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Dhamma Teachings of
Luang Poo Sim Buddhacaro
Copyright © 1995 The Abbot, Wat Tum Pah Bong
Amphoe Chiang Dao
Changwat Chiang Mai, Thailand
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This electronic edition was transcribed from the print edition in 1995 by Bradford Griffith under the auspices of the DharmaNet Dharma Book Transcription Project, with the kind permission of the copyright holder.
About the Author
Luang Poo Sim Buddhacaro was born on the 26th November 1909 in Sakhon Nakhon Province, North-East Thailand. His parents were farmers and dedicated supporters of the local monastery. At the age of 17 Luang Poo Sim took novice ordination and shortly afterwards became a disciple of the great Ajahn Mun. Luang Poo Sim stayed with Ajahn Mun and various of his senior disciples for many years, taking full ordination at the age of 20 at Wat Sri Candaravasa, Khon Kaen.
In later years he has been the Abbot of a number of monasteries in various parts of Thailand and was given the ecclesiastical title of Phra Khroo Santivaranana in 1959. In 1967 he established a monastery in the remote mountains of Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai province and that has remained his residence until the present day.
In 1986 a collection of Dhamma discourses, culled from talks that I have given over the years, was printed for free distribution. It was entitled "Tharng Nee Tai" (Way to Escape Death).
The compiler of that book, Upasika Somjy Chayarach, has now arranged for the translation and publication of two of the talks that appeared in it.
I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for this wholesome act. Through the power of merit that has been created, may she be freed from all suffering. May all those who read this short book take its teachings to heart, reflect on them and practice accordingly so as to realize true liberation.
Luang Poo Sim Buddhacaro
Source and Stream
Now it is time for sitting meditation. Sit in the cross-legged posture; place the right leg on top of the left leg and the right hand on top of the left hand. Close your eyes and inwardly recite the mantra "Buddho" in conjunction with the breath. Concentrate the mind on Buddho. Sitting meditation is an important way of paying homage to the Buddha.
The Buddha called all our former experiences, irrespective of their quality, (presently existing) thoughts of the past. Now, in this moment, do not allow such thoughts to preoccupy the mind. Let them all go. Concentrate the mind on the inner recitation of the mantra and bring the mind to peace in the present, in the immediate reality. It is the present moment that is important. Future matters, good and bad, all still lie ahead, for by definition the future refers to things that have not yet taken place. The meditator must compose his mind on the present moment. If a thought surfaces in consciousness simply remind yourself that it is just a thought of the past, or a thought of the future, as the case may be. Don't add to or encourage such thoughts. Put good thoughts to one side for the time being and the bad ones abandon altogether.
Sitting here, our bodies are in a tranquil posture. The knowing is abiding within the heart, and each one of us is aware. This present knowing is our true mind. The conditioned mind of thought and proliferation is almost like a demon. Through its actions external phenomena tend to become preoccupations which then obstruct or destroy meditation. But if the meditator grounds himself in the present moment then he is able to make use of the various meditation techniques. He may develop inner recitation for example or perhaps focus on parts of the physical body such as head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, sinews and bones. When contemplation of the body ensues in perception of its unattractiveness, or of its constituent elements of hardness, cohesion, temperature and vibration  then that is meditation. When the mind is at peace in the recitation of "Buddho," then that too is meditation. And the meditator is the mind.
The mind itself has no color, shape, or form, but it has energy. It is our duty to let go of and abandon the conditioned, proliferating mind. But the mind of present knowing, that which concentrates on Buddha, listens to Dhamma and reflects on its meaning, having been clearly observed, that true mind should be developed. In this case to "develop" means to give care and attention to establishing it in peace. Peace comes by countering the out-going stream of mentality and penetrating this present knowing.
The normal unrestrained mind is absorbed by the thought-consciousness seeking distraction. Go against the stream by looking at the source of mental activity. It originates from this knowing. The source of the mind lies within us. However this knowing is nothing substantial. It has no color, form or shape in the way that material objects do. It is a formless element. To speak in terms of the five aggregates there is:
rupa -- these bodies of ours;
vedana -- the experience of objects as pleasant or unpleasant, comfortable or uncomfortable;
sañña -- discrimination based on memory -- e.g., that this is a human being and this is an animal; this is red, this is black;
sankhara -- conditioning mental activity;
viññana -- cognition conditioned by mental activity.
The four formless aggregates of vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana arise within the knowing. The Buddha taught that during sitting and walking meditation we should make the knowing converge on itself, not allowing it to go outwards. Thoughts of good and bad are all exterior matters and are endless. In thinking and cognizing we must know the thinker, know the knower. All movement proceeds from this present knowing. That being the case, don't be deceived by these expressions of mind. They are merely shadows, flitting off into the past and future, thinking about and elaborating on the things that we like and the things that we don't. This proliferation is what conditions the mind.
What is it that knows the true mind and what is it that knows the conditioned mind? It is just this one single knowing, the same thing that hears the sound of the discourse and meditates on "Buddho." As there is just this single knowing, muster your energies and vow to yourself "I will not indulge the thinking mind. I will gather the mind into itself." Not allowing the mind to wander means that it stays with Buddho. All you have to do then is to maintain Buddho.
"Buddho" is the name of the Fully Enlightened One and should be reflected on. That we have come into contact with Buddhism, with Buddha Dhamma and Sangha and that we have come to practice, is due to the Buddha. The Buddha, after realizing supreme enlightenment, gave to the world the teachings of Dhamma-Vinaya that we call Buddhism. The great teachers of old and the four assemblies of Buddhists have carried on the study and practice of the teachings right up until the present time. In Thailand today, everywhere we go we see monasteries, monks and novices, eight-precept laymen and laywomen, and householders with faith and inspiration in Buddhism. This is all thanks to the Buddha. It has been a long time -- over 2,500 years -- since the Buddha entered final nibbana. Even so, the Dhamma and Vinaya, the teachings and the ordinances based on the 5, 8, 10 and 227 precepts, still remain.
We bring the virtues of the Buddha to mind in order to be able to take him as an example in our practice. Where did the Buddha come from? He came from the mind that resolved on Buddhahood and wished to ferry all beings to nibbana. From the moment of his initial resolve, in whatever realm the Buddha-to-be was born into, then whenever he performed acts of charity, refrained from unvirtuous actions and speech, or practiced meditation, then Buddhahood was always his motivation. Whenever he was born as a human being he accumulated virtue. Eventually the power of goodness created by his dana, sila, and bhavana, the paramis (perfections) that he had developed, were strong enough for him to become Buddha. Now in recollecting the Buddha, we take his virtues as our object.
"Buddho" refers to the Lord Buddha and the one who inwardly recites "Buddho" is just this mind. It is just this mind that recites Buddho, knows Buddho, knows the breath and is aware while doing so that one is creating virtue. This mind has always been here. The knowing has been born into the world countless times, but because ignorance and craving have overwhelmed it, our dana, sila, and bhavana have been insufficient to free us from the mass of suffering with which the human organism is fraught. So we must muster our energy with firm resolve, taking meditative calm as our foundation. The principles that will lead us out of this world and the mass of suffering are those of samatha (calm) and vipassana (insight) meditation. The mind must be firmly one-pointed, tranquil, cool and at ease with samatha before vipassana is feasible. If the mind is still in movement, drifting and infirm, still not tranquil and motionless or one-pointed, it is impossible for understanding of the nature of things to take place.
Take as example the founder of our religion, the fully self-enlightened Buddha. Before his enlightenment he practiced calm meditation using the breath as his initial object. On the day of his enlightenment he practiced this way. On the in-breath he focussed intently on the in-breath. On the out-breath he focussed intently on the out-breath. All mental agitation and movement ceased, leaving only the in-breaths and out-breaths remaining. The Lord's mind was focussed intently on the breath until his mind became calm, cool and easeful, attaining the firmness of khanika, upacara, and ultimately the unwavering appana samadhi.  When the Buddha-to-be's mind was thus unwaveringly and undeviatingly single-pointed vipassana took place: there was clear knowing of the body and mind as impermanent, of all beings and phenomena as transitory. He saw the suffering inherent in being born with a body and mind and he saw selflessness. He realized that the perception of an abiding self is based on delusion.
In order to clearly know these three characteristics of aniccam, dukkham, and anatta the mind must be firm. Thus the effort to bring the mind to a secure and steadfast tranquility, not allowing it to become fascinated by forms, sounds, odors, flavors, physical sensations and mental phenomena is the essence of meditation techniques, and something we must all develop. Take care when the eyes see forms not to let the mind waver: keep up the inner recitation of Buddho. Take care not to be deluded when hearing sounds: beautiful or ugly sounds are all just worldly conditions. Maintain the mind's firmness. The pleasant and offensive odors that contact the nose -- know them, don't be deceived by them. No matter how delicious the taste of the food on the tongue -- remain equanimous. Be impassive to the various physical sensations whether hot or cold, hard or soft. This is the supreme practice in Buddhism. So gather your energies and establish the mind in the present moment.
In general, meditator's minds are not unified and tranquil in the present moment -- they are wandering up ahead and back behind, taking up external matters concerning other people and dwelling on them, finding pleasure and satisfaction in agreeable mental states. They are caught up entirely in superficialities. Although the mind of simple knowing is already present within us, unless we bring it to the fore through meditation, we will be unable to perceive the truth of suffering.
When suffering arises in the body, contemplate it so that the mind will accept it for what it is. When physical illness occurs, the grasping mind starts clinging to the idea of being ill. In fact it is the earth-element that is unwell. If the meditator's mind is stable and clearly sees the three characteristics he will simply regard illness as an affair of the elements. He knows that the mind is formless and not subject to such pains. It is due to clinging to the idea of self, and that the body belongs to self, that mental suffering arises. In fact this body is merely elements and it is the elements that are sick. It is the earth, water, fire and air elements that are disturbed. If one can separate things in this way then the mind rests at ease. Whatever occurs in the physical body, there is no clinging to it as belonging to self. It is seen as simply a matter of elements, a matter of aniccam dukkham anatta, it is just the nature of things.  The present knowing clearly, truly and constantly. The mind is cool, no longer hot with clinging.
Suppose someone harshly scolds or maligns us. Even if they abuse us right to our faces, if we don't cling, it ends right there. What has arisen passes away. But if the knowing is misled it grasps at this body and mind as being self. When someone speaks to us harshly we get angry: "That's nothing to do with me!" Due to clinging there is "me" and "mine." It is just this clinging that is the cause of suffering, agitation, turmoil and disease.
The Buddha taught us to let go of all external affairs during meditation: whatever physical or mental distress arises is just the suffering of the aggregates: don't let the knowing suffer. Meditate in order to attenuate the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion and ultimately bring them to an end. When the knowing is still deluded and clings to the idea of self, to "me" and "mine," then it takes birth. Perhaps it becomes an animal, a human being, a celestial being, Indra or a Brahma god. But whatever it becomes, it suffers just in being that. As long as there is still clinging to the elements and aggregates, to name and form, and there is no awareness of the way to abandon defilements, then there is suffering in the world. The five aggregates are classified as suffering in the world, for when one clings to them as "me" and "mine" then right there the mass of suffering appears. We sit right on the pile of suffering, in the midst of the fire of craving, hatred and delusion. The fire flares up and constantly burns our heart.
We are meditating now so as to gather the mind into the knowing, in order to put out the fires that are burning our hearts. Don't harbor the fire of anger. Abandon it. There is no need to get angry with anyone. If you feel any jealousy or ill-will towards anyone, give it up. Don't allow the mind to indulge in it. This is cleansing the knowing both day and night, whether standing, sitting, walking or laying down. It is not clinging to "me" and "mine." The aggregates do not belong to anyone, they are something natural to the world. As soon as the knowing is born with a name and form it tends to grasp onto that name and form as self. But can that name and form last indefinitely? If it could, nobody would die, nobody would become ill, nobody would experience pain or get old, because the aggregates would do what they are told. It is because the aggregates don't do what they are told that the Buddha taught us not to cling to them but to see them clearly with penetrative wisdom. If there is no clear seeing then there is suffering. So don't be fooled into clinging onto things; it is suffering in the world. When the knowing no longer clings it is empty, it is in meditation, it is cool and at ease.
All the different kinds of mental turmoil come from delusion, the agitated striving mind that wants to possess, want to get, wants to be; in other words the mind of craving. Get rid of craving and clinging from the mind. Try to prevent anything from accumulating in this knowing. Make the present knowing radiant and pure. Meditate. Firmly ground the mind. Gather the knowing onto itself and abandon the cognition of externals. Let the knowing dwell in the heart. Whatever the posture of the body let the knowing know itself at all times.
If an evil thought arises abandon it. If goodness occurs develop it and here, the goodness we resolve to develop is exemplified by the mantra "Buddho." We develop it or concentrate on it internally so as to make the mind cool and happy. We prevent agitation and distress with the elements and aggregates, with the bodies and minds of other people. We don't allow them inside. When the mind is thus cool and at ease, it is said that "Buddho" is dwelling in the heart. In other words the knowing lies within.
To produce this firm and enduring tranquillity you must go against the stream and enter within. Then you will understand the practice of Dhamma with the mindfulness and wisdom that are present in the heart. If there is no countering the stream and no entry within, the search for virtue externally is an endless one. Truth and virtue do not lie beneath the land or sea, or in the sky or in space. They lie in volitions, the mind that makes effort to give up evil and do good. When the mind converges right here it becomes spacious, cool and easeful, it is established in Dhamma practice. Sitting there is meditation in the sitting posture, standing there is meditation in the standing posture, walking there is meditation while walking and lying down there is meditation until one falls asleep. As soon as we wake we continue the inner recitation of "Buddho," making "Buddho" our constant concern. Wherever the mind goes we don't follow it. We give up all the going and settle for dwelling.
The knowing lies right here within us; everything else is merely a passing affair. The truth lies with the knowing. Clearly observe that since our birth into this world, the knowing has dwelt in the body. Wherever we go, the body goes too. The knowing cannot escape from the body and mind. It drags the body with it here and there. When we sit it is the body that sits and when we lay down it is the body that lays down, and so the knowing is deceived into attaching to that name and form, the provisional realities of the world. Not comprehending the way to withdraw from them and put them down, the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion steadily accumulate.
So in studying Buddhism, whether it's the Dhamma or the Discipline, whatever method it is being taught by, having studied we must put those teachings into practice. We must compose this knowing firmly on itself. Keep the mind within, don't allow it to wander about and become fascinated with sentient beings and the material world, through delusion and unclear seeing.
Resolve to put forth effort. Aspire to rid yourself of defilements. Greed, hatred and delusion all lie here within the mind so put effort into abandoning them just here. Be vigilant and care for the mind right here. Recite "Buddho" right here. Compose the knowing. When we have established the knowing in this way then in whatever posture we are in there is constant meditation. Sitting here we can inwardly recite "Buddho," undistracted and undeceived by external matters. We have been deluded by the external world for countless lifetimes. Let us not be deluded by it any more.
1. Literally earth, water, fire and air (Trans.) [Go back]
2. "Momentary," "access" and "absorption" -- a threefold classification based on duration and intensity (Trans.) [Go back]
3. The author is not recommending a heedless or fatalistic attitude to illness. One of course uses those medicines that are available in the appropriate way, but without fear, anxiety, or desperation. (Trans.) [Go back]
The Urgent Task
Now it is time for meditation. Sit in the cross-legged posture. Place your right leg on your left and your right hand on your left one. Sit up straight. The time of sitting meditation is a time to stop. Close your eyes: right now there is nothing to do and nowhere to go, you have no need for them. Once your eyes are closed, recollect that the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha all lie within our minds. Don't conceive of them as existing outside ourselves. It is just this mind that inwardly recites "Buddho" on every inhalation and exhalation. It is just this mind that is the foundation of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. It is here that the practice takes place. The Dhamma-Vinaya, all the vast number of teachings that the Buddha gave, all share the single purpose of bringing our minds to peace, the attenuation and abandonment of greed, hatred and delusion.
The teachings of the Buddha were given over a period of forty-five years, from the time of his enlightenment until the day of his death (parinibbana). In the Buddhist scriptures there is a grouping of the teachings into three sections: the Discourses, the Monastic Regulations and the Abhidhamma. In all it is said there are 84,000 teachings. Considered according to the principles of Dhamma, our bodies are like the carved wooden cupboard in which the scriptures are kept. The Discourses, the Monastic Regulations and the Abhidhamma are each person's action, speech and mind. We can make this comparison for the reason that every single teaching was given in order to be actualized by the disciple who received it. So in our practice let us keep the precepts -- 5, 8, 10 or 227 according to our situation. Let us practice samadhi and cultivate wisdom. Spiritual practice was summarized by the Buddha as the three-fold training of sila, samadhi, and pañña. If sila is pure and samadhi is firm enough to give rise to pañña, then the path to liberation from defilements is manifest.
In sitting meditation do not be deceived by the thought-demon  (sankhara mara). Those people who only sit a little or don't sit at all are the ones who believe in the thought-demon.
For instance, we decide to sit before dawn and the thought-demon tells us it is too early, why not sit later on. If we believe it then our morning session is lost; we don't sit. Later on in the morning and perhaps we forget altogether but if we do remember, just as we are about to rouse ourselves and do some sitting meditation, the thought-demon pipes up again. "You don't want to sit yet. You've just had your breakfast, your stomach is still full. Have a rest first. You can always do some sitting in the afternoon." If we believe it, that's delusion. Before dawn it says meditate later on in the morning. Later on in the morning it says meditate in the afternoon. "If you digest your food first you will feel much more comfortable." If we believe it we don't sit. In the afternoon it starts again. We end up just believing the thought-demon all day and all night and so get nothing from meditation.
Before the Buddha's enlightenment it was this belief in the thought-demon that obstructed him. He just kept continually procrastinating. It took six years from the time of leaving home until he finally came to his senses and stopped believing the thought-demon. Just picture it now. On the day of his enlightenment the Buddha-to-be sat down with his back to the bodhi tree, facing slightly north of east. Then he made a solemn vow, an absolutely firm resolution that his sitting that night would be a life-or-death affair: under no circumstances would he rise from his seat until he was enlightened. He would die first. The Buddha-to-be had seen through the thought-demon's tricks. He had realized that it was because of falling for the constant lies and deceptions of the thought-demon that he was still unenlightened.
On that Visakha Puja night the Lord did not move from his seat; he just sat. Even so it says in the scriptures that the daughters of Mara, all the hosts of temptation, attacked him strongly. But the Buddha did not give in. They urged him to get up but he would not. The Buddha focussed his attention on his breathing. If he did get up he knew that all that awaited him was death, at most he might postpone it for eighty or a hundred years, and so he just looked intently at his breathing. He reflected that if after inhalation some obstruction or other prevented the exhalation, then he would die. If after exhalation some blockage in the lungs prevented inhalation then also he would die. The Buddha just stayed with the breath, seeing death in every inhalation and exhalation. There was still no Buddha, Dhamma or Sangha. The Buddha was not yet the Buddha, his mind had been pushed around for so long by the thought-demon. So he took up the subject of death to teach his mind with every inhalation and exhalation until a strong conviction and clarity of mind arose in him that death is indeed certain, that with the cutting off of the breath, death is inevitable.
The Buddha looked intently to see the inevitability of death with every breath. He reflected, "There is no one born into this world that does not die. If people do not die as children then they die as youths. If they do not die in their youth they die in their old age. If they die then I must die. I must completely abandon the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion before death. I must realize enlightenment." The Buddha-to-be made a firm and unwavering resolve. He brought to mind all the virtues that he had developed to perfection: those of giving, morality, renunciation, wisdom, endurance, truthfulness, resolution, kindness and equanimity, and he allowed them to converge in the mind, as it was aware of the breathing. The Lord's mind was as solid as the earth, more so perhaps because the earth is still subject to tremors. As for the mind of the Buddha-to-be, as he recollected the charity, morality and meditation that he had practiced and concentrated them in this firm mind, more solid than Mother Earth, absolutely immoveable, then he felt ready even to sacrifice his life. If death had come to him at that moment he would have felt no fear. The teachers of old described that moment with an image. They say the earth goddess squeezed waters from the bun of her hair that swept away the hosts of Mara into the jaws of a fabulous crocodile. This is putting it figuratively. The earth goddess is the earth. When our minds are firm and stable like the earth we can vanquish the thought-demon, the defilement-demon, overcome all the myriad forms of craving and clinging. Consider the nature of the earth. The rain falls in the monsoon season and the earth is unaffected. The sun blazes in the hot season, hot enough to cause fires, and in the winter the weather is so cold that frost forms on the grasstips, and yet the earth remains unmoved. Mankind appears and divides the world up into countries. It digs and mines and burns the earth, does all sorts of things, even drops atom bombs on it. But the earth remains impassive.
If the mind of an ordained or unordained person has a true and clear conviction in the Buddha's teachings, then it will not waver in any way. For such a person tiredness and exhaustion is merely an affair of the aggregates.  Wherever the body or form aggregate exists there is going to be hunger, weariness and exhaustion as a matter of course. The body has to eat, it has to sleep, it needs all kinds of things. That is a matter of aggregates, a matter of elements. We should not let the mind waver in the fact of those conditions. When you set out to do something, sitting meditation for example, don't let the demons of thought and defilement fool you. Or if as a monk you make a resolution to keep the ascetic practice of not laying down then make your resolution firm. Don't start worrying about the effects it might have on your health. No illness transcends death. Death is the worst that can happen. If you miss your sleep, even if you really suffer you'll just die, that's all. Let the thought-demon know that you are ready to battle with death and it won't come to deceive you again.
Sit and cultivate "Buddho" with every inhalation and exhalation. If meditators' minds are firmly established in this way they will feel a lightness in body and mind and a brightness and clarity as if a powerful force has arisen within them. Such a mind is brave and courageous, without fear of death or fear of tiredness, not frail and timid.
When you have spare time, rush to meditate. Hurry, it's urgent. If you don't wish to do it urgently you won't do it at all. You will believe the thought-demon or believe people not interested in meditation, and they will discourage you. The Buddha said "turitturitam singhasingham" -- Rush, hurry, it's urgent! Meditate on every inhalation and exhalation. Determine to practice right at this moment. If we don't, then the demons of thought and defilement will lead us away into old age and death. Even on the day of death we still won't have the time. The people who have no time to practice are the people who believe in the thought-demon.
All of you who are practicing Dhamma, don't believe the thought-demon. Teach it at every breath "This is the breath. It may cease at any moment." The Buddha himself used the breathing process as the subject of calm meditation and the foundation of insight meditation. It was the ground of his Dhamma practice. All of us too are inhaling and exhaling, we too all have body and mind. As the Buddha did, if we overcome the defilements in our hearts we will clearly perceive Nibbana. This is certain. Why bother doubting about it? Indecision, unwillingness to commit oneself to Dhamma practice or to put forth effort at this very moment: it's just that sort of mental state that the Buddha called doubt. Get rid of your doubts!
The Buddha taught us not to reach out towards the past or future. If we do we get stuck. We don't get anywhere at all. But if we ground the mind in the present we can testify to the inner knowing that lies within us all. If that knowing didn't exist then how could we talk, how could we come and listen to Dhamma? It exists and it is right in that knowing that lie virtue and accumulated purity. We meditate in order to gather the energies of the mind into this inner knowing. We put down thoughts and sense-consciousness, the defiled mind that goes out in search of distractions. We give up thinking of friends and families, forests and streams, everything that lies outside of the present moment. It's all false and wrong. What is right, what is straight is that which the Buddha called "tattha" or "in that place." "In that place" refers to the knowing that lies within our mind.
When the energy of the mind is pacified, unified and grounded on the knowing, a firm faith and confidence in that knowing arises. There is sila -- and it is the knowing that keeps sila, that cares for actions and speech. There is samadhi -- and it is the knowing that is firm. There is pañña -- and it is the knowing that has direct knowledge of the mass of physical and mental conditions. There is nothing that lies beyond the mind.
This mind can both know truly and know deludedly. When we justly allow it to blindly follow forms, sounds, odors, flavors, tangible objects and ideas it is deceived day and night, from birth until old age, from old age until death. It can be fascinated by those things for innumerable lifetimes. When we come to meditate, we put effort into burning up the defilements in our hearts so that they diminish and finally come to an end. Thus our effort is concentrated on this mind. We keep reminding ourselves that apart from this knowing that is established in the present moment, everything -- be it past or present, good or bad -- is all impermanent. There is nothing lasting to be found in the world. Everything outside of this knowing is unsatisfactory and impersonal. Even the knowing itself is still not sure if the masses of defilement cram and encompass it. We must put effort into burning up the defilements right here. We must develop generosity, morality and meditation right here, here in the mind of present knowing. Be wary of the forms that come into our line of vision and the sounds that enter the ears -- don't follow them. Odors that enter at the nose, flavors that pass by the tongue, sensations hot and cold, hard and soft -- don't be deluded by them. Don't be misled by discursive thought. Don't be fooled by conditions.
Why did the Buddha not want us to be deluded? Because he wanted us to know. By now all of us in the course of time have come to know all sorts of things. But what have we got from it? All we have got is old age and death. Death and then birth and then death and then birth over and over again. Can you see this? All human beings are born and then they die, just like a sound that having arisen disappears or a form once created comes to an end. Wherever there is arising there must be passing away. The Buddha taught us to know this truth. It is the knowledge taught by the Buddha and all his noble disciples. They all instruct us to know our minds, to be aware of ourselves, not to be intoxicated by mental states, thinking or craving.
The Buddha described three kinds of craving: the craving for sense-pleasures, the craving to become and the craving not to become -- i.e., coarse, middling and subtle craving. All of its forms lie within the mind and their abandonment is dependent on effort and close attention, burning up the cravings rather than being swept along by them. Thus practice implies not following the cravings, desires and wishes that arise. When craving starts to cause distress and turmoil in the mind we pacify it, know it clearly within.
The Buddha taught us to clearly see into this mind, and also to see the things outside of it. He wanted us to see that there is nothing permanent or substantial anywhere at all and there is nothing that can provide us with lasting happiness. All there is is unsatisfactoriness or dukkha. We sit and there is dukkha in the sitting posture. We lay down and there is dukkha in the laying. We stand up and there is dukkha in the standing. We walk and there is dukkha in the walking. Even when we talk or give a Dhamma-discourse dukkha is present.
There is no real happiness. All those things which we assume to be happiness are all false. If they were true happiness, why is death followed by birth? There is no real happiness. What people call happiness is just a delusion of the worldly. The enlightened ones say that it's all just stories of dukkha and unknowing. Thus the Buddha and his disciples, enlightened and unenlightened, practice calm and insight meditation in every posture. They put energy into their meditation at all times, continually accelerating their efforts. They go without sleep. If in the inner struggle with defilements we just indulge in rest and sleep the defilements will trample all over us, we will be unable to overcome them. If we get up and sit in meditation, contemplate unattractiveness (asubha) or the elements (dhatu) so as to see the unsatisfactoriness inherent in the body and mind, point out and reveal these things to our intoxicated, indulgent mind; then we will be able to put forth effort to burn up the defilements of ignorance and delusion. Whenever we are deluded or intoxicated with something, then we lose our self-awareness and then there is pitch-black darkness. There is no path that will take us into such utter darkness as that of delusion, not knowing the nature of the mind and body, not perceiving the three characteristics, not seeing clearly in the present moment. The deluded mind puts no effort into eradicating defilements in the present moment. It is engrossed in the pleasures derived from forms, sounds, odors, flavors, physical sensations and mental states, taking them to be happiness. But that happiness is bound up with materiality, it is not true happiness. The Buddha said that true happiness is the happiness of nibbana.
The happiness of nibbana is a non-clinging happiness. It does not depend on obtaining or rejecting anything. It is the complete annihilation of desire, hatred and delusion, both internally and externally. It is because there is not a single remnant of defilement that it is called happiness. It is a true unchanging happiness, not fickle and deceitful. As for happiness in the world, however intense it may be, it is still deceitful. Even millionaires, multi-millionaires, kings and emperors must all still suffer through the power of defilements. The Buddha called the defilements "fires." Fires are hot and wherever the fire of desire occurs, then that place is hot. Whenever the fire of aversion and delusion occur then those places are hot. Where do they occur? In the mind that does not know and see clearly, the mind that does not let go, the mind that does not abandon and release.
The mind tends to cling to the idea of self. It clings to the body as being self, but after death the body lies rotting on the ground and is cremated. Have you ever seen that? If you haven't yet realized that the same fate awaits you, then look at other people. Parents and grandparents, where have they all gone? They are dead. After they died where did their bodies go? They went to earth. In the end, this body that we cling to as being "me" and "mine" will turn to earth, and there's nothing we can do to prevent it. We can't forbid old age, sickness and death. The Buddha said that what we can do is to prevent the mind from being deluded by it all.
Create clear knowing in the mind. Apart from this knowing mind, everything is aniccam, impermanent. Don't be deceived by it all at any cost. Apart from this knowing mind everything is dukkham, it's all unsatisfactory and unstable. Apart from this knowing mind, there is no atta, no independent entity. Self and others is a convention of the world. In truth none of it is self, there is nothing that is really "me" or "mine." Experiment with separating out hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh and bones. Divide things up into the elements of earth, water, fire and air. Have a look at what is what. There is nothing substantial there, just agreed conventions. Don't be misled by those conditions.
Go against the out-flowing stream of the mind. Enter samadhi and pacify the mind. Establish yourself in the practice of Dhamma and keep burning up the defilements of desire, aversion and delusion. As long as they still remain keep trying to gradually eliminate them. This is called not backsliding. "Viriyena dukkhamacenti," said the Buddha; "Dukkha is transcended through effort." When there is effort in our minds we can free ourselves of suffering. If those who practice Dhamma believe this saying with all their hearts, don't slacken but firmly resolve to practice calm and insight meditation to the best of their abilities, when their spiritual faculties and accumulated purity are fully mature, then they will realize enlightenment. Of this there is no doubt. So having listened to these skillful means that I have outlined and clearly appreciated the truth of them in your hearts, then impress them in your memory and take them away and practice them accordingly, for your welfare and happiness.
1. The word "demon" is used here figuratively. It is not meant to refer to any real malignant entity, but as an image to bring out the disruptive effects of this mental defilement. (Trans.) [Go back]
2. The Buddha explained human existence in terms of five aggregates (Khandas): those of form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness. [Go back]
Buddha: The Awakened One; The fully self-enlightened sage who lived in Northern India over 2,500 years ago; the "Buddha-wisdom" present within the human mind.
Dhamma: The teachings of the historical Buddha; the way things are.
Sangha: The Buddha's enlightened disciples; the correct practice of Dhamma.
Anicca: Impermanence; transiency.
Dukkha: Suffering; unsatisfactoriness; discontent; instability; the inability of impermanent phenomena to provide any true or lasting happiness.
Anatta: Not self; impersonality; absence of a permanent and self-existing ego entity in that which is impermanent and unsatisfactory.
Sila: Virtue; Morality; Precepts; the volition to refrain from actions and speech that cause distress to one-self and/or others.
Samadhi: Concentration. The peace, clarity and stability of mind resulting from attention to a single object or theme.
Pañña: Wisdom. Direct, non-conceptual understanding of the impermanent, unsatisfactory and impersonal nature of conditioned existence.
Samatha: Meditation on a single object or theme and the peace that results from it.
Vipassana: Meditation on the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and impersonality of conditioned existence and the insight that results from it.
Acknowledgement: Taken from Access-to-Insight web site, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/simplyso.html
This book is also printed for free distribution by W.A.V.E., Malaysia. Write to:
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