In practicing the Dhamma, aim at the
qualities of the heart -- virtue, concentration, and discernment -- more than
at material things. As for material things, if we have just enough to get by,
that's plenty enough. Wherever you go. . . . We are born from human beings. We
monks come from people. People have homes; we monks need places to stay -- enough
to provide ordinary shelter -- but they should be just enough to get by. Don't
make them fancy. Don't go competing with the world outside. That would simply
foster your own defilements and make you known throughout the world in a way that
the defilements would ridicule. Make yourself known instead for your virtue, concentration,
and discernment, your conviction and persistence. Make yourself known for having
striven to cure yourself or extricate yourself, to gain release from defilement
and the mass of stress in the cycle of rebirth. This is what it means genuinely
and directly to enhance your stature. Don't abandon your efforts. Make it to the
other shore of this turning, churning cycle in this lifetime -- which is much
surer than any other lifetime, any other time or place.
And don't forget, wherever you go: Don't get involved in construction work. Everywhere
we go these days, there's construction work and monks involved in it. It's enough
to make you sick. As soon as they meet each other: 'How's it going with your meeting
hall? ' 'How's it going with your school? Are you finished yet? How much has it
cost? ' Whenever there's a project, whatever the project, they go harassing lay
people, gathering up funds, so that the lay people have to spend money and get
embroiled too, without any respite. Let the lay people have enough money so that
they can stash some of it away. They practically kill themselves just to scrape
together a little cash, but instead of being able to use it to provide for their
stomachs, for their families, their children, and other essentials, and for making
merit at their leisure, they end up having to hand it all over to help the monks
who harass them by fund-raising to the point where they're left empty-handed.
This is the religion of harassing the world, which the Buddha never practiced
and never taught us to practice. So I want you all to understand this. The Buddha
never acted this way. This is the religion of material objects, the religion of
money, not the religion of Dhamma following the example of the Buddha.
Look around us: Monks' dwellings as large as Doi Inthanon. [*] How many stories
do they have? They stretch up to the sky. How luxurious are they? How much do
they make you sick to your heart? Even my own dwelling, I can't help feeling embarrassed
by it, even though I stay there against my will and have to put up with the embarrassment.
They sent the money to build it without letting me know in advance. I'm ashamed
of the fact that while I have asked for alms all my life, my dwelling. . . even
a palace in heaven is no match for it, while the people who give alms live in
shacks no bigger than your fist. What's appropriate, what's fitting for monks
who are habitually conscious of danger, is to live wherever you can squeeze yourself
in to sit and lie down. But as for your effort in the practice, I ask that you
be solid and stable, diligent and persevering.
[*] The tallest mountain in Thailand.
Don't waste your time by letting any job become an obstacle, because exterior
work, for the most part, is work that destroys your work at mental development
for the sake of killing and destroying defilement. This is the major task in body
and mind for monks who aim at release and feel no desire to come back to be reborn
and die, to carry the mass of major and minor sufferings in levels of becoming
and birth any more. There's no danger greater than the danger of defilement smothering
the heart, able to force and coerce the heart into suffering everything to which
the Dhamma doesn't aspire. There's no suffering greater than the suffering of
a person oppressed by defilement. If we don't fight with defilement while we're
ordained, will we be able to fight with it after we die? The vagaries of life
and the body are things we can put up with, but don't put up with the oppression
of defilement any longer, for that wouldn't be at all fitting for monks who are
disciples of the Tathagata.
Whether things may be just enough to get by, or however much they may be lacking,
be sure to look to the Tathagata as your refuge at all times. Don't let things
that are unnecessary for monks become luxurious beyond all reason -- such as building
things to the point of competing with the world outside and being crazy for hollow
rank and fame, without being interested in building the Dhamma to revive the heart
from its stupor. The people of the world live in flimsy little shacks that are
ready to collapse at a sneeze. Whatever they get, they deny their own stomachs
and their families so that they can make merit and give donations to monks. But
monks live in many-storied mansions -- fancier and more luxurious than those of
heavenly beings -- as if they had never lived in tiny shacks with their parents
before becoming ordained. And who knows what they have decorating their mansions
in competition with the world outside? It makes you more embarrassed than a young
bride when her mother-in-law sneezes and passes wind so loud she practically faints.
We forget that our heads are shaved: Why don't we ever think about what that means?
Aren't we becoming too shameless? This isn't in line with the principles of the
religion that teach those who are ordained to cure their defilements by seeing
the dangers in worldly comforts. These sorts of things clutter up the religion
and the hearts of us monks, so I ask that you not think of getting involved in
them. Be conscious always of the fact that they aren't the principles of the Dhamma
for curing defilement in a way the heart can see clearly. Instead, they're means
for making monks forget themselves and become involved in the business of defilement,
which is none of their business as monks at all.
The primary principle of the Dhamma for monks is 'rukkhamula-senasanam nissaya
pabbajja, tatha te yava-jivam ussaho karaniyo' -- 'Once you have ordained in the
religion of the Buddha, you are to live under the shade of trees, in forests and
mountains, in caves, under overhanging cliffs, in the open, by haystacks, which
are all places suitable for killing defilement, for wiping out the defilements
in your hearts. Try to act in this way all of your life. ' Everything else --
such as the things termed 'extraneous gains' (atireka-labho) -- are unnecessary
The work the Buddha would have us do is the contemplation of kesa, loma, nakha,
danta, taco; taco, danta, nakha, loma, kesa: hair of the head, hair of the body,
nails, teeth, skin; skin, teeth, nails, hair of the body, hair of the head, and
from there on to the 32 parts of the body -- beginning with hair of the head,
hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow, spleen, heart,
liver, membranes, kidneys, lungs, intestines, stomach, gorge, and feces -- which
exist in each of us.' Try to unravel these things with your discernment so as
to see them as they truly are. When you have completed this work with the full
mindfulness and discernment of heroes, then release from suffering -- that tremendous
treasure -- will be yours. ' Listen to that! Isn't it far removed from the way
we like to take our pleasure with the scraps and leftovers that the Buddha taught
us to relinquish in every word, every phrase, every book of the Dhamma?
We ourselves are the adversaries of the teachings of the religion. We luxuriate
in everything the Dhamma criticizes. Lay people are no match for us. Whenever
they get anything good, they use it to make merit and give to monks. Whatever
they eat and use is just so as to get by. All they ask for is good things to give
to monks, in line with their nature as merit-seekers, while we monks have become
luxury-seekers. Our dwellings are fine, the things we use are fine, and on top
of that some of us have radios, TV sets, cars. . . . If you compare this with
the basic rules of the Dhamma and Vinaya, it makes you more heartsick than you
can say. How is it that we have the stomach to kill the Buddha red-handed this
way with our shameless and unthinking ostentation as monks? It really makes you
So I ask that each of you reflect a great deal on these matters. If you've ordained
really for the sake of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha -- and not for the sake
of being adversaries of the Buddha's teachings -- I ask that you reflect on the
Dhamma and the path followed by the Buddha more than on any other matter. No time
excels the time of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha that they have set as an example
for us to follow. This is a very important principle. I ask that you all follow
the principles of the time of the Buddha. The results, which are refreshing and
satisfying, are sure to appear in line with the principles of the well-taught
Dhamma, the Dhamma that leads out from suffering. There's no way to doubt this.
These things I've practiced to a fair extent myself. I used to be a junior monk
too, you know. When I went to study and train with my teachers -- and especially
Ven. Acariya Mun -- I really listened. I listened to him speak. He would speak
half in earnest, half in jest, in the ordinary way of teachers talking with their
students, but I would never listen in jest. I always listened in earnest and took
things to heart. I had the greatest imaginable love and fear and respect for him.
I'd hold to every facet of what he'd say that I could put into practice. What
I've been able to teach my students is due to the power of what he taught me.
For this reason, even though in this monastery we may conduct ourselves somewhat
differently from other monasteries in general, I'm confident in line with the
principles of reason and of the Dhamma and Vinaya so that I'm not worried about
the matter. I don't think that what we do is wrong, because I have the example
of the Buddha's teaching and of my teachers -- everything of every sort that follows
the original patterns -- which is why I've led my fellow meditators to practice
this way all along. Whether this is right or wrong, we have to decide in line
with the principles of reason. Deference to people is an affair of the world,
an affair of individuals, and not an affair of the Dhamma and Vinaya, which are
fixed principles for the practice. Speaking in line with the Dhamma for the sake
of understanding and right practice: That's the genuine Dhamma. For this reason,
an unwillingness to speak the truth for fear of stepping on someone's toes is
not a trait for those who aim at the Dhamma together.
This seems enough for now, so I'll ask to stop here.
THE FANGS OF UNAWARENESS
An excerpt from a talk given July 16, 1982.
. . . This state of mind with its
unawareness is a magnificent mind, bold and daring -- not only radiant, but
also bold and daring as well, and reckless because of its daring, in thinking
that it's smart. It's not reckless in the ordinary way. It's reckless in line
with its nature as a state of mind of this sort. This is called the nine forms
of mana, or conceit. The nine forms of conceit lie right here. The Buddha explains
this in the five higher fetters (sanyojana): passion for form, passion for formlessness,
conceit, restlessness, and unawareness. Conceit means to assume -- to assume
that the state of mind blended into one with unawareness is one's self, that
it's 'me' or 'mine', and then taking it to make comparisons: 'How is it with
those people or these people? Are their minds on a par with mine? Higher than
mine? Lower than mine?' This is why there are nine forms of conceit. In other
words, three times three is nine. For example, our mind is lower than theirs,
and we assume it to be lower than theirs, higher than theirs, or on a par. Our
mind is on a par with theirs, and we assume it to be lower than theirs, higher
than theirs, or on a par. Our mind is higher than theirs, and we assume it to
be lower than theirs, higher than theirs, or on a par.
The refined level of defilement takes this state of mind out to make the comparison
-- because it's in the phase where it has fangs. Its fangs are growing sharp.
The fangs of unawareness: They're called conceit, or self-assumption. Once this
state is dissolved, what is there to assume? What is there to be radiant? To
be defiled? To be bold and daring? To be afraid? There isn't anything, once
that nature dissolves through the power of investigation.
These things, you know, are phenomena that create problems in line with their
level. Their level is subtle, so they manage to create subtle problems. Blatant
defilements create blatant problems. Subtle defilements create subtle problems.
When the defilements are gone, there's nothing to create any problems. There
are no more problems in any way, no more conditions for conventional reality
to make further connections. All that remains is absolute purity, which is why
there are no more problems.
Absolute purity is a condition for what? What problems does it create? The Buddha
says that we run out of problems. This is where they run out. However many levels
of becoming and birth there may be in the mind, it has known them step by step
until it reaches the converging point, leaving just the seeds of these things
that get planted here and there as birth. So we burn them up with tapas, the
fire of our effort, until they are completely eradicated. So now are there any
levels of becoming and birth to make further connections? Whom do we have to
ask? Even if the buddha were sitting right in front of us, we wouldn't ask him,
because the truth is the same for us as it is for him. There's nothing different
enough for us to ask. This is why the Dhamma is said to be sanditthiko: We know
it and see it ourself. Paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi: Those who know it, know
it for themselves alone. This means that only those who know it from the practice
can know it. It can't be made available to anyone else.
This is what the Buddha calls vusitam brahmacariyam: It's the end of the job.
The earth-shattering job is done -- earth-shattering because becoming and birth
build themselves up with earth, water, wind, and fire; or because any level
of becoming and birth is a matter of convention, which is now overturned. This
is why we say it's earth-shattering. So what is there to move in and take up
residence in the mind?
Now we can watch defilement. Once we have completely killed defilement in this
mind, then how can defilement be kept hidden from us when it displays itself
in anyone else's mind or actions? This mind can't help but know it every time.
As they say, defilement ordinarily rules us completely without our knowing it,
but how can the Buddha and the arahants have any trouble seeing? They see in
the flash of an eye and they're already disgusted. Those who know, know to the
point where they're disgusted: What do you say to that? As for us, we're the
blind living with the blind. We don't know our own affairs or those of anyone
else. Neither side knows, but each side thinks that it knows, assumes that it
knows, assumes that it's right -- and so both sides argue and bite each other
like dogs because their inner eyes don't see. They don't have the eye of discernment
like the Buddha and the Noble Disciples. This is the way it is with defilement:
It has to assume itself and exalt itself. The more vile it is, the more it assumes
itself to be good. This is the way defilement is. It has never submitted to
the truth of the Dhamma from time immemorial.
For this reason, we practice to stamp out these things. Don't let them linger
in the heart. Stamp them out till they're completely scattered and smashed,
and then you can be at your ease: the mind completely open and yet a reservoir
for the quality of purity, without an inkling of convention passing in. If we
were to make a comparison with conventional reality, it's an outer space mind,
but that's just a manner of speaking.
THE OUTER SPACE OF THE MIND
August 24, 1982
People who practice in earnestness,
trying to develop and improve the qualities in their hearts step by step, beginning
with virtue, the stages of concentration, and the levels of discernment, are
-- to make a comparison -- like the people who build a rocket or a satellite
to travel in outer space. They have to put their vehicle into good shape. Otherwise
it won't get off the ground -- because the things that can act as obstacles
to their vehicle are many. The object that's going to travel in space has to
be developed in order to be completely suited to its environment in every way.
Before they can get it safely past its obstacles, they need to have made ample
calculations. Even then, there are times when mishaps occur. But once the vehicle
has been thoroughly developed, it can travel easily in outer space without any
mishaps of any sort. This is an analogy for the minds of those who practice,
who have developed their inner qualities and put them in to shape.
The heart is what will step out beyond the realm of conventional realities that
exert a gravitational pull on it, into the outer space beyond convention: to
vimutti, or release. The things that act as obstacles, preventing it from stepping
out, are the various kinds of defilement.
For this reason, we have to make
a very great effort. The defilements have various levels of crudeness and subtlety,
so in developing the heart so as to pass through the crudeness and subtlety
of the various levels of conventional reality -- and of the defilements in particular
-- we must try to make it just right. We must use whatever qualities are needed
to get the mind past the crudeness of conventional realities or defilement,
stage by stage, by means of our practice, by means of our efforts to improve
and develop it. Our persistence has to be strong. Our efforts, our endeavors
in all ways have to be strong. Mindfulness and discernment are the important
factors that will take the heart beyond the various obstacles thwarting it step
by step. All of the techniques and strategies taught by the Buddha in the area
of meditation are means for developing the heart so that it will be suited to
transcending the realm of conventional reality and reaching outer space: nibbana.
What is it like, the outer space of the Dhamma? They no longer doubt about whether
the outer space of the world exists or not. The things that lie within conventional
reality are known to exist. Outer space beyond our atmosphere is another level
of conventional reality. Outer space: What is it like? Does it exist? How does
our world in the atmosphere differ from the things outside the world of our
atmosphere called outer space? Both of these levels exist.
The mind that lies in the realm of
conventional reality -- surrounded and controlled -- is like the various objects
in the world trapped by the pull of gravity at all times. The mind is trapped
by the pull of defilement in just the same way. It can't escape, which is why
it must develop its strength to escape from the world of this gravitational
pull. This gravitational pull is something the Buddha has already explained.
In brief, there is craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, and craving
for no becoming. The details -- the branches and offshoots -- are more than
can be numbered. They fill this world of conventional realities. They are all
factors that make the mind attached and entangled -- loving, hating, and resenting
different things, different beings, different people. All these factors can
be adversaries to the heart and come from the preoccupations of the heart itself
that labels things and misinterprets them.