General Aspects of Buddhism
A. What led you to the study of the Buddha's teaching?
B. When I first came to Thailand I was naturally interested in knowing more about the Thai people. I wanted to learn more about their customs and about their way of thinking. I found the study of Buddhism essential for the understanding of the Thai culture because the spiritual background of the Thai people is Buddhism.
Therefore I started to study Buddhism and the more I studied, the more I found my interest growing. When one is in Thailand one should take the opportunity to study Buddhism and to understand the practice of Buddhism as well. Deep understanding will not come from books alone. Understanding is developed above all by the practice, by understanding Buddhism as it is lived in daily life!
A. Would you tell me what you mean by the practice of Buddhism in daily life?
B. One is first confronted with the practice of Buddhism when one sees different customs of the Thais, such as giving food to the monks, paying respect to the Buddha image or reciting the 'precepts' on special occasions such as Uposatha Day [Uposatha Day is the day of 'fasting' or 'vigil' which laypeople usually observe four times a month (the days of the new moon, full moon and the two days of the half moon) by undertaking moral precepts and by visiting the temple].
In the beginning I thought that these customs were mixed with many things which are not essential for the practice of Buddhism. For example, I did not see how the presenting of eggs to the statue of the Emerald Buddha could have anything to do with the practice of Buddhism. However, even such popular beliefs can teach us something about the practice of Buddhism.
There are many levels of understanding the Buddha's teachings. The people who present the eggs to the statue of the Buddha express their confidence in him. This is a wholesome act which will bear its fruit accordingly.However, the people who present the eggs may not realise that it is their respect to the Buddha which will bring them a good result and not the eggs presented to him. They may not clearly see which cause will bring them which result. They would receive greater benefit from their act of paying respect to the Buddha if this were done in a more meaningful way. They could, for example, pay respect to the Buddha in abstaining from ill deeds, in serving other people, in learning more about the teachings of the Buddha and in helping other people to understand the teachings as well.
A. Could you tell me about the different degrees of understanding the Buddha's teaching ?
B. As regards paying respect to Buddha image, people who have a higher level of understanding know that the Buddha has passed away completely. However, it still makes sense to pay respect to him. When one has studied the teachings more deeply and when one has tried to verify them in daily life, one understands that it is not important whether the Buddha still exists to receive people's homage or not. It is the wholesome mental state of the person who pays respect to the Buddha or who offers something to him, that will bring its result to the person who performs it. One reaps what one has sown.
The person who pays respect to the Buddha with the right understanding does not have a confused idea of a Buddha in heaven who could see him or hear him. The image of the Buddha reminds him of the virtues of the Buddha. He thinks of the wisdom of the Buddha who found the path to complete freedom from sorrow all by himself and who able to help other people as well to find this path. He thinks of the purity in all his deeds, his speech and his thoughts. He thinks of compassion of the Buddha, who taught out of compassion for everybody.
A. What is the meaning of giving food to the monks?
B. As regards the giving of food to the monks, some people doubt whether that is of any use. They are inclined to think that monks want to have an easy life, and that they do not have to work at all. But they forget that the real meaning of being a monk is seeking the truth.
A monk's life is a hard life; he does not have a family life, he cannot choose his own food, and he does not take part in any entertainment such as going to movies or football matches. He renounces the luxuries of a home, choice of clothing and food, and entertainment in order to seek the truth and to help other people to find the truth as well.
When people give food to the monks their act is one which will be fruitful for both parties. The giver will benefit from his act because he has a wholesome mental state at the time of giving: when there is generosity there is no greed or attachment. The receiver will benefit from the act of the giver because he is encouraged to study and practise the Buddhist teachings more earnestly and to help other people to know the teachings as well. He knows that the food he receives puts him under an obligation to be worthy of the gift, to work for the spiritual welfare of the whole world. Monks are continually reminded of their responsibility as monks, and twice a month they recite the rules of Patimokkha, in which their obligations are summed up. Further, when the receiver is aware of the wholesome mental state of the giver, he will rejoice in the good deeds of the giver and thus he will have a wholesome mental state as well; he will be inspired by the generosity of the giver.
A. Do you not find it difficult to think in terms of 'mental states'? And thinking of one's own mental state might seem an egocentric attitude.
B. This way of thinking is very realistic, because it is the different mental states which make us act in this way or in that. Only if we study our mental states and the many factors which cause them to be like this or like that, will we be able to understand the deepest motives of our behavior. We have to start by being aware of our own mental states. This is not egocentric, because we have to understand ourselves first, before we can understand other people.
Through the study of the Abhidhamma also, one can begin to have more understanding of one's mental states. The Abhidhamma is that part of the Buddhist teachings which analyses the different states of mind and which explains in detail about everything which is real. The study of the Abhidhamma helps us to understand which causes bring which effects in our life and in the lives of other people.
A. Do you find that you can verify the Abhidhamma in your daily life?
B. It was a great discovery for me to find that the Abhidhamma can be verified in daily life, although one can in the beginning experience only part of the realities the Abhidhamma explains.
At first one might think that the Abhidhamma is too subtle and one might doubt whether it is useful to study the many different degrees of ignorance and wisdom, but one learns that each of these different degrees brings its corresponding result.
In studying Abhidhamma one learns to understand more about other people as well. One learns that people are different because of different accumulations of experiences in the past. Because of these different accumulations people behave differently. At each moment one accumulates new experiences, and this conditions what one will be like and what one will experience in the future.
When one understands more about the different accumulations of different people, one is less inclined to judge other people. When one sees people paying respect to the Buddha with apparently very little understanding one knows that their accumulations are thus and that they are performing a wholesome act according to their ability.
A. Do you think that a person with very little understanding can ever reach a level of higher understanding? In other words, if one's accumulations have conditions one's character, is there anything that can be done about it?Is it possible to improve one's degree of understanding?
B. Everything can be done about it: wisdom can be developed gradually and thus one's accumulations can be changed. Those who have a higher level of understanding can and should help other people to develop a higher level of understanding as well.
I shall give an example. Children can become novices. They share the life of the monks in order to learn more about the Buddhist teachings and to make merit for their parents who can rejoice in their good deeds. Many people think that the person who makes merit can literally transfer his own good deeds to other people, dead or alive. This is not the right understanding. It is not possible to transfer merit to other people, because everyone will receive the result of his own deeds. Older monks who have reached a higher level of understanding can help the novices to have more understanding about the wholesome act they are performing. If they could understand correctly the meaning of the merit they make, their renunciation would be even more fruitful. The novices are performing a very wholesome act in renouncing the company of their relatives in order to study the Buddhist teachings and to train themselves in the precepts, which are moral rules. This gives them a good spiritual foundation for their whole life. They will receive the fruit of this wholesome act themselves. The merit they make cannot literally be transferred to other people. However, other people, no matter whether they are deceased or still alive, can have wholesome states of mind inspired by the good deeds of someone else. Their own wholesome mental states will bring them a wholesome result. So parents, even deceased parents, if they are in places of existence where they can rejoice in the good deeds of their child, may have wholesome states of mind and in this way experience a wholesome result in the future. The expression 'transfer of merit' is a misleading one, because it does not give us the understanding of the real cause and effect.
A. You used the expression 'mental state'. Could you explain what it means? I would like to ask you in general whether you find the English language adequate to render the real meaning of the realities which are described in the Abhidhamma?
B. The English language is nt at all adequate to render the meaning of the realities which are described in the Abhidhamma. The 'Three Collections' of the teachings (Tipitaka) use the Pali terms, and therefore it is better to learn the Pali terms and their meaning. For instance, the word 'mental state' which is a translation of the Pali term 'citta', is misleading. 'State' implies something which stays for some time, be it short or long. However, each mental state or citta falls away immediately, as soon as it has arisen, to be succeeded by the next citta. This happens more rapidly than a lightning flash. The different cittas succeed one another so rapidly that it seems that there is only one citta. That is the reason why people take a citta for 'self'.
For the same reason the word 'mind' gives one a wrong idea of reality. One often hears the expression 'mastering one's mind' or 'controlling one's mind'. Many people think that the mind is something static which can be grasped and controlled. There are many different mental states, none of which can be considered as 'self' or as belonging to a 'self'.
In the 'Lesser Discourse to Saccaka' (Culasaccaka-sutta, Majjhima Nikaya I, Mahayamaka-vagga) we read that the Buddha asked Saccaka whether he could be master of his body or of his mind, just as a king rules over his subjects. The Buddha asked: 'When you speak thus: "The body is myself," have you power over this body of yours (and can you say), "Let my body be thus, let my body be not thus"?' The Buddha asked the same question about the mind. Saccaka answered that it is not possible.
In daily life we can find out that this is true. If we were masters of our bodies we would not grow older, there would not be sickness, and we would not die. However, old age, sickness and death are unavoidable.
Neither can we be masters of our minds; the mental states which arise are beyond control. Like and dislike are beyond control, they arise when there are conditions. When we eat food which is prepared to our taste, we cannot help liking it. If someone insults us we cannot help feeling aversion; we may reason later and try to understand the other person, but we cannot help feeling aversion at first. Like, dislike, and even reasoning about our like and dislike are not 'self', they are different mental states which arise when there are the right conditions.
We are all inclined to take mental states for 'self'; for example, when we like something we take the like for 'self'. However, the next moment there could be dislike, and we might wonder where the like which we took for 'self' has gone.
It is very human to like the idea of a 'self' and to hold on to it. The Buddha knew this and therefore, after his enlightenment, felt inclined for a moment not to teach other people the Path he had found. However, the Buddha knew also that people have different levels of understanding. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Sagatha-vagga, Chapter VI, The Brahma Sutta, Chapter I, par.1, The Entreaty) that the Buddha surveyed the world with his 'Buddha-vision' and saw people with different levels of understanding, some of whom would be able to understand his teaching:
As in a pool of blue or red or white lotus, some lotus plants born in the water, emerge not, but grow up and thrive sunken beneath the surface; and other lotus plants, born in the water and growing up in the water rise to the surface; and other lotus plants, born in the water and growing up in the water, stand thrusting themselves above the water and unwetted by it, even so did the Exalted One look down over the world with a Buddha's Eye, and see beings whose eyes were scarcely dimmed by dust, beings whose eyes were sorely dimmed by dust, beings sharp of sense and blunted of sense, beings of good and beings of evil disposition, beings docile and beings indocile, some among them living with a perception of the danger of other worlds (namely in rebirth)and of wrongdoing.
Therefore the Buddha decided to make known the Path which he had discovered.
A. People have different accumulations. They are conditioned in many ways. We have used the word 'condition' several times already. Could you explain the meaning of this term?
B. I will give an example from daily life. My husband comes home from his office, feeling tired and somewhat irritated. I tell him something amusing which has happened and he laughs and feels happy again. Thus one can notice that there are different cittas, and that each citta has its own conditions. The amount of work at the office is a condition for my husband's tiredness and irritation. Afterwards there is another condition which makes him feel happy again.
Cittas are conditioned and each citta accumulates a new experience, which will condition cittas in the future.Everybody accumulates different tastes, abilities, likes and dislikes.One can not always know the conditions which make people behave on this or in that way, but sometimes it is possible to know.For instance, people are addicted to different things, some of which are very harmful, other less so.One's education and the surroundings in which one is living can be a condition for these addictions.In some countries or regions it is the custom to drink an enormous amount of coffee the whole day, and people even give coffee to one's youth.As regards attachment to alcoholic drinks, there must be a condition for that as well.One starts with a little drink every day, and gradually one's attachment increases.
Everybody should find out for himself how much attachment he accumulates, and whether this brings him happiness or sorrow.
A.There is not anything which one can control.Even each citta which arises because of conditions, falls away immediately, to be succeeded by the next citta.It seems as if the situation is hopeless.Could you tell me whether something can be done to walk the right way in life?
B.The situation is not hopeless.Wisdom, the understanding of reality, can condition one to have more wholesome mental states and to do good deeds.
There is no 'self' which can suppress our bad inclinations; there is no 'self' which can force us to do good deeds.Everybody can verify this in daily life.For example, if we tell ourselves: 'Today I will be very kind to everybody', can we prevent ourselves from suddenly saying an unkind word? Most of the time it has happened before we realize it.
If we are able to suppress our anger for a while we are inclined to think that there is a 'self' which can suppress anger. In reality there are at that moment cites which are not conditioned by anger, but which arise from other conditions. Afterwards there will be anger again because anger is not really eradicated by suppression. Only wisdom, seeing things as they are, can very gradually eradicate everything which is unwholesome in us.
We can develop this wisdom step by step. Even wisdom is not 'self'; it can only arise when there are the right conditions. We can develop wisdom in knowing and experiencing all mental phenomena and physical phenomena in and around ourselves. When we have experienced that none of these mental and physical phenomena stays or is permanent, we understand that we cannot take any phenomenon for 'self'.
The Buddha explained to his disciples that just 'comprehending', seeing things as they are, will eradicate unwholesomeness. When we are still learning to develop wisdom and we notice that we have unwholesome cites, we are troubled about it, we have aversion because of it.He whose wisdom is developed, has right understanding of his life. He knows that there is no 'self', and that everything arises because of conditions. Thus he is not troubled, he is simply aware of the present moment.
The word 'comprehending' is used in the suttas many times. This should help us to see that we do not have to perform extraordinary deeds; we need only be aware of the present moment in order to see things as they are. Of course wisdom cannot be fully developed in one day.For a long time we have been used to the idea of 'self'.In conventional language we have to use the words 'I' and 'self' continually to make ourselves understood.
A. So wisdom is wholesome, and not understanding things as they are is unwholesome and brings unhappiness. Do you find that you can prove this in daily life?
B.Yes, I will give an example.We are constantly taking our body for 'self', although we know that it does not last. Thus, when we suffer from sickness or pain, or when we become old, we attach so much importance to these facts that we feel quite oppressed by them. If one of our sense organs does not function or if we become an invalid, we feel we are the most unhappy person in the world. Attachment to our body only bring sorrow, whether as if we would see things as they are, there would be less sorrow for us.
If one wants to see the body as it really is, one should distinguish the body from mentality. It is true that in this world body and mentality condition each other. However, one should know the different characteristics of each, so that one can experience them as they are.
The same elements which constitute dead matter constitute the body as well. Both dead matter and the body are composed of the earth element or solidity, the element of water or cohesion, the element of fire or temperature and the element of wind or motion. One is inclined to think: 'Is there not a soul which makes the body alive and is the body not therefore different from dead matter?' There is not a soul; there are only physical phenomena and mental phenomena which arise and fall away all the time. We are not used to distinguishing the body from the mind and analysing them as to what they really are. However, this is necessary if we want to know reality.
The body itself does not know anything; in this respect it is the same as dead matter. If we can see that the body is only a composition of physical phenomena which arise and fall away completely, and not 'self', and that the mind is a series of mental phenomena which arise and fall away and not 'self', the veil of ignorance will fall from our eyes.
If one tries to develop this understanding one can see for oneself what the result is. One can find out whether this understanding brings one more freedom from attachment or not. Attachment brings sorrow.
The Buddha taught people to see things as they are. One does not have to fast or to be an ascetic.It is one's duty to look after one's body and to feed it. The Buddha taught the 'Middle Way': one does not have to force oneself to undertake difficult practices, but on the other hand one should learn to be detached from the things in and around oneself.Just understanding, seeing things as they are, that is the 'Middle Way'.
A. So just seeing things as they are is the practice of vipassana. Most people think that it is a complicated form of meditation which one can learn only in a meditation centre. That is the reason why most people will not even try it. But from our conversation it appears that vipassana is only seeing the things of our daily life as they are. Do you find that one has to have much theoretical knowledge before one starts the practice of vipassana?
B. The word 'meditation' frightens many people; they think that it must be something very complicated. But in reality one does not have to do anything special. Before one starts one needs some theoretical knowledge. One does not have to know about physical and mental elements in detail; one only has to know that the body is made up of physical elements and that the body is different from mental elements. There are many different physical elements and these elements are continually changing. There are many different mental elements: one citta arises and falls away, then the next citta arises and falls away. Cittas arise and fall away successively, one at a time. Seeing is one citta, hearing is another citta, thinking is another citta, they are all different cittas.
Developing vipassana does not mean that one has to be aware of all those different elements at each moment; that would not be possible. Nor does one have to do anything special; one can perform all the activities of one's daily life. One gradually begins to understand that there are only physical phenomena and mental phenomena and one begins to be aware of these phenomena quite naturally, without having to force oneself, because they are there all the time.
When one understands how important it is to be aware of these phenomena in order to know them, the awareness will arise by itself little by little. One will experience that awareness will arise when there are the right conditions. It does not matter if there is not a great deal of awareness in the beginning. It is important to understand that awareness is not 'self' either, but a mental phenomena which arises when there are the right conditions. One cannot force awareness to arise.
In understanding more about physical phenomena and mental phenomena and in being aware of them in daily life one's wisdom will develop. Thus there will be more wholesomeness and less unwholesomeness.
A. Do you find that awareness in this way bring you happiness?
B.When there is understanding of what things really are, there will be more wholesomeness in one's life. There will be less the concept of 'self' when one performs good deeds, and thus good deeds will be purer. One does not refrain from evil things because one has to follow certain rules, but because one has more understanding as to which causes bring which effects.
The right understanding of what things are will very gradually eradicate unwholesomeness. When there is less unwholesomeness there will be more happiness in life.
Everybody should verify this for himself!
Understanding in Daily Life
What is the effect of the Buddha's teachings on people's actions? In what way could the Buddha's teachings effectively help people to perform wholesome deeds? Is it possible to do good deeds because a person with authority tells us: 'Be detached and do good deeds'?
From experience we know that a good example might help to some extent, but the source of the good deeds is within ourselves: our mentality determines our actions. If someone wants to do his utmost to help other people he should understand himself first. He should understand the causes which make him act in this or in that way. If he develops the right understanding of these causes he will be able to lead a more wholesome life and to help other people in the most effective way.
Mentality is the source from which deeds spring: it is therefore not possible to determine the degree of wholesomeness from the outward appearance of deeds alone. There are many gradations of wholesomeness depending on the mentality which motivates the good deed.
Some people give money to needy people, but that does not mean that there may not still be conceit or other selfish motives. Others give without conceit, but they may have attachment: they give only to people they like. There are people who give out of pure lovingkindness, without any thought of attachment. This is a more wholesome way of giving.
We may wonder whether the study of so many details is necessary. In daily life we will see that it is very helpful to know the different kinds of citta and to know which citta motivates which kinds of citta and to know which citta motivates which kind of action. When we are able to know the different kinds of citta which succeed one another very rapidly, we will see that even while we are performing a wholesome deed, unwholesome cittas can succeed the wholesome cittas very closely.
"Wholesome' is the translation of the Pali term 'kusala'. A wholesome deed in its widest sense means a deed which brings no harm to oneself or to other people at the moment the deed is done or later on.
In the 'Discourse on the Foreign Cloth' (Middle Length Sayings II, No. 88) we read about wholesome deeds, wholesome speech and wholesome thoughts, 'skilled' bodily conduct:
'But what, revered sir, is skilled bodily conduct?'
'Whatever the bodily conducts, sire, that has no blemish'
'But what, revered sir, is the bodily conduct that has no blemish?'
'Whatever the bodily conduct, sire, that is non-injurious.'
'And what, revered sir, is the bodily conduct that is non-injurious?'
'Whatever the bodily conduct, sire, that is joyous in result.'
'And what, revered sir, is the bodily conduct that is joyous in result?'
'Whatever bodily conduct, sire, does not conduce to the torment of self and does not conduce to the torment of others and does not conduce to the torment of both, and by which the unskilled states dwindle away, the skilled states increase much .'
The same is said about wholesome speech and wholesome thoughts. These words render the meaning of wholesome or 'kusala' in its widest sense. However, there are many intensities of kusala. There are higher degrees of wholesomeness than just abstaining from ill deeds which will harm oneself and others. IN developing 'Right Understanding' or wisdom, there can be kusala of a higher degree.
'Wisdom'; is a translation of the Pali term 'panna.' Panna does not only mean knowledge acquired from the study of books, panna is insight into the realities of daily life as well. Panna can be developed in daily life. The degree of wholesomeness depends on the degree of panna which accompanies the wholesome citta. There are many degrees of panna, and each degree brings its result accordingly.
It is a typical Buddhist approach to life to study and to be aware of the different mental and physical phenomena which one can experience through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body-sense and mind. If one is not used to this approach one might feel somewhat bewildered at first. However, after one has studied more these mental and physical phenomena, one will find out that only thus is it possible to understand the different ways in which oneself and other people behave, and to know which causes bring which effects in life. It makes no sense to speak in vague, general terms about realities, because the real understanding of our experiences in life can never be developed in that way.
Someone told me about a monk who was preaching in a way which was of great help to people in their daily lives. When I asked what the monk was preaching, the answer was that he was speaking about 'citcai.' 'Citcai' is the word in Thai for 'state of mind,' in Pali 'citta.' This monk had the right approach to life. One should follow the example of the Buddha; one should not only tell people to do good deeds, but one should teach them as well how to do good deeds. In order to know how to do good deeds one should go back to the source of the good deeds; the mental states or 'cittas.' It is preferable to use the Pali term 'citta' rather than a translation from the Pali since translations do not render the meaning of the terms adequately. For example, the English translation of 'citta' as 'state of mind' or 'mental state,' implies something which stays, which does not change. But that is not a characteristic of citta. When one has leaned more about 'cittas' one will find out that there is no citta which stays even for a second. Each citta which arises falls away immediately, to be succeeded by the next citta. Cittas determine one's own life and the life of other people; they condition the actions one performs in life.
Many people are not used to this approach; they are not used to looking at the outward appearance of things. Scientists are very advanced in the study of out space, but little is know about what goes on inwardly in man. People are used to paying attention to the things they see and hear, but they are not used to attending to seeing-consciousness and to hearing-consciousness. They do not think of the cittas which perform the functions of seeing and hearing.
Seeing-consciousness and hearing-consciousness are realities as well and it is therefore important to know more about them. That part of the Buddhist scriptures which analyses and explains mental phenomena and physical phenomena in detail is called the Abhidhamma. The Abhidhamma deals with everything which is real. Studying the Abhidhamma can change one's life.
Many Thais listen to lectures about Abhidhamma, and not only those who have been educated at a college or university, but also those who have never received a higher education. I have heard of cases in which the study of different cittas has helped people to lead a more wholesome life. I heard of someone who was a first inclined to have feelings of revenge towards other people, and who was gradually able to overcome those feelings by understanding what those feelings were. Many Thais know about the realities taught in the Abhidhamma, and they know how to apply their knowledge in daily life. Foreigners do not usually hear about this because people do not often speak about Abhidhamma to foreigners.
Unwholesome mental states or 'Akusala cittas' and wholesome mental states or 'kusala cittas' are realities of daily life. In order to know more about these realities one should try to understand oneself first: if one does not understand oneself one cannot help other people. This does not mean however that we have to wait our whole life before we can start helping other people. Even those who are just beginning to understand things as they are can help other people to have right understanding too.
Panna is the opposite of ignorance, which is the root of all defilement and sorrow. Panna is important for the development of kusala cittas. It is possible to do good deeds without panna, but if one wants to make progress in wholesomeness, panna should be developed. In understanding what is unwholesome and what is wholesome, and in understanding what is the result of unwholesome and of wholesome deeds, people are able to lead a more wholesome life.
There are many degrees of panna. When a teacher explains to his pupils that wholesome cittas with gratitude or honesty will bring a wholesome result and that unwholesome deeds motivated by greed or anger will bring and unwholesome result. The explanation may be the condition for them to have some degrees of panna. With panna they may be able to cultivate kusala cittas and to perform more wholesome deeds.
There is a higher degree of panna when people realize the impermanence of all the things they enjoy in life. When people see how short human life is, they will try not to be attached too much to the pleasant things of life. This understanding will stimulate them to a greater generosity and to move readiness to help other people. They will be less selfish.
Some people who have this degree of panna might change their way of life and live contentedly without any luxury. Others might decide 'to go forth form home into homelessness;' they might decide to become monks. A monk's life is not an easy life. He lives without family and is 'one who is contented with little.' In the 'Discourse of the Sixfold Cleansing' (Middle Length Sayings III, No. 112) we read about a monk who tells of his renunciation of the world: ' I, your reverences, after a time, getting rid of my wealth, whether small or great, getting rid of my circle of relations, whether small or great, having cut off my hair and beard, having put on saffron robes, went forth from home into homelessness.'
The Buddha explained that people are too much attached to the sense-impression, received through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. He speaks about the 'five strands of sense-pleasures.' We read in the 'Discourse With Subha' (Middle Length Saying II, No. 99) where the Buddha speaks with Subha about the five strands of sense-pleasures:
These five, brahman youth, are the strands of pleasures of the senses: What five? Material shapes cognizable by the eye, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing, connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. Sounds cognizable by the ear .. Smells cognizable by the nose ... Tastes cognizable by the tongue .. Touches cognizable by the body, agreeable, pleasant, liked, enticing connected with sensual pleasures, alluring. These, brahman youth, are the five strands of sense-pleasures. Brahman youth, the brahman Pokkharasati or the Upamanna (clan) of the Subhaga forest glade, is enslaved and infatuated by these five strands of sense-pleasures, he is addicted to them, and enjoys them without seeing the peril (in them), without knowing the escape (from them) .
Everyone would like to have pleasant sense-impressions and everyone is inclined to attach too much importance to them. One is so absorbed in what one sees and hears that one forgets that sense-impressions are not true happiness. In the 'Discourse to Magandiya' (Middle Length Saying II, No. 75) the Buddha says to Magandiya:
Now I, Magandiya, when I was formerly a householder, endowed and provided with the five strands of sense-pleasures, revelled in them .. But after a time, having known the coming to be and passing away of sense-pleasures and the satisfaction and the peril of them and the escape as it really is, getting rid of the craving for sense-pleasures, suppressing the fever for sense-pleasures, I dwelt devoid of thirst, my mind inwardly calmed. I saw other beings not yet devoid of attachment to sense-pleasures who were pursing sense-pleasures (although) they were being consumed by craving for sense-pleasures. I did not envy them: I had no delight therein
People who understand that there is a higher happiness then the pleasures which one can enjoy through the five senses might apply themselves to the development of calm or 'samatha.' The calm which is developed in samatha is temporary freedom from unwholesomeness, form attachment, anger and ignorance. There are several meditation subjects of samatha, such as recollection of the Buddha's virtue, mindfulness of breathing or lovingkindness. It depends on a person's accumulations which subject conditions calm for him. Samatha is not a matter of just trying to concentrate on an object. Most important is right understanding of the meditation subject and of the way to attain the calm which is wholesome by means of the meditation subject. If one does not know the difference between kusala citta and akusala citta one is likely to take attachment to silence for kusala and then samatha cannot be developed. One has to know the characteristic of calm which is wholesome, free from akusala. Then there can be conditions for more calm. Calm in samatha can reach such a high degree that one can becomes totally absorbed in the meditation subject. There are different stages of this calm absorption or 'jhana.' During jhana one does not receive impressions through the five senses and thus one is at those moments not enslaved to them. One enjoys a higher happiness. In the higher stages of jhana one attains a greater tranquillity of mind until one no longer feels rapture or joy, one transcends happy feeling and there is equanimity instead. When, however, the citta is not jhanacitta, there are sense-impressions again.
Samatha is a means for the cultivation of wholesomeness. People who apply themselves to samatha may become very peaceful and amiable. They can be of great comfort to people who are restless. However, in samatha defilements are not eradicated. Although one is not enslaved to sense-impressions during the time of jhana, one still clings to them when the citta is no longer jhanacitta. The jhanas do not last; they are impermanent. Moreover, there is a more subtle form of clinging, a clinging to the happiness of the jhanas. One might think that one is without clinging when one does not indulge in sense-pleasures. However, one might still cling to the joy of jhana which is not associated with sense-pleasures, or to pleasant feeling or equanimity which can accompany jhanacitta.
For the development of samatha, panna is necessary, but this kind of panna cannot eradicate defilements. There is a higher panna which can eradicate all defilements, even the most subtle forms of clinging. This panna is developed in 'insight medication' or 'vipassana.' In vipassana, panna gradually eliminates ignorance, the root of all defilements. One leans more about the realities, which present themselves though eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind at any moment. We know so little about the most common things of daily life. How often are we aware of bodily movements during the day? How often are we aware of the stretching or bending of our arms, or of the movement of our lips when we are talking? We do not really know what sound is, what hearing is or what it is we take for 'self' while hearing. We do not even know the phenomena which appear at the present moment.
As long as we are absorbed in the outer appearance and the details of things, we will not be able to observe the realities of the present moment. As long as we are carried away by like or dislike for what we see and hear, it is impossible to see things as they are. It is as if we are asleep; we are not yet awake to the truth. The Buddha was perfectly mindful and had complete knowledge of all the different kinds of mental and physical phenomena. Therefore he could call himself ' the Awakened One,' he was fully awake to the truth. We, too, should wake up to the truth.
In vipassana, panna will gradually develop and it will know things as they are. In being aware of the reality which appears at the present moment we lean that there are two kinds of reality: physical phenomena or 'rupa' and mental phenomena or 'nama.' Rupa does not know anything, nama experiences an object. Fore example visible object is rupa; it does not know anything. Seeing is a type of nama; it experiences an object; visible object. Hearing and thinking are other types of nama, different from seeing. There are many different types of nama and rupa, and in vipassana we learn to experience their characteristics.
In the development of vipassana we gradually lean to experience that namas and rupas are impermanent. One may have reflected before on the impermanence of all things in life. Reflection on the truth is necessary, but it is not the same as directly experiencing the impermanence of all realities in and around oneself. In the beginning we cannot experience the arising and falling away of nama and rupa. However, if we can experience the different characteristics of nama and rupa which appear at different moments, and if we realize that each nama or rupa which appears now is different from preceding namas and rupas, we will be less inclined to think that nama and rupa last, and we will be less inclined to take them for 'self.'
In the 'Greater Discourse of a Full Moon' (Middle Length Saying III. No. 109) the Buddha asks a monk: ' is it right to regard that which is impermanent, suffering, liable to change, as "This is mine, this am I, this is my self"?'
In the 'Discourse on Mindfulness of the Body' (Middle Length Sayings III, No. 119) the Buddha said that the person who is mindful ' overcomes dislike (and liking), and dislike (and liking) do not overcome him.' We will give in less to attachment and to anger or ill-will, when we can experience that they are only different types of nama which arise and fall away again.
We should not wait to develop this panna in the practice of vipassana until we are old or have retired from our work. When we develop this wisdom we will know ourselves better, we will be aware more often of the moments of akusala cittas which arise, even when we do good deeds. Conceit about our good deeds may arise or we may expect something in return for our good deeds such as praise or a good name. When we gradually see more clearly that there are only nama and rupa which arise because of conditions, there will eventually be less clinging to a concept of self who performs kusala or akusala. When there is less clinging to the self good deeds will become purer.
The panna developed in vipassana is the 'Right Understanding' of the eightfold Path which leads to nibbana. Everyone has to tread this Path by himself. One can only purify oneself. One cannot be purified by other people; other people can only help one to find the right Path. There will be no lasting world peace as long as there is craving, ill-will and ignorance. And although it is very necessary to take part in the world organizations which promote the peace and welfare of nations, and to give material aid to those who are in need, still we should realize that this is not enough, that it will only help to a certain degree. The real causes of war are craving, ill-will and ignorance. Only in developing panna can we eliminate craving, ill-will and ignorance.
The eightfold Path leads to nibbana. Nibbana is the end of all defilements. It can be realized here and now, in this life. When panna has not yet reached the degree necessary for the realization of nibbana, it is still 'mundane' or 'lokiya panna.' When panna is developed to such a degree that one can realize nibbana it is 'supra-mundane' or 'lokuttara panna.'
When one has realized nibbana one understands what it means to be 'awakened to the truth.'
Teaching of Dhamma
The Buddha proved his compassion for men in his teaching of Dhamma. One may wonder why it is especially the teaching of Dhamma that proves the Buddha's compassion. Are there no other ways of helping people, such as visiting the sick and speaking kind words to other people in order to make them happy? It is true that one can help one's fellow men in doing good deeds and in speaking kind words. However, it is not possible to give them true happiness in this way. When one is kind to other people one might help them in so far as one can make them feel more relaxed or less depressed for a moment. However there are people who tend to go on being anxious and depressed, no matter how kindly one treats them.
The Buddha knew that the deepest cause of happiness and sorrow is within man. It is not possible to give other people real happiness; one can only be a condition for them to feel happy for a while. The Buddha helped people in the most effective way: he helped them to have 'right understanding' about their life, about themselves, and about the way to find true happiness.
His disciples followed his example and helped people by teaching them Dhamma. We read in the 'Channovada-sutta' (Majjhima Nikaya III, Salayatana-vagga) that Sariputta and Maha Cunda visited a sick monk whose name was Channa. First they asked Channa how he was feeling, and they offered to give him good food and medicine, and to attend personally to his needs if he wanted this. However, they knew that kind words and deeds are not enough. When it was the right moment they spoke to him about Dhamma, in order to help him to have right understanding about his life.
In the 'Discourse on the Analysis of the Undefiled' (Aranavibhanga-sutta, Majjhima Nikaya III, Vibhanga-vagga) we read that the Buddha told his disciples that they should not say of other people that they are walking the right path or the wrong path. They should neither approve of people nor disapprove of them but teach which cause brings which effect. They should simply teach Dhamma. Dhamma means everything that is real. The Buddha helped people to develop right understanding about everything one can experience, no matter whether it is good or bad.
If one wants to eliminate defilements one should first understand what are akusala cittas and what are kusala-cittas and be aware of them when they arise. Only when we can be aware of cittas when they appear will we know them as they are. We will not know cittas by speculation. As we have seen, a citta does not last. It arises and then falls away immediately to be followed by the next citta. There is only one citta at a time. Life consists of an unbroken series of cittas, arising and falling away continuously. There is no moment without citta. There are many kinds of cittas which perform different functions such as seeing, hearing and thinking. Moreover there are akusala cittas and kusala cittas. An akusala cittaand a kusala citta cannot arise at the same moment since there can be only one citta at a time. However, akusala cittas and kusala cittas might arise with very few moments in between, even during the time one is doing a good deed. When the kusala citta has fallen away, regret about one's good deed might arise. This is akusala.
In the 'Channovada-sutta' mentioned above we read that the monk Channa suffered severe pains. As he could not stand the pains any longer he committed suicide. The Buddha knew that before the moment of his death Channa had kusala cittas after the akusala cittas which moved him to perform this unwholesome deed. He was able to purify himself of defilements after his deed. The Buddha said therefore: 'He took the knife to himself without incurring blame.' We do not know about the citta of someone else merely from the outward appearance of his deeds, because we do not know each different moment of citta. We can only know with regard to ourselves at which moments akusala cittas or kusala cittas arise.
Akusala cittas can be rooted in three different unwholesome 'roots', or 'akusala hetus'. They are:
- attachment (in Pali, 'lobha')
- aversion or ill-will (in Pali, 'dosa')
- ignorance (in Pali, 'moha')
By the word 'root' is meant the foundation of the citta. The root is the foundation of the citta just as the root of a tree supports the tree and makes it grow. There are many different degrees of these three akusala hetus.
All akusala cittas are caused by moha or ignorance. Ignorance is, for example, not knowing what is unwholesome and what is wholesome, and not knowing which cause brings which result in life. There are many intensities of moha. An animal has a great deal of moha; it does not realize at all what it is doing, it does not know how to cultivate wholesomeness. however, not only animals have moha: human beings can have a great deal of moha as will. There is moha when one does not realize one's bodily movements, as for example, when one plays with one's fork and spoon, or when one stands up and walks to the other side of the room without being aware of the movement of the body. Moha can only be completely eradicated when one has attained the fourth and last stage of enlightenment, when one has become an 'arahat'.
When lobha (attachment) arises together with moha, the citta is called a 'lobha-mula-citta', or a citta rooted in attachment. (Mula means root; it is the same as 'hetu'.) At that moment there is not only moha, which is common to all akusala cittas, but there is lobha as well. A lobha-mula-citta has moha and lobha as roots; it is different from the citta which is rooted only in moha, the ignorance about realities. Lobha can be greed, lust, selfish desire, and it can be a very subtle form of attachment as well, a form of attachment one can hardly recognize if one does not yet have the right understanding.
Lobha can be accompanied by a pleasant feeling. For instance, when we enjoy beautiful music there is a lobha-mula-citta. Then the citta is akusala, although this kind of lobha is not as gross as greed or lust. One might be inclined to think that whenever there is a pleasant feeling, the citta which is accompanied by this feeling must be a kusala citta. However, when there is a pleasant feeling, the citta can either be a kusala citta or an akusala citta. For instance, when we feel happy while doing a good deed, the citta is a kusala cittawith a pleasant feeling. When we feel happy because of beautiful music or a beautiful view, the citta is akusala: it is a lobha-mula-citta with a pleasant feeling. We can be deluded about the truth very easily. We find feeling so important that we cannot see anything else. We are unable to see whether the citta is akusala or kusala because we think only of the feeling at that moment.
Lobha-mula-cittas can be accompanied either by a pleasant feeling or by an indifferent feeling. When we want to do something such as standing up, walking, taking hold of an object, the lobha-mula-cittas which arise are accompanied by an indifferent feeling. We do not, usually, have a happy feeling when we stand up or when we reach for a glass of water. We cannot help having lobha very often. All people except arahats are bound to have lobha.
The Buddha did not speak to those who still have defilements in terms of 'sin' or 'punishment'. The Buddha pointed out everything which is real and he explained which cause would bring which effect. The bad deeds one does will bring about their own results, just as a seed produces a tree. This is the law of 'kamma' and 'vipaka', of cause and effect. The Buddha explained to his disciples that they should neither approve of people nor disapprove of them; they should simply teach Dhamma. Thus one will know what is real. Lobha is real and one should therefore know what lobha is, what its characteristic is, and when it arises.
Another unwholesome root is dosa, or aversion. When the cittawhich arises is accompanied by dosa and moha, the citta is called 'dosa-mula-citta', or a citta rooted in dosa. At that moment there is not only moha, which is common to all akusala cittas, but there is dosa as will. dosa appears in its coarsest form as anger or ill-will. There is dosa when one hurts or kills a living being, when one speaks harsh words, or when one curses. Dosa is always accompanied by an unpleasant feeling.
There are more subtle forms of dosa as well: dosa can be a slight aversion when we see or hear something unpleasant, or when we are in a bad mood. Dosa can be recognized by the feeling which accompanies it. Even when there is a very vague feeling of uneasiness we can be sure there is dosa. Dosa arises quite often in a day. We cannot help having dosa when there is a loud noise or an ugly sight.
There are three 'wholesome roots' or 'sobhana hetus', which are the opposite of the akusala hetus. They are:
- non-attachment ('alobha')
- kindness ('adosa')
- wisdom ('amoha' or 'panna')
Kusala cittas are not accompanied by lobha, dosa or moha. They are always accompanied by alobha and adosa but not always by panna. Thus a cittacan be kusala without wisdom (panna). One can, for example, help other people without understanding that helping is kusala and that wholesome deeds bring wholesome results. However, when there is panna the citta is more wholesome. If one observes the precepts only because they are rules, prescribed in the teachings, without any understanding of the reasons for those precepts, ill deeds can be suppressed for some time. However, if the temptations are too strong the precepts will be broken. If one has understanding about unwholesome and wholesome deeds and knows the effect of those deeds, one will not break the precepts very easily. We can develop more wholesomeness in understanding realities and their causes and effects.
Everyone, except the arahat, has both akusala cittas and kusala cittas. Each cittaarises when there are the right conditions. Cittas cannot arise without conditions. It depends on many conditions whether there will be an akusala citta or a kusala citta. We have all accumulated conditions for both unwholesomeness and wholesomeness. If the present citta is unwholesome one accumulates a condition for more unwholesomeness and if the present citta is wholesome one accumulates a condition for more wholesomeness. For example, if we have a slight feeling of aversion, there is a dosa-mula-citta. If dosa-mula-cittas occur quite often, we accumulate dosa; dosa might become a habit. If the dosa which is accumulated becomes a strong habit, it could easily be the condition for unwholesome deeds and unwholesome speech.
One may wonder how one can accumulate unwholesomeness and wholesomeness, as each citta which arises falls away completely. Each citta which arises does fall away completely but it conditions the next citta. That is the reason why the next citta has the accumulations of the previous citta as well. If we understand how different the accumulation of people are we will be less inclined to blame other people when they do wrong. We will try to help them to have right understanding about accumulations. If we have more understanding about the conditions which make us act the way we do we will be able to lead a more wholesome life.
One may wonder what the Buddha taught about the will or the intention which motivates ill deeds and good deeds. Is there on 'free will' which can direct one's actions, speech and thoughts? When we think of 'free will', we generally think of a 'self' which could have control over our decisions to do good or to do wrong. However, cittas arise because of conditions; there is no 'self' which can let cittas arise at will.
The Pali term 'kamma' literally means action. In reality kamma is intention or volition. It's not that which is generally understand by 'free will'. Kamma does not stay, it arises and falls away with each citta. One cannot say that it is 'self' or that it belongs to a 'self'. Kamma is volition which motivates good or bad deeds. For example, there is akusala kamma through the body if one hits someone; there is akusala kamma through speech if one speaks harsh words or if one curses someone; and there is akusala kamma through the mind if one has the intention to take away something which belongs to someone else, or if one plans to kill someone.
The Buddha taught that everyone will experience the result of the kamma he has performed; one will reap what one has sown. Kamma is the cause which produces its result. The result is called 'vipaka'. Akusala kamma will bring an unpleasant result, or akusala vipaka citta; kusala kamma will bring a pleasant result, or kusala vipaka citta.
People are born with different characters and in different circumstances. In the 'Discourse on the Lesser Analysis of deeds' (Culakammavibhaga-sutta, Majjhima Nikaya III, Vibhagavagga) we read that Subha asks the Buddha what the reason is for these differences:
'Now, good Gotama, what is the cause, what is the reason that lowness and excellence to be seen among human beings while they are in human form? For, good Gotama, human beings of short lifespan are to be seen and those of long lifespan; those of many and those of few illness; those who are ugly, those who are beautiful; those of great account; those who are of little account, those of great account; those who are poor, those who are wealthy; those who are of lowly families, those of high families; those who are weak in wisdom, those who are full of wisdom.'
The Buddha answered Subha:
'Deeds are one's own, brahman youth, beings are heirs to deeds.... Deed divides beings, that is say by lowness and excellence.'
Not only birth in a certain plane of existence and in certain surroundings is the result of kamma. All through our life we receive unpleasant and pleasant results. Everyone would like to experience only pleasant things through eyes, ears, noses, tongue and body sense. However, everybody is bound to experience both unpleasant and pleasant things through the five senses, because everyone has performed both akusala kamma and kusala kamma.
A deed which we have performed may produce a result shortly afterwards, or it may produce a result a long time afterwards. We should remember that intention, or kamma, which motivates the deed is a mental phenomenon and that it can therefore be accumulated. Thus it can bring about its result later on. The Buddha taught that the akusala kamma and the kusala kamma we have accumulated all through our life and during countless existences before this life, will produce their results when there are the right conditions for the result to be produced. The vipaka-citta is the result of kamma. When we see unpleasant things, there is at that moment akusala-vipaka, which is the result of akusala kamma. This akusala vipaka citta receives an unpleasant object through the eyes. When we see pleasant things the kusala vipaka citta, which the result of the kusala kamma, receives an unpleasant object through the eyes. When we hear pleasant things the kusala vipaka citta which which is the result of kusala kamma receives a pleasant object through the ears. there is vipaka every time we see, hear, smell, taste, or receive an impression through body-contact. We cannot help there being vipaka; we cannot help seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and receiving impressions through bodily contact. Each citta, and thus each vipaka citta, has its own conditions; nobody can make cittas arise at will. Which particular vipaka citta will arise at the present moment is beyond control. When one does good deeds one can be sure that those deeds will bring a pleasant result, but the moment when the result will take place depends on other conditions as well.
The akusala vipaka citta that experiences an unpleasant object through the eyes, is not the same as the akusala vipaka citta that experiences an unpleasant object through the ears. There is not a 'self' which experiences different unpleasant and pleasant objects through the five senses. Each citta has its own conditions and is different from all other cittas. The more one realizes this truth, the less one will be inclined to believe in a 'self'.
The vipaka cittas arise and fall away within split seconds, like all other types of citta. After the vipaka-cittas have fallen away another type of citta arises; for example, a citta which likes or dislike the object, that is, a lobha-mula-citta or dosa-mula-citta. If people do not know the different type of citta, they may be inclined to think that like or dislike are still vipaka. However, like and dislike arise after the vipaka-cittas have fallen away; they are not the result of kamma. A lobha-mula-citta or a dosa-mula-citta is not vipaka citta, but akusala citta.
Different types of cittas succeed one another very rapidly. For example, when we hear a harsh sound, the vipaka-citta arises at the moment the sound is perceived through the ears and then falls away immediately. The moments of vipaka are very short. After that there might be akusala-cittas. For instance, dislike of the sound might arise, and this follows so closely that it seems to occur at the same moment as the hearing. In reality these citta do not arise at the same moment. Each citta has its own function. A vipaka citta is the result of former akusala kamma or kusala kamma. The like or dislike after the vipaka is unwholesome. We should realize that akusala cittas accumulate and thus only lead to more akusala.
There are many times when we might not know at which moment there is vipaka and at which moment there is akusala citta, because we find our feelings about the thing we experience so important. The pleasant feeling which accompanies the dosa-mula-citta can be so strong that we are carried away by our feelings. Thus we cannot see things as they are.
Part of our life is spent in receiving pleasant or unpleasant results and part of our life is spent in performing unwholesome and wholesome deeds which will condition our behavior in the future and which will also condition the results we will receive in the future. If we understand more about vipaka, which is the result of our own deeds, it will help us to cope with the unpleasant results in our life. We will not blame other people for unpleasant vipaka we receive, because kamma is the real cause of vipaka. We will give in less to our feelings concerning vipaka when we know the different cittas which arise at different moments.
Indeed, the Buddha showed his great compassion in teaching people to understand reality, in teaching them Dhamma.
The Buddha helped people to have right understanding about unwholesomeness and wholesomeness; he helped them in teaching them Dhamma. Dhamma excels all other gifts, because there is nothing more helpful than giving other people the right understanding so that they can cultivate wholesomeness. In this way they will find true happiness.
In the Anguttara Nikaya (Book of the Twos, Chapter IV, par. 2) we read that it is not easy to repay one's parents for all they have done:
Monks, one can never repay two persons, I declare. What two? Mother and father. Even if one should carry about his mother on one shoulder and his father on the other, and so doing should live a hundred years, attain a hundred years; and if he should support them, anointing them with unguents... if he should establish his parents in supreme authority, in the absolute rule over this mighty earth abounding in the seven treasures- not even thus could he repay his parents. What is the cause of that? Monks, parents do much for their children: they bring them up, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world.
Moreover, monks, whose incites his unbelieving parents, settles and establishes them in the faith; whose incites his immoral parents, settles and establishes them in morality; whose incites his stingy parents, settles and establishes them in liberality; whose incites his foolish parents, settles and establishes them in wisdom, - such an one, just by so doing, does repay, does more than repay what is due to his parents.
In this sutta the Buddha points out how important it is to help other people to have right understanding about the development of wholesomeness; he explained that this is the way to repay one's parents. Establishing one's parents in faith is mentioned first. The word 'faith' however, is not used in the sense of 'faith in a person'. The Buddha did not want people to perform wholesome deeds in obedience to him or in obedience to certain rules. Faith means confidence in wholesomeness, confidence that the cultivation of wholesomeness leads to happiness. Therefore any time there is wholesomeness there must be faith. After faith the above-quoted sutta speaks about 'morality', and then generosity is mentioned. Wisdom or right understanding is mentioned last.
When the different ways of kusala kamma are explained in the sutta, 'dana' or generosity is usually mentioned first, 'sila' or morality is mentioned next, and after that 'bhavana' or mental development. There are many ways to develop kusala or wholesomeness. It is very helpful to know about these different ways in order to make progress in wholesomeness. Therefore 'panna', or 'Right Understanding', is the factor which conditions people to develop wholesomeness. There can be no 'bhavana' or mental development without panna. Panna is an indispensable factor for 'bhavana', and on the other hand panna is developed through 'bhavana'.
Panna, understanding things as they are, will help people to lead a more wholesome life. There are many levels of 'panna'. To the extent that panna is developed defilements will be eliminated and thus people will find peace of mind. We should cultivate panna and help other people to cultivate panna as well. We should have right understanding about unwholesomeness and about wholesomeness.
All akusala cittas are caused by ignorance or 'moha'. There are different types of akusala cittas. Some cittas are rooted in 'moha' alone' There are akusala cittas rooted in 'moha' and 'lobha'. ('Lobha' is attachment, selfishness, or greed.) Furthermore there are akusala cittas rooted in 'moha' and 'dosa'. ('Dosa' is ill-will or aversion.) Unwholesome deeds are motivated by akusala cittas.
When there is a kusala citta there is no 'lobha', 'dosa' or 'moha' with that citta. kusala cittas motivate wholesome deeds or kusala kamma. When we perform 'dana', 'sila' or 'bhavana', there is no 'lobha', 'dosa' or 'moha' with the kusala citta which motivates the wholesome deeds. It is very helpful to know more about 'dana', 'sila' and 'bhavana' in order to lead a more wholesome life.
The first way of cultivate wholesomeness is 'dana'. 'Dana' is giving useful things to other people, for example, giving away food, clothing or money to those who are in need. When we give something away we purify ourselves: we think of other people, we have no selfish thoughts. At these moments there is no lobha, dosa or moha.
Giving with the right understanding that giving is kusala is more wholesome than giving without this understanding. People who give with the understanding that they purify themselves by this wholesome act, are stimulated to do as many good deeds as possible. One may think it a selfish attitude to consider one's own accumulation of wholesomeness. However, it is not a selfish attitude. When one has the right understanding of the ways to develop wholesomeness, it is therefore not selfish to think of one's development of kusala kamma, but rather it is to the benefit of everyone. It is to one's fellow man's advantage too if one eliminates lobha, dosa, and moha. It is more agreeable to live with someone who is not selfish and who is not angry than with a selfish or an angry person.
There are many degrees of panna. When panna is more highly developed, one understands that it is not 'self' who performs wholesome deeds, but cittas which are conditioned by accumulation of wholesomeness in the past. Thus there is no reason for conceit or pride. By the development of panna, which is a mental phenomenon and which is not 'self', one can accumulate more wholesomeness.
Young children in Thailand are trained to give food to the monks and thus they accumulate kusala kamma. The Thais call the performing of good deeds 'tham bunn'. When children learn to do good at an early age it is a condition for them to continue to be generous when they are grown-up.
When someone gives food to the monks, it is the giver in the first place who will benefit from this wholesome act; the monks give him the opportunity to develop wholesomeness. The monks do not thank people for their gifts; they say words of blessing which show that they rejoice in the good deeds of the giver. One might find it strange at first that the monks do not thank people, but when there is more understanding about the way wholesomeness is developed one sees these customs in another light.
Even when one is not giving something away oneself, there is still opportunity to develop wholesomeness in appreciating the good deeds of other people: at that moment there is no lobha, dosa or moha. The appreciation of other people's good deeds is a way of kusala kamma, included in dana as well. It is to everyone's advantage if people appreciate one another's good deeds. It contributes to harmonious living in society.
The third means of kusala kamma included in dana concerns giving other people the opportunity to appreciate our own good deeds so that they can have wholesome cittas as well. We should not hide our good deeds but we should let our good example inspire other people looking after their old parents, or to see people studying or teaching Dhamma. We should follow the example of the Buddha. We should continually think of means to help other people develop wholesomeness. This way of kusala kamma is a means to eliminate our defilements. There are opportunities to cultivate wholesomeness at any moment. When one has developed more wisdom one will try not to miss any opportunity for kusala cittas because human life is very short.
There are three ways of kusala kamma included in sila, or morality. The first way is observing the precepts. Laypeople usually observe five precepts. The five precepts are: abstaining from killing living beings, from stealing, from sexual misbehavior, from lying, and from the talking of intoxicants such as alcoholic drinks. One can observe these precepts just because one follows the rules, without thinking about the reason why one should observe the precepts. Observing the precepts is kusala kamma, but the degree of wholesomeness is not very great if there is no right understanding. One observes the precepts with panna if one understands that unwholesomeness is eliminates while one observes them.
The killing of a living being is akusala kamma. One might wonder whether it is not sometimes necessary to kill. Should one not kill when there is a war, should one not kill insects to protect the crops, and should one not kill mosquitos to protect one's health? The Buddha knew that as long as people were living in this world they would have many reasons for breaking the precepts. He knew that it is very difficult to keep all the precepts and that one cannot learn in one day to observe them all. Through right understanding however, one can gradually learn to keep them. The precepts are not worded in terms of, for example, 'You shall not kill.' They are not worded as commandments, but they are worded as follows: 'I undertake the rule of training to refrain from destroying life.'
The Buddha pointed out what is unwholesome and what is wholesome, so that people would be able to find the way to true happiness. It is panna or right understanding which will lead people to train themselves in the precepts. Without panna the precepts will be broken very easily when the temptations are too strong, or when the situation is such as to make it very difficult for people to keep the precepts. When panna is more developed one will not so easily break the precepts. One will find out from experience that one breaks the precepts because of lobha, dosa and moha. When one understands that one purifies oneself in observing the precepts, one will even refrain from intentionally killing mosquitoes and ants. One always accumulates dosa when there is the intention to kill, even if it is a very small insect. One should find out for oneself that one accumulates akusala kamma when killing living beings, no matter whether they are human beings or animals. However, one cannot force other people to refrain from killing living beings.
To refrain from killing is a kind of dana as well- it is the gift of life, one of the greatest gifts we can give. The classification of kusala kamma as to whether it be dana or sila is not very rigid. The way realities are classified depends on their different aspects.
As regards the taking of intoxicants, one should find out for oneself how much unwholesomeness is accumulated in this way. Even if one has but a slight attachment, one accumulates unwholesomeness, and this may be harmful in the future. When the attachment is strong enough it will appear in one's speech and deeds. Even the taking of a little amount of an alcoholic drink can cause one to have more greed, anger and ignorance. It might have the effect that one does not realize what one is doing and that one is not aware of the realities of the present moment. Panna will induce one to drink less and less and eventually to stop drinking. One does not have to force oneself not to drink, one just loses the taste for alcohol because one sees the disadvantages of it. In this way it becomes one's nature not to drink. The person who has developed panna to such a high degree that he has attained the first stage of enlightenment, the 'sotapanna', will never break the five precepts again; it has become his nature to observe them.
The second way of kusala kamma included in sila, is paying respect to those who deserve respect. It is not necessary to show respect according to a certain culture; the esteem one feels for someone else is more important. this induces one to have a humble attitude towards the person who deserves respect. In which way one shows respect depends on the customs of the country where one is living or on the habits one has accumulated. In Thailand people show respect to monks, teachers and elderly people in a way different from the way people in other countries show their respect. In some countries the respect people feel towards others may appear only in a very polite way of addressing them.
Politeness which comes from one's heart is kusala kamma; at that moment there is no lobha, dosa or moha. It is kusala kamma to show respect to monks, to teachers and to elderly people. In Thailand people show respect to their ancestors; they express their gratefulness for the virtues of their ancestors. This is kusala kamma. It is not important whether the ancestors are able to see the people paying them respect or not. We cannot know in which plane they have been reborn- in this human plane, or in some other plane of existence where they might be able to see people paying respect to them. It is wholesome to think of one's ancestors with gratefulness.
We should always try to find out whether there are akusala cittas or kusala cittas motivating a deed, in order to understand the meaning of the deed. Thus one will understand and appreciate many customs of the Thais and one will not so easily misjudge them or take them for being superstitious. In the same way we should understand the paying of respect to the Buddha image. It is not idol worship; indeed, it is kusala kamma if one thinks of the Buddha's virtues: of his wisdom, of his purity and of his compassion. One does not pray to a Buddha in heaven, because the Buddha does not stay in heaven or in any plane of existence; he passed away completely. it is wholesome to be grateful to the Buddha and to try to follow the Path he discovered. The way in which one shows respect to the Buddha depends on the inclinations one has accumulated.
The third way of kusala kamma included in sila is helping other people by words or deeds. The act of helping other people will have a higher degree of wholesomeness if there is the right understanding that helping is kusala kamma, and that one purifies oneself in this way. Thus one will be urged to perform more kusala kamma in the future; one will be more firmly established in sila. It is therefore more wholesome to perform sila with right understanding, or panna.
Performing one's duties is not always kusala kamma; people may perform their duties just because they are paid for their work. For example, a teacher teaches his pupils and a doctor takes care of his patients, because it is their duty to do so. However, they can develop wholesomeness if they perform these duties with kindness and compassion.
Panna conditions one to perform kusala kamma, no matter what one's duties are. Wholesomeness can be developed at any time we are with other people, when we talk to them or listen to them.
Helping other people with kind words and deeds alone is not enough. When it is the right moment one can help others in a deeper and more effective way, that is by helping them to understand who they are, why they are in this world and what the aim is of their life in this world. This way of helping is included in bhavana or mental development.
The Buddha said that one should realize the impermanence of all things. Everybody is subject to old age, sickness and death. All thins are susceptible to change. What one is enjoying today may be changed tomorrow. Many people do not want to face this turth; they are too attached to the pleasant things which one can enjoy through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body-sense. They do not realize that these things are not true happiness.
The Buddha cured people's ignorance by helping them to have right understanding about their life; the taught them Dhamma. The Buddha taught different ways of developing wholesomeness: dana or generosity, sila or morality, and bhavana or mental develpment. Bhavana is a way of kusala kamma which is on a higher level, because wisdom is developed through bhavana.
One may wonder why wisdom (in Pali, panna) is necessary. The answer is that only rnderstanding things as they are can eleminate ignorance. Out of ignorance people take what is unwholesome for wholesome. ignorance causes sorrow. The Buddha always helped people to have right understanding about their different cittas. He explained what akusala cittas are in order that people could develop more wholesomeness.
One can verfy in one's daily life that the Buddha taught the truth. His teachings are true not only for Buddhists, but for everybody, no matter what race or nationality he is or what religion he professes. Attachment or greed (in Pali, lobha), anger or aversion (in Pali, dosa), and ignorance (in Pali, moha) are common to everybody, not only to Buddhists. Should not everyone eradicate lobha, dosa and moha?
People do not always realize that lobha, dosa and moha lead to sorrow. They may recognize unwholesomeness when it is coarse, but not when it is more subtle. For example, they may know that the citta is unwholesome when lobha is as coarse as greed or lust, but not when it is more subtle, such as when there is attachment to beautiful things or to dear people. Why is it unwholesome to have attachment to one's relatives and friends? It is true that we cannot help having lobha, but we should realize that attachment is not the same as pure loving-kindness, there can be moments of attachment too. Attachment is not wholesome; it will sooner or later bring unhappiness. Although people may not like to see this truth, they will one day experience that lobha brings unhappiness. Through death we are bound to lose people who are dear to us.
And when sickness or old age affect our sense faculties we may no longer be able to enjoy beautiful things through eyes and ears.
If we do not have the right understanding of the realities of life we will not know how to bear the loss of dear people. We read in the 'Udana' (Khuddaka Nikaya, Udana, Chapter VIII, Pataligama, par. 8) that Visakha lost her granddaughter. She came to see the Buddha with 'wet clothes and wet hair.' The Buddha said to her:
'Why, Visakha! How is it that you come here with clothes and hair still wet at an unseasonable hour?'
'O, sir, my dear and lovely granddaughter is dead! That is why I come here with hair anc clothes still wet at an unseasonable hour.'
'Visakha, would you like to have as many sons and grandsons as there are men in Savatthi?'
'Yes, sir, I would indeed!'
'But how many men do you suppose die daily in Savatthi?'
'Ten, sir, or maybe nine, or eight. Maybe seven, six, five or four, three, two; maybe one a day dies in Savatthi, sir. Savatthi is never free from men dying, sir.'
'What think you, Visakha? In such case would you ever be without wet hair and clothes?'
'Surely not, sir! Enough for me, sir, of so many sons and grandsons!'
'Visakha, whoso have a hundred things beloved, they have a hundred sorrows. Whoso have ninety, eighty...thirty, twenty things beloved ... whoso have ten ... whoso have but one thing beloved, have but one sorrow. Whoso have no one thing beloved, they have no sorrow. Sorrowless are they are passionless. Serene are they, I declare.'
People who see that it is unwholesome to be enslaved by attachment to people and to things around themselves, want to develop more understanding of realities through bhavana (mental development). Studying the Buddha's teachings and explaining them to others is kusala kamma of the kind of bhavana. In studying the teachings panna will be developed. If we want to understand what the Buddha taught it is essential to read the Buddha's teachings as they have come down to us at the present time in the 'Three Collections'; the 'Vinaya', the 'Suttanta' and the 'Abhidhamma'. Study alone, however, is not enough. We should experience the truth of Dhamma in daily life. Only then will we know things as they really are. Teaching Dhamma to other people is kusala kamma of a high degree. In this way one not only helps other people to have more understanding about their life, one develops one's own understanding as well. Teaching Dhamma is the most effective way of helping other people to find true happiness.
Another way of kusala kamma included in bhavana is tranquil meditation or 'samatha bhavana'. In samatha one concentrates on one object of meditation in order to purify oneself of lobha, dosa and moha. When one is more advanced in concentration one can attain different stages of jhana or absorption-concentration. The jhanacittas are kusala cittas; when the citta is jhanacitta there is no lobha, dosa or moha. At the moment of jhana one develops kusala kamma. Jhana is not the same as the trance which might be experienced after taking certain drugs. Those who take drugs want to obtain the desired end in an easy way and their action is prompted by lobha. Those who apply themselves to samatha have the sincere wish to purify themselves of lobha, dosa and moha; they do not look for sensational or thrilling experiences.
Samatha can purify the mind, but it cannot eradicate unwholesome latent tendencies. When the citta is not jhanacitta, lobha, dosa and moha can arise again. The person who applies himself to samatha cannot eradicate the belief in a self, and as long as there is the concept of self, defilements cannot be eradicated.
The concept of self can only be eradicated through vipassana. Vipassana or 'insight meditation' is another way of kusala kamma included in bhavana. In vipassana, ignorance about reality is eliminated. One learns to see things as they are in being aware, for example, when one sees, hears, smells, tastes, when one receives impressions through body-sense or when one thinks. When we experience that all things are only nama and rupa which arise and fall away, we will cling less to nama and rupa, and we will be less inclined to take them for self.
What is the reason that we are all inclined to cling to a self? The reason is that because of our ignorance we do not know things as they really are. When one hears a sound, one is ignorant of the different phenomena which occur during the moment one is hearing that sound. One thinks that it is a self who is hearing. However, it is not a self who is hearing; it is a citta which hears the sound. Citta is a mental phenomena, it is nama, that is, the reality which experiences something. The citta which hears experiences the sound. Sound itself does not experience anything. Sound and ear-sense are conditios for hearing. Ear-sense is rupa as well. One may wonder whether it is true that ear-sense does not experience anything. Ear-sense is a kind of rupa in the ear which has the capacity to receive sound, but it does not experience the sound. It is only a condition for the nama which experience the sound. Each citta has its own conditions through which it arises. Seeing has eye-sense as the physical condition and color as the object. There is no self which performs different functions such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, receiving impressions through body-sense and thinking. These are different namas each of which arises because of its own conditions.
We read in the 'Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving' (Mahatankhasankhaya-sutta, majjhima Nikaya I, Mahayamaka-vagga) that the monk Sati had a misconception about the Buddha's teaqchings. He understood from the Buddha's teachings that consciousness stays, and that it is one and the same consciousness which speaks, feels, and experiences the results of good and bad deeds. Several monks heard about Sati's wrong view. After they had tried in vain to dissuade him from his wrong view, they spoke to the Buddha about him. The Buddha summoned Sati and said to him:
'Is it true, as is said, that a pernicious view like this has accrued to you, Sati: "In so far as I understand Dhamma taught by the Lord it is that this consciousness itself runs on, fares on, not another"?'
'Even so do I, Lord, understand Dhamma taught by the Lord: it is this consciousness itself that runs on, fares on, not another.'
'What is this consciousness, Sati?'
'It is this, Lord, that speaks, that feels, that experiences now here, now there, the fruition of deeds that are lovely and that are depraved.'
'But to whom, foolish man, do you understand that Dhamma was taught by me thus? Foolish man, has not consciousness generated by conditions been spoken of in many a figure by me, saying: "Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness"? But now you, foolish man, not only misrepresent me beacuse of your own grasp, but you also injure yourself and give rise to much demerit which, foolish man, will be for your woe and sorrow for a long time.'
... Then the Lord addressed the monks, saying:
'Do you, monks, understand that Dhamma was taught by me thus so that this monk Sati, a fisherman's son, because of his own wrong grasp not only misrepresents me but is also injuring himself and giving rise to much demerit?'
'No, Lord. For in many a figure has consciousness generated by conditions been spoken of to us by the Lord, saying: "Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness."'
'It is good, monks, it is good that you understand thus Dhamma taught by me to you, monks. For in many a figure has consciousness generated by conditions been spoken of by me to you, monks, saying: "Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness."
... It is because, monks, an appropriate condition arises that consciousnes sis known by this or that name: if consciousness is know by this or that name: if consciousness arises because of eye and material shapes, it is known as seeing-consciousness; if consciousness arises because of ear and sounds it is known as hearing-consciousness; if consciousness arises because of nose and smells, it is known as smelling-consciousness; if consciousness arises because of tongue and tastes, it is known as tasting-consciousness; if consciousness arises because of body and touches, it is known as tactile-consciousness; if consciousness arises because of mind and mental objects, it is known as mental consciousness. Monks, as a fire burns because of this or that appropriate condition, by that it is known: if a fire burns because of sticks, it is known as a stick-fire; and if a fire burns because of chips, it is known as a chip-fire; and if a fire burns because of grass, it is known as a grass-fire; and if a fire burns because of cowdung, it is known as a cowdung-fire ... Even so, monks, when because of a condition appropriate to it consciousness arises, it is known by this or that name ...'
Thinking about different kinds of nama and rupa and the conditions through which they arise will help us to have right understanding about them. However, it is not the same as the direct experience of the truth. We will know what nama and rupa really are when we can experience their different characteristics as they appear through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body-sense and mind.
Nama and rupa succeed one another so rapidly that we do not realize that there are different nama-units and different rupa units. For example, only perceiving sound is a moment which is different from liking or disliking the sound. Knowing what the thing is that is heard, is again a different moment. We are often inclined to find the citta which likes or the citta which dislikes so important that we do not notice the characteristic of the nama or rupa which appears at that moment. Thus we cannot see things as they are; we think that there is a self which likes or dislikes. Like and dislike are only namas arising because of conditions; like and dislike depend on one's accumulations. There are conditions for each citta; there is no self which can let any citta arise at this or at that moment.
We take not only mental phenomena for self, we take tha body for self as well. However, the body consists of nothing but different rupa-elements which arise and fall away. There are many different kinds of rupa. The rupas which can be directly experienced through body-sense are: hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion and pressure. These rupas can be directly experienced through body-sense, there is no need to think about them or to name them. The direct experience of rupas whenever they appear is the only way to know that they are different rupas and that we cannot take them for self.
We should be aware of different characteristic of nama and rupa as they appear through the five sense-doors and through the mind-door. Nama and rupa which we do not know, we take for self. For example, we are not used to being aware of seeing. Seeing is the nama which just perceives colour through the eyes. This type of nama is real and thus it can be experienced. Before one knows what one sees there must be a moment of just perceiving colour through the eyes. One is used to paying attention only to the object one sees, and thus one cannot experience the nama which perceives colour and which arises before the other types of nama which like or dislike or which think about the object in different ways. If one is ignorant of seeing, one takes seeing for self. It is the same with hearing, which is just the perceiving of sound. If we realize that there should be awareness of the nama and rupa we have not yet been aware of, there will be awareness of these realities more often.
In the beginning we will be inclined to remind ourselves of different namas and rupas until we are used to them. When hearing arises we may remind ourselves that this nama is a reality which just perceives sound through the ears. When we are used to the characteristic of hearing we will realize that it is different from thinking and from other types of nama. We will realize that it is different from rupa. Thus we will be less inclined to take hearing for self.
We can be aware of only one characteristic of nama or rupa at a time. For example, when one hears, there are both hearing and sound, but one cannot be aware of hearing and sound at the same moment. There can be awareness of sound at one moment and of hearing at another moment, and thus one will gradually learn that their characteristics are different.
Only if we learn to be aware of the nama or rupa which appears at the present moment will we see things as they are. Thinking about nama and rupa, reminding ourselves of them or naming realities 'nama' and 'rupa', is still not the direct experience of reality. If we are thinking about nama and rupa in stead of directly experiencing their characteristics, we are clinging to them and we will not become detached from the idea of self. It is beyond control which characteristic presents itself at which moment. We cannot change the reality which has appeared already. We should not htink that there must be awareness of hearing first and after that of thinking about what we heard. Different realities will appear at different moments depending on conditions.
In the beginning we are not able to experience the arising and falling away of nama and rupa. We should just be aware of whatever characteristic of nama or rupa presents itself. When, for exampke. smelling appears, we cannot help smelling. At that moment we should just experience that characteristic, without making any special effort. There is no need to think about it or to remind ourselves that it is smelling, or that it is nama.
It is essential to realize that awareness is a type of nama as well, which can only arise when there are the right conditions. There is no self which is aware or which can have awareness arise at will. Right understanding of the practice of vipassana is a condition for the arising of awareness. When the right understanding has been developed awareness will arise more often. After a moment of awareness there will be a long time without awareness, or there will be moments when we are only thinking about nama and rupa. In the beginning there cannot be a great deal of awareness, but even a short moment of right awareness can help us very much in daily life.
The panna developed in the direct experience of reality is of a higher degree than the panna developed through thinking about reality or the panna developed in samatha. Vipassana is kusala kamma of a very high degree, because vipassana leads to detachment from the concept of self and to the eradication of all defilements. If there is less lobha, dosa and moha, it is for the happiness of the whole world as well.
In the 'Anguttara Nikaya' (Book of the Nine, Chapter II, par. x, Velama) we read that the Buddha spoke to Anathapindika about different degrees of wholesome deeds which bring their fruits accordingly. We read that the Buddha said:
...though with pious heart he took refue in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, greater would have been the fruit thereof, had he with pious heart undertaken to keep the precepts: abstention from taking life ... from intoxicating liquor, the cause of sloth.
... though with pious heart he undertook to keep these precepts, greater would have ben the fruit thereof, had he made become a mere passing fragrance of loving-kindness.
... though he made become just the fragrance of loving-kindness, greater would have been fruit thereof, had he made become, just for a finger-snap, the perception of impermanence.
The perception of impermanence is developed when there is a moment of right awareness of nama or rupa. One might be sureprised that the perception of impermanence is more fruitful than other kinds of wholesome deeds. In the practice of vipassana we will see how right awareness can change our life and our actions. In being aware we make the best of our life. The time will come when we have to leave this world because of old age, sickness or accident. Is it not better to take leave of the world with full understanding of what things are than to part from the world with aversion and fear?
In the Buddhist temples of Thailand we see people paying respect in front of the Buddha statue by kneeling and touching the floor three times with their hands and head. Those who have just arrived in Thailand may wonder whether this way of paying respect is a form of prayer or whether it has another meaning. Buddhists in Thailand express in this way their confidence in the 'Three Gems': the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. They take their refuge in the 'Three Gems'.
The first Gem is the Buddha. When people take their refuge in the Buddha, they say the following words in Pali: 'Buddham saranam gacchami', which means, 'I go for refuge to the Buddha. 'What is the meaning of the word 'Buddha'? The 'Illustrator of Ultimate Meaning' (the 'Paramatthajotika', a commentary to the Khuddaka Nikaya) explains (in the commentary to the 'Three Refuges' of the 'Minor Readings') the meaning of the word 'Buddha':
... and this is said, 'Buddha: in what sense buddha? He is the discoverer (bujjhita) of the Truths, thus he is enlightened (buddha). He is the enlightener (bodheta) of the generation, thus he is enlightened. He is enlightened by omniscience, enlightened by seeing all, enlightened without being led by others ... Buddha: this is not a name made by a mother, made by a father ... this (name) "Buddha", which signifies final liberation, is a realistic description of Enlightened Ones. Blessed Ones, together with their obtainment of omniscient knowledge at the root of an enlightenment (tree). '
The Buddha is the discoverer of the truth. What is the truth the Buddha discovered all by himself? 'He is enlightened by omniscience, enlightened by seeing all ' the Paramatthajotika commentary says. He had developed the wisdom to see and to experience the truth of all things. Everything in life is impermanent and thus it is unsatisfactory. People suffer from old age, sickness and death. In spite of this truth people still cling to the things in and around themselves. Thus they are not able to see reality. The Buddha experienced that all phenomena which arise fall away immediately. He would not cling to anything at all.
For us it is difficult to experience the truth of impermanence. Nama and rupa arise and fall away all the time, but one cannot experience this if one's wisdom is not developed. It is difficult to be aware often of realities when they appear and to realize what they are: only nama and rupa, phenomena which are impermanent and not self. The more we realize how difficult it is to see things as they are, the more we understand that the Buddha's wisdom must have been of the highest degree.
The Buddha taught that everything in life is dukkha. Dukkha literally means misery of suffering. However, the experience of dukkha is much deeper than a feeling of sorrow or contemplation about suffering. The experience of dukkha is the experience of the impermanence of the nama and rupa in our life and the realization that none of these phenomena is true happiness. Some people may think that pondering over this truth is already the experience of dukkha. However, one does not know the truth if one merely thinks about it. When one directly experiences the arising and falling away of nama and rupa, one will come to know the truth of dukkha. Then one will learn to be less attached to nama and rupa.
In the 'Greater Discourse of a Full Moon' (Mahapunnama-sutta, Majjhima Nikaya III, Devadaha-vagga) we read that the Buddha asked the monks:
'What do you think about this, monks? Is material shape permanent or impermanent? '
'Impermanent, revered sir. '
'But is what is impermanent painful or is it pleasant? '
'Painful, revered sir. '
'And is it right to regard that which is impermanent, suffering, liable to change, as, "This is mine, this am I, this is myself"? '
'No, revered sir. '
The Buddha asked the same question about mental phenomena.
Everything in our life is impermanent. Even what we call happiness is impermanent- it is only a mental phenomenon which arises and falls away immediately. How can that which arises and falls away as soon as it has arisen be real happiness? Everything in life, even happiness, is therefore dukkha or unsatisfactory. What arises and falls away we cannot take for self;everything is anatta or 'not self'. Impermanence, dukkha and anatta are three aspects of the same truth, the truth about all things in and around ourselves. It may take us a long time before we can experience things as they really are. We should always be aware of the nama and rupa which appear, such as, for example, seeing, hearing or thinking at this moment.
The Buddha was always mindful and clearly conscious. He did not have ignorance about any reality. When we realize how difficult mindfulness is, we deeply respect the great wisdom of the Buddha. The Buddha is called the 'Awakened One', because he is awakened to the truth. We read in the 'Sela-sutta' (Majjhima Nikaya II, Brahmana-vagga) that the Buddha said to Sela:
'What is to be known is known by me, and what is to be developed is developed, what is to be got rid of has been got rid of- therefore, brahman, am I Awake. '
The Buddha had, by his enlightenment, attained the greatest purity. He had completely eradicated all defilements. The Buddha became enlightened in this world. He taught that people in this world can develop such a high degree of wisdom that they can become completely free form defilements and latent tendencies. The more we know about our own subtle defilements and the more we see how deeply rooted the clinging to a self is, the more we realize the high degree of the Buddha's purity.
The Buddha was full of compassion for everybody. The fact that the Buddha was free form defilements does not mean that he did not want to help the world or that he did not want to think of those who still had defilements. People are inclined to think that Buddhism makes people neglectful of their duties towards others and that it makes them self-centered. On the contrary, Buddhism enables one more fully to perform one's duties and to serve other people in a more unselfish way.
The Buddha attained enlightenment for the happiness of the world. In the 'Anguttara Nikaya' (Book of the Ones, Chapter XIII) we read that the Buddha said to the monks:
Monks, there is one person whose birth into the world is for the welfare of many folk, for the happiness of many folk; who is born out of compassion for the world, for the profit, welfare and happiness of devas and mankind. Who is that one person? It is a Tathagata who is Arahant, a fully Enlightened One. This, monks, is that one person.
The more one understands the Buddha's teachings, the more one is impressed by his compassion for everybody. The Buddha knew what it meant to be free from all sorrow. Therefore he helped other people to attain this freedom as well. One can help other people by kindness, by generosity, and in many other ways. The most precious thing one can give others is to show them the way to true peace and happiness. The Buddha proved his great compassion to people in teaching them Dhamma.
When Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha statue they do not pray to a Buddha in heaven, since the Buddha passed away completely. Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha statue because they think with deep reverence and gratefulness of his virtues: of his wisdom, his purity and his compassion. When one speaks of virtues one usually thinks of good qualities in someone's character. There are many degrees of good qualities however. When the wisdom of him who follows the eightfold Path is developed to such an extent that he can attain enlightenment, then his way of life will have become purer and his compassion for others deeper. Wisdom is not only knowing the truth in theory, but realizing the truth in one's life as well. The virtues of the Buddha were developed to such a degree that he not only became enlightened without the help of a teacher, but was also able to teach the truth to others, so that by following the Path they could attain enlightenment.
There were other Buddhas before Gotama the Buddha. All Buddhas find the truth by themselves, without being led by others. However, there are two different kinds of Buddha: the 'Sammasambuddha' and the 'Pacceka Buddha' or 'Silent Buddha'. The Pacceka Buddha has not accumulated virtues to the same extent as the Sammasambuddha and thus he is not as qualified in teaching other people as the Sammasambuddha. Gotama the Buddha was a Sammasambuddha. There cannot be more than one Sammasambuddha in a 'Buddha era'; neither can there be any Pacceka Buddhas. The Buddha era in which we are living will be terminated when the Buddha's teachings have disappeared completely. The Buddha foretold that the further one is away from the time he lived, the more his teachings will be misinterpreted anc corrupted. Some time after his teachings have disappeared completely there will be the next Buddha and so the next Buddha era. The next Buddha will discover the truth again and he will teach other people the way to enlightenment.
Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha. What does the word 'refuge' mean? The Paramatthajotika commentary speaks about the meaning of the word 'refuge':
... When people have gone for refuge, then by that very going for refuge it combats, dispels, carries off, and stops, their fear, anguish, suffering, (risk of) unhappy destination (on rebirth), and defilement ... the going for refuge is the arising of knowledge, with confidence therein and giving preponderance thereto, from which defilement is eliminated and eradicated, and which occurs in the mode of taking that as the highest value...
Going for refuge to the Buddha does not mean that the Buddha can eradicate people's defilements. We read in the 'Maha-Parinibbana-sutta' (Digha Nikaya II, Chapter II) that, before his death, the Buddha said to Ananda:
Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent... Therefore, Ananda, be an island to yourself, a refuge to yourself, seeking no external refuge; with Dhamma as your island, Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
The Buddha then explained that taking one's refuge in the Dhamma means being mindful of nama and rupa. This is the eightfold Path which leads to nibbana. One can depend only on oneself in following this Path, not on any one else.
The Buddha said that the Dhamma and the Vinaya would be his successor. Today the Buddha is no longer with us, but one takes refuge in the Buddha when one has confidence in his teachings and one considers it the most important thing in life to practise what he taught.
The second of the Three Gems Buddhists take their refuge in is the Dhamma. When they take their refuge in the Dhamma they say: 'Dhammam saranam gacchami', which means, 'I go for refuge to the Dhamma.'
What does the word dhamma mean? Most people think that dhamma means doctrine, but the word dhamma has many more meanings. Dhamma means everything which is real, no matter whether it is good or bad. Dhamma comprises, for example, seeing, sound, greed and honesty. We cannot take our refuge in every dhamma; for instance, we cannot take our refuge in greed or hate. We cannot even take for refuge our parents, our husband or wife, because we are bound to be separated from them sooner or later.
Can we take our refuge in our good deeds? The effect of a good deed is never lost, since each good deed will bring its fruit accordingly. In the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Sagatha-vagga, Chapter I, part 8, par. 5) we read that a deva asks the Buddha how a man should live so that he does not have to fear life in another world. The Buddha answers:
Let him but rightly set both speech and mind,
And by the body work no evil things.
If in a house well stored with goods he dwell,
Let him have faith, be gentle, share his goods
With the others, and be affable of speech.
In these four qualities if he persist,
He need not fear life in another world.
A good deed can cause a happy rebirth such as birth the human plane of existence, or in a heavenly plane, and thus one need not fear life in another world. However, even a heavenly plane is not a permanent refuge. Life in a heavenly plane may last very long, but it is not permanent. There may be rebirth in 'woeful planes' after one's lifespan in a heavenly plane is terminated, depending on one's accumulated good and bad deeds. Each deed will bring its own result : a wholesome deed will bring a pleasant result and an unwholesome deed will bring an unpleasant result. Some deeds may produce a result in this life, other deeds may produce a result in a later life. The accumulated unwholesome and wholesome deeds may cause births in different planes of existence at different times. In the 'Samyutta Nikaya' ( Sagatha-vagga, Chapter III, part 2, Childless) we read about someone who gave alms to a Pacceka Buddha. Because of this good deed he was reborn in heaven seven times and after that in the human plane, which is also kusala vipaka. However, he killed his nephew because he wanted his brother's fortune. This ill deed caused him to be reborn in hell. Thus he received the results of wholesome deeds and of unwholesome deeds at different times.
As long as all defilements and latent tendencies have not been eradicated, there will be rebirth in different planes of existence. Even those who are reborn in heavenly planes still have defilement's and latent tendencies. Birth is sorrow, no matter on what plane; birth will be followed by death. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Nidana-vagga, Chapter XV, part 1, par. 3) that the Buddha said to the monks:
Incalculable is the beginning, monks, of this faring on. The earliest point is not revealed of the running on, faring on, of beings cloaked in ignorance, tied to craving.
As to that, what do you think, monks? What is greater:- the flood of tears shed by you crying and weeping as you fare on, run on this long while, united as you have been with the undesirable, sundered as you have been from the desirable, or the waters in the four seas?
... For many a long day, monks, have you experienced the death of mother, of son, of daughter, have you experienced the ruin of kinfolk, of wealth, the calamity of disease. Greater is the flood of tears shed by you crying and weeping over one and all of these, as you fare on, run on this many a long day ... than are the waters in the four seas.
Only when all defilements are eradicated will there be no cause any more which can produce a next life, and thus there will be no more rebirth. That means the end of all sorrow. Nibbana is the end of rebirth because nibbana is the end of defilements. Therefore one can truly take one's refuge in nibbana. In the suttas nibbana is called 'the deathless'. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Maha-vagga, Kindred Sayings on the Way, Ignorance, par. 7) that a monk said to the Buddha:
'"The deathless! The deathless!" Lord, is the saying. Pray, Lord, what is the deathless, and what the way to the deathless?'
'That which is the destruction of greed, the destruction of hatred, the destruction of ignorance, monk- that is called "the deathless". This same ariyan eightfold way is the way to the deathless...'
Nibbana is the dhamma which is the second Gem. Nibbana is a Gem of the highest value, because there is nothing to be preferred to complete freedom from all sorrow. Nibbana is real: even if one cannot yet experience nibbana, it should be considered the goal of life. If one follows the right Path one might realize nibbana even during this life.
People may think that it is not very desirable not to be born again. If we have not attained nibbana we cannot imagine what nibbana is like. It does not make much sense therefore to speculate about nibbana. At the present moment we can experience our defilements; we can experience the sorrow which is caused in the world by greed, hatred and ignorance. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Sagatha-vagga, Chapter III, part 3, par. 3, The World) that King Pasenadi asks the Buddha:
'How many kinds of things, Lord, that happen in the world, make for trouble, for suffering, for distress?'
The Buddha answered:
'Three things, sire, happen of that nature. What are the three? Greed, hatred and ignorance:- these three make for trouble, for suffering, for distress.' Who does not want to be free from suffering caused by greed, hatred and ignorance? Those who want to become free from all defilements take their refuge in nibbana.
What is the Path leading to nibbana? Nibbana cannot be attained merely by wishing to achieve it. Can people attain nibbana by doing good deeds? Even when one performs good deeds there can still be the idea of self. Good deeds without the right understanding of realities cannot eradicate the belief in a self and the other defilements. Thus they cannot lead to nibbana. Only vipassana leads to the eradication of all defilements.
One may wonder whether it is necessary, in addition to developing vipassana, to do other good deeds. The answer is that, the wisdom developed in vipassana helps us to be kind and considerate to other people in our deeds and speech. We learn to use every opportunity to eradicate unwholesomeness. Every time there is awareness of the nama or rupa while one is observing precepts or doing other kinds of good deeds, one is on the Path leading to nibbana.
The development of vipassana is a lifetask for most of us, since we are not used to the direct experience of the nama or rupa which appears through one of the five senses or through the mind. We are used to thinking of realities from a past experience or those which might present themselves in the future. We should not expect to learn awareness in one day or even within one year. We cannot tell how much progress is made each day, because wisdom accumulates very gradually.
We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Khandha-vagga, Middle Fifty, part 5, par. 101, Adze-handle) that the Buddha said to the monks:
By knowing, monks, by seeing is, I declare, the destruction of the asavas, not by not knowing, by not seeing ...
Suppose, monks, in a monk who lives neglectful of self-training there should arise this wish: 'O that my heart were freed without grasping from the asavas.' Yet for all that his heart is not freed from the asavas. What is the cause of that?
It must be said that it is his neglect of self-training. Self-training in what? In the four applications of mindfulness ... in the ariyan Eightfold Path.
... In the monk who dwells attentive to self-training there would not arise such a wish as this: 'O that my heart were freed from the asavas without grasping'; and yet his heart is freed from them. What is the cause of that?
It must be said it is his attention to self-training ... Just as if, monks, when a carpenter or carpenter's apprentice looks upon his adze-handle and sees thereon his thumbmark and his finger-marks he does not thereby know: 'Thus and thus much of my adze-handle has been worn away today, thus much yesterday, thus much at other times.' But he knows the wearing away of it just by its wearing away.
Even so monks, the monk who dwells attentive to self-training has not this knowledge: 'Thus and thus much of the asavas has been worn away today, thus much yesterday, thus much at other times': but he knows the wearing away of them just by their wearing away.
When wisdom is highly developed nibbana can be realized. There are four stages of enlightenment or realization of nibbana. Defilements are so deeply rooted that they can only be eradicated stage by stage. In the first stage there is no more wrong view of 'self', but there is still attachment, aversion and ignorance. Only at the last stage of enlightenment, the stage of the arahat, are all defilements and latent tendencies eradicated completely. When one has attained the stage of the arahat there will be no more rebirth.
The citta which experiences nibbana is a 'lokuttara citta'. There are two types of citta for each of the four stages of enlightenment, thus there are eight lokuttara citta. Nibbana and the eight lokuttara cittas are the 'nava lokuttara dhamma', or 'nine supramundane dhammas'. These nava lokuttara dhammas are the second Gem, the Dhamma to which one goes for refuge. When one takes one's refuge in the second Gem, one considers it the goal of one's life to develop the wisdom which can eventually eradicate all defilements.
There is a tenth dhamma included in the second Gem: the teachings of the Buddha. The teachings can lead people to the truth if they study them with right understanding and if they practise according to what is taught. One should study the whole of the Buddha's teachings. If one studies only a few suttas one will not clearly understand what the Buddha taught. Many times a sutta merely alludes to things which are explained in detail in other parts of the Tipitaka. It is useful to study the commentaries to the Tipitaka as well, because they explain the Buddha's teachings. The teachings are our guide since the Buddha passed away.
We read in the 'Gopakamoggallan-sutta' (Majjhima Nikaya III, Devadaha-vagga) that after the Buddha's death a brahman asked Ananda what the cause was of the unity of the monks. He said:
'Is there, good Ananda, even one monk who was designated by the Lord who knew and saw, perfected one, fully Self-Awakened One, saying: "After my passing this one will be your support," and to whom you might have recourse now?"
'There is not even one monk, brahman, who was designated by the Lord who knew and saw, perfected one, fully Self-Awakened One, saying: "After my passing this one will be your support,' and to whom we might have recourse now.'
'But is there even one monk, Ananda, who is agreed upon by the Order and designated by a number of monks who are elders, saying: "After the Lord's passing this one will be our support," and to whom you might have recourse now?'
'There is not even one monk, brahman, who is agreed upon by the Order ... and to whom we might have recourse now.'
'But as you are thus without a support, good Ananda, what is the cause of your unity?'
We brahman, are not without support; we have a support, brahman. Dhamma is the support.'
In the 'Anguttara Nikaya' (Book of the Threes, Chapter VI, par. 60, Sangarava) we read that the Buddha speaks to the brahman Sangarava about three kinds of miracles: the miracle of 'superpower', such as diving into the earth or walking on water, the miracle of thought-reading and the miracle of teaching. The Buddha asked him which miracle appealed to him most. Sangarava answered:
Of these miracles, master Gotama, the miracle of superpower ... seems to me to be of the nature of an illusion. Then again as to the miracle of thought-reading ... this also, master Gotama, seems to me to be of the nature of an illusion. But as to the miracle of teaching ... of these miracles this one appeals to me as the more wonderful and excellent.
The teachings are the greatest miracle because they can change a person's life. Dhamma brings right understanding, so that one is able to walk on the Path which leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth, to nibbana.
The Buddha's teachings do not appeal to everybody. Many people find it difficult to think in a way which is different from the way they used to think. They do not like the idea that there is no self. They want to control their mind even though they can find out that this is impossible. The Buddha knew how difficult it is for people to change their way of thinking. In the 'Discourse to Vacchagotta on Fire' (Aggi-Vacchagotta-sutta, Majjhima Nikaya II, Paribbajaka-vagga) we read that the Buddha said to Vacchagotta:
You ought to be at a loss, Vaccha, you ought to be bewildered. For, Vaccha, this dhamma is deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand, peaceful, excellent, beyond dialectic, subtle, intelligible to the wise; but it is hard for you who are of another view, another allegiance, another objective, of a different observance, and under a different teacher.
Dhamma is deep and difficult to understand. People cannot understand Dhamma if they still cling to their own views. If they would really study the teachings and persevere in the practice of what is taught, they would find out for themselves whether one can take one's refuge in the Dhamma. When we have experienced that what the Buddha taught is reality, even if we cannot yet experience everything he taught, we do not want to exchange our understanding for anything else in life. If we have the right understand of realities and if we develop wisdom, we will have Dhamma as a support. Thus we take refuge in the Dhamma.
The Sangha is the third of the 'Three Gems'. When Buddhists take their refuge in the Sangha they say: 'Sangham saranam gacchami', which means, 'I go for refuge to the Sangha', The word sangha literally means 'congregation' or 'community'. It is the word generally used for the order of monks. When the word sangha denotes the third Gem it has a different meaning. The Sangha which is the third Gem are the ariyans. 'Ariyan' is the name which denotes all those who have attained one of the four stages of enlightenment, no matter whether they are monks, nuns (bhikkhuni), unmarried layfollowers or married layfollowers. In the suttas we read that countless men and women layfollowers, single and married, became enlightened (Maha-Vacchgotta-sutta, Majjhima Nikaya II).
In order to understand what enlightenment is, we should first know more about the accumulation of defilements. Defilements are all the imperfections we have accumulated in each citta. Our life is a continuous series of cittas succeeding one another, and thus the process of accumulation is continued from one citta to the next citta, going on from birth to death, and from one life to the next life. One may wonder how a citta can contain all the accumulations of the past. This is possible, because a citta is mentality. Matter which is limited, such as a room, can only contain as much as its space allows. A citta is different from matter, it is unlimited in what it can contain.
The defilements which have accumulated in our citta are very deeply rooted, and can only be eradicated in stages, which are the different stages of enlightenment. First the latent tendency of the concept of self has to be eradicated. We can eradicate the belief in a self in understanding what it is we take for self: in developing vipassana. What we call 'my body' are only physical phenomena which arise and fall away and which we cannot control. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Khandha-vagga, Middle Fifty, par. 59, The Five) that the Buddha said to his first five disciples in the Deerpark of Varanasi:
'Body, monks, is not the self. If body, monks, were the self, then body would not be involved in sickness, and one could say of body: "Thus let my body be. Thus let my body not be."'
The same is said about mentality. The wrong view of self we have accumulated all through our many lives can be eliminated only very gradually. The wisdom will be keener at each stage of vipassana. When one has experienced nibbana for the first time the wrong view of self is eradicated completely and there is no more doubt about realities.
This first stage of enlightenment is the stage of the 'stream-winner', in Pali, 'sotapanna'. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Khanda-vagga, Chapter XXV, Kindred Sayings on Entering, par. 1) that the Buddha said to the monks:
'The eye, monks is impermanent, changeable, becoming otherwise. The ear, monk, is impermanent, changeable. So is the nose, the tongue, the body, and the mind. It is impermanent, changeable, becoming otherwise....
He, monks, who thus knows, thus sees these doctrines, is called "streamwinner, saved from destruction, assures, bound for enlightenment".'
The sotapanna is sure to attain the last stage of enlightenment, which is the stage of the arahat. The sotapanna has not eradicated all defilements yet; there is still lobha, dosa and moha. He realizes that he still has akusala cittas; he knows that there are still conditions for them, but he does not take them for self. The sotapanna still has defilements, but he will never break the five precepts; it has become his nature to observe them. He cannot commit a deed which can cause rebirth in one of the woeful planes. Those who are not ariyans cannot be sure that they will not be reborn in a woeful plane of existence, even if they have done many good deeds in this life. One may have committed an ill deed in a past life which may cause rebirth in hell. Only ariyans can be sure that they will not reborn in a woeful plane.
The sotapanna has an unshakable confidence in the 'Three Gems': in the Buddha, The Dhamma and the Sangha. He has no doubts about the Path the Buddha taught; he cannot delude himself about the right practice of vipassana. If we have not attained enlightenment we can be deluded about the right practice. Instead of developing wisdom we cling to a self, we want to induce awareness, and we cling to results we are hoping for. The sotapanna, however, is firmly established on the Path to the last stage of enlightenment.
The fact that the sotapanna has experienced nibbana does not mean that he cannot continue all his daily activities. The sotapanna can live with husband or wife and have a family life. So too until the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the 'non-returner' or 'anagami'. The arahat, however, no longer has any wish for the layman 's life.
The sotapanna does not take any nama or rupa for self, but there is still attachment, aversion and ignorance; he still has conceit. Therefore he has to continue the development of vipassana. We read in the 'Samyutta Nikaya' (Khandha-vagga, Last Fifty, par. 122, Virtue) that Maha-Kotthita asked Sariputta what would be the object of awareness for a virtuous monk (who has not realized any stage of enlightenment yet), or for a sotapanna, or for those who have realized the subsequent stages of enlightenment. Sariputta explained that the object is the five khandhas of grasping, which are all the namas and rupas in and around oneself. Sariputta said:
'The five khandhas of grasping, friend Kotthita, are the conditions which should be pondered with method by a virtuous monk, as being impermanent, suffering, sick, as a boil, as a dart, as pain, as ill-health, as alien, as transitory, empty and not self...
Indeed, friend, it is possible for a virtuous monk so pondering with method these five khandhas of grasping to realize the fruits of stream-winning.'
'But, friend Sariputta, what are the things which should be pondered with method by a monk who is a sotapanna?'
'By a monk who is a sotapanna, friend Kotthita, it is these same five khandhas of grasping which should be so pondered.
Indeed, friend, it is possible for a monk who is a sotapanna ... by so pondering these five khandhas ... to realize the fruits of once-returning.'
'But, friend Sariputta, what are the things which should be pondered with method by a monk who is a sakadagami (once-returner)?'
'By one who is a sakadagami, friend, it is these same five khandhas which should be pondered with method.
Indeed it is possible, friend, for one who is a sakadagami by so pondering to realize the fruits of non-returning.'
'But, friend Sariputta, what are the things which should be pondered with method by one who is an anagami (non-returner)?'
'By such a one, friend Kotthita, it is these five khandhas of grasping which should be so pondered. It is possible, friend, for an anagami by so pondering to realize the fruits of arahatship'.
'But, what, friend Sariputta, are the things which should be pondered with method by one who is an arahat?'
'By an arahat, friend Kotthita, these five khandhas should be pondered with method as being impermanent, suffering, sick, as a boil, as a dart, as ill-health, as alien, transitory, void and not self.
For the arahat, there is nothing further to be done, nor is there return to upheaping of what is done. Nevertheless, these things, if practised and enlarged, conduce to a happy existence to self-possession even in this present life.'
The ariyan of the second stage, the sakadagami (once-returner), has not eradicated all attachment and aversion, but they have become attenuated. He still has ignorance, which is only completely eradicated by the arahat. The ariyan of the third stage, the anagami (non-returner), has eradicated aversion and he has eradicated attachment to the things experienced through the five senses, but he still clings to life and he still has conceit.
Ariyans who are not yet arahats can still have conceit, although they have no wrong view of self. They may be inclined to compare themselves with others. When somebody thinks himself better than, equal to or less than someone else, it is conceit, even if it is true. Why should we compare ourselves with others? In the 'Khemaka-sutta' (Samyutta Nikaya, Khandha-vagga, Middle Fifty, part 4, par. 89) we read that the monk Khemaka, who was staying in Jujube Tree Park, was afflicted by sickness. Some other monks who were staying near Kosambi in Ghosita Park, asked the monk Dasaka to inquire after his health. After he gave the message that his health was not improving, the other monks told Dasaka to ask Khemaka whether he still took anything for self. When Khemaka had told Dasaka that he did not take anything for self, the other monks concluded that Khemaka must be an arahat. Khemaka answered to Dasaka:
'Though, friend, I discern in the five khandhas of grasping no self nr anything pertaining to the self, yet am I not arahat, nor one in whom the asavas are destroyed. Though, friend, I see that I have got the idea of "I am" in the five khandhas of grasping, yet do I not discern that I am this "I am".'
Then the venerable Dasaka returned to the monks with that message and reported the words of the venerable Khemaka (and those monks sent this further message):
'As to this "I am" friend Khemaka, of which you speak, what do you mean by this "I am"? Do you speak of "I am" as body or as distinct from body? ... as consciousness, or as distinct from consciousness? As to this "I am", what do you mean by it?' (So the venerable Dasaka went again and took the message in these words:)
'Enough, friend Dasaka. What boots this running to and fro! Fetch my staff. I will go myself to these monks.'
So the venerable Khemaka, leaning on his staff, came to those monks. When he got there, he greeted them, and exchanging the courtesies of civil words, sat down at one side. As the thus sat, the elders thus spoke to the venerable Khemaka:-
As to this "I am", friend Khemaka, of which you speak, what do you mean by it? Do you speak of it as body or as distinct from body... as consciousness, or as distinct from consciousness?'
'No friends, I do not say "I am body" or feeling, or perception, or the activities or consciousness, or as distinct from these and from consciousness. Though, friends, I see that I have got the idea of "I am" in the five khandhas of grasping, yet I do not discern that I am this "I am". Just as, friends, in the case of the scent of a blue lotus, or a white lotus, -if one should say: "the scent belongs to the petals or the colour or the fibers of it", would he be rightly describing the scent?'
'Surely not, friend.'
'Then how would he be right in describing it?'
'Surely, friend, by speaking of the scent of the flower.'
'Even so, friends, I do not speak of the "I am" as a body, or as feeling and so forth. Nevertheless I see that in these five khandhas of grasping I have got the idea of "I am"; yet I do not discern that I am this "I am". Though, friends, an ariyan disciple has put away the five lower fetters, yet there remains in him a subtle remnant from among the five khandhas of grasping, a subtle remnant of the I-conceit, of the I am-desire, of the lurking tendency to think "I am", still not removed from him. Later on he lives contemplating the rise and fall of the five khandhas of grasping ...
'In this way, as he lives in the contemplation of the five khandhas of grasping, that subtle remnant of the I am conceit, of the I am-desire, that lurking tendency to think "I am", which was still not removed from him- that is now removed. Suppose, friends, there is a dirty, soiled cloth, and the owners give it to a Washerman, and he rubs is smooth with salt-earth, or lye or cowdung, and rinses it in pure clean water. Now, though that cloth be clean, utterly cleansed, yet there hangs about it, still unremoved, the smell of the salt-earth or lye or cowdung. The washerman returns it to the owners, and they lay it up in a sweet-scented coffer. Thus that smell ... is now utterly removed...'
Further on we read:
Now when this teaching was thus expounded the hearts of as many as sixty monks were utterly set free from the asavas, and so was it also with the heart of the venerable Khemaka.
The arahat has eradicated all defilements and latent tendencies of defilements. He will not be reborn when his life is terminated.
How can we find out who is an ariyan? There is no way to know who is an ariyan, unless we have become enlightened ourselves. It cannot be known from someone's outward appearance whether he is an ariyan or not. People who are very amiable and peaceful are not necessarily ariyans. However, we can take our refuge in the ariyan Sangha even if we do not personally know any ariyans. We can think of their virtues, no matter whether they are in this plane of existence or in other planes. The ariyans prove that there is a way to the end of defilements. We should know what the condition is for the end of defilements: the cultivation of wisdom. The monks, nuns, men and women layfollowers who were ariyans in the Buddha's time proved that what the Buddha taught can be realize in daily life. The Buddha did not teach abstract ideas, he taught reality. Should those who want to realize the truth not walk the same Path they walked, even if they still have a long way to go?
The ariyans have understood very clearly that we cannot seek deliverance from our defilements outside ourselves. Defilements can only be eradicated where they arise: within ourselves. If we want to eradicate defilements we should follow the 'Middle Way'. In order to follow the 'Middle Way' we do not have to change our daily life. We can be aware of nama and rupa during our daily activities. We will experience that this may be more difficult than the practices of an ascetic. It is harder to overcome the clinging to a self when we are seeing, hearing or thinking, than to endure bodily hardship. The development of wisdom is a lifetask. We need much courage and perseverance in order to continue to be aware of the realities in daily life.
When we take our refuge in the ariyan Sangha we are expressing our confidence in the Buddha's Path, through which we may realize what the Sangha has realized. When we take our refuge in the Sangha are also paying respect to all monks, no matter whether they are ariyans or not, because monks try to realize in their own lives what the Buddha taught and they try to help other people as well to realize the truth. Thus the monks remind us of the 'Three Gems': the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.