Right Mindfulness: What does the Buddha have us keep in mind? All the things that will remove defilement. For example, he has us keep the four frames of reference in mind: being mindful as we investigate the body; being mindful as we investigate feelings; being mindful as we investigate the mind; being mindful as we investigate phenomena that involve the mind, arise in the mind, arise and then vanish, vanish and then arise, matters of past and future appearing in the present all the time. We keep investigating in this way. If we investigate so as to make the mind progress in tranquility meditation, Right Mindfulness means using mindfulness to supervise our mental repetition. From there it turns into Right Concentration within the heart. This is called building the Dhamma, building tools for clearing our way, loosening the things that bind and constrict the heart so that we can make easy progress, so that we aren't obstructed and blocked by the force of the things I have mentioned.
Only the religion, or only the Dhamma, can remove and scatter all the things that have bound us for countless aeons, clearing them away so that we can make easy progress. When the mind is centered in concentration, then confusion and turmoil are far away. The mind is still and dwells in comfort and ease. When the mind develops discernment from investigating and contemplating the things that obstruct it, it makes easy progress. The sharper its discernment, the wider the path it can clear for itself. Its going is smooth. Easy. It advances by seeing and knowing the truth, without being deluded or deceiving itself. Genuine discernment doesn't deceive itself, but instead makes smooth progress. It unravels all the things that obstruct it -- our various attachments and misconstruings -- so as to see them thoroughly, as if it were slashing away the obstacles in its path so that it can progress step by step as I've already explained to you.
The most important basis for its investigation is the body. Bodies outside or the body inside, investigate them carefully and thoroughly, for they're all Noble Truths. They're all the path, both inside and out. Investigate and unravel them so as to see them clearly -- and while you're investigating them, don't concern yourself with any other work more than with the work of investigation. Use discernment to investigate in order really to know, really to see these things as they are, and uproot the counterfeit labels and assumptions that say that they're pretty and beautiful, lovely and attractive. Investigate so as to penetrate to the truth that there is nothing at all beautiful or attractive about them. They're thoroughly filthy and repulsive: your body and the bodies of others, all without exception. They're all filled with filthy and repulsive things. If you look in line with the principles of the truth, that's how they are. Discernment investigates, peering inward so as to see clear through -- from the skin outside on into the inside, which is putrid with all kinds of filth -- for the sake of seeing clearly exactly what is pretty, what is beautiful, what is lovely and attractive. There's nothing of the sort in any body. There are only the lying defilements that have planted these notions there.
When we have really investigated on in, we see that these notions are all false. The genuine truth is that these bodies aren't pretty or beautiful. They're nothing but repulsive. When they fall apart, what are they? When they fall apart, earth is earth -- because earth is what it already was when it was still in the body. The properties of water, wind, and fire were already water, wind, and fire when they were in the body. When the body falls apart, where do these things ever become gods and Brahmas, heaven and nibbana? They have to be earth, water, wind, and fire in line with their nature. This is how discernment investigates and analyzes so as to see clearly. This is how we use clear-seeing discernment to clear away the things obstructing and distorting our vision. Now there's no more such thing as being constricted or blocked. Our discernment, if we use it, has to be discernment all the day long.
Wherever discernment penetrates, it sees clearly, clears away its doubts, and lets go, step by step, until it lets go once and for all from having known thoroughly. Once it has investigated blatant things so as to know them clearly, where will the mind then go? Once it has investigated blatant things and known them clearly, it's as if it has completely uprooted the blatant defilements that have planted thorns in different objects, such as our own body. So now where will the defilements go? Will they fly away? They can only shrink inward to find a hiding place when they are chased inside and attacked by mindfulness and discernment.
Feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance: These are simply individual conditions by their nature, but they are under the control of defilement. Defilement is the basis from which they spring, so it has to regard itself as being in charge. It uses labels to make them defilement. It forms thought-formations so as to make them defilement. It cognizes and takes note so as to make these things defilement. However many feelings arise, it makes them all defilement. Defilement can't make things into Dhamma. It has to be defilement all the day long. This is how it builds itself in its various branches.
So. Investigate on in. Slash on in. Feelings of pleasure and pain: They exist both in the body and in the mind. Feeling isn't defilement. If we look in line with the principles of nature, it's simply a reality. The assumption that 'I'm pained' or 'I'm pleased' -- delusion with pain, delusion with pleasure, delusion with feelings of indifference in the body and mind: These things are defilement. The assumptions and delusions are defilement. When we really investigate inward, the various feelings aren't defilement; these four mental phenomena aren't defilement.
Once we've spotted our assumptions and construings, they retreat inward. The feelings that still exist in the body and mind, even though they aren't yet thoroughly understood, are still greatly lightened. We begin to gain an inkling of their ways, step by step. We're not deluded to the point of complete blindness as we were before we investigated. Whichever aspects of feeling are blatant and associated with the body, we know clearly. We can let go of bodily feelings. We can understand them. As for feelings remaining in the mind, for the most part they're refined feelings of pleasure. We know and let go of them in the same way when the path gains power. These feelings of pleasure are like fish in a trap: No matter what, there's no way they can escape getting cooked. They can't swim down into large ponds and lakes as they used to. They can only sit waiting for their dying day. The same holds true for the refined feeling of pleasure -- which is a conventional reality -- within the heart. It can only wait for the day it will be disbanded as a convention when the ultimate ease, which is not a convention, comes to rule the heart through the complete penetration of mindfulness and discernment. So investigate on in until you understand, reaching the point of letting go with no more concerns.
What is sanna labeling? Labeling this, labeling that, making assumptions about this and that: These are all affairs of defilement using sanna. When cognizance (vinnana) takes note, it too is turned into defilement. So we investigate these things, using discernment in the same way as when we investigate feelings. We then understand. When we understand, these things become simply cognizance taking note, simply sanna labeling, without labeling so as to be defilement, without taking note so as to be defilement. Defilement then retreats further and further inward.
Ultimately, these five issues -- namely, the physical khandha, our body; the vedana khandha, feelings in the body (as for feelings in the mind, let's save those for the moment); the sanna khandha, the sankhara khandha, and the vinnana khandha -- are all clearly known in the heart, with no more doubts. The defilements gather inward, converge inward. They can't go out roaming, because they'll get slashed to bits by mindfulness and discernment. So they have to withdraw inward to find a hiding place. This, in actuality, is what the investigation is like, and not otherwise.
In our investigation as meditators, when discernment reaches any particular level, we'll know for ourselves, step by step. Both defilement and discernment: We'll know both sides at the same time. When discernment is very strong, defilement grows weaker. Mindfulness and discernment become even more courageous and unflinching. The words laziness and lethargy, which are affairs of defilement, disappear. We keep moving in with persistence day and night. This is the way it is when the path gains strength. As meditators you should take note of this and practice so as to know it and see it, so as to make it your own treasure arising in your heart. Your doubts will then be ended in every way.
We now take this atomic mindfulness and discernment and shoot it into the central point of conventional reality, the point that causes living beings to founder in the wheel of the cycle (vatta) so that they can't find their way out, don't know the way out, don't know the ways of birth, don't know who has been born as what, where they have died, what burdens of suffering and stress they have carried. Mindfulness and discernment go crashing down into that point until it is scattered to pieces. And so now how can we not know what it is that has caused us to take birth and die? There is only defilement that is the important seed causing us to take birth and die, causing us to suffer pain and stress. The true Dhamma hasn't caused us to suffer. It has brought us nothing but pleasure and ease in line with its levels, in line with the levels of what is noble and good. The things that give rise to major and minor sufferings are all affairs of defilement. We can see this clearly. We can know this clearly. Especially when defilement has been completely scattered from the heart, it's as if the earth and sky collapse. How can this not send a tremor through the three levels of the cosmos? -- because this thing is what has wandered throughout the three levels of the cosmos. When it has been made to collapse within the heart, what is the heart like now? How does the outer space of the Dhamma differ from the outer space of the world? Now we know clearly. The outer space of this purified mind: Is it annihilation? The outer space of the world isn't annihilation. If it were annihilation, they wouldn't call it outer space. It's a nature that exists in line with the principles of its nature as outer space.
The outer space of the mind released from all forms of gravitational pull, i. e. , conventional reality: What is it like? Even though we've never known it before, when we come to know it, we won't have any doubts. Even though we've never seen it before, when we come to see it, we won't have any doubts. Even though we've never experienced it before, when we come to experience it, we won't have any doubts. We won't have to search for witnesses to confirm it, the way we do with conventions in general. It's sanditthiko -- immediately apparent -- and only this fits perfectly with our heart and that outer space mind.
This is what we referred to at the beginning when we talked about the outer space of the world and the outer space of the mind. The outer space of the mind -- the mind of nibbana -- is like that. Just where is it annihilated? Who experiences the outer space of the mind? If it were annihilation, who could experience it? As for where it will or won't be reborn, we already know that there's no way for it to be reborn. We know this clearly. We've removed every defilement or conventional reality that would lead to rebirth. Conventional reality is the same thing as defilement. All things -- no matter how subtle -- that have been dangers to the heart for such a long time have been completely destroyed. All that remains is the pure outer space of the mind: the mind that is pure. You can call it outer space, you can call it anything at all, because the world has its conventions, so we have to make differentiations to use in line with the conventions of the world so as not to conflict.
When we reach the level of the outer space mind, how does it feel for the mind to have been coerced, oppressed, and subject to the pull of all things base and vile, full of stress and great sufferings for aeons and aeons? We don't have to reflect on how many lifetimes it's been. We can take the principle of the present as our evidence. Now the mind is released. We've seen how much suffering there has been and now we've abandoned it once and for all. We've absolutely destroyed its seeds, beginning with 'avijja-paccaya sankhara' -- 'With unawareness as condition there occur mental formations.' All that remains is 'avijjayatveva asesa-viraga-nirodha' sankhara-nirodho' -- 'Simply with the disbanding of unawareness, with no remaining passion, thought-formations disband.' That's the outer space of the mind.
The mind released from all gravitational forces: Even though it's still alive and directing the khandhas, there's nothing to bar its thoughts, its vision, its knowledge. There's nothing to obstruct it, nothing to make it worried or relieved, nothing to make it brave, nothing to make it afraid. It is simply its own nature by itself, always independent in that way.
For this reason, knowledge of all truths has to be completely open to this unobstructed and unoppressed mind. It can know and see. If we speak of matters related to the body and khandhas, we can speak in every way without faltering, because there's nothing to hinder us. Only the defilements are what kept us from seeing what we saw and from describing the things we should have been able to describe, because we didn't know, we didn't see. What we knew was bits and pieces. We didn't know the full truth of these various things. When this was the case, how could we know clearly? How could we speak clearly? All we knew was bits and pieces, so when we spoke, it had to be bits and pieces as well.
But once we've shed these things, everything is wide open. The mind is free, vast, and empty, without limits, without bounds. There's nothing to enclose or obscure it. When we know, we really know the truth. When we see, we really see the truth. When we speak, we can speak the truth. You can call the mind brave or not-brave as you like, because we speak in line with what we experience, what we know and see, so why can't we speak? We can know, we can see, so why can't we speak? -- for these things exist as they have from the beginning. When the Buddha proclaimed the Dhamma to the world, he took the things that existed and that he saw in line with what he had known -- everything of every sort -- and proclaimed them to the world. Think of how broad it was, the knowledge of the Buddha, how subtle and profound -- because nothing was concealed or mysterious to him. Everything was completely opened to him. This is why he's called lokavidu -- one who knows the world clearly -- through the vastness of his mind that had nothing to enclose or conceal it at all.
Aloko udapadi: 'Brightness arose.' His mind was bright toward the truth both by day and by night. This is how the Buddha knew. The Noble Disciples all knew in the same way, except that his range and theirs differed in breadth. But as for knowing the truth, it was the same for them all.
Here we've described both the benefits and the harm of the things involved with the mind -- in other words, both the Dhamma and the defilements -- for you as meditators to listen to and contemplate in earnestness.
So. Let's try to develop our minds so as to shoot out beyond this world of conventional realities to see what it's like. Then we won't have to ask where the Buddha is, how many Buddhas there have been, whether the Noble Disciples really exist or how many they are -- because the one truth that we know and see clearly in our hearts resonates to all the Buddhas, all the Noble Disciples, and all the Dhamma that exists. We won't have any doubts, because the nature that knows and exists within us contains them all: all the Buddhas, the community of Noble Disciples, and all the Dhamma that exists. It's a nature just right in its every aspect, with nothing for us to doubt.

This is the place -- if we speak in terms of place -- where we run out of doubts about everything of every sort. We oversee the khandhas, which are simply conventions of the world, just as all the Noble Disciples do while they are still living. As for the mind, it has gained release and remains released in that way. As we have said, even though it remains in the midst of the world of conventions, this nature is its own nature, and those other things are their own affairs. Each is a separate reality that doesn't mingle, join, or have an effect on the others. When we say release from the world, this is what we mean.
All of the Dhammas I have mentioned here: When do they exist? And when don't they exist? The Dhamma exists at all times and in all places. It's akaliko, timeless. So I ask that you penetrate into the Dhamma of these four Noble Truths. You'll be right on target with the results of the Buddha and the Noble Disciples; and there's no doubt but that you'll be right on target with the results of the Buddha's and the Noble Disciples' work. Their workplace is in these four Noble Truths, and the results that come from the work are the paths, fruitions, and nibbana. They arise right here. They're located right here. When we have practiced and reached them fully and completely, there will be nothing for us to question.

This is why there won't be any reason to doubt the time of the Buddha as compared to our own time, as to whether the Dhamma of the Buddha was different because the defilements are now different from what they were then. The defilements then and now are all of the same sort. The Dhamma is all of the same sort. If we cure defilement in the same way, we're bound to gain release in the same way. There is no other way to gain release, no matter what the day and age. There is only this one way: following the way of the path, beginning with virtue, concentration, and discernment, to eliminate defilement, the cause of stress -- in particular, craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming -- completely from the heart. As for nirodha, the cessation of stress: When defilement is disbanded, from where will any more suffering or stress arise? When defilement and stress are disbanded for good, that's the outer space of the mind. As for the Noble Truths, they're activities, or our workplace. The result that comes from these four Noble Truths is something else entirely. As I've always been telling you: What is it that knows that stress and the cause of stress disband? When the path has performed its duties to the full and has completely wiped out the cause of stress, then nirodha -- the cessation of stress -- appears in full measure, after which it disbands as well, because it too is a conventional reality. As for the one who knows that the cause of stress has disbanded by being eradicated through the path so as to give rise to the cessation of stress: The one who knows this is the pure one -- the outer space of the mind -- and that's the end of the matter.