SAMMA SAMADHI -- DETACHMENT WITHIN ACTIVITY
Take a look at the example of the Buddha. Both in his own
practice and in his methods for teaching the disciples he was
exemplary. The Buddha taught the standards of practice as skillful
means for getting rid of conceit, he couldn't do the practice for
us. having heard that teaching we must further teach ourselves,
practice for ourselves. The results will arise here, not at the
The Buddha's teaching can only enable us to get an initial
understanding of the Dhamma, but the Dhamma is not yet within our
hearts. Why not? Because we haven't yet practiced, we haven't yet
taught ourselves. The Dhamma arises at the practice. If you know it,
you know it through the practice. If you doubt it, you doubt it at
the practice. Teachings from the Masters may be true, but simply
listening to Dhamma is not yet enough to enable us to realize it.
The teaching simply points out the way to realize. To realize the
Dhamma we must take that teaching and bring it into our hearts. That
part which is for the body we apply to the body, that part which is
for the speech we apply to the speech, and that part which is for
the mind we apply to the mind. This means that after hearing the
teaching we must further teach ourselves to know that Dhamma, to be
The Buddha said that those who simply believe others are not
truly wise. A wise person practices until he is one with the Dhamma,
until he can have confidence in himself, independent of others.
On one occasion, while Venerable Sariputta was sitting, listening
respectfully at his feet as the Buddha expounded the Dhamma, the
Buddha turned to him and asked,
"Sariputta, do you believe this teaching?"
Venerable Sariputta replied, "No, I don't yet believe it".
Now this is a good illustration. Venerable Sariputta listened,
and he took note. When he said he didn't yet believe he wasn't being
careless, he was speaking the truth. He simply took note of that
teaching, because he had not yet developed his own understanding of
it, so he told the Buddha that he didn't yet believe -- because he
really didn't believe. These words almost sound as if Venerable
Sariputta was being rude, but actually he wasn't. He spoke the
truth, and the Buddha praised him for it.
"Good, good, Sariputta. A wise person doesn't readily believe, he
should consider first before believing."
Conviction in a belief can take various forms. One form reasons
according to Dhamma, while another form is contrary to the Dhamma.
This second way is heedless, it is a foolhardy understanding,
//micchaditthi//, wrong view. One doesn't listen to anybody else.
Take the example of Dighanakha the Brahmin. This Brahmin only
believed himself, he wouldn't believe others. At one time when the
Buddha was resting at Rajagaha, Dighanakha went to listen to his
teaching. Or you might say that Dighanakha went to teach the Buddha
because he was intent on expounding his own views...
"I am of the view that nothing suits me."
This was his view. The Buddha listened to Dighanakha's view and
"Brahmin, this view of yours doesn't suit you either."
When the Buddha had answered in this way, Dighanakha was stumped.
He didn't know what to say. The Buddha explained in many ways, till
the Brahmin understood. He stopped to reflect and saw...
"Hmm, this view of mine isn't right."
On hearing the Buddha's answer the Brahmin abandoned his
conceited views and immediately saw the truth. He changed right then
and there, turning right around, just as one would invert one's
hand. He praised the teaching of the Buddha thus:
"Listening to the Blessed One's teaching, my mind was illumined,
just as one living in darkness might perceive light. My mind is like
an overturned basin which has been uprighted, like a man who has
been lost and finds the way."
Now at that time a certain knowledge arose within his mind,
within that mind which had been uprighted. Wrong view vanished and
right view took its place. Darkness disappeared and light arose.
The Buddha declared that the Brahmin Dighanakha was one who had
opened the Dhamma Eye. Previously Dighanakha clung to his own views
and had no intention of changing them. But when he heard the
Buddha's teaching his mind saw the truth, he saw that his clinging
to those views was wrong. When the right understanding arose he was
able to perceive his previous understanding as mistaken, so he
compared his experience with a person living in darkness who had
found light. This is how it is. At that time the Brahmin Dighanakha
transcended his wrong view.
Now we must change in this way. Before we can give up defilements
we must change our perspective. We must begin to practice rightly
and practice well. Previously we didn't practice rightly or well,
and yet we thought we were right and good just the same. When we
really look into the matter we upright ourselves, just like turning
over one's hand. This means that the "One Who Knows," or wisdom,
arises in the mind, so that it is able to see things anew. A new
kind of awareness arises.
Therefore cultivators must practice to develop this knowing,
which we call Buddho, the One Who Knows, in their minds. Originally
the one who knows is not there, our knowledge is not clear, true or
complete. This knowledge is therefore too weak to train the mind.
But then the mind changes, or inverts, as a result of this
awareness, called wisdom or insight, which exceeds our previous
awareness. That previous "one who knows" did not yet know fully and
so was unable to bring us to our objective.
The Buddha therefore taught to look within, //opanayiko//. Look
within, don't look outwards. Or if you look outwards then look
within, to see the cause and effect therein. Look for the truth in
all things, because external objects and internal objects are always
affecting each other. Our practice is to develop a certain type of
awareness until it becomes stronger than our previous awareness.
This causes wisdom and insight to arise within the mind, enabling us
to clearly know the workings of the mind, the language of the mind
and the ways and means of all the defilements.
The Buddha, when he first left his home in search of liberation,
was probably not really sure what to do, much like us. He tried many
ways to develop his wisdom. He looked for teachers, such as Udaka
Ramaputta, going there to practice meditation...right leg on left
leg, right hand on left hand...body erect...eyes closed...letting go
of everything...until he was able to attain a high level of
absorption //samadhi//. [*] But when he came out of that //samadhi//
his old thinking came up and he would attach to it just as before.
Seeing this, he knew that wisdom had not yet arisen. His
understanding had not yet penetrated to the truth, it was still
incomplete, still lacking. Seeing this he nonetheless gained some
understanding -- that this was not yet the summation of practice --
but he left that place to look for a new teacher.
* [The level of nothingness, one of the "formless absorptions",
sometimes called the seventh "jhana", or absorption.]
When the Buddha left his old teacher he didn't condemn him, he
did as does the bee which takes nectar from the flower without
damaging the petals.
The Buddha then proceeded on to study with Alara Kalama and
attained an even higher state of //samadhi//, but when he came out
of that state Bimba and Rahula [*] came back into his thoughts
again, the old memories and feelings came up again. He still had
lust and desire. Reflecting inward he saw that he still hadn't
reached his goal, so he left that teacher also. He listened to his
teachers and did his best to follow their teachings. He continually
surveyed the results of his practice, he didn't simply do things and
then discard them for something else.
* [Bimba, or Princess Yasodhara, the Buddha's former wife; Rahula,
Even when it came to ascetic practices, after he had tried them
he realized that starving until one is almost skeleton is simply a
matter for the body. The body doesn't know anything. practicing in
that way was like executing an innocent person while ignoring the
When the Buddha really looked into the matter he saw that
practice is not a concern of the body, it is a concern of the mind.
//Attakilamathanuyogo// (self-mortification) -- the Buddha had tried
it and found that it was limited to the body. In fact, all Buddhas
are enlightened in mind.
Whether in regard to the body or to the mind, just throw them all
together as Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless -- //aniccam//,
//dukkham// and //anatta//. They are simply conditions of Nature.
They arise depending on supporting factors, exist for a while and
then cease. When there are appropriate conditions they arise again;
having arisen they exist for a while, then cease once more. These
things are not a "self," a "being," an "us" or a "them." There's
nobody there, simply feelings. Happiness has no intrinsic self,
suffering has no intrinsic self. No self can be found, there are
simply elements of Nature which arise, exist and cease. They go
through this constant cycle of change.
All beings, including humans, tend to see the arising as
themselves, the existence as themselves, and the cessation as
themselves. Thus they cling to everything. They don't want things to
be the way they are, they don't want them to be otherwise. For
instance, having arisen they don't want things to cease; having
experienced happiness, they don't want suffering. If suffering does
arise they want it to go away as quickly as possible, but even
better if it doesn't arise at all. This is because they see this
body and mind as themselves, or belonging to themselves, and so they
demand those things to follow their wishes.
This sort of thinking is like building a dam or a dike without
making an outlet to let the water through. The result is that the
dam bursts. And so it is with this kind of thinking. The Buddha saw
that thinking in this way is the cause of suffering. Seeing this
cause, the Buddha gave it up.
This is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering. The Truths of
Suffering, its Cause, its Cessation and the Way leading to that
Cessation...people are stuck right here. If people are to overcome
their doubts it's right at this point. Seeing that these things are
simply //rupa// and //nama//, or corporeality and mentality, it
becomes obvious that they are not a being, a person, an "us," or a
"them." They simply follow the laws of Nature.
Our practice is to know things in this way. We don't have the
power to really control these things, we aren't really their owners.
Trying to control them causes suffering, because they aren't really
ours to control. Neither body nor mind are self or others. If we
know this as it really is then we see clearly. We see the truth, we
are at one with it. It's like seeing a lump of red hot iron which
has been heated in a furnace. It's hot all over. Whether we touch it
on top, the bottom or the sides it's hot. No matter where we touch
it, it's hot. This is how you should see things.
Mostly when we start to practice we want to attain, to achieve,
to know and to see, but we don't yet know what it is we're going to
achieve or know. There was once a disciple of mine whose practice
was plagued with confusion and doubts. But he kept practicing, and I
kept instructing him, till he began to find some peace. But when he
eventually became a bit calm he got caught up in his doubts again,
saying, "What do I do next?" There! the confusion arises again. He
says he wants peace but when he gets it, he doesn't want it, he asks
what he should do next!
So in this practice we must do everything with detachment. How
are we to detach? We detach by seeing things clearly. Know the
characteristics of the body and mind as they are. We meditate in
order to find peace, but in doing so we see that which is not
peaceful. This is because movement is the nature of the mind.
When practicing //samadhi// we fix our attention on the in and
out-breaths at the nose tip or the upper lip. This "lifting" the
mind to fix it is called //vitakka//, or "lifting up." When we have
thus "lifted" the mind and are fixed on an object, this is called
//vicara//, the contemplation of the breath at the nose tip. This
quality of //vicara// will naturally mingle with other mental
sensations, and we may think that our mind is not still, that it
won't calm down, but actually this is simply the workings of
//vicara// as it mingles with those sensations. Now if this goes too
far in the wrong direction, our mind will lose its collectedness, so
then we must set up the mind afresh, lifting it up to the object of
concentration with //vitakka//. As soon as we have thus established
our attention //vicara// takes over, mingling with the various
Now when we see this happening, our lack of understanding may
lead us to wonder: "Why has my mind wandered? I wanted it to be
still, why isn't it still?" This is practicing with attachment.
Actually the mind is simply following its nature, but we go and
add on to that activity by wanting the mind to be still and thinking
"Why isn't it still?" Aversion arises and so we add that on to
everything else, increasing our doubts, increasing our suffering and
increasing our confusion. So if there is //vicara//, reflecting on
the various happenings within the mind in this way, we should wisely
consider..."Ah, the mind is simply like this". There, that's the One
Who Knows talking, telling you to see things as they are. The mind
is simply like this. We let it go at that and the mind becomes
peaceful. When it's no longer centered we bring up //vitakka// once
more, and shortly there is clam again. //Vitakka// and //vicara//
work together like this. We use //vicara// to contemplate the
various sensations which arise. When //vicara// becomes gradually
more scattered we once again "lift" our attention with //vitakka//.
The important thing here is that our practice at this point must
be done with detachment. Seeing the process of //vicara//
interacting with the mental sensations we may think that the mind is
confused and become averse to this process. This is the cause right
here. We aren't happy simply because we want the mind to be still.
This is the cause -- wrong view. If we correct our view just a
little, seeing this activity as simply the nature of mind, just this
is enough to subdue the confusion. This is called letting go.
Now, if we don't attach, if we practice with "letting
go'...detachment within activity and activity within detachment...if
we learn to practice like this, then //vicara// will naturally tend
to have less to work with. If our mind ceases to be disturbed, then
//vicara// will incline to contemplating Dhamma, because if we don't
contemplate Dhamma the mind returns to distraction.
So there is //vitakka// then //vicara//, //vitakka// then
//vicara//, //vitakka// then //vicara// and so on, until //vicara//
becomes gradually more subtle. At first //vicara// goes all over the
place. When we understand this as simply the natural activity of the
mind, it won't bother us unless we attach to it. It's like flowing
water. If we get obsessed with it, asking "Why does it flow?" then
naturally we suffer. If we understand that the water simply flows
because that's its nature then there's no suffering. //Vicara// is
like this. There is //vitakka//, then //vicara//, interacting with
mental sensations. We can take these sensations as our object of
meditation, calming the mind by noting those sensations.
If we know the nature of the mind like this then we let go, just
like letting the water flow by. //Vicara// becomes more and more
subtle. Perhaps the mind inclines to contemplating the body, or
death for instance, or some other theme of Dhamma. When the theme of
contemplation is right there will arise a feeling of well-being.
What is that well-being? It is //piti// (rapture). //Piti//,
well-being, arises. It may manifest as goose-pimples, coolness or
lightness. The mind is enrapt. This is called //piti//. There are
also pleasures, //sukha//, the coming and going of various
sensations; and the state of //ekaggatarammana//, or
Now if we talk in terms of the first stage of concentration it
must be like this: //vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha, ekaggata//. So
what is the second stage like? As the mind becomes progressively
more subtle, //vitakka// and //vicara// become comparatively
coarser, so that they are discarded, leaving only //piti, sukha, and
ekaggata//. This is something that the mind does of itself, we don't
have to conjecture about it, just to know things as they are.
As the mind becomes more refined, //piti// is eventually thrown
off, leaving only //sukha// and //ekaggata//, and so we take note of
that. Where does //piti// go to? It doesn't go anywhere, it's just
that the mind becomes increasingly more subtle so that it throws off
those qualities that are too coarse for it. Whatever's too coarse it
throws out, and it keeps throwing off like this until it reaches the
peak of subtlety, known in the books as the Fourth //Jhana//, the
highest level of absorption. Here the mind has progressively
discarded whatever becomes too coarse for it, until there remain
only //ekaggata// and //upekkha//, equanimity. There's nothing
further, this is the limit.
When the mind is developing the stages of //samadhi// it must
proceed in this way, but please let us understand the basics of
practice. We want to make the mind still but it won't be still. This
is practicing out of desire, but we don't realize it. We have the
desire for calm. The mind is already disturbed and then we further
disturb things by wanting to make it calm. This very wanting is the
cause. We don't see that this wanting to calm the mind is //tanha//
(craving). It's just like increasing the burden. The more we desire
calm the more disturbed the mind becomes, until we just give up. We
end up fighting all the time, sitting and struggling with ourselves.
Why is this? Because we don't reflect back on how we have set up
the mind. Know that the conditions of mind are simply the way they
are. Whatever arises, just observe it. It is simply the nature of
the mind, it isn't harmful unless we don't understand its nature.
It's not dangerous if we see its activity for what it is. So we
practice with //vitakka// and //vicara// until the mind begins to
settle down and become less forceful. When sensations arise we
contemplate them, we mingle with them and come to know them.
However, usually we tend to start fighting with them, because
right from the beginning we're determined to calm the mind. As soon
as we sit the thoughts come to bother us. As soon as we set up our
meditation object our attention wanders, the mind wanders off after
all the thoughts, thinking that those thoughts have come to disturb
us, but actually the problem arises right here, from the very
If we see that the mind is simply behaving according to its
nature, that it naturally comes and goes like this, and if we don't
get over-interested in it, we can understand its ways as much the
same as a child. Children don't know any better, they may say all
kinds of things. If we understand them we just let them talk,
children naturally talk like that. When we let go like this there is
no obsession with the child. We can talk to our guests undisturbed,
while the child chatters and plays around. The mind is like this.
It's not harmful unless we grab on to it and get obsessed over it.
That's the real cause of trouble.
When //piti// arises one feels an indescribable pleasure, which
only those who experience can appreciate. //Sukha// (pleasure)
arises, and there is also the quality of one-pointedness. There are
//vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and ekaggata//. These five qualities
all converge at the one place. Even though they are different
qualities they are all collected in the one place, and we can see
them all there, just like seeing many different kinds of fruit in
the one bowl. //Vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and ekaggata// -- we
can see them all in the one mind, all five qualities. If one were to
ask, "How is there //vitakka//, how is there //vicara//, how are
there //piti// and //sukha//?..." it would be difficult to answer,
but when they converge in the mind we will see how it is for
At this point our practice becomes somewhat special. We must have
recollection and self-awareness and not lose ourselves. Know things
for what they are. These are stages of meditation, the potential of
the mind. Don't doubt anything with regard to the practice. Even if
you sink into the earth or fly into the air, or even "die" while
sitting, don't doubt it. Whatever the qualities of the mind are,
just stay with the knowing. This is our foundation: to have
//sati//, recollection, and //sampajanna//, self-awareness, whether
standing, walking, sitting, or reclining. Whatever arises, just
leave it be, don't cling to it. Be it like or dislike, happiness or
suffering, doubt or certainty, contemplate with //vicara// and gauge
the results of those qualities. Don't try to label everything, just
know it. See that all the things that arise in the mind are simply
sensations. They are transient. They arise, exist and cease. That's
all there is to them, they have no self or being, they are neither
"us" nor "them." They are not worthy of clinging to, any of them.
When we see all //rupa// and //nama// [*] in this way with
wisdom, then we will see the old tracks. We will see the transience
of the mind, the transience of the body, the transience of
happiness, suffering, love and hate. They are all impermanent.
Seeing this, the mind becomes weary; weary of the body and mind,
weary of the things that arise and cease and are transient. When the
mind becomes disenchanted it will look for a way out of all those
things. It no longer wants to be stuck in things, it sees the
inadequacy of this world and the inadequacy of birth.
* [//Rupa// -- material or physical objects; //nama// -- immaterial
or mental objects -- the physical and mental constituents of being.]
When the mind sees like this, wherever we go, we see //aniccam//
(Transience), //dukkham// (Imperfection) and //anatta//
(Ownerlessness). There's nothing left to hold on to. Whether we go
to sit at the foot of a tree, on a mountain top or into a valley, we
can hear the Buddha's teaching. All trees will seem as one, all
beings will be as one, there's nothing special about any of them.
They arise, exist for a while, age and then die, all of them.
We thus see the world more clearly, seeing this body and mind
more clearly. They are clearer in the light of Transience, clearer
in the light of Imperfection and clearer in the light of
Ownerlessness. If people hold fast to things they suffer. This is
how suffering arises. If we see that body and mind are simply the
way they are, no suffering arises, because we don't hold fast to
them. Wherever we go we will have wisdom. Even seeing a tree we can
consider it with wisdom. Seeing grass and the various insects will
be food for reflection.
When it all comes down to it they all fall into the same boat.
They are all Dhamma, they are invariably transient. This is the
truth, this is the true Dhamma, this is certain. How is it certain?
it is certain in that the world is that way and can never be
otherwise. There's nothing more to it than this. If we can see in
this way then we have finished our journey.
In Buddhism, with regard to view, it is said that to feel that we
are more foolish than others is not right: to feel that we are equal
to others is not right; and to feel that we better than others is
not right...because there isn't any "we." This is how it is, we must
This is called //lokavidu// -- knowing the world clearly as it
is. If we thus see the truth, the mind will know itself completely
and will sever the cause of suffering. When there is no longer any
cause, the results cannot arise. This is the way our practice should
The basics which we need to develop are: firstly, to be upright
and honest; secondly, to be wary of wrong-doing; thirdly, to have
the attribute of humility within one's heart, to be aloof and
content with little. If we are content with little in regards to
speech and in all other things, we will see ourselves, we won't be
drawn into distractions. The mind will have a foundation of
//sila//, //samadhi//, and //panna//.
Therefore cultivators of the path should not be careless. Even if
you are right don't be careless. And if you are wrong, don't be
careless. If things are going well or you're feeling happy, don't be
careless. Why do I say "don't be careless"? Because all of these
things are uncertain. Note them as such. If you get peaceful just
leave the peace be. You may really want to indulge in it but you
should simply know the truth of it, the same as for unpleasant
This practice of the mind is up to each individual. The teacher
only explains the way to train the mind, because that mind is within
each individual. We know what's in there, nobody else can know our
mind as well as we can. The practice requires this kind of honesty.
Do it properly, don't do it half-heartedly. When I say "do it
properly," does that mean you have to exhaust yourselves? No, you
don't have to exhaust yourselves, because the practice is done in
the mind. If you know this then you will know the practice. You
don't need a whole lot. Just use the standards of practice to
reflect on yourself inwardly.
Now the Rains Retreat is half way over. For most people it's
normal to let the practice slacken off after a while. They aren't
consistent from beginning to end. This shows that their practice is
not yet mature. For instance, having determined a particular
practice at the beginning of the retreat, whatever it may be, then
we must fulfill that resolution. For these three months make the
practice consistent. You must all try. Whatever you have determined
to practice, consider that and reflect whether the practice has
slackened off. If so, make an effort to re-establish it. Keep
shaping up the practice, just the same as when we practice
meditation on the breath. As the breath goes in and out the mind
gets distracted. Then re-establish your attention on the breath.
When your attention wanders off again bring it back once more. This
is the same. In regard to both the body and the mind the practice
proceeds like this. Please make an effort with it.
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