Those monks who were still unenlightened were grief-stricken, crying and wailing. Those who had attained the Dhamma reflected to themselves, "Ah, the Buddha has passed away. He has journeyed on." But those who were still thick with defilements, such as Venerable Subhadda, said:
are you all crying for? The Buddha has passed away. That's good! Now we can live
at ease. When the Buddha was still alive he was always bothering us with some
rule or other, we couldn't do this or say that. Now the Buddha has passed away,
that's fine! We can do whatever we want, say what we want . . . Why should you
It's been so from way back then till the present day.
However that may be, even though it's impossible to preserve entirely . . . Suppose we had a glass and we took care to preserve it. Each time we used it we cleaned it and put it away in a safe place. Being very careful with that glass we can use it for a long time, and then when we've finished with it others can also use it. Now, using glasses carelessly and breaking them every day, and using one glass for ten years before it breaks -- which is better?
Our practice is like this. For instance, if out of all of us living here, practicing steadily, only ten of you practice well, then Wat Ba Pong will prosper. Just as in the villages: in the village of one hundred houses, even if there are only fifty good people that village will prosper. Actually to find even ten would be difficult. Or take a monastery like this one here: it is hard to find even five or six monks who have real commitment, who really do the practice.
In any case, we don't have any responsibilities now, other than to practice well. Think about it, what do we own here? We don't have wealth, possessions, and families any more. Even food we take only once a day. We've given up many things already, even better things than these. As monks and novices we give up everything. We own nothing. All those things people really enjoy have been discarded by us. Going forth as a Buddhist monk is in order to practice. Why then should we hanker for other things, indulging in greed, aversion or delusion? To occupy our hearts with other things is no longer appropriate.
Consider: why have we gone forth? Why are we practicing? We have gone forth to practice. If we don't practice then we just lie around. If we don't practice, then we are worse off than lay people, we don't have any function. If we don't perform any function or accept our responsibilities it's a waste of the samana's [*] life. It contradicts the aims of a samana.
* [Samana: a religious seeker living a renunciant life. Originating from the Sanskrit term for "one who strives," the word signifies someone who has made a profound commitment to spiritual practice.]
If this is the case then we are heedless. Being heedless is like being dead. Ask yourself, will you have time to practice when you die? Constantly ask yourself, "When will I die?" If we contemplate in this way our mind will be alert every second, heedfulness will always be present. When there is no heedlessness, sati -- recollection of what is what -- will automatically follow. Wisdom will be clear, seeing all the things clearly as they are. Recollection guards the mind, knowing the arising of sensations at all times, day and night. that is to have sati. To have sati is to be composed. To be composed is to be heedful. If one is heedful then one is practicing rightly. This is our specific responsibility.
So today I would like to present this to you all. If in the future you leave here for one of the branch monasteries or anywhere else, don't forget yourselves. The fact is you are still not perfect, still not completed. You still have a lot of work to do, many responsibilities to shoulder. Namely, the practices of cultivation and relinquishment. Be concerned about this, every one of you. Whether you live at this monastery or a branch monastery, preserve the standards of practice.
Nowadays there are many of us, many branch temples. All the branch monasteries owe their origination to Wat Ba Pong. We could say that the branch monasteries. So, especially the teachers, monks and novices of Wat Ba Pong should try to set the example, to be the guide for all the other branch monasteries, continuing to be diligent in the practices and responsibilities of a samana.
Right Practice -- Steady Practice
Wat Wana Potiyahn [*] here is certainly very peaceful, but this is meaningless if our minds are not calm. All places are peaceful. That some may seem distracting is because of our minds. However, a quiet place can help to become calm, by giving one the opportunity to train and thus harmonize with its calm.
* [One of the many branch monasteries of Ajahn Chah's main monastery, Wat Ba Pong.]
You should all bear in mind that this practice is difficult. To train other things is not so difficult, it's easy, but the human mind is hard to train. The Lord Buddha trained his mind. The mind is the important thing. Everything within this body-mind system comes together at the mind. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body all receive sensations and send them into the mind, which is the supervisor of all the other sense organs. Therefore it is important to train the mind. If the mind is well trained all problems come to an end. If there are still problems it's because the mind still doubts, it doesn't know in accordance with the truth. That is why there are problems.
So recognize that all of you have come fully prepared for practicing Dhamma. Whether standing, walking, sitting or reclining, the tools you need with which to practice are well-provided, wherever you are. They are there, just like the Dhamma. The Dhamma is something which abounds everywhere. Right here, on land or in water . . . wherever . . . the Dhamma is always there. The Dhamma is perfect and complete, but it's our practice that's not yet complete.
The Lord, Fully Enlightened Buddha taught a means by which all of us may practice and come to know this Dhamma. It isn't a big thing, only a small thing, but it's right. For example, look at hair. If we know even one strand of hair, then we know every strand, both our own and also that of others. We know that they are all simply "hair." By knowing one strand of hair we know it all.
Or consider people. If we see the true nature of conditions within ourselves then we know all the other people in the world also, because all people are the same. Dhamma is like this. It's a small thing and yet it's big. That is, to see the truth of one condition is to see the truth of them all. When we know the truth as it is all problems come to an end.
Nevertheless, the training is difficult. Why is it difficult? It's difficult because of wanting, tanha. If you don't "want" then you don't practice. But if you practice out of desire you won't see the Dhamma. Think about it, all of you. If you don't want to practice you can't practice. You must first want to practice in order to actually do the practice. Whether stepping forward or stepping back you meet desire. This is why the cultivators of the past have said that this practice is something that's extremely difficult to do.
You don't see Dhamma because of desire. Sometimes desire is very strong, you want to see the Dhamma immediately, but the Dhamma is not your mind -- your mind is not yet Dhamma. The Dhamma is one thing and the mind is another. It's not that whatever you like is Dhamma and whatever you don't like isn't. That's not the way it goes.
Actually this mind of ours is simply a condition of Nature, like a tree in the forest. If you want a plank or a beam it must come from the tree, but the tree is still only a tree. It's not yet a beam or a plank. Before it can really be of use to us we must take that tree and saw it into beams or planks. It's the same tree but it becomes transformed into something else. Intrinsically it's just a tree, a condition of Nature. But in its raw state it isn't yet of much use to those who need timber. Our mind is like this. It is a condition of Nature. As such it perceives thoughts, it discriminates into beautiful and ugly and so on.
This mind of ours must be further trained. We can't just let it be. It's a condition of Nature . . . train it to realize that it's a condition of Nature. Improve on Nature so that it's appropriate to our needs, which is Dhamma. Dhamma is something which must be practiced and brought within.
you don't practice you won't know. Frankly speaking, you won't know the Dhamma
by just reading it or studying it. Or if you do know it your knowledge is still
defective. For example, this spittoon here. Everybody knows it's a spittoon but
they don't fully know the spittoon. Why don't they fully know it? If I called
this spittoon a saucepan, what would you say? Suppose that every time I asked
for it I said, "Please bring that saucepan over here", that would confuse
you. Why so? Because you don't fully know the spittoon. If you did there would
be no problem.
You would simply pick up that object and hand it to me, because actually there isn't any spittoon. Do you understand? It's a spittoon due to convention. This convention is accepted all over the country, so it's spittoon. But there isn't any real "spittoon." If somebody wants to call it a saucepan it can be a saucepan. It can be whatever you call it. This is called "concept." If we fully know the spittoon, even if somebody calls it a saucepan there's no problem. Whatever others may call it we are unperturbed because we are not blind to its true nature. This is one who knows Dhamma.
Now let's come back to ourselves. Suppose somebody said, "You're crazy!", or, "You're stupid", for example. Even though it may not be true, you wouldn't feel so good. Everything becomes difficult because of our ambitions to have and to achieve. Because of these desires to get and to be, because we don't know according to the truth, we have no contentment. If we know the Dhamma, are enlightened to the Dhamma, greed, aversion and delusion will disappear. When we understand the way things are there is nothing for them to rest on.
Why is the practice so difficult and arduous? Because of desires. As soon as we sit down to meditate we want to become peaceful. If we didn't want to find peace we wouldn't sit, we wouldn't practice. As soon as we sit down we want peace to be right there, but wanting the mind to be calm makes for confusion, and we feel restless. This is how it goes. So the Buddha says, "Don't speak out of desire, don't sit out of desire, don't walk out of desire, . . . Whatever you do, don't do it with desire." Desire means wanting. If you don't want to do something you won't do it. If our practice reaches this point we can get quite discouraged. How can we practice? As soon as we sit down there is desire in the mind.
It's because of this that the body and mind are difficult to observe. If they are not the self nor belonging to self then who do they belong to? It's difficult to resolve these things, we must rely on wisdom. The Buddha says we must practice with "letting go," isn't it? If we let go then we just don't practice, right? . . . Because we've let go.
Suppose we went to buy some coconuts in the market, and while we were carrying them back someone asked:
"What did you buy those coconuts for?"
"I bought them to eat."
"Are you going to eat the shells as well?"
"I don't believe you. If you're not going to eat the shells then why did you buy them also?"
Well what do you say? How are you going to answer their question? We practice with desire. If we didn't have desire we wouldn't practice. Practicing with desire is tanha. Contemplating in this way can give rise to wisdom, you know. For example, those coconuts:
Are you going to eat the shells as well? Of course not. Then why do you take them?
Because the time hasn't yet come for you to throw them away. They're useful for wrapping up the coconut in. If, after eating the coconut, you throw the shells away, there is no problem.
Our practice is like this. The Buddha said, "Don't act on desire, don't speak from desire, don't eat with desire." Standing, walking, sitting or reclining . . . whatever . . . don't do it with desire. This means to do it with detachment. It's just like buying the coconuts from the market. We're not going to eat the shells but it's not yet time to throw them away. We keep them first. This is how the practice is. Concept and Transcendence [*] are co-existent, just like a coconut. The flesh, the husk and the shell are all together. When we buy it we buy the whole lot. If somebody wants to accuse us of eating coconut shells that's their business, we know what we're doing.
* [Concept (sammutti) refers to supposed or provisional reality, while transcendence (vimutti) refers to the liberation from attachment to or delusion within it.]
Wisdom is something each of us find for oneself. To see it we must go neither fast nor slow. What should we do? Go to where there is neither fast nor slow. Going fast or going slow are not the way.
But we're all impatient, we're in a hurry. As soon as we begin we want to rush to the end, we don't want to be left behind. We want to succeed. When it comes to fixing their minds for meditation some people go too far . . . They light the incense, prostrate and make a vow, "As long as this incense is not yet completely burnt I will not rise from my sitting, even if I collapse or die, no matter what . . . I'll die sitting." Having made their vow they start their sitting. As soon as they start to sit Mara's [*] hordes come rushing at them from all sides. They've only sat for an instant and already they think the incense must be finished. They open their eyes for a peek . . . "Oh, There's still ages left!"
* [Mara: the Buddhist personification of evil, the Tempter, that force which opposes any attempts to develop goodness and virtue.]
They grit their teeth and sit some more, feeling hot, flustered, agitated and confused . . . Reaching the breaking point they think, "it must be finished by now." . . . Have another peek . . . "Oh, no! It's not even half-way yet!"
Two or three times and it's still not finished, so they just give up, pack it in and sit there hating themselves. "I'm so stupid, I'm so hopeless!" They sit and hate themselves, feeling like a hopeless case. This just gives rise to frustration and hindrances. This is called the hindrance of ill-will. They can't blame others so they blame themselves. And why is this? It's all because of wanting.
Actually it isn't necessary to go through all that. To concentrate means to concentrate with detachment, not to concentrate yourself into knots.
But maybe we read the scriptures, about the life of the Buddha, how he sat under the Bodhi tree and determined to himself,
"As long as I have still not attained Supreme Enlightenment I will not rise from this place, even if my blood dries up".
Reading this in the books you may think of trying it yourself. You'll do it like the Buddha. But you haven't considered that your car is only a small one. The Buddha's car was a really big one, he could take it all in one go. With only your tiny, little car, how can you possibly take it all at once? It's a different story altogether.
Why do we think like that? Because we're too extreme. Sometimes we go too low, sometimes we go too high. The point of balance is so hard to find.
Now I'm only speaking from experience. In the past my practice was like this. Practicing in order to get beyond wanting . . . if we don't want, can we practice? I was stuck here. But to practice with wanting is suffering. I didn't know what to do, I was baffled. Then I realized that the practice which is steady is the important thing. One must practice consistently. They call this the practice that is "consistent in all postures." Keep refining the practice, don't let it become a disaster. Practice is one thing, disaster is another. [*] Most people usually create disaster. When they feel lazy they don't bother to practice, they only practice when they feel energetic. This is how I tended to be.
* [The play on words here between the Thai "phadtibut" (practice) and "wibut" (disaster) is lost in the English.]
ll of you ask yourselves now, is this right? To practice when you feel like it, not when you don't: is that in accordance with the Dhamma? Is it straight? Is it in line with the Teaching? This is what makes practice inconsistent.
Whether you feel like it or not you should practice just the same: this is how the Buddha taught. Most people wait till they're in the mood before practicing, when they don't feel like it they don't bother. This is as far as they go. This is called "disaster," it's not practice. In the true practice, whether you are happy or depressed you practice; whether it's easy or difficult you practice; whether it's hot or cold you practice. It's straight like this. In the real practice, whether standing, walking, sitting or reclining you must have the intention to continue the practice steadily, making your sati consistent in all postures.
At first thought it seems as if you should stand for as long as you walk, walk for as long as you sit, sit for as long as you lie down . . . I've tried it but I couldn't do it. If a meditator were to make his standing, walking, sitting and lying down all equal, how many days could he keep it up for? Stand for five minutes, sit for five minutes, lie down for five minutes . . . I couldn't do it for very long. So I sat down and thought about it some more. "What does it all mean? People in this world can't practice like this!"
Then I realized . . . "Oh, that's not right, it can't be right because it's impossible to do. Standing, walking, sitting, reclining . . . make them all consistent. To make the postures consistent the way they explain it in the books is impossible."
But it is possible to do this: The mind . . . just consider the mind. To have sati, recollection, sampajanna, self awareness and panna, all-round wisdom . . . this you can do. This is something that's really worth practicing. This means that while standing we have sati, while walking we have sati, while sitting we have sati, and while reclining we have sati, -- consistently. This is possible. We put awareness into our standing, walking, sitting, lying down -- into all postures.
When the mind has been trained like this it will constantly recollect Buddho, Buddho, Buddho . . . which is knowing. Knowing what? Knowing what is right and what is wrong at all times. Yes, this is possible. This is getting down to the real practice. That is, whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down there is continuous sati.
Then you should understand those conditions which should be given up and those which should be cultivated. You know happiness, you know unhappiness. When you know happiness and unhappiness your mind will settle at the point which is free of happiness and unhappiness. Happiness is the loose path, kamasukhallikanuyogo. Unhappiness is the tight path, attakilamathanuyogo. [*] If we know these two extremes, we pull it back. We know when the mind is inclining towards happiness or unhappiness and we pull it back, we don't allow it to lean over. We have this sort of awareness, we adhere to the One Path, the single Dhamma. We adhere to the awareness, not allowing the mind to follow its inclinations.