Thursday, September 15, 2011



                 Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Translated by Santikaaro Bhikkhu

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.

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 or value.

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 circumstances. 
Now it's clear that samadhi and 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 through sila, samadhi, and 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 sila, samadhi, and 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.

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 sila, samadhi, and 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 sila, samadhi, and 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 samatha-vipassana 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
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