In particular, the theme of unattractiveness: This is a good, a very good cure for the mind obsessed with lust and passion. However strong the lust, that's how strongly you should investigate unattractiveness until you can see your own body and that of others throughout the world as a cemetery of fresh corpses. Lust won't have a chance to flare up when discernment has penetrated to the knowledge that the body is filled with repulsiveness. Who would feel lust for repulsiveness? Who would feel lust for things with no beauty? For things that are disgusting? This is one form of the medicine of unattractiveness, one of the prime medicines for curing the disease of lust and craving. Once you've made a really full investigation, make the mind grow still in a restricted range. Once the mind has investigated unattractiveness many, many times, to the point where it becomes proficient, adept at contemplating external bodies as well as the internal body, able to visualize things in whatever way you want, then the mind will converge to the level of unattractiveness within itself and see the harm of the pictures of unattractiveness it paints as being one form of illusion. It will then let go of both sides: both the side of unattractiveness and the side of attractiveness.
Both attractiveness and unattractiveness are labels coupled with the affairs of lust. Once we have investigated and fully understood both sides, the word 'attractive' will dissolve and no longer have meaning. The word 'unattractive' will dissolve and no longer have meaning. That which gives the meaning of 'attractive' and 'unattractive' is the mind or, in other words, sanna. We are now wise to sanna as being what labels things. We see the harm of this labeling, and so it will no longer be able to go out interpreting in such a way as to make the mind grasp and be attached again. When this is the case, the mind lets go of both attractiveness and unattractiveness -- or of beauty and ugliness -- by seeing that they are simply dolls for training the mind and discernment as long as the mind is still attached to them, and the discernment for investigating to uproot them is not yet proficient enough.
When the mind is proficient and realizes the causes and effects of both sides -- both attractiveness and unattractiveness -- it can at the same time turn around to know its own labeling that goes out to dress this thing up as attractive and that as unattractive. When it knows this labeling clearly, the labeling disbands. The mind can see its harm, in that this labeling is the culprit. The unattractive object isn't the culprit. The attractive object isn't the culprit. Instead, the labeling that says 'attractive' and 'unattractive' is the culprit deceiving us and making us become attached. This is where things start coming inward. Our investigation comes inward like this and lets go, step by step.
When the mind has reached this stage, then whether we focus on attractiveness or unattractiveness, it will appear in the mind, without our having to create an external image to exercise with, just as when we travel and have passed progressively along a road. The image appears in the mind. The moment it appears there, we immediately know that sanna can label only as far as this and can't go labeling outside. Even though the image appears in mind, we know clearly that the phenomenon that appears there as attractive or unattractive comes from sanna in the same way. We know the image that appears in the mind as well as the sanna labeling it, also as an image in the mind. Finally, the images in the mind vanish. The sanna -- the labels, the interpretations -- disband. We know that the labels that used to fool us into seeing things as attractive and unattractive and all sorts of other ways without limit -- that used to fool us into falling for both of these sides -- have disbanded. There is nothing further to deceive the heart. This is how unattractiveness is investigated in line with the principles of the practice -- but you won't find this anywhere in the texts. You'll find it only if you search for the truth in the principles of nature that exist with the body and mind -- the location of the four Noble Truths and the four frames of reference -- coming down finally to the text of the heart. That's where you'll find the things I've explained here.
This is the body. We can know clearly that every part of the body is simply a physical phenomenon. And what is there in these physical phenomena? All the parts -- hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow, spleen, heart, liver, membranes, kidneys, lungs, intestines, stomach, gorge, feces -- are just physical phenomena, things separate from the mind. If we consider them as unattractive, they've been unattractive all along, even before we considered them. And who is it that gives them meaning, saying that this is attractive or that is unattractive? When did these things ever give themselves meanings? When did they ever say they were attractive or unattractive? They don't label or say anything at all. Whatever their truth is, that's how it's always been in line with its nature from the very beginning -- and they don't know their meaning. What knows their meaning is sanna. The one that falls for their meaning is also sanna, which comes out of this deluded mind. Once we are wise to this labelling, all these things disappear. Each has its separate reality. This is what it means to be wise to these things.
Feelings (vedana) are the feelings of pleasure, pain, and indifference that arise from the body. The body is a phenomenon that has existed since before these feelings arose. Pains arise, remain, and then vanish. The body is the body. The pain is a pain. Each is a separate reality. Investigate and analyze them so as to see them for what they are -- just a feeling, just a body -- without regarding them as a being, a person, us or anyone else, ours or anyone else's. The feeling isn't us, ours, or anyone else's. It's simply something that appears for a moment and disappears for a while, in line with its nature. That's what the truth is.
Sanna means labeling. Whatever it labels -- things near, far, past, present, or future -- whatever it labels, it vanishes immediately. It keeps vanishing -- arising and vanishing, arising and vanishing -- so how can we regard it as a self, a being, a person? Here we're referring to discernment on the refined level, penetrating down in line with the truth that is clear to our heart without our having to ask anyone else.
Sankhara means thought-formation: forming good thoughts, bad thoughts, neutral thoughts. Whatever it forms is simply a matter of arising and vanishing, arising and vanishing. We can't get any sense out of these thought-formations at all if sannas don't take up where they leave off and turn them into issues. As for sannas, we already know them clearly, so what is there to form thoughts, pick up where they leave off and grasp at them, turning them into long issues? All there is, is just the arising and vanishing in the mind. This is thought-formation. It's one reality, which the Buddha calls the sankhara khandha. Khandha means heap or aggregate. Rupa khandha means the physical heap. Vedana khandha means the heap of feelings. Sanna khandha means the heap of labels, the aggregate of labels. Sankhara khandha means the heap of thought-formations, the aggregate of thought-formations.
Vinnana khandha means the aggregate or heap of cognizance, that which takes note the moment external things make contact, as when visual images make contact with the eye and cognizance occurs. As soon as the object passes, this cognizance vanishes. No matter what thing it takes note of, it's always ready to vanish with that thing. What sense or substance can we get out of these five khandhas? How can we assume them to be us or ours?
This is what the issues of the five khandhas are like. They've occurred this way, appeared this way, arisen and vanished this way one after another continually from the day of our birth to the present moment. We can't find any meaning or substance in them at all, unless the mind labels and interprets them, grasping onto them as being itself or belonging to itself and then carrying their weight -- which is heavier than an entire mountain -- within itself, without any reward. Its only reward is suffering and stress, because its own delusion has caused these things to reward it.
When the mind has investigated and seen these things clearly with sharp discernment, then the body is true in its body way, in line with the principles of nature that are made clear with discernment. Feelings of pain, pleasure, and indifference in the body are known clearly in line with their truth. Feelings in the mind -- the pleasure, pain, and indifference arising in the mind -- are the factor the mind continues to be interested in investigating. Even though we may not yet be abreast of these things, they have to be alerting the mind to investigate them at all times, because on this level we aren't yet able to keep abreast of feelings in the mind -- in other words, the pleasure, pain, and indifference exclusively in the mind that aren't related to feelings in the body.
Cognizance is simply a separate reality. We see this clearly as it truly is. The mind has no more doubts that would cause it to latch onto these things as its self, because each is a separate reality. Even though they dwell together, they're like a piece of fruit or an egg placed in a bowl. The bowl has to be a bowl. The egg placed there is an egg. They aren't one and the same. The mind is the mind, which lies in the bowl of the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, but it's not the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, or cognizance. It's simply the mind, pure and simple, inside there. When we clearly make the distinction between the mind and the khandhas, that's how it is.
Now that the mind clearly understands the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, with nothing more to doubt, all that remains is the fidgeting and rippling exclusively within the mind. This rippling is a subtle form of sankhara that ripples within the mind, a subtle form of pleasure, a subtle form of stress, a subtle form of sanna appearing in the mind. That's all there is. The mind will investigate and analyze these things at all times with automatic mindfulness and discernment.
The mind on this level is very refined. It has let go of all things. The five khandhas no longer remain, but it hasn't yet let go of itself: its awareness. This awareness, though, is still coated with unawareness.
This is called unawareness converging. It converges in the mind and can't find any way out. The paths of unawareness are out the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, leading to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. Once mindfulness and discernment have been able to cut these paths step by step, unawareness has no way out. It doesn't have any following, so it just goes 'blip. . . blip. . . blip. . .' within itself, taking just the mind as the support onto which it latches because it can't find any way out. It displays itself as a subtle feeling of pleasure, a subtle feeling of stress, a radiance that's extremely amazing as long as discernment isn't yet all-around and can't yet destroy it. The mind keeps contemplating right there.
No matter how radiant or magnificent it may be, any conventional reality -- no matter how refined -- has to display a symptom of one sort or another that will arouse the mind's suspicions enough to make it look for a way to remedy the situation. Thus the pleasure and stress that are refined phenomena appearing exclusively within the mind, together with the brightness and marvelousness, have unawareness as their ringleader; but because we have never encountered them before, we're deluded into holding onto them when we first investigate into this point, and are lulled sound asleep by unawareness so that we grasp onto the radiance -- to the pleasure, to the marvelousness, or to the magnificence arising from the unawareness embedded in the mind -- as being our self. And so we assume the mind complete with unawareness to be our self, without our realizing what we are doing.
But not for long -- because of the power of super-mindfulness and super-discernment, qualities that by now are uncomplacent. They keep scrutinizing, investigating, and analyzing back and forth in line with their nature on this level. The time will have to come when they know for sure by noticing the subtle pleasure that behaves just slightly in an irregular manner. Even though stress displays itself just barely, in line with this level of the mind, it's enough to make us suspicious: 'Eh -- why does the mind have symptoms like this? It's not constant.' The magnificence displaying itself in the mind, the marvelousness displaying itself in the mind, display irregularities just barely, but enough for mindfulness and discernment to catch sight of them.
Once they catch sight of these things, they get suspicious and take them as the point to be investigated at that moment. So now the mind -- this sort of awareness -- becomes the target of their investigation. They focus down on this point to find out, 'What is this? We've investigated everything of every sort to the point where we've been able to uproot it all, stage by stage, but this knowing nature, so bright, so amazing: What exactly is it? '
Mindfulness and discernment keep focusing on down and investigating. This point thus becomes the target of a full-scale investigation, the battlefield of automatic mindfulness and discernment at that moment. Before long, they are able to destroy the mind of unawareness that is so superlative, so amazing and magnificent from the viewpoint of unawareness, smashing and scattering it completely so that nothing, not even an atom, is left remaining in the heart.
When the nature on which we ignorantly conferred such titles as superlative and amazing is dissolved away, something on which we don't have to confer the titles of superlative or not-superlative appears in full measure. That nature is purity. And this purity: When we compare it with the mind of unawareness that we once held to be superlative and supreme, the mind of unawareness is like a pile of cow dung, while the nature that had been concealed by unawareness, once it is revealed, is like pure gold. Pure gold and squishy cow dung: Which has greater value? Even a baby sucking his thumb can answer, so we needn't waste our time and expose our stupidity by making comparisons.
This is the investigation of the mind. This level, when we have reached it, is where things are severed completely from becoming and birth in the mind, severed completely from all unawareness and craving.' Avijja-paccaya sankhara' -- 'With unawareness as condition, there occur thought-formations' -- is completely severed and becomes 'avijjayatveva asesaviraga-nirodha sankhara-nirodho, sankhara-nirodha vinnana-nirodho. . . ' -- 'Simply with the disbanding of unawareness, with no remaining passion, thought-formations disband. With the disbanding of thought-formations, cognizance disbands. . . .' all the way to 'this is the disbanding of this entire mass of stress. '
When unawareness has disbanded, the formations that are the cause of stress disband and keep disbanding, just as the Buddha said, while the formations that continue as part of the khandhas become formations pure and simple, and aren't a cause of stress. The cognizance that appears in the heart is cognizance pure and simple, and not cognizance as a cause of stress.' Vinnana-paccaya namarupam, namarupam-paccaya salayatanam, salyatana-paccaya phasso' -- whatever is a physical or mental phenomenon, a sense medium, or a sensory contact is simply its own simple nature. It can't provoke the mind that has finished its task to the point of 'evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hoti' -- 'This is the disbanding of this entire mass of stress.' The words, 'evametassa kevalassa' -- 'all things mentioned here' -- have absolutely disbanded. This is called disbanding in full measure.
When we disband defilement, craving, and unawareness, when we disband the world of rebirth, where do we disband it if not in the mind, which is the essence of the world of rebirth, the essence of unawareness, the essence of birth, ageing, illness, and death. The seeds of birth, ageing, illness, and death -- namely, passion and craving, with unawareness as their ringleader -- lie only here in the mind. When they are completely scattered from the mind, there is simply 'nirodho hoti' -- 'This is the disbanding. . . . '
This, then, is the work of the practice in line with the principles of the Buddha's teachings. From the time of the Buddha down to the present, these principles have remained constant. There are no deficiencies or excesses in the principles of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha that would make it unable to keep up with the tricks and deceits of the various forms of defilement. This is why it's called the middle way: the Dhamma always appropriate for curing every sort of defilement to the point where defilement no longer remains. This is how you should understand the power of the middle way. Hold to this path in your practice, because release from suffering and stress is something with a value transcending all three levels of existence. And what do we see in any of the three levels of existence that is more fantastic than the release of the heart from all suffering and stress? When we see this clearly with our reason, our efforts in the practice will be able to advance. We'll be ready to die in the battle. If it means death, then go ahead and die -- die in the battle for victory over the defilements that have smothered the heart for so long. There is no teaching, no tool at all that can attack the defilements and strike them down like the middle way taught by the Lord Buddha.

For this reason, we can be secure and confident in the words, 'Buddham saranam gacchami' -- 'I go for refuge in the Buddha' -- in that he practiced so that both the causes and the results -- everything of every sort -- were perfect and complete, before taking the Dhamma to teach the world.' Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo' -- 'The Dhamma of the Blessed One is well taught. ' He taught it well in every facet from having comprehended and seen the truth of every thing of every sort.' Sangham saranam gacchami' -- 'I go for refuge in the Sangha. ' The Noble Disciples who practiced in line with the principles of the Buddha's Dhamma -- without slacking or weakening, enabling themselves to expel defilement from their hearts, making their hearts superlative and becoming our refuge -- did so without going outside the principles of this middle way. So I ask that you listen to this and take it to heart. Don't set your heart on the deceitful and counterfeit issues filling the world of rebirth. Set your heart on the truth of the Dhamma, the truth of the practice. You will see the truth continually appearing in your heart in the midst of all the counterfeit things in the heart and throughout the world. Don't harbor any doubts, for that would be to linger over the defilements that know no end.