IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT Take a look at your fear.One day, as it was nearing nightfall, there
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT
Take a look at your fear...One day, as it was nearing nightfall,
there was nothing else for it...If I tried to reason with myself I'd
never go, so I grabbed a //pa-kow// and just went.
"If it's time for it to die then let it die. If my mind is going
to be so stubborn and stupid then let it die"...that's how I thought
to myself. Actually in my heart I didn't really want to go but I
forced myself to. When it comes to things like this, if you wait
till everything's just right you'll end up never going. When would
you ever train yourself? So I just went.
I'd never stayed in a charnel ground before. When I got there,
words can't describe the way I felt. The //pa-kow// wanted to camp
right next to me but I wouldn't have it. I made him stay far away.
Really I wanted him to stay close to keep me company but I wouldn't
have it. I made him move away, otherwise I'd have counted on him for
"If it's going to be so afraid then let it die tonight."
I was afraid, but I dared. It's not that I wasn't afraid, but I
had courage. In the end you have to die anyway.
Well, just as it was getting dark I had my chance, in they came
carrying a corpse. Just my luck! I couldn't even feel my feet touch
the ground, I wanted to get out of there so badly. They wanted me to
do some funeral chants but I wouldn't get involved, I just walked
away. In a few minutes, after they'd gone, I just walked back and
found that they had buried the corpse right next to my spot, making
the bamboo used for carrying it into a bed for me to stay on.
So now what was I do? It's not that the village was nearby,
either, a good two or three kilometers away.
"Well, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die"...If you've never
dared to do it you'll never know what it's like. It's really an
As it got darker and darker I wondered where there was to run to
in the middle of that charnel ground.
"Oh, let it die. One is born to this life only to die, anyway."
As soon as the sun sank the night told me to get inside my
//glot//. [*] I didn't want to do any walking meditation, I only
wanted to get into my net. Whenever I tried to walk towards the
grave it was as if something was pulling me back from behind, to
stop me from walking. It was as if my feelings of fear and courage
were having a tug-of-war with me. But I did it. This is the way you
must train yourself.
* [//Glot// -- the Thai "//dhutanga//" or forest-dwelling monks'
large umbrella from which, suspended from a tree, they hang a
mosquito net in which to stay while in the forest.]
When it was dark I got into my mosquito net. It felt as if I had
a seven-tiered wall all around me. Seeing my trusty alms bowl there
beside me was like seeing an old friend. Even a bowl can be a friend
sometimes! Its presence beside me was comforting. I had a bowl for a
friend at least.
I sat in my net watching over the body all night. I didn't lie
down or even doze off, I just sat quietly. I couldn't be sleepy even
if I wanted to, I was so scared. Yes, I was scared, and yet I did
it. I sat through the night.
Now who would have the guts to practice like this? Try it and
see. When it comes to experiences like this who would dare to go and
stay in a charnel ground? If you don't actually do it you don't get
the results, you don't really practice. This time I really
When day broke I felt, "Oh! I've survived!" I was so glad, I just
wanted to have daytime, no night time at all. I wanted to kill off
the night and leave only daylight. I felt so good, I had survived. I
thought, "Oh, there's nothing to it, it's just my own fear, that's
After almsround and eating the meal I felt good, the sunshine
came out, making me feel warm and cozy. I had a rest and walked a
while. I thought, "This evening I should have some good, quiet
meditation, because I've already been through it all last night.
There's probably nothing more to it."
Then, later in the afternoon, wouldn't you know it? In comes
another one, a big one this time. [*] They brought the corpse in and
cremated it right beside my spot, right in front of my //glot//.
This was even worse than last night!
* [The body on the first night had been that of a child.]
"Well, that's good", I thought, "bringing in this corpse to burn
here is going to help my practice".
But still I wouldn't go and do any rites for them, I waited for
them to leave first before taking a look.
Burning that body for me to sit and watch over all night, I can't
tell you how it was. Words can't describe it. Nothing I could say
could convey the fear I felt. In the dead of night, remember. The
fire from the burning corpse flickered red and green and the flames
pattered softly. I wanted to do walking meditation in front of the
body but could hardly bring myself to do it. Eventually I got into
my net. The stench from the burning flesh lingered all through the
And this was before things really started to happen...As the
flames flickered softly I turned my back on the fire.
I forgot about sleep, I couldn't even think of it, my eyes were
fixed rigid with fear. And there was nobody to turn to, there was
only me. I had to rely on myself. I could think of nowhere to go,
there was nowhere to run to in that pitch black night.
"Well, I'll sit and die here. I'm not moving from this spot."
Here, talking of the ordinary mind, would it want to do this?
Would it take you to such a situation? If you tried to reason it out
you'd never go. Who would want to do such a thing? If you didn't
have strong faith in the teaching of the Buddha you'd never do it.
Now, about 10 p.m., I was sitting with my back to the fire. I
don't know what it was, but there came a sound of shuffling from the
fire behind me. Had the coffin just collapsed? Or maybe a dog was
getting the corpse? But no, it sounded more like a buffalo walking
"Oh, never min..."
But then it started walking towards me, just like a person!
It walked up behind me, the footsteps heavy, like a buffalo's,
and yet not...The leaves crunched under the footsteps as it made its
way round to the front. Well, I could only prepare for the worst,
where else was there to go? But it didn't really come up to me, it
just circled around in front and then went off in the direction of
the //pa-kow//. Then all was quiet. I don't know what it was, but my
fear made me think of many possibilities.
It must have been about half-an-hour later, I think, when the
footsteps started coming back from the direction of the //pa-kow//.
Just like a person! It came right up to me, this time, heading for
me as if to run me over! I closed my eyes and refused to open them.
"I'll die with my eyes closed."
It got closer and closer until it stopped dead in front of me and
just stood stock still. I felt as if it were waving burnt hands back
and forth in front of my closed eyes. Oh! This was really it! I
threw out everything, forgot all about Buddho, Dhammo and Sangho. I
forgot everything else, there was only the fear in me, stacked in
full to the brim. My thoughts couldn't go anywhere else, there was
only fear. From the day I was born I had never experienced such
fear. Buddho and Dhammo had disappeared, I don't know where. There
was only fear welling up inside my chest until it felt like a
"Well, I'll just leave it as it is, there's nothing else to do."
I sat as if I wasn't even touching the ground and simply noted
what was going on. The fear was so great that it filled me, like a
jar completely filled with water. If you pour water until the jar is
completely full, and then pour some more, the jar will overflow.
Likewise, the fear built up so much within me that it reached its
peak and began to overflow.
"What am I so afraid of anyway?" a voice inside me asked.
"I'm afraid of death", another voice answered.
"Well, then, where is this thing 'death'? Why all the panic? Look
where death abides. Where is death?"
"Why, death is within me!"
"If death is within you, then where are you going to run to
escape it? If you run away you die, if you stay here you die.
Wherever you go it goes with you because death lies within you,
there's nowhere you can run to. Whether you are afraid or not you
die just the same, there's nowhere to escape death."
As soon as I had thought this, my perception seemed to change
right around. All the fear completely disappeared as easily as
turning over one's own hand. It was truly amazing. So much fear and
yet it could disappear just like that! Non-fear arose in its place.
Now my mind rose higher and higher until I felt as if I was in the
As soon as I had conquered the fear, rain began to fall. I don't
know what sort of rain it was, the wind was so strong. But I wasn't
afraid of dying now. I wasn't afraid that the branches of the trees
might come crashing down on me. I paid it no mind. The rain
thundered down like a hot-season torrent, really heavy. By the time
the rain had stopped everything was soaking wet.
I sat unmoving.
So what did I do next, soaking wet as I was? I cried! The tears
flowed down my cheeks. I cried as I thought to myself,
"Why am I sitting here like some sort of orphan or abandoned
child, sitting, soaking in the rain like a man who owns nothing,
like an exile?"
And then I thought further, "All those people sitting comfortably
in their homes right now probably don't even suspect that there is a
monk sitting, soaking in the rain all night like this. What's the
point of it all?" Thinking like this I began to feel so thoroughly
sorry for myself that the tears came gushing out.
"They're not good things anyway, these tears, let them flow right
on out until they're all gone."
This was how I practiced.
Now I don't know how I can describe the things that followed. I
sat...sat and listened. After conquering my feelings I just sat and
watched as all manner of things arose in me, so many things that
were possible to know but impossible to describe. And I thought of
the Buddha's words...//Paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi// [*]-- "the wise
will know for themselves'.
* [The last line of the traditional Pali lines listing the qualities
of the Dhamma.]
That I had endured such suffering and sat through the rain like
this...who was there to experience it with me? Only I could know
what it was like. There was so much fear and yet the fear
disappeared. Who else could witness this? The people in their homes
in the town couldn't know what it was like, only I could see it. It
was a personal experience. Even if I were to tell others they
wouldn't really know, it was something for each individual to
experience for himself. The more I contemplated this the clearer it
became. I became stronger and stronger, my conviction become firmer
and firmer, until daybreak.
When I opened my eyes at dawn, everything was yellow. I had been
wanting to urinate during the night but the feeling had eventually
stopped. When I got up from my sitting in the morning everywhere I
looked was yellow, just like the early morning sunlight on some
days. When I went to urinate there was blood in the urine!
"Eh? Is my gut torn or something?" I got a bit of fright..."Maybe
it's really torn inside there."
"Well, so what? If it's torn it's torn, who is there to blame?" a
voice told me straight away. "If it's torn it's torn, if I die I
die. I was only sitting here, I wasn't doing any harm. If it's going
to burst, let it burst", the voice said.
My mind was as if arguing or fighting with itself. One voice
would come from one side, saying, "Hey, this is dangerous!" Another
voice would counter it, challenge it and over-rule it.
My urine was stained with blood.
"Hmm. Where am I going to find medicine?"
"I'm not going to bother with that stuff. A monk can't cut plants
for medicine anyway. If I die, I die, so what? What else is there to
do? If I die while practicing like this then I'm ready. if I were to
die doing something bad that's no good, but to die practicing like
this I'm prepared."
Don't follow your moods. Train yourself. The practice involves
putting your very life at stake. You must have cried at least two or
three times. That's right, that's the practice. If you're sleepy and
want to lie down then don't let it sleep. Make the sleepiness go
away before you lie down. But look at you all, you don't know how to
Sometimes, when you come back from almsround and you're
contemplating the food before eating, you can't settle down, your
mind is like a mad dog. The saliva flows, you're so hungry.
Sometimes you may not even bother to contemplate, you just dig in.
That's a disaster. If the mind won't calm down and be patient then
just push your bowl away and don't eat. Train yourself, drill
yourself, that's practice. Don't just keep on following your mind.
Push your bowl away, get up and leave, don't allow yourself to eat.
If it really wants to eat so much and acts so stubborn then don't
let it eat. The saliva will stop flowing. If the defilements know
that they won't get anything to eat they'll get scared. They won't
dare bother you next day, they'll be afraid they won't get anything
to eat. Try it out if you don't believe me.
People don't trust the practice, they don't dare to really do it.
They're afraid they'll go hungry, afraid they'll die. If you don't
try it out you won't know what it's about. Most of us don't dare to
do it, don't dare to try it out, we're afraid.
When it comes to eating and the like I've suffered over them for
a long time now so I know what they're about. And that's only a
minor thing as well. So this practice is not something one can study
Consider: What is the most important thing of all? There's
nothing else, just death. Death is the most important thing in the
world. Consider, practice, inquire...If you don't have clothing you
won't die. If you don't have betel nut to chew or cigarettes to
smoke you still won't die. But if you don't have rice or water, then
you will die. I see only these two things as being essential in this
world. You need rice and water to nourish the body. So I wasn't
interested in anything else, I just contented myself with whatever
was offered. As long as I had rice and water it was enough to
practice with, I was content.
Is that enough for you? All those other things are extras,
whether you get them or not doesn't matter, the only really
important things are rice and water.
"If I live like this can I survive?" I asked myself, "There's
enough to get by on all right. I can probably get at least rice on
almsround in just about any village, a mouthful from each house.
Water is usually available. Just these two are enough..." I didn't
aim to be particularly rich.
In regards to the practice, right and wrong are usually
co-existent. You must dare to do it, dare to practice. If you've
never been to a charnel ground you should train yourself to go. If
you can't go at night then go during the day. Then train yourself to
go later and later until you can go at dusk and stay there. Then you
will see the effects of the practice, then you will understand.
This mind has been deluded now for who knows how many lifetimes.
Whatever we don't like or love we want to avoid, we just indulge in
our fears. And then we say we're practicing. This can't be called
"practice." If it's real practice you'll even risk your life. If
you've really made up your mind to practice why would you take an
interest in petty concerns?..."I only got a little, you got a lot."
"You quarreled with me so I'm quarreling with you..." I had none of
these thoughts because I wasn't looking for such things. Whatever
others did was their business. Going to other monasteries I didn't
get involved in such things. However high or low others practiced I
wouldn't take any interest, I just looked after my own business. And
so I dared to practice, and the practice gave rise to wisdom and
If your practice has really hit the spot then you really
practice. Day or night you practice. At night, when it's quiet, I'd
sit in meditation, then come down to walk, alternating back and
forth like this at least two or three times a night. Walk, then sit,
then walk some more...I wasn't bored, I enjoyed it.
Sometimes it'd be raining softly and I'd think of the times I
used to work the rice paddies. My pants would still be wet from the
day before but I'd have to get up before dawn and put them on again.
Then I'd have to go down to below the house to get the buffalo out
of its pen. All I could see of the buffalo would be covered in
buffalo shit. Then the buffalo's tail would be sore with athlete's
foot and I'd walk along thinking, "Why is life so miserable?" And
now here I was walking meditation...what was a little bit of rain to
me? Thinking like this I encouraged myself in the practice.
If the practice has entered the stream then there's nothing to
compare with it. There's no suffering like the suffering of a Dhamma
cultivator and there's no happiness like the happiness of one
either. There's no zeal to compare with the zeal of the cultivator
and there's no laziness to compare with them either. Practicers of
the Dhamma are tops. That's why I say if you really practice it's a
sight to see.
But most of us just talk about practice without having done it or
reached it. Our practice is like the man whose roof is leaking on
one side so he sleeps on the other side of the house. When the
sunshine comes in on that side he rolls over to the other side, all
the time thinking, "When will I ever get a decent house like
everyone else?" If the whole roof leaks then he just gets up and
leaves. This is not the way to do things, but that's how most people
This mind of ours, these defilements...if you follow them they'll
cause trouble. The more you follow them the more the practice
degenerates. With the real practice sometimes you even amaze
yourself with your zeal. Whether other people practice or not, don't
take any interest, simply do your own practice consistently. Whoever
comes or goes it doesn't matter, just do the practice. You must look
at yourself before it can be called "practice." When you really
practice there are no conflicts in your mind, there is only Dhamma.
Wherever you are still inept, wherever you are still lacking,
that's where you must apply yourself. If you haven't yet cracked it
don't give up. Having finished with one thing you get stuck on
another, so persist with it until you crack it, don't let up. Don't
be content until it's finished. Put all your attention on that
point. While sitting, lying down or walking, watch right there.
It's just like a farmer who hasn't yet finished his fields. Every
year he plants rice but this year he still hasn't gotten it
finished, so his mind is stuck on that, he can't rest content. His
work is still unfinished. Even when he's with friends he can't
relax, he's all the time nagged by his unfinished business. Or like
a mother who leaves her baby upstairs in the house while she goes to
feed the animals below: she's always got her baby in mind, lest it
should fall from the house. Even though she may do other things, her
baby is never far from her thoughts.
It's just the same for us and our practice -- we never forget it.
Even though we may do other things our practice is never far from
our thoughts, it's constantly with us, day and night. It has to be
like this if you are really going to make progress.
In the beginning you must rely on a teacher to instruct and
advise you. When you understand, then practice. When the teacher has
instructed you follow the instructions. If you understand the
practice it's no longer necessary for the teacher to teach you, just
do the work yourselves. Whenever heedlessness or unwholesome
qualities arise know for yourself, teach yourself. Do the practice
yourself. The mind is the one who knows, the witness. The mind knows
for itself if you are still very deluded or only a little deluded.
Wherever you are still faulty try to practice right at that point,
apply yourself to it.
Practice is like that. It's almost like being crazy, or you could
even say you are crazy. When you really practice you are crazy, you
"flip." You have distorted perception and then you adjust your
perception. If you don't adjust it, it's going to be just as
troublesome and just as wretched as before.
So there's a lot of suffering in the practice, but if you don't
know your own suffering you won't understand the Noble Truth of
Suffering. To understand suffering, to kill it off, you first have
to encounter it. If you want to shoot a bird but don't go out and
find it how will you ever to shoot it? Suffering, suffering...the
Buddha taught about suffering: The suffering of birth, the suffering
you won't see suffering. If you don't understand suffering you won't
be able to get rid of suffering.
Now people don't want to see suffering, they don't want to
experience it. If they suffer here they run over there. You see?
They're simply dragging their suffering around with them, they never
kill it. They don't contemplate or investigate it. If they feel
suffering here they run over there; if it arises there they run back
here. They try to run away from suffering physically. As long as you
are still ignorant, wherever you go you'll find suffering. Even if
you boarded an airplane to get away from it, it would board the
plane with you. If you dived under the water it would dive in with
you, because suffering lies within us. But we don't know that. If it
lies within us where can we run to escape it?
People have suffering in one place so they go somewhere else.
When suffering arises there they run off again. They think they're
running away from suffering but they're not, suffering goes with
them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don't
know the cause of suffering then we can't know the cessation of
suffering, there's no way we can escape it.
You must look into this intently until you're beyond doubt. You
must dare to practice. Don't shirk it, either in a group or alone.
If others are lazy it doesn't matter. Whoever does a lot of walking
meditation, a lot of practice...I guarantee results. If you really
practice consistently, whether others come or go or whatever, one
rains retreat is enough. Do it like I've been telling you here.
Listen to the teacher's words, don't quibble, don't be stubborn.
Whatever he tells you to do go right ahead and do it. You needn't be
timid of the practice, knowledge will surely arise from it.
Practice is also //patipada//. What is //patipada//? Practice
evenly, consistently. Don't practice like Old Reverend Peh. One
Rains Retreat he determined to stop talking. He stopped talking all
right but then he started writing notes..."Tomorrow please toast me
some rice." He wanted to eat toasted rice! He stopped talking but
ended up writing so many notes that he was even more scattered than
before. One minute he'd write one thing, the next another, what a
I don't know why he bothered determining not to talk. He didn't
know what practice is.
Actually our practice is to be content with little, to just be
natural. Don't worry whether you feel lazy or diligent. Don't even
say "I'm diligent" or "I'm lazy." Most people practice only when
they feel diligent, if they feel lazy they don't bother. This is how
people usually are. But monks shouldn't think like that. If you are
diligent you practice, when you are lazy you still practice. Don't
bother with other things, cut them off, throw them out, train
yourself. Practice consistently, whether day or night, this year,
next year, whatever the time...don't pay attention to thoughts of
diligence or laziness, don't worry whether it's hot or cold, just do
it. This is called //sammapatipada// -- Right Practice.
Some people really apply themselves to the practice for six or
seven days, then, when they don't get the results they wanted, give
it up and revert completely, indulging in chatter, socializing and
whatever. Then they remember the practice and go at it for another
six or seven days, then give it up again...It's like the way some
people work. At first they throw themselves into it...then, when
they stop, they don't even bother picking up their tools, they just
walk off and leave them there. Later on, when the soil has all caked
up, they remember their work and do a bit more, only to leave it
Doing things this way you'll never get a decent garden or paddy.
Our practice is the same. If you think this //patipada// is
unimportant you won't get anywhere with the practice.
//Sammapatipada// is unquestionably important. Do it constantly.
Don't listen to your moods. So what if your mood is good or not? The
Buddha didn't bother with those things. He had experienced all the
good things and bad things, the right things and wrong things. That
was his practice. Taking only what you like and discarding whatever
you don't like isn't practice, it's disaster. Wherever you go you
will never be satisfied, wherever you stay there will be suffering.
Practicing like this is like the Brahmans making their
sacrifices. Why do they do it? Because they want something in
exchange. Some of us practice like this. Why do we practice? Because
we seek re-birth, another state of being, we want to attain
something. If we don't get what we want then we don't want to
practice, just like the Brahmans making their sacrifices. They do so
because of desire.
The Buddha didn't teach like that. The cultivation of the
practice is for giving up, for letting go, for stopping, for
uprooting. You don't do it for re-birth into any particular state.
There was once a Thera who had initially gone forth into the
Mahanikai sect. But he found it not strict enough so he took
Dhammayuttika ordination. [*] Then he started practicing. Sometimes
he would fast for fifteen days, then when he ate he'd eat only
leaves and grass. He thought that eating animals was bad //kamma//,
that it would be better to eat leaves and grass.
* [Mahanikai and Dhammayuttika are the two sects of Theravada sangha
After a while..."Hmm. Being a monk is not so good, it's
inconvenient. It's hard to maintain my vegetarian practice as a
monk. Maybe I'll disrobe and become a //pa-kow//." So he disrobed
and became a pa-kow so that he could gather the leaves and grass for
himself and dig for roots and yams. He carried on like that for a
while till in the end he didn't know what he should be doing. He
gave it all up. He gave up being a monk, gave up being a //pa-kow//,
gave up everything. These days I don't know what he's doing. Maybe
he's dead, I don't know. This is because he couldn't find anything
to suit his mind. He didn't realize that he was simply following
defilements. The defilements were leading him on but he didn't know
"Did the Buddha disrobe and become a //pa-kow//? How did the
Buddha practice? What did he do?" He didn't consider this. Did the
Buddha go and eat leaves and grass like a cow? Sure, if you want to
eat like that go ahead, if that's all you can manage, but don't go
round criticizing others. Whatever standard of practice you find
suitable then persevere with that. "Don't gouge or carve too much or
you won't have a decent handle." [*] You'll be left with nothing and
in the end just give up.
* [A Thai expression meaning, "Don't overdo it."]
Some people are like this. When it comes to walking meditation
they really go at it for fifteen days or so. They don't even bother
eating, just walk. Then when they finish that they just lie around
and sleep. They don't bother considering carefully before they start
to practice. In the end nothing suits them. Being a monk doesn't
suit them, being a //pa-kow// doesn't suit them...so they end up
People like this don't know practice, they don't look into the
reasons for practicing. Think about what you're practicing for. They
teach this practice for throwing off. The mind wants to love this
person and hate that person...these things may arise but don't take
them for real. So what are we practicing for? Simply so that we can
give up these very things. Even if you attain peace, throw out the
peace. If knowledge arises, throw out the knowledge. If you know
then you know, but if you take that knowing to be your own then you
think you know something. Then you think you are better than others.
After a while you can't live anywhere, wherever you live problems
arise. If you practice wrongly it's just as if you didn't practice
Practice according to your capacity. Do you sleep a lot? Then try
going against the grain. Do you eat a lot? Then try eating less.
Take as much practice as you need, using //sila//, //samadhi// and
//panna// as your basis. Then throw in the //dhutanga// practices
also. These //dhutanga// [*] practices are for digging into the
defilements. You may find the basic practices still not enough to
really uproot the defilements, so you have to incorporate the
//dhutanga// practices as well.
* [Thirteen practices allowed by the Buddha over and above the
general disciplinary code, for those who which to practice more
These //dhutanga// practices are really useful. Some people can't
kill off the defilements with basic //sila// and //samadhi//, they
have to bring in the //dhutanga// practices to help out. The
//dhutanga// practices cut off many things. Living at the foot of a
tree...Living at the foot of a tree isn't against the precepts. But
if you determine the //dhutanga// practice of living in a charnel
ground and then don't do it, that's wrong. Try it out. What's like
to live in a charnel ground? Is it the same as living in a group?
//DHU-TAN-GA//: This translates as "the practices which are hard
to do." These are the practices of the Noble Ones. Whoever wants to
be a Noble One must use the //dhutanga// practices to cut the
defilements. It's difficult to observe them and it's hard to find
people with the commitment to practice them, because they go against
Such as with robes; they say to limit your robes to the basic
three robes; to maintain yourself on almsfood; to eat only in the
bowl; to eat only what you get on almsround, if anyone brings food
to offer afterwards you don't accept it.
Keeping this last practice in central Thailand is easy, the food
is quite adequate, because there they put a lot of food in your
bowl. But when you come to the Northeast here this //dhutanga//
takes on subtle nuances -- here you get plain rice! In these parts
the tradition is to put only plain rice in the almsbowl. In central
Thailand they give rice and other foods also, but around these parts
you get only plain rice. This //dhutanga// practice becomes really
ascetic. You eat only plain rice, whatever is brought to offer
afterwards you don't accept. Then there is eating once a day, at one
sitting, from only one bowl -- when you've finished eating you get
up from your seat and don't eat again that day.
These are called //dhutanga// practices. Now who will practice
them? It's hard these days to find people with enough commitment to
practice them because they are demanding, but that is why they are
What people call practice these days is not really practice. If
you really practice it's no easy matter. Most people don't dare to
really practice, don't dare to really go against the grain. They
don't want to do anything which runs contrary to their feelings.
People don't want to resist the defilements, they don't want to dig
at them or get rid of them.
In our practice they say not to follow your own moods. Consider:
we have been fooled for countless lifetimes already into believing
that the mind is our own. Actually it isn't, it's just an impostor.
It drags us into greed, drags us into aversion, drags us into
delusion, drags us into theft, plunder, desire and hatred. These
things aren't ours. Just ask yourself right now: do you want to be
good? Everybody wants to be good. Now doing all these things, is
that good? There! People commit malicious acts and yet they want to
be good. That's why I say these things are tricksters, that's all
The Buddha didn't want us to follow this mind, he wanted us to
train it. If it goes one way then take cover another way. When it
goes over there then take cover back here. To put it simply:
whatever the mind wants, don't let it have it. It's as if we've been
friends for years but we finally reach a point where our ideas are
no longer the same. We split up and go our separate ways. We no
longer understand each other, in fact we even argue, so we break up.
That's right, don't follow your own mind. Whoever follows his own
mind, follows its likes and desires and everything else, that person
hasn't yet practiced at all.
This is why I say that what people call practice is not really
practice...it's disaster. if you don't stop and take a look, don't
try the practice, you won't see, you won't attain the Dhamma. To put
it straight, in our practice you have to commit your very life. It's
not that it isn't difficult, this practice, it has to entail some
suffering. Especially in the first year or two, there's a lot of
suffering. The young monks and novices really have a hard time.
I've had a lot of difficulties in the past, especially with food.
What can you expect? Becoming a monk at twenty when you are just
getting into your food and sleep...some days I would sit alone and
just dream of food. I'd want to eat bananas in syrup, or papaya
salad, and my saliva would start to run. This is part of the
training. All these things are not easy. This business of food and
eating can lead one into a lot of bad //kamma//. Take someone who's
just growing up, just getting into his food and sleep, and constrain
him in these robes and his feelings run amok. It's like damming a
flowing torrent, sometimes the dam just breaks. If it survives
that's fine, but if not it just collapses.
My meditation in the first year was nothing else, just food. I
was so restless...Sometimes I would sit there and it was almost as
if I was actually popping bananas into my mouth. I could almost feel
myself breaking the bananas into pieces and putting them in my
mouth. And this is all part of the practice.
So don't be afraid of it. We've all been deluded for countless
lifetimes now so coming to train ourselves, to correct ourselves, is
no easy matter. But if it's difficult it's worth doing. Why should
we bother with easy things? So those things that are difficult,
anybody can do the easy things. We should train ourselves to do that
which is difficult.
It must have been the same for Buddha. If he had just worried
about his family and relatives, his wealth and his past sensual
pleasures, he'd never have become the Buddha. These aren't trifling
matters, either, they're just what most people are looking for. So
going forth at an early age and giving up these things is just like
dying. And yet some people come up and say, "Oh, it's easy for you,
Luang Por. You never had a wife and children to worry about, so it's
easier for you!" I say, "Don't get too close to me when you say that
or you'll get a clout over the head!"...as if I didn't have a heart
When it comes to people it's no trifling matter. It's what life
is all about. So we Dhamma practicers should earnestly get into the
practice, really dare to do it. Don't believe others, just listen to
the Buddha's teaching. Establish peace in your hearts. In time you
will understand. Practice, reflect, contemplate, and the fruits of
the practice will be there. The cause and the result are
Don't give in to your moods. In the beginning even finding the
right amount of sleep is difficult. You may determine to sleep a
certain time but can't manage it. You must train yourself. Whatever
time you decide to get up, then get up as soon as it comes round.
Sometimes you can do it, but sometimes as soon as you awake you say
to yourself "get up!" and it won't budge! You may have to say to
yourself, "One...Two...if I reach the count three and still don't
get up may I fall into hell!" You have to teach yourself like this.
When you get to three you'll get up immediately, you'll be afraid of
falling into hell.
You must train yourself, you can't dispense with the training.
You must train yourself from all angles. Don't just lean on your
teacher, your friends or the group all the time or you'll never
become wise. It's not necessary to hear so much instruction, just
hear the teaching once or twice and then do it.
The well trained mind won't dare cause trouble, even in private.
In the mind of the adept there is no such thing as "private" or "in
public." All Noble Ones have confidence in their own hearts. We
should be like this.
Some people become monks simply to find an easy life. Where does
ease come from? What is its cause? All ease has to be preceded by
suffering. In all things it's the same: you must work before you get
rice. In all things you must first experience difficulty. Some
people become monks in order to rest and take it easy, they say they
just want to sit around and rest awhile. If you don't study the
books do you expect to be able to read and write? It can't be done.
This is why most people who have studied a lot and become monks
never get anywhere. Their knowledge is of a different kind, on a
different path. They don't train themselves, they don't look at
their minds. They only stir up their minds with confusion, seeking
things which are not conducive to calm and restraint. The knowledge
of the Buddha is not worldly knowledge, it is supramundane
knowledge, a different way altogether.
This is why whoever goes forth into the Buddhist monkhood must
give up whatever level or status or position they have held
previously. Even when a king goes forth he must relinquish his
previous status, he doesn't bring that worldly stuff into the
monkhood with him to throw his weight around with. He doesn't bring
his wealth, status, knowledge or power into the monkhood with him.
The practice concerns giving up, letting go, uprooting, stopping.
You must understand this in order to make the practice work.
If you are sick and don't treat the illness with medicine do you
think the illness will cure itself? Wherever you are afraid you
should go. Wherever there is a cemetery or charnel ground which is
particularly fearsome, go there. Put on your robes, go there and
contemplate, //Anicca vata sankhara//... [*] Stand and walk
meditation there, look inward and see where your fear lies. It will
be all too obvious. Understand the truth of all conditioned things.
Stay there and watch until dusk falls and it gets darker and darker,
until you are even able to stay there all night.
* [Part of a Pali verse, traditionally recited at funeral
ceremonies. The meaning of the full verse if, "Alas, transient are
all compounded things/Having arisen, they cease/Being born, they
die/The cessation of all compounding is true happiness."]
The Buddha said, "Whoever sees the Dhamma sees the //Tathagata//.
Whoever sees the //Tathagata// sees //Nibbana//." If we don't follow
his example how will we see the Dhamma? If we don't see the Dhamma
how will we know the Buddha? If we don't see the Buddha how will we
know the qualities of the Buddha? Only if we practice in the
footsteps of the Buddha will we know that what the Buddha taught is
utterly certain, that the Buddha's teaching is the supreme truth.
* * * * * * * *
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank