Monday, April 30, 2012

The Noble Eight-Fold Path

 Dhamma for all.
The Noble Eight-Fold Path

The Buddha advised His followers to follow this Path so as to avoid the extremes of sensual pleasures and self-mortification. The Middle Path is a righteous way of life which does not advocate the acceptance of decrees given by someone outside oneself. A person practises the Middle Path, not out of fear of any supernatural agency, but out of the intrinsic value in following such an action. He chooses this self-imposed discipline for a definite end in view: self-purification. 

The Middle Path is a planned course of development and progress. A person  who lives in accordance with the Teachings, or Dhamma will be guided and protected by that very Law. When a person lives according to Dhamma, he will lives in harmony with  universal laws.  He will be free from miseries and calamities both in this life-time and hereafter.  By restraining from evil and observing morality, he will also be able to develop his mind
The Eightfold Path can be compared to a road map. Just as a traveler will need a map to lead him to his destination, we use the Eightfold Path which shows us how to attain Nirvana, the final goal of human life.  To walk this path, there are three aspects of the Eightfold path to be developed. He has to develop Morality, Mental Develpment and Wisdom. While the three must be developed simultaneously, the intensity with which any one area is to be practised varies according to a person's own spiritual development. A person develps Morality by faithfully adhering to the precepts of abstaining from killing, stealing, being uncontrolled in lust, false speech, and becoming intoxicated . As he develops his morality, his mind will become more easily controlled, enabling him to develop his powers of concentration. Finally, with the development of concentration, wisdom will arise. 

As the Buddha knew that not all humans have the same ability to reach spiritual maturity at the same pace, he expounded the Noble Eightfold Path for the gradual development of the spiritual way of life in a practical way. He knew that not all people can become perfect in one lifetime. He said that Morality, Mental Development and wisdom must and can be developed over many lifetimes with diligent effort. Despite the time taken by the individual, this path will lead him to the attainment of ultimate peace.

The Eightfold path consists of the following eight factors:
Right Understanding; Right Thoughts

Right Speech; Right Action; Right Livelihood;  

Mental Development
Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; Right Concentration;  

"Few among men are those who cross to the further shore. The rest, the bulk of men, only run up and down the hither bank. But those who act according to the Dhamma, will cross the realm of Death, so difficult to cross. ~ Dhammapada 85, 86"

What is Right Understanding? It is explained as having the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. In other words, it is the understanding of things as they really are. Right Understanding includes the understanding of karma  and how they may be performed with the body, speech and mind. By understanding karma, a person will learn to avoid evil and do good, thereby creating favorable outcomes in his life. When a person has Right Understanding, he also understands the Three Characteristics of Life (that all compounded things are transient, subject to suffering, and without a Self) and understands the Law of Dependent Origination. A person with complete Right Understanding is one who is free from ignorance, and by the nature of that enlightenment removes the roots of evil from his mind and becomes liberated.
When a person has Right Understanding, he or she develops Right Thought as well. It refers to the mental state which eliminates wrong ideas or notions and promotes the other factors that directs one to Nirvana. This factor serves a double purpose of eliminating evil thoughts and developing pure thoughts. Right Thought is important because it is one's thoughts which either purify or defile a person.
There are three aspects to Right Thought. First, a person should maintaining an attitude of detachment from worldly pleasures rather than being selfishly attached to them. He should be selfless in his thoughts and think of the welfare of others. Second, he should maintain loving-kindness, goodwill and benevolence in his mind, which is opposed to hatred, ill-will or aversion. Third, he should act with thoughts of harmlessness or compassion to all beings, which is opposed to cruelty and lack of consideration for others. As a person progresses along the spiritual path, his thoughts will become increasingly benevolent, harmless, selfless, and filled with love and compassion.
Right Understanding and Right Thought,  are Wisdom factors, leads to good, moral conduct.
"Any sensual bliss in the world, any heavenly bliss,
isn't worth one sixteenth-sixteenth of the bliss of the ending of craving.~ Raja Sutta, Udana"

There are three factors under Morality: Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. Right Speech involves respect for truth and respect for the welfare for others. It means to avoid lying, to avoid backbiting or slander, to avoid harsh speech, and to avoid idle talk. We have often underestimated the power of speech and tend to use little control over our speech faculty. But we have all been hurt by someone's words at some time of our life, and similarly we have been encouraged by the words of another. It is said that a harsh word can wound more deeply than weapons, where as a gentle word can change the heart and mind of the most hardened criminal. We speak words which are truthful, brings harmony, kind and meaningful. The Buddha once said 'pleasant speech is sweet as honey, truthful speech is beautiful like a flower, and wrong speech is unwholesome like filth'.
The next factor under Morality is Right Action. Right Action entails respect for life, respect for property, and respect for personal relationships. It corresponds to the first three of the Five Precepts to be practised by every Buddhist.  Hence, we should abstain from taking a life which we ourselves cannot give and we should not harm other sentient beings. Respect for property means that we should not take what is not given, by stealing, cheating, or force. Respect for personal relationship means that we should not commit adultery and avoid sexual misconduct, which is important for maintaining the love and trust of those we love as well as making our society a better place to live in.
Right Livelihood is a factor under moral conduct which refers to how we earn our living in society. It is an extension of the two other factors of Right Speech and Right Action which refer to the respect for truth, life, property and personal relationships.
Right Livelihood means that we should earn a living without violating these principles of a moral conduct. Buddhists are discouraged from being engaged in the following five kinds of livelihood: trading in human beings, trading in weapons, trading in flesh, trading in intoxicating drinks and drugs, and trading in poison. Some people may say that they have to do such a business for their living and, therefore, it is not wrong for them to do so. But this argument is entirely baseless. If it were valid, then thieves, murderers, gangsters, thugs, smugglers and swindlers can also just as easily say that they are also doing such unrighteous acts only for their living and, therefore, there is nothing wrong with their way of life.
Some people believe that fishing and hunting animals for pleasure and slaughtering animals for food are not against the Buddhist precepts. This is another misconception that arises owing to a lack of knowledge in Dhamma. All these are not decent actions and bring suffering to other beings. But in all these actions, the one who is harmed most of all is the one who performs these unwholesome actions. Maintaining a life through wrong means is not in accordance with the Buddha's teaching.
"Though one should live a hundred years immorally and unrestrained, yet it would indeed be better to live one day virtuously and meditatively. ~ Dhammapada 103"

Mental Development
The remaining three factors of the Noble Eightfold Path are factors for the development of wisdom through the purification of the mind. They are Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. These factors, when practised, enable a person to strengthen and gain control over the mind, thereby ensuring that his actions will continue to be good and that his mind is being prepared to realize the Truth, which will open the door to Freedom, to Enlightenment.
Right Effort means that we cultivate a positive attitude and have enthusiasm in the things we do.  There are four aspects of Right Effort, two of which refer to evil and the other two to good. First, is the effort to reject evil that has already arisen; and second, the effort to prevent the arising of evil. Third, is the effort to develop un-arisen good, and fourth, the effort to maintain the good which has arisen. By applying Right Effort in our lives, we can reduce and eventually eliminate the number of unwholesome mental states and increase and firmly establish wholesome thoughts as a natural part of our mind.
Right Effort is closely associated with Right Mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness is important in Buddhism. The Buddha said that mindfulness is the one way to achieve the end of suffering. Mindfulness can be developed by being constantly aware of four particular aspects. These are the application of mindfulness with regard to the body (body postures, breathing and so forth), feelings (whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutrally); mind (whether the mind is greedy or not, angry, dispersed or deluded or not); and mind objects (whether there are mental hindrances to concentration, the Four Noble Truths, and so on). Mindfulness is essential even in our daily life in which we act in full awareness of our actions, feelings and thoughts as well as that of our environment. The mind should always be clear and attentive rather than distracted and clouded. 

Whereas Right Mindfulness is directing our attention to our body, feelings, mind, or mental object or being sensitive to others, in other words, putting our attention to where we choose to, Right Concentration or Meditation is the sustained application of that attention on the object without the mind being distracted. Concentration is the practice of developing one-pointedness of the mind on one single object, either physical or mental. The mind is totally absorbed in the object without distractions, wavering, anxiety or drowsiness. Through practice under an experienced teacher, Right Concentration brings two benefits. Firstly, it leads to mental and physical well-being, comfort, joy, calm, tranquillity. Secondly, it turns the mind into an instrument capable of seeing things as they truly are, and prepares the mind to attain wisdom. 

The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth important truth taught by the Buddha. As a competent spiritual physician, the Buddha has identified a disease that afflicts all forms of life, and this is Dukkha or unsatisfactoriness. He then diagnosed the cause of the unsatisfactoriness to be selfish greed and craving. He discovered that there is a cure for the disease, Nirvana, the state where all unsatisfactoriness ceases. And the prescription is the Noble Eightfold Path. When a competent doctor treats a patient for a serious illness, his prescription is not only for physical treatment, but it is also psychological. The Noble Eightfold path, the path leading to the end of suffering, is an integrated therapy designed to cure the disease of Samsara through the cultivation of moral speech and action, the development of the mind, and the complete transformation of one's level of understanding and quality of thought. It shows the way to gain spiritual maturity and be released completely from suffering.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Buddhism at a crossroads

Dhamma for all... 
Buddhism at a crossroads 
By Phra Paisal Visalo

The importance of Buddhism to Thai people cannot be overstated. That is one reason why hundreds of people, monks and nuns included, marched to Parliament House early last month to demand the setting up of a Ministry of Buddhism. Such a ministry would mean the state would provide a budget and personnel to address the problems threatening the country's main religion.But should we put the future of Buddhism in the hands of the
government? I would argue that if we truly wish to restore and support Buddhism, we have to find ways to involve lay people _ communities _ in the process.

History tells us something.
In the past, Theravada Buddhism thrived here amid a balanced relationship with the government, Sangha and lay communities. The Sangha guided people in the path of dhamma and the government and people were responsible for supplying monks with necessities and for monitoring their practices. When the three elements worked well together, the religion flourished.

Another history lesson: Buddhism's disappearance from India did not have to do with the invasion of Muslim armies, as many believe. Hinduism came under attack as well, but clearly survived. The reason behind the decline of Buddhism in India was excessive state patronage. This led monks to congregate at the then-prominent Buddhist university, Nalanda, and lose touch with lay communities. Over time, ordinary people came to believe that religious matters were the only concern of monks. When Nalanda was destroyed, Buddhism had no solid grounds left with which to continue.

In Thailand, over the centuries, it is true that the monarchy played an important part in upholding the religion. Royal support, however, was limited to important monasteries in the capital and big cities. The majority of wats and monks survived by public support.The monarchy's ability to ensure that monks stayed within the bounds of the vinaya (correct discipline; Buddhist canon) was also limited, even when the monarchy had absolute power. During the reign of King Rama I, 128 monks were disrobed. That number increased to 500 in the reign of King Rama III. Even so, attempts to clean up the Sangha were limited to temples in the capital.

The practice and discipline of monks who lived far from Bangkok was controlled by their local communities. It is undeniable that this sort of local social control is what helped Buddhism to survive until today.

Buddhism began to decline when the three-pronged relationship lost balance. The downturn began about 100 years ago, when the Sangha was pulled towards the state and away from the community by the Sangha Act, (more widely known as the Ror Sor 121 bill). It was first implemented in 1903 and unified Buddhist administration under the Sangha Supreme Council.

As religious affairs came under government control, communities had less say. The wat, which traditionally belonged to the community, was classified by law as an ``asset of the religion'' and came under state control. The villagers' voice was no longer a factor when it came to many issues, including questions about whether certain wats should be built or maintained. These issues were now up to the state. 

The state took control of promotions within the monk hierarchy. Although part of that power was later returned to the Sangha Supreme Council, the effect remained the same _ lay people were kept at a distance from monastic matters. Eventually, people paid less attention. The problem is that religious affairs have not been a priority for the state. That is one reason why we have seen so many serious problems with monks and monasteries and why there has been a call for the establishment of a Ministry of Buddhism.

It is not fair, of course, to place all the blame on the state. We
cannot dismiss the fact that lay people have turned their backs on the religion as well.
Take the alarming deterioration in the quality of education for monks. Are ordinary Buddhists aware of this? Have they shown any interest in tackling the problem? While a massive percentage of donations go to construct ubosot, vihara or other temple buildings around the country, only a tiny amount is allocated to schools for monks and novices. The setting up of a new ministry might mean a bigger budget for the well-being of monks and the religion but it would definitely weaken the three-pronged relationship even further. If such a ministry was set up, lay people would become even more complacent about religious matters. The existing Department of Religious Affairs is not very large, but people still expect it to resolve every scandal involving monks. Lay people no longer think that it is their job to shore up the religion. This tendency would become more pronounced if the department was upgraded to a full-fledged ministry. The ministry would take over even more of the functions that used to be the responsibility of lay communities. These functions would in turn serve as more justification for expanding the ministry's budget and powers. Once you have an official body taking care of the organisation of temples, lay people have no room to contribute. It's even possible that people would stop making merit or supporting their local wat, because they'd figure the government was doing it. One can look at any rural society for evidence of the adverse impact of government intervention. Whenever state mechanisms and financing arrive, villagers quickly depend on them to solve all problems. They stop helping themselves and one another. Is there now any village where people are willing to use their own initiative to build a new road or repair a bridge? Most villages will only do so when they get money from the state or the Or Bor Tor (Tambon Administrative Organisation). Without financing, villagers won't work together on such issues, even if it's for the common good.

There is no question that the idea for a Ministry of Buddhism was put forward in good faith. But we can't ignore the negative effects it would have on the duties of individual Buddhists. The central question is: what is causing the decline of Buddhism? Is it a lack of money? Patronage? Power? Or a lack of awareness among Buddhists? If money and power are the answer to problems, why do we still have a plethora of social ills? The Interior Ministry is equipped with wide powers and an enormous budget _ but it can't seem to cope with problems like drugs, crime and gambling.

The key to solving problems in Buddhism is the active participation of civil society. Instead of raising a leviathan ministry, the government would do well to mobilise the public to take an active part in matters concerning the religion. One solution it should consider is the setting up of a decentralised system of committees for the administration of religious affairs at all levels, from the national down to tambons. These committees, which would have to be recognised by law, would be tasked with administering and supporting matters concerning the religion, including expanding spiritual knowledge, promoting Buddhist ethics and promoting education for monks. The committees would be sponsored by the government and paid for with local taxes. Members should be elected in the same manner as members were elected to the National Constitution Drafting Assembly.
An assembly of Buddhists should also be established to monitor the work, policies and budgets of these administrative committees. Both organisations should contain monk and nun representatives. Both would provide forums for religious and lay people to exchange views about the religious situation both nationally and in their localities. Such forums could consider issues such as making sure that monks maintain discipline, deciding how to deal with those who stray off the rightful path, and screening men before they enter the monkhood.

Reviving the role of lay people would help restore balance in the governing of the religion. It would be a longer process, but we really have no choice. State control might bring quicker results but in the long run would just exacerbate the problem. The proposal to establish both local administration committees and the assembly of concerned Buddhists does not dismiss the role of the state. Government must continue to play an active role in maintaining the well-being of Buddhism and monks, partly through the soon-to-be-established National Buddhism Bureau. That office would maintain a close working relationship at all levels with the local committees for the administration of religious affairs. It would serve as the government's agent in allocating budgets for the committees and assembly.To maintain the health of the religion, the government should be promoting the active participation of the public _ not taking over the public's job. That's why we shouldn't look to the proposed ministry as the answer to the restoration of Buddhism in national life.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Are We Here?

Dhamma for all ...

Why Are We Here?

 By Ajahn Chah

This Rains Retreat I don't have much strength, I'm not well, so I've come up to this mountain here to get some fresh air. People come to visit but I can't really receive them like I used to because my voice has just about had it, my breath is just about gone. You can count it a blessing that there is still this body sitting here for you all to see now. This is a blessing in itself. Soon you won't see it. The breath will be finished, the voice will be gone. They will fare in accordance with supporting factors, like all compounded things. The Lord Buddha called it khaya-vayam, the decline and dissolution of all conditioned phenomena.
How do they decline? Consider a lump of ice. Originally it was simply water... they freeze it and it becomes ice. But it doesn't take long before it's melted. Take a big lump of ice, say as big as this tape recorder here, and leave it out in the sun. You can see how it declines, much the same as the body. It will gradually disintegrate. In not many hours or minutes all that's left is a puddle of water. This is called khaya-vayam, the decline and dissolution of all compounded things. It's been this way for a long time now, ever since the beginning of time. When we are born we bring this inherent nature into the world with us, we can't avoid it. At birth we bring old age, sickness and death along with us.
So this is why the Buddha said khaya-vayam, the decline and dissolution of all compounded things. All of us sitting here in this hall now, monks, novices, laymen and laywomen, are without exception ''lumps of deterioration.'' Right now the lump is hard, just like the lump of ice. It starts out as water, becomes ice for a while and then melts again. Can you see this decline in yourself? Look at this body. It's aging every day... hair is aging, nails are aging... everything is aging!
You weren't like this before, were you? You were probably much smaller than this. Now you've grown up and matured. From now on you will decline, following the way of nature. The body declines just like the lump of ice. Soon, just like the lump of ice, it's all gone. All bodies are composed of the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire. A body is the confluence of earth, water, wind, and fire, which we proceed to call a person. Originally it's hard to say what you could call it, but now we call it a ''person.'' We get infatuated with it, saying it's a male, a female, giving it names, Mr., Mrs., and so on, so that we can identify each other more easily. But actually there isn't anybody there. There's earth, water, wind and fire. When they come together in this known form we call the result a ''person.'' Now don't get excited over it. If you really look into it there isn't anyone there.
That which is solid in the body, the flesh, skin, bones and so on, are called the earth element. Those aspects of the body which are liquid are the water element. The faculty of warmth in the body is the fire element, while the winds coursing through the body are the wind element.
At Wat Pah Pong we have a body which is neither male or female. It's the skeleton hanging in the main hall. Looking at it you don't get the feeling that it's a man or a woman. People ask each other whether it's a man or a woman and all they can do is look blankly at each other. It's only a skeleton, all the skin and flesh are gone.
People are ignorant of these things. Some go to Wat Pah Pong, into the main hall, see the skeletons... and then come running right out again! They can't bear to look. They're afraid, afraid of the skeletons. I figure these people have never seen themselves before. Afraid of the skeletons... they don't reflect on the great value of a skeleton. To get to the monastery they had to ride in a car or walk... if they didn't have bones how would they be? Would they be able to walk about like that? But they ride their cars to Wat Pah Pong, go into the main hall, see the skeletons and run straight back out again! They've never seen such a thing before. They're born with it and yet they've never seen it. It's very fortunate that they have a chance to see it now. Even older people see the skeletons and get scared... What's all the fuss about? This shows that they're not at all in touch with themselves, they don't really know themselves. Maybe they go home and still can't sleep for three or four days... and yet they're sleeping with a skeleton! They get dressed with it, eat food with it, do everything with it... and yet they're scared of it.
This shows how out of touch people are with themselves. How pitiful! They're always looking outwards, at trees, at other people, at external objects, saying ''this one is big,'' ''that's small,'' ''that's short,'' ''that's long.'' They're so busy looking at other things they never see themselves. To be honest, people are really pitiful. They have no refuge.
In the ordination ceremonies the ordinees must learn the five basic meditation themes: kesā, head hair; lomā, body hair; nakhā, nails; dantā, teeth; taco, skin. Some of the students and educated people snigger to themselves when they hear this part of the ordination ceremony... ''What's the Ajahn trying to teach us here? Teaching us about hair when we've had it for ages. He doesn't have to teach us about this, we know it already. Why bother teaching us something we already know?'' Dim people are like this, they think they can see the hair already. I tell them that when I say to ''see the hair'' I mean to see it as it really is. See body hair as it really is, see nails, teeth and skin as they really are. That's what I call ''seeing'' - not seeing in a superficial way, but seeing in accordance with the truth. We wouldn't be so sunk up to the ears in things if we could see things as they really are. Hair, nails, teeth, skin... what are they really like? Are they pretty? Are they clean? Do they have any real substance? Are they stable? No... there's nothing to them. They're not pretty but we imagine them to be so. They're not substantial but we imagine them to be so.
Hair, nails, teeth, skin... people are really hooked on these things. The Buddha established these things as the basic themes for meditation, he taught us to know these things. They are transient, Imperfect and ownerless; they are not ''me'' or ''them.'' We are born with and deluded by these things, but really they are foul. Suppose we didn't bathe for a week, could we bear to be close to each other? We'd really smell bad. When people sweat a lot, such as when a lot of people are working hard together, the smell is awful. We go back home and rub ourselves down with soap and water and the smell abates somewhat, the fragrance of the soap replaces it. Rubbing soap on the body may make it seem fragrant, but actually the bad smell of the body is still there, temporarily suppressed. When the smell of the soap is gone the smell of the body comes back again.
Now we tend to think these bodies are pretty, delightful, long lasting and strong. We tend to think that we will never age, get sick or die. We are charmed and fooled by the body, and so we are ignorant of the true refuge within ourselves. The true place of refuge is the mind. The mind is our true refuge. This hall here may be pretty big but it can't be a true refuge. Pigeons take shelter here, geckos take shelter here, lizards take shelter here.... We may think the hall belongs to us but it doesn't. We live here together with everything else. This is only a temporary shelter, soon we must leave it. People take these shelters for refuge.
So the Buddha said to find your refuge. That means to find your real heart. This heart is very important. People don't usually look at important things, they spend most of their time looking at unimportant things. For example, when they do the house cleaning they may be bent on cleaning up the house, washing the dishes and so on, but they fail to notice their own hearts. Their heart may be rotten, they may be feeling angry, washing the dishes with a sour expression on their face. That their own hearts are not very clean they fail to see. This is what I call ''taking a temporary shelter for a refuge.'' They beautify house and home but they don't think of beautifying their own hearts. They don't examine suffering. The heart is the important thing. The Buddha taught to find a refuge within your own heart: Attā hi attano nātho - ''Make yourself a refuge unto yourself.'' Who else can be your refuge? The true refuge is the heart, nothing else. You may try to depend on other things but they aren't a sure thing. You can only really depend on other things if you already have a refuge within yourself. You must have your own refuge first before you can depend on anything else, be it a teacher, family, friends or relatives.
So all of you, both lay people and homeless ones who have come to visit today, please consider this teaching. Ask yourselves, ''Who am I? Why am I here?'' Ask yourselves, ''Why was I born?'' Some people don't know. They want to be happy but the suffering never stops. Rich or poor, young or old, they suffer just the same. It's all suffering. And why? Because they have no wisdom. The poor are unhappy because they don't have enough, and the rich are unhappy because they have too much to look after.
In the past, as a young novice, I gave a Dhamma discourse. I talked about the happiness of wealth and possessions, having servants and so on... A hundred male servants, a hundred female servants, a hundred elephants, a hundred cows, a hundred buffaloes... a hundred of everything! The lay people really lapped it up. But can you imagine looking after a hundred buffaloes? Or a hundred cows, a hundred male and female servants... can you imagine having to look after all of that? Would that be fun? People don't consider this side of things. They have the desire to possess... to have the cows, the buffaloes, the servants... hundreds of them. But I say fifty buffaloes would be too much. Just twining the rope for all those brutes would be too much already! But people don't consider this, they only think of the pleasure of acquiring. They don't consider the trouble involved.
If we don't have wisdom everything round us will be a source of suffering. If we are wise these things will lead us out of suffering. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind... Eyes aren't necessarily good things, you know. If you are in a bad mood just seeing other people can make you angry and make you lose sleep. Or you can fall in love with others. Love is suffering, too, if you don't get what you want. Love and hate are both suffering, because of desire. Wanting is suffering, wanting not to have is suffering. Wanting to acquire things... even if you get them it's still suffering because you're afraid you'll lose them. There's only suffering. How are you going to live with that? You may have a large, luxurious house, but if your heart isn't good it never really works out as you expected.
Therefore, you should all take a look at yourselves. Why were we born? Do we ever really attain anything in this life? In the countryside here people start planting rice right from childhood. When they reach seventeen or eighteen they rush off and get married, afraid they won't have enough time to make their fortunes. They start working from an early age thinking they'll get rich that way. They plant rice until they're seventy or eighty or even ninety years old. I ask them, ''From the day you were born you've been working. Now it's almost time to go, what are you going to take with you?'' They don't know what to say. All they can say is, ''Beats me!'' We have a saying in these parts, ''Don't tarry picking berries along the way... before you know it, night falls.'' Just because of this ''Beats me!'' They're neither here nor there, content with just a ''beats me''... sitting among the branches of the berry tree, gorging themselves with berries... ''Beats me, beats me...''
When you're still young you think that being single is not so good, you feel a bit lonely. So you find a partner to live with. Put two together and there's friction! Living alone is too quiet, but living with others there's friction.
When children are small the parents think, ''When they get bigger we'll be better off.'' They raise their children, three, four, or five of them, thinking that when the children are grown up their burden will be lighter. But when the children grow up they get even heavier. Like two pieces of wood, one big and one small. You throw away the small one and take the bigger one, thinking it will be lighter, but of course it's not. When children are small they don't bother you very much, just a ball of rice and a banana now and then. When they grow up they want a motorcycle or a car! Well, you love your children, you can't refuse. So you try to give them what they want. Problems.... Sometimes the parents get into arguments over it... ''Don't go and buy him a car, we haven't got enough money!'' But when you love your children you've got to borrow the money from somewhere. Maybe the parents even have to go without to get the things their children want. Then there's education. ''When they've finished their studies, we'll be all right.'' There's no end to the studying! What are they going to finish? Only in the science of Buddhism is there a point of completion, all the other sciences just go round in circles. In the end it's real headache. If there's a house with four or five children in it the parents argue every day.
The suffering that is waiting in the future we fail to see, we think it will never happen. When it happens, then we know. That kind of suffering, the suffering inherent in our bodies, is hard to foresee. When I was a child minding the buffaloes I'd take charcoal and rub it on my teeth to make them white. I'd go back home and look in the mirror and see them so nice and white.... I was getting fooled by my own bones, that's all. When I reached fifty or sixty my teeth started to get loose. When the teeth start falling out it hurts so much, when you eat it feels as if you've been kicked in the mouth. It really hurts. I've been through this one already. So I just got the dentist to take them all out. Now I've got false teeth. My real teeth were giving me so much trouble I just had them all taken out, sixteen in one go. The dentist was reluctant to take out sixteen teeth at once, but I said to him, ''Just take them out, I'll take the consequences.'' So he took them all out at once. Some were still good, too, at least five of them. Took them all out. But it was really touch and go. After having them out I couldn't eat any food for two or three days.
Before, as a young child minding the buffaloes, I used to think that polishing the teeth was a great thing to do. I loved my teeth, I thought they were good things. But in the end they had to go. The pain almost killed me. I suffered from toothache for months, years. Sometimes both my gums were swollen at once.
Some of you may get a chance to experience this for yourselves someday. If your teeth are still good and you're brushing them everyday to keep them nice and white... watch out! They may start playing tricks with you later on.
Now I'm just letting you know about these things... the suffering that arises from within, that arises within our own bodies. There's nothing within the body you can depend on. It's not too bad when you're still young, but as you get older things begin to break down. Everything begins to fall apart. Conditions go their natural way. Whether we laugh or cry over them they just go on their way. It makes no difference how we live or die, makes no difference to them. And there's no knowledge or science which can prevent this natural course of things. You may get a dentist to look at your teeth, but even if he can fix them they still eventually go their natural way. Eventually even the dentist has the same trouble. Everything falls apart in the end.
These are things which we should contemplate while we still have some vigor, we should practice while we're young. If you want to make merit then hurry up and do so, don't just leave it up to the oldies. Most people just wait until they get old before they will go to a monastery and try to practice Dhamma. Women and men say the same thing... ''Wait till I get old first.'' I don't know why they say that, does an old person have much vigor? Let them try racing with a young person and see what the difference is. Why do they leave it till they get old? Just like they're never going to die. When they get to fifty or sixty years old or more... ''Hey, Grandma! Let's go to the monastery!'' ''You go ahead, my ears aren't so good any more.'' You see what I mean? When her ears were good what was she listening to? ''Beats me!''... just dallying with the berries. Finally when her ears are gone she goes to the temple. It's hopeless. She listens to the sermon but she hasn't got a clue what they're saying. People wait till they're all used up before they'll think of practicing the Dhamma.
Today's talk may be useful for those of you who can understand it. These are things which you should begin to observe, they are our inheritance. They will gradually get heavier and heavier, a burden for each of us to bear. In the past my legs were strong, I could run. Now just walking around they feel heavy. Before, my legs carried me. Now, I have to carry them. When I was a child I'd see old people getting up from their seat... ''Oh!'' Getting up they groan, ''Oh!'' There's always this ''Oh!'' But they don't know what it is that makes them groan like that.
Even when it gets to this extent people don't see the bane of the body. You never know when you're going to be parted from it. What's causing all the pain is simply conditions going about their natural way. People call it arthritis, rheumatism, gout and so on, the doctor prescribes medicines, but it never completely heals. In the end it falls apart, even the doctor! This is conditions faring along their natural course. This is their way, their nature.
Now take a look at this. If you see it in advance you'll be better off, like seeing a poisonous snake on the path ahead of you. If you see it there you can get out of its way and not get bitten. If you don't see it you may keep on walking and step on it. And then it bites.
If suffering arises people don't know what to do. Where to go to treat it? They want to avoid suffering, they want to be free of it but they don't know how to treat it when it arises. And they live on like this until they get old... and sick... and die....
In olden times it was said that if someone was mortally ill one of the next of kin should whisper ''Bud-dho, Bud-dho'' in their ear. What are they going to do with Buddho? What good is Buddho going to be for them when they're almost on the funeral pyre? Why didn't they learn Buddho when they were young and healthy? Now with the breaths coming fitfully you go up and say, ''Mother... Buddho, Buddho!'' Why waste your time? You'll only confuse her, let her go peacefully.
People don't know how to solve problems within their own hearts, they don't have a refuge. They get angry easily and have a lot of desires. Why is this? Because they have no refuge.
When people are newly married they can get on together all right, but after age fifty or so they can't understand each other. Whatever the wife says the husband finds intolerable. Whatever the husband says the wife won't listen. They turn their backs on each other.
Now I'm just talking because I've never had a family before. Why haven't I had a family? Just looking at this word ''household2'' I knew what it was all about. What is a ''household''? This is a ''hold'': If somebody were to get some rope and tie us up while we were sitting here, what would that be like? That's called ''being held.'' Whatever that's like, ''being held'' is like that. There is a circle of confinement. The man lives within his circle of confinement, and the woman lives within her circle of confinement.
When I read this word ''household''... this is a heavy one. This word is no trifling matter, it's a real killer. The word ''hold'' is a symbol of suffering. You can't go anywhere, you've got to stay within your circle of confinement.
Now we come to the word ''house.'' This means ''that which hassles.'' Have you ever toasted chilies? The whole house chokes and sneezes. This word ''household'' spells confusion, it's not worth the trouble. Because of this word I was able to ordain and not disrobe. ''Household'' is frightening. You're stuck and can't go anywhere. Problems with the children, with money and all the rest. But where can you go? You're tied down. There are sons and daughters, arguments in profusion until your dying day, and there's nowhere else to go to no matter how much suffering it is. The tears pour out and they keep pouring. The tears will never be finished with this ''household,'' you know. If there's no household you might be able to finish with the tears but not otherwise.
Consider this matter. If you haven't come across it yet you may later on. Some people have experienced it already to a certain extent. Some are already at the end of their tether... ''Will I stay or will I go?'' At Wat Pah Pong there are about seventy or eighty huts (kuti). when they're almost full I tell the monk in charge to keep a few empty, just in case somebody has an argument with their spouse.... Sure enough, in no long time a lady will arrive with her bags... ''I'm fed up with the world, Luang Por.'' ''Whoa! Don't say that. Those words are really heavy.'' Then the husband comes and says he's fed up too. After two or three days in the monastery their world-weariness disappears.
They say they're fed up but they're just fooling themselves. When they go off to a kuti and sit in the quiet by themselves, after a while the thoughts come... ''When's the wife going to come and ask me to go home?'' They don't really know what's going on. What is this ''world-weariness'' of theirs? They get upset over something and come running to the monastery. At home everything looked wrong... the husband was wrong, the wife was wrong... after three days' quiet thinking... ''Hmmm, the wife was right after all, it was I who was wrong.'' ''Hubby was right, I shouldn't have got so upset.'' They change sides. This is how it is, that's why I don't take the world too seriously. I know its ins and outs already, that's why I've chosen to live as a monk.
I would like to present today's talk to all of you for homework. Whether you're in the fields or working in the city, take these words and consider them... ''Why was I born? What can I take with me?'' Ask yourselves over and over. If you ask yourself these questions often you'll become wise. If you don't reflect on these things you will remain ignorant. Listening to today's talk, you may get some understanding, if not now, then maybe when you get home. Perhaps this evening. When you're listening to the talk everything is subdued, but maybe things are waiting for you in the car. When you get in the car it may get in with you. When you get home it may all become clear... ''Oh, that's what Luang Por meant. I couldn't see it before.''
I think that's enough for today. If I talk too long this old body gets tired. 
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Four Noble Truths

Dhamma for all. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012



By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

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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