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 monastery here.
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?
* [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.]
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 this point.
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 just went.
"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 kilometers away.
"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 charnel ground.
"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.
* [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.]
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 practiced.
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 night!
* [The body on the first night had been that of a child.]
"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 drumskin.
"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 overflow.
"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 vinnuhi [*]-- "the wise will know for themselves."
* [The last line of the traditional Pali lines listing the qualities of the Dhamma.]
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 practice.
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.