like this. The body changes and people can't endure it, they can't accept it,
they've got to get rid of it at all costs. However, in the end they can't win, they can't
beat the truth. It all collapses. This is something people don't want to look at, they
continually reinforce their wrong view.
Practicing to realize the Dhamma is the most excellent of things. Why did the Buddha
develop all the Perfections?  So that he could realize
this and enable others to see the Dhamma, know the Dhamma, practice the Dhamma and be the
Dhamma -- so that they could let go and not be burdened.
"Don't cling to things." Or to put it another way: "Hold, but don't hold
fast." This is also right. If we see something we pick it up..."Oh, it's
this"...then we lay it down. We see something else, pick it up...one holds, but not
fast. Hold it just long enough to consider it, to know it, then to let it go. If you hold
without letting go, carry without laying down the burden, then you are going to be heavy.
If you pick something up and carry it for a while, then when it gets heavy you should lay
it down, throw it off. Don't make suffering for yourself.
This we should know as the cause of suffering. If we know the cause of suffering,
suffering cannot arise. For either happiness or suffering to arise there must be the atta,
the self. There must be the "I" and "mine," there must be this
appearance. If when all these things arise the mind goes straight to the Transcendent, it
removes the appearances. It removes the delight, the aversion and the clinging from those
things. Just as when something that we value gets lost...when we find it again our worries
Even before we see that object our worries may be relieved. At first we think it's lost
and suffer over it, but there comes a day when we suddenly remember, "Oh, that's
right! I put it over there, now I remember!" As soon as we remember this, as soon as
we see the truth, even if we haven't laid eyes on that object, we feel happy. This is
called "seeing within," seeing with the mind's eye, not seeing with the outer
eye. If we see with the mind's eye then even though we haven't laid eyes on that object we
are already relieved.
This is the same, When we cultivate Dhamma practice and attain the Dhamma, see the
Dhamma, then whenever we encounter a problem we solve the problem instantly, right then
and there. It disappears completely, laid down, released.
Now the Buddha wanted us to contact the Dhamma, but people only contact the words, the
books and the scriptures. This is contacting that which is about Dhamma, not
contacting the actual Dhamma as taught by our Great Teacher. How can people say they are
practicing well and properly? They are a long way off.
The Buddha was known as lokavidu, having clearly realized the world. Right now
we see the world all right, but not clearly. The more we know the darker the world
becomes, because our knowledge is murky, it's not clear knowledge. It's faulty. This is
called "knowing through darkness," lacking in light and radiance.
People are only stuck here but it's no trifling matter. It's important. Most people
want goodness and happiness but they just don't know what the causes for that goodness and
happiness are. Whatever it may be, if we haven't yet seen the harm of it we can't give it
up. No matter how bad it may be, we still can't give it up if we haven't truly seen the
harm of it. However, if we really see the harm of something beyond a doubt then we can let
it go. As soon as we see the harm of something, and the benefit of giving it up, there's
an immediate change.
Why is it we are still unattained, still cannot let go? It's because we still don't see
the harm clearly, our knowledge is faulty, it's dark. that's why we can't let go. If we
knew clearly like the Lord Buddha or the arahant disciples we would surely let go, our
problems would dissolve completely with no difficulty at all.
When your ears hear sound, then let them do their job. When your eyes perform their
function with forms, then let them do so. When your nose works with smells, let it do its
job. When your body experiences sensations, then let it perform its natural functions
where will problems arise? There are no problems.
In the same way, all those things which belong to the Apparent, leave them with the
Apparent. And acknowledge that which is the Transcendent. Simply be the "One Who
Knows," knowing without fixation, knowing and letting things be their natural way.
All things are just as they are.
All our belongings, does anybody really own them? Does our father own them, or our
mother, or our relatives? Nobody really gets anything. That's why the Buddha said to let
all those things be, let them go. Know them clearly. Know then by holding, but not fast.
Use things in a way that is beneficial, not in a harmful way by holding fast to them until
To know Dhamma you must know in this way. That is, to know in such a way as to
transcend suffering. This sort of knowledge is important. Knowing about how to make
things, to use tools, knowing all the various sciences of the world and so on, all have
their place, but they are not the supreme knowledge. The Dhamma must be known as I've
explained it here. You don't have to know a whole lot, just this much is enough for the
Dhamma practicer -- to know and then let go.
It's not that you have to die before you can transcend suffering, you know. You
transcend suffering in this very life because you know how to solve problems. You know the
apparent, you know the Transcendent. Do it in this lifetime, while you are here
practicing. You won't find it anywhere else. Don't cling to things. Hold, but don't cling.
You may wonder, "Why does the Ajahn keep saying this?" How could I teach
otherwise, how could I say otherwise, when the truth is just as I've said it? Even though
it's the truth don't hold fast to even that! If you cling to it blindly it becomes a
falsehood. Like a dog...try grabbing its leg. If you don't let go the dog will spin around
and bite you. Just try it out. All animals behave like this. If you don't let go it's got
no choice but to bite. The Apparent is the same. We live in accordance with conventions,
they are here for our convenience in this life, but they are not things to be clung to so
hard that they cause suffering. Just let things pass.
Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to
anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering
arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being
suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering.
So I say, "Allow space, don't cling to things." "Right" is just
another supposition, just let it pass. "Wrong" is another apparent condition,
just let it be that. If you feel you are right and yet others contend the issue, don't
argue, just let it go. As soon as you know, let go. This is the straight way.
Usually it's not like this. People don't often give in to each other. That's why some
people, even Dhamma practicers who still don't know themselves, may say things that are
utter foolishness and yet think they're being wise. They may say something that's so
stupid that others can't even bear to listen and yet they think they are being cleverer
than others. Other people can't even listen to it and yet they think they are smart, that
they are right. They are simply advertising their own stupidity.
That's why the wise say, "Whatever speech disregards aniccam is not the
speech of a wise person, it's the speech of a fool. It's deluded speech. it's the speech
of one who doesn't know that suffering is going to arise right there." For example,
suppose you had decided to go to Bangkok tomorrow and someone were to ask, "Are you
going to Bangkok tomorrow?"
"I hope to go to Bangkok. If there are no obstacles I'll probably go." This
is called speaking with the Dhamma in mind, speaking with aniccam in mind, taking
into account the truth, the transient, uncertain nature of the world. You don't say,
"Yes, I'm definitely going tomorrow." If it turns out you don't go what are you
going to do, send news to all the people who told you were going to? You'd be just talking
There's still much more to it, the practice of Dhamma becomes more and more refined.
But if you don't see it you may think you are speaking right even when you are speaking
wrongly and straying from the true nature of things with every word. And yet you may think
you are speaking the truth. To put it simply: anything that we say or do that causes
suffering to arise should be known as micchaditthi. It's delusion and foolishness.
Most practicers don't reflect in this way. Whatever they like they think is right and
they just go on believing themselves. For instance, they may receive some gift or title,
be it an object, rank or even words of praise, and they think it's good. They take it as
some sort of permanent condition. So they get puffed up with pride and conceit, they don't
consider, "Who am I? Where is this so-called "goodness"? Where did it come
from? Do others have the same things?"
The Buddha taught that we should conduct ourselves normally. If we don't dig in, chew
over and look into this point it means it's still sunk within us. It means these
conditions are still buried within our hearts -- we are still sunk in wealth, rank and
praise. So we become someone else because of them. We think we are better than before,
that we are something special and so all sorts of confusion arises.
Actually, in truth there isn't anything to human beings. Whatever we may be it's only
in the realm of appearances. If we take away the apparent and see the Transcendent we see
that there isn't anything there. There are simply the universal characteristics -- birth
in the beginning, change in the middle and cessation in the end. This is all there is. If
we see that all things are like this then no problems arise. If we understand this we will
have contentment and peace.
Where trouble arises is when we think like the five ascetic disciples of the Buddha.
They followed the instruction of their teacher, but when he changed his practice they
couldn't understand what he thought or knew. They decided that the Buddha had given up his
practice and reverted to indulgence. If we were in that position we'd probably think the
same thing and there'd be no way to correct it. Holding on to the old ways, thinking in
the lower way, yet believing it's higher. We'd see the Buddha and think he'd given up the
practice and reverted to indulgence, just like he'd given up the practice and reverted to
indulgence, just like those Five Ascetics: consider how many years they had been
practicing at that time, and yet they still went astray, they still weren't proficient.
So I say to practice and also to look at the results of your practice. Especially where
you refuse to follow, where there is friction. Where there is no friction, there is no
problem, things flow. If there is friction, they don't flow, you set up a self and things
become solid, like a mass of clinging. There is no give and take.
Most monks and cultivators tend to be like this. However they've thought in the past
they continue to think. They refuse to change, they don't reflect. They think they are
right so they can't be wrong, but actually "wrongness" is buried within
"rightness," even though most people don't know that. How is it so? "This
is right"...but if someone else says it's not right you won't give in, you've got to
argue. What is this? Ditthi mana... Ditthi means views, mana is the
attachment to those views. If we attach even to what is right, refusing to concede to
anybody, then it becomes wrong. To cling fast to rightness is simply the arising of self,
there is no letting go.
This is a point which gives people a lot of trouble, except for those Dhamma practicers
who know that this matter, this point, is a very important one. they will take not of it.
If it arises while they're speaking, clinging comes racing on to the scene. Maybe it will
linger for some time, perhaps one or two days, three or four months, a year or two. This
is for the slow ones, that is. For the quick response is instant...they just let go.
Clinging arises and immediately there is letting go, they force the mind to let go right
then and there.
You must see these two functions operating. Here there is clinging. Now who is the one
who resists that clinging? Whenever you experience a mental impression you should observe
these two functions operating. There is clinging, and there is one who prohibits the
clinging. Now just watch these two things. Maybe you will cling for a long time before you
Reflecting and constantly practicing like this, clinging gets lighter, becomes less and
less. Right view increases as wrong view gradually wanes. Clinging decreases, non-clinging
arises. This is the way it is for everybody. That's why I say to consider this point.
Learn to solve problems in the present moment.
1. That is, the Buddha. [Go back]
2. The Triple Gem: The Buddha, the Dhamma, His
teaching, and the Sangha, the Monastic Order, or those who have realized the
Dhamma. [Go back]
3. Sati: Usually translated into English as mindfulness,
recollection is the more accurate translation of the Thai words, "ra-luk dai." [Go back]
4. Bhavana -- means "development" or
"cultivation"; but is usually used to refer to cittabhavana,
mind-development, or pa˝˝a-bhavana, wisdom-development, or contemplation. [Go back]
5. "Vinaya" is a generic name given to the code of
discipline of the Buddhist Monastic Order, the rules of the monkhood. "Vinaya"
literally means "leading out," because maintenance of these rules "leads
out" of unskillful actions, and, by extension, unskillful states of mind; in addition
it can be said to "lead out" of the household life, and, by extension,
attachment to the world. [Go back]
6. This refers to the Venerable Ajahn's early years in the
monkhood, before he had begun to practice in earnest. [Go back]
7. The second sanghadisesa offense, which deals with
touching a woman with lustful intentions. [Go back]
8. Referring to pacittiya offense No. 36, for eating food
outside of the allowed time -- dawn till noon. [Go back]
9. Dukkata -- offenses of "wrong-doing," the
lightest class of offenses in the Vinaya, of which there are a great number; parajika
-- offenses of defeat, of which there are four, are the most serious, involving expulsion
from the Bhikkhu-Sangha. [Go back]
10. Venerable Ajahn Mun Bhuridatto, probably the most renowned
and highly respected Meditation Master from the forest tradition in Thailand. He had many
disciples who have been teachers in their own right, of whom Ajahn Chah is one. Venerable
Ajahn Mun died in 1949. [Go back]
11. Pubbasikkha Vannana -- "The Elementary Training"
-- a Thai Commentary on Dhamma-Vinaya based on the Pali Commentaries; the Visuddhimagga --
"Path to Purity" -- Acariya Buddhagosa's exhaustive commentary on Dhamma-Vinaya.
12. Hiri -- sense of shame; Ottappa -- fear of
wrong-doing. Hiri and ottappa are positive states of mind which lay a
foundation for clear conscience and moral integrity. Their arising is based on a respect
for oneself and for others. Restraint is natural because of a clear perception of cause
and effect. [Go back]
13. Apatti: the name to the offenses of various classes
for a Buddhist monk. [Go back]
14. Maha: a title given to monks who have studied Pali
and completed up to the fourth year or higher. [Go back]
15. A "receiving cloth" is a cloth used by Thai
monks for receiving things from women, from whom they do not receive things directly. That
Venerable Ajahn Pow lifted his hand from the receiving cloth indicated that he was not
actually receiving the money. [Go back]
16. There are very precise and detailed regulations governing
the ordination procedure which, if not adhered to, may render the ordination invalid. [Go back]
17. The Vinaya forbids bhikkhus from eating raw meat or
fish. [Go back]
18. Although it is an offense for monks to accept money, there
are many who do. Some may accept it while appearing not to, which is probably how the
laypeople in this instance saw the Venerable Ajahn's refusal to accept money, by thinking
that he actually would accept it if they didn't overtly offer it to him, but just slipped
it into his bag. [Go back]
19. A˝jali -- The traditional way of making greeting
or showing respect, as with an Indian Namaste or the Thai wai. Sadhu
-- "It is well" -- a way of showing appreciation or agreement. [Go
20. Another transgression of the precepts, a pacittiya
offense. [Go back]
21. Navakovada -- A simplified synopsis of elementary
Dhamma-Vinaya. [Go back]
22. Many monks undertake written examinations of their
scriptural knowledge, sometimes -- as Ajahn Chah points out -- to the detriment of their
application of the teachings in daily life. [Go back]
23. Indulgence in sense pleasures, indulgence in comfort. [Go back]
24. Kuti -- a bhikkhu's dwelling place, a hut. [Go back]
25. The cycle of conditioned existence, the world of delusion.
26. Samana: a religious seeker living a renunciant
life. Originating from the Sanskrit term for "one who strives," the word
signifies someone who has made a profound commitment to spiritual practice. [Go
27. One of the many branch monasteries of Ajahn Chah's main
monastery, Wat Ba Pong. [Go back]
28. Concept (sammutti) refers to supposed or
provisional reality, while transcendence (vimutti) refers to the liberation from
attachment to or delusion within it. [Go back]
29. Mara: the Buddhist personification of evil, the Tempter,
that force which opposes any attempts to develop goodness and virtue. [Go
30. The play on words here between the Thai "phadtibut"
(practice) and "wibut" (disaster) is lost in the English. [Go
31. These are the two extremes pointed out as wrong paths by
the Buddha in his First Discourse. They are normally rendered as "Indulgence in sense
pleasures" and "Self mortification." [Go back]
32. "Pa-kow: an eight-precept postulant, who often
lives with bhikkhus and, in addition to his own meditation practice, also helps them with
certain services which bhikkhus are forbidden by the Vinaya from doing. [Go
33. The level of nothingness, one of the "formless
absorptions," sometimes called the seventh "jhana," or absorption. [Go back]
34. Bimba, or Princess Yasodhara, the Buddha's former wife;
Rahula, his son. [Go back]
35. Rupa -- material or physical objects; nama
-- immaterial or mental objects -- the physical and mental constituents of being. [Go back]
36. Nibbana -- the state of liberation from all
conditioned states. [Go back]
37. The Thai word for bhava -- "pop"
-- would have been a familiar term to Ajahn Chah's audience. It is generally understood to
mean "Sphere of rebirth." Ajahn Chah's usage of the word here is somewhat
unconventional, emphasizing a more practical application of the term. [Go
38. Both the red ants and their eggs are used for food in
North East Thailand, so that such raids on their nests were not so unusual. [Go
39. The first line of the traditional Pali words of homage to
the Buddha, recited before giving a formal Dhamma talk. Evam is the traditional
Pali word for ending a talk. [Go back]
40. Glot -- the Thai "dhutanga" or
forest-dwelling monks' large umbrella from which, suspended from a tree, they hang a
mosquito net in which to stay while in the forest. [Go back]
41. The body on the first night had been that of a child. [Go back]
42. The last line of the traditional Pali lines listing the
qualities of the Dhamma. [Go back]
43. Mahanikai and Dhammayuttika are the two sects of Theravada
sangha in Thailand. [Go back]
44. A Thai expression meaning, "Don't overdo it." [Go back]
45. Thirteen practices allowed by the Buddha over and above
the general disciplinary code, for those who which to practice more ascetically. [Go back]
46. Part of a Pali verse, traditionally recited at funeral
ceremonies. The meaning of the full verse if, "Alas, transient are all compounded
things/Having arisen, they cease/Being born, they die/The cessation of all compounding is
true happiness." [Go back]
47. Novices. [Go back]
48. The word dhamma can be used in different ways. In
this talk, the Venerable Ajahn refers to Dhamma -- the teachings of the Buddha; to dhammas
-- "things"; and to Dhamma -- the experience of transcendent
"Truth." [Go back]
49. At that time Sariputta had his first insight into the
Dhamma, attaining sotapatti, or "stream-entry." [Go back]
50. That is, nibbida, disinterest in the lures of the
sensual world. [Go back]
51. The Truth of Suffering, the Truth of its Cause, the Truth
of its Cessation and the Truth of the Way (leading to the cessation of suffering): The
Four Noble Truths. [Go back]
52. Observance days, held roughly every fortnight, on which
monks confess their offenses and recite the disciplinary precepts, the Patimokkha. [Go back]
53. The heartwood from the jackfruit tree is boiled down and
the resulting color used both to dye and to wash the robes of the forest monks. [Go back]
54. Bojjjhanga -- the Seven Factors of Enlightenment: sati,
recollection; dhamma-vicaya, inquiry into dhammas; viriya, effort; piti,
joy; passadhi, peace; samadhi, concentration; and upekkha,
equanimity. [Go back]
55. The central body of the monastic code, which is recited
fortnightly in the Pali language. [Go back]
56. Devaputta Mara -- the Mara, or Tempter, which appears in a
seemingly benevolent form. [Go back]
57. The Five Khandhas: Form (rupa), feeling (vedana),
perception (sa˝˝a), conceptualization or mental formations (sankhara) and
sense-consciousness (vi˝˝ana). These comprise the psycho-physical experience
known as the "self." [Go back]
58. Anagami (non-returner): The third "level"
of enlightenment, which is reached on the abandonment of the five "lower
fetters" (of a total of ten) which bind the mind to worldly existence. The first two
"levels" are sotapanna ("stream-enterer") and sakadagami
("once-returner"), the last being araham ("worthy or accomplished
one"). [Go back]
59. That is, one who lives dependent on the generosity of
others. [Go back]
60. Transience, Imperfection, and Ownerlessness. [Go back]
61. 2522 of the Buddhist Era, or 1979 CE. [Go
62. The pa˝cavaggiya, or "group of five,"
who followed the Buddha-to-be (Bodhisatta) when he was cultivating ascetic practices, and
who left him when he renounced them for the Middle Way, shortly after which the Bodhisatta
attained Supreme Enlightenment. [Go back]
63. Sankhara: conditioned phenomena. The Thai usage of
this term usually refers specifically to the body, though sankhara also refers to
mental phenomena. [Go back]
64. Form is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, perception is
impermament, volition is impermanent, consciousness is impermanent. [Go back]
65. micchaditthi: Wrong-view. [Go back]
66. The ten paramita (perfections): generosity,
morality, renunciation, wisdom, effort, patience, truthfulness, resolution, goodwill and
equanimity. [Go back]