of goodness who have gathered here please listen in peace. Listening to the Dhamma in
peace means to listen with a one-pointed mind, paying attention to what you hear and then
letting go. Listening to the Dhamma is of great benefit. While listening to the Dhamma we
are encouraged to firmly establish both body and mind in samadhi, because it is one
kind of dhamma practice. In the time of the Buddha people listened to Dhamma talks
intently, with a mind aspiring to real understanding, and some actually realized the
Dhamma while listening.
This place is well suited to meditation practice. Having stayed here a
couple of nights I can see that it is an important place. On the external level it is
already peaceful, all that remains is the internal level, your hearts and minds. So I ask
all of you to make an effort to pay attention.
Why have you gathered here to practice meditation? It's because your
hearts and minds do not understand what should be understood. In other words, you don't
truly know how things are, or what is what. You don't know what is wrong and what is
right, what it is that brings you suffering and causes you to doubt. So first you have to
make yourselves calm. The reason that you have come here to develop calm and restraint is
that your hearts and minds are not at ease. Your minds are not calm, not restrained. They
are swayed by doubting and agitation. This is why you have come here today and are now
listening to the Dhamma.
I would like you to concentrate and listen carefully to what I say, and
I ask permission to speak frankly because that's how I am. Please understand that even if
I do speak in a forceful manner, I am doing so out of good will. I ask your forgiveness if
there is anything I say that upsets you, because the customs of Thailand and those of the
West are not the same. Actually, speaking a little forcefully can be good because it helps
to stir people up who might otherwise be sleepy or drowsy, and rather than rousing
themselves to hear the Dhamma allow themselves to drift instead into complacency and as a
result never understand anything.
Although there may appear to be many ways to practice really there is
only one. As with fruit trees, it is possible to get fruit quickly by planting a cutting,
but the tree would not be resilient or long lasting. Another way is to cultivate a tree
right from the seed, which produces a strong and resilient tree. Practice is the same.
When I first began to practice I had problems understanding this. As
long as I still didn't know what's what, sitting meditation was a real chore, even
bringing me to tears on occasion. Sometimes I would be aiming too high, at others not high
enough, never finding the point of balance. To practice in a way that's peaceful means to
place the mind neither too high or too low, but at the point of balance.
I can see that it's very confusing for you, coming from different
places and having practiced in different ways with different teachers. Coming to practice
here you must be plagued with all kinds of doubts. One teacher says you must practice in
one way, another says you should practice another way. You wonder which method to use,
unsure of the essence of the practice. The result is confusion. There are so many teachers
and so many teachings that nobody knows how to harmonize their practice. As a result there
is a lot of doubt and uncertainty.
So you must try not to think too much. If you do think, then do so with
awareness. But so far your thinking has been done with no awareness. First you must make
your mind calm. Where there is knowing there is no need to think, awareness will arise in
its place, and this will in turn become wisdom (pa˝˝a). But the ordinary kind of
thinking is not wisdom, it is simply the aimless and unaware wandering of the mind, which
inevitably results in agitation. This is not wisdom.
At this stage you don't need to think. You've already done a great deal
of thinking at home, haven't you? It just stirs up the heart. You must establish some
awareness. Obsessive thinking can even bring you tears, just try it out. Getting lost in
some train of thought won't lead you to the truth, it's not wisdom. The Buddha was a very
wise person, he'd learnt how to stop thinking. In the same way you are practicing here in
order to stop thinking and thereby arrive at peace. If you are already calm it is not
necessary to think, wisdom will arise in its place.
To meditate you do not have to think much more than to resolve that
right now is the time for training the mind and nothing else. Don't let the mind shoot off
to the left or to the right, to the front or behind, above or below. Our only duty right
now is to practice mindfulness of the breathing. Fix your attention at the head and move
it down through the body to the tips of the feet, and then back up to the crown of the
head. Pass your awareness down through the body, observing with wisdom. We do this to gain
an initial understanding of the way the body is. Then begin the meditation, noting that at
this time your sole duty is to observe the inhalations and exhalations. Don't force the
breath to be any longer or shorter than normal, just allow it to continue easily. Don't
put any pressure on the breath, rather let it flow evenly, letting go with each in-breath
You must understand that you are letting go as you do this, but there
should still be awareness. You must maintain this awareness, allowing the breath to enter
and leave comfortably. There is no need to force the breath, just allow it to flow easily
and naturally. Maintain the resolve that at this time you have no other duties or
responsibilities. Thoughts about what will happen, what you will know or see during the
meditation may arise from time to time, but once they arise just let them cease by
themselves, don't be unduly concerned over them.
During the meditation there is no need to pay attention to sense
impressions. Whenever the mind is affected by sense impingement, wherever there is a
feeling or sensation in the mind, just let it go. Whether those sensations are good or bad
is unimportant. It is not necessary to make anything out of those sensations, just let
them pass away and return your attention to the breath. Maintain the awareness of the
breath entering and leaving. Don't create suffering over the breath being too long or too
short, simply observe it without trying to control or suppress it in any way. In other
words, don't attach. Allow the breath to continue as it is, and the mind will become calm.
As you continue the mind will gradually lay things down and come to rest, the breath
becoming lighter and lighter until it becomes so faint that it seems like it's not there
at all. Both the body and the mind will feel light and energized. All that will remain
will be a one-pointed knowing. You could say that the mind has changed and reached a state
If the mind is agitated, set up mindfulness and inhale deeply till
there is no space left to store any air, then release it all completely until none
remains. Follow this with another deep inhalation until you are full, then release the air
again. Do this two or three times, then re-establish concentration. The mind should be
calmer. If any more sense impressions cause agitation in the mind, repeat the process on
every occasion. Similarly with walking meditation. If while walking, the mind becomes
agitated, stop still, calm the mind, re-establish the awareness with the meditation object
and then continue walking. Sitting and walking meditation are in essence the same,
differing only in terms of the physical posture used.
Sometimes there may be doubt, so you must have sati, to be the
one who knows, continually following and examining the agitated mind in whatever form it
takes. This is to have sati. Sati watches over and takes care of the mind.
You must maintain this knowing and not be careless or wander astray, no matter what
condition the mind takes on.
The trick is to have sati taking control and supervising the
mind. Once the mind is unified with sati a new kind of awareness will emerge. The
mind that has developed calm is held in check by that calm, just like a chicken held in a
coop...the chicken is unable to wander outside, but it can still move around within the
coop. Its walking to and fro doesn't get it into trouble because it is restrained by the
coop. Likewise the awareness that takes place when the mind has sati and is calm
does not cause trouble. None of the thinking or sensations that take place within the calm
mind cause harm or disturbance.
Some people don't want to experience any thoughts or feelings at all,
but this is going too far. Feelings arise within the state of calm. The mind is both
experiencing feelings and calm at the same time, without being disturbed. When there is
calm like this there are no harmful consequences. Problems occur when the
"chicken" gets out of the "coop." For instance, you may be watching
the breath entering and leaving and then forget yourself, allowing the mind to wander away
from the breath, back home, off to the shops or to any number of different places. Maybe
even half an hour may pass before you suddenly realize you're supposed to be practicing
meditation and reprimand yourself for your lack of sati. This is where you have to
be really careful, because this is where the chicken gets out of the coop -- the mind
leaves its base of calm.
You must take care to maintain the awareness with sati and try
to pull the mind back. Although I use the words "pull the mind back," in fact
the mind doesn't really go anywhere, only the object of awareness has changed. You must
make the mind stay right here and now. As long as there is sati there will be
presence of mind. It seems like you are pulling the mind back but really it hasn't gone
anywhere, it has simply changed a little. It seems that the mind goes here and there, but
in fact the change occurs right at the one spot. When sati is regained, in a flash
you are back with the mind without it having to be brought from anywhere.
When there is total knowing, a continuous and unbroken awareness at
each and every moment, this is called presence of mind. If your attention drifts from the
breath to other places then the knowing is broken. Whenever there is awareness of the
breath the mind is there. With just the breath and this even and continuous awareness you
have presence of mind.
There must be both sati and sampaja˝˝a. Sati is
recollection and sampaja˝˝a is self awareness. Right now you are clearly aware of
the breath. This exercise of watching the breath helps sati and sampaja˝˝a
develop together. They share the work. Having both sati and sampaja˝˝a is
like having two workers to lift a heavy plank of wood. Suppose there are two people trying
to lift some heavy planks, but the weight is so great, they have to strain so hard, that
it's almost unendurable. Then another person, imbued with goodwill, sees them and rushes
in to help. In the same way, when there is sati and sampaja˝˝a, then pa˝˝a
(wisdom) will arise at the same place to help out. Then all three of them support each
With pa˝˝a there will be an understanding of sense objects.
For instance, during the meditation sense objects are experienced which give rise to
feelings and moods. You may start to think of a friend, but then pa˝˝a should
immediately counter with "It doesn't matter," "Stop" or "Forget
it." Or if there are thoughts about where you will go tomorrow, then the response
would be, "I'm not interested, I don't want to concern myself with such things."
Maybe you start thinking about other people, then you should think, "No, I don't want
to get involved." "Just let go," or "It's all uncertain and never a
sure thing." This is how you should deal with things in meditation, recognizing them
as "not sure, not sure," and maintaining this kind of awareness.
You must give up all the thinking, the inner dialogue and the doubting.
Don't get caught up in these things during the meditation. In the end all that will remain
in the mind in its purest form are sati, sampaja˝˝a and pa˝˝a.
whenever these things weaken doubts will arise, but try to abandon those doubts
immediately, leaving only sati, sampaja˝˝a and pa˝˝a. Try to
develop sati like this until it can be maintained at all times. Then you will
understand sati, sampaja˝˝a and samadhi thoroughly.
Focusing the attention at this point you will see sati, sampaja˝˝a,
samadhi and pa˝˝a together. Whether you are attracted to or repelled by
external sense objects, you will be able to tell yourself, "It's not sure."
Either way they are just hindrances to be swept away till the mind is clean. all that
should remain is sati, recollection; sampaja˝˝a, clear awareness; samadhi,
the firm and unwavering mind; and pa˝˝a, or consummate wisdom. For the time being
I will say just this much on the subject of meditation.
Now about the tools or aids to meditation practice -- there should be metta
(goodwill) in your heart, in other words, the qualities of generosity, kindness and
helpfulness. These should be maintained as the foundation for mental purity. For example,
begin doing away with lobha, or selfishness, through giving. When people are
selfish they aren't happy. Selfishness leads to a sense of discontent, and yet people tend
to be very selfish without realizing how it affects them.
You can experience this at any time, especially when you are hungry.
Suppose you get some apples and you have the opportunity to share them with a friend; you
think it over for a while, and, sure, the intention to give is there all right, but you
want to give the smaller one. To give the big one would be...well, such a shame. It's hard
to think straight. You tell them to go ahead and take one, but then you say, "Take
this one!"...and give them the smaller apple! This is one form of selfishness that
people usually don't notice. Have you ever been like this?
You really have to go against the grain to give. Even though you may
really only want to give the smaller apple, you must force yourself to give away the
bigger one. Of course, once you have given it to your friend you feel good inside.
Training the mind by going against the grain in this way requires self-discipline -- you
must know how to give and how to give up, not allowing selfishness to stick. Once you
learn how to give, if you are still hesitating over which fruit to give, then while you
are deliberating you will be troubled, and even if you give the bigger one, there will
still be a sense of reluctance. But as soon as you firmly decide to give the bigger one
the matter is over and done with. This is going against the grain in the right way.
Doing this you win mastery over yourself. If you can't do it you will
be a victim of yourself and continue to be selfish. All of us have been selfish in the
past. This is a defilement which needs to be cut off. In the Pali scriptures, giving is
called "dana," which means bringing happiness to others. It is one of
those conditions which help to cleanse the mind from defilement. Reflect on this and
develop it in your practice.
You may think that practicing like this involves hounding yourself, but
it doesn't really. Actually it's hounding craving and the defilements. If defilements
arise within you, you have to do something to remedy them. Defilements are like a stray
cat. If you give it as much food as it wants it will always be coming around looking for
more food, but if you stop feeding it, after a couple of days it'll stop coming around.
It's the same with the defilements, they won't come to disturb you, they'll leave your
mind in peace. So rather than being afraid of defilement, make the defilements afraid of
you. To make the defilements afraid of you, you must see the Dhamma within your minds.
Where does the Dhamma arise? It arises with our knowing and
understanding in this way. Everyone is able to know and understand the Dhamma. It's not
something that has to be found in books, you don't have to do a lot of study to see it,
just reflect right now and you can see what I am talking about. Everybody can see it
because it exists right within our hearts. Everybody has defilements, don't they? If you
are able to see them then you can understand. In the past you've looked after and pampered
your defilements, but now you must know your defilements and not allow them to come and
The next constituent of practice is moral restraint (sila). Sila
watches over and nurtures the practice in the same way as parents look after their
children. Maintaining moral restraint means not only to avoid harming others but also to
help and encourage them. At the very least you should maintain the five precepts, which
Once moral restraint is pure there will be a sense of honesty and
kindness towards others. This will bring about contentment and freedom from worries and
remorse. Remorse resulting from aggressive and hurtful behavior will not be there. This is
form of happiness. It is almost like a heavenly state. There is comfort, you eat and sleep
in comfort with the happiness arising from moral restraint. This is the result;
maintaining moral restraint is the cause. This is a principle of Dhamma practice --
refraining from bad actions so that goodness can arise. If moral restraint is maintained
in this way, evil will disappear and good will arise in its place. This is the result of
But this isn't the end of the story. Once people have attained some
happiness they tend to be heedless and not go any further in the practice. They get stuck
on happiness. They don't want to progress any further, they prefer the happiness of
"heaven." It's comfortable but there's no real understanding. You must keep
reflecting to avoid being deluded. Reflect again and again on the disadvantages of this
happiness. It's transient, it doesn't last forever. Soon you are separated from it. It's
not a sure thing, once happiness disappears then suffering arises in its place and the
tears come again. Even heavenly beings end up crying and suffering.
So the Lord Buddha taught us to reflect on the disadvantages, that
there exists an unsatisfactory side to happiness. Usually when this kind of happiness is
experienced there is no real understanding of it. The peace that is truly certain and
lasting is covered over by this deceptive happiness. This happiness is not a certain or
permanent kind of peace, but rather a form of defilement, a refined form of defilement to
which we attach. Everybody likes to be happy. Happiness arises because of our liking for
something. As soon as that liking changes to dislike, suffering arises. We must reflect on
this happiness to see its uncertainty and limitation. Once things change suffering arises.
This suffering is also uncertain, don't think that it is fixed or absolute. This kind of
reflection is called Adinavakatha,. the reflection on the inadequacy and limitation
of the conditioned world. This means to reflect on happiness rather than accepting it at
face value. Seeing that it is uncertain, you shouldn't cling fast to it. You should take
hold of it but then let it go, seeing both the benefit and the harm of happiness. To
meditate skillfully you have to see the disadvantages inherent within happiness. Reflect
in this way. When happiness arises, contemplate it thoroughly until the disadvantages
When you see that things are imperfect your heart will come to
understand the Nekkhammakatha, the reflection on renunciation. The mind will become
disinterested and seek for a way out. Disinterest comes from having seen the way forms
really are, the way tastes really are, the way love and hatred really are. By disinterest
we mean that there is no longer the desire to cling to or attach to things. There is a
withdrawal from clinging, to a point where you can abide comfortably, observing with an
equanimity that is free of attachment. This is the peace that arises from practice.