Today I've explained the differences
between wrong and right concentration -- enough so that you as meditators will
understand and take this as a guide. I've stressed that mindfulness and discernment
are very important factors. Those of you who are training mindfulness shouldn't
wait to train it only when you are meditating. You must train it at all times.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful. Always take your stance in the
effort of the practice. Once there is mindfulness, there also has to be self-awareness
(sampajanna), because self-awareness comes from established mindfulness. If
mindfulness is lacking, no self-awareness appears. So try to develop your basic
mindfulness until it is capable and strong enough to be the sort of mindfulness
suitable for the effort of the practice within the heart. From that point it
will become super-mindfulness because you have continually fostered it and kept
The same holds true with discernment. Try to contemplate the things that make contact with the mind: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and the thoughts that occur exclusively within. You have to explore these things, ferreting out their causes, until you find it habitual to contemplate and think. When this level of discernment gains strength, it will advance to a higher level, and you will be able to use this higher level of discernment to investigate your doubts about the situation exclusively within the heart. You will be able to see things clearly and cut away your various doubts through the power of discernment, the discernment you have trained in this way so that it becomes super-discernment, just like super-mindfulness. I've never seen it happen anywhere that anyone who hasn't started out by training discernment in this way has suddenly gained full results through superlative discernment. Even those who are termed khippabhinna -- who have attained Awakening quickly -- started out from crude discernment, advancing quickly, step by step, and gained Awakening in the Buddha's presence, as we all know from the texts. So when we train our mindfulness and discernment to follow our every movement, without any thought for whether we're meditating or not, but simply keeping this hidden sort of meditation going at all times, then no matter what, our minds will have to enter stillness, and discernment will begin to appear.
In particular -- for those of us who are monks, or who are single-mindedly intent on practicing for the sake of mental peace and release from suffering and stress -- mindfulness and discernment are even more necessary. Once we have trained mindfulness and discernment to become so habitual that we're constantly circumspect, then when we focus outside, we'll be intelligent. When we focus inside -- on the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena -- we'll become more and more astute. When we investigate body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, we'll develop techniques for removing defilement without break. Mindfulness is especially important. If you lack mindfulness as a protective barrier at any time, discernment will simply turn into labels without your realizing it. Thus mindfulness is the quality with a solidity that helps discernment become astute in a smooth and even way. The power of mindfulness acts like the bank of a river, keeping discernment from going out of bounds. Discernment that goes out of bounds turns into labels. If it's true discernment, it doesn't go out of bounds, because it has mindfulness in charge.
If you use discernment to focus within the body, things will catch your attention at every step. Inconstancy (anicca), stress (dukkha), and not-selfness (anatta): One or another of these three characteristics is sure to appear, because all of them are always there in the nature of the body. When mindfulness and discernment reach this level, the mind and its objects will come into the present. You should know that no Dhamma has ever appeared because of past or future affairs. It appears only because of the present. Even if you contemplate matters of the past of future, you have to bring them into the scope of the present if you hope to gain any benefit from them. For example, if you see someone die, refer it to yourself: 'I'll have to die as well.' As soon as the word 'I' appears, things come running back to you and appear in the present. Matters of past and future, if you want them to be useful, must always be brought into the present. For example, 'Yesterday that person died. Today or tomorrow I may die in the same way.' With the 'I', you immediately come into the present. External matters have to be brought inward; matters ahead and behind have to be brought into the present if they are to serve any benefit. If you always use mindfulness and discernment to contemplate the conditions of nature -- such as the body -- all around you, then no matter what, things won't lie beyond your grasp. You'll have to understand them clearly.
In investigating phenomena, such as the body, analyze them into their parts and aspects, and use your discernment to contemplate them until they are clear. Don't let thoughts or allusions drag you away from the phenomenon you are investigating, unless you are using thoughts as a standard for your discernment to follow when it doesn't yet have enough strength for the investigation. Keep mindfulness firmly in place as a protective fence -- and you will come to understand clearly things you never understood before, because the conditions of nature are already there in full measure. You don't have to go looking anywhere for inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. They are qualities filling your body and mind at all times. The only problem is that mindfulness and discernment haven't been able to ferret them out to make them your own wealth. But if you are set on investigating observantly day and night -- thinking not about how many times you do it in a day or night, but taking the skill and agility of your discernment as your standard -- keeping mindfulness as a steady flow in the present and radiating discernment all around you, then whatever makes a move in any direction, mindfulness and discernment will follow right after it. When we have trained mindfulness and discernment to be sufficient to the task like this, how will their foes be able to withstand them? After all, we haven't made it our purpose to encourage such things as restlessness and distraction. We're trying at all times to practice the Dhamma -- the means for stopping such things -- so as to keep abreast of the movements of the bandits always lying in wait to rob us at any moment.
We must thus force the mind to investigate in the way we've mentioned. Ferret out each part of the body so as to see it clearly, from the outside into the inside, or take just the inside and bring it out for a look. Look forwards and backwards, up and down, separating the body into pieces. You can imagine fire burning it into ashes and dust, or whatever other ways you can imagine it scattered into pieces, depending on what comes easiest to you. All count as ways in which your discernment is making itself ingenious and astute. When it's sufficiently developed, you'll be wise to all of these things, and they'll be clear to your heart without your having to ask anyone else about them at all.
The more you investigate the body until you understand it clearly, the more clearly you will understand the affairs of feelings, mind, and phenomena, or feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, because all these things are whetstones for sharpening discernment step by step. It's the same as when we bail water out of a fish pond: The more water we bail out, the more clearly we'll see the fish. Or as when clearing a forest: The more vegetation we cut away, the more space we'll see. The things I've just mentioned are the factors that conceal the mind so that we can't clearly see the mental currents that flow out from the heart to its various preoccupations. When you use discernment to contemplate in this way, the currents of the heart will become plain. You'll see the rippling of the mind clearly every moment it occurs -- and the heart itself will become plain, because mindfulness is strong and discernment quick. As soon as the mind ripples, mindfulness and discernment -- which are there in the same place -- will be able to keep track of it and resolve it in time. But be aware that in investigating the five khandhas or the four frames of reference (satipatthana), we aren't trying to take hold of these things as our paths, fruitions, and nibbana. We're trying to strip them away so as to see exactly what is the nature of the fish -- namely, the heart containing all sorts of defilements.
The more you investigate....You needn't count how many times you do it in a day. Focus instead on how expert and agile you can make your mind at investigating. The more you investigate -- and the more skillful you get at investigating -- the more the astuteness of your discernment, which is sharp and flashing as it deals with you yourself and with conditions of nature in general, will develop until it has no limit. You'll eventually have the knowledge and ability to realize that the conditions of nature you have been investigating in stages -- beginning with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations throughout the cosmos, and turning inward to your own body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance -- are not defilements, cravings, or mental effluents in any way. The heart alone is what has defilements, cravings, and mental effluents with which it binds itself. Nothing else has the power to reach into the heart so as to bind it. Aside from the heart that is ignorant about itself -- searching for shackles for its neck and setting the fires of delusion to burn itself to no purpose -- there are no traces of enemies to the heart anywhere at all. We can compare this to a knife, which is a tool made to benefit intelligent people, but which a foolish person grabs hold of to kill himself and then accuses the knife of being his enemy. What precedent is there for making such a charge? All conditions of nature in general are like useful tools, but a stupid person grabs hold of them to bind himself and then claims that the conditions of nature throughout the world have put their heads together to abuse him. Who can decide such a case? -- for the plaintiff has already killed himself. If we decide that the instrument of death loses the case to the dead plaintiff, what sort of vindication is the plaintiff going to gain to give him any satisfaction?
The heart that's deluded about itself and about its own affairs is in the same sort of predicament. Thus when discernment begins to penetrate in to know the conditions of nature -- beginning with the body -- it will also have to penetrate into the causal point. It will know clearly with its discernment the objects to which the mind tends to send its mental currents, and how strong or weak, many or few those currents are. It will come to see that the things that it used to see as enemies aren't really enemies at all. This is because of the power of discernment that has contemplated things carefully and correctly. At the same time, it will turn around to perceive the awareness inside itself as being its own enemy. This is because of the power of the discernment that sees clearly and comes in, letting go stage by stage, the things it can no longer hold to. This is why clear understanding through discernment -- once it has realized that sights, sounds and so forth, on into the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, are not enemies -- must let them go stage by stage until they no longer remain in the heart.
And as for this knowing nature: Before, we weren't able to tell whether it was harmful or beneficial, which is why we went about branding things all over the cosmos as being good or bad, beautiful or ugly, lovable or hateful, so amazing as to make us feel like floating or so dreary as to make us miserable and unable to sleep because of the dreariness: in short, making ourselves pleased, displeased, and endlessly miserable without our realizing it. What is the cause that makes the mind like a wheel, turning in cycles around itself, generating the fires of passion, aversion, and delusion to burn itself at all times? When discernment has contemplated things until they are clear, all conditions of nature, within and without, will be seen to have the same characteristics. None of them are enemies to anyone at all. You will see -- the moment discernment removes all the things concealing it -- that the only fault lies with this knowing nature. At this point, when the knower moves or ripples -- blip! -- you'll know immediately that the inner wheel is getting into the act. This is the troublemaker, heaping up misery. It's the direct cause of suffering and stress. Aside from this knowing nature, there is no cause of suffering and stress anywhere in the world.
When we reach this level, only this awareness -- this entire awareness -- is the cause of suffering. When this fact becomes this clear to the heart through discernment, who would be willing to hold to this knower -- this wheel -- as his or her self? This is the subtle discernment, the automatic discernment in the principles of nature, that was trained by our forcing it in the beginning stages. The results now appear as an ingenuity and intelligence sufficient to the task. There's nothing wrong with calling it super-discernment. In addition to knowing the revolving mind that is the cause of stress, this discernment turns inward to know why that mind is a cause of stress, and how. Intent on knowing, it probes in after the reasons that reveal themselves.
But for the most part when we reach this level, if our discernment hasn't really considered things with precision and thoroughness, we're sure to get stuck on this revolving awareness, because it's the supreme cause of the cycle -- so deceptive and attractive that we as meditators don't realize our attachment to it. In addition to being deluded and attached without our realizing it, we may even spread this subtle form of delusion, through our misunderstanding, to delude many other people as well.
So to let you know: This knowing nature, in terms of it marvelousness, is more marvelous than anything else. In terms of its radiance, it's more radiant than anything else, which is why we should call it a pit of burning embers secretly lying in wait for us. But no matter what, this knowing nature can't withstand the discernment that is its match in subtlety. We are sure to learn the truth from our discernment that this knowing nature is the foremost cause of suffering and stress. When we know this, this nature won't be able to stand. It will have to disintegrate immediately, just as when people smash a solid object to pieces with an iron bar.
When this nature disintegrates after having been destroyed by discernment, a nature marvelous far above and beyond any conventional reality will appear in full measure. At the same moment, we will see the harm of what is harmful and the benefits of what is beneficial. The awareness of release will appear as dhammo padipo -- the brightness of the Dhamma -- in full radiance, like the sun that, when unobscured by clouds, lets the world receive the full radiance of its light. The result is that the awareness of release appears plainly to the heart of the meditator the moment unawareness has disbanded.
This is the result. What the causes are, I've already explained to you: conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. This is the path to follow leading right to this point. It doesn't lead anywhere else. Whether you live at home, in a monastery, or in a forest, whether you're a woman or a man, ordained or not: If you have these five qualities always with you, you're heading toward this point. In other words, we all have the same full rights in the practice and in the results we'll receive.
So I ask that all of you as meditators -- and you know clearly that you are meditators and abstainers as well -- I ask that you practice so as to develop your thoughts, words, and deeds, and that you fully abstain from things that are your enemies until you reach the goal -- the release of nibbana -- as I've already explained. None of these qualities lie beyond your mindfulness, discernment, and relentless effort. These are the teachings the Buddha gave to us as svakkhata-dhamma -- the well-taught Dhamma. In other words, he rightly taught us the path to follow. He taught that the wrong path was really wrong, and the right path really right. And the results -- release and nibbana -- that come from following the right path were also rightly taught. The only problem is with those of us following the path: Will we really follow it rightly or not? If we follow it rightly in line with what the Buddha taught, the results are sure to appear as sammadeva asavehi vimuccati -- right release from all defilements and mental effluents.
So for this reason you should make an effort to train your mindfulness and discernment at every moment and not just in any one particular position. Don't think that this is making too much of an effort. The more you understand, the more ingenious you become, the more you can cure defilement, the more you gain release from suffering and stress: These are the results we all want step by step until we really gain release with nothing left. In other words, we gain release while we're conscious and aware in this lifetime, while overseeing these five khandhas. This is the most certain Dhamma -- because the word svakkhata-dhamma, the Dhamma rightly taught by the Buddha, doesn't mean that it's right only after we die. It's also right while we are practicing it, and the results that come in line with our efforts appear clearly to the hearts of meditators while they are alive.
As for the methods or techniques you use to train your hearts, I ask to leave them up to each person's intelligence and ingenuity in the course of making the effort in the practice. You have to notice which positions are most helpful in your practice. Don't simply sit and keep on sitting, or walk and keep on walking. You have to remember to notice what results and benefits you get from your efforts as well, because different people may find themselves more or less suited to the four different positions of sitting, standing, walking, and lying down.
Today I've explained the Dhamma to all of you from the beginning to the final point of my ability, so I feel that this should be enough for now. I ask that each of you take the Dhamma that I've explained today and that you have encountered in your practice, and make it food for thought or a companion to your practice. The results you will receive can in no way deviate from today's explanation.
So I'll ask to stop here.