To See the True Nature of Things
Without clearly understanding the processes of our minds, we create all kinds of problems. We are dragged about by emotional states. For there to be personal and global peace, these states need to be understood. The ways of the mind need to be seen clearly. This is the function and value of Dhamma.
When we are feeling enthusiastic, we can easily give ourselves to the practice. But it can also happen that, at times, we feel completely disillusioned, even to the extent that we forget the original confidence and faith we had. But that’s natural. It’s like swimming a long way. We become tired. There’s no need to panic, we can simply be still for a while. Then when we have regained strength, we continue. When we understand in accordance with nature, we understand these states will change. Despair, if that is what has arisen, will pass. We keep practicing. By observing our minds and seeing how our attitudes are continually changing, we more clearly understand that impermanence is natural.
Isn’t cultivating Dhamma as important as breathing? If we stop breathing, then we die. If we are not established in the right understanding of truth—the truth of the way things are— then also we die. We lose touch with what is truly good. If we are lacking the richness of truth in our hearts, then when we die and they cremate us, our lives will be worth no more than the handful of ashes we produce—and that’s not much! We must investigate how to live in a way that truly accords with what the Buddha taught. Then we can live in harmony without conflicts, difficulties, and problems. Sīla, morality, is that which shows us the Buddha’s Middle Way. It points to the avoidance of the extremes of pleasure and pain; it means knowing the right amount. When we live in the Middle Way regarding actions of body and speech, then we don’t cause offense to others; we do what is appropriate for human beings. The practice of formal meditation is to train our minds and hearts to stay in the Middle Way.
Many people who meditate try to force their minds to be as they want them to be. They sit there arguing with their thoughts. If their attention wanders, they forcibly bring it back to the breath. Too much forcing is not the Middle Way. The Middle Way is the ease that arises naturally in the mind when there is right effort, right intention, and right awareness. When the practice is right and there is ease of mind, we can simply watch the different states that arise and consider their nature. We don’t need to argue with anything. Arguing only causes restlessness. Whatever emotion arises is within the domain of our awareness, and we simply watch. Whether it’s joyful or the absolute opposite, each experience is within the boundaries of our awareness. We just sit, watch, recognize, and contemplate them all. They will naturally cease. Why do they cease? Because that is their nature. It is this realization of the true nature of change that strengthens and stills the mind. With such insight there is tranquility and peace.
What we call “me” is merely a convention. We are born without names, then somebody gives us a name. After being called this name for a while, we start to think that a thing called “me and mine” actually exists. Then we feel we have to spend our whole lives looking after it. The wisdom of the Buddha knows how to let go of this “me,” this “self,” and all that pertains to it—possessions, attitudes, views, and opinions. This means letting go of the conditions that make suffering arise, and that requires taking the opportunity to see the true nature of things.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 1, pp. 20-22.