A Collection of Talks on the
Training of the Mind
Maha Boowa Nanasampanno
Translated from the Thai
Copyright 1988 Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Nanasampanno
First Edition 1988
This electronic edition is offered
For Free Distribution Only
by arrangement with the translator.
This text is a gift of Dhamma. You may print this file for your personal use, and you may make and distribute unaltered copies of this file, provided that you charge no fees of any kind for its distribution. Otherwise, all rights reserved.
For more information, contact:
Metta Forest Monastery
P.O. Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082
This book is a free gift of Dhamma
and may not be offered for sale, for as the Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa has
said, 'Dhamma has a value beyond all wealth and should not be sold like goods
in a market place.'
Reproduction of this book in whole or in part, by any means, for sale or material gain, is prohibited. Permission to reprint in whole or in part for free distribution as a gift of Dhamma, however, is hereby granted, and no further permission need be obtained.
Inquiries may be addressed to Wat Pa Baan Taad, c/o Songserm Service, 89 Posri Road, Udorn Thani 41000 Thailand.
'Just as if there were a pool of water in a mountain glen -- clear, limpid, and unsullied -- where a man with good eyes standing on the bank could see shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also shoals of fish swimming about and resting, and it would occur to him, "This pool of water is clear, limpid, and unsullied. Here are these shells, gravel, and pebbles, and also these shoals of fish swimming about and resting;" so too, the monk discerns as it actually is, that "This is stress... This is the origin of stress... This is the stopping of stress... This is the way leading to the stopping of stress... These are mental effluents... This is the origin of mental effluents... This is the stopping of mental effluents... This is the way leading to the stopping of mental effluents." His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of unawareness. With release, there is the knowledge, "Released." He discerns that, "Birth is no more, the holy life is fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world."
'This, great king, is a reward of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime. And as for another visible reward of the contemplative life, higher and more sublime than this, there is none.'
-- Samannaphala Sutta
h From Ignorance to Emptiness
h The Tracks of the Ox
h The Path of Strength
h The Savor of the Dhamma
h The Middleness of the Middle Way
h The Simile of the Horse
h Principles in the Practice, Principles in the Heart
h The Four Frames of Reference
h The Work of a Contemplative
h The Fangs of Unawareness
h The Outer Space of the Mind
h To Be an Inner Millionaire
h Every Grain of Sand
These talks -- except for the first -- were originally given extemporaneously to the monks at Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa's monastery, Wat Pa Baan Taad, in Udorn Thani Province, Thailand. As might be expected, they deal in part with issues particular to the life of Buddist monks, but they also contain much that is of more general interest. Since the monks who had assembled to listen to these talks were at different stages in their practice, each talk deals with a number of issues on a wide variety of levels. Thus there should be something of use in these pages for every reader interested in the training of the mind.
The title of this collection is taken from a Pali term that, directly or indirectly, forms the theme of a number of the talks: yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana -- knowledge and vision of things as they are. My hope is that these talks will aid and encourage the reader in his or her own efforts to taste the liberation that comes with the reality to which this term refers.
NOTE: In these talks, as in Thai usage in general, the words 'heart' and 'mind' are used interchangebly.
If anything in this translation is inaccurate or misleading, I ask forgiveness of the author and reader for having unwittingly stood in their way. As for whatever may be accurate, I hope the reader will make the best use of it, translating it a few steps further, into the heart, so as to attain the truth to which it points.
FROM IGNORANCE TO EMPTINESS
March 27, 1964
Today I'd like to take the opportunity
to tell you some of my own ignorance and doubts, with the thought that we all
come from the land of ignorance and doubt inasmuch as our parents and their
ancestors before them were people with the defilements (kilesa) that led them
to ignorance as well. Even all of us here: There's probably not a one of us
who slipped through to be born in the land of intelligence and freedom from
doubt. This being the case, we all must be subject to doubts. So today I'd like
to take the opportunity to resolve some of the issues that are on your minds
by giving a talk instead of answering the questions you have asked from the
standpoint of your various doubts, ranging from the most basic to the highest
levels -- which I'm not sure I can answer or not. But the questions you have
asked seem to follow so well on one another that they can provide the framework
for a talk instead of a question-and-answer session.
Each of us, before starting the practice and in the beginning stages of the practice, is sure to suffer from ignorance and doubt, as these are the qualities that lead to the states of becoming and birth into which all living beings are born. When we lay the groundwork for the beginning of the practice, we don't have enough starting capital for intelligence to take the lead in every situation, and so ignorance is sure to find an opening to take the lead. And as for this ignorance: If we have never trained our intelligence to show us the way, the ignorance that holds the upper hand in the heart is sure to drag us in the wrong direction as a matter of course.
In the beginning of my own training, I felt doubts about whether the teachings of the Buddha -- both the practices to be followed and the results to be obtained -- were as complete as he said they were. This was an uncertainty that ran deep in my heart during the period in which I was debating whether or not to practice for the really high levels of Dhamma -- or, to put it bluntly, for the sake of nibbana. Before I had considered practicing for the sake of nibbana, these doubts hardly ever occurred to me, probably because I hadn't yet aimed my compass in this direction. But after I had ordained and studied the Dhamma -- and especially the life of the Buddha, which was the story of his great renunciation leading to his Awakening to the paths (magga), fruitions (phala), and nibbana; and then the lives of the Noble Disciples who, having heard the Dhamma from the Buddha, went off to practice in various places until they too gained Awakening, becoming witnesses to the truth of the Buddha and his teachings -- when I had studied to this point, I felt a sense of faith and conviction, and wanted to train myself to be like them.
But the training that would make me be like them: How was I to follow it? The Dhamma -- in other words, the practice that would lead the heart to awaken to the higher levels of Dhamma like the Buddha and his disciples: Would it still produce the same sorts of results or would it be fruitless and simply lead to pointless hardship for those who practiced it? Or would it still give the full results in line with the well-taught teachings (svakkhata-dhamma)? This was my primary doubt. But as for believing in the Buddha's Awakening and that of his disciples, of this I was fully convinced in my way as an ordinary run-of-the-mill person. The thing that formed a stumbling block to me in the beginning stages was the doubt as to whether or not the path of practice I would take, following the Buddha and his disciples, would lead to the same point they had reached. Was it now all overgrown with brambles and thorns? Had it changed into something other than the Dhamma that leads away from suffering (niyyanika-dhamma), even though the Buddha and his disciples had all followed this very same path to the land of peace and security? This was my doubt concerning the causes in the practice. As for the results of the practice, I wondered whether the paths, fruitions, and nibbana still existed as they had in the time of the Buddha. These doubts, which ran deep in my heart, I couldn't tell to anyone else because I felt there was no one who could resolve them for me and dispel them from my heart.
This is why I had my hopes constantly set on meeting Ven. Acariya Mun. Even though I had never met him before, I had heard his reputation, which had been spreading from Chieng Mai for quite some time, that he was a monk of distinction. By and large, the people who would tell me about him wouldn't speak of him in terms of the ordinary levels of noble attainments. They'd all speak of his arahantship. This had me convinced that when I had finished my studies in line with the vow I had made, I'd have to make the effort to go out to practice and live under his guidance so as to cut away the doubts running deep in my heart at that time.
The vow I had made to myself was that I would complete the third grade of Pali studies. As for Dhamma studies, whether or not I would pass the examinations was of no concern to me. As soon as I had passed the third-level Pali exams, I'd go out to do nothing but practice. I'd absolutely refuse to study or take the exams for the higher levels. This was the vow I had made. So the aim of my education was the third level of Pali studies. Whether it was my good or bad fortune, though, I can't say, but I failed the Pali exams for two years, and passed only on the third year. As for the three levels of Dhamma studies, I ended up passing them all, because I was studying and taking the examinations for both subjects together.
When I went up to Chieng Mai, it so happened that Ven. Acariya Mun had been invited by Ven. Chao Khun Dhammachedi of Udorn Thani to spend the Rains Retreat (vassa) in Udorn, and so he had left his seclusion and come to stay at Wat Chedi Luang in Chieng Mai at just about the time of my arrival. As soon as I learned that he was staying there, I was overwhelmed with joy. The next morning, when I returned from my alms round, I learned from one of the other monks that earlier that morning Ven. Acariya Mun had left for alms on that path and had returned by the very same path. This made me even more eager to see him. Even if I couldn't meet him face to face, I'd be content just to have a glimpse of him before he left for Udorn Thani.
The next morning before Ven. Acariya Mun went on his alms round, I hurried out early for alms and then returned to my quarters. There I kept watch along the path by which he would return, as I had been told by the other monks, and before long I saw him coming. I hurried to my quarters and peeked out of my hiding to catch a glimpse of him, with the hunger that had come from having wanted to see him for such a long time. And then I actually saw him. The moment I saw him, a feeling of complete faith in him arose within me. I hadn't wasted my birth as a human being, I thought, because I now had seen an arahant. Even though no one had told me that he was an arahant, my heart became firmly convinced the moment I saw him that that was what he was. At the same time, a feeling of sudden ecstasy hard to describe came over me, making my hair stand on end -- even though he hadn't yet seen me with his physical eyes.
Not too many days after that, he left Wat Chedi Luang to head for Udorn Thani together with his students. As for me, I stayed on to study there at Wat Chedi Luang. When I had passed my Pali exams, I returned to Bangkok with the intention of heading out to practice meditation in line with my vow, but when I reached Bangkok a senior monk who out of his kindness wanted to help me further my Pali studies told me to stay on. I tried to find some way to slip away, in keeping with my intentions and my vow, because I felt that the conditions of my vow had been met the moment I had passed my Pali exams. Under no terms could I study for or take the next level of Pali exams.
It's a trait with me to value truthfulness. Once I've made a vow, I won't break it. Even life I don't value as much as a vow. So now I had to try to find some way or another to go out to practice. It so happened during that period that the senior monk who was my teacher was invited out to the provinces, so I got the chance to leave Bangkok. Had he been there, it would have been difficult for me to get away, because I was indebted to him in many ways and probably would have felt such deference for him that I would have had difficulty leaving. But as soon as I saw my chance, I decided to make a vow that night, asking for an omen from the Dhamma that would reinforce my determination in going out this time.
After I had finished my chants, I made my vow, the gist of which was that if my going out to meditate in line with my earlier vow would go smoothly and fulfil my aspirations, I wanted an unusual vision to appear to me, either in my meditation or in a dream. But if I wouldn't get to go out to practice, or if having gone out I'd meet with disappointment, I asked that the vision show the reason why I'd be disappointed and dissatisfied. But if my going out was to fulfil my aspirations, I asked that the vision be extraordinarily strange and amazing. With that, I sat in meditation, but no visions appeared during the long period I sat meditating, so I stopped to rest.
As soon as I fell asleep, though, I dreamed that I was floating high in the sky above a large metropolis. It wasn't Bangkok, but I don't know what metropolis it was. It stretched as far as the eye could see and was very impressive. I floated three times around the metropolis and then returned to earth. As soon as I returned to earth, I woke up. It was four a.m. I quickly got up with a feeling of fullness and contentment in my heart, because while I had been floating around the metropolis, I had seen many strange and amazing things that I can't describe to you in detail. When I woke up, I felt happy, cheerful, and very pleased with my vision, at the same time thinking to myself that my hopes were sure to be fulfilled, because never before had I seen such an amazing vision -- and at the same time, it had coincided with my vow. So that night I really marveled at my vision. The next morning, after my meal, I went to take leave of the senior monk who was in charge of the monastery, and he willingly gave permission for me to go.
From there I set out for Nakhorn Ratchasima Province, where I spent the rains in Cakkaraad District. I started practicing concentration (samadhi) and was amazed at how my mind developed stillness and calm step by step. I could clearly see my heart settle down in peace. After that the senior monk who was my Pali teacher asked me to return to Bangkok to continue my studies. He even had the kindness to come after me, and then continued further out into the provinces. On the way back he was going to have me accompany him to Bangkok. I really felt in a bind, so I headed for Udorn Thani in order to find Ven. Acariya Mun. The progress I had been making in concentration practice, though, disappeared at my home village of Baan Taad. The reason it disappeared was simply because I made a single klod. [*] I hadn't even spent a full month at Baan Taad when I began to feel that my mind wasn't settling down in concentration as snugly as it had before. Sometimes I could get it to settle down, sometimes not. Seeing that things didn't look promising and that I could only lose by staying on, I quickly left.
[*] A small umbrella-like tent used by meditating monks.
In coming from Nakhorn Ratchasima to Udorn Thani, my purpose had been to catch up with Ven. Acariya Mun, who had spent the rains at Wat Noan Nives, Udorn Thani. I didn't reach him in time, though, because he had been invited to Sakon Nakhorn before my arrival, so I went on to stay at Wat Thung Sawaang in Nong Khai for a little more than three months.
In May of that year, 1942, I left Nong Khai for the town of Sakon Nakhorn, and from there went on to the monastery where Ven. Acariya Mun was staying in Baan Khoak, Tong Khoam Township, Muang District, Sakon Nakhorn Province. When I reached the monastery, I found him doing walking meditation in the late evening dusk. 'Who's that?' he asked, so I told him who I was. He then left his meditation path and went to the meeting hall -- he was staying in a room there in the meeting hall -- and conversed with me, showing a great deal of kindness and compassion for the incredibly ignorant person who had come to seek him out. He gave me a sermon that first evening, the gist of which I'll relate to you as far as I can remember it. It's a message that remains close to my heart to this day.
'You've already studied a good deal,' he told me, 'at least enough to earn the title of "Maha." Now I'm going to tell you something that I want you take and think over. Don't go thinking that I underrate the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, but at the present moment no matter how much of the Dhamma you've studied, it will serve no purpose in keeping with your status as a scholar other than simply being an obstacle to your meditation, because you won't be able to resist dwelling on it and using it to take the measure of things when you're trying to calm your heart. So for the sake of convenience when fostering stillness in your heart, I want you to take the Dhamma you've studied and put it away for the time being. When the time comes for it to benefit you, it will all come streaming in to blend perfectly with your practice. At the same time, it will serve as a standard to which you should make the heart conform. But for the time being, I don't want you to concern yourself with the Dhamma you've studied at all. Whatever way you make the mind still or use discernment (panna) to investigate the khandhas, I want you first to restrict yourself to the sphere of the body, because all of the Dhamma in the texts points to the body and mind, but the mind doesn't yet have any firm evidence and so can't take the Dhamma learned from the texts and put it to good use. The Dhamma will simply become allusions and labels leading you to speculate elsewhere to the point where you become a person with no foundations, because the mind is fixated on theory in a manner that isn't the way of the Lord Buddha. So I want you to take what I've said and think it over. If you set your mind on the practice without retreating, the day will come when these words of mine will impress themselves on your heart.' Of what I can remember him saying that day, this is all I'll ask to tell for now.
Glossary for Things as They Are