MAKING THE HEART GOOD
These days people are going all over the place looking for
merit.[*] And they always seem to stop over in Wat Ba Pong. If they
don't stop over on the way, they stop over on the return journey.
Wat Ba Pong has become a stop over point. Some people are in such a
hurry I don't even get a chance to see or speak to them. Most of
them are looking for merit. I don't see many looking for a way out
of wrongdoing. They're so intent on getting merit they don't know
where they're going to put it. It's like trying to dye a dirty,
*["Looking for merit" is a commonly-used Thai phrase. It refers to
the custom in Thailand of going to monasteries, or "wats", paying
respect to venerated teachers and making offerings.]
Monks talk straight like this, but it's hard for most people to
put this sort of teaching into practice. It's hard because they
don't understand. If they understood it would be much easier.
Suppose there was a hole, and there was something at the bottom of
it. Now anyone who put their hand into the hole and didn't reach the
bottom would say the hole was too deep. Out of a hundred or a
thousand people putting their hands down that hole, they'd all say
the hole was too deep. Not one would say their arm was too short!
There are so many people looking for merit. Sooner or later
they'll have to start looking for a way out of wrongdoing. But not
many people are interested in this. The teaching of the Buddha is so
brief, but most people just pass it by, just like they pass through
Wat Ba Pong. For most people that's what the Dhamma is, a stop-over
Only three lines, hardly anything to it: //Sabba papassa
akaranam//: refraining from all wrong doing. That's the teaching of
all Buddhas. This is the heart of Buddhism. But people keep jumping
over it, they don't want this one. The renunciation of all
wrongdoing, great and small, from bodily, verbal and mental
actions... this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
If we were to dye a piece of cloth we'd have to wash it first.
But most people don't do that. Without looking at the cloth, they
dip it into the dye straight away. If the cloth is dirty, dying it
makes it come out even worse than before. Think about it. Dying a
dirty old rag, would that look good?
You see? This is how Buddhism teaches, but most people just pass
it by. They just want to perform good works, but they don't want to
give up wrongdoing. It's just like saying "the hole is too deep".
Everybody says the hole is too deep, nobody says their arm is too
short. We have to come back to ourselves. With this teaching you
have to take a step back and look at yourself.
Sometimes they go looking for merit by the busload. Maybe they
even argue on the bus, or they're drunk. Ask them where they're
going and they say they're looking for merit. They want merit but
they don't give up vice. They'll never find merit that way.
This is how people are. You have to look closely, look at
yourselves. The Buddha taught about having recollection and self-
awareness in all situations. Wrongdoing arises in bodily, verbal and
mental actions. The source of all good, evil, weal and harm lies
with actions, speech and thoughts. Did you bring your actions,
speech and thoughts with you today? Or have you left them at home?
This is where you must look, right here. You don't have to look very
far away. Look at your actions, speech and thoughts. Look to see if
your conduct is faulty or not.
People don't really look at these things. Like the housewife
washing the dishes with a scowl on her face. She's so intent on
cleaning the dishes, she doesn't realize her own mind's dirty! Have
you ever seen this? She only sees the dishes. She's looking too far
away, isn't she? Some of you have probably experienced this, I'd
say. This is where you have to look. People concentrate on cleaning
the dishes but they let their minds go dirty. This is not good,
they're forgetting themselves.
Because they don't see themselves people can commit all sorts of
bad deeds. They don't look at their own minds. When people are going
to do something bad they have to look around first to see if anyone
is looking... "Will my mother see me?" "Will my husband see me?"
"Will my children see me?" "Will my wife see me?" If there's no-one
watching then they go right ahead and do it. This is insulting
themselves. They say no-one is watching, so they quickly finish the
job before anyone will see. And what about themselves? Aren't they a
You see? Because they overlook themselves like this, people never
find what is of real value, they don't find the Dhamma. If you look
at yourselves you will see yourselves. Whenever you are about to do
something bad, if you see yourself in time you can stop. If you want
to do something worthwhile then look at your mind. If you know how
to look at yourself then you'll know about right and wrong, harm and
benefit, vice and virtue. These are the things we should know about.
If I don't talk of these things you won't know about them. You
have greed and delusion in the mind but don't know it. You won't
know anything if you are always looking outside. This is the trouble
with people not looking at themselves. Looking inwards you will see
good and evil. Seeing goodness, we can take it to heart and practice
Giving up the bad, practicing the good...this is the heart of
Buddhism. //Sabba papassa akaranam// -- Not committing any
wrongdoing, either through body, speech or mind. That's the right
practice, the teaching of the Buddhas. Now "our cloth" is clean.
Then we have //kusalassupasampada// -- making the mind virtuous
and skillful. If the mind is virtuous and skillful we don't have to
take a bus all over the countryside looking for merit. Even sitting
at home we can attain to merit. But most people just go looking for
merit all over the countryside without giving up their vices. When
they return home it's empty-handed they go, back to their old sour
faces. There they are washing the dishes with a sour face, so intent
on cleaning the dishes. This is where people don't look, they're far
away from merit.
We may know of these things, but we don't really know if we don't
know within our own minds. Buddhism doesn't enter our heart. If our
mind is good and virtuous it is happy. There's a smile in our heart.
But most of us can hardly find time to smile, can we? We can only
manage to smile when things go our way. Most people's happiness
depends on having things go to their liking. They have to have
everybody in the world say only pleasant things. Is that how you
find happiness? Is it possible to have everybody in the world say
only pleasant things? If that's how it is when will you ever find
We must use Dhamma to find happiness. Whatever it may be, whether
right or wrong, don't blindly cling to it. Just notice it then lay
it down. When the mind is at ease then you can smile. The minute you
become averse to something the mind goes bad. Then nothing is good
//Sacittapariyodapanam//: Having cleared away impurities the mind
is free of worries... peaceful, kind and virtuous. When the mind is
radiant and has given up evil, there is ease at all times. The
serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement.
When others say things to our liking, we smile. If they say
things that displease us we frown. How can we ever get others to say
things only to our liking every single day? Is it possible? Even
your own children... have they ever said things that displease you?
Have you ever upset your parents? Not only other people, but even
our own minds can upset us. Sometimes the things we ourselves think
of are not pleasant. What can you do? You might be walking along and
suddenly kick a tree stump...Thud!..."Ouch!" ... Where's the
problem? Who kicked who anyway? Who are you going to blame? It's
your own fault. Even our own mind can be displeasing to us. If you
think about it, you'll see that this is true. Sometimes we do things
that even we don't like. All you can say is "Damn!", there's no-one
else to blame.
Merit or boon in Buddhism is giving up that which is wrong. When
we abandon wrongness then we are no longer wrong. When there is no
stress there is calm. The calm mind is a clean mind, one which
harbors no angry thoughts, which is clear.
How can you make the mind clear? Just by knowing it. For example,
you might think, "Today I'm in a really bad mood, everything I look
at offends me, even the plates in the cupboard." You might feel like
smashing them up, every single one of them. Whatever you look at
looks bad, the chickens, the ducks, the cats and dogs... you hate
them all. Everything your husband says is offensive. Even looking
into your own mind you aren't satisfied. What can you do in such a
situation? Where does this suffering come from? This is called
"having no merit". These days in Thailand they have a saying that
when someone dies his merit is finished. But that's not the case.
There are plenty of people still alive who've finished their merit
already... those people who don't know merit. The bad mind just
collects more and more badness.
Going on these merit-making tours is like building a beautiful
house without preparing the area beforehand. In no long time the
house will collapse, won't it? The design was no good. Now you have
to try again, try a different way. You have to look into yourself,
looking at the faults in your actions, speech and thoughts. Where
else are you going to practice, other than at your actions, speech
and thoughts? People get lost. They want to go and practice Dhamma
where it's really peaceful, in the forest or at Wat Ba Pong. Is Wat
Ba Pong peaceful? No, it's not really peaceful. Where it's really
peaceful is in your own home.
If you have wisdom wherever you go you will be carefree. The
whole world is already just fine as it is. All the trees in the
forest are already just fine as they are: there are tall ones, short
ones, hollow ones...all kinds. They are simply the way they are.
Through ignorance of their true nature we go and enforce our
opinions onto them..."Oh, this tree is too short! This tree is
hollow!" Those trees are simply trees, they're better off than we
That's why I've had these little poems written up in the trees
here. Let the trees teach you. Have you learnt anything from them
yet? You should try to learn at least one thing from them. There are
so many trees, all with something to teach you. Dhamma is
everywhere, in everything in Nature. You should understand this
point. Don't go blaming the hole for being too deep...turn around
and look at your own arm! If you can see this you will be happy.
If you make the merit or virtue, preserve it in your mind. that's
the best place to keep it. Making merit as you have done today is
good, but it's not the best way. Constructing buildings is good, but
it's not the best thing. Building your own mind into something good
is the best way. This way you will find goodness whether you come
here or stay at home. Find this excellence within your mind. Outer
structures like this hall here are just like the "bark" of the
"tree", they're not the "heartwood".
If you have wisdom, wherever you look there will be Dhamma. If
you lack wisdom, then even the good things turn bad. Where does this
badness come from? Just from our own minds, that's where. Look how
this mind changes. Everything changes. Husband and wife used to get
on all right together, they could talk to each other quite happily.
But there comes a day when their mood goes bad, everything the
spouse says seems offensive. The mind has gone bad, it's changed
again. This is how it is.
So in order to give up evil and cultivate the good you don't have
to go looking anywhere else. If your mind has gone bad, don't go
looking over at this person and that person. Just look at your own
mind and find out where these thoughts come from. Why does the mind
think such things? Understand that all things are transient. Love is
transient, hate is transient. Have you ever loved your children? Of
course you have. Have you ever hated them? I'll answer that for you,
too... Sometimes you do, don't you? Can you throw them away? No, you
can't throw them away. Why not? Children aren't like bullets, are
they? [*] Bullets are fired outwards, but children are fired right
back to the parents. If they're bad it comes back to the parents.
You could say children are your //kamma//. There are good ones and
bad ones. Both good and bad are right there in your children. But
even the bad ones are precious. One may be born with polio, crippled
and deformed, and be even more precious than the others. Whenever
you leave home for a while you have to leave a message, "Look after
the little one, he's not so strong." You love him even more than the
*[There is a play on words here between the Thai words "//look//,"
meaning children, and "//look bpeun//," meaning literally "gun
children"... that is, bullets.]
You should, then, set your minds well -- half love, half hate.
Don't take only one or the other, always have both sides in mind.
Your children are your //kamma//, they are appropriate to their
owners. They are your //kamma//, so you must take responsibility for
them. If they really give you suffering, just remind yourself, "It's
my //kamma//." If they please you, just remind yourself, "It's my
//kamma//." Sometimes it gets so frustrating at home you must just
want to run away. It gets so bad some people even contemplate
hanging themselves! It's //kamma//. We have to accept the fact.
Avoid bad actions, then you will be able to see yourself more
This is why contemplating things is so important. usually when
they practice meditation they use a meditation object, such as
Bud-dho, Dham-mo or Sang-gho. But you can make it even shorter than
this. Whenever you feel annoyed, whenever your mind goes bad, just
say "So!" When you feel better just say "So!...It's not a sure
thing." If you love someone, just say "So!" When you feel you're
getting angry, just say "So!" Do you understand? You don't have to
go looking into the //Tipitaka//.[*] Just "So!" This means "it's
transient". Love is transient, hate is transient, good is transient,
evil is transient. How could they be permanent? Where is there any
permanence in them?
*[The Buddhist Pali Canon]
You could say that they are permanent insofar as they are
invariably impermanent. They are certain in this respect, they never
become otherwise. One minute there's love, the next hate. That's how
things are. In this sense they are permanent. That's why I say
whenever love arises, just tell it "So!" It saves a lot of time. You
don't have to say "//Aniccam, dukkham, anatta//". If you don't want
a long meditation theme, just take this simple word...If love
arises, before you get really lost in it, just tell yourself "So!"
This is enough.
Everything is transient, and it's permanent in that it's
invariably that way. Just to see this much is to see the heart of
the Dhamma, the True Dhamma.
Now if everybody said "So!" more often, and applied themselves to
training like this, clinging would become less and less. People
would not be so stuck on love and hate. They would not cling to
things. They would put their trust in the truth, not with other
things. Just to know this much is enough, what else do you need to
Having heard the teaching, you should try to remember it also.
What should you remember? Meditate... Do you understand? If you
understand, the Dhamma clicks with you, the mind will stop. If there
is anger in the mind, just "So!" ... and that's enough, it stops
straight away. If you don't yet understand then look deeply into the
matter. If there is understanding, when anger arises in the mind you
can just shut it off with "So! It's impermanent!"
Today you have had a chance to record the Dhamma both inwardly
and outwardly. Inwardly, the sound enters through the ears to be
recorded in the mind. If you can't do this much it's not so good,
your time at Wat Ba Pong will be wasted. Record it outwardly, and
record it inwardly. This tape recorder here is not so important. The
really important thing is the "recorder" in the mind. The tape
recorder is perishable, but if the Dhamma really reaches the mind
it's imperishable, it's there for good. And you don't have to waste
money on batteries.
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