FOR THE NUCLEAR AGE(1)
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 framework of 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 Dhamma-Sacca of 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 atimahantaramana (ati, extreme; mahanta, great; 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 - amataputtikabhaya, "danger 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 purpose.
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 samatha and 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 new things.