Thursday, November 3, 2011

Opening the Dhamma Eye (3)

Opening the Dhamma Eye (3)

A Dhammatalk by Ajahn Chah

          There's a story in the scriptures about the Buddha, before he was enlightened. At that time, having received a plate of rice, he floated that plate on a stream of water, determining in his mind, ''If I am to be enlightened, may this plate float against the current of the water.'' The plate floated upstream! That plate was the Buddha's right view, or the Buddha-nature that he became awakened to. It didn't follow the desires of ordinary beings. It floated against the flow of his mind, it was contrary in every way.

          These days, in the same way, the Buddha's teaching is contrary to our hearts. People want to indulge in greed and hatred but the Buddha won't let them. They want to be deluded but the Buddha destroys delusion. So the mind of the Buddha is contrary to that of worldly beings. The world calls the body beautiful, he says it's not beautiful. They say the body belongs to us, he says not so. They say it's substantial, he says it's not. Right view is above the world. Worldly beings merely follow the flow of the stream.

           Continuing on, when the Buddha got up from there, he received eight handfuls of grass from a Brahmin. The real meaning of this is that the eight handfuls of grass were the eight worldly dhammas - gain and loss, praise and criticism, fame and disrepute, happiness and unhappiness. The Buddha, having received this grass, determined to sit on it and enter samādhi. The action of sitting on the grass was itself samādhi, that is, his mind was above the worldly dhammas, subduing the world until it realized the transcendent.

          The worldly dhammas became like refuse for him, they lost all meaning. He sat over them but they didn't obstruct his mind in any way. Demons came to try to overcome him, but he just sat there in samādhi, subduing the world, until finally he became enlightened to the Dhamma and completely defeated Māra6. That is, he defeated the world. So the practice of developing the path is that which kills defilements.

         People these days have little faith. Having practised a year or two they want to get there, and they want to go fast. They don't consider that the Buddha, our teacher, had left home a full six years before he became enlightened. This is why we have 'freedom from dependence7'. According to the scriptures, a monk must have at least five rains8 before he is considered able to live on his own. By this time he has studied and practised sufficiently, he has adequate knowledge, he has faith, his conduct is good. Someone who practises for five years, I say he's competent. But he must really practise, not just 'hanging out' in the robes for five years. He must really look after the practice, really do it.

          Until you reach five rains you may wonder, ''What is this 'freedom from dependence' that the Buddha talked about?'' You must really try to practise for five years and then you'll know for yourself the qualities he was referring to. After that time you should be competent, competent in mind, one who is certain. At the very least, after five rains, one should be at the first stage of enlightenment. This is not just five rains in body but five rains in mind as well. That monk has fear of blame, a sense of shame and modesty. He doesn't dare to do wrong either in front of people or behind their backs, in the light or in the dark. Why not? Because he has reached the Buddha, 'the one who knows'. He takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

            To depend truly on the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha we must see the Buddha. What use would it be to take refuge without knowing the Buddha? If we don't yet know the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, our taking refuge in them is just an act of body and speech, the mind still hasn't reached them. Once the mind reaches them we know what the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha are like. Then we can really take refuge in them, because these things arise in our minds. Wherever we are we will have the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha within us.

          One who is like this doesn't dare to commit evil acts. This is why we say that one who has reached the first stage of enlightenment will no longer be born in the woeful states. His mind is certain, he has entered the Stream, there is no doubt for him. If he doesn't reach full enlightenment today it will certainly be some time in the future. He may do wrong but not enough to send him to Hell, that is, he doesn't regress to evil bodily and verbal actions, he is incapable of it. So we say that person has entered the Noble Birth. He cannot return. This is something you should see and know for yourselves in this very life.

          These days, those of us who still have doubts about the practice hear these things and say, ''Oh, how can I do that?'' Sometimes we feel happy, sometimes troubled, pleased or displeased. For what reason? Because we don't know Dhamma. What Dhamma? Just the Dhamma of nature, the reality around us, the body and the mind.

          The Buddha said, ''Don't cling to the five khandhas, let them go, give them up!'' Why can't we let them go? Just because we don't see them or know them fully. We see them as ourselves, we see ourselves in the khandhas. Happiness and suffering, we see as ourselves, we see ourselves in happiness and suffering. We can't separate ourselves from them. When we can't separate them it means we can't see Dhamma, we can't see nature.

          Happiness, unhappiness, pleasure and sadness - none of them is us but we take them to be so. These things come into contact with us and we see a lump of 'attā', or self. Wherever there is self there you will find happiness, unhappiness and everything else. So the Buddha said to destroy this 'lump' of self, that is to destroy sakkāyaditthi. When attā (self) is destroyed, anattā (non-self) naturally arises.

          We take nature to be us and ourselves to be nature, so we don't know nature truly. If it's good we laugh with it, if it's bad we cry over it. But nature is simply 'sankhāras'. As we say in the chanting, 'Tesam vūpasamo sukho' - pacifying the sankhāras is real happiness. How do we pacify them? We simply remove clinging and see them as they really are.

         So there is truth in this world. Trees, mountains and vines all live according to their own truth, they are born and die following their nature. It's just we people who aren't true. We see it and make a fuss over it, but nature is impassive, it just is as it is. We laugh, we cry, we kill, but nature remains in truth, it is truth. No matter how happy or sad we are, this body just follows its own nature. It's born, it grows up and ages, changing and getting older all the time. It follows nature in this way. Whoever takes the body to be himself and carries it around with him will suffer.

       So Aññā Kondañña recognized this 'whatever is born' in everything, be it material or immaterial. His view of the world changed. He saw the truth. Having got up from his sitting place he took that truth with him. The activity of birth and death continued but he simply looked on. Happiness and unhappiness were arising and passing away but he merely noted them. His mind was constant. He no longer fell into the woeful states. He didn't get over-pleased or unduly upset about these things. His mind was firmly established in the activity of contemplation.

         There! Aññā Kondañña had received the Eye of Dhamma. He saw nature, which we call sankhāras, according to truth. Wisdom is that which knows the truth of sankhāras. This is the mind which knows and sees Dhamma, which has surrendered.

          Until we have seen the Dhamma we must have patience and restraint. We must endure, we must renounce! We must cultivate diligence and endurance. Why must we cultivate diligence? Because we're lazy! Why must we develop endurance? Because we don't endure! That's the way it is. But when we are already established in our practice, have finished with laziness, then we don't need to use diligence. If we already know the truth of all mental states, if we don't get happy or unhappy over them, we don't need to exercise endurance, because the mind is already Dhamma. The 'one who knows' has seen the Dhamma, he is the Dhamma.

          When the mind is Dhamma, it stops. It has attained peace. There's no longer a need to do anything special, because the mind is Dhamma already. The outside is Dhamma, the inside is Dhamma. The 'one who knows' is Dhamma. The state is Dhamma and that which knows the state is Dhamma. It is one. It is free.

          This nature is not born, it does not age nor sicken. This nature does not die. This nature is neither happy nor sad, neither big nor small, heavy nor light; neither short nor long, black nor white. There's nothing you can compare it to. No convention can reach it. This is why we say Nibbāna has no colour. All colours are merely conventions. The state which is beyond the world is beyond the reach of worldly conventions.

        So the Dhamma is that which is beyond the world. It is that which each person should see for himself. It is beyond language. You can't put it into words, you can only talk about ways and means of realizing it. The person who has seen it for himself has finished his work.

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