Seekers of goodness who have gathered here please listen in
peace. Listening to the Dhamma in peace means to listen with a
one-pointed mind, paying attention to what you hear and then letting
go. Listening to the Dhamma is of great benefit. While listening to
the Dhamma we are encouraged to firmly establish both body and mind
in //samadhi//, because it is one kind of dhamma practice. In the
time of the Buddha people listened to Dhamma talks intently, with a
mind aspiring to real understanding, and some actually realized the
Dhamma while listening.
This place is well suited to meditation practice. Having stayed
here a couple of nights I can see that it is an important place. On
the external level it is already peaceful, all that remains is the
internal level, your hearts and minds. So I ask all of you to make
an effort to pay attention.
Why have you gathered here to practice meditation? It's because
your hearts and minds do not understand what should be understood.
In other words, you don't truly know how things are, or what is
what. You don't know what is wrong and what is right, what it is
that brings you suffering and causes you to doubt. So first you have
to make yourselves calm. The reason that you have come here to
develop calm and restraint is that your hearts and minds are not at
ease. Your minds are not calm, not restrained. They are swayed by
doubting and agitation. This is why you have come here today and are
now listening to the Dhamma.
I would like you to concentrate and listen carefully to what I
say, and I ask permission to speak frankly because that's how I am.
Please understand that even if I do speak in a forceful manner, I am
doing so out of good will. I ask your forgiveness if there is
anything I say that upsets you, because the customs of Thailand and
those of the West are not the same. Actually, speaking a little
forcefully can be good because it helps to stir people up who might
otherwise be sleepy or drowsy, and rather than rousing themselves to
hear the Dhamma allow themselves to drift instead into complacency
and as a result never understand anything.
Although there may appear to be many ways to practice really
there is only one. As with fruit trees, it is possible to get fruit
quickly by planting a cutting, but the tree would not be resilient
or long lasting. Another way is to cultivate a tree right from the
seed, which produces a strong and resilient tree. Practice is the
When I first began to practice I had problems understanding this.
As long as I still didn't know what's what, sitting meditation was a
real chore, even bringing me to tears on occasion. Sometimes I would
be aiming too high, at others not high enough, never finding the
point of balance. To practice in a way that's peaceful means to
place the mind neither too high or too low, but at the point of
I can see that it's very confusing for you, coming from different
places and having practiced in different ways with different
teachers. Coming to practice here you must be plagued with all kinds
of doubts. One teacher says you must practice in one way, another
says you should practice another way. You wonder which method to
use, unsure of the essence of the practice. The result is confusion.
There are so many teachers and so many teachings that nobody knows
how to harmonize their practice. As a result there is a lot of doubt
So you must try not to think too much. If you do think, then do
so with awareness. But so far your thinking has been done with no
awareness. First you must make your mind calm. Where there is
knowing there is no need to think, awareness will arise in its
place, and this will in turn become wisdom (//panna//). But the
ordinary kind of thinking is not wisdom, it is simply the aimless
and unaware wandering of the mind, which inevitably results in
agitation. This is not wisdom.
At this stage you don't need to think. You've already done a
great deal of thinking at home, haven't you? It just stirs up the
heart. You must establish some awareness. Obsessive thinking can
even bring you tears, just try it out. Getting lost in some train of
thought won't lead you to the truth, it's not wisdom. The Buddha was
a very wise person, he'd learnt how to stop thinking. In the same
way you are practicing here in order to stop thinking and thereby
arrive at peace. If you are already calm it is not necessary to
think, wisdom will arise in its place.
To meditate you do not have to think much more than to resolve
that right now is the time for training the mind and nothing else.
Don't let the mind shoot off to the left or to the right, to the
front or behind, above or below. Our only duty right now is to
practice mindfulness of the breathing. Fix your attention at the
head and move it down through the body to the tips of the feet, and
then back up to the crown of the head. Pass your awareness down
through the body, observing with wisdom. We do this to gain an
initial understanding of the way the body is. Then begin the
meditation, noting that at this time your sole duty is to observe
the inhalations and exhalations. Don't force the breath to be any
longer or shorter than normal, just allow it to continue easily.
Don't put any pressure on the breath, rather let it flow evenly,
letting go with each in-breath and out-breath.
You must understand that you are letting go as you do this, but
there should still be awareness. You must maintain this awareness,
allowing the breath to enter and leave comfortably. There is no need
to force the breath, just allow it to flow easily and naturally.
Maintain the resolve that at this time you have no other duties or
responsibilities. Thoughts about what will happen, what you will
know or see during the meditation may arise from time to time, but
once they arise just let them cease by themselves, don't be unduly
concerned over them.
During the meditation there is no need to pay attention to sense
impressions. Whenever the mind is affected by sense impingement,
wherever there is a feeling or sensation in the mind, just let it
go. Whether those sensations are good or bad is unimportant. It is
not necessary to make anything out of those sensations, just let
them pass away and return your attention to the breath. Maintain the
awareness of the breath entering and leaving. Don't create suffering
over the breath being too long or too short, simply observe it
without trying to control or suppress it in any way. In other words,
don't attach. Allow the breath to continue as it is, and the mind
will become calm. As you continue the mind will gradually lay things
down and come to rest, the breath becoming lighter and lighter until
it becomes so faint that it seems like it's not there at all. Both
the body and the mind will feel light and energized. All that will
remain will be a one-pointed knowing. You could say that the mind
has changed and reached a state of calm.
If the mind is agitated, set up mindfulness and inhale deeply
till there is no space left to store any air, then release it all
completely until none remains. Follow this with another deep
inhalation until you are full, then release the air again. Do this
two or three times, then re-establish concentration. The mind should
be calmer. If any more sense impressions cause agitation in the
mind, repeat the process on every occasion. Similarly with walking
meditation. If while walking, the mind becomes agitated, stop still,
calm the mind, re-establish the awareness with the meditation object
and then continue walking. Sitting and walking meditation are in
essence the same, differing only in terms of the physical posture
Sometimes there may be doubt, so you must have //sati//, to be
the one who knows, continually following and examining the agitated
mind in whatever form it takes. This is to have //sati//. //Sati//
watches over and takes care of the mind. You must maintain this
knowing and not be careless or wander astray, no matter what
condition the mind takes on.
The trick is to have //sati// taking control and supervising the
mind. Once the mind is unified with //sati// a new kind of awareness
will emerge. The mind that has developed calm is held in check by
that calm, just like a chicken held in a coop...the chicken is
unable to wander outside, but it can still move around within the
coop. Its walking to and fro doesn't get it into trouble because it
is restrained by the coop. Likewise the awareness that takes place
when the mind has //sati// and is calm does not cause trouble. None
of the thinking or sensations that take place within the calm mind
cause harm or disturbance.
Some people don't want to experience any thoughts or feelings at
all, but this is going too far. Feelings arise within the state of
calm. The mind is both experiencing feelings and calm at the same
time, without being disturbed. When there is calm like this there
are no harmful consequences. Problems occur when the "chicken" gets
out of the "coop". For instance, you may be watching the breath
entering and leaving and then forget yourself, allowing the mind to
wander away from the breath, back home, off to the shops or to any
number of different places. Maybe even half an hour may pass before
you suddenly realize you're supposed to be practicing meditation and
reprimand yourself for your lack of //sati//. This is where you have
to be really careful, because this is where the chicken gets out of
the coop -- the mind leaves its base of calm.
You must take care to maintain the awareness with //sati// and
try to pull the mind back. Although I use the words "pull the mind
back", in fact the mind doesn't really go anywhere, only the object
of awareness has changed. You must make the mind stay right here and
now. As long as there is //sati// there will be presence of mind. It
seems like you are pulling the mind back but really it hasn't gone
anywhere, it has simply changed a little. It seems that the mind
goes here and there, but in fact the change occurs right at the one
spot. When //sati// is regained, in a flash you are back with the
mind without it having to be brought from anywhere.
When there is total knowing, a continuous and unbroken awareness
at each and every moment, this is called presence of mind. If your
attention drifts from the breath to other places then the knowing is
broken. Whenever there is awareness of the breath the mind is there.
With just the breath and this even and continuous awareness you have
presence of mind.
There must be both //sati// and //sampajanna//. //Sati// is
recollection and //sampajanna// is self awareness. Right now you are
clearly aware of the breath. This exercise of watching the breath
helps //sati// and //sampajanna// develop together. They share the
work. Having both //sati// and //sampajanna// is like having two
workers to lift a heavy plank of wood. Suppose there are two people
trying to lift some heavy planks, but the weight is so great, they
have to strain so hard, that it's almost unendurable. Then another
person, imbued with goodwill, sees them and rushes in to help. In
the same way, when there is //sati// and //sampajanna//, then
//panna// (wisdom) will arise at the same place to help out. Then
all three of them support each other.
With //panna// there will be an understanding of sense objects.
For instance, during the meditation sense objects are experienced
which give rise to feelings and moods. You may start to think of a
friend, but then //panna// should immediately counter with "It
doesn't matter", "Stop" or "Forget it". Or if there are thoughts
about where you will go tomorrow, then the response would be, "I'm
not interested, I don't want to concern myself with such things".
Maybe you start thinking about other people, then you should think,
"No, I don't want to get involved." "Just let go", or "It's all
uncertain and never a sure thing." This is how you should deal with
things in meditation, recognizing them as "not sure, not sure", and
maintaining this kind of awareness.
You must give up all the thinking, the inner dialogue and the
doubting. Don't get caught up in these things during the meditation.
In the end all that will remain in the mind in its purest form are
//sati//, //sampajanna// and //panna//. whenever these things weaken
doubts will arise, but try to abandon those doubts immediately,
leaving only //sati//, //sampajanna// and //panna//. Try to develop
//sati// like this until it can be maintained at all times. Then you
will understand //sati//, //sampajanna// and //samadhi// thoroughly.
Focusing the attention at this point you will see //sati//,
//sampajanna//, //samadhi// and //panna// together. Whether you are
attracted to or repelled by external sense objects, you will be able
to tell yourself, "It's not sure". Either way they are just
hindrances to be swept away till the mind is clean. all that should
remain is //sati//, recollection; //sampajanna//, clear awareness;
//samadhi//, the firm and unwavering mind; and //panna//, or
consummate wisdom. For the time being I will say just this much on
the subject of meditation.
Now about the tools or aids to meditation practice -- there
should be //metta// (goodwill) in your heart, in other words, the
qualities of generosity, kindness and helpfulness. These should be
maintained as the foundation for mental purity. For example, begin
doing away with //lobha//, or selfishness, through giving. When
people are selfish they aren't happy. Selfishness leads to a sense
of discontent, and yet people tend to be very selfish without
realizing how it affects them.
You can experience this at any time, especially when you are
hungry. Suppose you get some apples and you have the opportunity to
share them with a friend; you think it over for a while, and, sure,
the intention to give is there all right, but you want to give the
smaller one. To give the big one would be...well, such a shame. It's
hard to think straight. You tell them to go ahead and take one, but
then you say, "Take this one!"...and give them the smaller apple!
This is one form of selfishness that people usually don't notice.
Have you ever been like this?
You really have to go against the grain to give. Even though you
may really only want to give the smaller apple, you must force
yourself to give away the bigger one. Of course, once you have given
it to your friend you feel good inside. Training the mind by going
against the grain in this way requires self-discipline -- you must
know how to give and how to give up, not allowing selfishness to
stick. Once you learn how to give, if you are still hesitating over
which fruit to give, then while you are deliberating you will be
troubled, and even if you give the bigger one, there will still be a
sense of reluctance. But as soon as you firmly decide to give the
bigger one the matter is over and done with. This is going against
the grain in the right way.
Doing this you win mastery over yourself. If you can't do it you
will be a victim of yourself and continue to be selfish. All of us
have been selfish in the past. This is a defilement which needs to
be cut off. In the Pali scriptures, giving is called "//dana//",
which means bringing happiness to others. It is one of those
conditions which help to cleanse the mind from defilement. Reflect
on this and develop it in your practice.
You may think that practicing like this involves hounding
yourself, but it doesn't really. Actually it's hounding craving and
the defilements. If defilements arise within you, you have to do
something to remedy them. Defilements are like a stray cat. If you
give it as much food as it wants it will always be coming around
looking for more food, but if you stop feeding it, after a couple of
days it'll stop coming around. It's the same with the defilements,
they won't come to disturb you, they'll leave your mind in peace. So
rather than being afraid of defilement, make the defilements afraid
of you. To make the defilements afraid of you, you must see the
Dhamma within your minds.
Where does the Dhamma arise? It arises with our knowing and
understanding in this way. Everyone is able to know and understand
the Dhamma. It's not something that has to be found in books, you
don't have to do a lot of study to see it, just reflect right now
and you can see what I am talking about. Everybody can see it
because it exists right within our hearts. Everybody has
defilements, don't they? If you are able to see them then you can
understand. In the past you've looked after and pampered your
defilements, but now you must know your defilements and not allow
them to come and bother you.
The next constituent of practice is moral restraint (//sila//).
//Sila// watches over and nurtures the practice in the same way as
parents look after their children. Maintaining moral restraint means
not only to avoid harming others but also to help and encourage
them. At the very least you should maintain the five precepts, which
1. Not only to kill or deliberately harm others, but to spread
goodwill towards all beings.
2. To be honest, refraining from infringing on the rights of
others, in other words, not stealing.
3. Knowing moderation in sexual relations: In the household life
there exists the family structure, based around husband and
wife. Know who your husband or wife is, know moderation, know
the proper bounds of sexual activity. Some people don't know
the limits. One husband or wife isn't enough, they have to
have a second or third. The way I see it, you can't consume
even one partner completely, so to have two or three is just
plain indulgence. You must try to cleanse the mind and train
it to know moderation. Knowing moderation is true purity,
without it there are no limits to your behavior. When eating
delicious food, don't dwell too much on how it tastes, think
of your stomach and consider how much is appropriate to its
needs. If you eat too much you get trouble, so you must know
moderation. Moderation is the best way. Just one partner is
enough, two or three is an indulgence and will only cause
4. To be honest in speech -- this is also a tool for eradicating
defilements. You must be honest and straight, truthful and
5. To refrain from taking intoxicants. You must know restraint
and preferably give these things up altogether. People are
already intoxicated enough with their families, relatives and
friends, material possessions, wealth and all the rest of it.
That's quite enough already without making things worse by
taking intoxicants as well. These things just create darkness
in the mind. those who take large amounts should try to
gradually cut down and eventually give it up altogether.
Maybe I should ask your forgiveness, but my speaking in this
way is out of a concern for your benefit, so that you can
understand that which is good. You need to know what is what.
What are the things that are oppressing you in your everyday
lives? What are the actions which cause this oppression? Good
actions bring good results and bad actions bring bad results.
These are the causes.
Once moral restraint is pure there will be a sense of honesty and
kindness towards others. This will bring about contentment and
freedom from worries and remorse. Remorse resulting from aggressive
and hurtful behavior will not be there. This is form of happiness.
It is almost like a heavenly state. There is comfort, you eat and
sleep in comfort with the happiness arising from moral restraint.
This is the result; maintaining moral restraint is the cause. This
is a principle of Dhamma practice -- refraining from bad actions so
that goodness can arise. If moral restraint is maintained in this
way, evil will disappear and good will arise in its place. This is
the result of right practice.
But this isn't the end of the story. Once people have attained
some happiness they tend to be heedless and not go any further in
the practice. They get stuck on happiness. They don't want to
progress any further, they prefer the happiness of "heaven". It's
comfortable but there's no real understanding. You must keep
reflecting to avoid being deluded. Reflect again and again on the
disadvantages of this happiness. It's transient, it doesn't last
forever. Soon you are separated from it. It's not a sure thing, once
happiness disappears then suffering arises in its place and the
tears come again. Even heavenly beings end up crying and suffering.
So the Lord Buddha taught us to reflect on the disadvantages,
that there exists an unsatisfactory side to happiness. Usually when
this kind of happiness is experienced there is no real understanding
of it. The peace that is truly certain and lasting is covered over
by this deceptive happiness. This happiness is not a certain or
permanent kind of peace, but rather a form of defilement, a refined
form of defilement to which we attach. Everybody likes to be happy.
Happiness arises because of our liking for something. As soon as
that liking changes to dislike, suffering arises. We must reflect on
this happiness to see its uncertainty and limitation. Once things
change suffering arises. This suffering is also uncertain, don't
think that it is fixed or absolute. This kind of reflection is
called //Adinavakatha//,. the reflection on the inadequacy and
limitation of the conditioned world. This means to reflect on
happiness rather than accepting it at face value. Seeing that it is
uncertain, you shouldn't cling fast to it. You should take hold of
it but then let it go, seeing both the benefit and the harm of
happiness. To meditate skillfully you have to see the disadvantages
inherent within happiness. Reflect in this way. When happiness
arises, contemplate it thoroughly until the disadvantages become
When you see that things are imperfect [*] your heart will come
to understand the //Nekkhammakatha//, the reflection on
renunciation. The mind will become disinterested and seek for a way
out. Disinterest comes from having seen the way forms really are,
the way tastes really are, the way love and hatred really are. By
disinterest we mean that there is no longer the desire to cling to
or attach to things. There is a withdrawal from clinging, to a point
where you can abide comfortably, observing with an equanimity that
is free of attachment. This is the peace that arises from practice.
* * * * * * * *