Archive for June, 2006


Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (1)

  • Often, Buddhism is regarded by theistic religions as atheistic, or not even a religion at all. It’s seen as a philosophy or psychology because Buddhism doesn’t come from a theistic position. It’s not based on a metaphysical or doctrinal position, but on an experience common to all humanity- the experience of suffering. The Buddhist premise is that by reflecting, by contemplating, and by understanding that common human experience, we can transcend all the mental delusions that create human suffering.
  • Suffering doesn’t necessarily mean a great tragedy or a terrible misfortune. It just means the type of discontentment, unhappiness, and disappointment that all human beings experience at various times in their lives. Suffering is common to both men and women, to both rich and poor. Whatever our race or nationality, it is the common bond.
  • So in Buddhism, suffering is called a noble truth. It is not an ultimate truth. When the Buddha taught suffering as a noble truth, it was not his intention for us to bind ourselves to suffering and believe in it blindly, as if it were an ultimate truth. We contemplate: what is suffering, what is its nature, why do I suffer, what is suffering about?
  • Humanity will always be haunted and frightened by life as long as it remains ignorant and doesn’t put forth the effort to look at and understand the nature of suffering. To understand suffering means that we must accept suffering rather than just try to get rid of it and deny it, or blame somebody else for it. We can notice that suffering is caused, that it is dependent upon certain conditions, the conditions of mind we’ve created or that have been instilled in us the rough our culture and family. Our experience of life and that conditioning process start the day we are born.
  • Buddhism points to the universal or common experience of all sentient beings, that of suffering. It also makes a statement about the way out of suffering. Suffering is the awakening experience. When we suffer, we begin to ask questions. we tend to look, investigate, wonder, try to find out.
  • These are the four messengers in Buddhist symbolism: old age, sickness, death, and the samana. They signify the awakening of the human mind to a religious goal, to that aspiration of the human heart toward realizing ultimate reality, which is freedom from all delusion and suffering.
  • When we look at objects and name them, we think we know them. We think we know this person or that person because we have a name or a memory of them. We think we know all kinds of things because we remember them. Our ability to know, sometimes, is of the conditioned sort – knowing about, rather than knowing directly. The Buddhist practice is to abide in a pure mindfulness in which there is what we call insight knowing, or direct knowledge. It is a knowledge that isn’t based on perception, an idea, a position, or a doctrine, and this knowledge can only be possible through mindfulness. What we mean by mindfulness is the ability to not attach to any object, either in the material realm or mental realm. Where there is not attachment, the mind is in its pure state of awareness, intelligence, and clarity. That is mindfulness. The mind is pure and receptive, sensitive to the existing conditions. It is no longer a conditioned mind that just reacts to pleasure and pain, praise and blame, happiness and suffering.
  • But because we tend to think other people know and we don’t we often seek the answers from others, rather than opening the mind and watching through patient alertness for truth to be revealed. Through mindfulness and true awareness, revelation is possible. This revelation of truth, or ultimate reality, is what the religious experience really amounts to.
  • Today we have an opportunity to work toward a common truth among all religions; we can all begin to help each other. It’s no longer a time when converting people or trying to compete with each other seems to be of any use or value. Rather than attempt to convert others, religion presents the opportunity to waken to our true nature, to true freedom, to love and compassion. It’s a way of living in full sensitivity, with full receptivity, so we can take delight in and open ourselves to the mystery and wonder of the universe for the rest of our lives.
  • But when you’re talking about Buddhism, you can’t use all your conceptions about other religions because they don’t apply. The Buddhist approach is from a different angle. We’re not willing to believe in doctrines or teachings or things that come from others. We want to find out the truth for ourselves.
  • We can expand our ability to perceive, moving from the viewpoint of the individual, in which we only look out for ourselves, to that of a global view. With this view, we include all human beings in our family, rather than just our immediate family or our national family. As we expand our consciousness, we can form perceptions and concepts that are must more loving and compassionate, beyond just caring for ourselves as individuals. We can get beyond just caring for our own family, group, class, or race. We can expand our consciousness to include all human beings, band then all beings. It becomes universal.
  • The First Noble Truth means that things are always incomplete or imperfect, even when you get everything you want. Suffering doesn’t necessarily mean that your mother doesn’t love you and everybody hates you and you’re poor and misunderstood and exploited. You can be loved by everybody, have wonderful parents, be blessed with beauty, wealth, and all the opportunities that any human being could possibly experience in life. And still you will be discontented. Still, you will have this feeling that something is incomplete, something is not yet finished, something is unsatisfactory.
  • The First Noble Truth is not a doctrine; it’s a pointer. It’s not saying everything is miserable, sorrowful, and disgusting; it’s not a negating kind of teachings. It does not say that everything is suffering, but it says (in the Buddha’s words) that “There is suffering.” And this suffering is here within our experience. We are not trying to blame our suffering on something outside. It’s not because of my wife or husband; it’s not because of my mother and father; it’s not because of the government or the world. We’re looking at that very suffering within the mind, the suffering that we create ourselves.
  • The Second Noble Truth reflects on beginnings by looking at the three kinds of desire: kama tanha, bhava tanha, vibhava tanha, as they are called in Pali. Kama tanha is desire for sensual pleasure, delights of the senses; bhava tanha is the desire to become something; and vibhava tanha is the desire to get rid of something.
    We can see all three kinds of desire in our everyday life. If you are bored, you seek something to eat, or you watch television, drink something, of find somebody to talk to. These are all the desire for sensory pleasure, so maybe you dedicate your life to becoming a famous writer, r a good cook, or an enlightened being. There are all the desire to become. When you’re tired of sensory pleasures and becoming someone, you want to just annihilate yourself. Sleeping a lot is a kind of indulgence in vibhava tanha, the desire to get rid of, the desire for oblivion. But as soon as you wake up, you have to start becoming something or seeking some kind of sensory experience again, so you go eat something, smoke something, drink something, watch something, read something, think about something, until you get so worn out with it all that you go and annihilate yourself again! If you have an obsession, or fear, or anger, you have the desire to get rid of it, don’t you? “I have a bad temper. I want to get rid of it.” Whenever you feel anger, jealousy, fear and so forth arising in you, you try to annihilate them. That’s also vibhava tanha; the desire to get rid of some mental condition that you don’t like. These three kinds of desire are beginning conditions for suffering.
  • The Third Noble Truth is the truth of cessation. When we have knowledge of cessation, we begin to endure through some of these different desires, rather than just reacting habitually to them or impulsively following them. We are less attached to the desires, less invested in satisfying them. We are let them cease naturally. We endure through boredom or pain, through doubt and despair, knowing they will end. It sounds pretty gloomy if you take it too literally. But looking at it another way, understanding cessation is part of maturing emotionally.
  • But if you wait and endure restlessness, greed, hatred, doubt, despair, and sleepiness, if you observe these conditions as they cease and end, you will attain a kind of calm and mental clarity, which you never achieve if you’re always going after something else. This is the virtue of meditation. If you sit and patiently endure, you find your mind going into a state of calm. That calm occurs because there’s no more trying to become something or trying to get rid of something. There’s a kind of inner peace or relaxation of the mind in which you stop following the struggle to become, or to have sensory pleasure, or to get rid of some unpleasant conditions that you’re experiencing. So you are at ease with those conditions. You begin to learn to be at ease with pain, with restlessness, with mental anguish, and so forth. And then you find that the mind will be very clear, very bright, very calm.
  • The suffering that ends is the suffering you create out of ignorance. When ignorance is gone and you see with Right View, then the body still feels pleasure and pain, but you don’t suffer from it. It’s as it is. When you don’t know this truth, then you create suffering. If the body is sick or in pain, then you’re averse to it, and you feel frightened or angry or depressed about the sickness and the inconvenience of it all. that is the suffering we create. Then, because we tend to resist it, we create the conditions for more tension.
  • So this is how to see the tradition. If you want to, you can use it like this. If you think it’s a lot of useless stuff, then don’t bother with it. It’s not something that can be forced on you; it’s something you can use, or not use. It’s up to you. But learning how to use these traditions takes some effort, and to use them well and mindfully gives a beautiful form to our lives. Then we can have grace, a style, a sense of communion as Sangha. We become like one, rather than a group of individual beings doing what each one feels he or she wants to do. We learn to conform in this way, in an act of devotion, love, gratitude, and respect.
  • I see that truth and openness to truth is what religion is all about – or should be about. It gets very confused because people forget that, and get stuck in the tradition as if it were an end in itself. Rather than using the tradition and the ceremonies for opening themselves, they use them to hold on.
  • So attachment breeds these separations; it’s divisive. Whatever you attach to becomes a sect or cult. The sectarian tendency is one of humanity’s great problems, whether it’s religious or political or whatever. When people say, “My way is right and all the rest are wrong,” or “Mine is the best and the rest are inferior,” that’s attachment. Even if what you have might be the finest, if you’re attached to the finest, you’re still an ignorant, unenlightened person. So you can have the finest and best of everything and still be unenlightened.
  • I think for most of us, devotion comes from a practice of Dhamma in which you strip away the delusions of your mind and find more trust in Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha. You don’t have to convince yourself that there are such things as Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha to trust in; you’re not creating it out of idealism. The more you strip away delusion, the more confidence you have in what we call, in conventional language, Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha. Without that trust and confidence, no matter how much we meditate or how much we reflect on things, if we don’t have a foundation in those refuges, then Dhamma becomes a kind of ideal to be attained in the future, or it becomes a method of psychological releases to various situations. Either way, it doesn’t transcend; you don’t realize the transcendent deathless reality.

Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (2)

  • I encourage you to use any art, symbols, conventions, or traditions that you find helpful. Remember, in a society where Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha means nothing and where there are a lot of views against tradition and devotion, devotion is seen as a kind of simple-minded belief. So we really need to take the symbols of our religion and develop them out of wisdom, not out of superstition. With Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha, we’re not using symbols in a superstitious way, but with wisdom – for remembrance, for recollection, for mindfulness. And if you develop a devotion to Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha in the here and now, then you’re using them. They become tools for mindfulness, rather than symbols of belief.
  • We begin to realize the mind is like a mirror that reflects everything. Like a mirror, the mind is not damaged by anything it is reflecting. A mirror can reflect the ugliest, nastiest thing in the whole world and still remains untarnished, even though the reflection is terrible. The mind is like that mirror; the mind itself is pure. There is nothing wrong with the mind, but the reflections can be very impure or ugly or vicious, or they can be very beautiful. If we try to punish the mirror, if we destroy or crack the mirror, we go crazy – then we are really stuck. But, if we are willing to, we can recognize that the reflection in the mirror simply is as it is. The recognition is a skillful way of dealing with thoughts and feelings that may be very unpleasant for us.
  • In meditation, we allow things that we’ve turned away from or rejected to take conscious form. In order to do this, we must develop metta, the attitude of patience and kindness toward these repressed fears and doubts, and toward our own anger.
  • And it was only through acceptance that the mind was able to go through a kind of catharsis in which all the negativity manifested – and passed away.
  • But real metta is strong, and it’s an appropriate response to life. It isn’t a kind of bland niceness, but an alertness, a responsiveness to pain and pleasure and to other conditions that we must bear. The quality of metta is non-discriminative. It’s because we discriminate and discern that we tend to dwell on wha’t wrong with everything and make problems about the injustices of ourselves or others. Metta isn’t pretending that everything’s all right, but rather, it’s about not making problems, not compounding present pain or ugliness with the aversion that comes out of ignorance. It’s the ability to be patient and accept the flow of life as it happens. To carry negativity with you is one extreme, and the other is trying to pretend that everything is all right all the time. This pretense is a deluded state of mind.
  • Real metta and real wisdom work together. When our responses to life are not coming out of ignorance, they may not necessarily be glad; they may be quite sharp and wrathful. But they can still be filled with metta. This means that they’re appropriate responses, rather than reactions arising out of desire and fear. Metta can be a slap, or it can be a pat. It’s not in the slapping or the patting. Metta is in the wisdom of the mind that’s behind the action.
  • We have problems because we were born. Birth conditions them all, everything, until death. If we had not been born, we wouldn’t have any of these problems. This is what is meant by kamma, and when you recognize, you’re no longer surprised by anything that happens to you.
  • Birth – as a human being with a body and mind – conditions old age, sickness, and death. This is one way to explain the meaning of kamma: what happens to us is the result of birth.
  • If you live more carefully, more responsibly, more kindly, you’re going to feel happiness – that’s karmic result. Maybe there will still be unfortunate happening: it doesn’t mean you’re going to get away from pain and sickness and so forth. But you needn’t create sorrow, despair, and anguish in your mind. If you live wisely, you can refrain from getting caught up in conditions that brings these unhappy sates. Your body, having been born, inevitably has to reap karmic results, such as old age, sickness, and death. But as you understand this, and you no longer seek your identity in the body, then you don’t expect it to be otherwise. You’re at peace with the changing nature and karmic condition of the human body. You aren’t demanding that it be otherwise. You can cope with it.
  • Thus, we experience three kinds of desire: kama tanha, the desire for sense pleasures or sensory experience; bhava tanha, the desire for becoming; and vibhava tanha, the desire for annihilation. These three kinds of desire are the causes of rebirth. In fact, it’s desire that’s being reborn. In heedless beings – those who are not awake, who do not understand truth, and who are not mindful – the rebirth process carries on and on and on and on. It continues in the sense worlds, the realms of sensory or intellectual pleasures. We can watch this rebirth process in our own minds. What is it that goes from the refrigerator to the television set? Is that a person? Is that what your souls is, your true essence that is going to be carried on through eternity? Or is it desire? Isn’t it just an aimless wandering, a habitual search for something to do, something to absorb into?
  • Through understanding the law of kamma and rebirth we know better how to live, and we skillfully use the conditions of our bodies and minds. This is the perfection of the human kamma. The perfection of the human kamma is enlightenment, which is really nothing more than growing up and being a mature human being. But as one continues to practice, the understanding of Dhamma increases, and one is more aware of the true nature of things. Then, the idea of receiving good or receiving bad no longer makes sense. At that stage, there’s no longer a question of doing good or doing bad. One acts on opportunities to do good, but the motivation is not based on the idea that anyone’s going to receive anything for it. and one has no inclination to do bad things, because evil only has an attractive quality when there is the basic delusion of self. When that self-delusion is relinquished, then there are no more problems left. There’s the doing of good, but it’s done because that’s what’s right, what’s appropriate. It’s not done for personal gain or benefit.
  • Without wisdom, we have impulses that we either follow or suppress. With wisdom, there’s spontaneity of responding to life from a universal pure mind, rather than from a personal idea of somebody who has to be good because they’ll be punished if they’re bad.
  • I feel confidence in what we call the Dhamma – in the Way Things Are – because it’s no longer important what happens to me, to this creature here. It’s no longer a worry. Whatever happens – the best, the worst, praise, blame, success, failure, leukemia, or robust good health till the age of ninety-five and a peaceful death as one sits down in meditation – feel confident that it’s all right the way it is.  See it as Dhamma, rather than interpreting it and giving it a personal quality.
  • In Buddhism, we often talk about courage and fearlessness. Whenever we take the personal view, we are frightened, and we do cowardly things. We think, “I am going to suffer. What I love is going to be taken away from me. I’ll lose my health, be an invalid, feel pain. Nobody will love me, and I’ll be left alone. Life will be horrible. I’ll be lost, alone, unloved, in pain, old and sick, poor me!” That’s a lot to be frightened of, isn’t it? But when these fears are seen as Dhamma, then even the worst is bearable. We realize that this is not a permanent person or position that we that we are involved in. this is a transition from birth to death within the human form. And what we have, as human beings, is the opportunity to awaken between birth and death.
  • In the awakened mind, there is no fear. There is knowing, there is clarity, and it’s not personal. It’s not mine; it’s not yours. When all things cease, what remains is clarity, intelligence, brightness. We can call that “the true subject.” When people ask, “But what is my true nature?” I answer, “It’s peaceful, intelligent, calm, and bright. It’s deathlessness – but don’t take that personally.
  • There’s the conditioned and the unconditioned, the created and the uncreated. You can’t conceive of the uncreated. You have a word but there’s no perception for it. There’s no kind of symbol that one can grasp. You can have a doctrine about it, so religions tend to state metaphysical doctrines that people believe in. however, since Buddhist teachings is a non-doctrinal teaching in which you’re encouraged to find things out for yourself, you are left without any metaphysical doctrine, and this absence of doctrine is conducive to true realization. What realization brings is the understanding that the conditioned realm only arises and ceases. It is not eternal, and is not infinite. It’s only a movement in the universal.


Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (3)

  • Nibbana refers to the realization human beings have when they are not grasping anything. In that realization of non-grasping, one experiences a connection. One is in alignment with the divine because, when there is non-grasping, there is the real experience of compassion. One feels compassion, joyfulness, happiness, and serenity, not because of any personal attainment or achievement, but because there is nobody there. There is no grasping of the body as self; there is no grasping of views or opinions or feelings or anything else; there is simply non-grasping. Where you realize non-grasping, you experience true ease, peacefulness, and bliss. But this state of happiness is not the usual one for human beings. We must train the mind and heart to realize it.
  • When the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, he was teaching human beings to open the mind. He was helping us to be aware of nature as it operates, not through any scientific or psychological theory or philosophical position, but from attention to the way things happen to be. we’re using what we have. We’re not trying to create ideas and interesting theories about the way things are, but actually to observe them, from the most obvious conditions that we generally take for granted
  • The Buddha’s teaching points to the fact that all conditions are impermanent. By the word “condition”, we mean a formation of the mind, such as a thought or opinion. Men and women are conditions. Similarly, Jews and Gentiles, Buddhists and Christians, Asians and Europeans, Africans, the working class, the middle class, the upper class – al these are only formations that go through the mind. They aren’t absolutes. They are merely conventions that are useful for communication. We must use these conventions, but we must also realize that they are only conventions – not absolutes. In this way, our minds are no longer fixed in our views or opinions. Views and opinions are seen simply as conditions that arise and cease in the mind, because that’s what they really are. All conditions are impermanent; they arise and cease.

  • Samsara is the state of being attached and suffering. In this state, we say things like, “I wish I didn’t think like that. I wish those problems would go away. I don’t want this. I’m afraid of that. I don’t like this. I shouldn’t be this way. You shouldn’t be that way.” That’s Samsara. All those screaming, possessive, frightened, greedy little voices. When you’re attached to all that, it’s Samsara. Samsara is the realm of suffering. Nibbana is the realm of freedom from suffering through non-attachment. When we recognize whatever happens in our minds, whether it’s negative or positive, critical or affirmative, simply as conditions, this is the Buddha-mind, this is nibbana.
  • When we’re carried away, it’s as if we were whirled around and around, until we suddenly realize that we’ve been caught in the birth and death cycle. That point of realization is the inclination toward deathlessness, and that point of mindfulness and comprehension – even if it’s just a flash – is an experience of nibbana.
  • Gradually, we see that Samsara, or sensory consciousness, is a movement, a vibration, a changing thing with no substance and no eternal or permanent essence. There’s no way we can capture it and say, “This is it,” but we can observe it. We begin to see that everything is as it is. It has no name other than the name we give it. It is we who call it something; we give it a value. We say this thing is good, or it’s bad, but in itself, the thing is only as it is. It’s not absolute; it’s just as it is. People are just as they are. We give them names, and we can describe them. We can decide whether we like them or don’t like them, whether we are attracted to them or repelled by them. That’s something we add or project onto the moment because of our habits, fears, and desires. That’s why it is important to contemplate the way things are in the moment. It’s through this experience that we can be aware of what we project onto it.
  • This body is just this way. Having been born and lived a number of years, it’s this way. But now, I can begin to cogitate about it – I don’t like it, I like it, I wish it would look different, younger, etc. I can create all kinds of views and opinions about the body, but it’s just the way it is. It feels this way; it looks that way. This is the suchness. It doesn’t mean we’re not aware of the body’s beauty or its ugliness; it just means we’re not making anything, creating anything, out of it. We can be aware of an imperfection without making any problem about it. in other words, the mind becomes an embracing mind.
  • We can find the way out of suffering by being completely with life as it’s happening, by embracing life. We cannot find the way by running from everything in order to protect and defend ourselves from all possible forms of danger and insecurity. That’’ what people often think monks are doing – that we’re running away from life because we can’t face the real world. But in fact, the experience is one of opening the mind to embrace the whole. Through practice, we begin to feel at ease in just being with the way things are, rather than always having to attach  to them hold onto them reject them or ignore them. We begin to feel a sense of ease and peacefulness through just being with life as it is, rather than having everything figured out from particular viewpoint.
  • That clarity of observation, that awareness of the mind – the realization of nibbana – is not all that far away. It’s not something that’s beyond anyone’s capabilities. If you assume you can’t do it, then of course you tend to operate from that basic assumption, so you never do. But the Buddha said very definitely that this is a teaching for human beings, people with moral responsibility; intelligent beings. So, are you one of these? If you aren’t then maybe you’d better reform – you don’t’ have to be a rascal.
  • So nibbana is not a kind of ethereal state out n the sky, or in some space, or in the next life. The Buddha always pointed to the way things are now, to what actually can be known and realized by each one of us within our limitations as human beings, at this time and this place. This is where your reflection and looking into the nature of things needs to be developed, so that you can really begin to know this truth, rather than just speculate about it – or guess, or believe, or disbelieve. You can begin to wisely reflect and penetrate, experiencing freedom by not attaching to things.
  • Enlightenment is nothing more than growing up, being mature being. The perfection of the human kamma is enlightenment. This means becoming mature, being responsible and balanced, being a moral and wise human being who is no longer looking for “someone to love me”. Many of can’t find love in someone else, so we want God to love us. WE say, "I believe in a God that loves me. Nobody else does, but God loves me.” But that’s immature – to want love from out there – from someone else. The enlightened being doesn’t need to be loved by God or anyone. It’s nice to be loved by others, but it is not necessary. Enlightenment is practical; it’s something each one of us can realize. We are all capable of moving into the position of being awake. And when we’re awake and balanced and wise, we can love. That is the maturing of the human being. Where there is wisdom, one naturally relates to others with love. Love is wisdom’s natural radiance.

  • The important thing in meditation is attitude, rather than technique or tradition. The right attitude is most important. Even if you have the best teacher with the best tradition and the best methods, if your attitude isn’t right, it won’t work.Many people meditate with an attitude of gaining, attaining, or achieving. It’s not surprising, because our worldly attitude is based on achievement. We are conditioned by our education and society to see life as something we must use in order to attain or become something. On a worldly level, this is the way it is. We have to go to school in order to learn to read and write. We have to do all kinds of things in order to become something, but enlightenment (nibbana) is not something that we ever attain or achieve. This is a difficult thing to comprehend with the intellect, because the intellect is conditioned to think in terms of gaining.

  • Dhamma and nibbana are what we realize rather than something we attain or achieve.

  • The teaching of the Buddha is a very simple teaching, because it comprehends things in terms of the conditioned and the unconditioned. Conditioned phenomena are those which arise and pass away. They include everything that we perceive and know through our senses, through the body, feelings, thoughts, and memories. They are conditions; they begin and they end. The Pali term for the conditioned is sankhara. Sankahra includes all that arises and passes away, whether it is out there or in here, whether it is mental or physical. We are not quibbling about whether it is out there or in here, whether something arises and passes away in an instant or in an aeon. It does not make any difference as far as this way of mediating goes, because the conditioned includes all time bound things 

  • The unconditioned is something that most people never realize because they are mesmerized by conditioned phenomena. To realize the unconditioned we have to leg go of our constant attachment to conditioned phenomena.

    The unconditioned is like space in a room. When you come into a room, do you notice the space, or is your attention drawn to the objects in the room? You see the walls, the windows, the people, the furniture, the colors, and the decorations. But the space in the room is not noticeable, even though it is there all the time. And when we’re busy watching all the people and the objects in the room, we don’t notice the space at all. it is only when we let go of thinking, talking, considering, and imagining, that we become aware and we notice the space in the room. When we attend to it, we see that space is peaceful and boundless. Even the walls of the room do not limit space.

  • When we notice that the conditions of body and mind are just the way conditions are, it’s a simple recognition. It’s not an analysis, and it’s not anything special. It’s just a bare recognition, a direct knowing that whatever arises passes away. Knowing in this way demands a certain amount of patience; otherwise, as soon as any fear, anger, or unpleasantness arises, we will run away from it. so meditation is also the ability to endure, and bear with, the unpleasant. We don’t seek it out; we are not ascetics looking for painful things to endure so that we can prove ourselves. We’re simply recognizing the way it is right now.
  • In meditation, we are looking at the movement of desire, but we are not passing judgment against desire. Some people think that Buddhists are all against desire, but the Buddha’s teaching is not an annihilationist teaching – it is an awakening. Desire is not something that we reject, or try to annihilate. We reflect on it and understand that is a condition in nature. There are desires that are good and desires that are bad. Desires to kill, hurt others, and steal are considered bad desires; all of us have bad desires at times. And then, there are good desires that make us want to help, be kind, or develop into good and wise beings. Whenever we recognize desire – whether it is good or bad – we are using wisdom. Only wisdom can see desire; desire cannot see wisdom. So when you are trying to find wisdom, just know desire. Watching the movement of desire lets us see its nature as a changing condition. And we see that it is not self. 

  • With mindfulness and acceptance, you begin to see that the true light is your ability to be in alignment with wisdom. You realize that seeing things clearly in everyday life is the enlightened mind. It’s not some kind of light flashing at you from the outside. It’s being light yourself.
  • We can only develop this wisdom through practice and by reflecting on the way things are in our own lives. We have to learn it – painfully – for ourselves, just the way we had to learn to walk by falling down. Babies can’t walk right away. They have to learn to walk by crawling, by holding on to things, by pulling themselves up, by falling down, and by pulling themselves back up again. It’s the same with meditation. You learn wisdom by observing ignorance – by making a mistake, reflecting on it, and keeping going. 


Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (4)

  • If you think about it, you’ll say, “I’ll never be able to get anywhere.” If you think about yourself too much, you’ll think you’re hopeless and that you can never do ti. That’s why it’s a good thing little children don’t think very much; if they did, they’d never learn to walk. When you are watching a child trying to walk, it looks hopeless, doesn’t it? it’s the same with meditation: sometimes it seems completely hopeless. But that’s just the way it seems, if you think about it. so you just keep doing the meditation practice – especially when you are disillusioned and you have to put extra effort into it.
  • In Buddhist meditation, we are recognizing the way things are. It’s the study of nature, as we experience it. It’s not the study of nature through theories in books or ideas from someone else. It’s direct investigation – watching and listening. In universities, you complicate everything by learning about all sorts of things, but in meditation you simplify. You are just watching the way things are.
  • In Buddhist meditation, you are moving toward what is most ordinary – the unconditioned. Conditions are extraordinary; they can be exciting, sometimes fantastic, phenomena. But peace of mind, the unconditioned, the silence of it, is so ordinary that no one ever notices. It’s there all the time but we don’t even know it because we’re so fascinated by the miraculous and the extraordinary, by transitory things that stimulate an depress. We get caught up in the way things seem to be, and we forget. In meditation, we’re going back to the peace that is in the position of knowing. The, the world is understood for what it is, and we are no longer deluded by it. we can live and act in the world without being overwhelmed by the conditions we experience.
  • If you have too many ideas about what good meditation is and how it has to be, then when those conditions aren’t there, you’re going to feel that you can’t do it. So change your attitude from assuming that you can only meditate under the best conditions, to seeing meditation as the way you relate to life as it is – the best, the worst, or just the ordinary.
  • What comes up in consciousness can be anything. It can be beautiful or ugly, good or bad, sensible or crazy. But in mediation, the quality doesn’t make any difference. You are just recognizing that consciousness changes, and you see that it is not self – it is anatta. When you fully understand and appreciate this, you can use consciousness for release, rather than trying to select or choose what you will allow into consciousness.
  • With insight meditation we are not picking and choosing. We are allowing everything – even trivialities – to arise in consciousness, and we are letting them go. We are recognizing conditions purely as conditions. So it is a compassionate thing we are doing. We are not grasping at each thing as if it were a real being or a person or as “ours.” Instead, we are recognizing each one as a condition. Even if we have crazy thoughts and visions, we can allow them to appear consciously rather then repress them or indulge in them. Repressing and indulging are the two extremes; the Middle Way thought by the Buddha is the recognition of conditions.
  • When you are conscious of fear, it no longer frightens you. Only by heedlessly resisting it does fear gain strength in your life. When you recognize the fact that fear is only a condition, it becomes like a dragon. It looks capable of harming you, but when you actually confront it, the dragon suddenly shrivels up and is no longer threatening. It depends solely on deluding you, on making you think it’s ferocious. If you say, “Oh!” and run away whenever a frightening image appears, it can have power over you throughout your life. But if you bring whatever you are afraid of into consciousness, then it can have no power. It has power only when you give it power by reacting to it. Hence we say the mind is like a mirror: it reflect everything. But the reflections are not the mirror. The ugliest thing can come up in front of a mirror without harming it. maybe the reflection isn’t nice to see, but it’s only a reflection. Soon it goes, and everything is all right. This is why we have to be able to endure the sight of nasty reflections. We have to understand that they are only reflections, and not personal problems, not personality traits. They are just conditions, like the world itself.
  • Most of our suffering comes from habitual thinking. If we try to stop it out of aversion to thinking, we can’t; we just go on and on and on. So the important thing is not to get rid of thought, but to understand it. and we do this by concentrating on the space in the mind, rather than on the thoughts. Our minds tend to get caught up with thoughts of attraction or aversion to objects, but the space around those thoughts is not attractive or repulsive. The space around an attractive thought and a repulsive thought is not different, is it? Concentrating on the space between thoughts, we become less caught up in our preferences concerning the thoughts. So if you find that an obsessive thought of guilt, self-pity, or passion keeps coming up, then work with it in this way – deliberately think it, really bring it up as a conscious state, and notice the space around it. It’s like looking at the space in a room: you don’t go looking for the space, do you? You are simply open to it, because it is here all the time. It is not anything you are going to find in the cupboard or in the next room, or under the floor – it is here right now. So you open to its presence; you begin to notice that it is here.If you are still concentrated on the curtains or the windows or the people, you don’t notice the space. But you don’t have to get rid of all those things to notice the space. Instead, you just open to the space; you notice it. Rather than focusing your attention on one thing, you are opening the mind completely. You are not choosing a conditioned object, but rather you are aware of the space in which the conditioned object exist.
  • This way of knowing is very skillful because it ends the mental battle in which you were trying to get rid of evil thoughts. You can give the devil his due. You now know that the devil is an impermanent thing. It arises and ceases in the mind, so you don’t have to make anything out of it. Devils or angels – they are all the same. Before, you’d have an evil thought and start creating a problem: “The devil’s after me. I’ve got to get rid of the devil!” now, whether it’s getting rid of the devil or grabbing hold of the angels, it is all dukkha. If you take up this cool position of Buddha-knowing – knowing the way things are – then everything becomes Dhamma. Everything becomes the truth of the way it is. You see that all mental conditions arise and cease, the good along with the bad, the skillful along with the unskillful.
  • In our culture we are conditioned to make judgments about ourselves and each other. But the way of the Buddha is not to judge, not to suppress, not to take sides, but to notice. This is the way of the awakened mind: reflecting and noting what it is to be in this state of continuous feeling; having emotions and intelligence, being able to think and remember. Then, because we reflect in this way, we can forgive, let go, and free ourselves from the burden of these conditions and all the pain that goes with being deluded by attachments.
  • Intelligence is very much a part of our human experience. We tend to misuse it because of our habit of grasping ideas and holding on to opinions. We often have quite intelligent illusions about ourselves and the world we live in. but when we let go and awaken to the moment, then there is a pure knowing, undistorted by desires and fears. The intelligence is allowed to operate fully, clearly, and brightly. This is what we’re talking about when we say we take refuge in Buddha, the Awakened One. In knowing, we begin to understand how to act, and how not to act. We begin to understand what suffering really is. We learn how to not suffer, how to let suffering cease and, ultimately, that there is no suffering at all.
  • Suffering is the illusion that we project onto life because of our ignorance and through the habits of our unawakened heart or mind.
  • When we are awake to the way it is now, there is no suffering, but there is still sensitivity. There is still the coming together and the separation on this separative plane of sensory experience. There are still the ups and downs, the highs and lows of the sensory realm, and the emotion. But these are no longer seen as “me” and “mine.” They are no longer grasped or rejected. Things are what they are. There is the knowing. There is the way things relate to each other, rather than the reaction to the particular condition, without an understanding of its relationship to the whole.
  • We can’t understand anything that we can’t accept. If we want to understand something rotten, we have to accept its rottenness. It doesn’t mean we like it; we can’t like rottenness, because it’s repulsive; but we can accept it. And once we have accepted the rottenness of it, then we can begin to understand it.

    Try this type of reflection with our own mental states. If you judge a rotten mental state saying, “Oh, I’m a rotten person, I shouldn’t think like that, I shouldn’t feel like that, there is something wrong with me,” then you have not accepted it. You’ve judged it, and either you blame somebody else, or you blame yourself. That is not acceptance; that is merely reaction and judgment.

    The more you react out of ignorance – rejecting and suppressing – the more you find those very things following you about. Rejection and suppression haunt you, and you are caught in a vortex of misery that you are creating in your mind. Now, acceptance doesn’t mean approval or liking, but it does imply a willingness to bear what is unpleasant, and an ability to endure its nastiness and its pain. Through endurance you find that the condition can cease; you can let it go. You can let go of things when you accept them, but until you do accept them, your life is merely a series of reactions – running away if the condition is bad, or grasping at it if it is good.


Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (5)

  • Mindfulness allows us to open the mind to all possibilities – for what we like and for what we don’t like. Then we can begin to accept life’s flow and movement – the way it changes – without being angry or fed up when it isn’t what we want. In fact, we begin to feel quite at ease with life when we can accept the whole of it as it is. A lot of people become fussy and cowardly and timid because they don’t want to get involved in anything that might agitate them or create unpleasant feelings in their minds. They think, “Oh, I can’t go there because it’ll just upset me.” But when you’re mindful, you don’t mind being upset. Being upset is part of living. You don’t go around seeking to be upset, but it does happen. And, when it does, you learn from it. It’s part of life’s experience.
  • It’s not very useful to think that we have to have the very best of everything – the best health, the best teacher, the best monastery – before we can start practicing the Dhamma. Very seldom in life do we ever find ourselves in a position where we really feel we have the best, because this is a very uncertain quality. At one moment, we might feel we have the best, and in the next, we might feel we have the worst. The perception of the best is precisely that: a perception in the mind. And if we are attached to this perception of the best, then if we have less than that, we feel the conditions aren’t good enough for practice. Maybe we think we’re too neurotic, we make too many terrible mistakes in our lives, we say too many horrible things. Or maybe we look around and see flaws in all the teachers we meet, or in the monasteries we go to. You can always find something wrong, something that makes it not quite fit the perfect image.

    I remember people looking for the best teacher in Thailand. Wherever they went, the found something wrong. Either the teacher would be chewing betel nut and they would say, “An arahant certainly wouldn’t be chewing betel nut.” Or he’d be smoking cigarettes, and they would say, “No, we couldn’t possibly learn from anyone who smokes cigarettes.” It would on and on like this. We have such high standards to judge by that we miss out on the actual opportunities as they present themselves.

    So this is where our ability to reflect is most important. This is the way out of suffering. The way out of suffering is not through aiming to have the best of everything, but through being able to use wisely what we do have: the kind of character we happen to have, with all its virtues and faults, and the situation we’re in, whether we are a monk, a nun, or a layperson, rich or poor, employed or unemployed.

  • Joy isn’t dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn’t dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving. It’s that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control – I can’t go around making everything how I want it – still, I can be kind, generous, and patient, and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that’s worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn’t make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

  • But when we fully understand it, morality brings a sense of joy and self-respect and, because we begin to feel respect for ourselves, we feel respect for the right of other beings to exist. This is very peaceful. It’s a lovely feeling to have self-respect and to care about the lives of others. But it has to come from wisdom and growth within. It has to come from personal responsibility and personal knowledge of oneself.

    I’m not talking about superficial niceness and goodness – a mask, a pretty façade of goodness – but rather a profound goodness, in the heart of things. Virtue is something very deep and profound and penetrating. It takes wisdom, sensitivity, receptivity, and intelligence to be truly virtuous.

  • The empty mind – the pure mind – is not a blank where you’re not feeling or caring about anything. It’s an effulgence of the mind. It’s a brightness that is truly sensitive and accepting. It’s an ability to accept life as it is. When we accept life as it is, we can respond appropriately to the way we’re experiencing it, rather than just reacting out of fear and aversion.

  • First, you must recognize what attachment is, and then you let go. That’s when you realize non-attachment. However, if you’re coming from the view that you shouldn’t be attached, then that’s still not it. The point is not to take a position against attachment, as if there were a commandment against it; the point is to observe. We ask the questions, “What is attachment? Does being attached to things bring happiness or suffering?” Then we begin to have insight. We begin to see what attachment is, and then we can let go.

    If you’re coming from a high-minded position in which you think you shouldn’t be attached to anything, then you come up with ideas like, “Well, I can’t be a Buddhist because I love my wife, because I’m attached to my wife. I love her, and I just can’t let her go. I can’t send her away.” Those kinds of thoughts come from the view that you shouldn’t be attached.

    The recognition of attachment doesn’t mean that you get rid of your wife. It means you free yourself from wrong views about yourself and your wife. Then you find that there’s love there, but it’s not attached. It’s not distorting, clinging, and grasping. The empty mind is quite capable of caring about others and loving in the pure sense of love. But any attachment will always distort that.

  • The Buddhist concept of metta, or loving kindness, is the ability to be patient and bear with the imperfections in our life, our society, and ourselves. The attitude of loving-kindness is a universal value. You can have metta for Christians, for Buddhists, for Jews, for every political group, and for all classes of society.

  • This attitude of metta is not missing in any of us. It’s just that we tend to overlook it when we are caught up in our frantic drives and compulsions. We are so involved in our conditioning that we miss the leveling quality of patience, forgiveness, kindness, and gentleness. But when we open ourselves, and free ourselves from the delusions of our conditioning, we come into contact with metta. This is universal, whether we are educated, uneducated, male or female. This is not the prerogative of any elite class or any religious group. The mind is spacious and all-embracing is the common ground; it’s where we see things in perspective, rather than from some extreme position.

  • Contemplating the arising and ceasing of conditions allows us to understand them. We are not just caught in the arising and ceasing of the world – or of the human body – like a helpless creature that has no way of knowing what is beyond conditions. We actually have the ability to transcend the world, society, the body, and the self. All that we can possibly conceive of or believe in – what is most dear and precious, what is most frightening – we can transcend.

  • This appreciation comes from not having opinions about things being perfect in a static way. It comes from seeing that the rose is a perfect rose in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. For static perfection you need a plastic rose, but that’s never as satisfying. By reflecting in this way, we begin to open to the perfection of nature and the sensory world. Our view of perfection is no longer a fixed idea. We don’t feel that things have to be only one way to be perfect, and we don’t feel that it’s the end of perfection when things change in a way that we don’t like. We’re not clinging to a static idea of how the world should be; instead, we see it for what it is.

  • Transcendence means not clinging to the world; it doesn’t mean floating up into the sky away from the world. It means living within all the sensory conditions of the human form, but no longer being deluded by them. When one uses the ability to reflect and contemplate existence until one sees it clearly as it is, that is what we call transcending the world. So in transcending the world, one can still act and live in the world, but in a very clear and pure way because the world is no longer a delusion. One is not expecting the world to be anything other that what it is – and the world is the mind itself.






Sumedho Ajahn- The Mind And The Way. Buddhist Reflections On Life. (6)

  • Dying before death is allowing that which has arisen to cease. This teaching is about the mind; we’ll let the body die when it’s time for it to die. If it lives another minute, or another fifty years, or another eighty years, or whatever – that’s up to the body. We’re in no hurry to die, nor are we trying to live longer than necessary. We allow this body to live its lifespan, because it’s not self; it does not belong to us. However long this body breathes and lives is all right. It’s not mine anyway. But during the time that it’s alive, there’s an opportunity to die before death: to die to ignorance and selfishness; to die to greed, hatred, and delusion; to let all these things die; to let them go and let them cease. So one is observing death as it’s really happening, as the ending, the cessation of these things we tend to regard as ourselves, but are merely mortal conditions.
  • Perhaps death is the awakening from the dream of life. Have you ever thought of it like that? Life lived with a self-view can be a living death, a continuous kind of misery and fear that swarms within our minds. Depression is death; despair is death, fear, desire, and ignorance are death. So we can live a living death – or we can die to death before we die, by awakening from the dream of life and from the illusions of self.
  • Life is fraught with dangers, and the self is always in danger. It’s dangerous to be selfish. So actually, the death of the self is relief – nibbana. It’s release from danger, form struggle and strife, and from all the suffering that we produce out of the illusion of self. We live in a world, in a society, that hold to that illusion, but in Dhamma practice, we’re challenging that illusion. We’re not just trying to be clever and dismiss it, but are investigating: “is this really the way it is? Is this the real truth? What is the truth?” and we’re no longer looking for someone to come along and tell us the truth, because we know that we have to realize it for ourselves. The truth is here and now, to be seen by each of us for ourselves through the practice of mindfulness and wisdom.
  • One can’t really perceive the whole, vast universe in any clear way; one can only open to it. ordinarily, human consciousness is limited to the perceptions we have through our senses; it’s very difficult for us to catch glimpses beyond that. But the ore we let go of our grasping of the sensory world – the less we hold onto it and identify with it – the more we begin to have glimpses of deathlessness. We begin to experience amaravati, the deathless realm, the underlying unity, the overlying compassion, the whole wondrous miracle.
  • As spiritual seekers, we turn toward the unknown. Rather than constantly hanging on to the known in our meditation, more and more we begin to open our heart to the unknown. We relish that, we long for that: just the simple openness of heart and the willingness to bear with life as we experiencing it – with all its ups and downs, good fortune, bad fortune, pleasure, and pain. We are no longer crying for God to protect us and help us and send us good fortune. We are no longer expecting a life that offers only good health and pleasure. We’ll take whatever comes, whatever it is. This is the way we approach the future, not by looking for protection, but by opening our hearts.
  • Life is like this. All of us, all human beings, experience the loss of someone they love. It’s just part of our human condition, and human beings have always experienced that. We have to watch our parents die. Maybe we have to experience the death of a child or a good friend. Sometimes we have to accept horrendous things in life. But when we are mindful, we have already accepted all possibilities. One still feels the anguish, but one can accept that feeling. That acceptance has its own peacefulness, too: the experience of life has a sad quality to it.
  • We suffer when we think it shouldn’t change, and when we don’t want any changes. But if our mind is open to life, then we often find that it is in the times when we suffer that we also grow. People whose lives have been too easy sometimes never grow up; they become rather spoiled and complacent. It’s when you’ve really had to look at and accept painful things that you find yourself growing in wisdom and maturing as a person.
  • That’s the most important thing – the awakening and the willingness to learn from life – no mater what you’ve done or what’s happened. Every one of us has this ever-present possibility for awakening, no matter what we may have done.
  • I see our life in this human form as a kind of transition. We don’t really belong here. This is not our real home. We’re never going to be content with our state as human beings. It’s not worth lingering or hanging around in the human realm, but it’s not to be despised or rejected either. Our human life is to be awakened to and understood. You can say you’ve not wasted your life if you awaken to it. if you live a long life – say one hundred years – following foolish ideas and selfishness, then one hundred years have been wasted. But if you’ve awakened to life – even if your life is very short – then at least you’ve not wasted it.

Bodhidharma on the twofold entrance to the Tao

There are many ways to enter the Path, but briefly speaking they are of two sorts only. The one is "Entrance by Reason" and the other "Entrance by Conduct". By "Entrance by Reason" we mean the realization of the spirit of Buddhism by the aid of the scriptural teaching. We then come to have a deep faith in the True Nature which is the same in all sentient beings. The reason why it does not manifest itself is due to the overwrapping of external objects and false thoughts. When a man, abandoning the false and embracing the true, in singleness of thought practises the Pi-kuan ["Wall-gazing"] he finds that there is neither self nor other, that the masses and the worthies are of one essence, and he firmly holds on to this belief and never moves away therefrom. He will not then be a slave to words, for he is in silent communion with the Reason itself, free from conceptual discrimination; he is serene and not-acting. This is called "Entrance by Reason".

By "Entrance by Conduct" is meant the four acts in which all other acts are included. What are the four? 1. To know how to requite hatred; 2. To be obedient to karma; 3. Not to crave anything; and 4. To be in accord with the Dharma.
1. What is meant by "How to requite hatred"? He who disciplines himself in the Path should think thus when he has to struggle with adverse conditions: "During the innumerable past ages I have wandered through a multiplicity of existences, all the while giving myself to unimportant details of life at the expense of essentials, and thus creating infinite occasions for hate, ill-will, and wrongdoing. While no violations have been committed in this life, the fruits of evil deeds in the past are to be gathered now. Neither gods nor men can foretell what is coming upon me. I will submit myself willingly and patiently to all the ills that befall me, and I will never bemoan or complain. The Sutra teaches me not to worry over ills that may happen to me. Why? Because when things are surveyed by a higher intelligence, the foundation of causation is reached." When this thought is awakened in a man, he will be in accord with the Reason because he makes the best use of hatred and turns it into the service in his advance towards the Path. This is called the "way to requite hatred".
2. By "being obedient to karma" is meant this: There is no self (atman) in whatever beings are produced by the interplay of karmaic conditions; the pleasure and pain I suffer are also the results of my previous action. If I am rewarded with fortune, honour, etc., this is the outcome of my past deeds which by reason of causation affect my present life. When the force of karma is exhausted, the result I am enjoying now will disappear; what is then the use of being joyful over it? Gain or loss, let me accept the karma as it brings to me the one or the other; the Mind itself knows neither increase nor decrease. The wind of pleasure [and pain] will not stir me, for I am silently in harmony with the Path. Therefore this is called "being obedient to karma".
3. By "not craving (ch’iu) anything" is meant this: Men of the world, in eternal confusion, are attached everywhere to one thing or another, which is called craving. The wise however understand the truth and are not like the ignorant. Their minds abide serenely in the uncreated while the body moves about in accordance with the laws of causation. All things are empty and there is nothing desirable to seek after. Where there is the merit of brightness there surely lurks the demerit of darkness. This triple world where we stay altogether too long is like a house on fire; all that has a body suffers, and nobody really knows what peace is. Because the wise are thoroughly acquainted with this truth, they are never attached to things that change; their thoughts are quieted, they never crave anything. Says the Sutra: "Wherever there is a craving, there is pain; cease from craving and you are blessed." Thus we know that not to crave anything is indeed the way to the Truth. Therefore, it is taught not "to crave anything".
4. By "being in accord with the Dharma" is meant that the Reason which we call the Dharma in its
essence is pure, and that this Reason is the principle of emptiness (sunyata) in all that is manifested; it is above defilements and attachments, and there is no "self", no "other" in it. Says the Sutra: "In the Dharma there are no sentient beings, because it is free from the stain of being; in the Dharma there is no ‘self because it is free from the stain of selfhood." When the wise understand this truth and believe in it, their lives will be "in accordance with the Dharma".

As there is in the essence of the Dharma no desire to possess, the wise are ever ready to practise charity with their body, life, and property, and they never begrudge, they never know what an ill grace means. As they have a perfect understanding of the threefold nature of emptiness, they are above partiality and attachment. Only because of their will to cleanse all beings of their stains, they come among them as of them, but they are not attached to form. This is the self-benefiting phase of their lives. They, however, know also how to benefit others, and again how to glorify the truth of enlightenment. As with the virtue of charity, so with the other five virtues [of the Prajnaparamita], The wise practise the six virtues of perfection to get rid of confused thoughts, and yet there is no specific consciousness on their part that they are engaged in any meritorious deeds. This is called "being in accord with the Dharma".














这里想指出的是,《续高僧传.达摩传》所引的“称法行”,仅有“称法行,即性净之理也”一句,而关于性空的描述和修行六度的要求,则见于《楞伽师资记》和敦煌本《二入四行论》等。其中的六度,实际已包容了前三行的要求。由此可以认为,“理入”是要求在禅观中体认真如佛性,“行入”的四项是要求在日常修行、传教和生活中贯彻契合于真如实相的六度。 the zen teachings of bodhidharma

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