September 3, 1965
Normally, illness is something we all have, but the type of illness where you can still do your work isn’t recognized as illness. It’s called the normal human condition all over the world. Yet really, when the body is in its normal state, it’s still ill in and of itself—simply that people in general are unaware of the illness of the deterioration of physical and mental phenomena, continually, from moment to moment.
The way people get carried away with their thoughts and preoccupations while they’re still strong enough to do this and do that: That’s really complacency. They’re no match at all for the people lying in bed ill. People lying in bed ill are lucky because they have the opportunity to do nothing but contemplate stress and pain. Their minds don’t take up anything else, don’t go anywhere else. They can contemplate pain at all times—and let go of pain at all times as well.
Don’t you see the difference? The “emptiness” of the mind when you’re involved in activities is “play” emptiness. Imitation emptiness. It’s not the real thing. But to contemplate inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness as it appears right inside you while you’re lying right here is very beneficial for you. Just don’t think that you’re what’s hurting. Simply see the natural phenomena of physical and mental events as they pass away, pass away. They’re not you. They’re not really yours. You don’t have any real control over them.
Look at them! Exactly where do you have any control over them? This is true for everyone in the world. You’re not the only one to whom it’s happening. So, whatever the disease there is in your body, it’s not important. What’s important is the disease in the mind. Normally we don’t pay too much attention to the fact that we have diseases in our minds—in other words, the diseases of defilement, craving, and attachment. We pay attention only to our physical diseases, afraid of all the horrible things that can happen to the body. But no matter how much we try to stave things off with our fears, when the time comes for things to happen, no matter what medicines you have to treat the body, they can give you only temporary respite. Even the people in the past who didn’t suffer from heavy diseases are no longer with us. They’ve all had to part from their bodies in the end.
So when you continually contemplate in this way, it makes you see the truth of inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness correctly within you. And you’ll have to grow more and more disenchanted with things, step by step.
This reflection by Upasika Kee Nanayon is from the book, An Unentangled Knowing, pp. 89-90.