'TUCCHO POTHILA" -- VENERABLE EMPTY-SCRIPTURE.
There are two ways to support Buddhism. One is known as
//amisapuja//, supporting through material offerings. These are the
four requisites of food, clothing, shelter and medicine. This is to
support Buddhism by giving material offerings to the //Sangha// of
monks and nuns, enabling them to live in reasonable comfort for the
practice of Dhamma. This fosters the direct realization of the
Buddha's teaching, in turn bringing continued prosperity to the
Buddhism can be likened to a tree. A tree has roots, a trunk,
branches, twigs and leaves. all the leaves and branches, including
the trunk, depend on the roots to absorb nutriment from the soil and
send it out to them. In the same way as the tree depends on the
roots to sustain it, our actions and our speech are like "branches"
and "leaves", which depend on the mind, the "root", absorbing
nutriment, which it then sends it out to the "trunk", "branches" and
"leaves". These in turn bear fruit as our speech and actions.
whatever state the mind is in, skillful or unskillful, it expresses
that quality outwardly through our actions and speech.
Therefore the support of Buddhism through the practical
application of the teaching is the most important kind of support.
For example, in the ceremony of determining the precepts on
observance days, the Teacher describes those unskillful actions
which should be avoided. But if you simply go through the ceremony
of determining the precepts without reflecting on their meaning,
progress is difficult. You will be unable to find the true practice.
The real support of Buddhism must therefore be done through
//patipattipuja//, the "offering" of practice, cultivating true
restraint, concentration and wisdom. Then you will know what
Buddhism is all about. If you don't understand through practice you
still won't know, even if you learn the whole Tipitaka.
In the time of the Buddha there was a monk known as Tuccho
Pothila. Tuccho Pothila was very learned, thoroughly versed in the
scriptures and texts. He was so famous that he was revered by people
everywhere and had eighteen monasteries under his care. When people
heard the name "Tuccho Pothila" they were awe-struck and nobody
would dare question anything he taught, so much did they revere his
command of the teachings. Tuccho Pothila was one of the Buddha's
most learned disciples.
One day he went to pay respects to the Buddha. As he was paying
his respects, the Buddha said, "Ah, hello, Venerable Empty
Scripture!"...just like that! They conversed for a while until it
was time to go, and then, as he was taking leave of the Buddha, the
Buddha said, "Oh, leaving now, Venerable Empty Scripture?"
That was all the Buddha said. On arriving, "Oh, hello, Venerable
Empty Scripture." When it was time to go, "Ah, leaving now,
Venerable Empty Scripture?" The Buddha didn't expand on it, that was
all the teaching he gave. Tuccho Pothila, the eminent teacher, was
puzzled, " Why did the Buddha say that? What did he mean?" He
thought and thought, turning over everything he had learnt, until
eventually he realized..."It's true! "Venerable Empty Scripture" --
a monk who studies but doesn't practice." When he looked into his
heart he saw that really he was no different from laypeople.
Whatever they aspired to he also aspired to, whatever they enjoyed
he also enjoyed. There was no real //samana// [*] within him, no
truly profound quality capable of firmly establishing him in the
Noble Way and providing true peace.
* [One who lives devoted to religious practices. The term is used
also to refer to one who has developed a certain amount of virtue
from such practices. Ajahn Chah usually translates the term as "one
who is peaceful."]
So he decided to practice. But there was nowhere for him to go
to. all the teachers around were his own students, no-one would dare
accept him. Usually when people meet their teacher they become timid
and deferential, and so no-one would dare to become his teacher.
Finally he went to see a certain young novice, who was
enlightened, and asked to practice under him. The novice said, "Yes,
sure you can practice with me, but only if you're sincere. If you're
not sincere then I won't accept you." Tuccho Pothila pledged himself
as a student of the novice.
The novice then told him to put on all his robes. Now there
happened to be a muddy bog nearby. When Tuccho Pothila had neatly
put on all his robes, expensive ones they were, too, the novice
said, "Okay, now run down into this muddy bog. If I don't tell you
to stop, don't stop. If I don't tell you to come out, don't come
Tuccho Pothila, neatly robed, plunged into the bog. The novice
didn't tell him to stop until he was completely covered in mud.
Finally he said, "You can stop, now." ... so he stopped. "Okay, come
on up!"... and so he came out.
This clearly showed that Tuccho Pothila had given up his pride.
He was ready to accept the teaching. If he wasn't ready to learn he
wouldn't have run into the bog like that, being such a famous
teacher, but he did it. The young novice, seeing this, knew that
Tuccho Pothila was sincerely determined to practice.
When Tuccho Pothila had come out of the bog, the novice gave him
the teaching. He taught him to observe the sense objects, to know
the mind and to know the sense objects, using the simile of a man
catching a lizard hiding in a termite mound. If the mound had six
holes in it, How would he catch it? He would have to seal off five
of the holes and leave just one open. Then he would have to simply
watch and wait, guarding that one hole. When the lizard ran out he
could catch it.
Observing the mind is like this. Closing off the eyes, ears,
nose, tongue and body, we leave only the mind. To "close off" the
senses means to restrain and compose them, observing only the mind.
Meditation is like catching the lizard. We use //sati// to note the
breath. //Sati// is the quality of recollection, as in asking
yourself, "What am I doing?" //Sampajanna// is the awareness that
"now I am doing such and such". We observe the in and out breathing
with //sati// and //sampajanna//.
This quality of recollection is something that arises from
practice, it's not something that can be learnt from books. Know the
feelings that arise. The mind may be fairly inactive for a while and
then a feeling arises. //Sati// works in conjunction with these
feelings, recollecting them. There is //sati//, the recollection
that "I will speak", "I will go", "I will sit" and so on, and then
there is //sampajanna//, the awareness that "now I am walking", "I
am lying down", "I am experiencing such and such a mood" with these
two things, //sati// and //sampajanna//, we can know our minds in
the present moment. We will know how the mind reacts to sense
That which is aware of sense objects is called "mind". Sense
objects "wander in" to the mind. For instance, there is a sound,
like the electric planer here. It enters through the ear and travels
inwards to the mind, which acknowledges that it is the sound of an
electric planer. That which acknowledges the sound is called "mind".
Now this mind which acknowledges the sound is still quite basic.
It's just the average mind. Perhaps annoyance arises within this one
who acknowledges. We must further train "the one who acknowledges"
to become "the one who knows" in accordance with the truth -- known
as Buddho. If we don't clearly know in accordance with the truth
then we get annoyed at sounds of people, cars, electric planer and
so on. This is just the ordinary, untrained mind acknowledging the
sound with annoyance. It knows in accordance with its preferences,
not in accordance with the truth. We must further train it to know
with vision and insight, //nanadassana//, [*] the power of the
refined mind, so that it knows the sound as simply sound. If we
don't cling to sound there is annoyance. The sound arises and we
simply note it. This is called truly knowing the arising of sense
objects. If we develop the Buddho, clearly realizing the sound as
sound, then it doesn't annoy us. It arises according to conditions,
it is not a being, an individual, a self, an "us" or "them". It's
just sound. The mind lets go.
* [Literally, "knowledge and insight (into the Four Noble Truths)."
This knowing is called Buddho, the knowledge that is clear and
penetrating. With this knowledge we can let the sound be simply
sound. It doesn't disturb us unless we disturb it by thinking, "I
don't want to hear that sound, it's annoying." Suffering arises
because of this thinking. Right here is the cause of suffering, that
we don't know the truth of this matter, we haven't developed the
Buddho. We are not yet clear, not yet awake, not yet aware. This is
the raw, untrained mind. This mind is not yet truly useful to us.
Therefore the Buddha taught that this mind must be trained and
developed. We must develop the mind just like we develop the body,
but we do it in different way. To develop the body we must exercise
it, jogging in the morning and evening and so on. This is exercising
the body. As a result the body becomes more agile, stronger, the
respiratory and nervous systems become more efficient. to exercise
the mind we don't have to move it around, but bring it to a halt,
bring it to rest.
For instance, when practicing meditation, we take an object, such
as the in and out breathing, as our foundation. This becomes the
focus of our attention and reflection. We note the breathing. To
note the breathing means to follow the breathing with awareness,
noting its rhythm, its coming and going. We put awareness into the
breath, following the natural in and out breathing and letting go of
all else. As a result of staying on one object of awareness, our
mind becomes refreshed. If we let the mind think of this, that and
the other there are many objects of awareness, the mind doesn't
unify, it doesn't come to rest.
To say the mind stops means that it feels as if it's stopped, it
doesn't go running here and there. It's like having a sharp knife.
If we use the knife to cut at things indiscriminately, such as
stones, bricks and grass, our knife will quickly become blunt. We
should use it for cutting only the things it was meant for. Our mind
is the same. If we let the mind wander after thoughts and feelings
which have no value or use, the mind becomes tired and weak, If the
mind has no energy, wisdom will not arise, because the mind without
energy is the mind without //samadhi//.
If the mind hasn't stopped you can't clearly see the sense
objects for what they are. The knowledge that the mind is the mind,
sense objects are merely sense objects, is the root from which
Buddhism has grown and developed. This is the heart of Buddhism.
We must cultivate this mind, develop it, training it in calm and
insight. We train the mind to have restraint and wisdom by letting
the mind stop and allowing wisdom to arise, by knowing the mind as
You know, the way we human beings are, the way we do things, are
just like little children. A child doesn't know anything. To an
adult observing the behavior of a child, the way it plays and jumps
around, its actions don't seem to have much purpose. If our mind is
untrained it is like a child. We speak without awareness and act
without wisdom. We may fall to ruin or cause untold harm and not
even know it. A child is ignorant, it plays as children do. Our
ignorant mind is the same.
So we should train this mind. The Buddha taught to train the
mind, to teach the mind. Even if we support Buddhism with the four
requisites, our support is still superficial, it reaches only the
"bark" or "sapwood" of the tree. The real support of Buddhism must
be done through the practice, nowhere else, training our actions,
speech and thoughts according to the teachings. This is much more
fruitful. If we are straight and honest, possessed of restraint and
wisdom, our practice will bring prosperity. There will be no cause
for spite and hostility. This is how our religion teaches us.
If we determine the precepts simply out of tradition, then even
though the Master teaches the truth our practice will be deficient.
We may be able to study the teachings and repeat them, but we have
to practice them if we really want to understand. If we do not
develop the practice, this may well be an obstacle to our
penetrating to the heart of Buddhism for countless lifetimes to
come. We will not understand the essence of the Buddhist religion.
Therefore the practice is like a key, the key of meditation. If
we have the right key in our hand, no matter how tightly the lock is
closed, when we take the key and turn it the lock falls open. If we
have no key we can't open the lock. We will never know what it is in
Actually there are two kinds of knowledge. One who knows the
Dhamma doesn't simply speak from memory, he speaks the truth.
Worldly people usually speak with conceit. For example, suppose
there were two people who hadn't seen each other for a long time,
maybe they had gone to live in different provinces or countries for
a while, and then one day they happened to meet on the train..."Oh!
What a surprise. I was just thinking of looking you up!"... Actually
it's not true. Really they hadn't thought of each other at all, but
they say so out of excitement. And so it becomes a lie. Yes, it's
lying out of heedlessness. This is lying without knowing it. It's a
subtle form of defilement, and it happens very often.
So with regard to the mind, Tuccho Pothila followed the
instructions of the novice: breathing in, breathing out... mindfully
aware of each breath...until he saw the liar within him, the lying
of his own mind. He saw the defilements as they came up, just like
the lizard coming out of the termite mound. He saw them and
perceived their true nature as soon as they arose. He noticed how
one minute the mind would concoct one thing, the next moment
Thinking is a //sankhata dhamma//, something which is created or
concocted from supporting conditions. It's not //asankhata dhamma//,
the unconditioned. The well-trained mind, one with perfect
awareness, does not concoct mental states. This kind of mind
penetrates to the Noble Truths and transcends any need to depend on
externals. To know the Noble Truths is to know the truth. The
proliferating mind tries to avoid this truth, saying, "that's good"
or "this is beautiful", but if there is Buddho in the mind it can no
longer deceive us, because we know the mind as it is. The mind can
no longer create deluded mental states, because there is the clear
awareness that all mental states are unstable, imperfect, and a
source of suffering to one who clings to them.
Wherever he went, the one who knows was constantly in Tuccho
Pothila's mind. He observed the various creations and proliferation
of the mind with understanding. He saw how the mind lied in so many
ways. He grasped the essence of the practice, seeing that "This
lying mind is the one to watch -- this is the one which leads us
into extremes of happiness and suffering and causes us to endlessly
spin around in the cycle of //Samsara//, with its pleasure and pain,
good and evil -- all because of this one." Tuccho Pothila realized
the truth, and grasped the essence of the practice, just like a man
grasping the tail of the lizard. He saw the workings of the deluded
For us it's the same. Only this mind is important. That's why
they say to train the mind. Now if the mind is the mind, what are we
going to train it with? By having continuous //sati// and
//sampajanna// we will be able to know the mind. This one who knows
is a step beyond the mind, it is that which knows the state of the
mind. The mind is the mind. That which knows the mind as simply mind
is the one who knows. It is above the mind. The one who knows is
above the mind, and that is how it is able to look after the mind,
to teach the mind to know what is right and what is wrong. In the
end everything comes back to this proliferating mind. If the mind is
caught up in its proliferations there is no awareness and the
practice is fruitless.
So we must train this mind to hear the Dhamma, to cultivate the
Buddho, the clear and radiant awareness, that which exists above and
beyond the ordinary mind and knows all that goes on within it. This
is why we meditate on the word Buddho, so that we can know the mind
beyond the mind. Just observe all the mind's movements, whether good
or bad, until the one who realizes that the mind is simply mind, not
a self or a person. This is called //cittanupassana//, Contemplation
of Mind.[*] Seeing in this way we will understand that the mind is
Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless. This mind doesn't belong to us.
* [One of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: Body, Feelings, Mind,
We can summarize thus: The mind is that which acknowledges sense
objects; sense objects are sense objects as distinct from the mind;
the one who knows both the mind and the sense objects for what they
are. We must use //sati// to constantly cleanse the mind. Everybody
has //sati//, even a cat has it when it's going to catch a mouse. A
dog has it when it barks at people. This is a form of //sati//, but
it's not //sati// according to the Dhamma. Everybody has //sati//,
but there are different levels of it, just as there are different
levels of looking at things. Like when I say to contemplate the
body, some people say, "What is there to contemplate in the body?
Anybody can see it. //Kesa// we can see already, //loma// we can see
already...hair, nails, teeth and skin we can see already. So what?"
This is how people are. They can see the body alright but their
seeing is faulty, they don't see with the Buddho, the one who knows,
the awakened one. They only see the body in the ordinary way, they
see it visually. Simply to see the body is not enough. If we only
see the body there is trouble. You must see the body within the
body, then things become much clearer. Just seeing the body you get
fooled by it, charmed by its appearance. Not seeing Transience,
Imperfection and Ownerlessness, //kamachanda// [*] arises. You
become fascinated by forms, sounds, odors, flavors and feelings.
Seeing in this way is to see with the mundane eye of the flesh,
causing you to love and hate and discriminate into pleasing and
*[//Kamachanda//: Sensual desire, one of the Five Hindrances, the
other four being ill will, doubt, restlessness and worry, and
The Buddha taught that this is not enough. You must see with the
"mind's eye". See the body within the body. If you really look into
the body...Ugh! It's so repulsive. There are today's things and
yesterday's things all mixed up in there, you can't tell what's
what. Seeing in this way is much clearer than to see with the carnal
eye. Contemplate, see with the eye of the mind, with the wisdom eye.
People's understandings differ like this. Some people don't know
what there is to contemplate in the Five Meditations, head hair,
body hair, nails, teeth and skin. They say they can see all those
things already, but they can only see them with the carnal eye, with
this "crazy eye" which only looks at the things it wants to look at.
To see the body in the body you have to look much clearer than that.
This is the practice that can uproot clinging to the Five
//Khandhas//. [*] To uproot attachment is to uproot suffering,
because attaching to the Five //Khandhas// is the cause of
suffering. If suffering arises it is here, at the attachment to the
Five //Khandhas//. It's not that the Five //Khandhas// are in
themselves suffering, but the clinging to them as being one's
* [The Five //Khandhas//, or "heaps": Form, feeling, perception,
conception, and consciousness.]
If you clearly see the truth of these things through meditation
practice, then suffering becomes unwound, like a screw or a bolt.
When the bolt is unwound, it withdraws. The mind unwinds in the same
way, letting go, withdrawing from the obsession with good and evil,
possessions, praise and status, happiness and suffering.
If we don't know the truth of these things it's like tightening
the screw all the time. It gets tighter and tighter until it's
crushing you and you suffer over everything. When you know how
things are then you unwind the screw. In Dhamma language we call
this the arising of //nibbida//, disenchantment. You become weary of
things and lay down the fascination with them. If you unwind in this
way you will find peace.
The cause of suffering is to cling to things. So we should get
rid of the cause, cut off its root and not allow it to cause
suffering again. People have only one problem -- the problem of
clinging. Just because of this one thing people will kill each
other. All problems, be they individual, family or social, arise
from this one root. Nobody wins...they kill each other but in the
end no-one gets anything. I don't know why people keep on killing
each other so pointlessly.
Power, possessions, status, praise, happiness and
suffering...these are the worldly dhammas. These worldly dhammas
engulf worldly beings. Worldly beings are led around by the worldly
dhammas: gain and loss, acclaim and slander, status and loss of
status, happiness and suffering. These dhammas are trouble makers,
if you don't reflect on their true nature you will suffer. People
even commit murder for the sake of wealth, status or power. Why?
Because they take them too seriously. They get appointed to some
position and it goes to their heads, like the man who became headman
of the village. After his appointment he became "power-drunk". If
any of his old friends came to see he'd say, "Don't come around so
often. Things aren't the same anymore."
The Buddha taught to understand the nature of possessions,
status, praise and happiness. Take these things as they come but let
them be. Don't let them go to your head. If you don't really
understand these things you become fooled by your power, your
children and relatives...by everything! If you understand them
clearly you know they're all impermanent conditions. If you cling to
them they become defiled.
All of these things arise afterwards. When people are first born
there are simply //nama// and //rupa//, that's all. We add on the
business of "Mr. Jones", "Miss Smith" or whatever later on. This is
done according to convention. Still later there are the appendages
of "Colonel", "General" and so on. If we don't really understand
these things we think they are real and carry them around with us.
We carry possessions, status, name and rank around. If you have
power you can call all the tunes..."Take this one and execute him.
Take that one and throw him in jail" ... Rank gives power. This word
"rank" here is where clinging takes hold. As soon as people get rank
they start giving orders; right or wrong, they just act on their
moods. So they go on making the same old mistakes, deviating further
and further from the true path.
One who understands the Dhamma won't behave like this. Good and
evil have been in the world since who knows when... if possessions
and status come your way then let them simply be the possessions and
status, don't let them become your identity. Just use them to
fulfill your obligations and leave it at that. You remain unchanged.
If we have meditated on these things, no matter what comes our way
we will not be fooled by it. We will be untroubled, unaffected,
constant. Everything is pretty much the same, after all.
This is how the Buddha wanted us to understand things. No matter
what you receive, the mind adds nothing on to it. They appoint you a
city councilor..."Okay, so I'm a city councilor...but I'm not." They
appoint you head of the group..."Sure I am, but I'm not." Whatever
they make of you..."Yes I am, but I'm not!" In the end what are we
anyway? We all just die in the end. No matter what they make you, in
the end it's all the same. What can you say? If you can see things
in this way you will have a solid abiding and true contentment.
Nothing is changed.
This is not to be fooled by things. Whatever comes your way, it's
just conditions. There's nothing which can entice a mind like this
to create or proliferate, to seduce it into greed, aversion or
Now this is to be a true supporter of Buddhism. Whether you are
among those who are being supported (i.e. the Sangha) or those who
are supporting (the laity) please consider this thoroughly.
Cultivate the //Sila-Dhamma// [*] within you. This is the surest way
to support Buddhism. To support Buddhism with the offerings of food,
shelter and medicine is good also, but such offerings only reach the
"sapwood" of Buddhism. Please don't forget this. A tree has bark,
sapwood and heartwood, and these three parts are interdependent. The
heartwood must rely on the bark and the sapwood. The sapwood relies
on the bark and the heartwood. they all exist interdependently, just
like the teachings of Moral Discipline, Concentration and Wisdom.
[**] Moral Discipline is to establish your speech and actions in
rectitude. Concentration is to firmly fix the mind. Wisdom is the
thorough understanding of the nature of all conditions. Study this,
practice this, and you will understand Buddhism in the most profound
* [//Sila-Dhamma//: The Teaching and Discipline, another name for
the teaching of Buddhism, but on the personal level meaning "virtue
and (knowledge of) truth."]
** [//Sila//, //samadhi//, //panna//.]
If you don't realize these things you will be fooled by
possessions, fooled by rank, fooled by anything you come into
contact with. simply supporting Buddhism in the external way will
never put an end to the fighting and squabbling, the grudges and
animosity, the stabbing and shooting. If these things are to cease
we must reflect on the nature of possessions, rank, praise,
happiness and suffering. We must consider our lives and bring them
in line with the Teaching. We should reflect that all beings in the
world are part of one whole. We are like them, they are like us.
They have happiness and suffering just like we do. It's all much the
same. If we reflect in this way, peace and understanding will arise.
This is the foundation of Buddhism.
* * * * * * * *