Khun Sujin explained about Buddhism in Turkey to our guide, Mrs. Tuna, while we were having a tour on the Bosporus.
Khun Sujin: We would like to have pleasant feeling all the time but this is not possible. If we can understand the causes of our different feelings it will help us to have less unpleasant feeling. Life is so uncontrollable because each moment is conditioned. There are many kinds of conditions for our different experience. In reality there are conditions for each moment of our lives. We should learn to understand our life, ourselves.
We should learn to understand this moment. People have different thoughts, different feelings because of different conditions. We think that there is a self, that there is "I," but what we consider as "I" must be this moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or thinking. Seeing sees a pleasant object or an unpleasant object, but such experiences occur at different moments. Different experiences cannot occur all at the same time.
In order to understand our life from moment to moment we do not have to think in terms of a particular religion. Realities such as seeing, hearing or feeling are true for everybody, no matter which language we use in order to name them. Don't we all have pleasant and unpleasant feelings? Can you control your feelings?
Mrs. Tuna: Well, I try to control my feelings. I am a Moslem, I believe in God. When I am in a very bad mood I pray to Him and then I feel better.
Kh. S.: But you have not seen God.
T.: I feel His presence. We believe that Mohammad is His prophet.
Kh. S.: You have not seen Mohammed, but you know him by his teachings, don't you?
T.: I pray to God. I read the texts of the Koran. When I want something very much and I pray, my wishes come true.
Kh. S.: You don't have to do anything at all?
T.: All of a sudden my wishes are fulfilled.
Kh. S.: When people pray do their wishes always come true?
T.: Some people work hard but they cannot become rich, whereas others who do not work so hard have everything. This depends on what we call in Arabic "kismet" or destiny.
Kh. S.: This is difficult to understand. The poor would like ot have many things but they cannot, even though they pray.
T.: It is their kismet.
Kh. S.: Should one believe in a God, no matter one is poor or rich, happy or unhappy?
T.: According to an old learned life is a kind of examination. This life is a voyage or passage to another life.
Kh. S.: Can the poor be happy and the rich be unhappy? What is the cause of being rich or poor?
T.: There are very rich people who are not happy and there are poor people who are very happy, they are rich in heart. They do not attach importance to material things.
Kh. S.: Is happiness caused by God or by yourself? Do you have the ability to condition your own feeling?
T.: Yes, I can.
Kh. S.: Since everyone is free as to the feeling he has, feeling is not conditioned by God. The poor can be happy if they know how to be happy. What about those who do not believe in God, can they have happy feeling?
T.: I am sure that it is terrible not to believe in God. I met many tourists who do not believe in God. I do not understand how that can happen.
Kh. S.: Do they still have happy feeling and unhappy feeling? People who do not believe in God like everyone. Everyone is born and dies, no matter he believes in God or not.
T.: Where will he be buried if he does not believe in God?
Kh. S.: It does not matter, he will not notice anything after death. His body can be buried or cremated, it is all right.
T.: What about his soul, the soul never dies.
Kh. S.: Can you explain more about the soul at this moment, when death has not come yet?
T.: We think that the soul is in the body. When one dies the soul goes away.
Kh. S.: When one is sleeping where is the soul?
T.: I don't know.
Kh. S. Is the soul there even when one is asleep? One is not dead yet.
T.: I think it must be there.
Kh. S.: At this moment there is seeing. Is it the soul which sees? Is there a soul in everybody?
Kh. S.: When one is asleep the soul does not go away, because one is not dead yet. When we wake up in the morning there is seeing. Is it the soul which sees?
T.: I think so.
Kh. S.: At the moment of hearing, it is the soul which hears?
Kh. S.: So, the soul has many functions in a day. Seeing is one function, hearing is another function. Besides these there are the functions of smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. I believe that the soul sleeps too.
T.: What about dreaming? Do you believe in dreams?
Kh. S.: Everyone dreams. So, the soul is dreaming. The body cannot dream.
T.: I believe in dreams. I saw in my dreams events which took place later on.
Kh. S.: What you consider as "I" or "self" which knows is the soul which knows. There are body and mind, or, one could also say, body and soul. The soul dreams, the soul sleeps, the soul likes, dislikes, feels pleasant or unpleasant. So, I understand what you mean by soul. It is different from the body. The body cannot see, but the soul is seeing. The body cannot think, but the soul is thinking. How many soul do you have?
T.: Only one, of course.
Kh. S.: I think that seeing is different from hearing. Seeing and hearing occur at different moments and experience different objects.
T.: All are deep in meaning, difficult to understand. It is beyond my thinking.
Kh. S.: It is beneficial to talk about what we can experience right now because we can understand that. When we talk about what we cannot experience directly we are in darkness. When we understand the characteristics and functions of the realities which can be directly experienced there is light. I would like to understand more and more the realities of my life.
Most people take seeing for "my seeing," they take it for self. Or they take hearing for self, they take the body for "my body." All realities fall away very rapidly, they cannot stay. Each particle of the body falls away immediately, otherwise one could not notice any change in the body.
T.: In order to be happy in one's life I find it essential to be a good Moslem. One should say one's prayers, read the Koran and observe the Ramadan, the fasting. The rich should give money to the poor every year.
Kh. S.: So long as there is ignorance about one's life one cannot be completely happy. Ignorance is the opposite of wisdom or understanding. Wisdom is to be considered better than any kind of property, it is the most beneficial in life. I think that wisdom can develop.
T.: I agree with you.
Kh. S.: Wisdom can have a deep understanding of this very moment. It can understand how phenomena are conditioned, it can understand whether phenomena are permanent or impermanent, whether they belong to a self or not. Each reality which occurs goes away very quickly, it cannot come back anymore. There is just a moment of hearing and then it is completely gone, you cannot find the hearing anywhere after it is gone. Each reality, such as seeing, feeling or touching, is only very momentary. If we cling to any moment there is ignorance, one does not know the impermanence of realities which have arisen and fallen away already. During the time we are talking many different realities have arisen and fallen away already. Each reality arises because of its appropriate conditions, nobody can make any reality arise at will. Eyesense is a condition for seeing, without eyesense there cannot be seeing. Earsense is condition for hearing, without earsense there cannot be hearing. When we understand that the realities of our life are conditioned we can cope with our problems wisely.
When there are the right conditions a particular reality will arise. For example, when you like heat and you experience it there are conditions for pleasant feeling. If you cannot have the heat you like or the flavor you like there are no conditions for pleasant feeling. One is attached to all objects one can experience through the senses, one keeps on thinking of them. One is attached to seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. I think that there are many different kinds of consciousness. We can use the word consciousness instead of soul. The word soul can give rise to misunderstandings, it is not precise enough. If we use the word soul it implies something permanent. Consciousness experiences one object at a time and it is not permanent, it changes all the time.
Seeing is a type of consciousness, it is a reality which has its own characteristic. It is not the body, it is not tangible object, it is not materiality. It is an element which experiences visible object. Seeing is seeing for everyone, it does not belong to any race or nationality. Also animals see. Seeing is the same, no matter how you call it. Thus it is absolute truth for everyone, it is an absolute reality. We do not have to use any names for realities, they have their own function, their own characteristic which can be directly experienced. Seeing sees visible object, no matter it is your seeing or my seeing. Seeing cannot touch visible object, it can only see it. Can you touch visible object? Do you see me? You can only see visible object. After seeing there is thinking of different shapes and forms and there is memory of different things and people. A person cannot be seen, there can only be thinking about a person. Thinking is another type of reality, arising at another moment. We can gradually develop more understanding of realities and thus there will be more light in our life.
T.: There are different types of people in the world. Some are of a good nature, such as my mother. She is an excellent woman who has loving care for everybody and tries to do the best for all people she meets. Whereas some people do not want to help anybody, they always think of themselves. It seems that different people have different characters from birth. How do you explain that?
Kh. S.: People are different, they do not have wholesome moments all the time. There are wholesome realities and unwholesome realities. Kindness and compassion are wholesome, cruelty, hatred and jealousy are unwholesome. There are fore everybody conditions for wholesome moments as well as for unwholesome moments. The arising of wholesomeness or unwholesomeness depends on what has been accumulated. Some people have accumulated a great deal of wholesomeness. For them the environment or situation can condition more wholesomeness than for others who have not accumulated so much wholesomeness. People who are in the same situation react differently, they have different thoughts. In order to be a good person you have to develop wholesomeness, you have to train yourself. Just as when you like to be skillful in cooking you have to train yourself, so that one day you will be a good cook.
T.: Sometimes one meets people who do not want to be good, they don't care about this.
Kh. S.: You could help them to understand the benefit of being wholesome, sot hat they will be nice to others. Then they will also have more happy moments instead of unhappy moments. I think that people like pleasant results but that they do not know the right causes which lead to such results. If you tell them that good and bad results come from the appropriate causes they will have more understanding. This understanding will be a condition for them to accumulate wholesomeness which is the for pleasant results. If you are friendly to others they will be friendly to you. If you do not like other people they will not like you.
Religion is only a term which stands for what one believe in. But if we don't label anything we can understand realities as they are. We can understand realities which are true for everybody, no matter what religion he professes, no matter what nationality he is. Seeing is true for everybody, it is just a moment of experiencing visible object. When there is hearing there is no seeing anymore. Hearing is just a moment of experiencing sound, it does not know anything about visible object. When there are conditions for hearing we cannot help hearing. Seeing, hearing and the other realities are beyond control, they arise because of conditions and then they fall away, they are completely done. Nobody can make them arise and nobody can make them stay on after they have arisen. Thus life goes on from moment to moment, until death. Life is only one moment of experiencing an object and then it is gone, forever.
Conversation on Buddhism (II)
by Nina Van Gorkom
Interviews between Gabi, Alan and Nina, while traveling in Egypt together with Khun Sujin.
Question: Is Buddhism different from other religions or philosophies? What is contained in the Buddhist teachings that you do not find anywhere else?
Answer: Through Buddhism we learn about realities which can be directly experienced. Buddhism does not teach particular concepts we have to believe in, but it teaches that development of understanding of all realities within ourselves and around ourselves. Thus we can verify the truth. Buddhism teaches that real cause of all that happens in our life, such as gain and loss, praise and blame, honour and dishonour, misery and well-being. We learn that pleasant and unpleasant experiences through the senses are the results of kamma, good and bad deeds committed in the past. Everything which happens in our life has conditions, through Buddhism we learn about cause and effect. When we understand more about conditions we can face difficult situations in life and develop more wholesome states of mind.
Q.: Do we have to have faith in what the Buddha taught in order to be a good Buddhist?
A.: We don't have to follow the Buddha's teachings blindly. We learn what he teaches, and then we have to verify it ourselves, we have to consider it carefully. Through the practice we can prove that he taught the truth.
Q.: What are the benefits Buddhism could give me?
A.: When you know that truth of all realities of life there will be less sorrow for you. When you know that the adversities of life are only conditioned realities you will be able to cope with your problems.
Q.: I am quite happy, I have very few problems in my life. Many people can be happy without any religion. Why do I need Buddhism in order to find happiness?
A.: I was not satisfied with the explanations about life which are given by science, biology or chemistry. Through Buddhism I learn what life really is: one moment of experiencing an object. There is a moment of seeing and then thinking about it. There is a moment of hearing and then thinking about it. It is the same with smelling, tasting, and touching, they are usually followed by many moment of thinking. When one finds out more about the realities of one's life one realizes one's faults and vices. On account of what we experience through the senses many defilements arise.
Q.: What do you mean by defilements?
A.: These are unwholesome states of mind which are not beneficial. They cause harm to ourselves or to others, sooner or later. Hated, for example, is an unskilled state of mind. When hatred arises we harm ourselves and others. At that moment there is no peace of mind, there is savagery.
Q.: How do you harm yourself through hatred?
A.: At that moment there is agitation and recklessness. When people become angry they are inclined to do something they may regret later on. In traffic jams people get out of their cars and start beating up other people. They you can see that there is recklessness and no calm.
Q.: In history you can read that the king had rightful anger. Is there a rightful anger?
A.: Anger is always unwholesome, no matter what the cause is. It harms yourself and others. This does not mean that you cannot be firm with others when it is necessary for people's benefit, but hatred and anger are always unwholesome. At such a moment you have no balance of mind, you are not sane. YOu cannot judge whether your actions are good or bad because you are in a turmoil. When you are angry you are irrational.
Q.: Are there other defilements besides anger?
A.: There are many kinds of defilements. Three defilements are roots for unwholesome states of mind, namely: attachment, anger or aversion and ignorance.
Q.: What about love, is that unwholesome or wholesome?
A.: We have to consider carefully what reality is represented by that word. Love can represent the reality which is kindness towards other people. It arises when we consider their welfare. However, love can also represent and wholesome reality. when we are attached to a person we actually think of ourselves, and then there is an unwholesome reality. When we have to be separated from that person the attachment conditions aversion and displeasure. When there is unselfish loving kindness you don't think of your own pleasure.
Q.: Should there be no attachment between husband and wife, parents and children? When I consider that many broken up families around me I am inclined to think of that attachment is good. Whey do you think there should not be love?
A.: It is not a matter of should or should not. You are as you are. However, there can be a more precise understanding of what is unselfish love, true considerateness for others and what is attachment, selfish love. We should understand the difference between unselfish love and selfish love. Unselfish love has as characteristic considering the welfare of others. Attachment to other people is for the sake of your own pleasant feeling. When you like to be with dear people and you like a pleasant home there is attachment, you think of yourself.
Q.: I understand that attachment is not wholesome. Does this mean that you have to forsake all the joys of life, such as listening to nice music, going to a disco, reading books, laughing with your friends or going shopping? Do you have to give up all these attachments and all pleasant feelings?
A.: It is precisely our daily life which has to be understood. We should live our daily life naturally, in order to understand our inclinations, our defilements. We should understand our attachment and aversion as they naturally arise. One can enjoy all the pleasant things but there can be more understanding of realities of one's life. There can be more understanding of the true nature of attachment, aversion, kindness, pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling. The wise person can live with pleasure and with understanding.
Q.: We like pleasant objects and we dislike unpleasant objects, that is natural. Like and dislike do not always lead to bad deeds. Are they always unwholesome?
A.: There are many degrees of like and dislike. They may be slight or they may be more intense so as to lead to unwholesome deeds. One may like something to the degree that one wants to take it away and then it is obvious that there is unwholesomeness. But also when like is of a lesser degree it is not beneficial, not wholesome. After seeing, hearing and the other sense impression there is very often attachment which we may not notice at all. We are attached to all the sense objects and thus attachment is bound to arise. At such a moment there is selfishness, there is no generosity. Since attachment arises time and again it is accumulated. Also dislike can have many degrees. It can lead to violence and then it is obvious that there is unwholesomeness. When it is of a lesser degrees here is uneasiness or moodiness, you have no peace of mind. Whenever there is unpleasant feeling there is the reality of aversion. As I said, attachment, aversion and ignorance are the three unwholesome roots for the unwholesome moments of consciousness.
Q.: Why is ignorance unwholesome?
A.: Ignorance conditions all defilements, there is ignorance with each unwholesome moment of consciousness. Because of ignorance we live in darkness, we do not know that is wholesome and beneficial and what is unwholesome. Because of ignorance we don't know what is real and what is only imagination. Ignorance conditions a distorted view of realities, wrong view. When we believe that body and mind can stay, that they are permanent, there is wrong view. What we call mind are in reality only fleeing moments of consciousness which cannot stay. What we call body are ever-changing particle, elements, which cannot stay. When we believe that mind and body are self or mine there is wrong view. Wrong view conditions many other defilements.
Q.: How do you find happiness in Buddhism?
A.: Through knowing realities as they are.
Q.: Why does that bring happiness?
A.: Right understanding can eliminate ignorance and wrong view. Through right understanding there will be less clinging, and that means more freedom.
Q.: There are different types of Buddhism such as Tibetan Buddhism or Zen. I think that in Theravada Buddhism you find the teaching of the right Path. Are the other types wrong?
A.: I would not say that they are right or wrong. Any teaching which helps us to understand the reality of this moment is right. So, we can find out ourselves which teaching is right and which is wrong.
Q.: If one is interested in Buddhism how should one begin to study it?
A.: One can read and consider what one reads and one should find the right person who can explain the teachings so that one can begin to develop right understanding of all the realities of one's life.
Q.: In Buddhism we learn about the true nature of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, or thinking, and also about visible object, sound and the other objects which are experienced through the five senses and through the mind-door.
A.: We use words and concepts in order to express what we mean. We say for instance that Cairo is hot or that a fire i hot. Heart itself is a reality which can be directly experienced through the bodysense without there being the need to name it. Heat is a reality which is true for everybody, it is absolute truth. When you think about Cairo or a fire you think long stories but there is no direct experience of a reality.
The real purpose of Buddhism is not to intellectualize about the world and to form up stories about the world and about people. The aim is to develop understanding of realities such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching or thinking, and also of visible object, sound, odour, flavour, tangible object and objects which appear through mind-door. There are realities which can be studied when they appear one at a time.
Q.: What is tangible object?
A.: The reality which can be directly experience through the bodysense. The whole day we touch things which are hard. We believe that we touch a cup, plate or chair which are hard. In reality it is hardness which is experienced through the bodysense, not a cup, plate or chair. When hardiness is experienced we know through memory that there is a cup, plate or chair, but these are not realities which can be directly experienced. They are concepts or ideas we can think about. Through bodysense can be experienced the realities of hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion or pressure. These are true for everybody, no matter how we name them. They are elements which arise because of their appropriate conditions and then fall away immediately. They cannot stay on.
Q.: What is visible object, is it a car of T.V.? It seems that I can see them.
A.: Visible object is that which seeing sees, it appears through eyesense. When you perceive a car you think already of a concept, an idea.
Realities are physical phenomena and mental phenomena. Seeing is mental, it experiences something. visible object, that which is visible, is physical, it does not know anything. Hearing is mental, it experiences sound. Sound is physical, it does not know anything. The experience of tangible object is mental. Tangible object is physical, The mental phenomena and physical phenomena of our life arise and then fall away immediately, they are impermanent and they are not self.
Q.: I find it difficult ot understand that there is no self. How can I lean to experience the truth?
A.: the truth of not self cannot be realized in the beginning. We have accumulated so much ignorance and wrong view. Through reading, considering and discussing there can gradually be more intellectual understanding of realities. Thus conditions are being built up for direct awareness of realities and then understanding can grow. It develops in stages very gradually and eventually realities can be seen as they are.
Q.: How can one be aware of realities?
A.: There is seeing now. It can be realized that it is a reality which experiences visible object, just for a moment. It is not self which sees, seeing sees. You don't have to do anything special in order to see, when there are conditions for seeing you can't help seeing. Is seeing permanent? You cannot go on seeing. When there is hearing there is another realities, there can't be seeing at the same time. There can be the study of one reality at a time as it appears. When there are the right conditions there can be direct understanding of a mental phenomenon as only a reality and of a physical phenomenon as only a reality. These can be realized as different types of realities. We should not wish for awareness, we should always remember that the goal is right understanding of realities. Whenever there is awareness of one reality which appears there can be direct understanding of it and thus understanding can grow.
Q.: What do you mean by understanding seeing as only a reality?
A.: One begins to understand that there is not my seeing which can stay on and which is so important. The idea of self cannot be eradicated immediately, but one begins to see that there are realities appearing one at a time. One begins to understand that seeing or visible object can only arise when there are conditions for their arising and that one cannot control them. Realities a re beyond control, they cannot arise because of anyone's wish. Also awareness and understanding are realities which can only arise when there are the right conditions, they are beyond control. Beyond control is an other way of saying that there is "only a reality." The realities of our life are momentary and insignificant. They arise and then disappear forever.
on Buddhism (III)
(Interviews between Gabi, Alan and Nina in Egypt, continued)
by Nina Van Gorkom
Question: What should one do in order to live according to the Buddhist teachings?
Answer: One should develop right understanding of teachings by reading, considering and discussion. One should apply the teachings in one's life as best as one can.
Q.: When one develops understandings is one not preoccupied only with one's own mental progress and is this not a selfish attitude?
A.: No, one develops more understanding of the world in and around oneself. the self is not a reality. As understanding develops there will be less concern about he self. We have accumulated such an amount of ignorance and this conditions many kinds of defilements. When ignorance is eliminated there will be less unwholesomeness and this is beneficial for oneself and for the people around oneself.
Q.: I do not feel that I have a great deal of ignorance. I know how to do my work, how to drive a car or how to cook.
A.: We have ignorance of realities such as seeing, visible object, hearing, sound, all the realities which can be experienced through five senses and through the mind-door. They appear only one at a time through one of the six doorways, they appear only for one moment and then they disappear. We are deluded about these fleeting realities and we take them for the world or the self. We mix up all the six doorways and we join the different realities together instead of realizing realities as they are, as only fleeting elements which appear one at at time. We think that realities can stay on. We have ignorance and wrong view. Would you like to understand that there is no self? Nothing belongs to you in reality.
Q.: Is it not the self which performs deeds, which decides to do this or that? Is it not the self which makes the effort the achieve the goal?
A.: Intention is mental reality, it arises when there are the appropriate conditions. However, there is nobody who possesses intention. It is the same with effort, it is a mental reality which arises because of conditions. There is nobody who can make an effort, who possesses effort. When one develops the eightfold Path there is right effort, this is a fact of the eightfold Path. The right understanding of the Path conditions the arising of right effort, there is nobody who can make it arise.
Q.: Do you apply yourself to meditation?
A.: We have to be very careful about what we mean by meditation. I avoid using the word meditation because different people have different ideas about it. Our goal should be the development of right understanding of realities which appear now. We can begin to notice and consider one reality at a time and then there is no need to name it or to think about it. Understanding can be developed in any situation, one does not have to change one's life or do anything special. Right understanding can develop naturally, at this very moment, one does not have to sit in a quiet place. Thus, this is different from what people generally mean by meditation. The development of right understanding or insight, vipassana, is a kind of mental development which can be done no matter where you are.
Q.: Don't you need a quiet place in order to concentrate?
A.: Not at all, because the purpose of the Buddha's teaching is to understand the realities which arise naturally, in daily life. We have to develop understanding of realities such as seeing, visible object, hearing or sound. Sound is a reality, no matter where you are, no matter it is quiet or there is a lot of noise. If we are in a noisy place and we have aversion towards that noise, aversion can be realized as just a conditioned reality, not "my aversion." If we know that understanding can be develop in whatever situation we are there are conditions for its development.
Q.: You are talking about sound. It is so unusual to have sound as meditation subject. How can you develop understanding of it without retiring to a quiet place and considering it? How do you begin?
A.: Do you have to try now in order to see, to hear or to touch? These are realities which naturally arise in you life, when there are conditions for their arising you cannot help seeing, hearing or touching. When there is intellectual understanding of realities there are conditions for direct awareness and direct understanding of them as they appear one at a time. However, we cannot fix the time for their arising, it may be now or later on. There is nobody who can force the arising of right understanding, it is conditioned by many factors.
Q.: It is difficult to have right understanding of realities when one is a beginner.
A.: There must be the intellectual understanding of the mental phenomena and physical phenomena which are the object of understanding and one should know how to develop understanding. One has to know that it should be developed naturally in one's daily life. Many people just want to sit and concentrate on breathing, but they have to consider themselves whether this is the way to know the realities of one's daily life. Is this the way to know seeing, hearing and all the other realities, and to know the clinging which arises on account of the experience of the sense objects? Defilements cannot be eradicated if one does not realize them as they arise in one's daily life. Right understanding of realities can be accumulated little by little if one develops it naturally, without trying to make particular realities arise, without trying to control realities. They arise already because of their own conditions. Also understanding can only arise when there are the right conditions, one cannot control it.
Q.: Understanding is accumulated very gradually but is there not some result in the beginning, so that one is encouraged to continue to develop understanding? When one is a beginner one wants to see at least some result of one's practice.
A.: The result cannot be noticed immediately, it cannot be measured, but as understanding develops there will be more confidence. There will be more understanding of why you feel bad or why you feel happy. You will face unpleasant situations with more understanding and you will be more tolerant towards other people, you will have more understanding about their way of behaviour. You will come to appreciate more and more the value of right understanding.
Q.: You spoke about seeing and hearing. It seems rather dull to have more understanding about them.
A.: If you just read about different realities it seems dull, but you should remember that they are phenomena of your daily life. When you realize when they appear and develop understanding of them it is not boring bu interesting.
Q.: I think that it is more interesting and beneficial to know about one's attachment, aversion and pleasant and unpleasant experiences in life. We should come to know our defilements, but why should we know seeing, hearing, hardness or softness? Is that really necessary?
A.: It is only by understanding all these different realities that there can be detachment from the idea of self which conditions may defilements. We should come to understand that there is nobody who sees, nobody who hears, that there are only different conditioned realities. Thus there will be the elimination of the idea of self.
Q.: When I am seeing I am absorbed in what I see, but I don't think of a self which sees. When I am hearing I am absorbed in what I hear, in words which are spoken, but I do not have an idea that a self is hearing. I don't understand why and idea of self must be eradicated while one is seeing or hearing.
A.: We cannot say that there is an idea of self every time there is seeing or hearing. However, the idea of self is deeply accumulated. When it does not appear there is still the latent tendency of wrong view. This is like a virus which is latent in the body but which can become active at any time. Wrong view can condition many other defilements. It can only be eradicated when enlightenment has been attained. Wrong view must be eradicated first before attachment to sense objects can be eradicated. It is important to develop understanding of realities such as seeing or hearing, because all realities of our daily life should be know as impermanent and not self. We will learn that what we take for my mind are only different moments of consciousness and mental factors, mental realities, and wheat we take for my body are only physical realities. As understanding develops we will leant that after seeing or hearing here are most the time defilements arising. We like to see and we like visible object, we like to hear and we like sound, we are attached to all sense objects. Such moments often pass unnoticed, but through the development of right understanding we acquire a more refined knowledge of our different moments of consciousness.
Q.: I find it difficult to separate seeing from thinking about what we see. Seeing and thinking of people and things seem to occur together and thus it seems that we see people and things like a car or house.
A.: It is important to have right understanding about seeing: it sees only what appears through the eyes, nothing else. When you pay attention to shape and form and you perceive people and things there is remembrance of concepts, there is thinking, not seeing. But seeing conditions thinking of concepts, if there were no seeing there could not be thinking of them. We should realize when we are living in the world of concepts and when in the world of realities. There will be less delusion if we learn to distinguish seeing from thinking.
Q.: Would it not be better not to think, in order to know realities?
A.: No. We should understand thinking as thinking, seeing as seeing, feeling as feeling, they are different realities. The experience of heat is different from knowing where the heat appears.
Q.: Do you believe that you will be a better person when you understand all these things?
A.: If there is more direct understanding of realities there will be less clinging to the idea of self. We will think less of ourselves as a good person or a bad person. There are wholesome realities and unwholesome realities which arise because of conditions. It is beneficial when there is less attachment to the idea of self who sees, who hears, who is good or bad.
Q.: When you believe that there is no self who can do anything does this not lead to fatalism?
A.: When understanding develops you see more and more the value of knowing things as they are. You gain more confidence in the teachings and this conditions a sense of urgency to continue to develop understanding of all realities. There will be less inclination to laziness or to fatalism.
Q.: Realities may not appear as they are in this life. Thus one's confidence must be quite strong in order to continue to develop understanding. One must be convinced that one is no the right Path.
A.: We don't have to wait for realities to appear as they are, there can still be confidence. There is confidence with each wholesome moment of consciousness, for example when we help someone else or when we study their teachings and consider them. We can verify that confidence is a wholesome reality. We should not expect to know realities as they are immediately, but we can have confidence while we develop different kinds of wholesomeness together with right understanding. We can verify that absolute realities are not concepts.
Realities such as seeing, feeling or attachment each have their own characteristic and their own function. Their characteristics cannot be changed, they are true for everybody. Seeing is always seeing for everyone, we do not have to name it or label it in order to experience it. hen we have more understanding of what realities are we will be less deluded by concepts of people or self. We still cling to realities and concepts, but we know that right understanding will lead to a lessening of clinging.
Q.: Even when one knows that realities do not last, that they arise and then fall away, one will still cling. One will be waiting for the next reality to appear, it is still nice to have it.
A.: Through awareness and right understanding you can see the value of being free from enslavement to objects appearing through the six doorways, even if it is only freedom for a moment.
Q.: In the Suttas we read about monks who were falling away form the teachings, who were backsliding. When is one backsliding?
A.: When one is not interested anymore in developing understanding.
Q.: I think that this happens when people become discouraged, when they think that the development of right understanding is too difficult and when they do not see any results. Is that not so?
A.: Even if it is difficult to develop understanding there are so many moments that you can start again. You can start again at every moment, no matter whether you work or you don't work, no matter whether you are in a hurry or a leisure, it is the same. You always have an opportunity to start again. You may regret your lack of understanding, your forgetfulness, but what about this moment now?
Q.: When you work you have no more problems and then you are distracted, is that not so?
A.: There is no difference between your working situation and your free time. We have problems when we work and when we don't work, we still have to make decisions. Our problems are caused by attachment, aversion and ignorance and these arise no matter where we are. Only when we develop right understanding of this moment, no matter in which situation we are, there will be less defilements and thus less problems.
Q.: I cannot help regretting the lack of awareness. I have desire for the arising of awareness. Can I tell myself not to have desire?
A.: When you understand that desire counteracts progress there will be conditions to stop wishing for results. Only intellectual understanding of the teachings, acquired by reading, considering and discussing can condition the arising of direct understanding, now or later on. There will be more patience when we remember that awareness and understanding do not belong to a self which could make them arise. Then we can have courage to begin again and again to find out more about the reality appearing at this moment.