Daily meditation
By : Ajahn Chah

Other people have only little wisdom but their samadhi is very strong. They can enter very deep samadhi quickly, but not having much wisdom; they cannot catch their defilements., they don’t know them. They can’t solve their problems.

Regardless of whichever approach we use, we must do away with wrong thinking, leaving only Right View. We must get rid of confusion, leaving only peace. Either way we end up at the same place. There are these two sides to practice, but these two things, calm and insight, go together. We can not do away with either of them. They must go together.

That which ‘looks over’ the various factors which arise in meditation is ‘sati’, mindfulness. This is sati is a condition which, through practice, can help other factors to arise. Sati is life. Whenever we don’t have sati, when we are heedless, it’s as if we are dead. If we have no sati, then our speech and actions have no meaning. This sati is simply recollection. It’s a cause for the arising of self-awareness and wisdom. Whatever virtues we have cultivated are imperfect if lacking in sati. Sati is that which watches over us while standing, walking, sitting and lying. Even when we are no longer in samadhi, sati should be present throughout.

Whatever we do we take care. A sense of shame* will arise. We will feel ashamed about the things we do which are not correct. As shame increases, our collectedness will increase well. When collectedness increases, heedlessness will disappear. Even if we do not sit in meditation, these factors will be present in the mind.

And this arises because of cultivating sati. Develop sati! This is the dhamma which looks over the work we are doing or have done in the past. It has real usefulness.
We should know ourselves like this, right will distinguish itself from wrong, the path will become clear, and cause for all shame will dissolve. Wisdom will arise.

We can bring the practice all together as morality, concentration and wisdom. To be collected, to be controlled, this is morality. The firm establishing of the mind within that control is concentration. Complete overall knowledge within the activity in which we are engaged is wisdom. The practice in brief is just morality, concentration and wisdom, or in other words, the path. There is no other way.

The path in harmony

Today I would like to ask you all. "Are you sure yet, are you certain in meditation practice?" I ask because these days there are many people teaching meditation, both monks and laypeople, and I’m afraid you may be subject to wavering and doubt. If we understand clearly, we will be able to make the mind peaceful and firm.

You should understand ‘the Eightfold Path’ as morality, concentration and wisdom. The path comes together as simply this. Our practice is to make this path arise within us.

When sitting meditation we are told to close the eyes, not to look at anything else because now we are going to look directly at the mind. When we close our eyes, our attention comes inwards. We establish our attention on the breath, center our feelings there, put our mindfulness there. When the factors of the path are in harmony, we will be able to see the breath, the feeling, the mind and its moods for what they are. Here we will see the ‘focus point’, where samadhi and the other factors of the Path converge in harmony.

When we are sitting in meditation, following the breath, think to yourself that now you are sitting alone. There is no one sitting around you, there is nothing at all. Develop this feeling that you are sitting alone until the mind lets go of all externals, concentrating solely on the breath. If you are thinking, "This person is sitting over there, that person is sitting over there" there is no peace, the mind doesn’t come inwards. Just cast all that aside until you feel there is no one sitting around you, until there is nothing at all, until you have no wavering or interest in your surroundings.

Let the breath go natural, don’t force it to be short or long or whatever, just sit and watch it going in and out. When the mind lets go of all external impressions, the sounds of cars and such will not disturb you. Nothing, whether sights or sounds, will disturb you because the mind doesn’t receive them. Your attention will come together on the breath.

If the mind is confused and won’t concentrate on the breath, take a full, deep breath, as deep as you can, and then let it all out until there is none left. Do this three times and then re-establish your attention. The mind will become calm.

It’s natural for it to be calm for a while, and then restlessness and confusion may arise again. When this happens, concentrate breath deeply again, and then re-establish your attention on the breath. Just keep going like this. When this has happened many times you will become adept at it, the mind will let go of all external manifestations. External impressions will not reach the mind. Sati will be firmly established. As the mind becomes more refine, so does the breath. Feelings will becomes finer and finer, the body and mind will be light. Our attention is solely on the inner, we see the in-breaths and out-breaths clearly. We see all impressions clearly. We will see the coming together of Morality, Concentration and Wisdom. This is called the Path in harmony. When there is this harmony, our mind will be free of confusion. It will come together as one. This is called samadhi.

After watching the breath for along time, it may become very refined; the awareness of the breath will gradually cease, leaving only bare awareness. The breath may become so refined it disappears! Perhaps we are ‘just sitting’, but it seems as if there’s none. This is because the mind has reached its most refined state, there is just bare awareness. It has gone beyond the breath. The knowledge that the breath has disappeared becomes established. What will we take as our object of meditation now? We take just this knowledge as our object, that is, the awareness that there’s no breath.

Unexpected things may happen at this time; some people experience them, some don’t. If they do arise, we should be firm and have strong mindfulness. Some people see that the breath has disappeared and get a fright, they’re afraid they might die. Here we should know the situation just as it is. We simple notice that there’s no breath and take that as our object of awareness. This we can say, is the firmest, surest type of samadhi. There is only one firm, unmoving state of mind. Perhaps the body will become so light it’s as if there is no body at all. We feel like we’re sitting in empty space; it all seems empty. Although this may seem very unusual, you should understand that there’s nothing to worry about. Firmly establish your mind like this.

When the mind is firmly unified, having no sense impressions to disturb it, one can remain in that state for any length of time. There will be no painful feelings to disturb us. When samadhi has reached this level, we can leave it when we choose, but if we come out of this samadhi we do so comfortably, not because we’ve become bored with it or tired. We come out because we’ve enough for now, we feel at ease. We have no problems at all.

If we can develop this type of samadhi, then if we sit, thirty minutes or an hour, the mind will be cool and calm for many days. When the mind is cool and calm like this, it is clean. Whatever we experience, the mind will take up and investigate. This is a fruit of samadhi.

Morality has one function, concentration has another function and wisdom and another These factors are like a cycle. We can see them all within the peaceful mind. When the mind is calm, it has collectives and restraint because of wisdom and the energy of concentration. As it becomes more collected it becomes more refined, which in turn gives morality the strength to increase in purity. As our morality becomes purer, this will help in the development of concentration. When concentration is firmly established, it helps in the arising of wisdom. Morality, concentration and wisdom help each other. They are inter-related like this. In the end the Path becomes one and functions at all times. We should look after the strength which arises from the path, because it is the strength which leads to Insight and Wisdom.

On Dangers of Samadhi

Samadhi is capable of bringing much harms or benefits to the meditator. You can not say it brings only one or the other: for one who has no wisdom, it is harmful. But one who has wisdom, it can bring a real benefit. It can lead him to Insight.

That which can be most harmful to the meditator is Absorption Samadhi (jhana), the samadhi with deep, sustained calm. This samadhi brings great peace. Where there is peace, there is happinee. When there is happiness, attachment and clinging to that happiness arise. The meditator does not want to contemplate anything else, he just wants to indulge in that pleasant feeling. When we have been practicing for a long time, we may become adept at entering this samadhi very quickly. As soon as we start to note our meditation object, the mind enters calm. We do not want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness. This is a danger to one who is practicing meditation.

We must use Upacara Samdhi. Here, we enter calm and then, when the mind is sufficiently calm, we come out and look at outer activity.* Looking the outside with a calm mind gives rise to wisdom. This is may be difficult to understand because it’s almost like ordinary thinking and imagining. When thinking is there, we may think the mine isn’t peaceful, but actually that thinking is taking place within the calm. There is contemplation but it doesn’t disturb the calm. We may bring thinking up in order to contemplate it. Here we take up the thinking to investigate it. It’s something we are aimlessly thinking or guessing away; it’s something that arises from a peaceful mind. This is called ‘awareness within calm and calm within awareness’. It it’s simply ordinary thinking and imagining, the mind won’t be peaceful, it will be disturbed. But I am not talking about ordinary thinking, this is a feeling that arises from the peaceful mind. It’s called’contemplation’. Wisdom is born right here.

So, there can be right samadhi and wrong samadhi. Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there’s no awareness at all. One could sit for two hours or even all day but the mind doesn’t know where it’s been or what’s happened. It doesn’t know anything. There is calm, but that’s all. It’s like a well-sharpened knife which we don’t bother to put to any use. This is a deluded type of calm because there is not much self-awareness. The meditator may think he has reached the ultimate already, so he doesn’t bother to look for anything else. Samadhi can be an enemy at this level. Wisdom cannot arise because there is no awareness of right and wrong.

With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. This is full mindfulness and clear comprehension. This is the samadhi which can give rise to wisdom, one cannot get lost in it. Practisers should understand this well. You can’t do without this awareness, it must be present from beginning to end. This kind of samadhi has no danger.

You may wonder where does the benefits arise, how does the wisdom arise from samadhi? When right samadhi has been developed, wisdom has the chance to arise at all times. When the eye sees form, the ear hears sound, the nose smells odour, the tongue experiences tastes, the body experiences touch or the mind experience mental impressions-in all postures – the mind stays with full knowledge of the true nature of those sense impressions. It doesn’t follow them. When the mind has wisdom, it doesn’t ‘pick and choose.’ In any posture, we are fully aware of the birth of happiness and unhappiness. We let go of both of these things, we don’t cling. This is called Right Practice, which is present in all postures. These words,’all postures’ do not refer only to bodily postures, they refer to the mind, which has mindfulness and clear comprehension of the truth at all times. When samadhi has been rigthly developed, wisdom arises like this. This is called ‘insight’, knowledge of the truth.

There are two kinds of peace – the coarse and the refined. The peace which comes from samadhi is the coarse type. When the mind is peaceful, there is happiness. The mind then takes this happiness to be peace. But happiness and unhappiness are becoming and birth. There is no escape from samadhi* here because we still cling to them. So happiness is not peace, peace is not happiness.

The other type of peace is that which comes from wisdom. Here we don’t confuse peace with happiness. We know the mind which contemplated and knows happiness and unhappiness as peace. The peace which sees the truth of both happiness and unhappiness. Clinging to those states does not arise, the mind rises above them. This is the true goal of all Buddhist practice.
The middle way within

The teaching of Buddhism is about giving up evil and practising good. Then, when evil is given up and goodness is established, we must let go of both good and evil. We have already heard enough about wholesome and unwholesome conditions to understand some thing about them, so I would like to talk about the Middle Way, that is, the path to escape from both of those things.

All the Dhamma talks and teachings of the Buddha have one aim - to show the way out of suffering to those who have not yet escaped. The teachings are for the purpose of giving us the right understanding. If we don’t understand rightly, then we can’t arrive at peace.

When the various Buddhas became enlightened and gave their first teaching, they all declared these two extremes – indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain. These two ways of infatuation, they are the ways between which those who indulge in sense pleasures must fluctuate, never arriving at peace. They are the paths which spin around in samsara.

The Enlightened One observed that all beings are stuck in these two extremes, never seeing the Middle Way of Dhamma, so he pointed them out in order to show the penalty involved in both. Because we are still stuck, because we are still wanting, we live repeatedly under theirs way. The Buddha decleared that these two ways are the ways of intoxicating, they are not the ways of a meditator, not the ways to peace. These ways are indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain, or to put it simply, the way of slackness and the way of tension. If you investigate within, moment by moment, you will see that the tense way is anger, the way of sorrow. Going this way there is only difficulty and distress. Indulgence in Pleasure – if you’ve escaped from this, it means you’ve escaped from happiness. These ways, both happiness and unhappiness, are not peaceful states. The Buddha taught to let go of both of them. This is right practice. This is the Middle Way.

These words ‘the Middle Way’ do not refer to our body and speech, they refer to the mind. When a mental impression which we don’t like arises, if affects the mind and there is confusion. When the mind is confused, when it’s ‘shaken up’, this is not the right way. When a mental impression arises which we like, the mind goes to indulgence in pleasure. That is not the way either.

We people don’t want suffering. We want happiness. But in fact happiness is just a refined form of suffering. Suffering itself is the coarse form. You can compare them to a snake. The head of the snake is unhappiness, the tail of the snake is happiness. The head of the snake in really dangerous, it has the poisonous fangs. If you touch it, the snake will bite straight away. But never mind the head, even if you go and hold onto the tail, if will turn around and bite you just the same, because both the head and the tail belong to the one snake.

In the same way, both happiness and unhappiness, or pleasure and sadness, arise from the same parent ‘wanting’. So when you’re happy, the mind is not peaceful. It really isn’t! For instance, when we get the things we like, such as wealth, prestige, praise or happiness, we become pleased as a result. But the minds still harbor some uneasiness because we’re afraid of losing it. That very fear isn’t a peaceful state. Later on we may actually lose that thing and then we really suffer. Thus, if you are not aware, even if you’re happy, suffering is imminent. It’s just the same as grabbing the snake’s tail. If you don’t let go, it will bite. So whether it’s the snake’s tail or its head, that is, wholesome or unwholesome conditions, they’re all just characteristics of the Wheel of Existence, of endless change.

The Buddha established morality, concentration and wisdom as the path to peace, the way to enlightenment. But in truth, these things are not the essence of Buddhism. They are merely the path. The Buddha called them ‘Magga", which means ‘path’.
The essence of Buddhism is peace, and that peace arises from truly knowing the nature of all things. If we investigate closely, we can see that peace is neither happiness nor unhappiness. Neither of these is the truth.

The human mind, the mind which the Buddha exhorted us to know and investigate, is something we can only know by its activity. The true ‘original mind’ has nothing to measure it by, there’s nothing you can know it by. In its natural state, it is unshaken, unmoving. When happiness arises, all that happens is that this mind is getting lost in mental impression, there is movement. When the mind moves like this, clinging and attachment to those things come into being.

The Buddha has already laid down the path of practice full, but we have not yet practised, or if we have, we’ve practised only in speech. Our minds and our speech are not yet in harmony, we just indulge in empty talk. But the basis of Buddhism is not something that can be talked about or guessed at. The real basis of Buddhism is full knowledge of the truth of reality. If one knows this truth then no teaching is necessary. If one doesn’t know, even if he listens to the teaching, he doesn’t really hear. This is why the Buddha said, "The Enlightened One only points the way". He can’t do the practice for you, because the truth is something you cannot put into words or give away.

All the teaching are merely similes and comparisons, means to help the mind see the truth. If we haven’t seen the truth, we must suffer. For example, we commonly say, ‘sankharas’ when referring to the body. Anybody can say it, but in fact we have problems simply because we don’t know the truth of these sankharas and thus cling to them. Because we don’t know the truth of the body, we suffer.

Here is an example, suppose one morning you are walking to work, and a man yells abuse and insults at you from across street. As soon as you hear this abuse, your mind changes from its usual state. You don’t feel so good, you feel angry and hurt. That man walks around abusing you night and day. When you return home, you are still angry because you feel vindictive, you want to get even.

A few days later another man comes to your house and calls out, "Hey! That man who abused you the other day, he’s mad, he’s crazy! Has been for years! He abuses everybody like that. Nobody takes any notice of anything he says." As soon as you hear this, you are suddenly relieved. That anger and hurt that you’ve pent up within you all these days melts away completely. Why? Because you know the truth of the matter now. Before, you didn’t know, you were angry at him. Understanding like that caused you to suffer. As soon as you find out the truth, everything changes: "Oh, he’s mad! That explains everything." When you understand this, you feel fine because you know for yourself. Having known, then you can let go. If you don’t know the truth, you cling right there. When you thought that man who abused you was normal, you could have killed him. But when you find out the truth, that he’s mad, you feel much better. This is knowledge of the truth.