Opening the Dhamma Eye (1)
A Dhammatalk by Ajahn Chah
Some of us start to practise, and even after a year or two, still don't know what's what. We are still unsure of the practice. When we're still unsure, we don't see that every thing around us is purely Dhamma, and so we turn to teachings from the Ajahns. But actually, when we know our own mind, when there is sati to look closely at the mind, there is wisdom. All times and all places become occasions for us to hear the Dhamma.
We can learn Dhamma from nature, from trees for example. A tree is born due to causes and it grows following the course of nature. Right here the tree is teaching us Dhamma, but we don't understand this. In due course, it grows and grows until it buds, flowers and fruit appear. All we see is the appearance of the flowers and fruit; we're unable to bring this within and contemplate it. Thus we don't know that the tree is teaching us Dhamma. The fruit appears and we merely eat it without investigating: sweet, sour or salty, it's the nature of the fruit. And this is Dhamma, the teaching of the fruit. Following on, the leaves grow old. They wither, die and then fall from the tree. All we see is that the leaves have fallen down. We step on them, we sweep them up, that's all. We don't investigate thoroughly, so we don't know that nature is teaching us. Later on the new leaves sprout, and we merely see that, without taking it further. We don't bring these things into our minds to contemplate.
If we can bring all this inwards and investigate it, we will see that the birth of a tree and our own birth are no different. This body of ours is born and exists dependent on conditions, on the elements of earth, water, wind and fire. It has its food, it grows and grows. Every part of the body changes and flows according to its nature. It's no different from the tree; hair, nails, teeth and skin - all change. If we know the things of nature, then we will know ourselves.
People are born. In the end they die. Having died they are born again. Nails, teeth and skin are constantly dying and re-growing. If we understand the practice then we can see that a tree is no different from ourselves. If we understand the teaching of the Ajahns, then we realize that the outside and the inside are comparable. Things which have consciousness and those without consciousness do not differ. They are the same. And if we understand this sameness, then when we see the nature of a tree, for example, we will know that it's no different from our own five 'khandhas2' - body, feeling, memory, thinking and consciousness. If we have this understanding then we understand Dhamma. If we understand Dhamma we understand the five 'khandhas', how they constantly shift and change, never stopping.
So whether standing, walking, sitting or lying we should have sati to watch over and look after the mind. When we see external things it's like seeing internals. When we see internals it's the same as seeing externals. If we understand this then we can hear the teaching of the Buddha. If we understand this, then we can say that Buddha-nature, the 'one who knows', has been established. It knows the external. It knows the internal. It understands all things which arise.
Understanding like this, then sitting at the foot of a tree we hear the Buddha's teaching. Standing, walking, sitting or lying, we hear the Buddha's teaching. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking, we hear the Buddha's teaching. The Buddha is just this 'one who knows' within this very mind. It knows the Dhamma, it investigates the Dhamma. It's not that the Buddha who lived so long ago comes to talk to us, but this Buddha-nature, the 'one who knows' arises. The mind becomes illumined.
If we establish the Buddha within our mind then we see everything, we contemplate everything, as no different from ourselves. We see the different animals, trees, mountains and vines as no different from ourselves. We see poor people and rich people - they're no different from us. Black people and white people - no different! They all have the same characteristics. One who understands like this is content wherever he is. He listens to the Buddha's teaching at all times. If we don't understand this, then even if we spend all our time listening to teachings from the Ajahns, we still won't understand their meaning.
The Buddha said that enlightenment of the Dhamma is just knowing nature, the reality which is all around us, the nature3 which is right here. If we don't understand this nature we experience disappointment and joy, we get lost in moods, giving rise to sorrow and regret. Getting lost in mental objects is getting lost in nature. When we get lost in nature then we don't know Dhamma. The Enlightened One merely pointed out this nature.
Having arisen, all things change and die. Things we make, such as plates, bowls and dishes, all have the same characteristic. A bowl is moulded into being due to a cause, man's impulse to create, and as we use it, it gets old, breaks up and disappears. Trees, mountains and vines are the same, right up to animals and people.
When Aññā Kondañña, the first disciple, heard the Buddha's teaching for the first time, the realization he had was nothing very complicated. He simply saw that whatever thing is born, that thing must change and grow old as a natural condition and eventually it must die. Aññā Kondañña had never thought of this before, or if he had it wasn't thoroughly clear, so he hadn't yet let go, he still clung to the khandhas. As he sat mindfully listening to the Buddha's discourse, Buddha-nature arose in him. He received a sort of Dhamma 'transmission' which was the knowledge that all conditioned things are impermanent. Any thing which is born must have ageing and death as a natural result.
This feeling was different from anything he'd ever known before. He truly realized his mind, and so 'Buddha' arose within him. At that time the Buddha declared that Aññā Kondañña had received the Eye of Dhamma.
What is it that this Eye of Dhamma sees? This Eye sees that whatever is born has ageing and death as a natural result. 'Whatever is born' means everything! Whether material or immaterial, it all comes under this 'whatever is born'. It refers to all of nature. Like this body for instance - it's born and then proceeds to extinction. When it's small it 'dies' from smallness to youth. After a while it 'dies' from youth and becomes middle-aged. Then it goes on to 'die' from middle-age and reach old-age, finally reaching the end. Trees, mountains and vines all have this characteristic.
So the vision or understanding of the 'one who knows' clearly entered the mind of Aññā Kondañña as he sat there. This knowledge of 'whatever is born' became deeply embedded in his mind, enabling him to uproot attachment to the body. This attachment was 'sakkāyaditthi'. This means that he didn't take the body to be a self or a being, he didn't see it in terms of 'he' or 'me'. He didn't cling to it. He saw it clearly, thus uprooting sakkāyaditthi.
And then vicikicchā (doubt) was destroyed. Having uprooted attachment to the body he didn't doubt his realization. Sīlabbata parāmāsa4 was also uprooted. His practice became firm and straight. Even if his body was in pain or fever he didn't grasp it, he didn't doubt. He didn't doubt, because he had uprooted clinging. This grasping of the body is called sīlabbata parāmāsa. When one uproots the view of the body being the self, grasping and doubt are finished with. If just this view of the body as the self arises within the mind then grasping and doubt begin right there.
So as the Buddha expounded the Dhamma, Aññā Kondañña opened the Eye of Dhamma. This Eye is just the 'one who knows clearly'. It sees things differently. It sees this very nature. Seeing nature clearly, clinging is uprooted and the 'one who knows' is born. Previously he knew but he still had clinging. You could say that he knew the Dhamma but he still hadn't seen it, or he had seen the Dhamma but still wasn't one with it.
At this time the Buddha said, ''Kondañña knows.'' What did he know? He knew nature. Usually we get lost in nature, as with this body of ours. Earth, water, fire and wind come together to make this body. It's an aspect of nature, a material object we can see with the eye. It exists depending on food, growing and changing until finally it reaches extinction.
Coming inwards, that which watches over the body is consciousness - just this 'one who knows', this single awareness. If it receives through the eye it's called seeing. If it receives through the ear it's called hearing; through the nose it's called smelling; through the tongue, tasting; through the body, touching; and through the mind, thinking. This consciousness is just one but when it functions at different places we call it different things. Through the eye we call it one thing, through the ear we call it another. But whether it functions at the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind it's just one awareness. Following the scriptures we call it the six consciousnesses, but in reality there is only one consciousness arising at these six different bases. There are six 'doors' but a single awareness, which is this very mind.
This mind is capable of knowing the truth of nature. If the mind still has obstructions, then we say it knows through Ignorance. It knows wrongly and it sees wrongly. Knowing wrongly and seeing wrongly, or knowing and seeing rightly, it's just a single awareness. We call it wrong view and right view but it's just one thing. Right and wrong both arise from this one place. When there is wrong knowledge we say that Ignorance conceals the truth. When there is wrong knowledge then there is wrong view, wrong intention, wrong action, wrong livelihood - everything is wrong! And on the other hand the path of right practice is born in this same place. When there is right then the wrong disappears.
The Buddha practised enduring many hardships and torturing himself with fasting and so on, but he investigated deeply into his mind until finally he uprooted ignorance. All the Buddhas were enlightened in mind, because the body knows nothing. You can let it eat or not, it doesn't matter, it can die at any time. The Buddhas all practised with the mind. They were enlightened in mind.
The Buddha, having contemplated his mind, gave up the two extremes of practice - indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain - and in his first discourse expounded the Middle Way between these two. But we hear his teaching and it grates against our desires. We're infatuated with pleasure and comfort, infatuated with happiness, thinking we are good, we are fine - this is indulgence in pleasure. It's not the right path. Dissatisfaction, displeasure, dislike and anger - this is indulgence in pain. These are the extreme ways which one on the path of practice should avoid.
These 'ways' are simply the happiness and unhappiness which arise. The 'one on the path' is this very mind, the 'one who knows'. If a good mood arises we cling to it as good, this is indulgence in pleasure. If an unpleasant mood arises we cling to it through dislike - this is indulgence in pain. These are the wrong paths, they aren't the ways of a meditator. They're the ways of the worldly, those who look for fun and happiness and shun unpleasantness and suffering.
The wise know the wrong paths but they relinquish them, they give them up. They are unmoved by pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering. These things arise but those who know don't cling to them, they let them go according to their nature. This is right view. When one knows this fully there is liberation. Happiness and unhappiness have no meaning for an Enlightened One.
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