If you have looked into this you will see that this is the case. Most people are lost. But how can you tell them? Everything has become rites and rituals and mystic ceremonies. they chant but they chant with foolishness, they don't chant with wisdom. They study, but they study with foolishness, not with wisdom. They know, but they know foolishly, not with wisdom. So they end up going with foolishness, living with foolishness, knowing with foolishness. That's how it is. And teaching . . . all they do these days is teach people to be stupid. They say they're teaching people to be clever, giving them knowledge, but when you look at it in terms of truth, you see that they're really teaching people to go astray and grasp at deceptions.
The real foundation of the teaching is in order to see atta, the self, as being empty, having no fixed identity. It's void of intrinsic being. But people come to the study of Dhamma to increase their self-view, so they don't want to experience suffering or difficulty. They want everything to be cozy. They may want to transcend suffering, but if there is still a self how can they ever do so?
Just consider . . . Suppose we came to possess a very expensive object. The minute that thing comes into our possession our mind changes . . . "Now, where can I keep it? If I leave it there somebody might steal it" . . . We worry ourselves into a state, trying to find a place to keep it. And when did the mind change? It changed the minute we obtained that object -- suffering arose right then. No matter where we leave that object we can't relax, so we're left with trouble. Whether sitting, walking, or lying down, we are lost in worry.
This is suffering. And
when did it arise? It arose as soon as we understood that we had obtained something,
that's where the suffering lies. Before we had that object there was no suffering.
It hadn't yet arisen because there wasn't yet an object for it to cling to.
Atta, the self, is the same. if we think in terms of "my self," then everything around us becomes "mine." Confusion follows. Why so? The cause of it all is that there is a self, we don't peel off the apparent in order to see the Transcendent. You see, the self is only an appearance. You have to peel away the appearances in order to see the heart of the matter, which is Transcendence. Upturn the apparent to find the Transcendent.
You could compare it to
unthreshed rice. Can unthreshed rice be eaten? Sure it can, but you must thresh
it first. Get rid of the husks and you will find the grain inside.
Now if we don't thresh the husks we won't find the grain. Like a dog sleeping on the pile of unthreshed grain. Its stomach is rumbling "jork-jork-jork," but all it can do is lie there, thinking "Where can I get something to eat?" When it's hungry it bounds off the pile of rice grain and runs off looking for scraps of food. Even though it's sleeping right in top of a pile of food it knows nothing of it. Why? It can't see the rice. Dogs can't eat unthreshed rice. The food is there but the dog can't eat it.
We may have learning but if we don't practice accordingly we still don't really know, just as oblivious as the dog sleeping on the pile of rice grain. It's sleeping on a pile of food but it knows nothing of it. When it gets hungry it's got to jump off and go trotting around elsewhere for food. It's a shame, isn't it?
Now this is the same: there is rice grain but what is hiding it? The husk hides the grain, so the dog can't eat it. And there is the Transcendent. What hides it? The Apparent conceals the Transcendent, making people simply "sit on top of the pile of rice, unable to eat it," unable to practice, unable to see the Transcendent. And so they simply get stuck in appearances time and again. If you are stuck in appearances suffering is in store, you will be beset by becoming, birth, old age, sickness and death.
So there isn't anything else blocking people off, they are blocked right here. People who study the Dhamma without penetrating to its true meaning are just like the dog on the pile of unthreshed rice who doesn't know the rice. He might even starve and still find nothing to eat. A dog can't eat unthreshed rice, it doesn't even know there is food there. After a long time without food it may even die . . . on top of that pile of rice! People are like this. No matter how much we study the Dhamma of the Buddha we won't see it if we don't practice. If we don't see it then we don't know it.
Don't go thinking that by learning a lot and knowing a lot you'll know the Buddha Dhamma. That's like saying you've seen everything there is to see just because you've got eyes, or that you've got ears. You may see but you don't see fully. You see only with the "outer eye," not with the "inner eye'; you hear with the "outer ear," not with the "inner ear."
If you upturn the apparent and reveal the Transcendent you will reach the truth and see clearly. You will uproot the Apparent and uproot clinging.
But this is like some sort of sweet fruit: even though the fruit is sweet we must rely on contact with and experience of that fruit before we will know what the taste is like. Now that fruit, even though no-one tastes it, is sweet all the same. But nobody knows of it. The Dhamma of the Buddha is like this. Even though it's the truth it isn't true for those who don't really know it. No matter how excellent or fine it may be it is worthless to them.
So why do people grab after suffering? Who in this world wants to inflict suffering on themselves? No-one, of course. Nobody wants suffering and yet people keep creating the causes of suffering, just as if they were wandering around looking for suffering. Within their hearts people are looking for happiness, they don't want suffering. Then why is it that this mind of ours creates so much suffering? Just seeing this much is enough. We don't like suffering and yet why do we create suffering for ourselves? It's easy to see . . . it can only be because we don't know suffering, don't know the end of suffering. That's why people behave the way they do. How could they not suffer when they continue to behave in this way?
These people have micchaditthi
[*] but they don't see that it's micchaditthi. Whatever we say, believe in or
do which results in suffering is all wrong view. If it wasn't wrong view it
wouldn't result in suffering. We couldn't cling to suffering, nor to happiness
or to any condition at all. We would leave things be their natural way, like
a flowing stream of water. We don't have to dam it up, just let it flow along
its natural course.
* [micchaditthi: Wrong-view.]
The flow of Dhamma is like this, but the flow of the ignorant mind tries to resist the Dhamma in the form of wrong view. And yet it flies off everywhere else, seeing wrong view, that is, suffering is there because of wrong view -- this people don't see. This is worth looking into. Whenever we have wrong view we will experience suffering. If we don't experience it in the present it will manifest later on.
People go astray right here. What is blocking them off? The Apparent blocks off the Transcendent, preventing people from seeing things clearly. People study, they learn, they practice, but they practice with ignorance, just like a person who's lost his bearings. He walks to the west but thinks he's walking east, or walks to the north thinking he's walking south. This is how far people have gone astray. This kind of practice is really only the dregs of practice, in fact it's a disaster. It's disaster because they turn around and go in the opposite direction, they fall from the objective of true Dhamma practice.
This state of affairs causes suffering and yet people think that doing this, memorizing that, studying such-and-such will be a cause for the cessation of suffering. Just like a person who wants a lot of things. He tries to amass as much as possible, thinking if he gets enough his suffering will abate. This is how people think, but their thinking is astray of the true path, just like one person going northward, another going southward, and yet believing they're going the same way.
Most people are still stuck in the mass of suffering, still wandering in samsara, just because they think like this. If illness or pain arise, all they can do is wonder how they can get rid of it. They want it to stop as fast as possible, they've got to cure it all costs. They don't consider that this is the normal way of sankhara. Nobody thinks like this. The body changes and people can't endure it, they can't accept it, they've got to get rid of it at all costs. However, in the end they can't win, they can't beat the truth. It all collapses. This is something people don't want to look at, they continually reinforce their wrong view.
Practicing to realize the Dhamma is the most excellent of things. Why did the Buddha develop all the Perfections? [*] So that he could realize this and enable others to see the Dhamma, know the Dhamma, practice the Dhamma and be the Dhamma -- so that they could let go and not be burdened.
* [The ten paramita (perfections): generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, effort, patience, truthfulness, resolution, goodwill and equanimity,]
"Don't cling to things." Or to put it another way: "Hold, but don't hold fast." This is also right. If we see something we pick it up . . . "Oh, it's this" . . . then we lay it down. We see something else, pick it up . . . one holds, but not fast. Hold it just long enough to consider it, to know it, then to let it go. If you hold without letting go, carry without laying down the burden, then you are going to be heavy. If you pick something up and carry it for a while, then when it gets heavy you should lay it down, throw it off. Don't make suffering for yourself.
This we should know as the cause of suffering. If we know the cause of suffering, suffering cannot arise. For either happiness or suffering to arise there must be the atta, the self. There must be the "I" and "mine," there must be this appearance. If when all these things arise the mind goes straight to the Transcendent, it removes the appearances. It removes the delight, the aversion and the clinging from those things. Just as when something that we value gets lost . . . when we find it again our worries disappear.
Even before we see that
object our worries may be relieved. At first we think it's lost and suffer over
it, but there comes a day when we suddenly remember, "Oh, that's right!
I put it over there, now I remember!" As soon as we remember this, as soon
as we see the truth, even if we haven't laid eyes on that object, we feel happy.
This is called "seeing within," seeing with the mind's eye, not seeing
with the outer eye. If we see with the mind's eye then even though we haven't
laid eyes on that object we are already relieved.
This is the same, When we cultivate Dhamma practice and attain the Dhamma, see the Dhamma, then whenever we encounter a problem we solve the problem instantly, right then and there. It disappears completely, laid down, released.
Now the Buddha wanted us to contact the Dhamma, but people only contact the words, the books and the scriptures. This is contacting that which is about Dhamma, not contacting the actual Dhamma as taught by our Great Teacher. How can people say they are practicing well and properly? They are a long way off.
The Buddha was known as lokavidu, having clearly realized the world. Right now we see the world all right, but not clearly. The more we know the darker the world becomes, because our knowledge is murky, it's not clear knowledge. It's faulty. This is called "knowing through darkness," lacking in light and radiance.
People are only stuck here but it's no trifling matter. It's important. Most people want goodness and happiness but they just don't know what the causes for that goodness and happiness are. Whatever it may be, if we haven't yet seen the harm of it we can't give it up. No matter how bad it may be, we still can't give it up if we haven't truly seen the harm of it. However, if we really see the harm of something beyond a doubt then we can let it go. As soon as we see the harm of something, and the benefit of giving it up, there's an immediate change.
Why is it we are still unattained, still cannot let go? It's because we still don't see the harm clearly, our knowledge is faulty, it's dark. that's why we can't let go. If we knew clearly like the Lord Buddha or the arahant disciples we would surely let go, our problems would dissolve completely with no difficulty at all.
When your ears hear sound, then let them do their job. When your eyes perform their function with forms, then let them do so. When your nose works with smells, let it do its job. When your body experiences sensations, then let it perform its natural functions where will problems arise? There are no problems.
In the same way, all those things which belong to the Apparent, leave them with the Apparent. And acknowledge that which is the Transcendent. Simply be the "One Who Knows," knowing without fixation, knowing and letting things be their natural way. All things are just as they are.
All our belongings, does anybody really own them? Does our father own them, or our mother, or our relatives? Nobody really gets anything. That's why the Buddha said to let all those things be, let them go. Know them clearly. Know then by holding, but not fast. Use things in a way that is beneficial, not in a harmful way by holding fast to them until suffering arises.
To know Dhamma you must know in this way. That is, to know in such a way as to transcend suffering. This sort of knowledge is important. Knowing about how to make things, to use tools, knowing all the various sciences of the world and so on, all have their place, but they are not the supreme knowledge. The Dhamma must be known as I've explained it here. You don't have to know a whole lot, just this much is enough for the Dhamma practicer -- to know and then let go.
It's not that you have
to die before you can transcend suffering, you know. You transcend suffering
in this very life because you know how to solve problems. You know the apparent,
you know the Transcendent. Do it in this lifetime, while you are here practicing.
You won't find it anywhere else. Don't cling to things. Hold, but don't cling.
You may wonder, "Why does the Ajahn keep saying this?" How could I teach otherwise, how could I say otherwise, when the truth is just as I've said it? Even though it's the truth don't hold fast to even that! If you cling to it blindly it becomes a falsehood. Like a dog . . . try grabbing its leg. If you don't let go the dog will spin around and bite you. Just try it out. All animals behave like this. If you don't let go it's got no choice but to bite. The Apparent is the same. We live in accordance with conventions, they are here for our convenience in this life, but they are not things to be clung to so hard that they cause suffering. Just let things pass.
Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering.
So I say, "Allow space, don't cling to things." "Right" is just another supposition, just let it pass. "Wrong" is another apparent condition, just let it be that. If you feel you are right and yet others contend the issue, don't argue, just let it go. As soon as you know, let go. This is the straight way.
Usually it's not like this. People don't often give in to each other. That's why some people, even Dhamma practicers who still don't know themselves, may say things that are utter foolishness and yet think they're being wise. They may say something that's so stupid that others can't even bear to listen and yet they think they are being cleverer than others. Other people can't even listen to it and yet they think they are smart, that they are right. They are simply advertising their own stupidity.
That's why the wise say, "Whatever speech disregards aniccam is not the speech of a wise person, it's the speech of a fool. It's deluded speech. it's the speech of one who doesn't know that suffering is going to arise right there." For example, suppose you had decided to go to Bangkok tomorrow and someone were to ask, "Are you going to Bangkok tomorrow?"
"I hope to go to Bangkok. If there are no obstacles I'll probably go." This is called speaking with the Dhamma in mind, speaking with aniccam in mind, taking into account the truth, the transient, uncertain nature of the world. You don't say, "Yes, I'm definitely going tomorrow." If it turns out you don't go what are you going to do, send news to all the people who told you were going to? You'd be just talking non-sense.
There's still much more
to it, the practice of Dhamma becomes more and more refined. But if you don't
see it you may think you are speaking right even when you are speaking wrongly
and straying from the true nature of things with every word. And yet you may
think you are speaking the truth. To put it simply: anything that we say or
do that causes suffering to arise should be known as micchaditthi. It's delusion
Most practicers don't reflect in this way. Whatever they like they think is right and they just go on believing themselves. For instance, they may receive some gift or title, be it an object, rank or even words of praise, and they think it's good. They take it as some sort of permanent condition. So they get puffed up with pride and conceit, they don't consider, "Who am I? Where is this so-called 'goodness?' Where did it come from? Do others have the same things?"
The Buddha taught that we should conduct ourselves normally. If we don't dig in, chew over and look into this point it means it's still sunk within us. It means these conditions are still buried within our hearts -- we are still sunk in wealth, rank and praise. So we become someone else because of them. We think we are better than before, that we are something special and so all sorts of confusion arises.
Actually, in truth there isn't anything to human beings. Whatever we may be it's only in the realm of appearances. If we take away the apparent and see the Transcendent we see that there isn't anything there. There are simply the universal characteristics -- birth in the beginning, change in the middle and cessation in the end. This is all there is. If we see that all things are like this then no problems arise. If we understand this we will have contentment and peace.