Message of Truth from Suan Mokkh #6
6 May 1988
Translated by Dr. Supaphan Na Bangchang and Santikaro Bhikkhu
All people in the world, including the Thai people, are now in the
same situation as were the Kalama people of Kesaputtanigama, India,
during the time of the Buddha. Their village was in a place through
which many religious teachers passed. Each of these teachers taught
that his personal doctrine was the only truth, and that all others
before and after him were wrong. The Kalamas could not decide which
doctrine they should accept and follow. The Buddha once came to
their village and the kalamas brought up this problem with him: that
they did not know which teacher to believe. So the Buddha taught
them what is now known as the
Kalama Sutta, which will examine here.
Nowadays, worldly people can study many different approaches to
economic, social, and technological development. The universities
teach just about everything. Then, regarding spiritual matters, here
in Thailand alone we have so many teachers, so many interpretations
of the Buddha's teachings, and so many meditation centers that
nobody knows which teaching to accept or which practice to follow.
Thus it can be said that we have fallen into the same position as
the Kalamas were in.
The Buddha taught them, and us, not to accept or believe anything
immediately. He gave ten basic conditions to beware of in order to
avoid becoming the intellectual slave of anyone, even of the Buddha
himself. This principle enables us to know how to choose the
teachings which are truly capable of quenching suffering (dukkha).
The ten examples which the Buddha gave in the
Kalama Sutta follow.
Ma anaussavena:do not accept and believe just because
something has been passed along and retold through the years. Such
credulity is a characteristic of brainless people, or "sawdust
brains," such as those in Bangkok who once believed that there would
be disasters for the people born in the "ma years" (those years of
the traditional twelve year Thai calendar whose names begin with
"ma," namely, years five through eight - small snake, big snake,
horse, and goat).
Ma paramparaya: do not believe just because some practice
has become traditional. People tend to imitate what others do and
then pass the habit along, as in the story of the rabbit frightened
by the fallen bael fruit. The other animals saw it running at
full-strength, and then so frightened and excited each other that
they ran after it. Most of them tripped and fell, broke their necks,
or tumbled to death off cliffs. Any
vipassana practice that is done in limitation of others,
as a mere tradition, leads to similar results.
Ma itikiraya: do not accept and believe merely because of
the reports and news spreading far and wide through one's village,
or even throughout the world. Only fools are susceptible to such
"rumors," for they refuse to exercise their own intelligence.
Ma pitakasampadanena: do not accept and believe just
because something is cited in a pitaka. The word "pitaka,"
which is used for the Buddhist scriptures, means
anything written or inscribed upon any suitable writing material.
Memorized teachings which are passed on orally should not be
confused with pitaka. Pitakas are a certain kind of conditioned
thing which are under humanity's control. They can be created,
improved, and changed by human hands. So we cannot trust every
letter and word in them. We need to use our powers of discrimination
to see how those words can be applied to the quenching of suffering.
The various schools of Buddhism all have their own cannons, among
which there are discrepancies.
Ma takkahetu: do not believe just because something fits
with the reasoning of logic (takka).
This is merely one branch of study used to try to figure out the
truth. Takka, what we call "logics,"
can go wrong if its data or its methods are incorrect.
Ma nayahetu: do not believe just because something is
correct on the grounds of
naya (deductive and inductive reasoning) alone. These
naya is called "philosophy."
In Thailand, we translate the word "philosophy"
which the Indian people cannot accept because "naya" is only one
point of view. It is not the highest or absolute wisdom which they
nyaya, is merely a branch of thought which reasons on the
basis of assumption or hypotheses. It can be incorrect if the
reasoning or choice of assumptions is inappropriate.
Ma akaraparivitakkena: do not believe or accept just
because something appeals to one's common sense, which is merely
snap judgements based on one's tendencies of thought. We like using
this approach so much that it becomes habitual. Boastful
philosophers like to use this method a great deal and consider it to
Ma ditฺtฺhinijjhanakkhantiya: do not believe just because
something stands up to or agrees with one's preconceived opinions
and theories. Personal views can be wrong, or our methods of
experiment and verification might be incorrect, and then will not
lead to the truth. Accepting what fits our theories may seem to be a
scientific approach, but actually can never be so, since its proofs
and experiments are inadequate.
Ma bhabbarupataya: do not believe just because the
speaker appears believable. Outside appearances and the actual
knowledge inside a person can never be identical. We often find that
speakers who appear credible on the outside say incorrect and
foolish things. Nowadays, we must be wary of computers because the
programmers who feed them data and manipulate them may feed in the
wrong information or use them incorrectly. Do not worship computers
so much, for doing so goes against this principle of the Kalama
Ma samanฺo no garu ti: do not believe just because the
samanฺa or preacher, the speaker, is "our teacher." The
Buddha's purpose regarding this important point is that no one
should be the intellectual slave of someone else, not even of the
Buddha himself. The Buddha emphasized this point often, and there
were disciples, such as the venerable Sariputta, who confirmed this
practice. They did not believe the Buddha's words immediately upon
hearing them, but believed only after adequately considering the
advice and putting it to the test of practice. See for yourselves
whether there is any other religious teacher in the world who has
given this highest freedom to his disciples and audiences! Thus in
Buddhism there is no dogmatic system, there is no pressure to
believe without the right to examine and decide for oneself. This is
the greatest special quality of Buddhism which keeps its
practitioners from being the intellectual slaves of anyone, as
explained above. We Thais should not volunteer to follow the West as
slavishly as we are doing now. Intellectual and spiritual freedom is
The ten examples of the
Kalama Sutta are a surefire defense against intellectual
dependence or not being one's own person: that is, neglecting one's
own intelligence and wisdom in dealing with what one hears and
listens to, what is called in Dhamma language
paratoghosa ("sound of others") When listening to
anything, one should give it careful attention and full scrutiny. If
there is reason to believe what has been heard and it results in the
genuine quenching of suffering, then one finally may believe it
The principle of the Kalama Sutta is approriate for everyone,
everywhere, every era, and every world - even for the world of
Nowadays the world has been shrunk by superb communications.
Information can be exchanged easily and rapidly. People can receive
new knowledge from every direction and corner of the globe. In the
process, they don't know what to believe and, therefore, are in the
same position as the Kalamas once were. Indeed, it is the Kalama
Sutta which will be their refuge. Please give it the good attention
and study it deserves. Consider it the greatest good fortune that
the Buddha taught the Kalama Sutta. It is a gift for everyone in the
world. Only people who are overly stupid will be unable to benefit
from this advice of the Buddha.
The Kalama Sutta is to be used by people of all ages. Even children
can apply its principles in order to be children of awakening (bodhi),
rather than children of ignorance (avijja).
Parents should teach and train their children to know how to
understand the words and instructions they receive, to see how
reasonable the words are and what kind of results will come from
them. When parents teach or tell their children anything, the
children should understand and see the benefit of practicing what
they are told. For example, when a child it told not to take heroin,
that child should believe not merely because of fear. Rather, seeing
the results of taking heroin, the child fears them and then
willingly refuses the drug on her or his own.
None of the items in the Kalama Sutta state that children should
never believe anyone, should never listen to anyone. They all state
that children, and everyone else, should listen and believe only
after having seen the real meaning of something and the advantages
they will receive from such belief and its subsequent practice. When
a teacher teaches something, having the children see the reason
behind the teaching won't make the children obstinate. For the
obstinate ones, gently add a bit of the stick and let them think
things over again. Children will understand the principle of the
Kalama Sutta more and more as they grow up. They will complete all
ten items themselves as they become fully mature adults, if we train
children by this standard.
A scientific world such as today's will be able to accept gladly all
ten tenets of the Kalama Sutta as being in line with the scientific
method and approach. There is not the least contradiction between
the principles of science and those of the Kalama Sutta. Even the
eighth item, which states that one should not accept something just
because it agrees with one's own preconceived theories, does not
contradict scientific principles. True scientists emphasize
experimental verification, not their own concepts, opinions, and
reasoning, as their main criterion for accepting something as true.
Due to these standards of the Kalama Sutta, Buddhism will meet the
expectations and needs of true scientists.
If one follows the principle of the Kalama Sutta, one will have
independent knowledge and reason with which to understand the
meaning and truth of ideas and propositions heard for the first
time. For example, when one hears that greed, hatred, and delusion
are dangerous and evil, one understands thoroughly and instantly,
because one already knows through personal experience what these
things are like. One believes in oneself rather than in the speaker.
The way of practice is the same in other cases. If a statement is
about something one has never seen or known before, one should try
to understand or get to know it first. Then one can consider whether
or not to accept the newly received teaching or advice. One must not
accept something just because one believes in the speaker. One
should take one's time, even if it means dying before finding out.
The Kalama Sutta can protect one from becoming the intellectual
slave of others, even on the highest levels.
There's a problem every time a new kind of medicine comes out and
gets advertised up and down all over the place. Should we offer
ourselves as guinea pigs to test it, out of belief in the
advertisements? Or should we wait until we have sufficient reason to
try just a little of it first, to see if it truly gives good
results, before fully relying on it? We should respond to new
statements and teachings as we respond to new medicines, by
depending on the principles in the Kalama Sutta as a true refuge.
The Kalama Sutta requires us to have wisdom before having faith. If
one wants to have faith come first, then let it be the faith which
begins with wisdom, not faith which comes from ignorance. The same
bolds true in the principle of
the Noble Eightfold Path: Take wisdom or right
understanding as the starting point, then let faith grow out of that
wisdom or right understanding. That is the only safe approach. We
ought never to believe blindly immediately upon hearing something,
nor should we be forced to believe out of fear, bribery, and the
The world nowadays is so overwhelmed by the power of advertising
that most people have become its slaves. It can make people pull out
their wallets to buy things they don't need to eat, don't need to
have, and don't need to use. It's so commonplace that we absolutely
must offer the principle of the Kalama Sutta to our human comrades
of this era. Propaganda is much more harmful than ordinary
advertising or what is called
paratoghosa in Pali. Even with ordinary advertising, we
must depend on the principle of the Kalama Sutta, to say nothing of
needing this principle to deal with outright propaganda , which is
full of intentional deceptions. So we can say that the kalama Sutta
is beneficial even in solving economic problems.
I ask you all to consider, investigate, and test whether there is
found anywhere greater spiritual freedom than is found in the kalama
Sutta. If someone says that Buddhism is sa religion of freedom, can
there be any reason to dispute or oppose that statement? Does this
world which is intoxicated with freedom really know or have freedom
in line with the principle of the Kalama Sutta? Is the lack of such
freedom caused by blind ignorance and indifference regarding the
Kalama Sutta? Some people even claim that it teaches us not to
believe or listen to anything. Moreover, some actually say that the
Buddha preached this
sutta only for the Kalamas there at that time. Why don't
e open our eyes and take notice that people nowadays have become
intellectual slaves, that they have lost their freedom much more
than those Kalamas in the time of the Buddha? Human friends, fellow
worshippers of freedom, I ask you to consider carefully the essence
and aim of the Kalama Sutta and the Buddha's intention in teaching
it. Then, your Buddhist quality of awakening will grow fat and
robust, rather than skinny and weak. Don't go foolishly hating and
fearing the Kalam Sutta. The word "Thai" means 'freedom." What kind
of freedom are you going to bring to our "Thainess"? Or what kind of
Thainess is fitting and proper for the Thainess of Buddhists, the
disciples of the Buddha?
Now let us look further to see the hidden benefits and advantages in
the Kalama Sutta. The sutta can help us to avoid the tactless and
narrow-minded talk which leads to violent clashes and disputes. For
example it is foolish to set up an unalterable rule for all families
regarding who, husband or wife, will be the front legs and who the
hind legs of the elephant. It all depends on the conditions and
circumstances of each specific family. According to the principles
in the Kalama Sutta and the law of conditionality (idappaccayata),
we only can say which roles are appropriate for whom depending on
the circumstances of each individual family. Do not speak
one-sidedly and go against natural principles.
Regarding abortion, people argue until black and red in the face
about whether or not it should be done, without investigating to
find out in which cases it should and in which cases it should not.
Once we follow the principles of the Buddhist way of reasoning, each
situation itself will tell us what is proper and what is not. Please
stop insisting on one-sided positions.
In the case of meat-eating versus vegetarianism, people blindly
argue for one extreme or the other. The problem is that people are
attached to regarding food as either meat or as vegetables. For
Buddhists, there is neither meat nor vegetables; there are only
elements in nature. Whether the eater or the eaten, it's all merely
natural elements. The situations where we should eat meat and the
circumstances in which we shouldn't can be discerned by using the
principle of the Kalama Sutta. For just this reason, the Buddha
never decisively said to eat only meat or only vegetables, to not
eat meat or not eat vegetables. To speak so carelessly is not the
way of Buddhists.
To say that democracy is always and absolutely good is to speak with
one's head in the sand. Those who insist on it haven't considered
that a democracy of selfish people is worse than a dictatorship
under an unselfish person who rules for the sake of Dhamma and
justice. A democracy of selfish people means freedom to use their
selfishness in a most frightening and awful manner. Consequently,
problems drag on endlessly among those people who have a democracy
of selfishness. Stop saying that democracy is absolutely good or
that dictatorship is absolutely good. Instead, stick to the
principle that both will be good if they are based in Dhamma. Each
population should choose whichever system suits the particular
circumstances which it faces.
To say that the Prime Minister exclusively must be an elected member
of parliament, and never someone who the people haven't chosen
directly, is to babble as if deaf and blind. Really, we must look to
see how the situation ought to be and what the causes and conditions
are, then act correctly according to the law of conditionality. This
is the true Buddhist way, befitting the fact that Buddhism embodies
democracy in the form of dhammic socialism. Therefore, the election
of members of parliament, the establishment of a government, the
structuring of the political system, and even the course of social
and economic development should be carried out using the principle
of the Kalama Sutta. Please consider each example. You soon will
discover the fact that we must rely upon the principle of the Kalama
More than ever the modern world needs the Kalama sutta as its basic
operating principle. The world is spinning fast with the defilements
of humanity. It is shrinking due to better transportation and
communications. And it is about to self-destruct because proper
awareness, intelligence, and wisdom are lacking. Under the power of
defilement, the world is worshipping materialism, sex and luxury,
because it lacks standards like that of the Kalama Sutta. No one
knows how to make choices in line with its principle. Consequently,
the world is wholly unfit for peace, while increasing in crime and
other harmful evils every moment. Let's eliminate all these problems
and evils by relying on the Kalama Sutta as our standard. So let's
yell at the top of our lungs, "Help! Kalama Sutta, help us!"
In conclusion, the Kalama Sutta never forbids us to believe in
anything; it merely implores us to believe with independent
intelligence and wisdom. It never forbids us to listen to anything;
it merely asks us to listen without letting our intelligence and
wisdom become enslaved. Furthermore, it helps us to be able to
think, consider, investigate, and decide with great subtlety and
precision, so that we can find golden needles in haystacks as huge
Kalama Sutta! Come invest yourself in the hearts and
minds of all Buddhists, of all human beings, in this modern world.
Kalama Sutta, help us!
& Dhamma language
Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya
8 October 1966
Translated by Roderick Bucknell
Today's talk is rather special. Time and time again I have noticed
that, regardless of how the subject is explained, there are a great
many aspects of the more profound teaching that the majority of
people dont understand at all. People hear things explained many
times over and still don't understand. Why is this? If we look into
it, we discover the reason. Most of us are familiar only with
everyday language, the language spoken by the ordinary person,
ordinary worldly language. We fail to realize the existence of
another quite different and very special language: the language of
religion, the language of Dhamma.
The language of Dhamma is something altogether different from the
language of everyday. This point must be borne well in mind.
Everyday language and Dhamma language are two distinct and different
modes of speaking.
Everyday language is worldly language, the language of people who do
not know Dhamma.
Dhamma language is the language spoken by people who have gained a
deep insight into the Truth, into Dhamma. Having
perceived Dhamma, they speak in terms appropriate to their
experience, and so Dhamma language comes into being. This special
mode of speaking is what we call Dhamma language. It is a language
quite distinct from ordinary everyday language.
So there are two languages: Dhamma language and everyday language.
Everyday language is based on physical things and on experiences
accessible to the ordinary person. Being based on the physical
rather than the spiritual, it serves only for discussion of
physical, worldly matters and situations. It serves only for the
tangible things perceived under ordinary everyday circumstances. By
contrast, Dhamma language has to do with the mental world, with the
tangible, non-physical world. In order to be able to speak and
understand this Dhamma language, one must have gained insight into
the mental world. Consequently, only people who have seen Dhamma,
the Truth, speak the Dhamma language, the language of the
non-material mental world which is above the physical.
Let us put this another way. We distinguish ordinary physical
language from metaphysical language. The field of metaphysics is
utterly different from that of physics and consequently there is a
special metaphysical language. So in addition to the ordinary
language of the physical, there is a language that transcends the
physical. The physical language is the worldly, conventional
language used under ordinary circumstances and based on physical
things. The metaphysical language is based on mental things. It has
to be learned, studied, and understood. It is based not on the
physical world but on the mental. I hope you can now see the
distinction between everyday language and Dhamma language.
The point now is that if we know only everyday language, we are in
no position to understand true Dhamma when we hear it. If we don't
know the language of Dhamma, then we can't understand Dhamma, the
supramundane Truth that can truly liberate us from
unsatisfactoriness and misery (dukkha). The reason we don't
understand Dhamma is that we know only everyday language and are not
familiar with Dhamma language.
It is essential always to interpret the Buddha's teaching in terms
of Dhamma language as well as in terms of everyday language. Both
meanings must be considered. Please take careful note of the
Appamatto ubho atthe adhiganhati pandito,
Ditthe dhamma ca yo attho, yo ca'ttho saparayiko.
Atthabhisamayadhiro pan d ito ti pavuccati.
The wise and heedful person is familiar with both modes of speaking:
the meaning seen by ordinary people and the meaning which they can't
understand. One who is fluent in the various modes of speaking is a
This is a general principle to be applied when studying Dhamma,
whether at a high or low level. It is also applicable in ordinary
spoken language. The passages cited contain the unambiguous
atthe," that is "both meaning" or "both modes of speaking." A
discerning person must consider both meanings or modes of speaking
and not just one of them alone. Anyone who, for instance, considers
only the ordinary everyday meaning and ignores the other meaning,
the meaning in terms of Dhamma lanugauge, cannot be called a wise or
discerning person. As the Buddha said, a discerning person is one
who is able to take into consideration both modes of speaking. It
behoves us, then to be careful and to study diligently in order to
acquire this ability to take into account both possible
interpretations, the one in terms of everyday language and the other
in terms of Dhamma laungauge.
We shall now consider some examples of what I mean. Each of the
following words will be explained according to both everyday
launguage and Dhamma language. This should enable you to clearly
understand both modes of expression.
The first example is the word "Buddha." As you know, the word
"Buddha" in everyday language refers to the historical Enlightened
Being, Gotama Buddha. It refers to a physical man of flesh and bone
who was born in India over two thousand years ago, died, and was
cremated. This is the meaning of the word "Buddha" in
Considered in terms of
Dhamma lanugage, however, the word "Buddha"
the Truth which the historical Buddha realized and taught,
Dhamma itself. The Buddha said:
One who see the Dhamma sees the
word the Buddha often used to refer to himself) One who see the
Tathagata sees the Dhamma. One who sees not the Dhamma, though
grasping at the robe of the Tathagata, cannot be said to have seen
Now, the Dhamma is something intangible. It is not something
physical, certainly not flesh and bones. Yet the Buddha said it is
one and the same as the Enlightened One. "One who sees the Dhamma
sees the Tathagata." Anyone who fails to see the Dhamma cannot be
said to have seen the Enlightened One. So in Dhamma language, the
Buddha is one and the same as that Truth by virtue of which he
became the Buddha, and anyone who sees that Truth can be said to
have seen the true Buddha. To see just his physical body would not
be to see the Buddha at all and would bring no real benefit.
During the Buddha's lifetime, the majority of people were
unfavorably disposed towards him. Some abused him and even did him
physical harm. They didn't understand him because what they saw was
only his physical body, the outer shell, the Buddha of everyday
language. The real Buddha, the Buddha of Dhamma language, is the
Truth in his mind, knowing which the man because "Buddha." When he
said, "Whoever sees the Truth see me. Whoever sees me sees the
Truth," he was speaking Dhamma lanugage.
Again, the Buddha said, "The Dhamma and the
which I have proclaimed and have demonstrated, these shall be your
teacher when I hae passed away." Thus the real Buddha has not passed
away, has not ceased to exist. What ceased to exist was just the
physical body, the outer shell. The real Teacher, that is, the
Dhamma-Vinaya, is still with us. This is the meaning of the word
"Buddha" in Dhamma language. The "Buddha" of Dhamma language is the
Dhamma itself, which made him Buddha.
second word to consider is "Dhamma" (Dharma in Sanskrit). At the
childish level of everyday language, the word is understood as
referring to the actual books that contain the scriptures, the "Dhamma"
in the bookcase. Or it may be understood as referring to
the spoken word used in expounding the Teaching. This is
the meaning of the word "Dhamma" in everyday language., the language
of deluded people who has not yet seen the true Dhamma.
In term of Dhamma language, the Dhamma is one and the
same as the Enlightened One. "One who see the Dhamma sees the
Tathagata. One who sees the Tathagata see the Dhamma." This is the
real Dhamma. In the original Pali language, the word "Dhamma" was
used to refer to all of the intricate and involved things that go to
make up what we call Nature. Time will not permit us to discuss this
point in detail here, so we shall mention just the main points. The
1. Nature itself;
2. The law of Nature;
3. The duty of each human being to act in accordance with the Law of
4. The benefits to be derived from this acting in accordance with
the Law of Nature.
This is the wide range of meaning covered by the word "Dhamma." It
does not refer simply to books, palm-leaf manuscripts, or the voices
of preachers. The word "Dhamma," as used in Dhamma laungage, refers
to non-material things. Dhamma is all-embracing; it is profound; it
includes all things, some difficult to understand and some not so
we shall consider the word "Sangha." In everyday language, the word
the community of monks who wear the yellow robe and wander from
place to place. This is the Sangha as it is understood in
everyday language, the language of the unenlightened person who has
not yet seen the Truth.
In Dhamma language, the word "Sangha"
refers once again to the Truth, to the Dhamma itself. It refers to
the high qualities, of whatever kind and degree, that exist in the
mind of the monk, the man of virtue. There are certain
high mental qualities that make a man a monk. The totality of these
high qualities existing in the mind of the monk is what is called
The Sangha of everyday language is the assembly of monks themselves.
The Sangha of Dhamma language are those high qualities in the minds
of the monks. The Sangha proper consists of these four levels:
the stream-enterer (sota-panna),
the once-returner (sakadagami),
the non-returner (anagami),
the fully perfected being (arahant,
worthy one, undefiled by any egoism), These terms, too, refer to
mental rather than physical qualities, because the physical frames
of these people are in no way different from those of anyone else.
Where they do differ is in mental or spiritual qualities. This is
what make a person a stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, or
arahant. This is how the word "Sangha" is to be understood in Dhamma
Now we come to the word "religion"
In everyday language, the language of the undiscerning person, the
word "religion" refers simply to temples, monastery buildings,
pagodas, saffron robes, and so on. If there are pagodas and temples
all over the place, people say, "Ah! The religion is thriving!" This
is what "religion" means in everyday language.
In Dhamma language, the word "religion" refers to the genuine Dhamma
which can truly serve people as a refuge or point of support. The
Dhamma which actually can be for people a basis of support, which
really can bring about the end of dukkha (suffering, misery,
unsatisfactoriness), the Dhamma is the religion. This is the meaning
of "religion" as that term is used in Dhamma language. "The religion
is thriving" means that this very special something which has the
power to put an end to dukkha is spreading and expanding among
people. To say that the religion is thriving does not by any means
imply progress in terms of yellow robes.
The religion in everyday language is temples, monastery buildings,
pagodas, yellow robes, and so on;
the religion in Dhamma language is the truth which genuinely serves
humanity as a refuge.
Those who take the word "religion" to mean "the Teaching" are nearer
the mark than those who take it as standing for temples and so on.
To consider progress in religion study and instruction as true
religious progress is correct up to a point. But it is not good
enough. To understand the religion as simply the Teaching is still
to understand it only in terms of everyday lanugage.
In terms of Dhamma language, the religion is "the sublime or
Excellent Way of Life" (brahmacariya),
that is to say, life lived in accordance with Dhamma. It is this
exalted way of living which is "glorious in its beginning, middle,
and end." By Sublime Way of Life the Buddha meant
the way of practice that can really extinguish
The glory of its beginning is study and learning; the glory of its
middle is the practice; the glory of its end is the real reward that
comes from the practice. This is the Sublime Way of Life, the
religion of Dhamma language,. Taken as everyday language, "religion"
means at best the teaching; taken as Dhamma language, it means the
Sublime Ways of Life, glorious in its beginning, middle, and end.
The two meanings are very different.
Looking now more closely at things, we shall examine a word that
relates to our day-to-day life - the word "work." In everyday
language, the word
"work" refers to earning a living. It is something we
can't avoid. We have to work in order to eat, to fill the belly, and
to satisfy sensual desires. This is unavoidable chore of earning a
living is what is meant by the word "work" taken as everyday
language. Taken as Dhamma language,
"work" refers to mind training - kammatthana, that is, the practice
of Dhamma. The actual practice of Dhamma is the Work.
Ordinary people, those who have not seen Dhamma, work out of
necessity in order to provide themselves with food and the things
they desire. But for the genuine aspirant, the person who has caught
a glimpse of Dhamma, work consists in putting the Dhamma into
practice. This kind of work has to be done sincerely, earnestly, and
diligently, with perseverance and discernment. Many kinds of high
qualities must be present if it is to be completed successfully.
The work of everyday language can be considered at a higher level.
Though our work may be of a worldly nature, if we do it the right
way, then ultimately that work will teach us. It will bring us to an
understanding of the true nature of the mental life; it will enable
us to recognize impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-selfhood
(aniccam, dukkham, anatta); it will bring us to the truth, without
our making any conscious effort in that direction. So in Dhamma
language "work" refers to the practice that leads to the truth found
right in one's own mind. Even the job of keeping the body fit and
clean is a kind of Dhamma practice, insofar as it has to be done
with a good, discerning, industrious mind.
"work" in everyday language means earning a living out of necessity;
"work" in Dhamma lanugage means putting the Dhamma into practice.
The word "kammatthana"
means work, good solid Dhamma practice. This is the meaning of
"work" in Dhamma language.
Let us say something more about the Sublime Way of Life.
In the everyday language of the average person who know
nothing of Dhamma, the words "Sublime
mean no more than
abstention from improper sexual activity. But
in Dhamma language,
Sublime Way of Life refers to any kind of purposeful giving up of
mental defilement (kilesa) and to any form of spiritual practice
which is adhered to rigorously. Regardless of what kind
of practice we undertake, if we stick to it earnestly, strictly, and
without backsliding, then we are living this most exalted way of
life. sublime doesn't mean simply abstaining from fornication and
adultery. This is how everyday language and Dhamma language differ.
Now we make a big jump to the word
"nibbana" (nirvana in Sanskrit). In the everyday language
of the ordinary person, nibbana is a place or a city. This is
because preachers often speak of "Nibbana,
the city of immortality" or "this wonder city of
Nibbana." People hearing this misunderstand it. They take it to mean
that nibbana is an actual city or place. What is more, they even
it is a place abounding in all sorts of good things, a place where
one's every wish is fulfilled and everything one wants is
immediately available. They want to get to nibbana
because it is the place where all wishes are granted. This is
nibbana in the everyday language of foolish people who know nothing
of Dhamma. Yet this kind of talk can be heard all over the place,
even in most temples.
In Dhamma language, the word "nibbana" refers to the complete and
absolute extinction of every kind of defilement and misery. Any time
there is freedom from kilesa and dukkha, there is nibbana. If
defilements have been eradicated completely, it is permanent nibbana:
the total extinguishing and cooling of the fire of kilesa and
dukkha. This is nibbana in Dhamma language.
In everyday language, nibbana is a dream-city;
in Dhamma language, nibbana is the complete and utter extinction of
dukkha right here and now. Think about it. In which of
these two ways is nibbana understood by most people, in particular
by the old folk who come to listen to sermons in temples?
PATH AND FRUIT
Pressing on now, we come to the expression "path and fruit" (magga-phala).The
expression "path and fruit" is so popular it has become hackneyed.
Even ordinary people doing any old thing may refer to "path and
fruit." As soon as something turns out according to plan they say,
"It's path and fruit!" Even the most worldly of worldlings in the
most worldly of situations will say,
"It's path and fruit!" meaning that things have turned out as hoped.
This is how the term "path and fruit" is used in everyday language.
But in Dhamma language,
"path and fruit" refers to the destruction of dukkha and the
defilements which give rise to it. To do this in the right manner,
step by step, in accordance with the true nature of things, is the
meaning of "path and fruit" in Dhamma language. People
are much given to using the expression "path and fruit" in everyday
speech. To distinguish this everyday usage from the special usage of
Dhamma language, we have to be very careful.
we turn to a rather strange word, the word "Mara"
tempter, the devil).
The Mara of everyday language is conceived as a kind of monster with
body, face, and eyes of repulsive and terrifying appearance.
Mara in Dhamma language, however, is not a living creature but
rather any kind of mental state opposed to the good and wholesome
and to progress towards the cessation of dukkha. That
which opposes and obstructs spiritual progress is called Mara. We
may think of Mara as a living being if we wish, as long as we
understand what he really stands for.
No doubt you have often heard the story of how Mara came down from
Paranimmitavasavatti realm to confront the Buddha-to-be.
This was the real Mara the Tempter. He came down from the highest
heaven, the Paranimmitavasavatti realm, which is a heaven of sensual
enjoyments of the highest order, a paradise abounding in everything
the heart could desire, where someone is always standing by to
gratify one's every wish. This is Mara the Tempter, but not the one
with the ugly, ferocious countenance and reddened mouth, who is
supposed to go around catching creatures to suck their blood. That
is Mara as ignorant people picture him. It is the Mara of the
everyday language of ignorant people who don't know how to recognize
Mara when they see him.
In Dhamma language, the word "Mara" means at worst the heaven known
as Paranimmitavasavatti, the highest realm of sensuality. In general
it means any mental state opposed to the good and wholesome, opposed
to spiritual progress. This is Mara in Dhamma language.
Now we shall say something about the word "world"
In everyday language, the word "world" refers to the Earth, this
physical world, flat or round or however you conceive it.
The "world" as the physical Earth is everyday language.
In Dhamma language, however, the word "world" refers to worldly (lokiya)
mental states, the worldly stages in the scale of mental development
- that is to say, dukkha. The condition that is
impermanent, changing, unsatisfactory - this is the worldly
condition of the mind. And this is what is meant by the "world" in
Dhamma language. Hence it is said that the world is dukkha, dukkha
is the world. When the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truth (ariya-sacca),
he sometimes used the term "world" and sometimes the term "dukkha"
They are one and the same. For instance, he spoke of:
- the world;
- the cause of the arising of the world;
- the extinction of the world;
- the path that brings about the extinction of the world.
What he meant was:
- the cause of dukkha;
- the extinction of dukkha;
- the path that brings about the extinction of dukkha.
So in the language of the Buddha, the language of Dhamma, the word
"world" refers to dukkha; suffering and the world are one and the
Taken another way, the word "world" refers to things that are low,
shallow, not profound, and fall short of their highest potential.
For instance, we speak of such and such a thing as worldly, meaning
that it is not Dhamma. This is another meaning of the word "world"
in Dhamma language. "World" does not always refer simply to this
Earth, as in everyday language.
Now, going a little higher, we come to the word "birth" (jati).
In everyday language, the word "birth" refers to physically coming
into the world from the mother's womb. A person is born
physically only once. Having been born, one lives in the world until
one dies and enters the coffin. Physical birth happens to each of us
only once. This birth from the mother's womb is what is meant by
"birth" in everyday language.
In Dhamma language, the word "birth" refers to the birth of the idea
"I" or "ego" that arises in the mind throughout each day.
In this sense, the ordinary person is born very often, time and time
again; a more developed person is born less frequently; a person
well advanced in practice (ariyan, noble one) is born less
frequently still, and ultimately ceases being born altogether. Each
arising in the mind of the idea of "I" in one form or another is
called a "birth." Thus, birth can take place many times over in a
single day. As soon as one starts thinking like an animal, one is
born as an animal in that same moment. To think like a human being
is to be born a human being. To think like a celestial being is to
be born a celestial being. Life, the individual, pleasure and pain,
and the rest-all these were identified by the Buddha as simply
momentary states of consciousness. So the word "birth" means in
Dhamma language the arising of the idea of "I" or "me", and not, as
in everyday language, physical birth from the mother's womb.
The word "birth" is very common in the Buddha's discourses. When he
was speaking of everyday things, he used the word "birth" with its
everyday meaning. But when he was expounding Higher Dhamma - for
instance, when discussing conditioned arising (paticca-samuppada) -
he used the word "birth" (jati) with the meaning it has in Dhamma
language. In his description of conditioned arising, he wasn't
talking about physical birth. He was talking about the birth of
attachment to the ideas of "me" and "mine", "myself" and "my own."
Now let's consider the word "death."
Death in everyday language means that event which necessitates
putting something in a coffin and cremating or burying it.
Dhamma language, the word "death" refer to the cessation of the idea
mentioned just a moment ago, the idea of "I" or "me". The
ceasing of this idea is what is meant by "death" in Dhamma language.
Let's talk about the word
"life." This word in everyday language, the language of
immature people, applies to
anything that is not yet dead, that still exists, moves about,
walks, and eats. In the more precise language of biology,
it refers the normal functioning of the protoplasm, of the cell and
nucleus. The normal functioning and development of these is referred
to as "life". This is an even more materialistic kind of everyday
In Dhamma language, "life" refers to the truly deathless state, the
unconditioned, nibbana, life without limitations. This is
life. If we are speaking everyday language, "life" has the ordinary
familiar meaning. If we are speaking Dhamma language, "life" refers
to the deathless state. When there is no birth, there is also no
death. This state is the unconditioned. It is what we call nibbana,
and what in other religions is often spoken of as the life
everlasting. It is life that never again comes to an end. It is life
in God, or whatever one cares to call it. This is the real life,
life as understood in Dhamma language.
Now we come closer to home, to the word "person". We think nothing
of using the word "person, person, person" all the time. Everyone is
a person. But we ought to be careful here, because the word "person"
has two different meanings. In everyday language, "person" refers to
a creature with a body shaped like what they call a "person" or
But in Dhamma language, the word "person" refers to certain special
qualities implied in the word "human" - which means "possessing a
lofty mind" or "high minded" - certain high mental qualities. This
is not so difficult to understand. If someone criticizes a friend
saying, "You're not a person!" what does he mean? The one criticized
has a human body just as does the one criticizing. Why, then, is the
first accused of not being a person? The point is that he lacks the
special qualities implied in the word "human". Lacking these , he is
accused of not being a person. Thus, the word "person" has two
different meanings. In everyday language, it refers to a creature of
human form; in Dhamma language, it refers to the higher mental or
spiritual qualities implied in the word "human".
Now we consider the word "God". In everyday language, "God" refers
to a celestial being with various creative powers. This is the God
of everyday language. The "God" of Dhamma language is rather
different. It is a profound and hidden power, which is neither human
being, nor celestial being, nor any other kind of being. It has no
individuality or self, and it is impersonal. It is natural and
intangible. It is what we call the Law of Nature, for this Law is
responsible for creation and for the coming into existence of all
things. Natural Law governs all things. Natural Law has power over
all things. Hence in Dhamma language, the word "God" means, among
other things, the Law of Nature, what Buddhists call Dhamma. In the
Pali language, the Law of Nature was referred to simply as "Dhamma".
Dhamma, just that one single word, implies all of the Law of Nature.
So Dhamma is the Buddhist God.
Now let us direct our gaze downwards. Let us look at the "four
woeful states" (apaya).
The woeful states are the nether worlds. Normally four of them are
recognized; hell (naraka),
the realm of the beasts (tiracchana),
the realm of the hungry ghosts (peta),
and the realm of the frightened ghosts (asura
asurakaya). These four as a group are called the "four
woeful states." They are vividly depicted in temple murals. Hell,
the beasts, the hungry ghosts, and the asuras are all depicted
according to traditional beliefs, which means all four are thought
to apply only after death. In other words, the four woeful states as
understood in everyday language are interpreted materialistically.
The denizens of hell, the beasts, and so on are thought of as actual
lowly, "flesh and blood" creatures.
In everyday language, hell is a region under the earth. It is ruled
over by the god of death, who carries off people and subjects them
to all sorts of punishments. It is a place where one may go after
death. Contrast this with hell as understood in Dhamma language.
Here hell is anxiety, anxiety which burns us just like a fire.
Whenever anxiety afflicts us, burning us up like a fire, then we are
in hell, the hell of Dhamma language. Anyone who roasts himself with
anxiety, just as he might burn himself with fire, is said to fall
into hell in that same moment. And just as anxiety is of various
kinds, so we recognize various kinds of hells corresponding to them.
Now to the realm of beasts (tiracchana). Birth as a beast means in
everyday language actual physical birth as a pig, a dog, or some
other actual animal. Rebirth after death as some kind of lower
animal is the everyday meaning of rebirth into the realm of the
beasts. In Dhamma language, it has a different meaning. When one is
stupid, just like a dumb animal, then at that moment one is born
into the realm of beasts. It happens right here and now. One may be
born as a beast many times over in a single day. So in Dhamma
language, birth as a beast means stupidity.
The term "hungry ghost" (peta) in everyday language refers to a
creature supposed to have a tiny mouth and an enormous belly. It can
never manage to eat enough and so is chronically hungry. This is
another possible form in which we may be reborn after death. These
are the hungry ghosts of everyday language. The hungry ghosts of
Dhamma language are purely mental states. Ambition based on craving,
worry based on craving - to be afflicted with these is to be born a
hungry ghost. These symptoms are just like those that result from
having a mouth the size of a needle's eye and a belly the size of a
mountain. Anyone suffering from an intense craving, a pathological
thirst, anyone who worries and frets excessively, a pathological
thirst, anyone who worries and frets excessively, has the same
symptoms as a hungry ghost. Such a person can be said to have been
reborn a hungry ghost right here and now. It is not something that
happens only after death.
Now to the asura or frightened ghosts. In everyday language, an
asura is a kind of invisible being. It goes around haunting and
spooking, but is too afraid to show itself. In Dhamma language, the
word "asura" refers to fear in the mind of a human being. To be
reborn as an asura, it is not necessary for the body to die.
Whenever one is afraid, one is simultaneously reborn an asura. To be
afraid without good reason, to be excessively fearful, to be
superstitiously afraid of certain harmless creatures - this is what
it is to be reborn as an asura. Some people are afraid of doing
good. Some are afraid that if they attain nibbana, life will lose
all its flavour and be unbearably dull. Some people do have this
kind of fear of nibbana. To be afflicted with unjustified fear of
this kind is to be reborn as an asura right here and now.
These are the four woeful states as understood in Dhamma language.
they rather different from the woeful states of everyday language.
Now there is a point worth thinking about in connection with this.
If we don't fall into the woeful states of Dhamma language, then we
are sure not to fall into the woeful states of everyday language.
For instance, if we avoid making the mistakes that lead to
affliction with anxiety, then we avoid falling into hell in this
life. At the same time, we need have no fear of falling into hell in
some later lifetime after death. Again, if we avoid being stupid
like the beasts, ravenous like the hungry ghosts, and frightened
like the asura, then we are free of the kinds of unskillful
attitudes that might cause us to be reborn after death as beasts,
hungry ghosts, or asura.
So it behoves us to interest ourselves only in these woeful states
that we are in danger of experiencing right here and now. The kind
that we may experience after death can be put aside. There is no
need for us to concern ourselves with them. If we avoid right here
and now the hungry ghosts and other woeful states as understood in
Dhamma language, then no matter how we die, we are certain not to
fall into the woeful states of everyday language. If we live and
practice properly, we avoid falling into the woeful states here and
now, and we are certain not to fall into the woeful states that are
supposed to follow death.
Most people recognize that heaven and hell are simply states of
mind. Why, then, are they so foolish as to misunderstand the meaning
of the four woeful states, which are so much a part of life? True
enough, the heaven and hell of everyday language are external realms
- though don't ask me where - and they are attained after death; but
the heaven and hell of Dhamma language are to be found in the mind
and may occur at any time, depending on one's mental make-up. This
is how the woeful states of Dhamma language differ from those of
"Heaven" in everyday language means some wonderful, highly
attractive, celestial realm up above. Spend a certain amount of
money in merit making and you're entitled to one mansion in heaven,
where there are angels by the hundreds. In Dhamma language,
however, "heaven" refers first of all to infatuating sensual bliss
of the highest order. This is the lower heaven, the heaven of
sensuality. Higher up is the heaven called the Brahmaloka, where
there are no objects of sensuality. It is a state of mental
well-being that results from the absence of any disturbing sensual
object. It is as if a certain person with a hunger for sense objects
had indulged himself until becoming thoroughly fed up with all sense
objects. Then he would want only to remain quite empty, still,
untouched. This is the state of freedom from sensuality, the
condition of the Brahma gods in the Brahmaloka. The ordinary heavens
are full up with sensuality, the highest of them, the
Paranimmitavasavatti heaven, being completely full of sensuality.
The heavens of the Brahmaloka, however, are devoid of disturbance
from sensuality, though the "self", the "I" still persists.
Now let us discuss the word "ambrosia,"
the elixir of immortality. In everyday language, ambrosia is a kind
of liquor that celestial being imbibe to make themselves
invulnerable before going out again to slaughter and cause general
havoc. This is the ambrosia of everyday language. The ambrosia of
Dhamma language is Dhamma at its highest, the truth of not-self(anatta)
or emptiness (sunnata).
This highest Dhamma, the truth of not-self or emptiness, makes a
person immortal because it brings freedom from the "self" idea. When
there is no "self", how can there be death? So in Dhamma language,
the elixir of life is the truth of not-self or emptiness. As for the
liquor which is traditionally supposed to confer eternal life on
whoever drinks it, that is the ambrosia of everyday language, the
language of foolish people, the language of people who have not
perceived or penetrated to the truth.
A moment ago we mentioned the word "emptiness" (sunnata).
Let us now have a closer look at it. Sunnata is a Pali word.
Sunna means "void" or "empty," and "-ta" is the
equivalent of "-ness".
Sunnata is emptiness or voidness. In the everyday
language of people who have not seen or penetrated to the truth,
emptiness means simply the absence of any content whatsoever, a
physical void, a vacuum, a useless nothingness. This is emptiness in
everyday language. Emptiness or
sunnata in Dhamma language is quite different. Here
everything of every kind and variety may be present in any quantity
- everything, that is, with the single exception of the ideas of
"me" and "mine". Everything may be present, everything of every sort
and kind you can think of, the entire lot of both physical and
mental phenomena, with just this one exception - there is no idea of
"me" and "mine". No "I," no "my," - that is emptiness as it is
understood in Dhamma language, the language of the Buddha.
The world is empty. Empty of what? Empty of self and anything
belonging to self. With this single exception, everything may be
present, as long as nothing is regarded as "me" or "mine". This is
the emptiness of Dhamma language. When the Buddha spoke of
emptiness, he was speaking Dhamma language. Foolish people
understand this as everyday language and take it that there is
nothing i the world at all, just a vacuum! If the word "emptiness"
is misinterpreted like this in term of everyday language, the
Buddha's teaching of emptiness becomes meaningless. Those foolish
people come out with many strange assertions that have nothing
whatever to do with emptiness as taught by the Buddha.
I hope you will take an interest in this and bear it well in mind.
This word "empty" applied to physical things naturally means absence
of any content, but in the metaphysical context, it means that
though every sort of thing may be present, there is utter absence of
"I-ness" and "my-ness." In the physical world, the mental world, or
anywhere at all, there is no such thing as "me" or "mine". The
conditions of "I-ness" and "my-ness" just do not exist. They are
unreal, mere illusions, hence the world is described as empty. It is
not that the world is devoid of all content. Everything is there,
and it can be made use of with discernment. Go ahead and make use of
it! Just one thing though - don't go producing the ideas of "me" and
Thus, in Dhamma language, empty does not mean "devoid of all
content." Anyone who takes it as meaning this is ignorant of Dhamma
and ignorant of the language of Dhamma. Such a person is speaking
only everyday language. If we go forcing this everyday meaning into
the context of Dhamma language, how can we ever make any sense of
Dhamma? Do make a special effort to understand this word. It has
these two quite distinct meanings.
Now we come to the word "stopping". Stopping in the sense of not
moving, not stirring, is everyday language, the language of the
ordinary person. This is one of its meanings. In Dhamma language,
the language of the Buddha, "stopping" has a different meaning. To
simplify matters we shall consider an example. When Angulimala spoke
of "stopping", he meant one thing; and when the Buddha used the same
word, he had in mind something quite different. If you have heard
the story of Angulimala, you will be familiar with this dialogue
between him and the Buddha. Angulimala, in using the word "stop,"
was speaking everyday language; the Buddha, when he used it, was
speaking Dhamma language.
In the language of the ordinary person, stopping means coming to a
standstill, not moving; but in the language of the Buddha, stopping
means becoming empty of self. If there is no self, what is it that
goes running about? Why not have a think about this point? If there
is no self, where is the "I" to go running about? Obviously the "I"
has stopped. This is to be grasped at and clung to, absolute
emptiness of selfhood.
To stop is the same as to be empty. This is what is meant by
stopping in the Buddha's language. One may be physically running
about and yet be said to have stopped, because no "self" is left to
run about. Every form of wanting and craving has stopped. There is
no "I" to want anything anywhere, no "I" to go running about. A
person who still has desires goes running about looking for every
kind of thing, even looking for merit and goodness. Running about,
looking for this and that , here, there, and everywhere - this is
running. But if one manages to stop desiring completely, to stop
being a self, then even though one may go flying around in an
aeroplane, one can still be said to have stopped. Learn to
distinguish these two meanings of the word "stop" and understand
them properly. It will help you to understand the teaching of
If we discuss only these profound questions, you are bound to become
drowsy, so now we shall take an easy word - namely, "light." When we
speak of light, normally, we are referring to lamplight, sunlight,
electric light, or some other kind of physical light. This is
everyday language. In the Dhamma language of the Buddha, the word
"light" refers to insight, wisdom, higher knowledge (panna).
Even when the Buddha went and sat in a pitch dark cave, there was
still light in the sense that in his mind there was the light of
insight, of higher knowledge. On a moonless, starless night, when
all lamps have been put out, it is still possible to say there is
light if there is insight and higher knowledge in the mind of the
one who practices earnestly. This is light in Dhamma language.
Now "darkness". In ordinary everyday language, darkness is absence
of light, which makes it impossible to see. In Dhamma language,
darkness is lack of insight, ignorance of the truth, spiritual
blindness (avijja). This is true darkness. If a person lacking true
insight were to go and sit right in full sunlight, that person would
still be in darkness, the darkness of ignorance as to the true
nature of things. This is the difference between the meaning of
darkness in Dhamma language and in everyday language.
We come now to the word "kamma" (Sanskrit, karma). When ordinary
people say, "That's kamma!" they mean "Too bad!" Bad luck as
punishment for sins previously committed is the meaning given to the
word "kamma" by ordinary people. But in Dhamma language the word
"kamma" refers to something different. It refers to action. Bad
action is called black kamma; good action is called white kamma.
Then there is another remarkable kind of kamma which is neither
black nor white, a kamma that serves to neutralize the other two
kinds. Unfortunately, the more people hear about it, the less they
understand it. This third kind of kamma is the realization of
not-self (anatta) and emptiness (sunnata), so that the "self" is
done away with. This kind of action may be called Buddhist kamma,
the real kamma, the kind of kamma that the Buddha taught. The Buddha
taught the transcending of all kamma.
Most people are interested only in black kamma and white kamma, bad
kamma and good kamma. They take no interest in this third kind of
kamma which is neither black nor white, neither bad nor good, which
consists in complete freedom from selfhood and leads to the
attainment of Nibbana. It wipes out every kind of bad and good
kamma. People don't understand the method for wiping out kamma
completely. They don't know that the way to put an end to all kamma
is through this special kind of kamma, which consists in applying
the Buddha's method. That method is none other than the Noble
The practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is kamma neither black nor
white, and it is the end of all kamma. This is kamma in Dhamma
language. It is very different from the "kamma" of immature people,
who exclaim "That's Kamma!" meaning only "Too bad!" or "Bad luck!"
Kamma understood as bad luck is the kamma of everyday language.
Consider now the word "refuge" or "support" (saranฺa) In everyday
language, a refuge or support is some person or thing outside of and
other than oneself which one may depend on for help. For instance,
people may depend on employers, ghosts, good luck omens, or guardian
angels. Anything or anyone other than oneself that is relied upon -
this is the meaning of "refuge" or "support" in everyday language.
The "refuge" or "support" of Dhamma language is to be found within
oneself. Even when we speak of going to the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha for refuge, we really mean going to the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha that are to be found within ourselves, within our own minds.
Only then can they really serve as our refuge. So these supports are
to be found within ourselves: our own efforts bring into existence
the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha within our own minds. According to
Dhamma language, one is one's own refuge. Refuge is within oneself,
not somewhere outside.
HEART OF BUDDHISM
This bring us to the expression "the heart of Buddhism." In
discussions about what constitutes the heart of Buddhism, all sorts
of strange ideas are brought forward. some people recite this or
that formula, such as VI-SU-PA. This sort of "heart" is everyday
language, the language of stupid people. People with no knowledge of
Dhamma will just rattle off a couple of Pali words or some other
cliche and proclaim this to be the heart of Buddhism.
The heart of Buddhism, as this expression is understood in Dhamma
language, as the Buddha has put it, is the realization that nothing
whatsoever should be grasped at and clung to.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya."
Nothing whatever should be grasped at and clung to as "me" or "mine"
This is the heart of Buddhism as understood in Dhamma language, the
language of the Buddha. So anyone who is after the heart of Buddhism
should be very careful not to get just the "heart" of everyday
language, the language of people ignorant of Dhamma. That sort of
"heart" is likely to be something ridiculous, laughable, and
What I have said so far ought to be sufficient to enable you to
realize how a single word may have two different meanings. An
intelligent and discerning person will be capable of considering
both modes of speaking. " A wise person is one who is careful to
consider both modes of speaking." "Both modes of speaking" means
both of the possible meanings of a word. One is the meaning the word
has in everyday language; the other is the meaning that same word
has in Dhamma language. A discerning person must consider both
meanings, as we have done in the numerous examples dealt with above.
The words we have considered so far as examples are rather
high-level terms. Let us now consider some more down-to-earth
examples. I apologize if some of these appear a little crude.
Take the word "eating". In everyday language, to eat is to take in
nourishment through the mouth in the usual way. But the eating of
Dhamma language can be done by way of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body,
or mind. Think it over. What does the word "eat" refer to here? The
eye sees a form, the ear hears a sound, the nose smells an odour,
and so on with the remaining sense organs. This is referred to as
"eating," eating by way of eye, ear, nose, and so on. This is Dhamma
language. For instance in Pali and Sanskrit the word "kamabhogi"
was commonly used to refer to a person who indulged in sensuality;
literally this word means simply "sensuality eater."
The expression "eating a woman" sounds most peculiar in Thai. But in
Pali and Sanskrit it is a perfectly ordinary expression. To eat a
woman does not mean to carry off, kill, cook, and eat her. It means
to have sexual relations with her. This is what is meant by "eating"
in this case, and this is what the word "eating" means in Dhamma
On the other hand, the Pali word "nibbhogo"
(having nothing to eat) is used to describe the Buddha and
arahants (fully enlightened beings), for they are no
longer involved in colours and shapes, sounds, odours, tastes,
tactile stimuli, and mental images. Because they are above
involvement in these six kinds of sense objects, they are people
with "nothing to eat." Get to know this broad usage of the word
"eat" in Dhamma language. It will make it easier to understand the
more profound aspects of the teaching.
Now the word "sleeping". When we use this word in the sense of lying
down and sleeping like a dog or cat, we are speaking everyday
language. But in Dhamma language, sleeping refers to ignorance (avijja).
Though a person may be sitting up with eyes wide open, if ignorant
of the true nature of things, this person can be said to be asleep.
This is "sleeping" in Dhamma language. To live in ignorance of the
true nature of things, regardless of bodily posture, is to be
To be "awake" normally means to have roused oneself from sleep. But
in Dhamma language, it means to be always mindful, to be always
fully aware. In this condition, regardless of whether one is
physically awake or asleep, one can be described a awake. People
who practice mindfulness (satipatthana)
are always fully aware. Even if they go to sleep, they are
immediately fully aware again the moment they wake up. When they are
awake, they are awake; and when they are asleep, they are also
awake. This is what it is to be "awake" in Dhamma language.
"To play" in the language of the ordinary person is to amuse oneself
as do children with games, sports, laughter, and good fun. But in
Dhamma language, "to play" is to rejoice in the Dhamma, to be joyful
over the Dhamma. Even to play with the bliss associated with the
deeper stages of concentration (jhana)
was called in Pali "jhanakila"
(concentration-games). This is the "play" of the ariyans (those well
advanced in Dhamma practice). This is what "play" means in Dhamma
Next, the word "angel" (Thai nang-faa, literally, "sky-woman"). In
everyday language, this word refers to the exceptionally beautiful
female inhabitants of heavenly palaces. They are personifications of
physical beauty. But in Dhamma language, "angel" refers to the
Buddha-Dhamma. Generally people restrict this meaning to the Dhamma
written and studied in books, but in truth it encompasses all
Dhamma, for all Dhamma is beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in
the middle, and beautiful in the end (as explained above regarding
the Sublime Way of Life). Thus, even the word "angle" has different
levels of meaning; and "angel" in Dhamma language is the hope of all
FEMALE & MALE
Now, let us look at the words "female" and "male". In everyday,
worldly language, these words mean the two sexes - the female sex
and the male sex. In Dhamma language, however, they refer to the
distinguishing marks and signs of certain duties which Nature has
assigned to human beings: duties which must be performed
co-operatively, in partnership. Female and male have nothing to do
with the exchange and consumption of sexual flavors. Rather, they
point to the fact that human being must exist in the world and that
the species must not become extinct. This means that the human race
must be preserved through the duty of reproduction for as long a
time as is necessary for humanity to realize the highest Dhamma -
nibbana. The duties called for by this necessity must be divided
between the female and male. Once the female and male exist, they
help each other to lighten their burdens by dividing their everyday
responsibilities and work, which, when done correctly, is Dhamma
In Dhamma language, the signs of the duties which Nature has
stipulated in this way are known as "female" and "male". This isn't
the lowly meaning assumed in everyday language. We shouldn't think
of female and male solely in terms of an instinctual animal
activity. Rather, we ought to think of them as signs of the division
of those duties which can be carried out properly only in
From this we'll move on to "marriage". In everyday language,
everyone understands this word to mean the ceremony that joins a
woman and man according to social customs. That's marriage in
worldly terms. However, in Pali, the language of Dhamma, the word
"marriage" is samarasa,which translates as "having equal (sama)
flavor, taste, duty, or function (rasa)" through Dhamma or in
Dhamma. This means that two people with correct wants and needs are
united as one. Physical contact between them is unnecessary, though
there may be other forms of contact, such as letter writing.
Marriage is possible even though the skin and flesh of the two
partners never touch. This is because their wants are the same and
their responsibilities are equal. For example, both genuinely want
to transcend dukkha using the same principles of practice. Both
persons are satisfied in the unified Dhamma practice and in the
fruits mutually desired. This is what we call "having equal flavor"
which is marriage in Dhamma language and in Pali. The meanings of
words in Dhamma language are always as clean and pure as in this
FATHER & MOTHER
Now we come to the words "father" and "mothers." In ordinary worldly
language, these words refer to the two people responsible for our
having been born. But in the deeper language of Dhamma, our "father"
is ignorance (avijja) and our "mother" is craving (tanha). They must
be killed and gotten rid of completely. For instance, the Buddha
pitram hantva akatannusi brahmana."
"Be ungrateful. Kill the "father," kill the "mother", and you will
Our father, the one responsible for our birth, is ignorance or
our mother, the other one responsible for our birth, is craving (tanha).
The words "father" and "mother" in Dhamma language were given these
higher meanings by the Buddha. So the "parents" -
tanha - have to be killed, destroyed completely, for
nibbana to be realized.
The word "friend" in worldly everyday language refers to a
companion, someone who does things that please one. But in Dhamma
language, "friend" or "companion" refers to the Dhamma, and in
particular to that aspect of the Dhamma that enables us to free
ourselves from dukkha. The Buddha specifically mentioned the Noble
Eightfold Path as humanity's supreme friend (kalyanamitta). In
Dhamma language, "friend" means the Noble Eightfold Path: right
understanding, right intention, and so on up to right concentration.
This is what "friend" means in Dhamma language.
An enemy in everyday language is someone whom we hate and who is out
to do us harm. But our enemy, as this word is understood in Dhamma
language, is our own misdirected mind. Our very own mind and the
misuse of it - that is our real enemy. The misdirected mind is our
enemy, not someone outside of ourselves. The enemy that the ordinary
person has in mind is the enemy of everyday worldly language. The
enemy of Dhamma language is the misdirected mind. The enemy exists
any time that the mind is misdirected. It is born in the mind and of
the mind. With the mind well directed and fixed on Dhamma, the enemy
is absent and the friend is there instead.
Now, let us ask, what is "the putrid, foul-smelling thing"? In
everyday language it may be rotten fish or something of the sort,
but in Dhamma language it is something very different. The Buddha
referred to the mental defilements (kilesa)
as putrid, foul-smelling things. Excessive desire, self-centredness,
and obsession with the ideas of "me" and "mine" - these are putrid,
All these words that we have considered are nothing but perfectly
ordinary words selected to demonstrate the difference between
everyday language and Dhamma language. If you think it over, you
will realize that this difference is the very reason that we fail to
understand Buddha-Dhamma. We don't understand this highest and most
profound of teachings simply because we don't know the language of
Dhamma. We know only everyday language and are unable to comprehend
the language of the nobles ones (ariyans, beings well advanced in
Consider, for example, laughter. The Buddha once said, "Laughter is
the behaviour of an infant in its cradle." Think about it. We like
to laugh heartily, even though it is the behaviour of an infant in
its cradle. It doesn't even embarrass us. We like it. We go right on
laughing heartily, guffawing loudly. Why did the Buddha say that
"Laughter is the behaviour of an infant in its cradle"? Think of an
infant in its cradle and the way it lies there gurgling and grinning
The laughter of the noble ones is different. They laugh at all
compounded things (sankhara), which are impermanent and changing,
unsatisfactory (dukkha), and not-self. Because they know, they can
laugh at compounded things and at craving, which henceforth can do
them no harm. This is the right kind of laughter, the kind that has
meaning and worth.
Now consider singing. Singing, such as we hear on the radio, is just
like someone weeping. The ariyans put singing in the same category
as weeping. In singing, the actions of mouth, throat, vocal chords,
and tongue are just the same as they are in weeping. But if it is a
real song, the song of the noble ones, then it is a paean of joy at
having seen the Dhamma. It proclaims the Dhamma and it proclaims
satisfaction in the Dhamma. The song of the ariyans is a paean of
joy proclaiming the Dhamma. This is true singing.
Next, consider dancing, which is so popular. People make a special
effort to learn how to do it, and they get their sons and daughters
to learn it too. They spend a lot of money on it. The ariyans,
however, regard dancing as the antics of madmen. You can see for
yourself how closely dancing resembles the antics of madmen, if you
just compare them. No sane person would ever get up and dance! It
has been calculated that a peson has to be at least 15% mad in order
to overcome his sense of shame to get up and dance. So dancing is
the antics of madmen.
The dancing of the ariyans is dhammanandi. They "dance" and jeer at
the defilements, proclaiming their liberation. They are no longer
bound hand and foot, arm and leg. Their limbs are free. They can
"dance" because they are not bound down by attachment. This is how
the noble ones dance.
Think it over. If we know only the language of common people, we
can't possibly understand this kind of talk. The wise person says:
"The birds see not the sky," and the foolish person doesn't believe
it. Why don't birds see the sky? Because they are flying in the sky.
The wise person says: "The fish see not the water," and again the
foolish person doesn't believe it. It never occurs to such people
that fish living in water cannot see the water because the fish are
in such close contact with it. They know nothing about water.
Likewise, earthworms always burrowing in the earth never see the
earth. And the worms that live in a dung heap, that are born and die
in a dung heap, never see that dung heap.
Lastly, "humanity sees not the world." People living and moving
about in the world still do not see the world. If they really saw
the world, they certainly wouldn't stay stuck in it. They would be
sure to get free to the world and dwell with the Dhamma. People who
are bogged down in the world, like worms in a dung heap, know only
worldly everyday language. They don't know Dhamma language. The
reason they don't know Dhamma language is that they are stuck fast
in the world like the worms in their dung heap, the earthworms in
the ground, the fish in the water, and the birds in the sky. People
don't know Dhamma language. Not knowing Dhamma language, they cannot
Here is a good example of Dhamma language: "Walking, walking, and
never arriving." The average person will not grasp the meaning. Here
"walking" refers to wanting something and going off in search of it.
"Never arriving" refers to peace, to nibbana, which remains
unattainable. Nibbana is attained by not wanting, not desiring, not
hoping, not yearning. So there is no need to walk at all; by not
walking, nibbana will be realized. Walking, walking, and never
arriving. Wanting, wanting, and never attaining. The more we want
anything - want to get this or that, want to be this or that - the
more inaccessible it becomes. All we must do is to give up wanting
something and we get it in full, straight away.
In Dhamma language, it is said, "Talk is not loud; silence is loud."
This means that when the mind is well concentrated, still and quiet,
the voice of Dhamma will be heard. Again it is said, "These things
that can be talked about are not the real Dhamma; about the real
Dhamma nothing can be said." Everything that I have been saying in
this talk is still not really Dhamma, it is still not the actual
thing. My words are nothing more than an attempt to explain how to
arrive at and understand the real thing. The real thing cannot be
discussed. The more we say about Dhamma, the further it recedes from
us. We can talk about only the method which will guide us along,
which will tell us what to do in order to arrive at the real thing,
the genuine Dhamma. So we must stop talking.
This being the case, we shall leave off our comparison of everyday
language and Dhamma language. I suggest you think it over and decide
whether or not you agree with me concerning our failure to
understand Dhamma. Some of us have been listening to sermons and
lectures and expositions of Dhamma for ten years, twenty years,
thirty years, and more. Why is it, then, that we still don't
understand Dhamma, see Dhamma, penetrate Dhamma? The reason we don't
understand is simply that we don't listen in the right way. And why
don't we listen in the right way? Because we are familiar only with
everyday language and have no acquaintance with Dhamma language. We
hear Dhamma language and take it as being everyday language. We are
just like those foolish people who always take the word "emptiness"
in its everyday sense, completely miss the Dhamma sense, and then
make all sorts of ridiculous assertions about it.
Such are the unhappy consequences of not being familiar with both
everyday language and Dhamma language. People in this portion have
not got their wits about them. They lack discernment, the quality
the Buddha was referring to when he said:
Appamatto ubho atthe adhiganhati pandito,
Ditthe dhamme ca yo attho, yo ca'ttho samparayiko.
Atthabhisamayadhiro pandito ti pavuccati.
The wise and heedful person is familiar with both modes of speaking:
the meaning seen by ordinary people and the meaning which they can't
understand. One who is fluent in the various modes of speaking is a
Lecture with the Buddhist Studies Group
at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
15 December 1961
Translated by Roderick S. Bucknell
In this talk, I will discuss a matter which is extremely important
but which most people are inclined to regard as non-essential or as
too troublesome to be concerned with. This is extremely important
matter concerns looking within, examining all things within
Looking within is essential for an understanding of Dhamma or
Buddhism. Failure to look at things in the right way can be a
barrier to understanding, as when two people disagree because one of
them has failed to look at a question in a certain important way and
so is not in a position to understand the point that another person
is making. Disagreement is usually caused by two parties looking at
the matter in question in two different ways.
If we are to understand the teaching of the Buddha, we must look
within. The Buddha was concerned exclusively with thing within, and
his teaching is an account of what is to be seen when we look
within. The teaching of suffering (dukkha) is important - as one of
the four Noble Truths, as one link in the chain of conditioned
arising (paticca-samuppada), and in other contexts, all of which
exclusively concern suffering within. Unless we attempt to look
within as the Buddha did, we have little hope of understanding the
Dhamma and the teaching of the Buddha. Consequently, I regard this
matter as one requiring detailed examination.
My previous three talks were also devoted to this matter of looking
within. Looking at the inner life is what Dhamma is all about. We
must look within if we are to make Dhamma one with our life. In my
third talk, "The World Within," the explanation that I gave of the
true meaning of the term "birth" also depended on this important
point. Understanding Dhamma correctly is simply a matter of
observing the important and relevant aspects of our inner life. It
is essential that a person studying Buddhism should practice looking
Some people would say that this matter is too complex and that we
would do better not to discuss it; they are under the impression
that young people are not capable of looking within. That is the old
people's view; they themselves would never look within so they try
to make out that young people would never look within either.
Nevertheless, we need not concern ourselves with that kind of talk.
We need not concern ourselves with these notions about how different
people look at things; we need concern ourselves only with how we
may come to understand this most important of all things: Dhamma.
This brings us to the question: Why speak of a "without" and a
"within"? I assume you will understand this yourselves. I don't
imagine that you will need anyone to explain to you at great length
that all things have these two sides, an outside and an inside, a
without and a within. There is a word in philosophy - and in
ordinary usage too - the word "quintessence." "Quint" means "fifth,"
"essence" means "fundamental nature, true substance." "Quintessence"
means "fifth essence." Philosophers spoke of four outward essences,
the elements earth, water, fire, and air. These four were without.
The fifth essence was not earth, not water, not fire, and not air,
but something else again, something within, namely consciousness,
the mental side of things. It is this fifth element or essence that
we must take an interest in and come to understand properly and
I ought to mention here that Buddhism recognizes a sixth essence, a
sixth element. The first four elements are earth, water, fire, and
air, and the fifth is the mind, the element of consciousness. The
sixth element is "the void," the element of voidness. It is also
called "nibbana-dhatu," but the most straightforward word for it is
"voidness". So we have six elements: earth, water, fire, air, mind (vinnana-dhatu),
and voidness (sunnata-dhatu). Mind and voidness are the fifth and
sixth essences; they lie deep inside; they are "the within."
Thus, the looking within that we are speaking of means looking at
the mind, looking at the ideas of "I" and "my" which are the causes
of action good and bad. This is one aspect of Dhamma. As for the
sixth essence, this is the state that is void of "I," void of "my,"
void of the idea of being "I" or belonging to "I" - in other words,
void of all defilements. To be free of defilements is to be free of
suffering, free of all the things that constitute suffering
That all these six things should be regarded as elements is
completely sound; however, the average person is likely to consider
this classification unfounded because he knows only the elements
earth, water, fire, and air, or the elements of modern chemistry. He
does not think of the mind and things even deeper again as elements;
and as soon as he hears you call them elements, he is likely to lose
interest. The word "element" (dhatu) as used here refers to things
that really do exist, nothing more than that. The things without
really do exist without; and the things within, which lie so deep
that they cannot be seen, likewise exist. Since these deeper-lying
things do exist, they too are to be counted as essences, as elements
or potentials from which all things are composed.
For clarity of understanding I should add a few further words of
explanation. In discussions of Buddhist principles, it is often
stated that there are ultimately only three elements; the form
element, the formless element, and the quenching element (rupa-,
arupa-, and nirodha-dhatu). Of these three terms, the first, "form
element," refers to the physical elements, which have discrete
physical extension, which can be seen, smelt, or felt. These taken
together comprise the form element. The second, "formless element,"
refers to things that lack this kind of form, but which nonetheless
have real existence, things that can be known only through the mind
simply because they themselves are of the mind. These taken together
comprise the formless element. The third, "quenching element," has
real existence too, but it consists in the quenching or extinction
of the remaining elements. When the first two elements - form and
formlessness - reach this element, they are quenched; they become
devoid of meaning as if they did not exist. So this quenching
element is neither form nor formlessness; it is beyond them both. It
cannot be said to have form or to lack form, because it is beyond
both form and formlessness, which is why the Buddha called it the
quenching element, or the nibbana element, or the voidness element.
But the clearest term is "quenching element."
Please bear in mind this broader meaning of the term "element." Here
it means much more than it does in the physical sciences, where it
coves only the states of matter and energy, or the chemical
elements. All the elements of modern science are covered by the form
element alone. As for the other two elements, the formless element
and the quenching element, you have probably never thought about
them. Some of you have never learned anything about them and some
have never even realized that they exist.
Coming to listen to this discussion of the Buddha's teaching on this
subject is bound to make you wise by making you realize the
existence of certain hidden things. These things are hidden to us,
but they were not hidden to those who attained enlightenment, in
particular the Buddha himself. That is to say that for the Buddha
the formless element and the quenching element were ordinary,
familiar matters, easily comprehended and not especially profound.
He knew about them just as we know about earth, water, fire, and
air, or about the one hundred-odd chemical elements that modern
researchers have discovered. It is necessary, then, to set up a new
and more refined theoretical framework in which the term "element"
has this wider meaning. The less superficial elements can be
perceived only if we look within. If we are to recognize and
understand them, we have to look within. This will bring us to an
understanding of the teaching of the Buddha, the person who was an
adept at looking within.
For a variety of different reasons, you have come here to do special
research into Buddhism. Your Buddhist Studies Group exists for the
purpose of bringing about an understanding of Buddhism. It is
absolutely essential that this research and study be founded on
sound Buddhist principles. We can't just study Buddhism however it
happens to suit us, according to our own preferences and
convenience. If we insisted on doing it that way, we would get very
meagre results, we would waste a lot of time, and in the end we
simply would have to call on you - indeed I entreat you - to
practice looking within and studying within in order that you will
gradually come to a deeper and deeper understanding of the fifth and
This looking within can be explained in term of two ordinary
everyday words which are also special terms in the language of
philosophy: the antonyms "objectivity" and "subjectivity." The term
"objectivity", strictly speaking, refers to the condition that
appears when we observe or experience from the perspective of purely
physical things, the things which are acted upon. The term
"subjectivity" refers to the condition that appears when we observe
or experience mental things, from the perspective of the doer rather
than the receiver of an action. We must define the meanings very
clearly like this. The objective side is the physical side, the
world of objects on which actions operate. The subjective side is
the mental side, the world of the mind which is the "doer" of
This all becomes much clearer if we go by the original meanings of
the Pali terms. The word "citta,"
denoting the mind or the subjective side, translates literally as
"builder, doer, knower, that which leads away other things."
Rupa, denoting the physical or objective side, is literally
"that which is built, that which is easily broken up or destroyed,
that which is known, led away, or acted upon."
What we must do is practice looking at the subjective side, the
mind. We have to look at the doer rather than the recipient. It
should be clear that to go foolishly looking only at the objective
side is to look at that on which actions fall rather than at the
actor. This means that one becomes a slave, a slave and servant of
objects. By contrast, to look at the subjective side, the mind, the
doer, is to become the mate, and to gain the upper hand. If you look
at the objective side, you are looking passively; if you look at the
subjective side, you are looking actively. So it is essential that
we practice looking at the side which puts us in the advantageous
position, the side which has the upper hand - the subjective side.
This is the value of looking within.
Since the day we were born we have lacked proper training in both
Dhamma and philosophy. From the day we were born right up to the
present, we have been allowed to singk into materialism, to become
infatuated with physical things, and we have looked only at the
physical or objective side of things. It is as if we have refused to
look at the opposite side of things, the loftier side. But nothing
can ever come of just carrying on in the old way. Thus, we must make
a new resolution henceforth to look at everything as winners, not as
losers. This is why it is essential for us to practice looking at
the subjective side of things, until we are able to make the state
of things within reveal itself to us in all clarify and no longer be
a mystery to us.
Let me clarify further this matter of looking without and looking
within by using the most ordinary everyday terms. Looking without
and looking within are exact opposites. The without and the within
belong together and are inseparable because the things within are
dependent on the things without. For example, the body is the basis
or dwelling place of the mind; the mind depends on the body. Body
and mind are inseparable, yet we can distinguish them as outer and
inner, respectively. It is just like a piece of fruit, which has
outer rind and inner flesh dependent on each other and inseparable.
If we look only without, we see only the inedible rind; but if we
look within we find the flesh, the part that is good to eat. If we
can't distinguish flesh from rind, we can't eat. If we were forced
to eat the lot, flesh and rind together, we would do so very
Thus, there is great benefit in being able to distinguish the within
from the without, and then to look at the within. Looking within is
essential, but let us not go so far as to develop a negative,
cynical attitude toward the without. That would be an error as grave
as ignoring the within. We have always to recognize the value of the
outer shell, the without just as in the case of a fruit. If a fruit
had no rind or shell, the flesh could not exist. Without the rind,
the fruit could not produce seeds or flesh, and could never develop
to an edible and useful stage. The rind is essential, but to think
the rind is everything would be altogether pitiful.
In any case, to look without is to see only the outer shell; to look
within is to see the real kernel. If a person only looks without, he
is the slave of external objects; but if he looks within, he becomes
the master of those objects. As I said the other day, sense objects
- all the shapes, sounds, odours, tastes, and tactile sensations
that exist - are the world. As long as the mind is allowed to wander
carelessly under the influence of outward-looking, it is a slave to
objects, dominated by them, overpowered and dragged along by them as
if it were being led along by the nose. As soon as the mind looks
within, however, it become free, it cannot be led along by the nose,
and it is in a condition of freedom from all suffering and torment.
Looking without prevent us from understanding Dhamma, and looking
within enables us to understand Dhamma. Always bear this contrast in
mind. Why should it be like this? Simply because this thing called
Dhamma has to do with the within but is hidden by the without. In
saying that Dhamma is hidden, I mean that it is a truth that is as
difficult to see as if it were hidden. Dhamma is hidden by the
without. We know only about the without; we don't get to know about
the within which is hidden by the without. This is our ignorance. To
put it simply, we are deluded, infatuated, pigheaded, stupid,
worldly, thick, or however you care to describe it. In the language
of Dhamma, this condition is call avijja (ignorance). So Dhamma is
the truth that lies hidden in all things; it is the within of all
We could put it as I did a few days ago and say simply that the idea
of "I" and "my" cannot be eliminated by looking without but can be
eliminated by looking within. And why? Again simplifying somewhat,
because this "I" and "my" is extremely well hidden, located deep
within where we can't see it and don't know how to discover it. If
we practice looking within, however, using the method taught by the
Buddha, the habit of "I" and "mine" simply will reveal itself to us
as clearly as do the things without. Looking within will reveal in
all clarity that the "I" and "my" alone is the cause of all our
chronic suffering. So the "I" and "my" must be killed off by using
the right technique- for example, starving them until they wither
and die of themselves, like animals penned up without food.
We might go on to make the point that to look without is to be stuck
in materialism, while to look within is to go the way of idealism.
Materialism and idealism are opposites. These terms will be familiar
to you so there is no need to spend time explaining them. Looking
without is materialism itself and it inevitably brings the fruits of
materialism - namely, endless slavery to material things and endless
problems. Because of materialism, our modern world is full of
trouble. No matter who is fighting who, each side is fighting for
materialism, Each side may hold to its own particular variety of
materialism- a cruder variety or a more refined variety; a very
extreme, unmitigated, thoroughgoing materialism, or a very subtle
fine, barely discernible materialism - nevertheless they are all
equally infatuated with materialism.
There is absolutely no way that the present crises in the world can
be resolved other than through both sides curing their mad obsession
with materialism and becoming more concerned with idealism. We must
understand that which has nothing to do with materialism, and which
is the highest ideal. We require an inner or spiritual idealism.
There will then be no need to outlaw war. People will stop fighting
of their own accord and begin seeking the true happiness which comes
without any loss of flesh and blood or expenditure of materials.
People will live in supreme. Look at the cost of looking without and
at the value of looking within. Do take an interest in looking
within, in the one and only way of penetrating to Dhamma, to
If any of you already detest materialism and honour idealism, you
ought to practice looking within according to Buddhist principles,
which I guarantee will bring genuine benefits. I can't speak for
other religions, although they may have the same principles. For the
present we are speaking only of Buddhism, and we are asserting that
the Buddhist ideal has nothing whatever to do with material things.
It is far above material things. It is supramundane, beyond this
world, beyond materialism. Infatuation with the world is the essence
of materialism, so we must always look above and beyond the world.
There is another pair of terms that we often come across. They refer
to two different manners of speaking to be found in the Dhamma. One
is used when speaking about people and their affairs, about things,
about the material side; it is called "everyday language". The other
is used when speaking about the mind, about Dhamma; it is called
"Dhamma language". Let us take as an example
Mara the Tempter,
the Buddhist Satan. If we have in mind a kind of demon
riding an elephant or horse and carrying a lance or sword, then we
are using everyday language. If, however, we have in mind those most
dangerous and destructive things, the mental defilements -
stupidity, greed, anger - then we are using Dhamma language, the
language of the the mind and Dhamma. If you don't practice looking
within, you never will recognize Dhamma and the language of Dhamma;
you will know only everyday language. If you are particularly
deluded, you may fall victim to the propaganda about making merit in
order to get to heaven, or making merit in order to escape
Mara's snare. But if you practice looking at things in
the right way, and penetrate to the truth of Dhamma language, you
become a knower of truth, and no one can deceive you.
There are two more words that we meet frequently in the texts. They
describe two kinds of wealth:
the wealth of the worldling, outward wealth; and the
wealth of an enlightened being, inner wealth. We needn't say a great
deal about this, Jewels, rings, silver, gold, land, fields,
elephants, horses, cattle, buffaloes, fame, and power - you know
very well that all these are outward wealth, the wealth of the
worldling. As for inner wealth,
the noble wealth of enlightened beings is Dhamma - that
which brings about the extinction of suffering (dukkha). The outward
wealth of worldlings consists of material things with which we
become infatuated; the inner wealth of enlightened beings can be
perceived only with a superbly refined mind that is capable of
looking deep within.
The relative value of these two kinds of wealth has been described
often; we shall just use one example. Outward wealth is not part of
us and does not really belong to us. It can be stolen, be destroyed
by fire, and fall prey to other disasters; it is never really ours.
And what is more, outward wealth is potentially harmful to us. Often
it turns on us, creating difficulties and hardships for us. By
contrast, the inward wealth of enlightened beings is free from all
of these bad properties. It never does harm. It never makes people
weep, and it probably never makes people laugh either, because
weeping and laughing both leave us out of breath and cannot be
compared with freedom, voidness, and equanimity. Thus, the wealth of
enlightenment makes us neither laugh nor cry; it brings only
stillness and coolness. That's all! We have to use mindfulness and
to penetrate through the exterior to the within; then we will gain
this special kind of wealth, the wealth that is unique to followers
of the Buddhist way.
Now let us talk about illness. We find that a person who sees only
the without is familiar only with illness of the physical kind:
bodily ailments, diseases, aches, and pains. He is afraid of them
and always losing sleep over them. He is quite unaware, however, of
the existence of non-physical illness, of the mental disorders.
Furthermore, he is unaware that common ailments of the body are
often really due to mental disorders. If a person is suffering from
some mental disorder, he is likely to develop a physical illness.
Certain intestinal complaints, for example, which are a big problem
and very widespread, are recognized by doctors and medical
researchers as being the result of prolonged anxiety or mental
stress. Every time anxiety arises, the blood circulation to the
intestines becomes inadequate as a result of the excessive demands
of the overtense, disturbed brain. Consequently, the intestines
become disturbed, too. You may have observed yourselves that if you
become very upset about something, you experience abdominal pains so
acute as to prevent you from eating. It could be fatal to force
yourself to eat when in that condition, because the bowels cannot
The mental ailment comes first in the form of anxiety. This anxiety
is caused simply by mistaken ideas and false views regarding things
of the world. These false views lead one to grasp and cling in a way
that causes anxiety and mental illness, and ultimately physical
illness also. As soon as the mind's condition is weakened, the
body's power to resist infection is diminished so that even slight
exposure to infection can lead to serious illness. If we are
completely free from mental disorders, if we have a strong healthy
mind as do forest dwelling
munis (quiet sages), then even considerable exposure to
infection has no effect. Resistance to infection is adequate so that
no illness results and there is no need for medication. Thus, mental
strength and well-being is the foundation for resistance to physical
illness. We ought to look more closely at this connection between
physical and mental disorders, because the only medicine required
and the only thing needed to completely control mental disorders is
Dhamma. With Dhamma, ninety-nine percent of physical illness could
be eliminated. We find that people who live according to Dhamma,
rishis (ascetics) and
munis, are strong, healthy, and never know sickness. If
we want long life, this is how we ought to live, too.
If we look into the matter of happiness, we find another useful
comparison. In the texts, two kinds of happiness are mentioned. One
of these is the kind found in home life, called
gehanissitasukha, the kind of happiness that is derived
from home life and raising a family. This is external happiness,
with which we are quite familiar. Contrasted with this happiness is
a kind called
nekkhammanissitasukha, literally, "the
happiness that comes from forsaking the home life." This
refers to a mental forsaking, a state of mind in which there is no
longer the idea of "my home." That is all it takes; that is all we
need to attain the happiness that comes from forsaking the home
Even an old man who can hardly move about and must remain at home
all the time, if he knows Dhamma at this level, while still living
in the home, may attain the happiness that comes from forsaking the
home life. This is because the term "forsaking the home life" refers
to a mental forsaking to a state in which the mind transcends
worldliness and goes beyond it. A person who is living at home may
experience the happiness that comes from the home life. Or, he may
experience the happiness that comes from forsaking the home life,
provided he is capable of looking within using the technique and
method of Dhamma.
The happiness of home life is called
lokiya-sukha, worldly happiness; and the happiness that
goes beyond the home life is called
lokuttara-sukha, transcendent happiness. It all depends
on the state of the mind. If a person's mind is this-worldly, he may
stay in a monastery or in the forest, and yet attain nothing more
than the happiness of home life, because that person is still
yearning and struggling as if his mind were trying to get out of a
cage and return home. Solitude in a monastery or any other place
cannot help him. All that can help is for the mind to be able to
No matter where we are, we have it in our power to dwell above and
beyond the world, above and beyond the home, simply by looking
within. That is all! If you think about it you will see that there
is a big profit to be made here. Without having to invest any
capital, we receive this special kind of happiness which appreciates
all the time. As the Buddha said, "Laddha
mudha nibbutim bhunjamana." This sentence means that
costs nothing; it is free and we don't have to pay for it.
All we have to do is "throw away." It's all right to use
this term "throw away". Just throw everything away and nibbana
arrives. This simply means having a mind high enough not to remain
stuck in the world. That is all there is to it. Throw away the world
completely and nibbana is here. We don't have to do anything and we
don't have to invest anything. We only have to be uninvolved and
empty. Live rightly and nibbana will come of itself.
The danger of always looking without is that we get distorted view
of things: we see a snake and think it is just a fish. Anyone who
looks within correctly sees all things in their true nature; he sees
all things for what they are. He sees a snake as a snake, and a fish
as a fish. A person who sees a snake as a fish is likely to try and
pick it up, and we know how dangerous that can be. Another way of
expressing this is with the saying "seeing a toothed wheel as a
lotus flower." [The
wheel is a dangerous whirling disc with sharp teeth, like a spinning
saw blade. The point of the story is seeing something evil and
dangerous as good and beautiful. (Ed.)] The meaning is the
same, but the danger involved is greater. There is the story of the
man who saw a demon with a toothed wheel on his head, from which
blood was spraying all over. He mistook the wheel for a lotus flower
and begged to have it placed on his own head. When we say that some
people would misidentify a snake as a fish, or a toothed wheel as a
lotus flower, we mean that they look at all objects the wrong way,
and so fall slaves to those objects, and are worse off than if they
were in prison or suffering the torments of hell.
These two examples that I have given should suffice to clarify the
point. If I were to go on giving examples, we would be here all day.
What has to be seen is, first, the difference between looking
without and looking within, and then, the importance of looking
within so that this mind can liberate itself from all things.
Now let us look at how we are going wrong, the ways in which we are
behaving incorrectly in respect to this matter. Let us look at
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha; at hell and heaven; at nibbana; at
religion; at beauty, goodness, truth, justice, and so on; at all the
things that we admire and aspire to. let us see how we stand in
respect to them, and whether or not we are as we ought to be.
We shall look first at the matter of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. The
foolish person considers this to be very simple. It's as easy as
peeling a banana and eating it. He just recites:
Buddham saraฺnam gacchami
Dhammam saraฺnam gacchami
Sangham saraฺnam gacchami
I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Dhamma.
I take refuge in the Sangha.
And there he has them: Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. So he thinks it's
very easy; but of course these words are not the Buddha, the Dhamma,
and the Sangha at all. What he has in mind is merely an outer shell
or even something more superficial than an outer shell.
Suppose we want to see or reach the "Buddha". If a person looks
without, he may identify a Buddha image as the Buddha, which is a
mistake; or he may think of that compassionate human being who lived
in India over two thousand years ago as the Buddha, but that would
still be a mistake. The Buddha strongly condemned that kind of
ignorance. He said, "To see the Dhamma is to see the Buddha; to see
the Buddha is to see the Dhamma." To see the Buddha it was not
sufficient just to see his physical body walking about. Even among
contemporaries of the Buddha, people born right in the same town,
Kapilavastu, there were a great many who never saw the real
Buddha. They saw only the outer shell of the Buddha and did not
recognize the real Buddha. This is why a great many people became
the Buddha's enemies and sought to harm him.
Becoming the Buddha's enemy is the unfortunate result of not looking
at things the right way. There are many of us like this, and we pass
our wrong views on to our children and those less educated than
ourselves. Just what is the level of university undergraduates in
this respect? This is a question you might do well to think about.
Ought we to look for the man who lived and moved about in India all
those years ago? We must look for him in the condition of voidness,
in the condition of being void of "I" and "my," in the condition of
perfect purity, enlightenment, and peace, in which the mind of the
Buddha constantly dwelt - that is, in the Dhamma. "To see the Dhamma
is to see the Buddha; to see the Buddha is to see the Dhamma."
As for the "Dhamma", if we look within, we are in a position to
perceive the Dhamma, which is a source of joy to the mind. If,
however, we look without, we lose ourselves in the books and
manuscripts of the
Tipitaka (the "three baskets" of Buddhist scripture); or in
the sound of monks chanting and preaching, which is thought of as
the sound of the Dhamma; or in the rites and rituals, the outward
poses of Dhamma practice. Even the practice of insight meditation is
usually a kid of pose. We lose ourselves in the poses of Dhamma and
fail to penetrate to the Dhamma itself. This happens to many people.
How well are we succeeding in penetrating to the Dhamma? The essence
of the Dhamma, the real Dhamma, is the condition of freedom from "I"
and "my," the condition of complete purity, enlightenment, and
peace, identical with the mental condition attained by the Buddha
Considering the "Sangha", if we look without, the Sangha is people,
someone's son or grandson ordained at this or that monastery and
having this or that title. Worse than this is to see only the yellow
cloth and identify that as the Sangha. There are some people who do
identify the Sangha with men dressed in yellow robes. This is just
the shell, but there are a great many people who grasp at the shell
in this way. For example, some people take a dislike to certain
monks and then try to make out that the entire Sangha is the same.
This is just ignorance and it is the worst form of slander against
the Sangha, because the Sangha is not to be identified with yellow
robes or with people who ordain as monks. The real and genuine
Sangha is the Dhamma: the condition of freedom or near-freedom from
"I" and "my," the condition of complete or nearly complete purity,
enlightenment, and peace. The true Sangha is identical with the
essence of the Dhamma, the Dhamma that exists in the mind of the
So anyone who has looked deeply and perceived the
real truth of the matter knows that the real Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha are not three different things; they are one and the same
thing. Outwardly there may be three different things, but these are
just the shell. The real kernel and essence of them is one simple
thing- namely, the condition of freedom from selfhood, the Dhamma
which consists in purity, enlightenment, and peace, totally
uncontaminated. This is what we call "voidness". Even in the
scriptures we find statements such as, "In terms of externals,
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are three different things; in terms of
absolute truth, in essence and real nature, they are one and the
HEAVEN & HELL
"Heaven" and "hell" are usually viewed in physical terms. People are
interested in hell as it is depicted on temple walls with its
various kinds of torments. In fact these were originally nothing
other than the thirty-odd forms of punishment meted out to criminals
in India at the time of the Buddha. You can read about them in the
history books. At least at the time of Asoka (c. 250 B.C.) these
forms of punishment for criminals were still in use, so people
depicted the worst of these forms of punishment in their
illustrations of hell. This is the superficial view of hell. This is
hell as seen by people looking without. Some people who are a little
more perceptive identify hell with prison, but this is still hell
without. It doesn't burn the mind like the hell within. The hell
that is within is stupidity, greed, and anger; delusion, desire, and
hatred; fear, worry, and anxiety. They are a kind of hell that is
much more to be feared, a kind of hell that is much more difficult
to avoid. The kind of hell that is depicted on temple walls is easy
to be bold and unconcerned about; we think that no matter what we
might do, we would never fall into it. But no one can be bold and
unconcerned about the real hell, the hell within that I have just
spoken about. If we look within and truly examine it, we find it is
something really terrible. It burns us without there being any sign
of fire; it ties us up without appearing to; it binds and ensnares
us without out knowing. This is the real hell, the hell we see when
we look within. Seeing this we become frantic, desperate, and start
seeking a safe refuge from it; and that refuge is easy to find and
easy to put into practice. But if we go on foolishly looking only at
the hell without, we just go on forever lacking a refuge.
It is the same with heaven. The real heaven is contentment, that
state in which we are content with what we get and with what we
have, the state in which we have Dhamma. When we are content with
what we have, that is heaven. As for the heaven that is depicted on
temple walls, that is just another case of addiction to external
forms, sounds, odours, tastes, and tactile sensations - total
subjection to sense objects. Celestial beings are smarter than we
human beings, and millionaires have the means to do more than we
poor people. At each level we think that the level above must be
heaven, owing to our limited understanding. But all this is the kind
of heaven that burns us with anxiety. It is all the kind of
happiness that cooks us till we are well-done. [Here
the original has an untranslatable pun on the homonyms
suk (well-done, cooked) and
sukh (happiness).] It boils, grills, roasts, and bakes us
till we are well-done. There is nothing peaceful and satisfied and
pleased with what we have and what we get. To have this is to have
real riches, to be really in heaven. A person who doesn't know how
to be content with what he has and with what he gets is in hell; he
is a perpetual pauper. Even if he is a millionaire, with millions or
hundreds of millions in the bank, he is the poorest of paupers,
because he suffers from chronic and incurable thirst. So let us not
go looking for heaven in the wrong place. Let us seek it
intelligently and with right understanding.
Now we come to the word "nibbana". We often hear old people say that
they want to be reborn after death in the Land of Gems, or in the
Land of Immortality. They think of nibbana as a land of gems, having
seven levels, and so on, because that is what they have been told it
is like. They think that nibbana is a land with a definite location.
Sometimes they confuse nibbana with the western paradise of the
Hindus and Mahayanists. Some people think of nibbana as similar to
heaven, but ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times better.
They think that if you multiply heaven by 10, by 100, by 1000, that
is nibbana. They are materialists infatuated with sensual pleasures.
They take nibbana to be one and the same as heaven. This is what
comes of always thinking of nibbana in terms of outward things,
thinking of it as something objective. In reality, as we said
before, this thing called nibbana is voidness, the epitome of
purity, enlightenment, and peace, because it is the absence of all
mental defilements, of all mental suffering.
This brings us to a word that we very often misunderstand: the word
"religion" (sasana). In Buddhism, as in any other religion, older
people always have in mind the physical side of it. They identify
religion with temples and with rites and rituals. But these are all
just outward forms, just fragments of the tangible, material side of
it. They are not he real religion, not what the Buddha meant by
religion. The word "religion" as used by the Buddha referred to
three things: knowledge; practice in accordance with that knowledge;
and the purity, clarity, and calm that come as the fruit of that
practice. These three together are religion. In Pali they are called
pariyati-dhamma, patipatti-dhamma, and pativedha-dhamma (theory,
practice, and experience), the three components of religion. It is
to this religion that we must penetrate and attain; whether for the
knowledge, or for the practice, or as a refuge, you must realize
this religion. And what I have just said is true in a very broad
sense; it is true of all religions.
Now we come to some miscellaneous matters, an assortment of concepts
which are nevertheless very important. There are things that are
very important to us as human beings, because they are the very
basis of suffering and happiness. Consider beauty, goodness, truth,
and justice. Just what is beauty? What is goodness? What is truth?
What is justice?
Physical "beauty" is perhaps easy enough to understand. Some people
make their living out of bodily beauty and are concerned only about
that aspect of beauty. Such people are of two kinds: these who
themselves possess the bodily beauty and those who come to buy it
from them. That is physical beauty, beauty in the body, beauty in
skin and flesh. Then there area people who consider that there is
beauty in the possession of wealth, and there are some who see
beauty in knowledge, such as in a high level of education. Such
people are concerned with the body, wealth, or level of education,
but these forms of beauty are all of the physical kind. They are
just what we see when we look without, at the outside.
Real beauty is something within, something in the mind. If the
beauty of Dhamma is present in a person, then that person is
beautiful. That person possesses the beauty of Dhamma in body,
speech, and mind. It has nothing at all to do with external
appearance, wealth, or level of education, though a person who has
superficial beauty also, is beautiful in both ways, both within and
without. If you must choose between external beauty and internal
beauty, which kind will you take? Think it over.
On the question of "goodness" the materialist is bound to consider
that goodness consists in getting. To get this or that and make it
"mine" is good, and everything else is not good. Let's have a look
at this. Let's look at ourselves and at other people, at all the
people in the country, and see what kinds of thing they consider to
be good. They all consider the things which they get and the process
of getting them as good, don't they? Some people just accept as good
whatever everyone else accepts as good. They think, "If everyone
else considers such-and-such things as good, how could I possibly
disagree? How could I be the one and only person to have a different
opinion?" The Buddha never thought like that. Even if everyone in
the country disagreed with him, he didn't mind. For him the good had
to be genuinely good; and the genuine anxiety, suffering, and
ignorance. The genuine good had to consist in purity, clarity, and
Some later schools added to this definition. There have been
numerous schools that have come into vogue and then gone out of
vogue again, just like short-lived fashions in men's shirts. Each
introduced its own particular concept of good. Each was localized to
a certain region and lasted only a short while. At a certain
historical period it was considered that the good consisted in this
or in that; and then in the next period it was no longer thought to
be so. These kinds of good are all just deception and delusion; each
of them is a function of the then current level of sophistication.
As for the real and genuine good, that good which human beings ought
to attain in this life, there is nothing higher than the coolness of
the kind that is found in Dhamma. This alone can be called "the
Now let us talk about "truth". Each of us has eyes, ears, a nose, a
tongue, and a touch-sensitive body, so all of us can judge things as
true according to what our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body tell
us. We can test and verify material things. Worldly truth, which has
nothing to do with Dhamma, is a matter of what we see or feel or
believe to be true. We are deceived as to the nature of objects and
of cause-effect relationships, all of which are subject to change.
What is true one moment may not be true the next. Even the law of
science are subject to change, as scientists well know. A "law"
which at one point in time is firmly believed to be true is later
found not to be true and so is thrown out. This is because the truth
at any particular point in time is a function of our ability to
perceive it, of our resources for testing and verifying. This is
worldly truth, the kind of truth that has nothing to do with Dhamma.
Truth that is truly truth does not change. In identifying
"suffering" we must identify true suffering; "freedom from
suffering" must be true freedom from suffering; the "cause of
suffering" must be the true cause of suffering; and the "way to the
elimination of suffering" must be the true way, not some false lead.
these truths are the very special truths of the Buddha and of all
enlightened beings. Let us think of truth or of truths in this way.
The whole purpose of education in whatever form is to get at truth.
The purpose of all philosophy is to arrive at truth. But as things
are, education and philosophy are incomplete, are half-baked, go
only half way. They just fumble and bumble around with no hope of
finding the truth. In seeking truth let us concentrate our attention
on the most important matter of all, namely, the matter of suffering
and the elimination of suffering. To realize this truth is to arrive
at the most useful, the most precious, and the best thing there is,
although there are countless other things we might examine which
would be of no use whatever. This is why the Buddha said, "One thing
only I teach: suffering and the elimination of suffering." There
were countless other things about which he might have talked but
regarding which he remained silent. From the first day he spoke only
of one thing, the thing that is the most useful of all.
Finally, we come to the word "justice" or "rightness." In this
world, it may sometimes be the case that "might is right," or that
expediency is right, or that the evidence given by a witness is made
the basis for rightness and justice. Now if the witness is lying, or
if he is mistaken regarding the accuracy of his evidence, then the
supposed justice based upon it is totally deceptive. Real justice
can only be based on Dhamma. Justice based on worldly criteria is
worldly justice; it is always only outward, relative justice. On the
other hand, justice that is based on Dhamma is totally independent
of human error. It is absolute. Examples are the law of kamma; the
law of impermanence, suffering, and non-self; and the truth of
suffering, the cause of suffering, the extinction of suffering, and
the way leading to the extinction of suffering. These are absolute
and they are totally just. They do not favour anyone; no-one has any
special privileges in respect to them. They are laws of nature which
have fixed, absolute force.
Let us keep in view the kind of justice that we can genuinely rely
on, and make it our refuge. Don't become infatuated with worldly
justice, which is inconsistent and relative. Don't be too much for
it or against it, because worldly justice is bound to be only as it
is. Sometimes we may disagree with worldly justice, sometimes we may
totally disapprove of it. The working of worldly justice sometimes
make us feel elated and sometimes make us weep. This is an
intolerable situation. We need a kind of justice which doesn't make
us weep, feel elated, or get excited about worldly matters. That
kind of justice is to be found in the principles of Dhamma; they are
the best criteria for rightness. Holding to Dhamma as the basis for
justice, we shall be able to laugh within, not without; we shall be
able to smile within forever after, and that is the elimination of
There is just one more little thing that I would like to say:
something about charms and talismans - outward talismans and inward
talismans. Outward talismans are the sort that people wear around
their necks, foreheads, and waists. They are so common that I don't
need to tell you anything about them. But what kind of protection do
they really give? We can go and look at the corpses of people who
have been killed and find that they were wearing talismans. And we
can see people yet living who are suffering greatly, people who are
being burnt up with distress and anxiety. The more distressed they
become the more talismans they hang about themselves and the more
they perform rituals like pouring prayer water. And the more they do
all this, the more deluded they become, too. These are the benefits
of outward talismans.
The benefits of inward talismans, the genuine Buddhist talismans,
are just the opposite. Anyone who wears the talismans of calmness
and coolness acquires instant purity, clarity, and calm. If, in the
ultimate case, he wears the highest of all talismans, he dwells in
total voidness, in total freedom from harassment and annoyance of
any kind. This is the effect of the Buddha's talismans.
All that has been said here simply explains the conditions and
characteristics necessary for an understanding of looking within.
Should we look without or look within? How should we look? Which way
of looking is most important? If we are loyal to Dhamma, to
religion, or to the Buddha, there's nothing to do but hurry and
practice looking within. In particular, we ought to extinguish inner
suffering. The genuine cessation of suffering is an internal matter;
it must happen within. Thus, there are no sacred objects, holy
ceremonies, divine powers and persons, or any such holy things.
Dhamma alone is sacred and holy.
Genuine Dhamma is reality. We needn't mention "holiness," for Dhamma
far surpasses holiness. Compared with the word "Dhamma", "holiness"
has very little value. So it is best to give up all of the holy
objects and sacred ceremonies. If one falls for such holy things,
one will never meet the truly sacred and holy thing - Dhamma. Trust
in, dependence on or complacency toward superficial, external things
prevents one from realizing the essence within. It's like only
eating the bitter rinds of mangosteens but never the sweet flesh.
The refreshing fruit is never experienced, although such benefits
exist in the world because Nature has created them for us and
created us with the ability to realize them.
Realizing the fifth essence if one of the fruits of looking within.
Realizing the sixth essence, voidness, is an even better one. This
looking within penetrates to the heart and center of all things. In
the end there is oneness with voidness - being empty of "I" and
These are the fruits and benefits of knowing how to look within, of
realizing the subjective state that becomes apparent when we look
within. Looking within is characterized by activity rather than
passivity, and the active one is always victorious. We should be
victorious, undefeated in this way, as is appropriate for disciples
of the Buddha. The Buddha is sometimes called "The Victorious One" (jina),
"The Victorious Lion" (jinasiha),
and "The Victorious Monarch" (jinaraja),
for he is victorious over everything. We too can be victorious by
using his methods. As explained above, success comes with expertise
in looking within.
Lecture to foreign meditators at Suan Mokkhabalarama
7 May 1986
Translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu
Today I'd like to talk about something which most of you probably
misunderstand. Although you've all come here with an interest in
Buddhism, you may have some wrong understanding. For this reason,
please gather your mental energies and set your mind to the task of
listening. Pay special attention to what will be said today.
The thing we'll be talking about is
This is a word that is quite ambiguous both in Thai,
kwam sukh, in the Pali langauges,
sukha, and even in English, happiness. In all three
languages, this word has many varied meanings and applications. It's
often difficult to understand exactly what people mean when they say
the word "happiness." Because this subject can get very mixed up, it
is necessary to reach some understanding of this thing, which is why
we'll be speaking about happiness today.
The happiness felt in the everyday lives of ordinary people is one
meaning of happiness. Then, there is the other kind of happiness,
the happiness that arises with the realization of the final goal of
life. There are these two very different things, but we call both of
them " happiness." Generally, we mix up these two meanings, confuse
them, and never quite understand what we're talking about.
WHICH HAPPINESS DO YOU WANT?
Here's one example of how the ambiguity of this word can cause
problems. It's likely that you came here to study and practice Dhama
in search of happiness. Your understanding of happiness, the
happiness you desire, however, may not be the same happiness that is
the genuine goal of Buddhism and the practice of Dhamma. If the
sukha (happiness) that you desire is not the sukha that
arises from Dhamma practice, then we're afraid that you'll be
disappointed, or even heartbroken here. It's necessary to develop
some understanding of this matter.
In order to save time and make it easy for you to understand, let's
set down a simple principle for the understanding of happiness. The
usual happiness that common people are interested in is when a
particular hunger or want is satisfied. This is the typical
understanding of happiness. In the Dhamma sense, however, happiness
is when there is no hunger or want at all, when we're completely
free of all hunger, desire, and want. Help to sort this out right at
this point by paying careful attention to the following distinction:
happiness because hunger is satisfied and happiness due to no hunger
at all. Can you see the difference? Can you feel the distinction
between the happiness of hunger and the happiness of no hunger?
Let's take the opportunity now to understand the words "lokiya"
as they are relevant to the matter we're investigating today.
Lokiya means "proceeding
according to worldly matters and concerns." Lokiya is to
be in the world, caught within the world, under the power and
influence of the world. Common translations are "worldly" and
Lokuttara means "to
be above the world." It is beyond the power and influence
of the world. It can be translated "transcendent" or "supramundane."
Now we can more easily compare the two kinds of happiness:
happiness), which is trapped under the power of, governed
by the conditions and limitations of, what we call "the world," and
happiness), which is beyond all influence of the world.
See this distinction and understand the meaning of these two words
as clearly as possible.
We must look at these more closely.
Lokiya means "stuck
in the world, dragged along by the world," so that
worldly power and influence dominate. In this state there is no
spiritual freedom; it's the absence of spiritual independence.
Lokuttara means "unstuck,
released from the world." It is spiritual freedom. Thus,
there are two kinds of happiness: happiness that is not free and
happiness that is independent,
the happiness of slavery and
the happiness of freedom.
This is the point that we're afraid you'll misunderstand. If you've
come here looking for lokiya-sukha, but you study Buddhism which
offers the opposite kind of happiness, you're going to be
disappointed. You won't find what you desire. The practice of
Dhamma, including a wise meditation practice, leads to
lokuttara-sukha and not to worldly happiness. We must make this
point clear from the very beginning. If you understand the
difference between these two kinds of sukha, however, you'll
understand the purpose of Suan Mokkh and won't be disappointed here.
By now you ought to understand the difference between the two kinds
of happiness: the happiness that comes from getting what we hunger
for and the happiness of the total absence of hunger. How different
are they? Investigate the matter and you will see these things for
happiness of "hunger satisfied" and
the happiness of "no hunger" : we can not define them
more succinctly or clearly than this.
Now we'll observe further that the happiness based in the
satisfaction of hunger is hopeless and can never be satisfied. The
many things which arouse hunger are always changing. Whatever
satisfies hunger changes, making that satisfaction fleeting and
illusory, and so hunger returns. Hunger itself changes and, hence,
can never be satisfied. This situation is eternal. The world today
is stuck in this happiness which comes with fulfilling desires. The
modern world is trapped in this endless problem.
Imagine, if you can, that you are the sole owner of the world, of
the universe, of the entire cosmos. Now that you're the owner of
everything, does hunger stop? Can it stop? Would you please examine
this carefully with and in your own mind. If you were to get
everything that you could possibly desire, to the point that you
owned the whole world, would your hunger cease? Or would you hunger
for a second universe? Would you want a third?
Consider the fact that hunger never ends by our attempts to satisfy
it. In spite of this, the world today continues to develop in
education and evolution that seeks merely to produce things which
are more lovely and satisfying. Modern technology and science and
slaves of hunger. Our world is falling into this deep hole of
endlessly producing increasingly seductive things to try to satisfy
hunger. But where are you going to find happiness in such a world?
I'd like to make some comparisons to illustrate how the worldly
happiness of common sentient beings advances from phase to
successive phase. The new-born infant is happy when it is cuddled in
its mother's arms and sucks milk from her breast. This satisfies the
infant until it grows a little older, a little bigger. Then the
mother's arms and breast aren't enough. It learns about other foods
and delights. Now its happiness depends on ice cream, candy, and
junk food, on playing little games and running around the house.
Then it grows older and those games don't satisfy the child any
more. It wants to play football or play with dolls. These two are
outgrown eventually and the teenager's interestes and happiness
revolve around sex. The previous kinds of satisfaction are of no
more interest. When they become young men and women, don't expect
them to be satisfied with the old types of happiness. Now, all they
think about is sex and dates. Finally, the human being marries,
becomes a wife or husband, and has hopes and wishes tied up in a
house, money, and possessions. There's no way they can be satisfied
with childish happiness (unless they haven't really grown up). The
human being changes from stage to stage, and happiness also changes
from stage to stage. It is continuous and endless. Hunger develops
from stage to stage until death. After that, many believe, there is
rebirth as a
being); and still there's hunger, heavenly hunger for the
devas. It never stops. Even in heaven with the gods or in
the kingdom of God, should such things exist, hunger doesn't stop.
In Buddhism these all are considered to be examples of worldly
happiness that only deceives and confuses.
WHERE DOES HUNGER STOP?
I'd like to ask if in the Kingdom of God, or in whatever place God
is, whether according to the scriptures of Christianity or any other
religion, when we're with God can hunger and desire stop? If the
Kingdom of God is the end of hunger and craving, then it's the same
thing as Buddhism teaches:
nibbana, or the happiness that is beyond the world
because hunger has ended. But if we understand the Kingdom of God
differently, if it is a place where we still hunger, then Buddhism
isn't interested. Endless desire for better and better things to
take as one's own is not the goal of Buddhism. Buddhism takes the
fork in the road that leads beyond the world.
As for this thing we call "the world," in the Buddhist description
it is divided into many levels, realms, or wanderings. There's the
common human world, with which we're most familiar, and its human
sukha. Above this are the various heavenly realms where
devas supposedly live. First, there are
the sensual wanderings, the
kamavacara, of those who have sexual desires. These are
supposed to be "good," at least better than the human realm. Next,
the Brahma wanderings, of which there are two categories:
those dependent on form (matter) and those independent of form.
These are better than the normal realms of existence, but they
aren't the end of hunger. There is no more sensual hunger in the
the fine-material wanderings, but the "beings" there
still hunger after material existence. The "beings" of
the non-material wanderings, are hungry as well. They
hunger for non-material things rather than material. On each of
these worldly levels hunger persists. The wants of the self don't
stop. There are always things which the self wants. These highly
refined states of happiness utterly fail to transcend the world.
Even the highest Brahma realm is caught within the world, trapped
below the power and influence of desire.
How are we going to finish hunger? We must turn around and destroy
it. We don't need hunger. We must take this other path where there
is no hunger. The essence of this path is the absence of the feeling
of self, of "I" and "mine." This point is very profound. How much
knowledge must we have, how much must we see, in order to stop this
illusion of self?
It is necessary to realize this connection between the end of hunger
and the cessation of the self illusion. In worldly situations there
is always a self or "I" who hungers and strives to satisfy that
hunger. Even if this self is on the highest heavenly level where
hunger is only for the most refined things, nonetheless, there's a
hungry self trying to get. Hunger persists as this self seeks to
acquire things for itself without ever truly succeeding. By
examining the many levels of getting and of happiness, we see that
hunger is hopeless. Why? Because "self" is hopeless.
When you arrive at this stage, you ought to be familiar with what we
call "the good" or "the best." You all have ideas about "the best"
and think that you deserve to get and have "the best." Your hunger
only goes as far as "the best.!! Whatever you identify as "the
best"_whether a day on the beach or five minutes of rest from the
turmoil in your head _ is where your hunger grasps. Even while
basking in God's radiance, the hunger for the best doesn't stop. We
desire one kind of "the best," but as soon as we get it our hunger
reaches after a better "the best." This has no end as long as
there's a self that wants "the best." "The best" has no end point;
we can't take it as our final goal. We continuously talk about "the
best" or about the
summum bonum, but our meanings are so very different: the
best of children, of teenagers, of adults, of old folks; the best of
the world and of religion. Yet each of these visions of "the best"
make us "the hungriest" _ hungry in refined, profound, subtle ways.
We can never stop and rest in any "the best," for they are all
"The best" cannot stand alone. It doesn't go anywhere without its
mate "the worst." Through our grasping at "the best" we're burdened
also with "the worst." Thus, our fixation on "the best" is merely
self-perpetuating hunger. There's only one way out. If we keep
searching for sukha in the world, we'll never find it. We must turn
in the other direction, toward
lokuttara-sukha. Hunger must end, even hunger for "the
best." Evil is one kind of busy trouble. Good is just another kind
of trouble. To be free of all
dukkha, the mind must be beyond good and evil, above the
best and worst_ that is, it must dwell in voidness. This is the
opposite of worldly happiness. It's the
lokuttara-sukha of freedom from the self that hungers.
There's no other way out of
dukkha than from evil to good and then from good to
voidness. In voidness hunger stops and there is true happiness.
THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
Those of you who are Christians or who have read the Bible will be
familiar with the story of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil that appears at the beginning of Genesis. It tells how God
forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. He warned them that they would die if they did not
obey. If you understand the meaning of this passage, you will
understand the core of Buddhism. When there is no knowledge of good
and evil, we can't attach to them, we're void and free of
dukkha. Once we know about good and evil, we attach to
them and must suffer
dukkha. The fruit of that tree is this attachment to good
and evil. This causes
dukkha is death, spiritual death.
Adam's children, down through the ages to us, carry this burnden of
knowing good and evil, the burden of the self that attaches to good
and evil and suffers spiritual death. We identify things as good and
attach to them. We identify things as bad and detach from them. We
are trapped in worldly condition by our dualistic obsession with
good and bad. This is the death of which God warned. Will you heed
Now what are we who have inherited this problem going to do about
it? To continue running after the satisfaction of our hunger for
"the best" is simply to perpetuate this cycle of birth and death.
Thus, Buddhism isn't interested in any of the realm of
lokiya-sukha, of good, better, and best. The Buddhist
solution is to be above good and evil _ to be void.
Please understand that "the best" is not the highest thing. If you
talk about God as the "supreme good," Buddhists won't be able to
accept your words. To say that God, the highest thing in the
universe, is the collection of everything good or the perfection of
good is to limit God, The Supreme Thing, within dualistic
conditions. Buddhists cannot accept this. The God of the Bible
himself said that if we know good and evil we must die.
If you say, however, that God _ if we choose to use this word_ is
beyond good and evil, then Buddhists can agree. In Buddhism, the
goal is to transcend both good and evil, and realize voidness_ to be
void of "I", "me," "mine," and "myself." If we don't know good and
evil, we can't attach to them and there is no
dukkha. Or, if we know good and evil but still don't
attach to them, then there is no
dukkha just the same. Thus, the highest point for
humanity is beyond good.
ABOVE & BEYOND GOOD
Beyond good there is nothing to hunger for and no one to hunger.
Hunger stops. The "I" who hungers and all its desires disappear in
voidness_ the emptiness of self and soul. This voidness
is the purpose of the practice of Dhamma. It is the way to transcend
the endless cycles of hunger and worldly happiness.
It is the Supreme Thing, the final goal of Buddhism.
The thing to observe in this matter is that it is impossible to
attach to good and evil when there's no knowledge of good and evil.
When there's no attachment, there's no
dukkha and no problem. Once the fruit of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. What happens then? If we lack the
to know that we shouldn't attach to good and evil, we'll go and
attach to the good and evil of common sentient beings. Thus, there
dukkha, which brings with it all the problems of life.
These are the results of eating that fruit: attachment,
dukkha, and death.
Once there is this knowledge, there is no going back to a state of
innocence in which good and evil aren't known. After this knowledge
arises, after the fruit has been eaten, we must go on to know fully
that good and evil cannot be attached to. It is our duty and
responsibility to learn this. Don't attach to good and evil because
they are impermanent (anicca),
Good and evil are
anatta. When there's this correct knowledge of good and
evil, there's no attachment. Then there's no death, just as with
Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit. We've all eaten that fruit;
we all know about good and evil. There's no going back to a state of
innocence for us. Instead, we have the duty to know that good and
evil should not be attach to. They must not be attached to. Please
understand this matter wisely.
Don't attach to good and evil. Know them so thoroughly that you will
never attach to them. This is the heart of Buddhism and the essence
of Christianity. Both religions teach this same thing,
although people may interpret it in quite different ways. If you
understand this, you will have the key to the genuine happiness of
freedom from hunger.
You can see that if we grasp and cling to "good," we are hungry for
good. If we have something better, we hunger for what is better. If
we have what is the best, we hunger for the best. No matter how
"best" something is, it still causes hunger. We hunger for the best
best. Inevitably, this hunger is the problem that leads to dukkha.
No matter what the degree of hunger, it will still cause some sort
of dukkha. Coarse hunger afflicts us in a crude way, while even the
most subtle hunger _ so refined that it can't be seen or understood
_ harms us in a way too subtle to be seen. If there is hunger, there
will be dukkha. Life will be troubled and disturbed, making perfect
peace and perfect happiness impossible.
This is why Buddhism teaches
voidness (sunnata) - the voidness of "I" and "mine" that
transcends the best. If we have knowledge of beyond the best, of the
voidness that is neither good nor evil, there's no problem. In
sunnata there's no hunger. Even the most subtle levels of hunger
disappear. Therein dukkha is quenched and true spiritual peace
remains. This is the final goal. As long as there is the slightest
hunger, it prevents the final goal. As soon as all hunger has been
extinguished, and with it all problems and all dukkha, genuine
emancipation is evident. Emancipation in Buddhism is this freedom
from hunger that comes with the realization of sunnata(voidness).
Please study this matter until your life is totally free of hunger.
NATURAL HUNGER & UNNECESSARY HUNGER
Let's go back and take another look at this thing we call "hunger."
We ought to know that there are two levels of hunger. First, there
is physical, material hunger, which is a natural process of life.
The body instinctually feels hunger regarding its natural needs:
clothing, food, shelter, medicine, exercise. This kind of hunger is
no problem. It doesn't cause
dukkha and can be satisfied without causing
dukkha. Then, there is the second kind of hunger, which
is mental, that we call "spiritual
hunger." This is the hunger of thinking born out of
attachment. Physical hunger really has no meaning, for it causes no
problems. Even animals experience physical hunger, so they eat as
allowed by limits of the situation. Spiritual hunger, however, being
tied up with ignorance (avijja)
and attachment (upadana),
destroys the coolness and calm of the mind, which is true happiness
and peace, thus bringing
The problem of human being is that our minds have developed beyond
the animal mind. The consciousness of animals has not learned how to
turn physical hunger into mental hunger. They don't attach to their
instinctual hunger as we do, so they are free of the
dukkha caused by craving (tanha)
and clinging (upadana).
The human mind is more highly evolved and suffers from more highly
evolved hunger. Through attachement the human mind knows spiritual
We must distinguish between these two kinds of hungers. Physical
hunger can be dealt with easily. One day of work can satisfy our
bodily needs for many days. With mindfulness and wisdom, physical
hunger is no problem. Don't foolishly make it into
dukkha. When it arises, just see it as
the state of being "just like that." The body has a nervous
system. When it lacks something that it needs there arises a certain
activity which we call "hunger." That's all there is to it -
tathata. Don't let it cook up into spiritual hunger by
attaching to it as "my hunger" or the "I who hungers." That is very
dangerous, for it causes a lot of
dukkha. When the body is hungry, eat mindfully and
wisely. Then physical hunger won't disturb the mind.
Hunger is solely a mental problem. The highly developed human mind
develops hunger into the spiritual hunger that results in
attachment. These are mental phenomena -
and clinging, attachment) - which aren't at all cool.
Although we may be millionaires, with homes full of consumer
products and pockets full of money, we still hunger spiritually. The
more we consume, the more we hunger. However much we try to satisfy
mental hunger, to that extent it will expand, grow, and disturb the
mind ever more. Even billionaires are spiritually hungry.
So how are we to solve this problem? There is the Dhamma principle
that stopping this foolish hunger results in peace of mind, cool
happiness, freedom from disturbance.
Physical hunger doesn't bother us. It's easy to take care of, to
find something to eat that satisfies the hunger. Spiritual hunger,
however, is another matter. The more we eat, the more we hunger.
This is the problem we're caught in - being annoyed, pestered,
bothered, agitated by spiritual hunger. When nothing annoys the
mind, that is true happiness. This may sound funny to you, but the
absence of disturbance is genuine happiness.
We're sure that each of you is bothered by hopes and wishes. You've
come here with your hopes and expectations. These hopes, wishes, and
expectiations are another kind of spiritual hunger, so be very
careful about them. Don't let them become dangerous! Find a way to
stop the expecting and hoping. Live by
and wisdom); don't live by expectations.
Usually we teach children to be full of wishes - to "make a wish,"
to "dream the impossible dream." This isn't correct. Why teach them
to live in spiritual hunger? It torments them, even to the point of
causing physical pain, illness, and death. It would be kinder to
teach them to live without hunger, whatever must be done, but don't
hope, don't dream, don't expect. Hopes are merely spiritual hunger.
Teach them not to attach. No hunger, neither physically nor mentally
- think about it - what happiness that would be! There's no
happiness greater than this. Can you see?
THREE KINDS OF SOLITUDE
Lastly, we'll talk about the benefits of the end of hunger. To do
so, we'll ask you to learn one more Pali word. Listen carefully and
remember it, for it is a most important word:
viveka, in Pali;
vivek, in Thai.
viveka can be translated "utmost
aloneness, perfect singleness, complete solitude." Because
people no longer understand this correctly, you've probably never
heard of it. First, know that
viveka has three levels.
Physical viveka (kaya-viveka)
is when nothing disturbs the physical level of life.
Mental viveka (citta-viveka)
is when no emotions disturb the mind, when the
citta isn't troubled by things like sexual lust, hatred,
fear, frustration, envy, sentimentality, and love. This mental
viveka can occur even in a crowded noisy room; it isn't dependent on
physical solitude. The third kind,
spiritual viveka (upadhi-viveka)
is when no feelings or thoughts of attachment to "I" and "mine,"
"soul" or "myself" disturb the mind. If all three levels happen, you
are truly alone and free.
Merely being free of physical disturbances while emotions pester one
isn't viveka. Many "meditators" run off into forests and caves to
find solitude, but if they bring their emotions with them, they
won't find what they're looking for. True happiness will elude them.
If the emotions don't annoy them, but feelings of "I" and "mine"
disturb and distract them, it can't be called "viveka,"
either. There must be no feeling of "I" or "mine" interfering. Then,
there will be no hunger of any kind disturbing and no hopes
pestering. This is solitude. The mind is perfectly alone. This is
the happiness that is the aim of Buddhism. It is
on Buddhism's highest level. The final goal of Buddhism, the highest
liberation, isn't a mind that is merely happy or quiet. The ultimate
goal is total freedom from all attachment, from any clinging to "I"
or "mine." We want you to know about these three levels of
If you are able to practice mindfulness with breathing completely
and correctly through all sixteen of its steps and stages, then you
will discover these three kinds of
viveka. Then you will receive the happiness of never
being tormented by hunger again. But if you don't like this kind of
happiness, if you prefer the happiness of responding to hunger, of
feeding desire, then nothing can help you. Buddhism wont' be able to
help you a bit. It can't help you because Buddhism aims to eliminate
the kind of happiness and enjoyment that depends on things to
satisfy its hunger. We want that to end. We need the kind of viveka
that is undisturbed by hunger.
This is what we are afraid you may misunderstand. If you don't
understood the Buddhist kind of happiness, you might expect
something that Buddhism can't provide. Then you will be
disappointed. You will be wasting your time here. If you want the
happiness that comes from responding to hunger, we have nothing to
talk about. There's nothing for us to say. But if you want the
happiness born from not having any hunger at all, we have something
to talk about. And we've said it already.
We hope that you will meet with success in your practice and
development of mindfulness with breathing. Once you have, you will
receive the genuine happiness born of the the total absence of
Thank you for coming to Suan Mokkh and using it beneficially.
Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama
31 March 1984
Translated by Santikaaro Bhikkhu
This is the twelfth and final talk of the series "Samatha-Vipassana
for the Nuclear Age." I would like to use this opportunity today to
summarize, in one bird's eye view, every angle and aspect of the
topics discussed during this series. My goal is to go clearly and
penetratingly into each of them one-by-one. I call this dhamma-sacca
(Dhamma-truth), by which I mean that a specific aspect or angle must
be scrutinized until we realize, on the most profound level, exactly
what its true nature is. Most importantly, dhamma-sacca is the one
particular truth most appropriate and necessary for a situation and
its circumstances. We must choose the Dhamma-truth that needs to be
studied and realized here and now. For this scrutiny, I'll use the
the Four Noble Truths, which consists of the principles:
What is it?
Through what cause does it arise?
What is its purpose?
How does it succeed in that purpose?
Today's talk is called "The
Samatha-Vipassana for the Nuclear Age." The nuclear age form
of Dhamma prepares all people to face the events of our nuclear era:
events of war and events of peace. It also prepares us for the
general events in the daily lives of human beings. In the case of
war, if nuclear war occurs, what sort of Dhamma will enable the mind
to face such horrible dangers and punishment? With peace, what
knowledge is needed regarding this situation in which there is still
this nuclear age kind of peace? As for Buddhists, in order to be
true Buddhists who don't waste the opportunity of hearing the
Dhamma, what do we need to know about this matter and how should we
practice to protect our name, face, and honor? Don't forget that
being a Buddhist means being "one who knows, is awakened, and has
blossomed into perfection."
Nowadays, what are people doing that we call this "The Nuclear Age"?
They can go up to the moon, circle it, land on it, and come back to
earth. They can send vehicles to look at, explore, and go beyond the
planets. Nothing is at all like the old days. We can jump from here
to there and fly around the world in hours. Things have changed like
this. Now that we can go to the heavens nothing is the same. What
mental qualities, then, are appropriate for a mankind that has
progressed in this direction and to this degree?
STRANGE & DANGEROUS TIMES
Obviously, this kind of progress leads to strange and powerful
results. In Dhamma language, we call these results
aramana, things known or felt, things which strike or
make contact). They are sense objects that powerfully strike the
mind in the form of
dukkha (suffering). Why don't we take a happier view of
the situation? Because that's impossible. Material progress that
leads people to be infatuated with sensual pleasure and stimulation
blocks the way to peace. Even though we may be enjoying some
delicious sensual pleasures now, such sense experiences support and
increase defilement (kilesa),
especially the defilement of selfishness. With selfishness reaching
extreme levels, there's no peace in sight. Therefore, we can see
only these undesirable things that we have created.
There are tragedies, disasters, and crises-the opposites of peace.
They come one after another, without any pause between them, and so
we call them
atimahantaramana. This is a strange word for ordinary people,
but it is normal in Dhamma language. Huge, extreme sense objects
dominate the mind completely and their impact is beyond reckoning.
Small objects come and go without having any meaning and are
forgotten. When objects are large and extreme, however, they're
difficult to forget they're oppressive and destructive, and they
cause much dukkha. Also, they have the characteristic of another
word from Dhamma language -
that makes one parentless."
The danger we're discussing here is amataputtika. It's so great that
not even our parents can rescue us. It's so vast that we can't help
or parents either. No one can be of help to anyone else. Normally,
this word applies only to the dukkha that arises out of birth,
aging, illness, and death, in which children can't help their
parents and parents are unable to help their children. This is an
enormous and absolute danger. And now there is an external danger of
the same magnitude, where parents and children can't help each
other, which leaves us completely alone. Close your eyes and think
about it. If a nuclear missile comes down, who's going to help who?
We'll all be dust anyway; who can help who? This peril is of the
same proportion and meaning as the words "we can't help each other
in the matters of birth, aging, illness, and death."
In this nuclear age, such dangers can come at any time. Although we
may have parents and children, it's as if we had no one. Then who
will help us? What will help? I think that Dhamma will help us,
which means the Buddha will help us.
DON'T HAVE TO CRY
Therefore, we must develop and store Dhamma that will help us in
circumstances so dangerous that thousands of mothers or children
would be of no help. To prepare yourself so that you won't cry is
enough. Don't go so far as to prepare yourself to laugh; no one
would believe you. Simply being prepared not to cry when disaster
comes is splendid enough. You don't have to say that you'll laugh.
Actually, if one really has a lot of this sort of Dhamma, I think
that one could laugh. Someone with a sufficiently high level of
Dhamma can laugh in all events, whether disastrous or beneficial.
One could laugh disliking. However, we common folk needn't go so
far. We only need, for as long as we haven't died, not to cry.
That's plenty good already. Thus, I encourage you to listen to this
Dhamma of "samatha-vipassana
for the nuclear age," so that you'll be skillful, expert, and
correct in its practice. Then you'll remain unperturbed during the
enormous changes of the nuclear age.
You must think back to the topics of the eleven previous talks. From
the beginning, how are we to practice each one? Of them which point
is the most important? Realize
aniccam, dukkham and anatta (impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness, and not-self). Realize
sunnata (voidness, selflessness),
tathata (thusness), and then
idappaccayata (conditionality). Penetrate to these
realizations with every exhalation and inhalation - that's the most
important issue. How much is accomplished in practicing on such a
level? If one fully sees that "it's only thus, it's only such, "
whenever something no matter how enormous arises, if
tathata is seen, that's how to endure and how to remain
still. Then, if you want, you'll be able to laugh. But the
arahants (Worthy Ones, perfected human beings) probably
wouldn't waste energy on useless laughter. Remaining quiet and still
is better, without laughing, without crying. That's what's best,
having Dhamma that keeps one calm and quiet in all circumstances.
Allow me, then, to explain point by point, what it is, where it
comes from, what its purpose is, and the method for achieving that
Before we discuss the meaning of "samatha-vipassana
for the nuclear age," we must understand why the word "nuclear" is
used here. In using it I don't mean that we must all be scientists
who study the theories of nuclear chemistry and physics in all their
complexity and detail. It isn't necessary for us to be scientists
like that. We only need to know that nothing can act clumsily or
hesitantly and still survive in this nuclear era. All things must be
like lightning bolts in their arising, in their ceasing, and in
their knowledge of other things. All things must be as fast as
lightning bolts. They must be deeper than the ocean and strike like
lightning bolts, so that nothing can resist. In just the same way,
our acts must accord with the nuclear age. This need for speed and
power is what is meant by "nuclear".
SAMATHA AND VIPASSANA ARE ONE
When we say "samatha-vipassana
for the nuclear age," we ought to realize the significance of
joining the words
samatha (tranquility) and
vipassana (insight) together.
Samatha-vipassana is one thing, not two separate things. If
they were two things, we would have to do two things and that would
be too slow. When tranquility and insight are united as one thing,
there is only a single thing to do. Both
vipassana are developed at one and the same time. That saves
time- a precious commodity in this nuclear age.
Let's review the method of practice that was discussed in the
previous talks. When we look at something, we endeavor to see how it
truly is, both the characteristics that it has and its deepest
reality or truth. In short, when seeing or watching anything, one
will see the state of
idappaccayata - the activity of causes and conditions
endlessly forming and concocting each other. As I've summarized this
before, sitting right here and looking all around us, we will see
nothing but the flow of
idappaccayata that is concocting and being concocted. It
flows continuously according to impermanence and the fact that once
conditions have formed they force the arising of new things and more
We can describe this as simultaneously seeing with tranquility (samatha),
seeing an object and fixing the mind upon it, and seeing with
seeing the characteristics, conditions, and truth of the thing.
These two kinds of seeing happen together. We can say that
is added to
Samadhi is the mind steadfastly focusing on the object; panna is
seeing what the thing is all about, what characteristics it has, and
what its truth is. For example, to look at and fix on a stone is
samadhi, then to see that this stone is flowing continuously
in change is
panna. You don't have to do it many times, you don't need to
do it twice, once is enough. Watch the stone and bring concentration
and wisdom together in that watching.
This illustrates the intelligence of the Zen Buddhists. They don't
panna. Rather than distinguishing between the two, both
together are called "Zen". In Pali the word is "jhana"
and in Sanskrit it is "dhyana,"
which means "to gaze, to stare." Therefore, stare into that thing
and see it with both concentration and wisdom. We can see that the
Zen sect doesn't distinguish between morality, concentration, and
wisdom. When we stare at something there is morality (sila)
in that gazing. Then fixing on that thing is
samadhi and seeing its reality is wisdom. It saves a lot of
time to combine three things into one. Yet practicing this one thing
yields three kinds of fruit.
Maybe we'll be forced to admit that it's stupid to separate
morality, concentration, and wisdom [These
are the three trainings(sikkha) which make up the path that quenches
dukkha.] from one another, then to practice them one at a
time. There's never been any success in doing so. One can uphold
morality until death, yet never have morality. It is impossible to
fulfill any of the trainnings when they are separated from one
another. There's no use intending to practice (sila)
without knowing why and how to practice (panna).
Actually, we practice morality to support concentration and practice
concentration to support wisdom. If we separate them and do only
one, there's no chance of success. Therefore, do all three together,
simultaneously; in this way there is success.
There's a Zen picture that I'd like to discuss; I think it will
amuse you. It's a picture of a frog sitting at the mouth of its
hole. I'm not very familiar with it, but I've seen it a few times.
The frog is sitting at the mouth of its hole, it's sitting in the
meditation posture. The words accompanying the picture are the
frog's: "If they're Perfected Ones only because they sit in the
meditation posture a lot, then I'm a Perfected One (arahant) as
well, because I've been sitting meditation all my life." The frog
says it has sat in meditation from its birth until the present. The
Zen people are teasing other sects, kidding both other Mahayana
sects and Theravadins as well, for attaching to sitting meditation,
for trying to sit in concentrated states until they become rigid,
stiff, and crusty. The frog teases them saying, "I've sat in
meditation all my life, therefore I'm an arahant just like the
others." This points out something important: Don't practice
anything blindly, without examining it from all sides and in all
There's another picture that teases in the same way. In this one the
frog says, "These guys are accomplished and successful. If they pass
this way, I'll jump into the water with a loud plop and scare them
out of their wits. Have these accomplished
vipassana teachers walk past this way, and I'll jump into the
water with a noisy plop to startle them." This pokes fun at those
who attach so much to an activity that they preach, "Do only this,
do just this." Then they attach so much to any success that it
becomes magical and holy, something that never existed in Buddhism.
Always remember that Buddhism has never had anything to do with
magical and holy matters. Don't drag them in. There's only
idappaccayata; everything follows the law of conditionality
directly and absolutely. There's no way for it to be anything
magical or holy. If you don't realize this, little things like a
frog's plop will continue to frighten you.
If we bring magical and sacred things into Buddhism, it will become
just more bowing to and worshipping holy things, requesting whatever
we want without doing anything. That's a religion of begging and
pleading; that isn't Buddhism at all. Instead, we must behave and
practice in correct accordance with the law of nature. Then,
benefits will progress according to that practice.
NOT HERE, NOT GOING THERE
We can see in the Dhammapada Commentaries, which are full of
stories, that the Buddha once gave his disciples a certain
meditation object. He gave them a particular matter to take into
individual practice and instructed them to come to tell him of any
results that occurred. The Buddha didn't sit watch over the monks as
is done with people nowadays, nor did he distinguish that as
concentration and this as insight. He gave them a meditation object
very similar to a Zen
koan to think about...no, not to think about, but to guard
until they saw clearly. For example, they were to practice in a way
that was neither here, nor elsewhere; without past, without present,
without future. They were to practice until the feeling of "not
being here and not having gone anywhere" arose. In "being here,"
there is the desire to go somewhere, there is craving to find
something somewhere. And there's no past, no present, no future,
because these all are identical.
If we are just free of craving - that's all it takes - past, future,
and present have no meaning. This is what the Buddha meant, but
instead of explaining the meditation in this way, he had the monks
figure it out on their own. He had them meditate until they saw that
there is no past, no future, and no present, that there's no being
anywhere, nor going somewhere. Nothing going, nothing coming, and
nothing stopping anywhere. "Figure it out yourself."
The monks did as they were instructed and as soon as they began to
contemplate what the Buddha had given them, there was morality,
concentration, and wisdom full to the brim. The self-control to do a
certain thing is morality (sila).
Pouring the mind's power into that thing is concentration (samadhi).
Clearly seeing and brightly knowing in successive understandings is
or insight (vipassana).
As soon as the monks applied themselves to scrutinizing the matter
that had to be understood,
panna arose. They didn't chant through any rituals about the
10 precepts or the 227 precepts. Collecting the power of the body
and mind into scrutinizing one certain thing - that collecting is
sila, the looking is
samadhi, and the seeing of the truth of that thing is
The commentaries make it very clear that in his time the Buddha gave
meditation objects the scrutiny of which led to both tranquility and
insight. He didn't separate practice into different stages to be
done one at a time until we die without actually having practiced
anything, such as keeping
sila all one's life without ever having
sila. Be very careful about this. Things that are genuinely
successful and beneficial become small, simple matters, not the
complicated elaborations of our modern thinking and attachment.
I'd like to ask you to observe the way things are naturally. When we
think or do anything, the idea and intention to act, and then the
intention to do it as well as possible, are gathered together within
the act itself. We are able to survive in this life and can win the
struggle with nature, because nature creates living things that have
the intention to act and act correctly within themselves. But
because this happens gradually we don't see it clearly and can't
make out the distinctions. If we observe the children running
around, we'll see that they develop daily in both
panna. Have a small child write the ABCs; she'll improve
daily. This shows that there is
samadhi (concentration) developing daily in her writing and
there is growing intelligence in her ability to write more
beautifully. Can't you see it! Meditation and wisdom work together
and develop together until, before long, the child is able to write
quickly and beautifully, that is, successfully.
There is nothing that can be done without the simultaneous
application of the powers of mind and wisdom. No matter how stupid a
person is, if we give him an ax and tell him to cut some wood, and
then he returns with the wood, then there must be
panna present. Any fool who can cut wood successfully must
have concentration to chop down with the ax and wisdom to know how
and where to chop so that the wood splits properly. It doesn't take
a teacher to do it. In the chopping of wood, concentration and
wisdom develop to the appropriate and necessary degree.
All natural things are under the control of nature itself.
Sila in woodcutting means the intention to cut wood and to
not wander off to play half-way through the work. Steadiness in the
chopping and intelligence in knowing how to do it in a simple way
panna. This natural concentration and wisdom is present in
everything. Even a cook boiling rice or making curries in her
kitchen demonstrates mindfulness and wisdom (sati-panna),
steadiness of mind, and careful control of things. Without these
qualities she couldn't cook anything. She couldn't even light the
fire without both concentration and wisdom. Yet this is all natural
and according to nature. Also, it's so subtle that you won't realize
it if you don't carefully observe and study it. However, it isn't
necessary to study this because anyone can cut wood, any fool can
light a fire.
CONCENTRATION & WISDOM ARE ALWAYS AVAILABLE
With no exceptions, nature brings concentration and wisdom together
in all things. This is something that nature has ordained all along,
so that this partnership is a matter of nature which proceeds
naturally. Consequently, we have the skill, cleverness, promptness,
and resourcefulness needed to survive only because adequate samadhi
and panna are available. Whether an animal is about to sting us,
bite us, or claw us to death, or we've fallen down, or whatever
danger might happen, it is necessary to rectify that situation in
order to survive. That survival requires concentration and wisdom
that are naturally sufficient. Such is the goodness of nature that
it gives us half a chance.
If we step into a fire, the leg will immediately pull back without
any conscious mental intention. This is an area in which nature
helps a great deal. But should it be impossible to pull the leg
back, to remove the foot from the fire, then there must be the
knowledge, the mindfulness and wisdom, the problem-solving ability,
the something needed to survive. I've observed that even animals
have these faculties, although to a less evolved degree than people.
They have the intention to act and then they act well enough to
succeed. For a snake to swallow an animal as big as itself takes
concentration and wisdom. Sit down and watch for once; a snake can
swallow up something as big as itself.
Nature requires that we have both samadhi and panna, and it provides
us with both, only we don't bother to use them. We're careless,
proud, overconfident, stupid, or whatever, so that we don't bother
to make full and proper use of concentration and wisdom.
MORE GOING ON THAN YOU THOUGHT
If we take a purely material example, one that has nothing to do
with people, in which there's a kind of awareness and thought that
accords with natural law, we can see that more than one thing is
necessary to achieve success and benefit. Let's take another look at
the ax used for cutting wood. For the ax to bite into the wood, it
must have two qualities: sharpness and weight. It can't be light,
but must have sufficient weight. Sharpness alone, as with a razor
blade, can't do the work. Nor would a heavy but dull ax work; a
hammer is useless for chopping wood. For an ax, or any cutting tool,
to perform properly it must have both weight and sharpness. Samadhi
is the weight that provides the power to chop, and panna is the
sharpness that cuts into the wood. Both qualities are needed. This
example of an ax and its function is merely physical, yet both
concentration and wisdom are required. Nobody, however, is
interested in these things.
If you were to study from the lowest levels of nature, you'd
probably understand this matter. In general, we blur the two
qualities into one. We don't know about the realities that deceive
us; we don't catch the deceptive facts. Take, for example, a slide
projected on to a screen: we think it's a picture on the screen. We
don't know that it's composed of two most important factors: light
of adequate strength and a slide that is projected by that light. If
we turned on the light without the slide, the screen would be all
white, there would be just the light-component. When we put a slide
in front of the light, it appears as a picture on the screen and we
see the picture. We don't see the light because we already see it as
picture. We only see the picture on the screen. We never distinguish
between the light, as one component, and the slide, as another
component, both of which must work together. This is the cause of
our inability to distinguish the samadhi component and the panna
component as two separate qualities.
The powerful light which shines upon the screen is the equivalent of
concentration and the different pictures carried by the light are
like wisdom (panna). We think reality is a picture on the screen;
this is the fool's reality. Wise people realize that there are two
things at work: sufficient light and a clear slide. Add one to the
other and they come together on the screen. Thus, wise people
realize that the picture on the screen is impermanent,
insubstantial, and not a soul, self, or eternal entity; that it is
compounded of two components: light and slide. We ought to know and
remember that things are compounded of at least two important
components in order for them to appear as something with any meaning
Things work the same way when we see a car drive by; we only see
"the car" driving past us. We never think to distinguish the two
components; the engine that creates power and the wheels that spin
by the strength of that engine. These are different components, as
all mechanics well know. In the language of mechanics, they say that
if there's no load the motor spins without doing work. In other
words, if the engine isn't engaged with the drive shaft the motor
spins like crazy to no purpose. Samadhi is the power. If it is put
in gear and connected by the drive mechanism to something, then that
thing will move accordingly. For example, when a car runs of a
generator produces electricity, we don't distinguish the two
prominent features, the two important aspects that are twinned
together - namely, the energy produced by the motor and the
mechanism that converts that energy into motion or some other
visible effect. There are two parts, but we always see it as a
single thing. We only see the car go by. When we look at rice mills,
elevators, and traffic lights, we only see some contraption doing
some strange activity. You ought to observe that the power aspect is
concentration and the activity aspect is knowledge and wisdom. This
is only natural. Even inanimate things must have these two
components-samadhi and panna. I've spent all this time on this point
to help you realize that for success in anything, both factors must
be present. Concentration or tranquility is the force or power
needed and insight or wisdom is the action that is required by the
Now it's clear that
panna can't be separated, and that
sila is a junior partner or assistant that must always be in
tow. Within any action there is morality, because that action must
keep itself even and in order. Hence, morality, concentration, and
wisdom are revealed in the secret of nature that all success comes
panna. Concentration is the energy, wisdom is action in line
with an objective, and morality is the foundation that allows that
action to proceed smoothly. You should thank
panna, these profound and hidden principles which we never
observe or realize. I hope that you will observe and realize them.
In addition to that, I want you to improve them and perfect them to
be appropriate for the nuclear age.
THE PATH MUST HAVE ALL THREE
Now we'll take a purely Dhammic view. Observe that when various
problems arise -
dukkha in particular - there also must be solutions for them.
All solutions must be complete in certain necessary qualities. The
same is true of what we call the Eightfold Path, the Eightfold Path
that we've memorized so well. Generally we take only the quick,
superficial view of recognizing "that's the Eightfold Path," just as
when we see a car go past but don't see the various systems at work
within it. The larger system of the Eightfold Path contains hidden
subsystems within it. These are the morality subsystem of Right
Speech, Right Action, and Right maintenance of Life; the
concentration subsystem of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and
Right Concentration; and the wisdom Eightfold Path, in those eight
factors, there are
panna operating as integrated components that make the whole
system work. Having no sila is like lacking any ground to stand on;
to have no samadhi is to lack energy and strength; and to have no
panna is to lack the sharpness needed to cut through problems.
You would do well to remember that concentration and wisdom must
join together and work together without any separation. So it seems
that the Zen people are actually quite skillful in using the single
term "Zen" to mean both concentration and wisdom working together.
If we don't think carefully about this, we'll remain stupid. If we
do think carefully about it, we'll admit that their improvement -
just "Zen" to cover
panna - is true and correct. We don't need to be frogs
sitting in frog - meditation and becoming "arahants"
at the mounts of our holes. That's how things will end up if we make
such separations. Here we practice morality, concentration, and
wisdom together. We Buddhists have the Noble Eightfold Path as a
fundamental tenet. In it, morality, concentration, and wisdom are
fully present. We must realize the fact that these three components
must be intertwined, just as a three-ply rope has three strands
twisted into one usable rope.
Now if someone asks, "So what's this
for the nuclear age?" we'll answer: "the
system of practice that completely accords with natural principles,
that yields the best, the fastest, and the most complete results in
order to be abreast of any situation." Some people will then ask,
"If that's true, then isn't the Buddha's teaching enough?" If
they're blindly going to ask questions like this, it isn't necessary
to answer. The Buddha's teachings are sufficient, more than enough.
But his followers are stupid; they don't apply the teachings fully
or quickly. They must be up to every situation, and in time, if
they're going to catch the sparks before the nuclear fire erupts.
What the Buddha taught is adequate for the nuclear age; it's quick
and complete enough for any age. His followers are sluggish,
however, and sometimes they split the teachings into so many pieces
that it's impossible to do anything right. Rather than spinning
everything into a single theme, they unravel it into more threads
than can be followed. Whether this is stupid or wise you can see for
yourselves. If a person took three ropes, then unraveled them into
many strands in order to tether a water buffalo, what a mess it
would be! How stupid have things become? If it takes one three-ply
rope to tether a buffalo properly, how could we tether that same
buffalo with just a single strand from that same rope after we've
unraveled it? This point must be scrutinized until we see that the
Buddha said all that needs to be said - "Svak khato bhagavata dhammo,
" "The Dhamma has been explained perfectly by the Exalted One." It's
completely successful already, but we don't act correctly in this
I'm afraid that if we allow this clumsiness to continue, there will
be nothing left to use in the nuclear age, because it demands
absolute correctness, perfection, and speed - excellence in
everything. This is the reason that I'm giving this series of
lectures entitled "Samatha-Vipassa for the Nuclear Age."
WHY IS SAMATHA-VIPASSANA
NECESSARY IN THE NUCLEAR AGE?
Now we come to the second topic. From what cause does this thing
arise? Why is this thing necessary? Tranquility-insight that is
appropriate to the nuclear age is essential because we are beginning
to realize that the nuclear era is sliding forward more and more
powerfully, and increasingly encroaching upon us. We must prepare
something to meet the situation of this out-of-control era. But we
aren't going to speak from just this one perspective; to do so would
seem to be little Dhamma's worth. We're going to examine this matter
from the beginning, from its deepest levels, according to the
instincts of beings living naturally, to see that we necessarily
must have this thing already.
To state the situation briefly, to be dominated by dukkha is our
normal state. Nonetheless, as we enter the nuclear age, dukkha will
dominate and trample us more and more strongly, thoroughly, and
heavily. How is it possible not to prepare ourselves by improving
our practice so that it can cope with the times? We've had natural
dukkha all along; as the nuclear age progresses, that dukkha
increase to nuclear strength. Buddhists must have the knowledge and
whatever else is needed to resist and solve the dangers. If not, we
can sit and cry at amataputtikabhaya- the danger in which parents
and children can't help each other. It really will make us cry.
Think about it, please.
Ordinarily, what afflicts us? I'll use an easy-to-remember simile to
illustrate. Ordinarily, we are in a condition that is like being
slapped left and right, right and left, constantly. Normally,
naturally, people are in a state that is like being slapped left and
right, right and left, all the time. Do you see? If you don't see
even this large a problem, we have practically nothing to talk
about. And what slaps our faces left and right? The things in the
world whose values condition satisfaction and dissatisfaction,
liking and disliking. When we say left and right, we mean that on
one side there is satisfaction and on the other there is
dissatisfaction. Whoever sees this life as equal to constantly being
slapped left and right is beginning to see correctly and is
beginning to see in a way that will be of use.
This is a matter that we ought to discuss and study together. Why
are we in a state that can be compared to having our faces slapped
left and right? In this world, there are things that are conceived
of and imagined to be pairs, through the foolishness and lack of
knowledge in people. People insist that the pairs are real. Things
are "just like that," they are "just that way" These are "the way it
is" of fools, the truths that deceive the ignorant. People don't
understand and take them to be the truth.
DECEPTIVE PERSONAL TRUTHS
It's amusing that everyone has their personal truths. When someone
studies the Buddha's teachings, it remains the Buddha's truth. It's
doesn't become one's personal truth until one actually passes
through it. Children have their childish truths. We can't pull them
away to do things that they don't want to do, because they have
truths and likes of a certain level. Teenagers, young men and women,
husbands and wives, everyone has their particular truths according
to their particular feelings and sensitivities. Such truths can't be
interchanged. Therefore, there are many levels of truth following
from the awareness or
(mindfulness and wisdom) of the individuals who
make up each level. There are the foolish, deceiving truths that
fools take to be the truth; there are the genuine truths which the
arahants have realized; and there are the medium truths in between,
where one sees to the other side but is unable to get there and
remains stuck on this shore. This last group of truths are for those
who see that the other shore is safe, but can't get there yet and
are left clinging to this shore. It's the kind of truth called
"standing on both gunwales of the boat."
This world is lovely and satisfying. We become infatuated with it
and think we are right in doing so. Everyone thinks that it's
correct to dote on the delicious tastes and beautiful sights in this
world. These are illusory truths of the most foolish kind. Then we
begin to study and practice insight. We begin to see that it isn't
like that or this, that there's no self or soul as we had thought,
and that there's nothing to grasp at, cling to, and identify with in
such a way. Grasping and clinging at any time will bite every time.
One begins to want not to cling, which means not to have a self, but
can't stop because the attachments and identifications are too firm
UNABLE TO QUIT
We have a simile to illustrate this. A certain gentleman is full of
infatuated love and desire for his wife. Late, it becomes apparent
that the wife is actually cheating on him and is a wicked person.
Yet he can't divorce her, tell her to stop, or kick her out of the
house because his infatuated love and desire is too strong. He will
remain with that wife who he knows to be dangerous until things pile
up and become more and more heavy, to the point where he can make up
his mind and divorce her.
This world is the same. In reality it's a fierce world, for it bites
us if we attach to it. The same holds for all that we attach to:
beauty, entertainment, enjoyment, deliciousness, wealth, gain, fame,
and praise; form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. We've
attached to these things for so long that the mind is addicted to
the clinging. Even when one practices enough to realize the way
things are - "Oh! It bites every time, it gnaws every time" - even
then one can't stop. One still can't let go of this world, one still
clings and clutches at it. One will continue hugging and embracing
this world as something desirable until
sati-panna(mindfulness and wisdom) are sufficiently trained
to be able to give it all up.
Smokers are an easy example of this point. Those addicted to
cigarettes know that the habit is bad and want to quit, but these
people can't stop smoking. And drunkards, they know that drinking is
evil; they want to quit, but can't. Why not? Because the pleasure
still binds them too strongly and they can't stop. These examples
make the same point as the story of the gentleman who couldn't
abandon his evil wife because the old love and bondage was still
great. Such is true for each human being who when born into the
world of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts is
fond of and bound to it, even up to this very moment. While we are
yet sunk ourselves free; we must endure a lot of pain first. Pain
must be endured until one day or one night a person is able to give
it up, just as one day or one night that person is able to give up
cigarettes or alcohol.
This is what we've been talking about- the truth. Truth has various
levels. The truth of fools is clung to with all their heart and
life. Eventually, they know that it isn't true, that there's
something which is more true. Nevertheless, they still can't abandon
the truths that they have attached to. First, they must increase
samatha and increase vipassana sufficiently. Then they gradually
will abandon ignorant, deceptive truth. This period of transition is
what we call "standing on both gunwales of the boat." They see that
that side is safe, peaceful, and free of problems and pain, but
insist that they must remain on this side with its dukkha (misery).
This is the truth that holds back those people who don't change or
don't cross to the other side. Finally, one practices on to higher
levels and discovers the truth of anatta (not-self, not-soul). One
lets go of everything with the realization that all things are
not-self, are free and void of self, and doesn't turn back to find
the soul(atta) that one was once attached to.
Everyone is like this. Even Buddhists are stupid. They have their
foolish truths, the illusory truths that they have clung to and
grasped at since before they were worldlings. Once they listen to
this Dhamma and realize their foolishness, realize that they're sunk
in dukkha, they want to come over to this side which is free of
dukkha. But they can't come over because they're still bound by
assada, the delicious charm of the world they have known. So
cultivate the mind. Increase samatha and vipassana to higher levels
and the mind will incline toward the side of genuine truth. The
truth that doesn't deceive is the truth of anatta, through which
there is never again any clinging to anything as "mine." When we
begin to understand these things, we will see that we should hurry.
Hurry to increase the powers of samatha and vipassana in the
quickest way possible to cope with these nuclear times!
In this matter we have our easy-to-remember metaphor: we live in
this world stupidly, like fools, like worldlings; and so we get
slapped left and right, right and left, endlessly. Or, we could say
that with every inhalation and exhalation there is liking and
disliking, disliking and liking. We get slapped for this reason and
that: now something about our children, now something with our
husband, now something with our wife, now something about our
possessions, now something about our honor and fame - nothing but
what is ready to slap us silly. Getting, we are slapped one way.
Losing, we are slapped the other way. Getting leads to love, through
which one stupidly sinks into attachment. Losing leads sadness,
crying, and moans of despair. Here we have both liking and
DUALITY TORMENTS THE WORLDLING
When the mind is on such a low level that it already is liking or
disliking something, take a good look and see if that isn't the same
as being slapped left and right constantly. When eating delicious
food, we get slapped by satisfaction with the deliciousness. When
eating unpalatable food we get slapped by anger and aversion. We can
say that this is more pitiful and sad than pity itself. The natural
state of worldlings, of those who don't know anything, is a life
comparable to being slapped left and right all the time by the
things that come accompanied by their opposites.
There are many things which form pairs of opposites or dualities.
The first set has already been mentioned- liking and disliking. Then
there are gain and loss, victory and defeat, having the advantage
and being disadvantaged. There are many pairs, many dualities,
dozens of them, and each is a pair of slaps in the face. That is,
they bite a person's heart on both sides because they are dualistic.
Dualities have two sides, and whichever side comes by, it bites in
its particular way. So if we aren't bitten this way, then we're
bitten that way. Life goes on like this until we strip it all away
by saying, "That's just how it is; it's just that way. It's
just like that; there's no I-ego nor things of
mines, no me nor myself." When there's no I, no self, whose face is
slapped? Because there's no self to have its face slapped, there's
no slapping, and thereby there's no condition in which the mind is
tormented and suffering.
THE MOST URGENT OF ALL
Is this matter as urgent and pressing as nuclear matters? Think
about it. Is this matter as urgent and all-important as the issues
of the nuclear age? Anyone who sees the truth of this will realize
that this is the most urgent issue of all. We must resolve this
problem before the body dies. But most people don't see at all, and
so are careless. They cover their ears and close their eyes
heedlessly as if nothing were happening. In laughable situations
they laugh, in tearful conditions they cry. Laughing and crying,
crying and laughing, as if it were nothing.
They aren't aware that their lives are the same as being slapped in
the face. Yet one who studies the mind, who reflects upon mental
matters, who already has knowledge and understanding of the mind,
will have observed that the mind is attacked from two sides: the
side leading to liking and the side leading to disliking. The side
of liking affects the mind in one way and the side of disliking
affects the mind in another way. But fools don't know this. And why
not? Maybe because their skin is too thick. They have no awareness.
Their nervous system knows nothing about what is going on, because
they're totally lacking in genuine wisdom of Dhamma. It's as if
their skin is so thick that they can't feel anything. So we must
scrape off the ignorance and thickness. Then, as it becomes thinner
we'll gradually come to know these things. Whether or not this
condition is as urgent a matter as our nuclear problems is something
that you must decide for yourselves.
If we understand sunnata (voidness), the condition of being void of
self because there is only idappaccayata (the law of
conditionality), there is no self (soul) to be slapped in the face,
no "person" who exists to have his face constantly slapped left and
right. This is the fact of the matter. Whether it is urgent or not
is for you to consider for yourself. If we practice by comtemplating
these truths - just impermanence, merely not-self, just such, only
natural elements, purely idappaccayata- in the ways that we've
explained many times, that will be the end of self. The self
gradually fades and disappears until there is no self whatever to be
slapped in the face. That's it. The matter ends here.
WHY ACCEPT DUKKHA?
These days this world is in a state of becoming more and more
stupid. No one believe me when I say this. You who are listening, do
you believe that the present world is in a condition of increasing
foolishness? We don't notice because we only look at those areas
where man is clever in material knowledge. People are most clever at
making strange, new things that we must buy and must use. Even
these video cameras, although an example of the cleverness of modern
man, demonstrate that the situation is becoming more and more
stupid. These things are totally unnecessary. Why do we let them
cause so many difficulties? We surely don't have these wonderful
things in order to know Dhamma. They're only used to fall into
deeper infatuation with beautiful and delicious experiences. These
magical things are crated for humanity to grow stupid and sink more
deeply into the mire of delusion. Everything that is considered
clever in this scientific age, all these marvelous instruments, when
seen from a foolish perspective are thought to be examples of human
intelligence. But when they are seen on a more profound level,
they're simply proof of the human stupidity that makes us sluggish,
that enamours us with all this, that keeps us stuck here, and that
is nearly impossible to get free from.
We can summarize this point by saying that the modern world is in a
state of accelerating stupidity regarding the creation of pace. We
insist on the qualification "regarding the creation of peace."
Although this world is increasingly idiotic, in the area of cretaing
crises it is increasingly clever; it is quite talented at starting
more complicted and troublesome disasters. This is the sort of
progress we have. So whether people go to the moon or
who-knows-where, they aren't going for peace. They do these things
for reasons of war and increasing affliction. Thus, we must say that
the world is becoming more stupid regarding peace. A correct method
is needed. Don't become foolish. Don't sink into stupidity, but
become more genuinely intelligent. Don't bother with unnecessary
matters. Don't create unnecessary things. As for the unnecessary
things which already exist, use them for peace.
All of the luxuries and conveniences with which we fill the world
answer only to our defilements (kilesa, e.g., greed, hatred, fear,
worry, ignorance). They support people's defilements and make people
selfish. For this reason, all of the cleverness does nothing to
create peace. All of the fine things, new products, expensive goods,
and magical inventions only make people more stupid than ever. They
lead people to infatuation with things that bind and attach the
mind. Thus, there is no dawning of wisdom, no abating of the
ignorance. This is what makes me think that samatha-vipassana is
necessary for the nuclear age.
Actually, there is some understanding in the world; some people have
some sensitivity regarding the situation. They try to free people
from dukkha, to get people out of dukkha, but they can't get people
out from dukkha, because they don't understand the cause of the
problem. There are too many things that have been made to mislead
people and sink them in the mass of dukkha, more than too many.
Consequently, if samatha-vipassana isn't enough, isn't strong and
sharp enough, it won't be able to destroy all this stupidity. As
worldly progress develops to whatever degree, it increases our
idiocy toward the world at least that much. Thus, that which can
solve the problem and protect the world, samatha-vipassana, must
develop and increase accordingly. So we have said that a system of
transquility and insight is necessary. This system of practice must
be correct, fast and able to keep pace with the material progress of
worlding, for they become ever more thoroughgoing worldlings by
their developing cleverness in deluding themselves.
Humans get dukkha, difficulties, and troubles from their own
foolishness. They make the problems themselves. Is this point too
profound for people to see? Why do they continue amassing hassles
and difficulties until they're so afraid that they can't sleep at
night? This is the result of stupidity of their own making. They
don't know what something is, and are consequently afraid of it.
A PIECE OF ROPE?
To explain this Dhamma point we have an interesting metaphor. Both
Buddhists and Vedantists tell of mistaking a rope for a snake, then
falling into dukkha because of the stupid snake thus created. That
is, in the moonlight at night, when it is dark and difficult to see,
there is a coiled piece of rope lying on a path. A man comes walking
down the path. There isn't enough light and the man thinks the rope
is a snake. He jumps suddenly and cries for help. He created a
"snake" for himself. The stupid man creates the stupid snake, then
he is troubled and frightened by it. He doesn't even know that the
snake isn't real, that it has no mouth or fangs. He wholeheartedly
believes that it's a complete, 100% snake, which strikes terror into
his heart. There he stands shaking and calling for help. So it is
with humans these days. Lacking sufficient light in their minds,
they conjure up dangerous things which leave them shaking in fear.
of the Buddha) went forth as a
monk) in 1926, at the age of twenty. After a few years
of study in Bangkok, he was inspired to live close with nature in
order to investigate the Buddha-Dhamma. Thus, he established
Suan Mokkhabalarama (The
Grove of the Power of Liberation) in 1932, near his
hometown. At that time, it was the only Forest dhamma Center and
one of the few places dedicated to
cultivation leading to "seeing clearly" into reality)
in Southern Thailand. Word of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, his work, and
Suan Mokkh spread over the years so that now they are easily
described as "one of the most influential events of Buddhist
history in Siam." Here, we can only mention some of the more
interesting services he has rendered Buddhism.
Ajahn Buddhadasa has worked painstakingly to establish and explain
the correct and essential principles of original Buddhism. That
work is based in extensive research of the Pali texts (Canon and
commentary), especially of the Buddha's Discourses (sutta
pitaka), followed by personal experiment and practice
with these teachings. Then he has taught whatever he can say truly
dukkha. His goal has been to produce a complete set of
references for present and future research and practice. His
approach has been always scientific, straight forward, and
Although his formal education only went as far as seventh grade
and beginning Pali studies, he has been given five Honorary
doctorates by Thai universities. His books both written and
transcribed from talks, fill a room at the National Library and
influence all serious Thai Buddhists.
Progressive elements in Thai society, especially the young, have
been inspired by his teaching and selfless example. Since the
1960's, activists and thinkers in areas such as education, social
welfare, and rural development have drawn upon his teaching and
Since the founding of Suan Mokkh, he has studied all schools of
Buddhism, as well as the major religious traditions. This interest
is practical rather than scholarly. He seeks to unite all
genuinely religious people in order to work together to help free
humanity by destroying selfishness. This broadmindedness has won
him friends and students from around the world, including
Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.
he focuses his energies on his last project, establishing an
International Dhamma Hermitage. This addition to Suan Mokkh is
intended to provide facilities for:
- courses which introduce friends, foreign and Thai, to the
natural truth explained in the Buddha's teachings and start them
in the Buddha's system of mental cultivation
- gatherings of representatives from the different religious
communities of Thailand (and later the world) in order to meet,
develop mutual good understanding, and cooperate for the sake of
- meeting among Buddhists from around the world to discuss and
agree upon the "Heart of Buddhism"
Actual results must depend on Natural Law, as Ajahn Buddhadasa and
his helpers continue to explore the potential of mindfully wise
actions within Nature according to the Law of Nature. He welcomes
Rod Bucknell first became seriously interested in
Buddhism in the mid-1960's, when, during a visit to Thailand, he
was introduced to the techniques of insight meditation. After
spending a year in various Thai meditation centres and
monasteries, he took ordination as a
bhikkhu (monk) under the guidance of Ajahn Pannananda
of Wat Cholapratan Rangsarit. He soon became interested also in
the teaching of Ajahn Buddhadasa, and, recognizing their potential
value to westerners, began translating some of the Ajahn's more
important works into English. During the four years he spent in
the Sangha,he translated altogether six works of varying length,
usually in close consultation with the Ajahn in order to ensure
accuracy in the rendering of key concepts. Despite his return to
lay life, he maintain a close interest - both scholarly and
practical - in Ajahn Buddhadasa's teachings, and has published
several related articles in religious studies journals. He is
currently a lecturer in the Department of Studies in Religion at
the University of Queensland, Australia.
Santikaro Bhikkhu has lived at Suan Mokkh since 1985.
Having arrived with a Thai language background from four years of
service in the U.S. Peace Corps, he was soon put to work
translating. When Ajahn Buddhadasa began giving lectures to
foreign retreatants, Santikaro Bhikkhu was trained to render these
lectures into English. His ability to do so was aided by Ajahn
Buddhadasa's advice and support. The Venerable Ajahn found this
kind of practice and service beneficial for himself after he
founded Suan Mokkh, so he encouraged others to try it. He
frequently discussed the mechanics of translating and the
subtleties of English with the translator, in addition to
clarifying Dhamma points about which the translator was unsure.
Santikaro Bhikkhu is now acting Abbot of Suan Atammayatarama.