Translated from the Thai by
© Khao Suan Luang Dhamma Community 1995
For free distribution only.
may print copies of this work for your personal use.
You may re-format and
redistribute this work for use on computers and computer networks,
that you charge no fees for its distribution or use.
Otherwise, all rights
" The Practice in Brief
" An Hour's
" A Basic Order in Life
" Continuous Practice
Every In-and-Out Breath
" Taking a Stance
" The Details of Pain
" Aware Right at Awareness
" The Pure Present
Deceits of Knowing
" Sabbe Dhamma Anatta
" Going Out Cold
Reading the Heart
The Practice in Brief
March 17, 1954
practice the Dhamma should train themselves to understand in the following stages:
The training that is easy to learn, gives immediate results, and is suitable
for every time, every place, for people of every age and either sex, is to study
in the school of this body -- a fathom long, a cubit wide, and a span thick --
with its perceiving mind in charge. This body has many things, ranging from the
crude to the subtle, that are well worth knowing.
The steps of the training:
1. To begin with, know that the body is composed of various physical properties,
the major ones being the properties of earth, water, fire, and wind; the minor
ones being the aspects that adhere to the major ones: things like color, smell,
These properties are unstable (inconstant), stressful, and unclean.
If you look into them deeply, you will see that there's no substance to them at
all. They are simply impersonal conditions, with nothing worth calling "me"
or "mine." When you can clearly perceive the body in these terms, you
will be able to let go of any clinging or attachment to it as an entity, your
self, someone else, this or that.
2. The second step is to deal with mental
phenomena (feelings, perceptions, thought-formations, and consciousness). Focus
on keeping track of the truth that these are characterized by arising, persisting,
and then disbanding. In other words, their nature is to arise and disband, arise
and disband, repeatedly. When you investigate to see this truth, you will be able
to let go of your attachments to mental phenomena as entities, as your self, someone
else, this or that.
3. Training on the level of practice doesn't simply mean
studying, listening, or reading. You have to practice so as to see clearly with
your own mind in the following steps:
a. Start out by brushing aside all external
concerns and turn to look inside at your own mind until you can know in what ways
it is clear or murky, calm or unsettled. The way to do this is to have mindfulness
and self-awareness in charge as you keep aware of the body and mind until you've
trained the mind to stay firmly in a state of normalcy, i.e., neutrality.
Once the mind can stay in a state of normalcy, you will see mental formations
or preoccupations in their natural state of arising and disbanding. The mind will
be empty, neutral, and still -- neither pleased nor displeased -- and will see
physical and mental phenomena as they arise and disband naturally, of their own
c. When the knowledge that there is no self to any of these things
becomes thoroughly clear, you will meet with something that lies further inside,
beyond all suffering and stress, free from the cycles of change -- deathless --
free from birth as well as death, since all things that take birth must by nature
age, grow ill, and die.
d. When you see this truth clearly, the mind will
be empty, not holding onto anything. It won't even assume itself to be a mind
or anything at all. In other words, it won't latch onto itself as being anything
of any sort. All that remains is a pure condition of Dhamma.
e. Those who
see this pure condition of Dhamma in full clarity are bound to grow disenchanted
with the repeated sufferings of life. When they know the truth of the world and
the Dhamma throughout, they will see the results clearly, right in the present,
that there exists that which lies beyond all suffering. They will know this without
having to ask or take it on faith from anyone, for the Dhamma is paccattam, i.e.,
something really to be known for oneself. Those who have seen this truth within
themselves will attest to it always.
An Hour's Meditation
For those of you who have never sat in meditation, here is how it's done:
Fold your legs, one on top of the other, but don't cut off the nerves or the blood
flow, or else the breath energy in your legs will stagnate and cause you pain.
Sit straight and place your hands, one on top of the other, on your lap. Hold
your head up straight and keep your back straight, too -- as if you had a yardstick
sticking down your spine. You have to work at keeping it straight, you know. Don't
spend the time slouching down and then stretching up again, or else the mind won't
be able to settle down and be still...
Keep the body straight and your mindfulness
firm -- firmly with the breath. However coarse or refined your breath may be,
simply breathe in naturally. You don't have to force the breath or tense your
body. Simply breathe in and out in a relaxed way. Only then will the mind begin
to settle down. As soon as the breath grows normally refined and the mind has
begun to settle down, focus your attention on the mind itself. If it slips off
elsewhere, or any thoughts come in to intrude, simply know right there at the
mind. Know the mind right at the mind with every in-and-out breath for the entire
When you focus on the breath, using the breath as a leash to tie the
mind in place so that it doesn't go wandering off, you have to use your endurance.
That is, you have to endure pain. For example, when you sit for a long time there's
going to be pain, because you've never sat for so long before. So first make sure
that you keep the mind normal and neutral. When pain arises, don't focus on the
pain. Let go of it as much as you can. Let go of it and focus on your mind...
For those of you who've never done this before, it may take a while. Whenever
any pain or anything arises, if the mind is affected by craving or defilement,
it'll struggle because it doesn't want the pain. All it wants is pleasure.
is where you have to be patient and endure the pain, because pain is something
that has to occur. If there's pleasure, don't get enthralled with it. If there's
pain, don't push it away. Start out by keeping the mind neutral as your basic
stance. Then whenever pleasure or pain arises, don't get pleased or upset. Keep
the mind continuously neutral and figure out how to let go. If there's a lot of
pain, you first have to endure it and then relax your attachments. Don't think
of the pain as being your pain. Let it be the pain of the body, the pain of nature.
If the mind latches tight onto anything, it really suffers. It struggles.
So here we patiently endure and let go. You have to practice so that you're really
good at handling pain. If you can let go of physical pain, you'll be able to let
go of all sorts of other sufferings and pains as well... Keep watching the pain,
knowing the pain, letting it go. Once you can let it go, you don't have to use
a lot of endurance. It takes a lot of endurance only at the beginning. Once the
pain arises, separate the mind from it. Let it be the pain of the body. Don't
let the mind be pained, too...
This is something that requires equanimity.
If you can maintain equanimity in the face of pleasure or pain, it can make the
mind peaceful -- peaceful even though the pain is still pain. The mind keeps knowing,
enduring the pain so as to let it go.
After you've worked at this a good while,
you'll come to see how important the ways of the mind are. The mind may be hard
to train, but if you keep training it -- if you have the time, you can practice
at home, at night or early in the morning, keeping watch on your mind -- you'll
gain the understanding that comes from mindfulness and discernment. Those who
don't train the mind like this go through life -- birth, aging, illness, and death
-- not knowing a thing about the mind at all.
When you know your own mind,
then when any really heavy illness comes along, the fact that you know your mind
will make the pain less and less. But this is something you have to work at doing
correctly. It's not easy, yet once the mind is well trained there's no match for
it. It can do away with pain and suffering, and doesn't get restless and agitated.
It grows still and cool -- refreshed and blooming right there within itself. So
try to experience this still, quiet mind...
This is a really important skill
to develop, because it will make craving, defilement, and attachment grow weaker
and weaker. All of us have defilements, you know. Greed, anger, and delusion cloud
all of our hearts. If we haven't trained ourselves in meditation, our hearts are
constantly burning with suffering and stress. Even the pleasure we feel over external
things is pleasure only in half-measures, because there's suffering and stress
in the delusion that thinks it's pleasure. As for the pleasure that comes from
the practice, it's a cool pleasure that lets go of everything, really free from
any sense of "me" or "mine." I ask that you reach the Dhamma
that's the real meat inside this thing undisturbed by defilement, undisturbed
by pain or anything else.
Even though there's pain in the body, you have to
figure out how to let it go. The body's simply the four elements -- earth, water,
wind, and fire. It has to keep showing its inconstancy and stressfulness, so keep
your mindfulness neutral, at equanimity. Let the mind be above its feelings --
above pleasure, above pain, above everything...
All it really takes is endurance
-- endurance and relinquishment, letting things go, seeing that they're not us,
not ours. This is a point you have to hammer at, over and over again. When we
say you have to endure, you really have to endure. Don't be willing to surrender.
Craving is going to keep coming up and whispering -- telling you to change things,
to try for this or that kind of pleasure -- but don't you listen to it. You have
to listen to the Buddha -- the Buddha who tells you to let go of craving. Otherwise,
craving will plaster and paint things over; the mind will struggle and won't be
able to settle down. So you have to give it your all. Look at this hour as a special
hour -- special in that you're using special endurance to keep watch on your own
heart and mind.
A Basic Order in Life
January 29, 1964
important thing in the daily life of a person who practices the Dhamma is to keep
to the precepts and to care for them more than you care for your life -- to maintain
them in a way that the Noble Ones would praise. If you don't have this sort of
regard for the precepts, then the vices that run counter to them will become your
Meditators who see that the breaking of a precept is something
trifling and insignificant spoil their entire practice. If you can't practice
even these basic, beginning levels of the Dhamma, it will ruin all the qualities
you'll be trying to develop in the later stages of the practice. This is why you
have to stick to the precepts as your basic foundation and to keep a lookout for
anything in your behavior that falls short of them. Only then will you be able
to benefit from your practice for the sake of eliminating your sufferings with
greater and greater precision.
If you simply act in line with the cravings
and desires swelling out of the sense of self that has no fear of the fires of
defilement, you'll have to suffer both in this life and in lives to come. If you
don't have a sense of conscience -- a sense of shame at the thought of doing shoddy
actions, and a fear of their consequences -- your practice can only deteriorate
day by day...
When people live without any order to their lives -- without
even the basic order that comes with the precepts -- there's no way they can attain
purity. We have to examine ourselves: In what ways at present are we breaking
our precepts in thought, word, or deed? If we simply let things pass and aren't
intent on examining ourselves to see the harm that comes from breaking the precepts
and following the defilements, our practice can only sink lower and lower. Instead
of extinguishing defilements and suffering, it will simply succumb to the power
of craving. If this is the case, what damage is done? How much freedom does the
mind lose? These are things we have to learn for ourselves. When we do, our practice
of self-inspection in higher matters will get solid results and won't go straying
off into nonsense. For this reason, whenever craving or defilement shows itself
in any way in any of our actions, we have to catch hold of it and examine what's
going on inside the mind.
Once we're aware with real mindfulness and discernment,
we'll see the poison and power of the defilements. We'll feel disgust for them
and want to extinguish them as much as we can. But if we use our defilements to
examine things, they'll say everything is fine. The same as when we're predisposed
to liking a certain person: Even if he acts badly, we say he's good. If he acts
wrongly, we say he's right. This is the way the defilements are. They say that
everything we do is right and throw all the blame on other people, other things.
So we can't trust it -- this sense of "self" in which craving and defilement
lord it over the heart. We can't trust it at all...
The violence of defilement,
or this sense of self, is like that of a fire burning a forest or burning a house.
It won't listen to anyone, but simply keeps burning away, burning away inside
of you. And that's not all. It's always out to set fire to other people, too.
The fires of suffering, the fires of defilement consume all those who don't
contemplate themselves or who don't have any means of practice for putting them
out. People of this sort can't withstand the power of the defilements, can't help
but follow along wherever their cravings lead them. The moment they're provoked,
they follow in line with these things. This is why the sensations in the mind
when provoked by defilement are very important, for they can lead you to do things
with no sense of shame, no fear for the consequences of doing evil at all -- which
means that you're sure to break your precepts.
Once you've followed the defilements,
they feel really satisfied -- like arsonists who feel gleeful when they've set
other people's places on fire. As soon as you've called somebody something vile
or spread some malicious gossip, the defilements really like it. Your sense of
self really likes it, because acting in line with defilement like that gives it
real satisfaction. As a consequence, it keeps filling itself with the vices that
run counter to the precepts, falling into hell in this very lifetime without realizing
it. So take a good look at the violence the defilements do to you, to see whether
you should keep socializing with them, to see whether you should regard them as
your friends or your enemies...
As soon as any wrong views or ideas come out
of the mind, we have to analyze them and turn around so as to catch sight of the
facts within us. No matter what issues the defilements raise, focusing on the
faults of others, we have to turn around and look within. When we realize our
own faults and can come to our senses: That's where our study of the Dhamma, our
practice of the Dhamma, shows its real rewards.
The passage for reflection on the four requisites (clothing, food,
shelter, and medicine) is a fine pattern for contemplation, but we never actually
get down to putting it to use. We're taught to memorize it in the beginning not
simply to pass the time of day or so that we can talk about it every now and then,
but so that we can use it to contemplate the requisites until we really know them
with our own mindfulness and discernment. If we actually get down to contemplating
in line with the established pattern, our minds will become much less influenced
by unwise thoughts. But it's the rare person who genuinely makes this a continuous
practice... For the most part we're not interested. We don't feel like contemplating
this sort of thing. We'd much rather contemplate whether this or that food will
taste good or not, and if it doesn't taste good, how to fix it so that it will.
That's the sort of thing we like to contemplate.
Try to see the filthiness
of food and of the physical properties in general, to see their emptiness of any
real entity or self. There's nothing of any substance to the physical properties
of the body, which are all rotten and decomposing. The body is like a restroom
over a cesspool. We can decorate it on the outside to make it pretty and attractive,
but on the inside it's full of the most horrible, filthy things. Whenever we excrete
anything, we ourselves are repelled by it; yet even though we're repelled by it,
it's there inside us, in our intestines -- decomposing, full of worms, awful smelling.
There's just the flimsiest membrane covering it up, yet we fall for it and hold
tight to it. We don't see the constant decomposition of this body, in spite of
the filth and smells it sends out...
The reason we're taught to memorize the
passage for reflecting on the requisites, and to use it to contemplate, is so
that we'll see the inconstancy of the body, to see that there's no "self"
to any of it or to any of the mental phenomena we sense with every moment.
We contemplate mental phenomena to see clearly that they're not-self, to
see this with every moment. The moments of the mind -- the arising, persisting,
and disbanding of mental sensations -- are very subtle and fast. To see them,
the mind has to be quiet. If the mind is involved in distractions, thoughts, and
imaginings, we won't be able to penetrate in to see its characteristics as it
deals with its objects, to see what the arising and disbanding within it is like.
This is why we have to practice concentration: to make the mind quiet, to
provide a foundation for our contemplation. For instance, you can focus on the
breath, or be aware of the mind as it focuses on the breath. Actually, when you
focus on the breath, you're also aware of the mind. And again, the mind is what
knows the breath. So you focus exclusively on the breath together with the mind.
Don't think of anything else, and the mind will settle down and grow still. Once
it attains stillness on this level, you've got your chance to contemplate.
the mind still so that you can contemplate it is something you have to keep working
at in the beginning. The same holds true with training yourself to be mindful
& alert in all your activities. This is something you really have to work
at continuously in this stage, something you have to do all the time. At the same
time, you have to arrange the external conditions of your life so that you won't
have any concerns to distract you...
Now, of course, the practice is something
you can do in any set of circumstances -- for example, when you come home from
work you can sit and meditate for a while -- but when you're trying seriously
to make it continuous, to make it habitual, it's much more difficult than that.
"Making it habitual" means being fully mindful and aware with each in-and-out
breath, wherever you go, whatever you do, whether you're healthy, sick, or whatever,
and regardless of what happens inside or out. The mind has to be in a state of
all-encompassing awareness while keeping track of the arising and disbanding of
mental phenomena at all times -- to the point where you can stop the mind from
forming thoughts under the power of craving and defilement the way it used to
before you began the practice.
Every In-and-out Breath
Try keeping your awareness with the breath to see what the still mind
is like. It's very simple, all the rules have been laid out, but when you actually
try to do it, something resists. It's hard. But when you let your mind think 108
or 1009 things, no matter what, it's all easy. It's not hard at all. Try and see
if you can engage your mind with the breath in the same way it's been engaged
with the defilements. Try engaging it with the breath and see what happens. See
if you can disperse the defilements with every in-and-out breath. Why is it that
the mind can stay engaged with the defilements all day long and yet go for entire
days without knowing how heavy or subtle the breath is at all?
So try and
be observant. The bright, clear awareness that stems from staying focused on the
mind at all times: Sometimes a strong sensory contact comes and can make it blur
and fade away with no trouble at all. But if you can keep hold of the breath as
a reference point, that state of mind can be more stable and sure, more insured.
It has two fences around it. If there's only one fence, it can easily break.
Taking a Stance
January 14, 1964
Normally the mind isn't willing to
stop and look, to stop and know itself, which is why we have to keep training
it continually so that it will settle down from its restlessness and grow still.
Let your desires and thought-processes settle down. Let the mind take its stance
in a state of normalcy, not liking or disliking anything. To reach a basic level
of emptiness and freedom, you first have to take a stance. If you don't have a
stance against which to measure things, progress will be very difficult. If your
practice is hit-or-miss -- a bit of that, a little of this -- you won't get any
results. So the mind first has to take a stance.
When you take a stance that
the mind can maintain in a state of normalcy, don't go slipping off into the future.
Have the mind know itself in the stance of the present: "Right now it's in
a state of normalcy. No likes or dislikes have arisen yet. It hasn't created any
issues. It's not being disturbed by a desire for this or that."
look on in to the basic level of the mind to see if it's as normal and empty as
it should be. If you're really looking inside, really aware inside, then that
which is looking and knowing is mindfulness and discernment in and of itself.
You don't need to search for anything anywhere else to come and do your looking
for you. As soon as you stop to look, stop to know whether or not the mind is
in a state of normalcy, then if it's normal you'll know immediately that it's
normal. If it's not, you'll know immediately that it's not.
Take care to keep
this awareness going. If you can keep knowing like this continuously, the mind
will be able to keep its stance continuously as well. As soon as the thought occurs
to you to check things out, you'll immediately stop to look, stop to know, without
any need to go searching for knowledge from anywhere else. You look, you know,
right there at the mind and can tell whether or not it's empty and still. Once
you see that it is, then you investigate to see how it's empty, how it's still.
It's not the case that once it's empty, that's the end of the matter; once it's
still, that's the end of the matter. That's not the case at all. You have to keep
watch of things, you have to investigate at all times. Only then will you see
the changing -- the arising and disbanding -- occurring in that emptiness, that
stillness, that state of normalcy.
The Details of Pain
To lead your daily life by keeping constant supervision over the mind
is a way of learning what life is for. It's a way of learning how we can act so
as to rid ourselves more and more of suffering and stress -- because the suffering
and stress caused by defilement, attachment, and craving are sure to take all
sorts of forms. Only by being aware with true mindfulness and discernment can
we comprehend them for what they are. Otherwise, we'll simply live obliviously,
going wherever events will lead us. This is why mindfulness and discernment are
tools for reading yourself, for testing yourself within so that you won't be careless
or complacent, oblivious to the fact that suffering is basically what life is
This point is something we really have to comprehend so that we
can live without being oblivious. The pains and discontent that fill our bodies
and minds all show us the truths of inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness within
us. If you contemplate what's going on inside until you can get down to the details,
you'll see the truths that appear within and without, all of which come down to
inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. But the delusion basic to our nature will
see everything wrongly -- as constant, easeful, and self -- and so make us live
obliviously, even though there is nothing to guarantee how long our lives will
Our dreams and delusions make us forget that we live in the midst of
a mass of pain and stress -- the stress of defilements, the pain of birth. Birth,
aging, illness, and death: All of these are painful and stressful, in the midst
of instability and change. They're things we have no control over, for they must
circle around in line with the laws of kamma and the defilements we've been amassing
all along. Life that floats along in the round of rebirth is thus nothing but
stress and pain.
If we can find a way to develop our mindfulness and discernment,
they'll be able to cut the round of rebirth so that we won't have to keep wandering
on. They'll help us know that birth is painful, aging is painful, illness is painful,
death is painful, and that these are all things that defilement, attachment, and
craving keep driving through the cycles of change.
So as long as we have the
opportunity, we should study the truths appearing throughout our body and mind,
and we'll come to know that the elimination of stress and pain, the elimination
of defilement, is a function of our practice of the Dhamma. If we don't practice
the Dhamma, we'll keep floating along in the round of rebirth that is so drearily
repetitious -- repetitious in its birth, aging, illness, and death, driven on
by defilement, attachment, and craving, causing us repeated stress, repeated pain.
Living beings for the most part don't know where these stresses and pains come
from or what they come from, because they've never studied them, never contemplated
them, so they stay stupid and deluded, wandering on and on without end...
we can stop and be still, the mind will have a chance to be free, to contemplate
its sufferings, and to let them go. This will give it a measure of peace, because
it will no longer want anything out of the round of rebirth -- for it sees that
there's nothing lasting to it, that it's simply stress over and over again. Whatever
you grab hold of is stress. This is why you need mindfulness and discernment to
know and see things for yourself, so that you can supervise the mind and keep
it calm, without letting it fall victim to temptation.
This practice is something
of the highest importance. People who don't study or practice the Dhamma have
wasted their birth as human beings, because they're born deluded and simply stay
deluded. But if we study the Dhamma, we'll become wise to suffering and know the
path of practice for freeing ourselves from it...
Once we follow the right
path, the defilements won't be able to drag us around, won't be able to burn us,
because we're the ones burning them away. We'll come to realize that the more
we can burn them away, the more strength of mind we'll gain. If we let the defilements
burn us, the mind will be sapped of its strength, which is why this is something
you have to be very careful about. Keep trying to burn away the defilements in
your every activity, and you'll be storing up strength for your mindfulness and
discernment so that they'll be brave in dealing with all sorts of suffering and
You must come to see the world as nothing but stress. There's no real
ease to it at all. The awareness we gain from mindfulness and discernment will
make us disenchanted with life in the world because it will see things for what
they are in every way, both within us and without.
The entire world is nothing
but an affair of delusion, an affair of suffering. People who don't know the Dhamma,
don't practice the Dhamma -- no matter what their status or position in life --
lead deluded, oblivious lives. When they fall ill or are about to die, they're
bound to suffer enormously because they haven't taken the time to understand the
defilements that burn their hearts and minds in everyday life. Yet if we make
a constant practice of studying and contemplating ourselves as our everyday activity,
it will help free us from all sorts of suffering and distress. And when this is
the case, how can we not want to practice?
Only intelligent people, though,
will be able to stick with the practice. Foolish people won't want to bother.
They'd much rather follow the defilements than burn them away. To practice the
Dhamma you need a certain basic level of intelligence -- enough to have seen at
least something of the stresses and sufferings that come from defilement. Only
then can your practice progress. And no matter how difficult it gets, you'll have
to keep practicing on to the end.
This practice isn't something you do from
time to time, you know. You have to keep at it continuously throughout life. Even
if it involves so much physical pain or mental anguish that tears are bathing
your cheeks, you have to keep with the chaste life because you're playing for
real. If you don't follow the chaste life, you'll get mired in heaps of suffering
and flame. So you have to learn your lessons from pain. Try to contemplate it
until you can understand it and let it go, and you'll gain one of life's greatest
Don't think that you were born to gain this or that level of comfort.
You were born to study pain and the causes of pain, and to follow the practice
that frees you from pain. This is the most important thing there is. Everything
else is trivial and unimportant. What's important all lies with the practice.
* * *
Don't think that the defilements will go away easily. When they don't
come in blatant forms, they come in subtle ones -- and the dangers of the subtle
ones are hard to see. Your contemplation will have to be subtle, too, if you want
to get rid of them. You'll come to realize that this practice of the Dhamma, in
which we contemplate to get to the details inside us, is like sharpening our tools
so that, when stress and suffering arise, we can weaken them and cut them away.
If your mindfulness and discernment are brave, the defilements will have to lose
out to them. But if you don't train your mindfulness and discernment to be brave,
the defilements will crush you to pieces.
We were born to do battle with the
defilements and to strengthen our mindfulness and discernment. We'll find that
the worth of our practice will grow higher and higher because in our everyday
life we've done continuous battle with the stresses and pains caused by defilement,
craving, and temptation all along -- so that the defilements will grow thin and
our mindfulness and discernment stronger. We'll sense within ourselves that the
mind isn't as troubled and restless as it used to be. It's grown peaceful and
calm. The stresses and sufferings of defilement, attachment, and craving have
grown weaker. Even though we haven't yet wiped them out completely, they've grown
continually weaker -- because we don't feed them. We don't give them shelter.
We do what we can to weaken them so that they grow thinner and thinner each time.
And we have to be brave in contemplating stress and pain, because when we
don't feel any great suffering we tend to get complacent. But when the pains and
sufferings in our body and mind grow sharp and biting, we have to use our mindfulness
and discernment to be strong. Don't let your spirits be weak. Only then will you
be able to do away with your sufferings and pains.
We have to learn our lessons
from pain so that ultimately the mind can gain its freedom from it, instead of
being weak and losing out to it all of the time. We have to be brave in doing
battle with it to the ultimate extreme -- until we reach the point where we can
let it go. Pain is something always present in this conglomerate of body and mind.
It's here for us to see with every moment. If we contemplate it till we know all
its details, we can then make it our sport: seeing that the pain is the pain of
natural conditions and not our pain. This is something we have to research so
as to get to the details: that it's not our pain, it's the pain of the aggregates
[form, feeling, perception, thought-formations, and consciousness]. Knowing in
this way means that we can separate out the properties -- the properties of matter
and those of the mind -- to see how they interact with one another, how they change.
It's something really fascinating... Watching pain is a way of building up lots
of mindfulness and discernment.
But if you focus on pleasure and ease, you'll
simply stay deluded like people in general. They get carried away with the pleasure
that comes from watching or listening to the things they like -- but then when
pain comes to their bodies and minds to the point where tears are bathing their
cheeks, think of how much they suffer! And then they have to be parted from their
loved ones, which makes it even worse. But those of us who practice the Dhamma
don't need to be deluded like that, because we know and see with every moment
that only stress arises, only stress persists, only stress passes away. Aside
from stress, nothing arises; aside from stress, nothing passes away. This is there
for us to perceive with every moment. If we contemplate it, we'll see it.
we can't let ourselves be oblivious. This is what the truth is, and we have to
study it so as to know it -- especially in our life of the practice. We have to
contemplate stress all the time to see its every manifestation. The arahants live
without being oblivious because they know the truth at all times, and their hearts
are clean and pure. As for us with our defilements, we have to keep trying, because
if we continually supervise the mind with mindfulness and discernment, we'll be
able to keep the defilements from making it dirty and obscured. Even if it does
become obscured in any way, we'll be able to remove that obscurity and make the
mind empty and free.
This is the practice that weakens all the defilements,
attachments, and cravings within us. It's because of this practice of the Dhamma
that our lives will become free. So I ask you to keep working at the practice
without being complacent, because if in whatever span of life is left to you,
you keep trying to the full extent of your abilities, you'll gain the mindfulness
and discernment to see the facts within yourself, and be able to let go -- free
from any sense of self, free from any sense of self -- continuously.
Right at Awareness
November 3, 1975
The mind, if mindfulness and awareness
are watching over it, won't meet with any suffering as the result of its actions.
If suffering does arise, we'll be immediately aware of it and able to put it out.
This is one point of the practice we can work at constantly. And we can test ourselves
by seeing how refined and subtle our all-around awareness is inside the mind.
Whenever the mind slips away and goes out to receive external sensory contact:
Can it maintain its basic stance of mindfulness or internal awareness? The practice
we need to work at in our everyday life is to have constant mindfulness, constant
all-around present awareness like this. This is something we work at in every
posture: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. Make sure that your mindfulness
Living in this world -- the mental and physical phenomena
of these five aggregates -- gives us plenty to contemplate. We must try to watch
them, to contemplate them, so that we can understand them -- because the truths
we must learn how to read in this body and mind are here to be read with every
moment. We don't have to get wrapped up with any other extraneous themes, because
all the themes we need are right here in the body and mind. As long as we can
keep the mind constantly aware all around, we can contemplate them.
contemplate mental and physical events to see how they arise and disband right
in the here and now, and don't get involved with external things -- like sights
making contact with the eyes, or sounds with the ears -- then there really aren't
a lot of issues. The mind can be at normalcy, at equilibrium -- calm and undisturbed
by defilement or the stresses that come from sensory contact. It can look after
itself and maintain its balance. You'll come to sense that if you're aware right
at awareness in and of itself, without going out to get involved in external things
like the mental labels and thoughts that will tend to arise, the mind will see
their constant arising and disbanding -- and won't be embroiled in anything. This
way it can be disengaged, empty, and free. But if it goes out to label things
as good or evil, as "me" or "mine," or gets attached to anything,
it'll become unsettled and disturbed.
You have to know that if the mind can
be still, totally and presently aware, and capable of contemplating with every
activity, then blatant forms of suffering and stress will dissolve away. Even
if they start to form, you can be alert to them and disperse them immediately.
Once you see this actually happening -- even in only the beginning stages -- it
can disperse a lot of the confusion and turmoil in your heart. In other words,
don't let yourself dwell on the past or latch onto thoughts of the future. As
for the events arising and passing away in the present, you have to leave them
alone. Whatever your duties, simply do them as you have to -- and the mind won't
get worked up about anything. It will be able, to at least some extent, to be
empty and still.
This one thing is something you have to be very careful about.
You have to see this for yourself: that if your mindfulness and discernment are
constantly in charge, the truths of the arising and disbanding of mental and physical
phenomena are always there for you to see, always there for you to know. If you
look at the body, you'll have to see it simply as physical properties. If you
look at feelings, you'll have to see them as changing and inconstant: pleasure,
pain, neither pleasure nor pain. To see these things is to see the truth within
yourself. Don't let yourself get caught up with your external duties. Simply keep
watch in this way inside. If your awareness is the sort that lets you read yourself
correctly, the mind will be able to stay at normalcy, at equilibrium, at stillness,
without any resistance.
If the mind can stay with itself and not go out looking
for things to criticize or latch onto, it can maintain a natural form of stillness.
So this is something we have to try for in our every activity. Keep your conversations
to a minimum, and there won't be a whole lot of issues. Keep watch right at the
mind. When you keep watch at the mind and your mindfulness is continuous, your
senses can stay restrained.
Being mindful to keep watch in this way is something
you have to work at. Try it and see: Can you keep this sort of awareness continuous?
What sort of things can still get the mind engaged? What sorts of thoughts and
labels of good and bad, me and mine, does it think up? Then look to see if these
things arise and disband.
The sensations that arise from external contact
and internal contact all have the same sorts of characteristics. You have to look
till you can see this. If you know how to look, you'll see it -- and the mind
will grow calm.
So the point we have to practice in this latter stage doesn't
have a whole lot of issues. There's nothing you have to do, nothing you have to
label, nothing you have to think a whole lot about. Simply look carefully and
contemplate, and in this very lifetime you'll have a chance to be calm and at
peace, to know yourself more profoundly within. You'll come to see that the Dhamma
is amazing right here in your own heart. Don't go searching for the Dhamma outside,
for it lies within. Peace lies within, but we have to contemplate so that we're
aware all around -- subtly, deep down. If you look just on the surface, you won't
understand anything. Even if the mind is at normalcy on the ordinary, everyday
level, you won't understand much of anything at all.
You have to contemplate
so that you're aware all around in a skillful way. The word "skillful"
is something you can't explain with words, but you can know for yourself when
you see the way in which awareness within the heart becomes special, when you
see what this special awareness is about. This is something you can know for yourself.
And there's not really much to it: simply arising, persisting, disbanding.
Look until this becomes plain -- really, really plain -- and everything disappears.
All suppositions, all conventional formulations, all those aggregates and properties
get swept away, leaving nothing but awareness pure and simple, not involved with
anything at all -- and there's nothing you have to do to it. Simply stay still
and watch, be aware, letting go with every moment.
Simply watching this one
thing is enough to do away with all sorts of defilements, all sorts of suffering
and stress. If you don't know how to watch it, the mind is sure to get disturbed.
It's sure to label things and concoct thoughts. As soon as there's contact at
the senses, it'll go looking for things to latch onto, liking and disliking the
objects it meets in the present and then getting involved with the past and future,
spinning a web to entangle itself.
If you truly look at each moment in the
present, there's really nothing at all. You'll see with every mental moment that
things disband, disband, disband -- really nothing at all. The important point
is that you don't go forming issues out of nothing. The physical elements perform
their duties in line with their elementary physical nature. The mental elements
keep sensing in line with their own affairs. But our stupidity is what goes looking
for issues to cook up, to label, to think about. It goes looking for things to
latch onto and then gets the mind into a turmoil. This point is all we really
have to see for ourselves. This is the problem we have to solve for ourselves.
If things are left to their nature, pure and simple, there's no "us,"
no "them." This is a singular truth that will arise for us to know and
see. There's nothing else we can know or see that can match it in any way. Once
you know and see this one thing, it extinguishes all suffering and stress. The
mind will be empty and free, with no meanings, no attachments, for anything at
This is why looking inward is so special in so many ways. Whatever arises,
simply stop still to look at it. Don't get excited by it. If you become excited
when any special intuitions arise when the mind is still, you'll get the mind
worked up into a turmoil. If you become afraid that this or that will happen,
that too will get you in a turmoil. So you have to stop and look, stop and know.
The first thing is simply to look. The first thing is simply to know. And don't
latch onto what you know -- because whatever it is, it's simply a phenomenon that
arises and disbands, arises and disbands, changing as part of its nature.
your awareness has to take a firm stance right at the mind in and of itself. In
the beginning stages, you have to know that when mindfulness is standing firm,
the mind won't be affected by the objects of sensory contact. Keep working at
maintaining this stance, holding firm to this stance. If you gain a sense of this
for yourself, really knowing and seeing for yourself, your mindfulness will become
even more firm. If anything arises in any way at all, you'll be able to let it
go -- and all the many troubles and turmoils of the mind will dissolve away.
mindfulness slips and the mind goes out giving meanings to anything, latching
onto anything, troubles will arise, so you have to keep checking on this with
every moment. There's nothing else that's so worth checking on. You have to keep
check on the mind in and of itself, contemplating the mind in and of itself. Or
else you can contemplate the body in and of itself, feelings in and of themselves,
or the phenomenon of arising and disbanding -- i.e., the Dhamma -- in and of itself.
All of these things are themes you can keep track of entirely within yourself.
You don't have to keep track of a lot of themes, because having a lot of themes
is what will make you restless and distracted. First you'll practice this theme,
then you'll practice that, then you'll make comparisons, all of which will keep
the mind from growing still.
If you can take your stance at awareness, if
you're skilled at looking, the mind can be at peace. You'll know how things arise
and disband. First practice keeping awareness right within yourself so that your
mindfulness can be firm, without being affected by the objects of sensory contact,
so that it won't label things as good or bad, pleasing or displeasing. You have
to keep checking to see that when the mind can be at normalcy, centered and neutral
as its primary stance, then -- whatever it knows or sees -- it will be able to
contemplate and let go.
The sensations in the mind that we explain at such
length are still on the level of labels. Only when there can be awareness right
at awareness will you really be able to know that the mind that is aware of awareness
in this way doesn't send its knowing outside of this awareness. There are no issues.
Nothing can be concocted in the mind when it knows in this way. In other words,
All outward-going knowing
The only thing you have to work at maintaining is the state of
mind at normalcy -- knowing, seeing, and still in the present. If you don't maintain
it, if you don't keep looking after it, then when sensory contact comes it will
have an effect. The mind will go out with labels of good and bad, liking and disliking.
So make sure you maintain the basic awareness that's aware right at yourself.
And don't let there be any labeling. No matter what sort of sensory contact comes,
you have to make sure that this awareness comes first.
If you train yourself
correctly in this way, everything will stop. You won't go straying out through
your senses of sight, hearing, etc. The mind will stop and look, stop and be aware
right at awareness, so as to know the truth that all things arise and disband.
There's no real truth to anything. Only our stupidity is what latches onto things,
giving them meanings and then suffering for it -- suffering because of its ignorance,
suffering because of its unacquaintance with the five aggregates -- form, feelings,
perceptions, thought-formations, and consciousness -- all of which are inconstant,
stressful, and not-self.
Use mindfulness to gather your awareness together,
and the mind will stop getting unsettled, stop running after things. It will be
able to stop and be still. Then make it know in this way, see in this way constantly
-- at every moment, with every activity. Work at watching and knowing the mind
in and of itself: That will be enough to cut away all sorts of issues. You won't
have to concern yourself with them.
If the body is in pain, simply keep watch
of it. You can simply keep watch of feelings in the body because the mind that's
aware of itself in this way can keep watch of anything within or without. Or it
can simply be aware of itself to the point where it lets go of things outside,
lets go of sensory contact, and keeps constant watch on the mind in and of itself.
That's when you'll know that this is what the mind is like when it's at peace:
It doesn't give meanings to anything. It's the emptiness of the mind unattached,
uninvolved, unconcerned with anything at all.
These words -- unattached, uninvolved,
and unconcerned -- are things you have to consider carefully, because what they
refer to is subtle and deep. "Uninvolved" means uninvolved with sensory
contact, undisturbed by the body or feelings. "Unconcerned" means not
worried about past, future, or present. You have to contemplate these things until
you know them skillfully. Even though they're subtle, you have to contemplate
them until you know them thoroughly. And don't go concerning yourself with external
things, because they'll keep you unsettled, keep you running, keep you distracted
with labels and thoughts of good and bad and all that sort of thing. You have
to put a stop to these things. If you don't, your practice won't accomplish anything,
because these things keep playing up to you and deceiving you -- i.e., once you
see anything, it will fool you into seeing it as right, wrong, good, bad, and
Eventually you have to come down to the awareness that everything
simply arises, persists, and then disbands. Make sure you stay focused on the
disbanding. If you watch just the arising, you may get carried off on a tangent,
but if you focus on the disbanding you'll see emptiness: Everything is disbanding
every instant. No matter what you look at, no matter what you see, it's there
for just an instant and then disbands. Then it arises again. Then it disbands.
There's simply arising, knowing, disbanding.
So let's watch what happens of
its own accord -- because the arising and disbanding that occurs by way of the
senses is something that happens of its own accord. You can't prevent it. You
can't force it. If you look and know it without attachment, there will be none
of the harm that comes from joy or sorrow. The mind will stay in relative normalcy
and neutrality. But if you're forgetful and start latching on, labeling things
in pairs in any way at all -- good and bad, happy and sad, pleasing and displeasing
-- the mind will become unsettled: no longer empty, no longer still. When this
happens, you have to probe on in to know why.
All the worthless issues that
arise in the mind have to be cut away. Then you'll find that you have less and
less to say, less and less to talk about, less and less to think about. These
things grow less and less on their own. They stop on their own. But if you get
involved in a lot of issues, the mind won't be able to stay still. So we have
to keep watching things that are completely worthless and without substance, to
see that they're not-self. Keep watching them repeatedly, because your awareness,
coupled with the mindfulness and discernment that will know the truth, has to
see that, "This isn't my self. There's no substance or worth to it at all.
It simply arises and disbands right here. It's here for just an instant and then
All we have to do is stop and look, stop and know clearly
in this way, and we'll be able to do away with many, many kinds of suffering and
stress. The normal stress of the aggregates will still occur -- we can't prevent
it -- but we'll know that it's the stress of nature and won't latch onto it as
So we keep watch of things that happen on their own. If we know how
to watch, we keep watching things that happen on their own. Don't latch onto them
as being you or yours. Keep this awareness firmly established in itself, as much
as you can, and there won't be much else you'll have to remember or think about.
When you keep looking, keep knowing like this at all times, you'll come to
see that there are no big issues going on. There's just the issue of arising,
persisting, and disbanding. You don't have to label anything as good or bad. If
you simply look in this way, it's no great weight on the heart. But if you go
dragging in issues of good and bad, self and all that, then suffering starts in
a big way. The defilements start in a big way and weigh on the heart, making it
troubled and upset. So you have to stop and look, stop and investigate really
deep down inside. It's like water covered with duckweed: Only when we take our
hand to part the duckweed and take a look will we see that the water beneath it
is crystal clear.
As you look into the mind, you have to part it, you have
to stop: stop thinking, stop labeling things as good or bad, stop everything.
You can't go branding anything. Simply keep looking, keep knowing. When the mind
is quiet, you'll see that there's nothing there. Everything is all still. Everything
has all stopped inside. But as soon as there's labeling, even in the stillness,
the stopping, the quiet, it will set things in motion. And as soon as things get
set into motion, and you don't know how to let go right from the start, issues
will arise, waves will arise. Once there are issues and waves, they strike the
mind and it goes splashing all out of control. This splashing of the mind includes
craving and defilement as well, because avijja -- ignorance -- lies at its root...
Our major obstacle is this aggregate of perceptions, of labels. If we aren't
aware of the arising and disbanding of perceptions, these labels will take hold.
Perceptions are the chief instigators that label things within and without, so
we have to be aware of their arising and disbanding. Once we're aware in this
way, perceptions will no longer function as a cause of suffering. In other words,
they won't give rise to any further thought-formations. The mind will be aware
in itself and able to extinguish these things in itself.
So we have to stop
things at the level of perception. If we don't, thought-formations will fashion
things into issues and then cause consciousness to wobble and waver in all sorts
of ways. But these are things we can stop and look at, things we can know with
every mental moment... If we aren't yet really acquainted with the arising and
disbanding in the mind, we won't be able to let go. We can talk about letting
go, but we can't do it because we don't yet know. As soon as anything arises we
grab hold of it -- even when actually it's already disbanded, but since we don't
really see, we don't know...
So I ask that you understand this basic principle.
Don't go grasping after this thing or that, or else you'll get yourself all unsettled.
The basic theme is within: Look on in, keep knowing on in until you penetrate
everything. The mind will then be free from turmoil. Empty. Quiet. Aware. So keep
continuous watch of the mind in and of itself, and you'll come to the point where
you simply run out of things to say. Everything will stop on its own, grow still
on its own, because the underlying condition that has stopped and is still is
already there, simply that we aren't aware of it yet.
The Pure Present
June 3, 1964
We have to catch sight of the sensation of knowing when the
mind gains knowledge of anything and yet isn't aware of itself, to see how it
latches onto things: physical form, feeling, perceptions, thought-formations,
and consciousness. We have to probe on in and look on our own. We can't use the
teachings we've memorized to catch sight of these things. That won't get us anywhere
at all. We may remember, "The body is inconstant," but even though we
can say it, we can't see it.
We have to focus on in to see exactly how the
body is inconstant, to see how it changes. And we have to focus on feelings --
pleasant, painful, and neutral -- to see how they change. The same holds true
with perceptions, thought-formations, and so forth. We have to focus on them,
investigate them, contemplate them to see their characteristics as they actually
are. Even if you can see these things for only a moment, it'll do you a world
of good. You'll be able to catch yourself: The things you thought you knew, you
didn't really know at all... This is why the knowledge we gain in the practice
has to keep changing through many, many levels. It doesn't stay on just one level.
So even when you're able to know arising and disbanding with every moment
right in the present: If your contemplation isn't continuous, it won't be very
clear. You have to know how to contemplate the bare sensation of arising and disbanding,
simply arising and disbanding, without any labels of "good" or "bad."
Just keep with the pure sensation of arising and disbanding. When you do this,
other things will come to intrude -- but no matter how they intrude, it's still
a matter of arising and disbanding, so you can keep your stance with arising and
disbanding in this way.
If you start labeling things, it gets confusing. All
you need to do is keep looking at the right spot: the bare sensation of arising
and disbanding. Simply make sure that you really keep watch of it. Whether there's
awareness of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or tactile sensations, just stay
with the sensation of arising and disbanding. Don't go labeling the sight, sound,
smell, taste, or tactile sensation. If you can keep watch in this way, you're
with the pure present -- and there won't be any issues.
When you keep watch
in this way, you're keeping watch on inconstancy, on change, as it actually occurs
-- because even the arising and disbanding changes. It's not the same thing arising
and disbanding all the time. First this sort of sensation arises and disbands,
then that sort arises and disbands. If you keep watch on bare arising and disbanding
like this, you're sure to arrive at insight. But if you keep watch with labels
-- "That's the sound of a cow," "That's the bark of a dog"
-- you won't be watching the bare sensation of sound, the bare sensation of arising
and disbanding. As soon as there's labeling, thought-formations come along with
it. Your senses of touch, sight, hearing, and so forth will continue their bare
arising and disbanding, but you won't know it. Instead, you'll label everything
-- sights, sounds, etc. -- and then there will be attachments, feelings of pleasure
and displeasure, and you won't know the truth.
The truth keeps going along
on its own. Sensations keep arising and then disbanding. If we focus right here
-- at the consciousness of the bare sensation of sights, sounds, smells, tastes,
and tactile sensations -- we'll be able to gain insight quickly...
If we know
how to observe things in this way, we'll be able to see easily when the mind is
provoked by passion or greed, and even more easily when it's provoked by anger.
As for delusion, that's something more subtle... something you have to take a
great interest in and investigate carefully. You'll come to see all sorts of hidden
things -- how the mind is covered with many, many layers of film. It's really
fascinating. But then that's what insight meditation is for -- to open your eyes
so that you can know and see, so that you can destroy your delusion and ignorance.
The Deceits of Knowing
January 29, 1964
You have to find approaches
for contemplating and probing at all times so as to catch sight of the flickerings
of awareness, to see in what ways it streams out to know things. Be careful to
catch sight of it both when its knowing is right and when it's wrong. Don't mix
things up, taking wrong knowledge for right, or right knowledge for wrong. This
is something extremely important for the practice, this question of right and
wrong knowing, for these things can play tricks on you.
When you gain any
new insights, don't go getting excited. You can't let yourself get excited by
them at all, because it doesn't take long for your insight to change -- to change
right now, before your very eyes. It's not going to change at some other time
or place. It's changing right now. You have to know how to observe, how to acquaint
yourself with the deceits of knowledge. Even when it's correct knowledge, you
can't latch onto it.
Even though we may have standards for judging what sort
of knowledge is correct in the course of our practice, don't go latching onto
correct knowledge -- because correct knowledge is inconstant. It changes. It can
turn into false knowledge, or into knowledge that is even more correct. You have
to contemplate things very carefully -- very, very carefully -- so that you won't
fall for your knowledge, thinking, "I've gained right insight; I know better
than other people," so that you won't start assuming yourself to be special.
The moment you assume yourself, your knowledge immediately turns wrong. Even if
you don't let things show outwardly, the mere mental event in which the mind labels
itself is a form of wrong knowing that obscures the mind from itself in an insidious
This is why meditators who tend not to contemplate things, who don't
catch sight of the deceits of every form of knowledge -- right and wrong, good
and bad -- tend to get bogged down in their knowledge. The knowledge that deceives
them into thinking, "What I know is right," gives rise to strong pride
and conceit within them, without their even realizing it.
This is because
the defilements are always getting into the act without our realizing it. They're
insidious, and in their insidious way they keep getting into the act as a matter
of course, for the defilements and mental effluents are still there in our character.
Our practice is basically a probing deep inside, from the outer levels of the
mind to the inner ones. This is an approach that requires a great deal of subtlety
and precision... The mind has to use its own mindfulness and discernment to dig
everything out of itself, leaving just the mind in and of itself, the body in
and of itself, and then keep watch of them.
* * *
The basic challenge in
the practice is this one point and nothing else: this problem of how to look inward
so that you see clear through. If the mind hasn't been trained to look inward,
it tends to look outward, simply waiting to receive its objects from outside --
and all it gets is the confusion of its sensations going in and out, in and out.
And even though this confusion is one aspect of change and inconstancy, we don't
see it that way. Instead, we see it as issues, good and bad, pertaining to the
self. When this is the case, we're back right where we started, not knowing what's
what. This is why the mind's sensations, when it isn't acquainted with itself,
are so secretive and hard to perceive. If you want to find out about them by reading
a lot of books, you end up piling more defilements onto the mind, making it even
more thickly covered than before.
So when you turn to look inward, you shouldn't
use concepts and labels to do your looking for you. If you use concepts and labels
to do your looking, there will be nothing but concepts arising, changing, and
disbanding. Everything will get all concocted into thoughts -- and then how will
you be able to watch in utter silence? The more you take what you've learned from
books to look inside yourself, the less you'll see.
So whatever you've learned,
when you come to the practice you have to put all the labels and concepts you've
gained from your learning to one side. You have to make yourself an innocent beginner
once more. Only then will you be able to penetrate in to read the truths within
you. If you carry all the paraphernalia of the concepts and standards you've gained
from your learning to gauge things inside you, you can search to your dying day
and yet won't meet with any real truths at all. This is why you have to hold to
only one theme in your practice. If the mind has lots of themes to concern itself
with, it's still just wandering around -- wandering around to know this and that,
going out of bounds without realizing it and not really wanting to know itself.
This is why those with a lot of learning like to teach others, to show off their
level of understanding. And this is precisely how the desire to stand out keeps
the mind obscured.
Of all the various kinds of deception, there's none as
bad as deceiving yourself. When you haven't yet really seen the truth, what business
do you have making assumptions about yourself, that you've attained this or that
sort of knowledge, or that you know enough to teach others correctly? The Buddha
is quite critical of teachers of this sort. He calls them "people in vain."
Even if you can teach large numbers of people to become arahants, while you yourself
haven't tasted the flavor of the Dhamma, the Buddha says that you're a person
in vain. So you have to keep examining yourself. If you haven't yet really trained
yourself in the things you teach to others, how will you be able to extinguish
your own suffering?
Think about this for a moment. Extinguishing suffering,
gaining release from suffering: Aren't these subtle matters? Aren't they completely
personal within us? If you question yourself in this way, you'll be on the right
track. But even then you have to be careful. If you start taking sides with yourself,
the mind will cover itself up with wrong insights and wrong opinions. If you don't
observe really carefully, you can get carried off on a tangent -- because the
awareness with which the mind reads itself and actually sees through itself is
something really extraordinary, really worth developing -- and it really eliminates
suffering and defilement. This is the real, honest truth, not a lot of propaganda
or lies. It's something you really have to practice, and then you'll really have
to see clearly in this way. When this is the case, how can you not want to practice?
If you examine yourself correctly in this way, you'll be able to know what's
real. But you have to be careful to examine yourself correctly. If you start latching
onto any sense of self, thinking that you're better than other people, then you've
failed the examination. No matter how correct your knowledge, you have to keep
humble and respectful above all else. You can't let there be any pride or conceit
at all, or it will destroy everything.
This is why the awareness that eliminates
the sense of self depends more than anything else on your powers of observation
-- to check and see if there's still anything in your knowledge or opinions that
comes from the force of pride in any sense of self... You have to use the full
power of your mindfulness and discernment to cut these things away. It's nothing
you can play around at. If you gain a few insights or let go of things a bit,
don't go thinking you're anything special. The defilements don't hold a truce
with anyone. They keep coming right out as they like. So you have to be circumspect
and examine things on all sides. Only then will you be able to benefit in ways
that make your defilements and sufferings lighter and lighter.
When we probe
in to find the instigator -- the mind, or this property of consciousness -- that's
when we're on the right track, and our probing will keep getting results, will
keep weakening the germs of craving and wiping them out. In whatever way craving
streams out, for "being" or "having" in any way at all, we'll
be able to catch sight of it every time. To catch hold and examine this "being"
and "having" in this way, though, requires a lot of subtlety. If you
aren't really mindful and discerning, you won't be able to catch sight of these
things at all, because the mind is continually wanting to be and to have. The
germs of defilement lie hidden deep in the seed of the mind, in this property
of consciousness. Simply to be aware of them skillfully is no mean feat -- so
we shouldn't even think of trying to wipe them out with our mere opinions. We
have to keep contemplating, probing on in, until things come together just right,
in a single moment, and then it's like reaching the basic level of knowing that
exists on its own, with no willing or intention at all.
This is something
that requires careful observation: the difference between willed and unwilled
knowing. Sometimes there's the intention to look and be aware within, but there
come times when there's no intention to look within, and yet knowledge arises
on its own. If you don't yet know, look at the intention to look inward: What
is it like? What is it looking for? What does it see? This is a basic approach
you have to hold to. This is a level you have to work at, and one in which you
have to make use of intention -- the intention to look inward in this way... But
once you reach the basic level of knowing, then as soon as you happen to focus
down and look within, the knowledge will occur on its own.
July 9, 1971
One night I was sitting in meditation outside in the
open air -- my back straight as an arrow -- firmly determined to make the mind
quiet, but even after a long time it wouldn't settle down. So I thought, "I've
been working at this for many days now, and yet my mind won't settle down at all.
It's time to stop being so determined and to simply be aware of the mind."
I started to take my hands and feet out of the meditation posture, but at the
moment I had unfolded one leg but had yet to unfold the other, I could see that
my mind was like a pendulum swinging more and more slowly, more and more slowly
-- until it stopped.
Then there arose an awareness that was sustained by itself.
Slowly I put my legs and hands back into position. At the same time, the mind
was in a state of awareness absolutely and solidly still, seeing clearly into
the elementary phenomena of existence as they arose and disbanded, changing in
line with their nature -- and also seeing a separate condition inside, with no
arising, disbanding, or changing, a condition beyond birth and death: something
very difficult to put clearly into words, because it was a realization of the
elementary phenomena of nature, completely internal and individual.
a while I slowly got up and lay down to rest. This state of mind remained there
as a stillness that sustained itself deep down inside. Eventually the mind came
out of this state and gradually returned to normal.
From this I was able to
observe how practice consisting of nothing but fierce desire simply upsets the
mind and keeps it from being still. But when one's awareness of the mind is just
right, an inner awareness will arise naturally of its own accord. Because of this
clear inner awareness, I was able to continue knowing the facts of what's true
and false, right and wrong, from that point on, and it enabled me to know that
the moment when the mind let go of everything was a clear awareness of the elementary
phenomena of nature, because it was an awareness that knew within and saw within
of its own accord -- not something you can know or see by wanting.
reason the Buddha's teaching, "Sabbe dhamma anatta -- All phenomena are not-self,"
tells us not to latch onto any of the phenomena of nature, whether conditioned
or unconditioned. From that point on I was able to understand things and let go
of attachments step by step.
Going Out Cold
May 26, 1964
important to realize how to focus on events in order to get special benefits from
your practice. You have to focus so as to observe and contemplate, not simply
to make the mind still. Focus on how things arise, how they disband. Make your
focus subtle and deep.
When you're aware of the characteristics of your sensations,
then -- if it's a physical sensation -- contemplate that physical sensation. There
will have to be a feeling of stress. Once there's a feeling of stress, how will
you be aware of it simply as a feeling so that it won't lead to anything further?
Once you can be aware of it simply as a feeling, it stops right there without
producing any taste in terms of a desire for anything. The mind will disengage
right there -- right there at the feeling. If you don't focus on it in this way,
craving will arise on top of the feeling -- craving to attain ease and be rid
of the stress and pain. If you don't focus on the feeling in the proper way right
from the start, craving will arise before you're aware of it, and if you then
try to let go of it, it'll be very tiring...
The way in which preoccupations
take shape, the sensations of the mind as it's aware of things coming with every
moment, the way these things change and disband: These are all things you have
to focus on to see clearly. This is why we make the mind disengaged. We don't
disengage it so that it doesn't know or amount to anything. That's not the kind
of disengagement we want. The more the mind is truly disengaged, the more it sees
clearly into the characteristics of the arising and disbanding within itself.
All I ask is that you observe things carefully, that your awareness be all-around
at all times. Work at this as much as you can. If you can keep this sort of awareness
going, you'll find that the mind or consciousness under the supervision of mindfulness
and discernment in this way is different from -- is opposite from -- unsupervised
consciousness. It will be the opposite sort of thing continually.
If you keep
the mind well supervised so that it's sensitive in the proper way, it will yield
enormous benefits, not just small ones. If you don't make it properly sensitive
and aware, what can you expect to gain from it?
When we say that we gain from
the practice, we're not talking about anything else: We're talking about gaining
disengagement. Freedom. Emptiness. Before, the mind was embroiled. Defilement
and craving attacked and robbed it, leaving it completely entangled. Now it's
disengaged, freed from the defilements that used to gang up to burn it. Its desires
for this or that thing, its concocting of this or that thought, have all fallen
away. So now it's empty and disengaged. It can be empty in this way right before
your very eyes. Try to see it right now, before your eyes, right now as I'm speaking
and you're listening. Probe on in so as to know.
If you can be constantly
aware in this way, you're following in the footsteps or taking within you the
quality called "buddho," which means one who knows, who is awake, who
has blossomed in the Dhamma. Even if you haven't fully blossomed -- if you've
blossomed only to the extent of disengaging from the blatant levels of craving
and defilement -- you still benefit a great deal, for when the mind really knows
the defilements and can let them go, it feels cool and refreshed in and of itself.
This is the exact opposite of the defilements that, as soon as they arise, make
us burn and smoulder inside. If we don't have the mindfulness and discernment
to help us know, the defilements will burn us. But as soon as mindfulness and
discernment know, the fires go out -- and they go out cold.
Observe how the
defilements arise and take shape -- they also disband in quick succession, but
when they disband on their own in this way, go out on their own in this way, they
go out hot. If we have mindfulness and discernment watching over them, they go
out cold. Look so that you can see what the true knowledge of mindfulness and
discernment is like: It goes out; it goes out cold. As for the defilements, even
when they arise and disband in line with their nature, they go out hot -- hot
because we latch onto them, hot because of attachment. When they go out cold,
look again -- it's because there's no attachment. They've been let go, put out.
This is something really worth looking into: the fact that there's something
very special like this in the mind -- special in that when it really knows the
truth, it isn't attached. It's unentangled, empty, and free. This is how it's
special. It can grow empty of greed, anger, and delusion, step after step. It
can be empty of desire, empty of mental processes. The important thing is that
you really see for yourself that the true nature of the mind is that it can be
empty... This is why I said this morning that nibbana doesn't lie anywhere else.
It lies right here, right where things go out and are cool, go out and are cool.
It's staring us right in the face.
Reading The Heart
March 15, 1974
Buddha taught that we are to know with our own hearts and minds. Even though there
are many, many words and phrases coined to explain the Dhamma, we need focus only
on the things we can know and see, extinguish and let go of, right in each moment
of the immediate present -- better than taking on a load of other things. Once
we can read and comprehend our inner awareness, we'll be struck deep within us
that the Buddha awakened to the truth right here in the heart. His truth is truly
the language of the heart.
When they translate the Dhamma in all sorts of
ways, it becomes something ordinary. But if you keep close and careful watch right
at the heart and mind, you'll be able to see clearly, to let go, to put down your
burdens. If you don't know right here, your knowledge will send out all sorts
of branches, turning into thought-formations with all sorts of meanings in line
with conventional labels -- and all of them way off the mark.
If you know
right at your inner awareness and make it your constant stance, there's nothing
at all: no need to take hold of anything, no need to label anything, no need to
give anything names. Right where craving arises, right where it disbands: That's
where you'll know what nibbana is like... "Nibbana is simply this disbanding
of craving." That's what the Buddha stressed over and over again.