FOR THE NUCLEAR AGE (4)
Translated by Santikaaro Bhikkhu
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 matter.
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 sati-panna (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 and tight.
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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!
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