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 it?
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 particular state.
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.
* [Mahanikai and Dhammayuttika
are the two sects of Theravada sangha in Thailand.]
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.
* [A Thai expression meaning, "Don't overdo it."]
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 panna 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.
* [Thirteen practices allowed by the Buddha over and above the general disciplinary code, for those who which to practice more ascetically.]
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 day.
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 them.
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.