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
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.
* [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."]
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.
* [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".]
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 about this . . .
"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 it is?" . . .
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 thought,
"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. [*]
* [At that time Sariputta had his first insight into the Dhamma, attaining sotapanna, or "stream-entry".]
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 about.
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.
* [That is, nibbida, disinterest in the lures of the sensual world.]
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.