To be venerable doesn't mean that just
our name is excellent. We have to be excellent in our practice and conduct, in
line with such principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya as the ascetic practices. If
we're solid in the ascetic practices, we'll gradually become excellent people
in line with the principles of our practice and ultimately in line with the principles
of nature -- excellent not just in name, but through the nature of a mind made
spotless and pure. A name can be established any old day. You can even build it
up to the sky if you want. They establish names just to flatter one another as
a matter of custom. This is an affair of the world. They keep conferring titles
on one another. Those who confer the titles have good intentions, so we have to
repay those good intentions by setting our hearts on the practice in line with
the principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya, and on observing our duties as monks
to the full. This is in keeping with their purpose in conferring titles so as
to encourage monks to be good.
At any rate, don't take the conferring of titles . . . .Don't take the title and
use it to destroy yourself with pride and conceit. The highest perfection in line
with natural principles, with no need to confer titles, is to practice well. Observe
the precepts well. Don't violate or overstep them. Make the mind still and calm
with meditation. Whichever theme you focus on, be earnest and mindful with it.
When you investigate, investigate right on down so as to give rise to astuteness.
Analyze the properties (dhatu), the khandhas, and the sense media (ayatana) so
as to see them as they are in line with their reality, as I've already explained
What are the properties? The four physical properties: earth, water, wind, and
fire. These are the primal properties, the things that exist originally and get
combined until a mind comes in and lays claim to ownership, so that they're called
a living being or an individual, even though the various parts are just physical
properties in line with their natural principles. No matter who confers titles
on them as being a living being or an individual or whatever, they don't turn
into that. They remain physical properties as they originally were. We should
come to know this with our own discernment through investigating.
The sense media or connections: There are internal sense media and external ones.
The internal ones are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The external
ones are sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas that make
contact with the internal sense media, giving rise to cognition and then to all
sorts of assumptions, most of which go off in the wrong directions. We should
analyze these things so as to see them well. This is called vipassana, which means
seeing clearly -- knowing clearly and seeing truly, not knowing in counterfeit
or illusory ways.
So we should perform our duties correctly and to the full. Our heart is always
hoping to depend on us, because it can't get by on its own. It's been oppressed
and coerced by greed, anger, and delusion all along, which is why it's always
calling for our help. So what can we use to help this heart that is always oppressed
and coerced so as to release it from danger, if we don't use our practice of concentration,
discernment, conviction, and persistence as a means of advancing and uprooting
so as to help it escape from the danger of the things that coerce it.
At present we've come to strip off the danger in the heart. We must try every
way we can to remove it. The main principle in the practice is to have the solidity
-- the heart -- of a warrior, ready to die in the battle of washing the world
out of the heart. If we don't gain victory, we're prepared to die, offering our
life in homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Don't retreat in defeat, or
you'll lose face, and the defilements will taunt you for a long time to come.
You won't be able to stand your feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment in the
face of the cycle of defilement. Whichever world you go to, there will be nothing
but defilements trailing you and taunting you: 'What are you looking for, being
born and bearing this mass of suffering, you good-for-nothing person, you? Whenever
we fight, you lose miserably every time. You've never had the word "victory"
at all.' Listen to that, fighters for the sake of completing the holy life! Do
the taunts of the defilements sting? I myself would be stung to the quick. Even
if I died, I wouldn't forget. So how do we feel? Are we spurred on to fight with
them by giving our lives?
Our Buddha was a noble warrior to the last inch. His every movement was bravery
in the fight with defilement, without retreat, to the point where the defilements
were annihilated and he became the Teacher of the world to whom we pay homage
up to the present. The footprints of his practice are still fresh in every word,
every phrase of the well-taught Dhamma, which hasn't been corrupted or effaced.
So hold to him as a principle in the heart, a principle in the practice, until
you have no breath left to breathe. Don't let him go.
The land of victory, when all the defilements fall back in defeat: You don't have
to ask about it. You'll know it on your own through the Dhamma immediately apparent
to every person who practices to that point. The Buddha didn't lay any exclusive
claims on it, but bestowed it as the wealth of every person who practices in dignity
in the midst of this world of inconstancy, stress, and not-self. When the khandhas
no longer carry on, we will attain full anupadisesa-nibbana with nothing more
to worry about.
The Dhamma is something secure and complete. On the side of its causes, it's a
Dhamma right for remedying and removing defilement of every sort. There's no defilement
that lies above this Dhamma at all. The Buddha taught it rightly in every way,
in every facet, for remedying defilement of every sort. Nothing excels this Dhamma
-- in particular, the Dhamma of the middle way, which is summarized as virtue,
concentration, and discernment. This is the Dhamma of causes, the methods with
which we should train ourselves and which the Buddha taught us in full. As for
the Dhamma of results, it comes in stages. The mind is solid and doesn't stray
or lean in line with its preoccupations. It has stillness and calm: This is the
mind centered in concentration. The mind is courageous and capable, astute and
aware all-around in terms of the things that become involved with it both within
and without: This is the mind with discernment. And when it's even more astute
and refined than that, to the point of being astute all-around and attaining release,
then the entire mind is Dhamma. In other words, the mind is the Dhamma, the Dhamma
is the mind -- oneness -- without any adversaries paired with it as before.
My own impression -- and whether I'm right or wrong, please decide for yourselves
-- but I'm certain that the Dhamma of the doctrine (sasana-dhamma), the teaching
of the Buddha, refers for the most part to causes. The Buddha explained the causes,
the practices to follow so as to remedy and remove defilement or to develop the
various forms of goodness. The results are happiness. The teachings are simply
directions showing the way.
As for the genuine Dhamma appearing from the practice, whether or not we give
it names, it's a Dhamma in the principles of nature. It's Dhamma that we can't
easily reach to touch. This is the Dhamma that's said to exist with the world
at all times. As for the Dhamma of the doctrine taught by the Buddhas, this can
disappear from time to time, as has happened with each of the long line of Buddhas
who have gained Awakening. This in itself shows the inconstancy of the Dhamma
of the doctrine for us to see clearly -- unlike the Dhamma in the principles of
nature, which has existed from the very beginning and has no involvement with
inconstancy, stress, or not-self in any way that would give rise to that Dhamma
or make it end.
The tactics given by each of the Buddhas to the world are called the Dhamma of
the doctrine. These aren't the genuine Dhamma. They're tactics -- different off-shoots
-- actions and modes displayed by the genuine Dhamma, means for letting go and
striving, teaching us to let go, teaching us to strive using various methods,
saying that the results will be like this or that.
As for the genuine Dhamma of results in the principles of nature, that's something
to be known exclusively in the heart of the person who practices. This Dhamma
can't really be described correctly in line with its truth. We can only talk around
it. And particularly with release: This can't be correctly described at all, because
it's beyond all conventions and speculations. It can't be described. Even though
we may know it with our full heart, we can't describe it. Like describing the
flavor and fullness that come from eating: Even though eating is something in
the realm of conventional reality that can be described, and though we all have
savored the flavor and eaten our fill, still we can't describe these things at
all in line with their truth.
The Dhamma that can't be described: That's the genuine Dhamma. It doesn't have
the word 'vanishes' or 'disappears' -- simply that the world can't reach in to
know it and touch it. As for annihilating this Dhamma, it can't be annihilated.
When we practice in line with the tactics given by each of the Buddhas, we can
touch it and become aware of it. The heart becomes an awareness of the Dhamma,
a right and fitting vessel for the Dhamma -- and there is no vessel more appropriate
for receiving each level of the Dhamma than the heart. When it enters into the
Dhamma in full measure, the heart becomes one with the Dhamma. The heart is the
Dhamma. The Dhamma is the heart. Oneness. There is nothing but oneness, not becoming
two with anything else.
This Dhamma of oneness: Our ability to reach and to know it depends on our individual
practice. It doesn't depend on the time or place or on anyone else. The important
point is simply that our practice be right and appropriate. It will foster the
mind in making contact with the Dhamma step by step to the highest step. So we
should be intent and make determination the basis for our practice.
Don't forget the phrase, Buddham saranam gacchami -- I go to the Buddha for refuge
-- as I have already explained it to you. Dhammam saranam gacchami -- I go to
the Dhamma for refuge. This I have also explained. Sangham saranam gacchami --
I go to the Sangha for refuge. Don't forget the ways in which the Noble Disciples
practiced. Virtually all of them went through hardships to the brink of death
before becoming our Sangham saranam gacchami. It's not the case that they were
spoonfed, while we practice with hardship and difficulties to the brink of death.
That's not the case at all. They went through difficulties just like ours -- or
far greater than ours -- before becoming our Sangham saranam gacchami. They came
from all levels of society, some from royal families and noble families leading
a very delicate life. They had the ranks of kings, courtiers, and financiers,
all the way down to ordinary farmers and slaves.
Coming from different classes of society -- and some of them having lived in comfort
in their homes -- when they went forth to practice, they had to train and fit
their thoughts, words, and deeds into a single mould, the mould of the sons of
the Sakyan. So why wouldn't they have had trouble? Why wouldn't they have had
difficulties? The way they ate in their homes was one thing; when they went forth
to become monks, they had to ask others for alms. Instead of getting to eat this,
they got that. Instead of getting hot food, they got cold food. Instead of getting
to eat a lot, they got just a little, not in keeping with their wants. So how
wasn't this difficult? It had to be difficult. But after they had finished eating,
the important thing was training the mind to subdue defilement. Defilement has
been the adversary, the foremost opponent of the Dhamma within the heart all along.
There is no adversary stronger, smarter, or trickier than the defilements that
have held power over the hearts of living beings for so long.
For this reason, we have to produce enough mindfulness, discernment, conviction,
and persistence to subdue defilement. Otherwise we'll be deficient in the fight.
To be deficient in the fight is no good at all. It's sure to make us deficient
in the results we'll obtain. So the production of mindfulness, discernment, conviction,
and persistence to be appropriate for subduing defilement of every sort, step
by step, is the path of victory for the meditator who is to gain complete results,
who will one day be free and independent for sure.
Virtually all of the Noble Disciples
practiced in this way until reaching release. They gained release from suffering
through struggle before becoming our saranam gacchami. So don't forget. Our
refuges -- Sangha saranam gacchami -- weren't spoonfed people. They were people
who struggled to the brink of death just like us. Think of them and hold to
them as examples. Don't take the diddly-shit affairs of the world, which have
no value or standards, as the principles in your heart, or you'll become irresolute
and good for nothing, unable to find any goodness, any release from stress,
any happiness or prosperity, any standards at all to your dying day. When this
is the case, fullness and satisfaction in your work and in the results of your
work won't exist in your heart. So be intent on practicing.
The Dhamma of the Buddha is always
shining new. Don't forget that it's always shining new. Majjhima patipada --
the middle way -- is a shining-new Dhamma, not tarnished, shabby, or worn out
like objects we've used for a long time. Majjhima means right in the middle
-- the Dhamma that has been appropriate for curing defilements of every sort
all along. Ultimately it becomes majjhima in the principles of nature, because
it has cured defilement and brought release within the mind. The mind becomes
a majjhima mind, always even within itself.
So don't take anyone as your model more than the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
By and large, the mind tends to take lowly things as its model, which is why
we have to say, 'Don't take anyone as your model other than the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha.' The meditation masters who have practiced rightly, appropriately,
and well as a good example for us who aim at studying with them: They too derived
their model from the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
If we get weak or discouraged, we
should reflect on the cemeteries of birth and death that will burn us forever:
Is there anything good about them? The struggle involved in the effort of the
practice, even though it involves hardship, is a means of cutting back on our
becoming and birth. More than that, it completely eliminates becoming and birth,
which are a massive heap of stress, from the heart, so that we can freely pass
by and gain release. There are none of the various sorts of defilement -- even
the most subtle -- infiltrating or coercing such a heart. This is what it means
to be free in every way, above the world of rebirth -- which is a conventional
reality -- through the power of our persistent endeavor. For this reason, we
should take persistence, endeavor, and effort as our basis for victory, or as
our basis for the practice. We are then sure one day of attaining release from
suffering and stress. No one has the power to coerce us or decide our score.
We are the ones who'll decide our score for ourselves.
Very well then. That's all I'll discuss for now.
THE FOUR FRAMCES OF REFERENCE
August 25, 1962
The way of practice that follows
the aims of the Buddha and the true Dhamma is to be truly intent on acting rightly.
Every sort of duty that is ours to do should be done intently. When doing a
task of any sort, even a small one, if we lack intentness, it won't get finished
in a presentable way at all, because intentness -- which is a matter of mindfulness
and principles in the heart that can bring a task to completion -- is lacking
in ourselves and in our work. To have mindfulness and principles of the heart
in ourselves and in our work is, in and of itself, to be making the effort of
the practice, regardless of whether the work is internal or external. If a person
lacks intentness as a means of keeping his work in focus, then even if he is
a craftsman capable of making things solid and beautiful, his lack of intentness
will reduce the quality and beauty of his work. For this reason, intentness
and concentration are important factors that shouldn't be overlooked by those
who aim at full results in their work.
We have gone forth from the household
life. We're meditators. We should display intentness in our every duty and be
deliberate in our every task. Even when we sweep the monastery compound, clean
our quarters and the meeting hall, set out sitting mats and drinking water,
in all our movements, comings and going, even when looking right and glancing
left, we should be mindful at every moment. This is what it means to be making
the effort of the practice. In developing the habit of mindfulness, we have
to use our work as our training ground. Every external task of every sort is
a duty. Walking meditation and sitting meditation are duties. If we're mindful
in doing our duties, it means that our effort in the practice hasn't lapsed.
To train ourselves in the habits of those who are intent on the higher levels
of Dhamma, we must begin -- with urgency -- by training ourselves to be mindful
in every task of every sort from the very beginning. For the sake of the certainty
and stability of your future, develop mindfulness as a habit from this moment
onward until you have it constantly present within you, every moment you act
and every moment you rest.
When the time comes to make the mind
still, mindfulness will come to stick close by the heart and be established
as soon as you make the effort, just as you want it to. At the same time, your
mindfulness will have enough strength to force the mind into stillness at will.
For the most part, when people are unable to make their minds still as they
like, it's because mindfulness, which is the primary factor, isn't strong enough,
and so the mind easily finds the opening to slip out after other preoccupations
-- like an inquisitive child who has no one to watch over him and who can thus
get into danger any time at all. The mind that's always carried away, without
any mindfulness to look after it, is thus always getting disturbed to the point
where it can never find any stillness and peace. The guardians of the mind are
mindfulness and discernment, which continually watch over it all the time it
is thinking about various issues, and which continually try to reason with the
mind to free it from the issues that come to involve it. When the mind is constantly
hearing the logic of its discernment, it will be unable to disobey its discernment
by thinking about and becoming attached to any issues any longer.