LIVING IN THE WORLD WITH DHAMMA
Most people still don't know the essence of meditation practice.
They think that walking meditation, sitting meditation and listening
to Dhamma talks are the practice. That's true too, but these are
only the outer forms of practice. The real practice takes place when
the mind encounters a sense object. That's the place to practice,
where sense contact occurs. When people say things we don't like
there is resentment, if they say things we like we experience
pleasure. Now this is the place to practice. How are we going to
practice with these things? This is the crucial point. If we just
run around chasing after happiness and away from suffering all the
time we can practice until the day we die and never see the Dhamma.
This is useless. When pleasure and pain arise how are we going to
use the Dhamma to be free of them? This is the point of practice.
Usually when people encounter something disagreeable to them they
don't open up to it. Such as when people are criticized: "Don't
bother me! Why blame me?" This is someone who's closed himself off.
Right there is the place to practice. When people criticize us we
should listen. Are they speaking the truth? We should be open and
consider what they say. Maybe there is a point to what they say,
perhaps there is something blame-worthy within us. They may be right
and yet we immediately take offense. If people point out our faults
we should strive to be rid of them and improve ourselves. This is
how intelligent people will practice.
Where there is confusion is where peace can arise. When confusion
is penetrated with understanding what remains is peace. Some people
can't accept criticism, they're arrogant. Instead they turn around
and argue. This is especially so when adults deal with children.
Actually children may say some intelligent things sometimes but if
you happen to be their mother, for instance, you can't give in to
them. If you are a teacher your students may sometimes tell you
something you didn't know, but because you are the teacher you can't
listen. This is not right thinking.
In the Buddha's time there was one disciple who was very astute.
At one time, as the Buddha was expounding the Dhamma, he turned to
this monk and asked, "Sariputta, do you believe this?" Venerable
Sariputta replied, "No, I don't yet believe it." The Buddha praised
his answer. "That's very good, Sariputta, you are one who us endowed
with wisdom. One who is wise doesn't readily believe, he listens
with an open mind and then weighs up the truth of that matter before
believing or disbelieving."
Now the Buddha here has set a fine example for a teacher. What
Venerable Sariputta said was true, he simply spoke his true
feelings. Some people would think that to say you didn't believe
that teaching would be like questioning the teacher's authority,
they'd be afraid to say such a thing. They'd just go ahead and
agree. This is how the worldly way goes. But the Buddha didn't take
offense. He said that you needn't be ashamed of those things which
aren't wrong or bad. It's not wrong to say that you don't believe if
you don't believe. That's why Venerable Sariputta said, "I don't yet
believe it." The Buddha praised him. "This monk has much wisdom. He
carefully considers before believing anything." The Buddha's actions
here are a good example for one who is a teacher of others.
Sometimes you can learn things even from small children; don't cling
blindly to positions of authority.
Whether you are standing, sitting, or walking around in various
places, you can always study the things around you. We study in the
natural way, receptive to all things, be they sights, sounds,
smells, tastes, feelings or thoughts. The wise person considers them
all. In the real practice, we come to the point where there are no
longer any concerns weighing on the mind.
If we still don't know like and dislike as they arise, there is
still some concern in our minds. If we know the truth of these
things, we reflect, "Oh, there is nothing to this feeling of liking
here. It's just a feeling that arises and passes away. Dislike is
nothing more, just a feeling that arises and passes away. Why make
anything out of them?" If we think that pleasure and pain are
personal possessions, then we're in for trouble, we never get beyond
the point of having some concern or other in an endless chain. This
is how things are for most people.
But these days they don't often talk about the mind when teaching
the Dhamma, they don't talk about the truth. If you talk the truth
people even take exception. They say things like, "He doesn't know
time and place, he doesn't know how to speak nicely." But people
should listen to the truth. A true teacher doesn't just talk from
memory, he speaks the truth. People in society usually speak from
memory, he speaks the truth. People in the society usually speak
from memory, and what's more they usually speak in such a way as to
exalt themselves. The true monk doesn't talk like that, he talks the
truth, the way things are.
No matter how much he explains the truth it's difficult for
people to understand. It's hard to understand the Dhamma. If you
understand the Dhamma you should practice accordingly. It may not be
necessary to become a monk, although the monk's life is the ideal
form for practice. To really practice, you have to forsake the
confusion of the world, give up family and possessions, and take to
the forests. These are the ideal places to practice.
But if we still have family and responsibilities how are we to
practice? Some people say it's impossible to practice Dhamma as a
layperson. Consider, which group is larger, monks or laypeople?
There are far more laypeople. Now if only the monks practice and
laypeople don't, then that means there's going to be a lot of
confusion. This is wrong understanding. "I can't become a monk..."
Becoming a monk isn't the point! Being a monk doesn't mean anything
if you don't practice. If you really understand the practice of
dhamma then no matter what position or profession you hold in life,
be it a teacher, doctor, civil servant or whatever, you can practice
the Dhamma every minute of the day.
To think you can't practice as a layman is to lose track of the
path completely. Why is it people can find the incentive to do other
things? If they feel they are lacking something they make an effort
to obtain it. If there is sufficient desire people can do anything.
some say, "I haven't got time to practice the Dhamma." I say, "Then
how come you've got time to breathe?" Breathing is vital to people's
lives. If they saw Dhamma practice as vital to their lives they
would see it as important as their breathing.
The practice of dhamma isn't something you have to go running
around for or exhaust yourself over. Just look at the feelings which
arise in your mind. When the eye sees form, ear hears sounds, nose
smells odors and so on, they all come to this one mind, "the one who
knows". Now when the mind perceives these things what happens? If we
like that object we experience pleasure, if we dislike it we
experience displeasure. That's all there is to it.
So where are you going to find happiness in this world? Do you
expect everybody to say only pleasant things to you all your life?
Is that possible? No, it's not. If it's not possible then where are
you going to go? The world is simply like this, we must know the
world -- //Lokavidu// -- know the truth of this world. The world is
something we should clearly understand. The Buddha lived in this
world, he didn't live anywhere else. He experienced family life, but
he saw its limitations and detached himself from them. Now how are
you as laypeople going to practice? If you want to practice you must
make an effort to follow the path. If you persevere with the
practice you too will see the limitations of this world and be able
to let go.
People who drink alcohol sometimes say, "I just can't give it
up." Why can't they give it up? Because they don't yet see the
liability in it. If they clearly saw the liability of it they
wouldn't have to wait to be told to give it up. If you don't see the
liability of something that means you also can't see the benefit of
giving it up. Your practice becomes fruitless, you are just playing
at practice. If you clearly see the liability and the benefit of
something you won't have to wait for others to tell you about it.
Consider the story of the fisherman who finds something in his
fish-trap. He knows something is in there, he can hear it flapping
about inside. Thinking it's a fish, he reaches his hand into the
trap, only to find a different kind of animal. He can't yet see it,
so he's in two minds about it. On one hand it could be an eel, [*]
but then again it could be a snake. If he throws it away he may
regret it...it could be an eel. On the other hand, if he keeps
holding on to it and it turns out to be a snake it may bite him.
He's caught in a state of doubt. His desire is so strong he holds
on, just in case it's an eel, but the minute he brings it and sees
the striped skin he throws it down straight away. He doesn't have to
wait for someone to call out, "It's a snake, it's a snake, let go!"
The sight of the snake tells him what to do much more clearly than
words could do. Why? Because he sees the danger -- snakes can bite!
Who has to tell him about it? In the same way, if we practice till
we see things as they are we won't meddle with things that are
* [Considered a delicacy in some parts of Thailand.]
People don't usually practice in this way, they usually practice
for other things. They don't contemplate things, they don't reflect
on old age, sickness and death. They only talk about non-aging and
non-death, so they never develop the right feeling for Dhamma
practice. They go and listen to Dhamma talks but they don't really
listen. Sometimes I get invited to give talks at important
functions, but it's a nuisance for me to go. Why so? Because when I
look at the people gathered there I can see that they haven't come
to listen to the Dhamma. Some are smelling of alcohol, some are
smoking cigarettes, some are chatting... they don't look at all like
people who have come out of faith in the Dhamma. Giving talks at
such places is of little fruit. People who are sunk in heedlessness
tend to think things like, "When he's ever going to stop talking?
... Can't do this, can't do that ..." and their minds just wander
all over the place.
Sometimes they even invite me to give a talk just for the sake of
formality: "Please give us just a small Dhamma talk, Venerable Sir."
They don't want me to talk too much, it might annoy them! As soon as
I hear people say this I know what they're about. These people don't
like listening to Dhamma. It annoys them. If I just give a small
talk they won't understand. If you take only a little food, is it
enough? Of course not.
Sometimes I'm giving a talk, just warming up to the subject, and
some drunkard will call out, "Okay, make way, make way for the
Venerable Sir, he's coming out now!" -- trying to drive me away! If
I meet this kind of person I get a lot of food for reflection, I get
an insight into human nature. It's like a person having a bottle
full of water and then asking for more. There's nowhere to put it.
It isn't worth the time and energy to teach them, because their
minds are already full. Pour any more in and it just overflows
uselessly. If their bottle was empty there would be somewhere to put
the water, and both the giver and the receiver would benefit.
In this way, when people are really interested in Dhamma and sit
quietly, listening carefully, I feel more inspired to teach. If
people don't pay attention it's just like the man with the bottle
full of water... there's no room to put anymore. It's hardly worth
my while talking to them. In situations like this I just don't get
any energy arising to teach. You can't put much energy into giving
when no-one's putting much energy into receiving.
These days giving talks tends to be like this, and it's getting
worse all the time. People don't search for truth, they study simply
to find the necessary knowledge to make a living, raise families and
look after themselves. They study for a livelihood. There may be
some study of Dhamma, but not much. Students nowadays have much more
knowledge than students of previous times. They have all the
requisites at their disposal, everything is more convenient. But
they also have a lot more confusion and suffering than before. Why
is this? Because they only look for the kind of knowledge used to
make a living.
Even the monks are like this. Sometimes I hear them say, "I
didn't become a monk to practice the Dhamma, I only ordained to
study." These are the words of someone who has completely cut off
the path of practice. There's no way ahead, it's a dead end. When
these monks teach it's only from memory. They may teach one thing
but their minds are in completely different place. Such teachings
This is how the world is. If you try to live simply, practicing
the Dhamma and living peacefully, they say you are weird and
anti-social. They say you're obstructing progress in society. They
even intimidate you. Eventually you might even start to believe them
and revert to the worldly ways, sinking deeper and deeper into the
world until it's impossible to get out. Some people say, "I can't
get out now, I've gone in to deeply." This is how society tends to
be. It doesn't appreciate the value of Dhamma.
The value of Dhamma isn't to be found in books. those are just
the external appearances of Dhamma, they're not the realization of
Dhamma as a personal experience. If you realize the Dhamma you
realize your own mind, you see the truth there. When the truth
becomes apparent it cuts off the stream of delusion.
The teaching of the Buddha is the unchanging truth, whether in
the present or in any other time. The Buddha revealed this truth
2,500 years ago and it's been the truth ever since. This teaching
should not be added to or taken away from. The Buddha said, "What
the //Tathagata// has laid down should not be discarded, what has
not been laid down by the //Tathagata// should not be added on to
the teachings." He "sealed off" the Teachings. Why did the Buddha
seal them off? Because these Teachings are the words of one who has
no defilements. No matter how the world may change these Teachings
are unaffected, they don't change with it. If something is wrong,
even if people say it's right doesn't make it any the less wrong. If
something is right, it doesn't change any just because people say
it's not. Generation after generation may come and go but these
things don't change, because these Teachings are the truth.
Now who created this truth? The truth itself created the truth!
Did the Buddha create it? No, he didn't. The Buddha only
//discovered// the truth, the way things are, and then he set out to
declare it. The truth is constantly true, whether a Buddha arises in
the world or not. The Buddha only "owns" the Dhamma in this sense,
he didn't actually create it. It's been here all the time. However,
previously no-one had searched for and found the Deathless, then
taught it as the Dhamma. He didn't invent it, it was already there.
At some point in time the truth is illuminated and the practice
of Dhamma flourishes. As time goes on and generations pass away the
practice degenerates until the Teaching fades away completely. After
a time the Teaching is re-founded and flourishes once more. As time
goes on the adherents of the Dhamma multiply, prosperity sets in,
and once more the Teaching begins to follow the darkness of the
world. And so once more it degenerates until such a time as it can
no longer hold ground. Confusion reigns once more. Then it is time
to re-establish the truth. In fact the truth doesn't go anywhere.
When Buddhas pass away the Dhamma doesn't disappear with them.
The world revolves like this. It's something like a mango tree.
The tree matures, blossoms, and fruits appear and grow to ripeness.
They become rotten and the seed goes back into the ground to become
a new mango tree. The cycle starts once more. Eventually there are
more ripe fruits which proceed to fall, rot, sink into the ground as
seeds and grow once more into trees. This is how the world is. It
doesn't go very far, it just revolves around the same old things.
Our lives these days are the same. Today we are simply doing the
same old things we've always done. People think too much. There are
so many things for them to get interested in, but none of them leads
to completion. There are the sciences like mathematics, physics,
psychology and so on. You can delve into any number of them but you
can only finalize things with the truth.
Suppose there was a cart being pulled by an ox. The wheels aren't
long, but the tracks are. As long as the ox pulls the cart the
tracks will follow. The wheels are round yet the tracks are long;
the tracks are long yet the wheels are merely circles. Just looking
at a stationary cart you can't see anything long about it, but once
the ox starts moving you see the tracks stretching out behind you.
As long as the ox pulls, the wheels keep on turning...but there
comes a day when the ox tires and throws off its harness. The ox
walks off and leaves the empty cart sitting there. The wheels no
longer turn. In time the cart falls apart, its components go back
into the four elements -- earth, water, wind and fire.
Searching for peace within the world you stretch the cart wheel
tracks endlessly behind you. As long as you follow the world there
is no stopping, no rest. If you simply stop following it, the cart
comes to rest, the wheels no longer turn. Following the world turns
the wheels ceaselessly. Creating bad //kamma// is like this. As long
as you follow the old ways there is no stopping. If you stop there
is stopping. This is how we practice the Dhamma.
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