Archive for October, 2006



From Ayya Khema’s: ‘All of Us Beset by birth, decay, and death’:
Twelve Dhamma Talks On Practice given on Parap
puduwa Nuns Island by Sister Ayya Khema
Copyright © 1988 Sister Ayya Khema.
It’s a strange phenomenon how difficult people find it to love themselves. One would think it is the easiest thing in the world, because we’re constantly concerned with ourselves. We’re always interested in how much we can get, how well we can perform, how comfortable we can be. The Buddha mentioned in a discourse that "oneself is dearest to oneself." So with all that, why is it so difficult to actually love oneself?
Loving oneself certainly doesn’t mean indulging oneself. Really loving is an attitude towards oneself that most people don’t have, because they know quite a few things about themselves which are not desirable. Everybody has innumerable attitudes, reactions, likes and dislikes which they’d be better off without. Judgment is made and while one likes one’s positive attitudes, one dislikes the others. With that comes suppression of those aspects of oneself that one is not pleased with. One doesn’t want to know about them and doesn’t acknowledge them. That’s one way of dealing with oneself, which is detrimental to growth. Another unskillful way is to dislike that part of oneself which appears negative and every time it arises one blames oneself, which makes matters twice as bad as they were before. With that comes fear and very often aggression. If one wants to deal with oneself in a balanced way, it’s not useful to pretend that the unpleasant part doesn’t exist, those aggressive, irritable, sensual, conceited tendencies. If we pretend we are far from reality and put a split into ourselves. Even though such a person may be totally sane, the appearance given is that of not being quite real. We’ve all come across people like that, who are too sweet to be true, as a result of pretense and suppression. Blaming oneself doesn’t work either. In both instances one transfers one’s own reactions to other people. One blames others for their deficiencies, real or imagined, or one doesn’t see them as ordinary human beings. Everyone lives in an unreal world, because it’s ego-deluded, but this one is particularly unreal, because everything is considered either as perfectly wonderful or absolutely terrible.
The only thing that is real is that we have six roots within us. Three roots of good and three roots of evil. The latter are greed, hate and delusion, but we also have their opposites: generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom. Take an interest in this matter. If one investigates this and doesn’t get anxious about it, then one can easily accept these six roots in everybody. No difficulty at all, when one has seen them in oneself. They are the underlying roots of everyone’s behavior. Then we can look at ourselves a little more realistically, namely not blaming ourselves for the unwholesome roots, not patting ourselves on the back for the wholesome ones, but rather accepting their existence within us. We can also accept others more clear-sightedly and have a much easier time relating to them.
We will not suffer from disappointments and we won’t blame, because we won’t live in a world where only black or white exists, either the three roots of unwholesomeness or their opposites. Such a world doesn’t exist anywhere, and the only person to be like that is an Arahant. It’s largely a matter of degree in everyone else. These degrees of good and evil are so finely tuned, there’s so little difference within the degrees in each one of us, that it really doesn’t matter. Everybody has the same job to do, to cultivate the wholesome tendencies and uproot the unwholesome ones.
Apparently we’re all very different. That too is an illusion. We’re all having the same problems and also the same faculties to deal with them. The only difference is the length of training that one has had. Training which may have been going on for a number of lifetimes has brought about a little more clarity, that’s all.
Clarity of thinking comes from purification of one’s emotions, which is a difficult job that needs to be done. But it can only be done successfully when it isn’t an emotional upheaval, but clearcut, straightforward work that one does on oneself. When it is considered to be just that, it takes the sting out of it. The charge of "I’m so wonderful" or "I’m so terrible" is defused. We are neither wonderful nor terrible. Everyone is a human being with all the potential and all the obstructions. If one can love that human being, the one that is "me" with all its faculties and tendencies, then one can love others realistically, usefully and helpfully. But if one makes a break in the middle and loves the part which is nice and dislikes the part which isn’t nice enough, one’s never going to come to grips with reality. One day we’ll have to see it, for what it is. It’s a "working ground", a kammatthana. It’s a straightforward and interesting affair of one’s own heart.
If we look at ourselves in that manner, we will learn to love ourselves in a wholesome way. "Just as a mother at the risk of life, loves and protects her child…" Become your own mother! If we want to have a relationship with ourselves that is realistic and conducive to growth, then we need to become our own mother. A sensible mother can distinguish between that which is useful for her child and that which is detrimental. But she doesn’t stop loving the child when it misbehaves. This may be the most important aspect to look at in ourselves. Everyone, at one time or another, misbehaves in thought or speech or action. Most frequently in thought, fairly frequently in speech and not so often in action. So what do we do with that? What does a mother do? She tells the child not to do it again, loves the child as much as she’s always loved it and just gets on with the job of bringing up her child. Maybe we can start to bring up ourselves.
The whole of this training is a matter of maturing. Maturity is wisdom, which is unfortunately not connected to age. If it were, it would be very easy. One would have a guarantee. Since it isn’t it’s hard work, a job to be done. First comes recognition, then learning not to condemn, but to understand: "This is the way it is." the third step is change. Recognition may be the hardest part for most people, it’s not easy to see what goes on inside of oneself. This is the most important and the most interesting aspect of contemplation.
We lead a contemplative life, but that does not mean we sit in meditation all day long. A contemplative life means that one considers every aspect of what happens as part of a learning experience. One remains introspective under all circumstances. When one becomes outgoing, with what the Buddha termed "exuberance of youth," one goes to the world with one’s thoughts, speech and action. One needs to recollect oneself and return within. A contemplative life in some orders is a life of prayer. In our way it’s a combination of meditation and life-style. The contemplative life goes on inside of oneself. One can do the same thing with or without recollection. Contemplation is the most important aspect of introspection. It isn’t necessary to sit still all day and watch one’s breath. Every move, every thought, every word can give rise to understanding oneself.
This kind of work on oneself will bring about deep inner security, which is rooted in reality. Most people are wishing and hoping for this kind of security, but are not even able to voice their longing. Living in a myth, constantly hoping or being afraid is opposed to having inner strength. The feeling of security arises when one sees reality inside of oneself and thereby the reality in everyone else and comes to terms with it.
Let us accept the fact that the Buddha knew the truth when he said everybody had seven underlying tendencies: sensual desire, ill-will, speculative views, sceptical doubt, conceit, craving for continued existence, ignorance. Find them in yourself. Smile at them, do not burst into tears because of them. Smile and say: "Well, there you are. I’ll do something about you."
The contemplative life is often lived heavy-handedly. A certain lack of joy is compensated for by being outgoing. This doesn’t work. One should cultivate a certain light-heartedness, but stay within oneself. There’s nothing to be worried or fearful about, nothing that is too difficult. Dhamma means the law of nature and we are manifesting this law of nature all the time. What can there be to get away from? We cannot escape the law of nature. Wherever we are, we are the Dhamma, we are impermanent (anicca), unfulfilled (dukkha), of no core-substance (anatta). It doesn’t matter whether we sit here or on the moon. It’s always the same. So we need a light-hearted approach to our own difficulties and those of everyone else, but not exuberance and outpouring. Rather a constant inwardness, which contains a bit of amusement. This works best. If one has a sense of humor about oneself, it is much easier to love oneself properly. It’s also much easier to love everybody else.
There used to be a television show in America, called "People are Funny." We do have the oddest reactions. When they are analyzed and taken apart, they are often found to be absurd. We have very strange desires and wishes and unrealistic images of ourselves. It’s quite true, "people are funny," so why not see that side of oneself? It makes it easier to accept that which we find so unacceptable in ourselves and others.
There is one aspect of human life which we cannot change, namely, that it keeps on happening moment after moment. We’ve all been meditating here for some time. What does the world care? It just keeps on going. The only one who cares, who gets perturbed, is our own heart and mind. When there is perturbance, upheaval, unreality and absurdity, then there is also unhappiness. This is quite unnecessary. Everything just is. If we learn to approach all happenings with more equanimity by being accepting, then the work of purification is much easier. This is our work, our own purification, and it can only be done by each one for himself.
One of the best aspects about it is that if one remembers what one is doing, keeps at it day after day without forgetting and continues to meditate, not expecting great results, little by little it does happen. That too, just is. As one keeps working at it, there is a constant chipping away at the defilements and at the unreal thinking, because there is no happiness in that and few want to hang on to unhappiness. Eventually one runs out of things to do outside of oneself. The books are all saying the same things, the letters have all been written, the flowers have all been watered, there’s nothing left except to look inside. As this happens again and again, a change takes place. It may be slow, but when we have been here so many lifetimes, what’s a day, a month, a year, ten years? They’re all just happening.
There’s nothing else to do and there’s nowhere else to go. The earth is moving in a circle, life is moving from birth to death without us having to move at all. It’s all happening without our help. The only thing we need to do is to get to reality. Then when we do, we will find that loving ourselves and loving others is a natural outcome of that. Because we are concerned with reality and that is the heart’s real work — to love. But only if we’ve also seen the other side of the coin in ourselves and have done the work of purification. Then it is no longer an effort or a deliberate attempt, but it becomes a natural function of our inner feelings, inward directed but shining outward.
The inward direction is an important aspect of our contemplative life. Whatever happens inwardly has direct repercussions on what takes place outwardly. The inner light and purity cannot be hidden, nor can the defilements.
We sometimes think we can portray something we are not. That is not possible. The Buddha said that one only knows a person after having heard him speak many times and having lived with him for a long time. People generally try to show themselves off as something better than they really are. Then, of course, they become disappointed in themselves when they fail, and equally disappointed in others. To realistically know oneself makes it possible to truly love. That kind of feeling gives the light-heartedness to this job in which we’re engaged, which is needed. By accepting ourselves and others as we truly are, our job of purification, chipping away at the defilements, is made much easier.


There are a lot of people who feel that the proper way of following a spiritual discipline is by denying their simple humanity. They have become so suspicious of pleasure that they think there is actual value in being miserable: ‘I am a religious person so I shouldn’t enjoy myself.’ Although their aim is to achieve some form of eternal peace and happiness they make a point of denying themselves the everyday pleasures of life. They view these pleasures as obstacles, hindrances to spiritual development, and if they happen to experience a small amount of pleasure they feel uncomfortable. They cannot even eat a piece of chocolate without thinking they are ‘sinful and greedy’. Instead of accepting and enjoying such an experience for what it is, they tie themselves up in a knot of guilt and self reproach: ‘While so many people in the world are starving and miserable, how dare I indulge myself in this way!’
But such attitudes are completely mistaken. There is no reason at all to feel guilty about pleasure; this is just as mistaken as grasping onto passing pleasures and expecting them to give us ultimate satisfaction. In fact, it is just another form of grasping, another way of locking ourselves into a limited view of who we are and what we can become. Such guilt is a perversion of spirituality, not a true spiritual attitude at all.  – Lama Yeshe
Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, "It is always flowing, day and night." The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight. We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope.
If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don’t suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away.
If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation. -Thich Nhat Hanh
Joy with others is also good kamma-making. I was in a little village once where there was a special bell attached to the temple. Whenever anyone in that village had some good fortune, they would go and ring that bell. If the harvest was brought in, or the daughter got married, if someone came back from the hospital, or a good business deal had been arranged, if the roof had been reshingled, anything at all that gave then joy. When the bell was rung everybody would come out, look in the direction of the person who was ringing the bell and say, ‘Well done. Well done.’ The one who was ringing the bell was making good kamma by making it possible for the others to share his joy. The others were making good kamma by sharing another’s joy.- Ayya Khema
"There is a story in the Pali Canon about a father and daughter who performed in the circus. The father would place a very long bamboo stick on his forehead, and his daughter would climb to the top of the stick. When they did this, people gave them some money to buy rice and curry to eat.
One day the father told the daughter, ‘My dear daughter, we have to take care of each other. You have to take care of your father, and I have to take care of you, so that we will be safe. Our performance is very dangerous.’ Because if she fell, both would not be able to earn their living. If she fell, then broke her leg, they wouldn’t have anything to eat. ‘My daughter, we have to take care of each other so we can continue to earn our living.’
"The daugher was wise. She said, ‘Father, you should say it this way:" Each of us has to take care of himself or herself, so that we can continue to earn our living." Because during the performance, you take care of yourself, you take care of yourself only. You stay very stable, very alert. That will help me And if when I climb I take care of myself, I climb very carefully, I do not let anything wrong happen to me. That is the way you should say it, Father. You take good care of yourself, and I take good care of myself. In that way we can continue to earn our living.’ The Buddha agreed that the daughter was right." -Thich Nhat Hanh
One day, I offered a number of children a basket filled with tangerines. The basket was passed around, and each child took one tangerine and put it in his or her palm. We each looked at our tangerine, and the children were invited to meditate on its origins. They saw not only the tangerine, but also its mother, the tangerine tree. With some guidance, they began to visualize the blossoms in the sunshine and in the rain. Then they saw petals falling down and tiny green fruit appear. The sunshine and the rain continued, and the tiny tangerine grew. Now someone has picked it, and the tangerine is here. After seeing this, each child was invited to peel the tangerine slowly, noticing the mist and the fragrance of the tangerine, and then bring it up to his or her mouth and have a mindful bite, in full awareness of the texture and taste of the fruit and the juice coming out. We ate slowly like that.
Each time you look at a tangerine, you can see deeply into it. You can see everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel it and smell it, its wonderful. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy. – Thich Nhat Hanh 

Where is the Buddha?

Last book written by the late Chief Ven. Dr K Sri Dhammananda
People always ask this question, where did the Buddha go or where he is living now? This is a very difficult question to answer for those who have not developed a spiritual way of life. This is because everybody thinks about life in a worldly way. It is difficult for people to understand the concept of a Buddha. Certain missionaries approach Buddhists and say that the Buddha is not a god, he was a man. He is dead and gone. What can someone gain by worshipping a dead man? But we must understand the Buddha is called Sattha Deva-manussanam, teacher of gods and men. Whenever the gods have any problems, they approach the Buddha to get his advice. Then they claim their god is living and that is why everyone should pray to Him instead.
According to science it has taken millions of years for us to develop our mind and understanding. When their mind was not fully developed people became aware that there are some powers  which make nature work. Because they could not understand how exactly nature works, they began to think there must be a person who creates and maintains these occurrences. To help others understand this concept they transformed this energy into a form and represented it physically as statues and paintings. These “spirits” or powers were important to make humans to do good and not to do bad things and to reward them if they were good. Always we have fear, worry, suspicion, insecurity, so we need someone to depend on for our protection. Eventually this force was transformed into a single God. Now some people depend on God for everything. That is why they try to introduce the idea of an eternal soul that departs from here and remains in heaven eternally. That is to satisfy the craving for existence forever.
The Buddha says anything that comes into existence is subjected to change, decay and extinction. When we analyze the life of the Buddha, we see he never introduced himself as a son of god or messenger of god but as an enlightened religious teacher. At the same time the Buddha was not introduced as an incarnation of another Buddha. The Buddha is not created by another Buddha, so Buddha is not the re-incarnation of another Buddha. He is an individual person who by working a long period, life after life developed and cultivated all the great qualities, virtues, wisdom which we call paramitas or perfections. When he perfected all the good qualities he gained enlightenment: which is a complete understanding of how the universe operates. He discovered there is no God who created the universe.
People ask how he could gain enlightenment without support from any god. Buddhists maintain that every individual can develop the mind to understand everything. The meaning of the word manussa, in many languages is human being. But the meaning of the word Mana is mind. Therefore manussa is a human being who can develop and cultivate the mind to perfection. Besides humans there are no other living beings in this universe who can develop the mind up to that extent, to gain enlightenment. Not even divine beings can become Buddhas because they cannot develop their mind up to such an extent. They have worldly sensual, peaceful, prosperous existences but their thinking power is very poor. Only manussa or human being can become the Buddha or Enlightened One. When people say Buddha is not a god, we should not try to prove that he is a god. If we try to prove this then we actually lower the concept of enlightenment. Some people claim that their god has given a message to humanity. If that message is for all human beings in this world, why does the god not proclaim his message in the public, instead of revealing it only to one man. The Buddha did not encourage anybody to believe anything or claim that he had been instructed by a higher power to do so.
One day, a Christian priest came to see me with his followers to discuss about Buddhism and asked, “Actually can you tell me what Buddhists believe?” Then I told him very frankly that Buddhists do not ‘believe anything. Then he pointed to my book “What Buddhists Believe” and asked “why did you write this book?” I told him, “That is why I wrote this book, for you to read it to see whether there is anything for you to believe.” “In that case,” he asked, “can you tell me what Buddhists do?” I told him, the Buddha has given the answer to that question, Buddha has advised us what to do. Instead of believing, one must practice pariyatti, patipatti and pativeda. There are three ways to practice. First we must try to understand because we must not blindly believe anything that we cannot understand. The Buddha says you must first try to understand.
In his teachings of the Eight Fold Noble Path, the first item is sammaditthi, right understanding. Buddha started his mission by asking his followers to develop right understanding rather than blind faith or belief. After learning we gain wonderful knowledge about Buddha and his teachings. You have to practice what you have learned. If you have not understood this, then you will create ideas according to your own imagination. His advice was to practice what you have learned with understanding. After practicing you experience the result or the effect. Then you come to know that it is true. These are the three methods that the Buddha taught, to learn, to understand, to practice. This is the way to live in this world to get rid of our suffering. Now you can understand that the Buddha’s way of introducing religion was not by asking us to believe anything but to learn, practice and experience the results. For instance, the Buddha says that you must be kind, you must be honest. After understanding the teaching, you try to practice it and after that everybody respects you when they come to know you’re very kind, very honest. Nobody wants to disturb you or accuse you, but they respect you. That is the good result that you experience. At the same time the Buddha says you must try to understand according to the level of your own experience. You can test the results of the practice yourself. You understand why some things are wrong and why some things are right and you do not follow them because the order or commandment comes from heaven. You have a thinking mind and common sense to understand. Our  understanding and our own experience is enough to understand why something is wrong or right. For example the Buddha advised us not to destroy other living beings. He did not introduce this as a religious law because an understanding human being should know that killing is cruel. It is not difficult for us to understand why it is bad because when another person comes and tries to kill us we certainly do not like it.
Again he says when you have valuable things stolen by somebody, how would you feel? In the same way when we steal others’ property they also do not like it. It is not necessary for us to get orders from any god or Buddha or Jesus to understand this simple concept. Religious teachers appear in the world to remind us what we have neglected or forgotten. Your own experience and understanding is more than enough for you to know why certain things are right or wrong.
The Buddha advised us to think and understand. We have the sense of reasoning. We have common sense unlike other living beings which also have a mind but cannot think rationally. Their minds are limited to find food, shelter, protection and sensual pleasure. They cannot extend their mind further. But human beings have a mind to think and understand up to the maximum level. This is why scientists have explored and discovered many things which we never heard of before. There is no other living being in this world which can develop the mind up to that extent. That is why only a human being can become a Buddha. Only by developing their minds can human beings gain enlightenment. The Buddha told us, to act according to our own experience. Then we can experience the results. The followers of all the other religions, greet others, saying “God bless you”, but Buddhists very seldom greet others, saying Buddha bless you. But they recite “Buddham Saranam Gacchami” (I go to the Buddha for my refuge). If they believe that they can take refuge in the Buddha why they do not greet others saying “The Buddha Bless You”. Buddha also advised people to remember the Buddha when they have fear. So “Where is the Buddha” is our topic. Can we say he is in heaven or he is living in nirvana or he is living somewhere else? Where did he go? We must remember that everything we ask is from a worldly point of view.
After gaining enlightenment Buddha said “avamantimaiati natthidani Dunabavo”, this is my last birth and there is no more becoming again. I have already stopped becoming again and again in this world, life after life, and experiencing endless suffering.
Pleasure or entertainments that people experience are temporary emotional satisfactions that disappear within a short period. This creates unsatisfactoriness. Within a lifetime physically and mentally we experience enormous suffering, worries, problems, pain, difficulties, calamities and unsatisfactoriness.
There is nobody in this world who can say that he is satisfied with this life. Everybody complains and grumbles about physical or mental problems. By understanding this situation the Buddha stopped rebirth. That is called salvation. Salvation means freedom from physical and mental suffering. By existing in physical form or any other form we cannot overcome our physical and mental suffering. Therefore if we don’t like to suffer, the best thing is to stop this birth. We crave for existence. This craving and attachment are very strong in our mind. But we want to exist in spite of all these sufferings and troubles, pain and sicknesses and many other problems because of our craving and ignorance. Now look at what is happening in this world. The whole world is a battle field.
All over the world people create violence and bloodshed and war and destruction. Animals are living without creating many of all those unnecessary problems to suffer. When they are hungry they go out and catch another living being, satisfy their hunger and go to sleep. But human beings cannot be satisfied without craving for so many other things.
Craving, attachment are so strong in our human mind. Because of that jealousy, enmity, anger, ill-will, cruelty and wickedness arises. Other living beings do not develop their cruelty up to that extent.
Human beings have a religion. Religion is not only to worship and pray but to do some service to other living beings by keeping away some bad thoughts so that we can serve others. Devotional aspects of religion are important but that alone cannot develop the mind to gain proper understanding or wisdom. Before the passing away of the Buddha many people assembled with flowers to offer and pay respect to him. The Buddha asked them to go back. He said if they really wanted to respect him, instead of offering flowers, and worshipping, they should practice at least one of the advices given by him. Then they really respect the Buddha.
Now you can understand what the Buddha wanted. A religious way of life is not only to pray but to follow some advice given by him. Once a monk called Bakkula would come and sit down in front of the Buddha and watch him everyday. One day the Buddha asked him “what are you doing here?” He said, “When I look at your physical body, it gives me a lot of happiness.” Then the Buddha said, “Bakkula, by watching this dirty, filthy, impermanent physical body what do you gain? You only entertain your emotion. You never gain knowledge or understanding but entertain your emotion. You cannot see the real Buddha through the physical body. Buddha is not the physical body.” Then he said, “Only one who understands the dhamma taught by the Buddha sees the real Buddha. The real Buddha appears in the mind when we understand what the Buddha taught. Here you can understand the Buddha was not particular about the physical body.
When you study the history of India, for nearly 500 years there never was any Buddha image because the Buddha did not encourage anybody to erect images of Himself. It is the Greeks who created the Buddha images and other forms of religious symbols. Now of course different forms of Buddha images have spread all over the world.
Followers of some religions condemn us as idol worshippers. Actually they do not know what Buddhists are doing. A few hundred years after the Buddha, there was a well-known monk called Upagutha. He was a very popular preacher. When he gave a talk, thousands of people assembled. Mara the evil one was very unhappy because more and more people were becoming religious.
Maras are not living beings but strong mental obstructions and hindrances which prevent one from leading a religious way of life. Mara is then personified as the Evil One. This Mara started to perform very attractive entertainment, dancing, singing and merry making in front of the temple. Then the devotees slowly turned to watch Mara. Nobody came and listened to his talk. Upagutha decided to teach Mara a good lesson and he also went to watch the performance. When the performance was ended Upagutha said he really appreciated it. “In appreciation of your performance I would like to put a garland on your neck.” Mara was very proud. When Upagutha put a garland he felt the garland tightening around his neck like a python. He tried to pull it out but could not. Then he went to Shakra, the king of the gods and asked him for help to remove the garland. Shakra also tried his best but he also could not take it out. Then he went to Brahma who was regarded as creator god at that time and asked him to remove the garland. He also tried to take it out but could not take it out. Then Brahma told him that only the one who put it on could remove it.
So Mara had to come back to Venerable Upagutha and begged him to take it out otherwise he would die. Then Upagutha said, “It is not difficult but I can only do it under two conditions. First, you must promise in future that you’re not going to disturb any of our religious services.” Mara agreed. “The second thing is that, you have seen the Buddha because on many occasions you tried to disturb the Buddha. You’re living a few hundreds years after the Buddha. You have the supernatural power to represent the physical body.” Mara said, “yes, I can do that if you promise not to worship me when I appear as the Buddha because I am not a holy man.” Then Venerable Upagutha said, “I am not going to worship you.”
However when he appeared as a real Buddha, Venerable Upagutha paid his respects. Then Mara shouted, you promised that you are not going to worship him. Then Upagutha said “I did not worship Mara, I worship the Buddha.”
This is a very good example for people to tell others the meaning of worshipping the image of the Buddha. When you keep a Buddha image and pay homage, you also can take an image as an object for meditation. That is not worshipping the idol. You invite the Buddha into your mind through this symbol. It is a religious symbol. How the Buddha image appeals to the human mind can be understood in the following incident. During the Second World War in Burma the commander in chief of the army found a beautiful small Buddha image. It was so appealing to his mind. He sent this image to Sir Winston Churchill, who was the Prime Minister of England at that time with a note saying, “please keep this image on your table. Whenever you have any worries or disturbances please look at the face of this image. I believe that you will get the chance to calm your mind.”
Mr. Nehru the former Prime Minister of India was arrested by the British government. When he was in jail he had a small Buddha image in his pocket. He took out this image and kept it on the table and looked at it and thought, “In spite of so many troubles, problems and difficulties in this world, if the Buddha could manage to maintain a smiling face, why not we follow this great man?”
Anatole France who was a French scholar, visited London Museum and for the first time in his life he saw a Buddha image. Having seen this Buddha image, he said, “If god has come down from heaven to this earth he is none other than this figure.”
However an image is not essential. There are many who can practice the teaching of the Buddha without any image. It is not compulsory that they must have an image. We don’t worship, we don’t pray, we don’t ask anything from the image but we pay homage, we respect this image of a great religious man.
One of our members had been keeping a Buddha image for 45 years in his house. One day some missionaries came and told him that he was worshipping the devil. He did not know how to reply to them. This is surprising because for 45 years he had been worshipping the image and he did not know what to say when people condemned it. This is the weakness of some of our Buddhists. They follow tradition, worshipping, praying, offering, chanting but they do not try to understand the teachings of the Buddha.
Now you can understand with or without the Buddha image you can practice the teachings of the Buddha, because the physical body is not the Buddha.
According to the Mahayana school of Buddhism there are 3 bodies of the Buddha or 3 kayas, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya, dharmakaya. He used both sambhogakaya and nirmanakava for eating, sleeping, walking, talking, advising, preaching. All these activities he has done with the physical body. When the Buddha attained parinirvana these 2 bodies disappeared. But dharmakaya or dharma body of the Buddha can never disappear.
According to the Mahayana school of Buddhism, the Buddha Amitabha is in sukavati, pureland. Those who recite his name out of respect and those who worship him will be born in pureland and later get the chance to attain nirvana. According to their way of thinking and belief this concept gives a lot of hope and confidence that the Buddha is still living until every living being attains the final salvation.
The Buddha has mentioned “whether the Buddha appears or not dharma exists forever in this world”. When a Buddha appears he realizes people have forgotten the real dharma. “This dharma that I understood is not a new dharma created by me”, said the Buddha. This dharma has always existed but people have misinterpreted, created wrong concept according to their own imagination and completely polluted the purity of the dharma. It is even happening today 2500 years after the Buddha revealed the truth as dharma. People are doing wrong things in many countries in the name of the Buddha. It is not that they really follow the advice given by the Buddha. But they introduce their traditional cultural practices mixed with Buddhism and introduce it as Buddhism.
As Buddhists, we must try to learn what the Buddha taught and try to practice what the Buddha taught to seek our salvation. People ask where the Buddha is. To practice Buddhism it is not necessary for us to know where the Buddha is, or where he went. Take for instance we have electricity discovered by somebody. Is it necessary for us to know the person who discovered electricity, where he is and from which country he came and his name? Our duty is to make use of the electricity. Again those who have discovered atoms or atomic energy can use this atomic energy for constructive or destructive purposes. So it is our duty to make use of this energy in a proper  manner. It is not necessary to know actually who discovered this atomic energy. People have discovered the computer and television but it is not necessary for us to know the names and the details of them, our duty is to use them.
In the same manner do not ask where the Buddha is, or where he went. If the dharma, what he taught, is true, available and effective why is it necessary to know where the Buddha is. The Buddha never said that he can send us to heaven or hell. The Buddha can tell you what to do and what not to do to gain our salvation. That is the only thing Buddha can do. He cannot do anything for you. Your duty is to practice what the Buddha taught us.
Others say that god can wash away the sins committed by people. Buddha never said that sin is created by one person, and it can be washed away by another person. Neither Buddha nor god can do that. When a person is going to die and says that he believes in god, after all the sinful things that he committed can god take away his sins? For instance maybe you are very hot tempered and you know it is wrong but you do not know how to get rid of it. So you go to god and pray and ask him to please take away the cruelty from your mind, do you think any god can do that?
You may go and worship the Buddha and ask the Buddha to take away your cruelty. But the Buddha also cannot take it away from your mind. The Buddha can only tell you how to remove your anger with your own effort.
No one can help you but yourself through your understanding. You yourself must realize, “this anger is dangerous, can create lots of trouble, problems and difficulties and harm and disturb others. I must try to reduce anger by using my mental energy and create strong determination to withdraw anger from the mind.” So the Buddha or God cannot wash away sins created by us but we alone can do that. There is a good advice given by the Buddha. If anyone has committed a bad deed or bad karma, they cannot get rid of the effects by praying to god or Buddha. However when they come to know that they have committed the bad deeds then they must stop committing bad deeds again. You must create strong determination in the mind to create more and more good karma or meritorious deeds.
When you develop your meritorious deeds, the effect of the bad karma that you have committed earlier can be overcome by good karma.
Take for instance Angulimala, the murderer who killed nearly one thousand human beings. When the Buddha came to know that he went to see him. Angulimala wanted to kill the Buddha because he had completed 999 murders. His vow was to kill the thousandth, so he was very happy when he saw the Buddha and tried to catch him. Occasionally the Buddha performed a little miracle. Knowing it was difficult to control this man by preaching, the Buddha walked in a normal way and allowed him to run. Although he ran nearly 4 miles, he could not come near to the Buddha.
Then he asked the Buddha to stop and the Buddha knew it was time for him to talk to him. The Buddha said “I have already stopped, you’re the one who run.” Angulimala said, “how can you say you have stopped, I saw you walking.” The Buddha replied, “I have stopped means I have stopped killing or destroying other living beings. You are the one who is running means you are still committing evil. If you stop running then you can catch me.”
Then Angulimala said “I cannot understand what you said.” Then the Buddha said “I have stopped killing and you’re doing just that, that is the meaning of running. You are running in samsara.” Then Angulimala came to know that he was wrong and decided to follow the Buddha and he became a monk and started to meditate. Later he attained arahantahood and gained nirvanic bliss. Bad karma had no chance to come to catch him. He went on developing good karma and the bad karma had no chance to affect him. That is what the Buddha said. The Buddha taught this method to overcome the effect of bad karma not by praying to any god but by doing more and more meritorious deeds.
If I say that the Buddha is living in any part of the universe in physical form it is against the teachings of the Buddha. On the other hand if I say that the Buddha is not living in any part of the universe in physical form many people are not very happy because they have craving for existence which cannot be satisfied. Therefore they say it is nothingness. It is not nothingness; it is the ending of physical and mental suffering and experiencing nirvanic bliss or salvation. On the other hand there are some people who really need the physical form of the image of the Buddha to calm their mind, reduce their tension and fear and worries. However it is not right for us to say the Buddha is living or not.
If the doctrine or the teaching of the Buddha is available for us to experience peace, satisfaction in our life that is more than enough for us. Let us take a doctor who has discovered a very effective medicine. If the medicine is available, if it can cure sicknesses, is it necessary for us to know where this doctor is and whether he is still living or not? The important thing is to get rid of our sicknesses by taking the medicine. In the same manner the teachings of the Buddha are more than enough for us to get rid of our sufferings. The Buddha has given us the right to think freely to understand whether something is wrong by using our common sense or reasoning for us to understand the real nature of things that come into existence.
On the other hand there is nothing in any part of the universe which exists without changing, without decaying and without extinguishing because all these are the combination of elements, energies and mental energies and karmic energies. Therefore it is impossible for these energies and elements or mental energies, karmic energies to remain forever without changing. If you can understand this then the teachings of the Buddha will help you to understand how to face your problems and difficulties, to overcome our unsatisfactoriness. Otherwise we will have to face physical and mental suffering, unsatisfactoriness and disappointment.
We have to act wisely to get rid of our problems. It is difficult for us to get rid of our suffering simply by praying, worshipping to anybody but through understanding the nature of our problems and difficulties and the cause of our problems and difficulties, we will be able to get rid of such problems.
Many people ask where did the Buddha go? If people say he has gone to nirvana then they think nirvana is a place. Nirvana is not a place, it is a mental state for us to achieve to experience our final salvation. We cannot say the Buddha has gone somewhere or Buddha is existing but he experiences the nirvanic bliss or the final goal in life. So the best answer to the question “Where is the Buddha?” is the Buddha is in your mind which has realised the Ultimate Truth.

Still, Flowing Water

by Ajahn Chah
Now please pay attention, not allowing your mind to wander off after other things. Create the feeling that right now you are sitting on a mountain or in a forest somewhere, all by yourself. What do you have sitting here right now? There are body and mind, that’s all, only these two things. All that is contained within this frame sitting here now is called "body." The "mind" is that which is aware and is thinking at this very moment. These two things are also called "nama" and "rupa." "Nama" refers to that which has no "rupa," or form. All thoughts and feelings, or the four mental khandhas of feeling, perception, volition and consciousness, are nama, they are all formless. When the eye sees form, that form is called rupa, while the awareness is called nama. Together they are called nama and rupa, or simply body and mind.
Understand that sitting here in this present moment are only body and mind. But we get these two things confused with each other. If you want peace you must know the truth of them. The mind in its present state is still untrained; it’s dirty, not clear. It is not yet the pure mind. We must further train this mind through the practice of meditation.
Some people think that meditation means to sit in some special way, but in actual fact standing, sitting, walking and reclining are all vehicles for meditation practice. You can practice at all times. Samadhi literally means "the firmly established mind." To develop samadhi you don’t have to go bottling the mind up. Some people try to get peaceful by sitting quietly and having nothing disturb them at all, but that’s just like being dead. The practice of samadhi is for developing wisdom and understanding.
Samadhi is the firm mind, the one-pointed mind. On which point is it fixed? It’s fixed onto the point of balance. That’s its point. But people practice meditation by trying to silence their minds. They say, "I try to sit in meditation but my mind won’t be still for a minute. One instant it flies off one place, the next instant it flies off somewhere else…How can I make it stop still?" You don’t have to make it stop, that’s not the point. Where there is movement is where understanding can arise. People complain, "It runs off and I pull it back again; then it goes off again and I pull it back once more…" So they just sit there pulling back and forth like this.
They think their minds are running all over the place, but actually it only seems like the mind is running around. For example, look at this hall here…"Oh, it’s so big!," you say … actually it’s not big at all. Whether or not it seems big depends on your perception of it. In fact this hall is just the size it is, neither big nor small, but people run around after their feelings all the time.
Meditating to find peace…You must understand what peace is. If you don’t understand it you won’t be able to find it. For example, suppose today you brought a very expensive pen with you to the monastery. Now suppose that, on your way here, you put the pen in your front pocket, but at a later time you took it out and put it somewhere else, such as the back pocket. Now when you search your front pocket…It’s not there! You get a fright. You get a fright because of your misunderstanding, you don’t see the truth of the matter. Suffering is the result. Whether standing, walking, coming and going, you can’t stop worrying about your lost pen. Your wrong understanding causes you to suffer. Understanding wrongly causes suffering…"Such a shame! I’d only bought that pen a few days ago and now it’s lost."
But then you remember, "Oh, of course! When I went to bathe I put the pen in my back pocket." As soon as you remember this you feel better already, even without seeing your pen. You see that? You’re happy already, you can stop worrying about your pen. You’re sure about it now. As you’re walking along you run your hand over your back pocket and there it is. Your mind was deceiving you all along. The worry comes from your ignorance. Now, seeing the pen, you are beyond doubt, your worries are calmed. This sort of peace comes from seeing the cause of the problem, samudaya, the cause of suffering. As soon as you remember that the pen is in your back pocket there is nirodha, the cessation of suffering.
So you must contemplate in order to find peace. What people usually refer to as peace is simply the calming of the mind, not the calming of the defilements. The defilements are simply being temporarily subdued, just like grass covered by a rock. In three or four days you take the rock off the grass and in no long time it grows up again. The grass hadn’t really died, it was simply being suppressed. It’s the same when sitting in meditation: the mind is calmed but the defilements are not really calmed. Therefore, samadhi is not a sure thing. To find real peace you must develop wisdom. Samadhi is one kind of peace, like the rock covering the grass…in a few days you take the rock away and the grass grows up again. This is only a temporary peace. The peace of wisdom is like putting the rock down and not lifting it up, just leaving it where it is. The grass can’t possibly grow again. This is real peace, the calming of the defilements, the sure peace which results from wisdom.
We speak of wisdom (panna) and samadhi as separate things, but in essence they are one and the same. Wisdom is the dynamic function of samadhi; samadhi is the passive aspect of wisdom. They arise from the same place but take different directions, different functions, like this mango here. A small green mango eventually grows larger and larger until it is ripe. It is all the same mango, the larger one and the ripe one are all the same mango, but its condition changes. In Dhamma practice, one condition is called samadhi, the later condition is called panna, but in actuality sila, samadhi, and panna are all the same thing, just like the mango.
In any case, in our practice, no matter what aspect you refer to, you must always begin from the mind. Do you know what this mind is? What is the mind like? What is it? Where is it?… Nobody knows. All we know is that we want to go over here or over there, we want this and we want that, we feel good or we feel bad… but the mind itself seems impossible to know. What is the mind? The mind hasn’t any form. that which receives impressions, both good and bad, we call "mind." It’s like the owner of a house. The owner stays put at home while visitors come to see him. He is the one who receives the visitors. Who receives sense impressions? What is it that perceives? Who lets go of sense impressions? That is what we call "mind." But people can’t see it, they think themselves around in circles…"What is the mind, what is the brain?" … Don’t confuse the issue like this. What is it that receives impressions? Some impressions it likes and some it doesn’t like… Who is that? Is there one who likes and dislikes? Sure there is, but you can’t see it. That is what we call "mind."
In our practice it isn’t necessary to talk of samatha (concentration) or vipassana (insight), just call it the practice of Dhamma, that’s enough. And conduct this practice from your own mind. What is the mind? The mind is that which receives, or is aware of, sense impressions. With some sense impressions there is a reaction of like, with others the reaction is dislike. That receiver of impressions leads us into happiness and suffering, right and wrong. But it doesn’t have any form. We assume it to be a self, but it’s really only namadhamma. Does "goodness" have any form? Does evil? Do happiness and suffering have any form? You can’t find them. Are they round or are they square, short or long? Can you see them. These things are namadhamma, they can’t be compared to material things, they are formless…but we know that they do exist.
Therefore it is said to begin the practice by calming the mind. Put awareness into the mind. If the mind is aware it will be at peace. Some people don’t go for awareness, they just want to have peace, a kind of blanking out. So they never learn anything. If we don’t have this "one who knows" what is there to base our practice on?
If there is no long, there is no short, if there is no right there can be no wrong. People these days study away, looking for good and evil. But that which is beyond good and evil they know nothing of. All they know is the right and the wrong — "I’m going to take only what is right. I don’t want to know about the wrong. Why should I?" If you try to take only what is right in a short time it will go wrong again. Right leads to wrong. People keep searching among the right and wrong, they don’t try to find that which is neither right nor wrong. They study about good and evil, they search for virtue, but they know nothing of that which is beyond good and evil. They study the long and the short, but that which is neither long nor short they know nothing of.
This knife has a blade, a rim and a handle. Can you lift only the blade? Can you lift only the rim of the blade, or the handle? The handle, the rim and the blade are all parts of the same knife: when you pick up the knife you get all three parts together.
In the same way, if you pick up that which is good, the bad must follow. People search for goodness and try to throw away evil, but they don’t study that which is neither good nor evil. If you don’t study this there can be no completion. If you pick up goodness, badness follows. If you pick up happiness, suffering follows. The practice of clinging to goodness and rejecting evil is the Dhamma of children, it’s like a toy. Sure, it’s alright, you can take just this much, but if you grab onto goodness, evil will follow. The end of this path is confused, it’s not so good.
Take a simple example. You have children — now suppose you want to only love them and never experience hatred. This is the thinking of one who doesn’t know human nature. If you hold onto love, hatred will follow. In the same way, people decide to study the Dhamma to develop wisdom, studying good and evil as closely as possible. Now, having known good and evil, what do they do? They try to cling to the good, and evil follows. They didn’t study that which is beyond good and evil. This is what you should study.
"I’m going to be like this," "I’m going to be like that,"… but they never say "I’m not going to be anything because there really isn’t any ‘I’"…This they don’t study. All they want is goodness. If they attain goodness, they lose themselves in it. If things get too good they’ll start to go bad, and so people end up just swinging back and forth like this.
In order to calm the mind and become aware of the perceiver of sense impressions, we must observe it. Follow the "one who knows." Train the mind until it is pure. How pure should you make it? If it’s really pure the mind should be above both good and evil, above even purity. It’s finished. That’s when the practice is finished.
What people call sitting in meditation is merely a temporary kind of peace. But even in such a peace there are experiences. If an experience arises there must be someone who knows it, who looks into it, queries it and examines it. If the mind is simply blank then that’s not so useful. You may see some people who look very restrained and think they are peaceful, but the real peace is not simply the peaceful mind. It’s not the peace which says, "May I be happy and never experience any suffering." With this kind of peace, eventually even the attainment of happiness becomes unsatisfying. Suffering results. Only when you can make your mind beyond both happiness and suffering will you find true peace. That’s the true peace. This is the subject most people never study, they never really see this one.
The right way to train the mind is to make it bright, to develop wisdom. Don’t think that training the mind it simply sitting quietly. That’s the rock covering the grass. People get drunk over it. They think that samadhi is sitting. That’s just one of the words for samadhi, but really, if the mind has samadhi in the sitting posture, in the walking posture, in the standing and reclining postures. It’s all practice.
Some people complain, "I can’t meditate, I’m too restless. Whenever I sit down I think of this and that… I can’t do it. I’ve got too much bad kamma. I should use up my bad kamma first and then come back and try meditating." Sure, just try it. Try using up your bad kamma…
This is how people think. Why do they think like this? These so called hindrances are the things we must study. Whenever we sit, the mind immediately goes running off. We follow it and try to bring it back and observe it once more…then it goes off again. This is what you’re supposed to be studying. Most people refuse to learn their lessons from nature…like a naughty schoolboy who refuses to do his homework. They don’t want to see the mind changing. How are you going to develop wisdom? We have to live with change like this. When we know that the mind is just this way, constantly changing…when we know that this is its nature, we will understand it. We have to know when the mind is thinking good and bad, changing all the time, we have to know these things. If we understand this point, then even while we are thinking we can be at peace.
For example, suppose at home you have a pet monkey. Monkeys don’t stay still for long, they like to jump around and grab onto things. That’s how monkeys are. Now you come to the monastery and see the monkey here. This monkey doesn’t stay still either, it jumps around just the same. But it doesn’t bother you, does it? Why doesn’t it bother you? Because you’ve raised a monkey before, you know what they’re like. If you know just one monkey, no matter how many provinces you go to, no matter how many monkeys you see, you won’t be bothered by them, will you? This is one who understands monkeys.
If we understand monkeys then we won’t become a monkey. If you don’t understand monkeys you may become a monkey yourself! Do you understand? When you see it reaching for this and that, you shout, "Hey!" You get angry…"That damned monkey!" This is one who doesn’t know monkeys. One who knows monkeys sees that the monkey at home and the monkey in the monastery are just the same. Why should you get annoyed by them? When you see what monkeys are like that’s enough, you can be at peace.
Peace is like this. We must know sensations. Some sensations are pleasant, some are unpleasant, but that’s not important. That’s just their business. Just like the monkey. all monkeys are the same. We understand sensations as sometimes agreeable, sometimes not — that’s just their nature. We should understand them and know how to let them go. Sensations are uncertain. They are Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless. Everything that we perceive is like this. When eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind receive sensations, we know them, just like knowing the monkey. Then we can be at peace.
When sensations arise, know them. Why do you run after them? Sensations are uncertain. One minute they are one way, the next minute another. They exist dependent on change. And all of us here exist dependent on change. The breath goes out then it must come in. It must have this change. Try only breathing in, can you do that? Or try just breathing out without taking in another breath … can you do it? If there was no change like this how long could you live for? There must be both the in breath and the out breath.
Sensations are the same. There must be these things. If there were sensations you could develop no wisdom. If there is no wrong there can be no right. You must be right first before you can see what is wrong, and you must understand the wrong first to be right. This is how things are.
For the really earnest student, the more sensations the better. But many meditators shrink away from sensations, they don’t want to deal with them. This is like the naughty schoolboy who won’t go to school, won’t listen to the teacher. These sensations are teaching us. When we know sensations then we are practicing Dhamma. The peace within sensations is just like understanding the monkey here. When you understand what monkeys are like you are no longer troubled by them.
The practice of Dhamma is like this. It’s not that the Dhamma is very far away, it’s right with us. The Dhamma isn’t about the angels on high or anything like that. It’s simply about us, about what we are doing right now. Observe yourself. Sometimes there is happiness, sometimes suffering, sometimes comfort, sometimes pain, sometimes love, sometimes hate…this is Dhamma. Do you see it? You should know this Dhamma, you have to read your experiences.
You must know sensations before you can let them go. When you see that sensations are impermanent you will be untroubled by them. As soon as a sensation arises, just say to yourself, "Hmmm…this is not a sure thing." When your mood changes…"Hmmm, not sure." You can be at peace with these things, just like seeing the monkey and not being bothered by it. If you know the truth of sensations, that is knowing the Dhamma. You let go of sensations, seeing that they are all invariably uncertain.
What we call uncertainty here is the Buddha. The Buddha is the Dhamma. The Dhamma is the characteristic of uncertainty. Whoever sees the uncertainty of things sees the unchanging reality of them. That’s what the Dhamma is like. And that is the Buddha. If you see the Dhamma you see the Buddha, seeing the Buddha, you see the Dhamma. If you know aniccam, uncertainty, you will let go of things and not grasp onto them.
You say, "Don’t break my glass!" Can you prevent something that’s breakable from breaking? If it doesn’t break now it will break later on. If you don’t break it, someone else will. If someone else doesn’t break it, one of the chickens will! The Buddha says to accept this. He penetrated the truth of these things, seeing that this glass is already broken. Whenever you use this glass you should reflect that it’s already broken. Do you understand this? The Buddha’s understanding was like this. He saw the broken glass within the unbroken one. Whenever its time is up it will break. Develop this kind of understanding. Use the glass, look after it, until when, one day, it slips out of your hand… "Smash!" … no problem. Why is there no problem? Because you saw its brokenness before it broke!
But usually people say, "I love this glass so much, may it never break." Later on the dog breaks it…"I’ll kill that damn dog!" You hate the dog for breaking your glass. If one of your children breaks it you’ll hate them too. Why is this? Because you’ve dammed yourself up, the water can’t flow. You’ve made a dam without a spillway. The only thing the dam can do is burst, right? When you make a dam you must make a spillway also. When the water rises up too high, the water can flow off safely. When it’s full to the brim you open your spillway. You have to have a safety valve like this. Impermanence is the safety valve of the Noble Ones. If you have this "safety valve" you will be at peace.
Standing, walking, sitting, lying down, practice constantly, using sati to watch over and protect the mind. This is samadhi and wisdom. They are both the same thing, but they have different aspects.
If we really see uncertainty clearly, we will see that which is certain. The certainty is that things must inevitably be this way, they cannot be otherwise. Do you understand? Knowing just this much you can know the Buddha, you can rightly do reverence to him.
As long as you don’t throw out the Buddha you won’t suffer. As soon as you throw out the Buddha you will experience suffering. As soon as you throw out the reflections on Transience, Imperfection and Ownerlessness you’ll have suffering. If you can practice just this much it’s enough; suffering won’t arise, or if it does arise you can settle it easily, and it will be a cause for suffering not arising in the future. This is the end of our practice, at the point where suffering doesn’t arise. And why doesn’t suffering arise? because we have sorted out the cause of suffering, samudaya.
For instance, if this glass were to break, normally you would experience suffering. We know that this glass will be a cause for suffering, so we get rid of the cause. All dhammas arise because of a cause. They must also cease because of a cause. Now if there is suffering on account of this glass here, we should let go of this cause. If we reflect beforehand that this glass is already broken, even when it hasn’t, the cause ceases. When there is no longer any cause, that suffering is no longer able to exist, it ceases. This is cessation.
You don’t have to go beyond this point, just this much is enough. Contemplate this in your own mind. Basically you should all have the Five Precepts as a foundation for behavior. It’s not necessary to go and study the Tipitaka, just concentrate on the Five Precepts first. At first you’ll make mistakes. When you realize it, stop, come back and establish your precepts again. Maybe you’ll go astray and make another mistake. When you realize it, re-establish yourself.
Practicing like this, your sati will improve and become more consistent, just like the drops of water falling from a kettle. If we tilt the kettle just a little, the drops fall out slowly …plop!…plop!…plop!…If we tilt the kettle up a little bit more, the drops become more rapid … plop, plop, plop!!… If we tilt the kettle up even further the "plops" go away and the water flows into a steady stream. Where do the "plops" go to? They don’t go anywhere, they change into a steady stream of water.
We have to talk about the Dhamma like this, using similes, because the Dhamma has no form. Is it square or is it round? You can’t say. The only way to talk about it is through similes like this. Don’t think that the Dhamma is far away from you. It lies right with you, all around. Take a look … one minute happy, the next sad, the next angry … it’s all Dhamma. Look at it and understand. Whatever it is that causes suffering you should remedy. If suffering is still there, take another look, you don’t yet see clearly. If you could see clearly you wouldn’t suffer, because the cause would no longer be there. If suffering is still there, if you’re still having to endure, then you’re not yet on the right track. Wherever you get stuck, whenever you’re suffering too much, right there you’re wrong. whenever you’re so happy you’re floating in the clouds…there…wrong again!
If you practice like this you will have sati at all times, in all postures. With sati, recollection, and sampaja��a, self awareness, you will know right and wrong, happiness and suffering. Knowing these things, you will know how to deal with them.
I teach meditation like this. When it’s time to sit in meditation then sit, that’s not wrong. You should practice this also. But meditation is not only sitting. You must allow your mind to fully experience things, allow them to flow and consider their nature. How should you consider them? See them as Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless. It’s all uncertain. "This is so beautiful, I really must have it." That’s not a sure thing. "I don’t like this at all" … tell yourself right there, "Not sure!" Is this true? Absolutely, no mistake. But just try taking things for real…"I’m going to get this thing for sure" … You’ve gone off the track already. Don’t do this. No matter how much you like something, you should reflect that it’s uncertain.
Some kinds of food seem so delicious, but still you should reflect that it’s not a sure thing. It may seem so sure, it’s so delicious, but still you must tell yourself, "not sure!" If you want to test out whether it’s sure or not, try eating your favorite food every day. Every single day, mind you. Eventually you’ll complain, "This doesn’t taste so good anymore." Eventually you’ll think, "Actually I prefer that kind of food." That’s not a sure thing either! You must allow things to flow, just like the in and out breaths. There has to be both the in breath and the out breath, the breathing depends on change. Everything depends on change like this.
These things lie with us, nowhere else. If we no longer doubt whether sitting, standing, walking, or reclining, we will be at peace. Samadhi isn’t just sitting. some people sit until they fall into a stupor. They might as well be dead, they can’t tell north from south. Don’t take it to such an extreme. If you feel sleepy then walk, change your posture. Develop wisdom. If you are really tired then have a rest. As soon as you wake up then continue the practice, don’t let yourself drift into a stupor. You must practice like this. Have reason, wisdom, circumspection.
Start the practice for your own mind and body, seeing them as impermanent. Everything else is the same. Keep this in mind when you think the food is so delicious…you must tell yourself…"Not a sure thing!" You have to slug it first. But usually it just slugs you every time, doesn’t it? If you don’t like anything you just suffer over it. This is how things slug us. "If she likes me, I like her," they slug us again. You never get a punch in! You must see it like this. Whenever you like anything just say to yourself, "This is not a sure thing!" You have to go against the grain somewhat in order to really see the Dhamma.
Practice in all postures. Sitting, standing, walking, lying…you can experience anger in any posture, right? You can be angry while walking, while sitting, while lying down. You can experience desire in any posture. So our practice must extend to all postures; standing, walking, sitting and lying down. It must be consistent. Don’t just put on a show, really do it.
While sitting in meditation, some incident might arise. Before that one is settled another one comes racing in. Whenever these things come up, just tell yourself, "not sure, not sure." Just slug it before it gets a chance to slug you.
Now this is the important point. If you know that all things are impermanent, all your thinking will gradually unwind. When you reflect on the uncertainty of everything that passes, you’ll see that all things go the same way. Whenever anything arises, all you need to say is, "Oh, another one!"
Have you ever seen flowing water?…have you ever seen still water?…If your mind is peaceful it will be just like still, flowing water. Have you ever seen still, flowing water? There! You’ve only ever seen flowing water and still water, haven’t you? But you’ve never seen still, flowing water. Right there, right where your thinking cannot take you, even though it’s peaceful you can develop wisdom. Your mind will be like flowing water, and yet it’s still. It’s almost as if it were still, and yet it’s flowing. So I call it "still, flowing water." Wisdom can arise here.

extracted from the Digha Nikaya 11: Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta

Conversations With The Gods, Digha Nikaya 11: Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta
During the Buddha’s time, there was a monk who strived to develop his mind such that he could enter the realms of the gods. With great effort, he succeeded in transporting himself to the first heaven, the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. The reason he wanted to see the gods was to ask them a really profound question, "Where does the four great elements cease without remainder?"

When he reached the Heaven of the Four Great Kings, he asked all the gods this question. None of them knew the answer. "Perhaps you can ask the Four Great Kings", they suggested. So the monk asked the Kings, but none of them knew the answer too. So they suggested, "Perhaps you can ask the 32 Gods in the higher heaven".

The monk went back to earth and he meditated once again. With great effort, he succeeded in transporting himself to the second heaven, the Heaven of the 32 Gods. There he asked the gods his profound question. None of them knew the answer. "Perhaps you can ask King Sakka, the King of the 32 Gods", they suggested. So the monk asked the King, but He didn’t know the answer too. He suggested, "Perhaps you can ask the Yammas in the higher heaven".

The monk when back to earth again and meditated, till he was able to transport himself to the Heaven of the Yammas. Again, none of the gods there knew the answer. So he went to the higher heaven. This went on until the monk reached the highest of all Heavens, the Heavens of the Brahmas, the Supreme gods. There the monk asked the Brahmas, but none of them knew the answer. "Perhaps you can ask Great Brahma, the Creator, the Uncreated, the Knower of All, …..etc…..", the Brahmas suggested.

The moment Great Brahma’s name was spoken, He appeared with all His glory. "I am the Great Brahma, the Creator, the Uncreated, the Knower of All, …..etc…..", Great Brhama spoke. Thrilled at the sight of Great Brahma, the monk asked his profound question, "Where does the four great elements cease without remainder?".

Great Brahma did not answer. Instead, he said, "I am the Great Brahma, the Creator, the Uncreated, the Knower of All, …..etc…..". The monk was a little frustrated, "Yes, Venerable One, I know you are the Great Brahma, but I came to ask you this quesn, Where does the four great elements cease without remainder?". Again, Great Brahma did not answer. Instead He said, "I am the Great Brahma, the Creator, the Uncreated, the Knower of All, …..etc….."

This time, the monk was very frustrated. He asked for the 3rd time, "Yes, I KNOW you are the Great Brahma, but I came to ask this quesn, Where does the four great elements cease without remainder?".

This time, Great Brahma did not say anything. He took the monk in the hand and, with all His glory, appeared in a far end of existance. Great Brahma then spoke, "Monk, you see all these gods there? They all think I know everything. Are you trying to embarrass me in front of all these gods?". The monk was taken aback, "But Venerable Sir, if you do not know the answer, who would?". "You fool!", the God shouted, "The Buddha is on earth. Why don’t you ask him and stop bothering me?".

The monk then went back to earth and asked the Buddha. The Buddha laughed at his little adventure and told a joke about it. "Monk, in the old days, navigators depended on birds to know if land is nearby. They would release a bird. If the bird returned, it means that land is not near. You monk, you are just like that bird. Flying away from the ship, seeing no land, and then returning to me". The monk was so amused he too laughed. At this point, the Buddha gave the answer, "Nirvana is when the four great elements cease without remainder". The monk understood. He rejoiced at the answer.


Penetration of Other Minds

Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Shôbôgenzô, Book 73
The Tashin tsu is one of the later essays in the Shôbôgenzô, composed according to its colophon, in 1245, while Dôgen was residing at Daibutsuji (the monastery he would rename as Eiheiji). The title theme of the essay concerns mental telepathy, one of the supernormal powers (abhijna) regularly said in Buddhist literature to be accessible to those who have mastered the four basic levels of meditation (dhyana). Here, Dôgen takes up the famous story of a Zen master’s test of the mind-reading powers of an Indian monk. The story well reflects the Chinese Zen masters’ doubts about the Indian tradition of such powers, and Dôgen’s comments well reflect his own doubts about the understanding of some of the Chinese masters.
The National Teacher [Dazheng] Huizhong [d. 775 C.E], of the Guangzhai monastery in the Western Capital [Changan], was a native of Zhuji in the province of Yue [modern Zhejiang]; his family name was Ran. After receiving the mind seal [of enlightenment from the Sixth Ancestor], he stayed at Dangzi Valley, Mount Baiyai, in Nanyang [modern Henan], where for more than forty years he never descended from his monastery. Word of his practice of the way reached the imperial seat, and in the second year of the Shangyuan era [761], the Tang Emperor Suzong [r. 756-762] dispatched an imperial commissioner, Sun Zhaojin, to summon him to the capital. There he was received [by the emperor] with the etiquette due a teacher and installed in the Xichan Cloister of the Qianfu Monastery. Upon the ascension of the Emperor Daizong [r. 762-779], he was reinstalled in the Guangzhai monastic complex, where for sixteen years he taught the dharma in accord with the faculties of his audiences.
During this time, a certain Master from the Western Heavens [i.e., India] named Daer [“Big Ears”] arrived in the capital. He was said to have achieved the wisdom eye [that knows] the minds of others. The Emperor ordered the National Teacher [Huizhong] to test him. As soon as the Tripitaka Master saw the Teacher, he bowed and stood [respectfully] off to his right side.
The Teacher asked him,
“So, you’ve got the penetration of other minds?”
“Not really,” he answered.
“Tell me,” said the Teacher,
“where’s this old monk right now?”
The Tripitaka Master said, “Reverend Preceptor, you’re the teacher to a nation; how could you go off to Xichuan to watch the boat races?”
The Teacher asked again, “Tell me, where’s this old monk right now?”
The Tripitaka Master said, “Reverend Preceptor, you’re the teacher to a nation; how could you be on the Tianjin bridge watching the playing monkeys?”
The Teacher asked a third time, “Tell me, where’s this old monk right now?”
The Tripitaka Master said nothing for a while, not knowing where the Teacher had gone.
The Teacher said, “This fox spirit! Where’s his penetration of other minds?”
The Tripitaka Master had no response.
* * * * *
A monk asked Zhaozhou [778-897],
“I don’t understand why the Tripitaka Master Daer couldn’t see where the National Teacher was the third time. Where was the National Master?”
Zhaozhou said, “He was on the Tripitaka Master’s nose.”
* * * * *
A monk asked Xuansha [835-908], “If he was on his nose, why didn’t he see him?”
Xuansha said, “Because he was too close.”
* * * * *
A monk asked Yangshan [803-887], “Why didn’t the Tripitaka Master Daer see the National Teacher the third time?”
Yangshan said, “The first two times were ‘the mind that plays across objects.’ After that, he entered ‘the samadhi of personal enjoyment’; that’s why he didn’t see him.”1
* * * * *
Duan of Haihui [1025-1072] said, “If the National Teacher was on the Tripitaka Master’s nose, why would it be hard to see him? He is completely unaware that the National Teacher was in the Tripitaka Master’s eye.”2
* * * * *
Xuansha summoned the Tripitaka Master, saying,
“Tell me, did you in fact see the first two times?”
[Of this,] the Chan Master Mingjue Zhongxian of Xuedou [980-1052] said, “Defeated! Defeated!”3
* * * * *
From long ago there have been many “stinking fists” who offered comments and sayings on the case of the National Teacher Dazheng testing the Tripitaka Master Daer, but in particular we have these five “old fists”. Nevertheless, while it is not the case that each of these five venerable worthies is not “on the mark, right on the mark”, there is much in the conduct of the National Teacher that they do not see. The reason is that until now everyone has thought that the Tripitaka Master correctly knew the whereabouts of the National Teacher the first two times. This is a major error by our predecessors °© one that their successors should not fail to recognize. My doubts about these five venerable worthies are of two sorts: first, that they do not know the National Teacher’s basic intention in testing the Tripitaka Master; second, that they do not know the National Teacher’s body and mind.
When I say that they do not know the National Teacher’s basic intention in testing the Tripitaka Master, I mean this: that his basic intention in initially saying, “Tell me, where’s this old monk right now?” is to test whether the Tripitaka Master is an eye that sees the buddha dharma to test whether the Tripitaka Master has the penetration of other minds in the buddha dharma. If at that point the Tripitaka Master had the buddha dharma, when he is asked to express “Where’s this old monk right now?,” he would have some “way out of the body”, would bring about some “personal advantage.” The National Teacher’s saying “Where’s this old monk right now?” is like his asking, “What is this old monk?” [To say,] “Where’s this old monk right now?” is to ask, “What time is right now?” [To ask,] “Where?” is to say, “Where is here?” There is a reason [to ask] what to call this old monk: a national teacher is not always an “old monk”; an “old monk” is always a “fist”. That the Tripitaka Master Daer, though he came all the way from the Western Heavens, does not understand this is because he has not studied the way of the buddha, because he has only learned in vain the ways of the pagans and the Two Vehicles4.
The National Teacher asks again, “Tell me, where’s this old monk right now?” Here again, the Tripitaka Master offers worthless words.
Again, the National Teacher asks, “Tell me, where’s this old monk right now?” This time, the Tripitaka Master is silent for a while but is at a loss and has no reply. Then, the National Teacher rebukes him, saying, “This fox spirit! Where’s his penetration of other minds?” Yet, though he is thus rebuked, the Tripitaka Master still has nothing to say, no reply, no “penetrating passageway”.
Nevertheless, our predecessors all think that the National Teacher’s rebuke of the Tripitaka Master is only because, although he knows the National Teacher’s whereabouts the first two times, he does not know and cannot see [where the Teacher is] the third time. This is a big mistake. The National Teacher rebukes the Tripitaka Master because, from the beginning, the Tripitaka Master has never seen the buddha dharma even in his dreams, not because, although he knows the first two times, he does not know the third time. In short, he rebukes him because, while claiming to have attained the penetration of other minds, he does not know the penetration of other minds.
First, the National Teacher tests him by asking whether there is the penetration of other minds in the buddha dharma. He answers, “Not really,” suggesting that there is. Thereafter, the National Teacher thought, “If we say there is the penetration of other minds in the buddha dharma, if we attribute this penetration to the buddha dharma, it would be like this. A statement with nothing brought up is not the buddha dharma.”5 Even if the Tripitaka Master had something to say the third time, if it were like the first two times, it would not be a statement; he would be rebuked for all [three answers]. The National Teacher questions him three times in order to ask again and again whether the Tripitaka Master has really heard the National Teacher’s question.
* * * * *
My second point is that none of our predecessors has known the body and mind of the National Teacher. The body and mind of the National Teacher is not something that a Tripitaka dharma master can easily discern, can easily recognize; not something reached by the “ten holy and three wise”; not something understood by the “virtually enlightened and heir apparent”. How could a scholar of the Tripitaka who is a “commoner” know the full body of the National Teacher?6
We should get this principle fixed [in our minds]. To say that a scholar of the Tripitaka could know or could see the body and mind of the National Teacher is to slander the buddha dharma; to consider that [the National Teacher] stands shoulder to shoulder with the masters of the sutras and commentaries is the extreme of madness. Do not think that those types who seek to get the penetration of other minds can know the whereabouts of the National Teacher.
The penetration of other minds is a local custom of the country of the Western Heavens, and there are occasionally types there who cultivate it. We have never yet heard of edifying examples of those types who attain the penetration of other minds having verified the buddha dharma on the strength of their penetration of other minds, without depending on the production of the thought of bodhi and the right view of the Greater Vehicle7. Even after cultivating the penetration of other minds, they must, like “commoners”, go on to produce the thought [of bodhi] and cultivate the practice, and thereby themselves verify the way of the buddha. If one could recognize the way of the buddha simply on the strength of the penetration of other minds, all the holy men of the past would have first cultivated this penetration and used it to know the fruit of buddhahood; yet this has never happened in all the appearances in the world of a thousand buddhas and ten thousand ancestors. If it cannot know the way of the buddhas and ancestors, what good is it? It is useless to the way of the buddha.
Those who have attained the penetration of other minds and “commoners” who have not attained the penetration of other minds are equal; maintaining the buddha nature is the same for [those with] the penetration of other minds and “commoners”. Those who study the buddha [dharma] should not think that those with the five penetrations or the six penetrations of the way of the pagans and Two Vehicles are superior to the commoner. Those who simply have the mind of the way and who would study the buddha dharma are superior to those with the five or six penetrations. They are like the kalavinka , whose voice even inside the shell is superior to that of other birds.
Moreover, what is called in the Western Heavens the penetration of other minds ought to be called the penetration of others’ thoughts. While it may manage to be cognizant of the arising of thoughts, it is quite at a loss when thoughts have not arisen. This is laughable. The mind is not necessarily thoughts; thoughts are not necessarily the mind. When the mind is thoughts, the penetration of other minds cannot know this; when thoughts are the mind, the penetration of other minds cannot know this.
This being the case, the five penetrations or six penetrations of the Western Heavens are all quite useless, not the equal of [the ordinary field work of] “cutting the grasses and cultivating the paddies” in our country. Therefore, from C nasthana [i.e., China] to the east, the worthies of the past have not cared to cultivate the five penetrations or six penetrations, since they have no function. Even a “one-foot jewel” is functional, but the five or six penetrations have no function. A one-foot jewel is not a treasure, but an “inch of shadow” is pivotal. For those who take seriously that inch of shadow, who would cultivate the five or six penetrations?8 Thus we should be very firmly determined about the principle that the power of the penetration of other minds cannot reach the boundaries of the buddha wisdom.
To think nevertheless, as do our five venerable worthies, that the Tripitaka Master knew the whereabouts of the National Teacher the first two times he was asked is greatly mistaken. The National Teacher is a buddha and ancestor; the Tripitaka Master is a commoner. How could there be any question of his seeing [the National Master]?
* * * * *
First, the National Teacher asks, “Tell me, where’s this old monk right now?” There is nothing hidden in this question; it is a clear statement. That the Tripitaka Master might not understand it is not so bad; that the five venerable worthies do not hear it or see it is a serious mistake. [The text says] the National Teacher asked, “Where’s this old monk right now?” He does not say, “Tell me, where’s this old monk’s mind right now?” or “Where are this old monk’s thoughts right now?” This is a statement that we should definitely hear and understand, see and take to heart.
Nevertheless, [the five venerable worthies] do not know or see it; they do not hear or see the National Teacher’ statement. Therefore, they do not know the body and mind of the National Teacher. It is having a statement that makes [him] a national teacher; for without a statement he would not be a national teacher. How much less, then, can they understand that the body and mind of the National Teacher are not big or small, self or other. It is as if they have forgotten that he has a head or a nose9.
Though the conduct of the National Teacher be unceasing, how could he “figure to make a buddha”? Therefore, he should not be compared with a buddha. Since the National Teacher has the body and mind of the buddha dharma, we should not measure him by the practice and verification of the spiritual penetrations, we should not hem and haw over [the notion that he is in a trance state of] “severing considerations and forgetting objects”. [He] is not something that can be determined either by deliberating or not deliberating. The National Teacher is not one who “has the buddha nature” or one who “lacks the buddha nature”; his is not the [buddha’s ultimate] “body of empty space”. This kind of body and mind of the National Teacher is something entirely unknown [to any of the five venerable worthies]. In the community of [the Sixth Ancestor at] Caoxi, apart from [the two disciples] Chingyuan [Xingsi] and Nanyue [Huairang], only this National Teacher Dazheng was a buddha and ancestor. Now we need to examine all our five venerable worthies.
Zhaozhou says that [the Tripitaka Master] did not see the National Teacher because the latter was “on his nose”. This statement has nothing to say. How could the National Teacher be on the Tripitaka Master’s nose? The Tripitaka Master does not yet have a nose. If we admit that the Tripitaka Master does have a nose, then on the contrary the National Teacher should see him. Even if we admit that the National Teacher does see him, this would only mean that they are “nose to nose”; it would not mean that the Tripitaka Master sees the National Teacher.
* * * * *
Xuansha says, “Because he was too close.” To be sure, he may be “too close”; but as for hitting it, he still has not hit it. What is this “too close”? I suspect that Xuansha still does not understand “too close,” has not studied “too close.” I say this because he understands only that there is no seeing in “too close”; he does not understand that seeing is “too close.” We have to say that, in terms of the Buddha dharma, he is the “farthest of the far”. If we say it was too close only the third time, then it must have been “too far” the first two times. Now, I want to ask Xuansha, “What is it that you call ‘too close’? Is it a fist? Is it an eye? From now on, don’t say there’s nothing seen ‘too close’.”
* * * * *
Yangshan says, “The first two times were ‘the mind that plays across objects.’ After that, he entered ‘the samadhi of personal enjoyment’ [of enlightenment]; that’s why he didn’t see him.” Yangshan, while being from the Eastern Earth [i.e., China], you have a reputation in the Western Heavens as a little Sakyamuni, but your statement here has a big error. The mind that plays across objects and the samadhi of personal enjoyment are not different; hence, we cannot say that [the Tripitaka Master] does not see him by reason of some difference between the mind that plays across objects and personal enjoyment. Therefore, though you set up the mind that plays across objects and personal enjoyment as the reasons, your statement is still no statement. If you say that when I enter the samadhi of personal enjoyment, others cannot see me, then personal enjoyment would not be able to verify itself, and there could be no cultivation and verification of it.
Yangshan, if you think that the Tripitaka Master really saw the National Teacher’s whereabouts the first two times, if you study [this case] as if he really knew [the whereabouts], you are not yet a man who studies the buddha [dharma]. The Tripitaka Master Daer does not know or see the whereabouts of the National Teacher not only the third time but the first two times as well. From a statement like this, we have to say that it is not just the Tripitaka Master who does not know the National Teacher’s whereabouts; Yangshan does not yet know either. Let us ask Yangshan, “Where is the National Teacher right now?” If he thinks to open his mouth, we should give him a shout.
* * * * *
Xuansha summoned [the Tripitaka Master], saying, “Did you in fact see the first two times?” These words, “Did you in fact see the first two times?” sound as if they are saying what needs to be said. Xuansha should learn from his own words. Granted that this phrase has its value, it seems to be saying only that [the Tripitaka Master’s] seeing is like not seeing. Hence, it is not right. Hearing this, Zhongxian, the Chan Master Mingjue of Mount Xuedou, said, “Defeated! Defeated!” We may say this when we have taken what Xuansha says as a saying but not when we take Xuansha’s statement as not a statement.10
* * * * *
Duan of Haihui says, “If the National Teacher was on the Tripitaka Master’s nose, why would it be hard to see him? He is completely unaware that the National Teacher was in the Tripitaka Master’s eye.” This also only discusses the third time. It does not scoff, as it should scoff, at the fact that he never sees the first two times. How can [Duan] know whether the National Teacher is on his nose or in his eye? If this is what he says, we have to say that he has not heard the words of the National Teacher. The Tripitaka Master does not yet have a nose or eye. Even if we were to say that he does maintain eye and nose, if the National Teacher were to enter them, the Tripitaka Master’s nose and eye would burst on the spot. Since they would burst, they are no burrow for the National Teacher.
* * * * *
None of the five venerable worthies knows the National Teacher. The National Teacher is the old buddha of his age, the tathagata of his world. He clarified and correctly transmitted the “treasury of the eye of the true dharma” of the buddha; he surely maintained the “eye of the soapberry” [the seeds of which are used for the Buddhist rosary]. He correctly transmitted [this eye] to “his own buddhahood” and to the “buddhahood of others”. Though we may say that he has studied together “with the Buddha Sakyamuni, he studied at the same time as the seven buddhas [of which Sakyamuni is the last] and, in addition, has studied together with the buddhas of the three ages [of past, present, and future]. He realized the way before the King of Emptiness [who rules in the eon when all is reduced to emptiness]; he realized the way after the King of Emptiness; he practiced together and realized the way precisely with the Buddha King of Emptiness. Though we may say that of course the National Teacher made this Saha world [of the Buddha Sakyamuni his domain, Saha is not necessarily within the dharma realm; it is not within the entire world of the ten directions. The rulership of the Buddha Sakyamuni over the Saha domain does not usurp or obstruct the National Teacher’s domain. Similarly, for example, however many times the way is realized by each of the earlier and later buddhas and ancestors, they do not usurp or obstruct each other. This is the case because all the realizations of the way by the earlier and later buddhas and ancestors are “obstructed” by the realization of the way11.
* * * * *
From the evidence that the Tripitaka Master Daer does not know [the whereabouts of] the National Teacher, we should get clearly and firmly fixed [in our minds] the principle that the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, the Lesser Vehicle types, do not know the boundaries of the buddhas and ancestors. We should clarify and study the essential point of the National Teacher’s rebuke of the Tripitaka Master. It does not make sense that, although being the National Teacher, he would rebuke [the Tripitaka Master] for knowing his whereabouts the first two times and merely failing to know the third time: [for purposes of the test of his powers] knowing two parts out of three is knowing it all, in which case [the National Teacher] should not rebuke him. Even if he does rebuke him, it would not be for failing to know at all; hence, from the Tripitaka Master’s perspective, it would be the National Teacher who is humiliated [by the test]. Who would trust the National Teacher if he rebuked [the Tripitaka Master] for failing to know only the third time? [On the contrary,] the Tripitaka Master could have rebuked the National Teacher, on the grounds that he did have the power to know the first two times.
The point of the National Teacher’s rebuke of the Tripitaka Master is this: he rebukes him because from the beginning, throughout all three times, he does not know the National Teacher’s whereabouts, his thoughts, his body and mind; he rebukes him because he has never seen, heard, learned or studied the buddha dharma. It is because of this essential point that, from the first time to the third time, [the National Teacher] questions him with exactly the same words. To the first
the Tripitaka Master says, “Reverend Preceptor, you are the teacher to a nation; how could you go off to Xichuan to watch the boat races?” The National Teacher does not acknowledge [the answer] by saying, “Indeed you did know where this old monk was.” He simply repeats himself, asking the same question three times. Without understanding or clarifying the reason behind this, for several hundred years since the time of the National Teacher, the elders in all directions have been arbitrarily giving their comments and explaining the reasons [behind the story]. Nothing that any has said so far has been the original intention of the National Teacher or in accord with the essential point of the buddha dharma. What a pity that each of these “venerable old awls” one after the next has missed [the mark].
In the buddha dharma, if we are going to say that there is the penetration of other minds, there should be the penetration of other bodies, the penetration of other fists, the penetration of other eyes. If this is so, there should also be the penetration of one’s own mind, the penetration of one’s own body. And once this is the case, one’s own mind taking up itself is at once the penetration of one’s own mind. To express such a statement is the penetration of other minds as one’s own mind itself. Let me just ask, “Should we take up the penetration of other minds, or should we take up the penetration of one’s own mind? Speak up! Speak up!” Leaving that aside for the moment, “you got my marrow” — this is the penetration of other minds12.
Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Presented to the assembly fourth day of the seventh month of kinotomi,
the third year of Kangen [1245] at the
Daibutsu monastery in the province of Etsu.
  1. “The mind that plays across objects” (shôkyô shin) refers to ordinary experience; “the samadhi of personal enjoyment” (jijuyu zanmai) is a technical term for the state in which a buddha experiences his enlightenment.
  2. It is unclear from the original who is “completely unaware”; most likely the subject is Zhaozhou.
  3. It is unclear who has been defeated; most likely it is Xuansha, for his remark quoted above. In all of the text to this point, Dôgen is quoting from Chinese Zen histories.
  4. I.e., non-Buddhist religions and the “lesser vehicle” Buddhist teachings of the sravaka and pratyekabuddha.
  5. This passage is usually interpreted to mean that someone “like Daer who attributes mental telepathy to the buddha dharma is likely to have nothing significant to say. Here and below, Dôgen will tend to use the term “statement” in the sense “having something significant to say”.
  6. The expression “ten holy and three wise” refers to the stages of the bodhisattva path; “virtually enlightened and heir apparent” refers to the final stage of the path, just before buddhahood; “commoner” refers to one who has not yet reached the advanced stages of the “noble” path.
  7. Alternatively, the text could be punctuated to read here, “They do not rely on the production of the thought of bodhi; they do not rely on the right view of the Greater Vehicle. We have never yet heard of edifying examples of those types who attain the penetration of other minds having verified the buddha dharma on the strength of the penetration of other minds.”
  8. From the old Chinese saying, "The sage does not value a one-foot jewel but gives weight to an inch of shadow [i.e. a moment of time]."
  9. Both “crown of the head” and “nose” are commonly used to indicate the person, especially the “true” person.
  10. The point here seems to be that, just as Xuansha is wrong in implying that the Tripitaka Master might actually have seen anything, so Zhongxian is wrong in assuming that Xuansha actually said anything worth criticizing.
  11. This sentence is usually taken to mean that each realization is a complete expression of realization. At issue here is the traditional question of how there could be more than one buddha in a single buddha realm — as, for example, in our Saha realm of Sakyamuni.
  12. “You got my marrow” is the comment by Bodhidharma to Huike when the latter expressed his understanding of the First Ancestor’s teaching by a bow.
This text may be interesting to read together with the Jinzû, Spiritual Powers.

The Five Hindrances (Nivarana)

The major obstacles to successful meditation and liberating insight take the form of one or more of the Five Hindrances. The whole practice leading to Enlightenment can be well expressed as the effort to overcome the Five Hindrances, at first suppressing them temporarily in order to experience Jhana and Insight, and then overcoming them permanently through the full development of the Noble Eightfold Path.
So, what are these Five Hindrances? They are:

KAMACCHANDA: Sensory Desire
THINA-MIDDHA: Sloth and Torpor
UDDHACCA-KUKKUCCA: Restlessness and Remorse

1. Sensory desire refers to that particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling. It specifically excludes any aspiration for happiness through the sixth sense of mind alone.
    In its extreme form, sensory desire is an obsession to find pleasure in such things as sexual intimacy, good food or fine music. But it also includes the desire to replace irritating or even painful five-sense experiences with pleasant ones, i.e. the desire for sensory comfort.
    The Lord Buddha compared sensory desire to taking out a loan. Any pleasure one experiences through these five senses must be repaid through the unpleasantness of separation, loss or hungry emptiness which follow relentlessly when the pleasure is used up. As with any loan, there is also the matter of interest and thus, as the Lord Buddha said, the pleasure is small compared to the suffering repaid.
    In meditation, one transcends sensory desire for the period by letting go of concern for this body and its five sense activity. Some imagine that the five senses are there to serve and protect the body, but the truth is that the body is there to serve the five senses as they play in the world ever seeking delight. Indeed, the Lord Buddha once said, "The five senses ARE the world" and to leave the world, to enjoy the other worldly bliss of Jhana, one must give up for a time ALL concern for the body and its five senses.
    When sensory desire is transcended, the mind of the meditator has no interest in the promise of pleasure or even comfort with this body. The body disappears and the five senses all switch off. The mind becomes calm and free to look within. The difference between the five sense activity and its transcendence is like the difference between looking out of a window and looking in a mirror. The mind that is free from five sense activity can truly look within and see its real nature. Only from that can wisdom arise as to what we are, from where and why?!
2. Ill will refers to the desire to punish, hurt or destroy. It includes sheer hatred of a person, or even a situation, and it can generate so much energy that it is both seductive and addictive. At the time, it always appears justified for such is its power that it easily corrupts our ability to judge fairly. It also includes ill will towards oneself, otherwise known as guilt, which denies oneself any possibility of happiness. In meditation, ill will can appear as dislike towards the meditation object itself, rejecting it so that one’s attention is forced to wander elsewhere.
    The Lord Buddha likened ill will to being sick. Just as sickness denies one the freedom and happiness of health, so ill will denies one the freedom and happiness of peace. Ill will is overcome by applying Metta, loving kindness. When it is ill will towards a person, Metta teaches one to see more in that person than all that which hurts you, to understand why that person hurt you (often because they were hurting intensely themselves), and encourages one to put aside one’s own pain to look with compassion on the other. But if this is more than one can do, Metta to oneself leads one to refuse to dwell in ill will to that person, so as to stop them from hurting you further with the memory of those deeds. Similarly, if it is ill will towards oneself, Metta sees more than one’s own faults, can understand one’s own faults, and finds the courage to forgive them, learn from their lesson and let them go. Then, if it is ill will towards the mediation object (often the reason why a meditator cannot find peace) Metta embraces the meditation object with care and delight. For example, just as a mother has a natural Metta towards her child, so a meditator can look on their breath, say, with the very same quality of caring attention. Then it will be just as unlikely to lose the breath through forgetfulness as it is unlikely for a mother to forget her baby in the shopping mall, and it would be just as improbable to drop the breath for some distracting thought as it is for a distracted mother to drop her baby! When ill will is overcome, it allows lasting relationships with other people, with oneself and, in meditation, a lasting, enjoyable relationship with the meditation object, one that can mature into the full embrace of absorption.

3. Sloth and torpor refers to that heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression. The Lord Buddha compared it to being imprisoned in a cramped, dark cell, unable to move freely in the bright sunshine outside. In meditation, it causes weak and intermittent mindfulness which can even lead to falling asleep in meditation without even realizing it!
    Sloth and torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch, as it were. Setting a goal, a reasonable goal, is a wise and effective way to generate energy, as is deliberately developing interest in the task at hand. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new. Thus, if one can learn to look at one’s life, or one’s meditation, with a ‘beginner’s mind’ one can see ever new angles and fresh possibilities which keep one distant from sloth and torpor, alive and energetic. Similarly, one can develop delight in whatever one is doing by training one’s perception to see the beautiful in the ordinary, thereby generating the interest which avoids the half-death that is sloth and torpor.
    The mind has two main functions, ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’. The way of meditation is to calm the ‘doing’ to complete tranquillity while maintaining the ‘knowing’. Sloth and torpor occur when one carelessly calms both the ‘doing’ and the ‘knowing’, unable to distinguish between them.
    Sloth and torpor is a common problem which can creep up and smother one slowly. A skilful meditator keeps a sharp look-out for the first signs of sloth and torpor and is thus able to spot its approach and take evasive action before it’s too late. Like coming to a fork in a road, one can take that mental path leading away from sloth and torpor. Sloth and torpor is an unpleasant state of body and mind, too stiff to leap into the bliss of Jhana and too blinded to spot any insights. In short, it is a complete waste of precious time.

4. Restlessness refers to a mind which is like a monkey, always swinging on to the next branch, never able to stay long with anything. It is caused by the fault-finding state of mind which cannot be satisfied with things as they are, and so has to move on to the promise of something better, forever just beyond.
    The Lord Buddha compared restlessness to being a slave, continually having to jump to the orders of a tyrannical boss who always demands perfection and so never lets one stop. Restlessness is overcome by developing contentment, which is the opposite of fault-finding. One learns the simple joy of being satisfied with little, rather than always wanting more. One is grateful for this moment, rather than picking out its deficiencies. For instance, in meditation restlessness is often the impatience to move quickly on to the next stage. The fastest progress, though is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage. So be careful of ‘wanting to get on with it’ and instead learn how to rest in appreciative contentment. That way, the ‘doing’ disappears and the meditation blossoms.
    Remorse refers to a specific type of restlessness which is the kammic effect of one’s misdeeds. The only way to overcome remorse, the restlessness of a bad conscience, is to purify one’s virtue and become kind, wise and gentle. It is virtually impossible for the immoral or the self indulgent to make deep progress in meditation.
5. Doubt refers to the disturbing inner questions at a time when one should be silently moving deeper. Doubt can question one’s own ability "Can I do This?", or question the method "Is this the right way?", or even question the meaning "What is this?". It should be remembered that such questions are obstacles to meditation because they are asked at the wrong time and thus become an intrusion, obscuring one’s clarity.
    The Lord Buddha likened doubt to being lost in a desert, not recognizing any landmarks. Such doubt is overcome by gathering clear instructions, having a good map, so that one can recognize the subtle landmarks in the unfamiliar territory of deep meditation and so know which way to go. Doubt in one’s ability is overcome by nurturing self confidence with a good teacher. A meditation teacher is like a coach who convinces the sports team that they can succeed. The Lord Buddha stated that one can, one will, reach Jhana and Enlightenment if one carefully and patiently follows the instructions. The only uncertainty is ‘when’! Experience also overcomes doubt about one’s ability and also doubt whether this is the right path. As one realized for oneself the beautiful stages of the path, one discovers that one is indeed capable of the very highest, and that this is the path that leads one there.
    The doubt that takes the form of constant assessing "Is this Jhana?" "How am I going?", is overcome by realizing that such questions are best left to the end, to the final couple of minutes of the meditation. A jury only makes its judgment at the end of the trial, when all the evidence has been presented. Similarly, a skilful meditator pursues a silent gathering of evidence, reviewing it only at the end to uncover its meaning.
    The end of doubt, in meditation, is described by a mind which has full trust in the silence, and so doesn’t interfere with any inner speech. Like having a good chauffeur, one sits silently on the journey out of trust in the driver.
    Any problem which arises in meditation will be one of these Five Hindrances, or a combination. So, if one experiences any difficulty, use the scheme of the Five Hindrances as a ‘check list’ to identify the main problem. Then you will know the appropriate remedy, apply it carefully, and go beyond the obstacle into deeper meditation.
    When the Five Hindrances are fully overcome, there is no barrier between the meditator and the bliss of Jhana. Therefore, the certain test that these Five Hindrances are really overcome is the ability to access Jhana.

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