Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kamma in Buddhism

"Message from Suan Mokkh"

Kamma in Buddhism 

 action and the result of action

As Buddhists, we must understand kamma (action and the result of action) as it is explained in Buddhism. We should not blindly follow the kamma teachings of other religions; otherwise, we will pitifully spin around according to kamma without being able to get beyond its power or realize its end.
Why do we need to know the essence of Kamma? Because our lives are inseparable from it and happen according to it. To be more precise, we can say that life is actually a stream of kamma. Desire to do deeds (kamma) causes one to perform actions and receive the results of those actions; then, desire to do deeds arises again and again endlessly. Therefore, life is merely a pattern of kamma. If we rightly understand kamma, we can lead our lives at peace, without any problems or suffering.

There are two primary kamma doctrines. One has been taught since before the Buddha’s time and is still taught outside Buddhism; the other is the Buddhist principle of kamma. The first doctrine presents only half of the story. In that doctrine, one cannot conquer kamma and remains always under its domination; one actually desires to be under its power and asks for its help, without ever trying to fight for one’s own liberation. One thus performs kamma as if accumulating assets for more satisfactory rebirth. One never thinks of ending kamma. One expects to rely on it instead of trying to end it. In Buddhism, we can understand kamma up to the level that we can conquer it and be liberated from it, that is, not carry the burden of kamma any more. We neither sit waiting for things to happen, nor leave our fate in the hands of gods, nor follow superstitions like purifying our kamma in sacred rivers.

To be beyond kamma seems incredible to most people; they may consider it a deception or a salesman’s trick. Nonetheless, it really is possible if we take the Buddha as our True and Noble Friend. This will help us in practicing the complete set of Ten Rightnesses: the noble eightfold path plus right insight knowledge and right liberation in accordance with the law of specific conditionality (idappaccayata). In such practice, there is no foolish feeling that leads to desire for the various results of kamma (actions). A doctrine master from Southern India and contemporary of the Buddha heard that the Buddha taught the cessation of kamma. He then sent his disciples to ask the Buddha questions and to ask for His instructions. This well-known story is told in the Solasapanha, Parayanavagga of the Khuddakanikaya in the Pali Canon. Many people learn the Buddha’s answers from this story and take them for study and practice.

Nowadays, wrong teachings concerning kamma are publicized in books by various Indian and Western writers under titles such as "Kamma and Rebirth." Although they are presented in the name of Buddhism, they are actually about kamma and rebirth as understood in Hinduism. So the right teaching of Buddhism is misrepresented. This should be recognized and corrected so that the Buddhist kamma principle can be preserved in its undistorted essence. The Buddha accepted as correct — that is, as not a wrong understanding of kamma — the half-formed teaching concerning good and evil deeds and their results that was presented before his time and outside his teaching. However, he added to it a final aspect, namely, the end of kamma, which is the essential Buddhist principle, thus completing the teaching on kamma. This cessation of kamma goes by two names. It can be called “the third kind of kamma” because there are good deeds, evil deeds, and the kamma leading to the end of both good and evil deeds. Sometimes four kinds of kamma are distinguished: good deeds, evil deeds, mixed deeds, and the kamma that is the end of all kamma. When enumerated in this fourfold way, the additional kamma taught in Buddhism becomes the fourth kind of kamma. However, if we take mixed kamma as falling under good actions and evil actions, then there are only three kinds of kamma, with the kamma that ends all kamma as the third kind again. This three-fold formulation is easy, convenient, and concise. If the third kind of kamma is left out, the teaching misses the essence of kamma in the true Buddhist sense.

Kamma and Rebirth: Rebirth occurs every time one does a deed, and that rebirth occurs spontaneously at the moment of action. We need not wait for rebirth to come after death, as is generally understand in the worldly sense. When one thinks and acts, the mind is spontaneously changed through the power of desire and clinging, which lead immediately to becoming and birth in accordance with the law of Dependent Co-origination (paticca-samuppada). There is no need to wait for physical death in order for rebirth to occur. This truth should be realized as the true teaching of Buddhism, as a core principle of the original, pristine Buddhism that states there is no self (atta) to be reborn. How the concept of rebirth after death crept into Buddhism is difficult to explain, and we need not concern ourselves with it. Simply preventing rebirth within the stream of Dependent Co-origination is enough for us to be free. Stopping egoistic rebirth is truly in accordance with Buddhism, and such action will be the kind of kamma that can be taken as refuge. When a good deed is done, goodness spontaneously arises; when an evil deed is done, evilness spontaneously arises. There is no need to wait for any further results. If there will be any birth after death, that rebirth only occurs through the kamma one has done in this very life and the results of which have already occurred here. We need not worry about rebirth such that it obstructs our practice.

Receiving the Fruits of Kamma: We should see the truth that a mind performing a deed is kamma itself and the subsequent mind is the result of that kamma. Other results that follow it are only uncertain by-products, since they may or may not occur, or do not keep up with our expectations due to other interfering factors. That the results of actions occur for the minds performing them is most certainly in line with the Buddhist principle that there is no self or soul to be reborn, as stated by the Buddha in the Kevatta Sutta. To hold the view that a soul or somebody is reborn deviates from the truth of not-self. Whenever a good or evil deed is done, goodness or evilness spontaneously arises accordingly without having to wait for later results. Nonetheless, most people expect certain results according to their wishes; then, they are disappointed when other factors interfere. Such intervening circumstances may lead one to hold a wrong view that good actions brings bad results and bad actions brings good results. We should be careful of this wrong view and should develop right understanding concerning the fruits of kamma.
Our understanding of how the results of kamma are received must always be self-apparent, immediate, and inviting of inquiry, and should never contradict the truth that the five aggregates of human life are not-self. Mind is merely a phenomenon pushed this way and that by conditions, stimulated to do things by environmental factors. The resulting reactions are accepted and regarded as good or evil according to one’s feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Either kind pushes us into suffering, thus we should aim at ending kamma and getting beyond it. Then, we will have realized, awakened, and fully blossomed, which is genuine Buddhahood.

There is a moralistic teaching of kamma that retains an illusion of self that owns this and that. This version contradicts the principle of not-self stressed by the Buddha. We should correctly understand this perspective; otherwise, we will not benefit from practicing kamma teachings, since we will not be able to go beyond kamma. Endlessly remaining under the power of kamma is not the kamma teaching of Buddhism. Instead, wholeheartedly practice the kamma that ends all kamma. This will prevent us from unwittingly going astray.
Activity & Reactivity: The actions or movements of sentient beings that are done with volition, particularly that of craving and arising through defilements, are called kamma. An activity that is not caused by defilement, for example, one with an Arahant’s intention, is not called “kamma”; it is called "kiriya (activity)." The result of kiriya is called "patikiriya (reaction)," while the result of kamma is called "vipaka (fruit of action)." These results occur justly in accordance with the law of nature. Ordinary people have ordinary volitions (cetana) as the causes of their actions, which are consequently kamma. Good volition leads to good action; evil volition leads to evil action. Through moral and cultural training, everybody is taught to do good deeds that do not cause trouble to others and bring good results to everyone. Therefore, kamma concerns the law of nature and is scientific.

Types of Kamma: There are many types of kamma depending on the characteristics of the deeds and their doers. Some act with selfishness concerning the selves they desire to be. Some perform actions that lead to the ending of the self-illusion and the realization of Nibbana. Some people are pleased with worldly prosperity, others with heavenly prosperity, and some with the realization of Nibbana, such that they always seem to contradict each other. Some like to show off their good deeds, while others perform their good deeds secretly. Some proclaim their meritorious deeds with fanfare, while others do not need such fanfare. Some do their deeds with excessive ritual, while others do theirs without any ceremony at all. Some do theirs out of magical or superstitious fear, while others do theirs properly as Buddhist practice. Obviously, there are many types of kamma. Nevertheless, they all can be classified into two categories: those with self and for the sake of self, and those that aim for the ending of self-clinging and selfishness. Some do deeds in a business-like manner, expecting excessive profits. Others wish for the end of the vicious circle of life and death. Look for yourselves! Ordinary people do good deeds merely for the sake of inordinate profits.

Kamma and Not-Self: The question of kamma and not-self is confusing and difficult to understand for various reasons. A monk once asked the Buddha, "How does kamma done by not-self give results for self?" This question arose because of the teaching on not-self that points out how the "actor" is merely a mind-body process void of self. After an action (kamma) is done by a selfless mind-body, how could it have any results for a "self" who is the "doer" who intentionally did that deed. The new concept of not-self contradicts the old concept of self. There is a self that claims to be not-self and does things in the name of not-self, but the sense of self still exists to receive the results of the deeds. Hence, this monk’s question. If we see it rightly, we will understand that when the mind-body is not-self, the results of its actions will happen to a selfless mind-body, also. However, if that mind-body is full of a sense of self, the results of its actions will always happen to this apparent self If kamma is not-self, its result will be not-self, and what occurs in accordance with kamma will be not-self. The things, whether human or animal, that we conventionally speak of as "actors (doers of kamma)" will also be not-self. The facts of kamma and not-self are never separate and never oppose each other.
The ending of kamma is the same thing as Nibbana, in other words, is synonymous with Nibbana. From where, then, come the teachers who instruct the people that death is the end of kamma? When someone dies, people murmur, "oh well, his kamma is finished." Moreover, they often say that one dies according to ones merits and kamma, without realizing that what is happening to them now is also according to their good and bad kamma, until they really reach the end of kamma, namely, Nibbana.
Nibbana is freedom from kamma and its results. Further, Nibbana is freedom from the vicious samsara (cyclic existence) that keeps spinning according to kamma. Nibbana, therefore, is lovely and loveable, not frightening in the least. Even so, people prefer being trapped within the vicious cycles of birth and death according to their kamma, particularly the kamma they desire as a result of their defilements, although they never really get what they wish. Those who have big egos will normally hate and fear the end of kamma because ego-self desires kamma-results that appear lovely according to its viewpoint.
Kamma is attachment (upadhi) or burden. When one performs kamma, life happens according to kamma, that is, one is bound by kamma no matter whether it is good or evil kamma. Good kamma makes one laugh and bad kamma makes one cry, but both weary us almost to death. Even so, people still like to laugh, since they misunderstand that good kamma is great virtue. When kamma does not bind our lives, it is as if there are no chains on our legs, whether iron chains or diamond-studded golden chains. Life becomes a burden when it is weighed down by kamma and we have to carry and support it. The end of kamma makes our lives light and free, but only a few people appreciate this as it is obscured by the veils of atta (self).

In conclusion, as Buddhists let’s try to do only the kamma that is the end of kamma. When we see that kamma has occupied and ruled our lives, we will strive to practice, improve ourselves, and fight in every possible way to triumph over both good and evil kamma, so that none of them will oppress our minds. Let’s develop minds that are clean, clear, and calm because no kamma and no results disturb it. Nowadays, most people understand kamma as something bad and undesirable. This is correct because both good and evil kamma are despicable in that they cause the vicious cycles of birth and death to go on without cessation.

Kamma in Buddhism is that kamma (action) which leads to the end of all kamma so that life is above and beyond kamma. Far from despicable, it is something to be understood and fully integrated into our lives. "Living beyond kamma" is something to be realized and attained.

Mokkhabalarama, Chaiya

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vesak Day

"Visakhapuja Day"
Vesak Day
 The Victory Day of Lord Buddh 

The Buddha’s Birth

In the sixth century B.C., in the prosperous city of Kapilavatthu in northern India (modern Nepal), lived Queen Sirimahamaya, wife of King Suddhodana. The Queen was faithfully observing Buddhist vows (precepts). One day, she dreamed of a beautiful white elephant carrying a lotus came encircled her and entered her body from the right hand side. Perplexed by this dream, the King summoned some wise brahmins to analyse it. They predicted a beautiful son would be born to the royal couple. If the child remained in the palace, he would become a Universal Monarch; if he renounced from royal life he would become a Buddha, a fully-enlightened Awakened One.

The Buddha’s Enlightenment

When Prince Siddhattha was 29 years old, Princess Yasodharā gave birth to their son Rāhula. Great was his love for the two dearest, greater was his compassion for the suffering humanity. He was not worried about the future worldly happiness and comfort of the mother and child as they had everything in abundance and were well protected. Time was ripe to depart. Leaving all behind, the prince with his loyal charioteer Channa left the palace on the royal steed Kanthaka. Thus did he renounce the world in search of ways to eliminate sufferings so as to liberate all sentient beings from the Samsara.

The Buddha’s Parinibbana

Lord Buddha was a most energetic and active teacher, His daily routine was fully occupied with religious activities. They were divided into five parts, (i) the Morning Session, Alms Round; (ii) the Afternoon Session, Deliver Discourses to the Laities; (iii) the Night Session, Coaching the Monastic Disciples; (iv) the Mid-Night Session, Answer Queries from the Celestial Beings; and (v) the Dawn Session, Survey the World with His Divine Eyes for Potential Person to Receive His Transcendental Aid. The Great Teacher provided guidance with magnificent determination without any discrepancies, leading to an exponential increase in the number of followers.

'TUM BOON': Making merit by going to temples for special observances, making merit, listening to Dhamma preaching, giving some donations and join in the other Buddhist activities.

'RUB SIL': Keeping the Five Precepts, including abstinence from alcoholic drinks and all kinds of immoral acts.

'TUK BARD': Offering food to the monks and novices (in the alm bowl).

Practice of renuciation: Observe the Eight Precepts, practice of meditation and mental discipline, stay in the temple, wearing white robes, for a number of days.

VIEN TIEN': Attending the Candle Light Procession around the Uposatha Hall, in the evening of the Vesak full moon day.


    The Song of United Nations Day of Vesak

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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path
The Way to be... 

The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.

1. Right View
Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Intention
While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act
cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

3. Right Speech
Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

4. Right Action
The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts

5. Right Livelihood
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.

6. Right Effort
Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

7. Right Mindfulness
Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualisation in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.

8. Right Concentration
The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Non-violence : A Natural, Dynamic and Live Values
 By Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Non-violence, that is ahimsa, is not a rough thing, nor is it an inactive thought or a alue established by man. Non-violence is a natural, dynamic, active or live value. because of its permanent existence in human nature, its being dynamic and active non-violence is an essential condition for existence, development and the ultimate goal, and for this very reason it is the first and absolutely necessary base of civilization.
“Non-Violence is a power that can be wielded equally by all-children, young men and women or grown up people- provided they have a living faith of the god of love.” Gandhi
Best manifestation of non-violence took place in Lord Mahavira. For Mahavira non-violence is the soul-force. Besides being nucleus in Jain philosophy, the form of non-violence that shaped in his individual practices and daily routine, nevertheless, it did not exist in the life of any of his contemporaries. It this regard Mahavira is unparallel even today; and after him anybody equaled him or has been able to follow him completely, is beyond my knowledge and belief.
Further for Gautama Buddha, and in modern times, for Mahatma Gandhi, non-violence is, ultimately, a natural value. As for many incarnations, prophets, philosophers and thinkers, since ancient to modern times, for Buddha and Gandhi also it is the principal human value. Although Gautama Buddha did not directly accept the naturalness of non-violence, but the manner in which he has repeated love for life as innate desire by all [Sabbes Jeeviyam Piyam), and disliking for violence and punishment [Sabbe Tashanta Dandassa], the conclusion is drawn that non-violence is a natural value. Buddha laid stress on maximum purity in daily practices and he called for practical non-violence as much as possible. For this reason, non-violence became the subject of more and more practices in his philosophy.
Mahatma Gandhi’s arguments that ‘man has made consistence progress in direction of non-violence’ and in a natural way ‘mankind moved towards non-violence for progresses’ spontaneously confirm the naturalness of this value from his side also. For Gandhi too, non-violence is the subject of maximum practices and ultimately its yardstick is the intention behind the action. According to Mahatma Gandhi, importance lies in making non-violence conducive to circumstances of time and space; it is the base on which success of non-violence depends. No doubt, this conception towards non-violence is acceptable to all-general or particular.
Non-violence of Mahavira is the soul-force whereas non-violence of Buddha and Gandhi is a natural value. By speaking so, readers may presume that there is a difference in views of Mahavira, Buddha or Gandhi regarding non-violence. In other words, there is a difference between above-mentioned concepts relating to non-violence in which it soul-force according to Mahavira, while it is a natural value according to Buddha and Gandhi. But in reality it is not so. Definitely soul reflects the nature, or we can say that nature is influenced by soul. Therefore, the one that is the soul-force is, more or less, natural also.
So far as the question of non-violence being dynamic and live or an active value is concerned, in that Mahavira, Buddha, Gandhi and many other also, are unanimous. Let us now have some discussion regarding non-violence being a dynamic and active value.
As historical evidences confirm, in its primitive age man adopted the technique of living and stabilizing together. By doing so, man showed co-operation towards fellow man, which, like affection, is another supplementary value of non-violence. And interestingly, even in primitive age, after mutual co-operation humans did not make a final stop. Man did not stop satisfied at the feeling of his own safety and that of his contemporaries. On the contrary he had a keen desire to move forward. In other words, man was crazy enough to further develop the sense of mutual co-operation. And this was the reason that he continuously co-operated with others and established new records, one after the other. Because of this natural instinct man is still on the path of progress and he has to go further and further. Despite the presence of many hurdles, worldly competitions and envy, the instinct of co-operation with others could not elope from human nature and it will never elope. Because of this instinct man will remain active as far as possible, he shall continue to proceed towards prosperity.
Not on the strength of any theory, but on the basis of day-to-day practices and self-experiences, any one can reach the conclusion that non-violence and non-violent activities, and mainly co-operation, increases further with more efforts; it becomes conducive to us. Therefore, it can be emphatically said that non-violence is dynamic besides being an active value. Needless to say that non-violence is in our nature and it has the capacity to consistently develop. Any one who has least doubt in the activeness of non-violence or its dynamism, he can remove doubt by experiences of worldly practices of his own and others. There can be no question mark on non-violence being an active, dynamic and natural value.
Natural, active and dynamic value non-violence is entirely linked to heroism, or in other words, heroism is a necessary condition for it, and also an acid test of non-violence. There is no correlation between non-violence and cowardice. Vardhamana became Veera [the brave] on the strength of non-violence and he became Mahavira by adopting it his life.
Non-violence has the power which cannot be conquered by anyone. In the time of Buddha, Angulimal, who wore garland of fingers extracted from the bodies of people killed by him, once faced Buddha. Gautama Buddha was passing on his way when Angulimal came in front of him and he challenged Buddha to change his route, but Buddha did not care for his challenge. He was an apostle of compassion [the Karuna] and compassion is the best supplementary value of non-violence. In this way, even being full of compassion, Buddha was definitely a brave also. Why should he be afraid of Angulimal? Buddha went on walking and at one time both were in front of each other. Buddha stood before him with strait eyes, but Angulimal could not see eye-to-eye; he got defeated and became Buddha’s follower. This was the strength of non-violence.
Buddha and Angulimal
Many more such examples can be cited, but here I will discuss only one example more, which is related to Mahatma Gandhi and then give full stop to my talk. It was the month of March in the year 1930. Mahatma Gandhi was proceeding towards Dandi from his Sabarmati ashram of Ahmedabad. A man of a place near Bharoach, who was opposed to the principle of Gandhi, threatened him to kill in a lonely place. Anyhow, Gandhi got the news. He was a worshipper of non-violence and, therefore, fearless and brave also. He knew that anyone having ill-will cannot withstand before the power of non-violence. Two-three days passed. In the meantime Gandhi got ascertained the name and address of that ill-willing person and one day, in early hours, he confronted him. Gandhi told the man, “Brother! I am Gandhi; you want my life. Take it soon, none will know.” The man could not see eye to eye with the votary of non-violence and became his follower. This is the reality of natural, dynamic and active or live value non-violence and of non-violent hero.                                                                    
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Truth (Meaning of Truth)

(Meaning of Truth)
 By M. K. Gandhi

I deal with truth first of all, as the Satyagraha Ashram owes its very existence to the pursuit and the attempted practice of truth.
The word satya (Truth) is derived from Sat which means 'being'. Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God, In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God than to say God is truth. But as we cannot do without a ruler or a general, such names of God as 'King' or 'Kings' or ' The Almighty' are and will remain generally current. On deeper thinking, however it will be realized that Sat or Satya is the only correct and fully sign fact name for God.
And where there is Truth, there is also is knowledge which is true. Where there is no Truth, there also is knowledge which is true. Where there is no Truth, there can be no true knowledge. That is why the word Chit or knowledge is associated with the name of God. And where there is true knowledge, there is always bliss. (Ananda). There sorrow has no place. And even as Truth is eternal, so is the bliss derived from it. Hence we know God as Sat-Chit-ananda, one who combines in Himself Truth, Knowledge and Bliss.
Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence. All our activities should be centered in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life.
When once this stage in the pilgrim's progress is reached, all other rules of correct living will come without effort, and obedience to them will be instinctive. But without Truth it is impossible to observe any principles or rules in life.

Generally speaking observation of the law of Truth is understood merely to mean that we must speak the Truth. But we in the Ashram should understand the word Satya or Truth in a much wider sense. There should be truth in thought, truth in speech, and truth in action. To the man who has realized this truth in its fullness, nothing else remains to be known , because all knowledge is necessary included in it. What is not included in it is not truth, and so not true knowledge; and there can be no inward peace without true knowledge. If we once learn how to apply this never failing test of Truth, we will at once able to find out what is worth doing, what is worth seeing, what is worth reading.
But how is one to to realize this Truth, which may be likened to the philosophers stone or the cow of plenty? By single minded devotion (abhyasa  ) and indifference to all other interests in life (vairagya) replies the Bhagavadgita. In spite, however of such devotion, what may appear as Truth to one person will often appear as untruth to another person. But that need not worry the seeker. where there is honest effort, it will be realized that what appear to be different truths are like the countless and apparently different leaves of the same tree. Does not God himself appear to different individuals in different aspects? Yet we know that He is one. But Truth is the right designation of God. Hence there is nothing wrong in every man following Truth according to his lights. Indeed it is his duty to do so. Then if there is a mistake on the part of any one so following Truth it will be automatically set right. For the quest of Truth involves tapas self suffering, sometimes even unto death. There can be no place in it even a trace of self interest. In such selfless search for Truth nobody can lose his bearings for long. Directly he takes to the wrong path he stumbles, and is thus redirected to the right path. Therefore the pursuit of Truth is true bhakti (devotion). It is the path that leads to God. There is no place in it for cowardice, no place for defeat. It is the talisman by which death itself becomes the portal to life eternal.

In this connection it will be well to ponder over the lives and examples of Harishchandra, Prahlad, Ramchandra, Imam Hussain, the Christians saints, etc. How beautiful it would be if all of us, young and old, men and women devoted ourselves wholly to Truth in all that we might do in our walking hours, whether working, eating, drinking, or playing till dissolution of the body makes us one with Truth? God as Truth has been for me a treasure beyond price; may He be so to every one of us. 
Source: The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi

The best way

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In the Dead of Night

In the Dead of Night...1
 By Ajahn Chah
Take a look at your fear.... One day, as it was nearing nightfall, there was nothing else for it.... If I tried to reason with myself I'd never go, so I grabbed a pa-kow and just went.
''If it's time for it to die then let it die. If my mind is going to be so stubborn and stupid then let it die''... that's how I thought to myself. Actually in my heart I didn't really want to go but I forced myself to. When it comes to things like this, if you wait till everything's just right you'll end up never going. When would you ever train yourself? So I just went.
I'd never stayed in a charnel ground before. When I got there, words can't describe the way I felt. The pa-kow wanted to camp right next to me but I wouldn't have it. I made him stay far away. Really I wanted him to stay close to keep me company but I wouldn't have it. I made him move away, otherwise I'd have counted on him for support.
''If it's going to be so afraid then let it die tonight.''
I was afraid, but I dared. It's not that I wasn't afraid, but I had courage. In the end you have to die anyway.
Well, just as it was getting dark I had my chance, in they came carrying a corpse. Just my luck! I couldn't even feel my feet touch the ground, I wanted to get out of there so badly. They wanted me to do some funeral chants but I wouldn't get involved, I just walked away. In a few minutes, after they'd gone, I just walked back and found that they had buried the corpse right next to my spot, making the bamboo used for carrying it into a bed for me to stay on.
So now what was I to do? It's not that the village was nearby, either, a good two or three kilometers away.
''Well, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die''... If you've never dared to do it you'll never know what it's like. It's really an experience.
As it got darker and darker I wondered where there was to run to in the middle of that charnel ground.
''Oh, let it die. One is born to this life only to die, anyway.''
As soon as the sun sank the night told me to get inside my glot2. I didn't want to do any walking meditation, I only wanted to get into my net. Whenever I tried to walk towards the grave it was as if something was pulling me back from behind, to stop me from walking. It was as if my feelings of fear and courage were having a tug-of-war with me. But I did it. This is the way you must train yourself.
When it was dark I got into my mosquito net. It felt as if I had a seven-tiered wall all around me. Seeing my trusty alms bowl there beside me was like seeing an old friend. Even a bowl can be a friend sometimes! Its presence beside me was comforting. I had a bowl for a friend at least.
I sat in my net watching over the body all night. I didn't lie down or even doze off, I just sat quietly. I couldn't be sleepy even if I wanted to, I was so scared. Yes, I was scared, and yet I did it. I sat through the night.
Now who would have the guts to practice like this? Try it and see. When it comes to experiences like this who would dare to go and stay in a charnel ground? If you don't actually do it you don't get the results, you don't really practice. This time I really practiced.
When day broke I felt, ''Oh! I've survived!'' I was so glad, I just wanted to have daytime, no night time at all. I wanted to kill off the night and leave only daylight. I felt so good, I had survived. I thought, ''Oh, there's nothing to it, it's just my own fear, that's all.''
After almsround and eating the meal I felt good, the sunshine came out, making me feel warm and cozy. I had a rest and walked a while. I thought, ''This evening I should have some good, quiet meditation, because I've already been through it all last night. There's probably nothing more to it.''
Then, later in the afternoon, wouldn't you know it? In comes another one, a big one this time3. They brought the corpse in and cremated it right beside my spot, right in front of my glot. This was even worse than last night!
''Well, that's good,'' I thought, ''bringing in this corpse to burn here is going to help my practice.''
But still I wouldn't go and do any rites for them, I waited for them to leave first before taking a look.
Burning that body for me to sit and watch over all night, I can't tell you how it was. Words can't describe it. Nothing I could say could convey the fear I felt. In the dead of night, remember. The fire from the burning corpse flickered red and green and the flames pattered softly. I wanted to do walking meditation in front of the body but could hardly bring myself to do it. Eventually I got into my net. The stench from the burning flesh lingered all through the night.
And this was before things really started to happen.... As the flames flickered softly I turned my back on the fire.
I forgot about sleep, I couldn't even think of it, my eyes were fixed rigid with fear. And there was nobody to turn to, there was only me. I had to rely on myself. I could think of nowhere to go, there was nowhere to run to in that pitch-black night.
''Well, I'll sit and die here. I'm not moving from this spot.''
Here, talking of the ordinary mind, would it want to do this? Would it take you to such a situation? If you tried to reason it out you'd never go. Who would want to do such a thing? If you didn't have strong faith in the teaching of the Buddha you'd never do it.
Now, about 10 p.m., I was sitting with my back to the fire. I don't know what it was, but there came a sound of shuffling from the fire behind me. Had the coffin just collapsed? Or maybe a dog was getting the corpse? But no, it sounded more like a buffalo walking steadily around.
''Oh, never mind....''
But then it started walking towards me, just like a person!
It walked up behind me, the footsteps heavy, like a buffalo's, and yet not... The leaves crunched under the footsteps as it made its way round to the front. Well, I could only prepare for the worst, where else was there to go? But it didn't really come up to me, it just circled around in front and then went off in the direction of the pa-kow. Then all was quiet. I don't know what it was, but my fear made me think of many possibilities.
It must have been about half-an-hour later, I think, when the footsteps started coming back from the direction of the pa-kow. Just like a person! It came right up to me, this time, heading for me as if to run me over! I closed my eyes and refused to open them.
''I'll die with my eyes closed.''
It got closer and closer until it stopped dead in front of me and just stood stock still. I felt as if it were waving burnt hands back and forth in front of my closed eyes. Oh! This was really it! I threw out everything, forgot all about Buddho, Dhammo and Sangho. I forgot everything else, there was only the fear in me, stacked in full to the brim. My thoughts couldn't go anywhere else, there was only fear. From the day I was born I had never experienced such fear. Buddho and Dhammo had disappeared, I don't know where. There was only fear welling up inside my chest until it felt like a tightly-stretched drumskin.
''Well, I'll just leave it as it is, there's nothing else to do.''
I sat as if I wasn't even touching the ground and simply noted what was going on. The fear was so great that it filled me, like a jar completely filled with water. If you pour water until the jar is completely full, and then pour some more, the jar will overflow. Likewise, the fear built up so much within me that it reached its peak and began to overflow.
''What am I so afraid of anyway?'' a voice inside me asked.
''I'm afraid of death,'' another voice answered.
''Well, then, where is this thing 'death'? Why all the panic? Look where death abides. Where is death?''
''Why, death is within me!''
''If death is within you, then where are you going to run to escape it? If you run away you die, if you stay here you die. Wherever you go it goes with you because death lies within you, there's nowhere you can run to. Whether you are afraid or not you die just the same, there's nowhere to escape death.''
As soon as I had thought this, my perception seemed to change right around. All the fear completely disappeared as easily as turning over one's own hand. It was truly amazing. So much fear and yet it could disappear just like that! Non-fear arose in its place. Now my mind rose higher and higher until I felt as if I was in the clouds.
As soon as I had conquered the fear, rain began to fall. I don't know what sort of rain it was, the wind was so strong. But I wasn't afraid of dying now. I wasn't afraid that the branches of the trees might come crashing down on me. I paid it no mind. The rain thundered down like a hot-season torrent, really heavy. By the time the rain had stopped everything was soaking wet.
I sat unmoving.
So what did I do next, soaking wet as I was? I cried! The tears flowed down my cheeks. I cried as I thought to myself,
''Why am I sitting here like some sort of orphan or abandoned child, sitting, soaking in the rain like a man who owns nothing, like an exile?''
And then I thought further, ''All those people sitting comfortably in their homes right now probably don't even suspect that there is a monk sitting, soaking in the rain all night like this. What's the point of it all?'' Thinking like this I began to feel so thoroughly sorry for myself that the tears came gushing out.
''They're not good things anyway, these tears, let them flow right on out until they're all gone.''
This was how I practiced.
Now I don't know how I can describe the things that followed. I sat... sat and listened. After conquering my feelings I just sat and watched as all manner of things arose in me, so many things that were possible to know but impossible to describe. And I thought of the Buddha's words... paccattam veditabbo viññūhi4 - ''the wise will know for themselves.''
That I had endured such suffering and sat through the rain like this... who was there to experience it with me? Only I could know what it was like. There was so much fear and yet the fear disappeared. Who else could witness this? The people in their homes in the town couldn't know what it was like, only I could see it. It was a personal experience. Even if I were to tell others they wouldn't really know, it was something for each individual to experience for himself. The more I contemplated this the clearer it became. I became stronger and stronger, my conviction become firmer and firmer, until daybreak.
When I opened my eyes at dawn, everything was yellow. I had been wanting to urinate during the night but the feeling had eventually stopped. When I got up from my sitting in the morning everywhere I looked was yellow, just like the early morning sunlight on some days. When I went to urinate there was blood in the urine!
''Eh? Is my gut torn or something?'' I got a bit of fright... ''Maybe it's really torn inside there.''
''Well, so what? If it's torn it's torn, who is there to blame?'' a voice told me straight away. ''If it's torn it's torn, if I die I die. I was only sitting here, I wasn't doing any harm. If it's going to burst, let it burst,'' the voice said.
My mind was as if arguing or fighting with itself. One voice would come from one side, saying, ''Hey, this is dangerous!'' Another voice would counter it, challenge it and over-rule it.
My urine was stained with blood.
''Hmm. Where am I going to find medicine?''
''I'm not going to bother with that stuff. A monk can't cut plants for medicine anyway. If I die, I die, so what? What else is there to do? If I die while practicing like this then I'm ready. If I were to die doing something bad that's no good, but to die practicing like this I'm prepared.''
Don't follow your moods. Train yourself. The practice involves putting your very life at stake. You must have cried at least two or three times. That's right, that's the practice. If you're sleepy and want to lie down then don't let it sleep. Make the sleepiness go away before you lie down. But look at you all, you don't know how to practice.
Sometimes, when you come back from almsround and you're contemplating the food before eating, you can't settle down, your mind is like a mad dog. The saliva flows, you're so hungry. Sometimes you may not even bother to contemplate, you just dig in. That's a disaster. If the mind won't calm down and be patient then just push your bowl away and don't eat. Train yourself, drill yourself, that's practice. Don't just keep on following your mind. Push your bowl away, get up and leave, don't allow yourself to eat. If it really wants to eat so much and acts so stubborn then don't let it eat. The saliva will stop flowing. If the defilements know that they won't get anything to eat they'll get scared. They won't dare bother you next day, they'll be afraid they won't get anything to eat. Try it out if you don't believe me.
People don't trust the practice, they don't dare to really do it. They're afraid they'll go hungry, afraid they'll die. If you don't try it out you won't know what it's about. Most of us don't dare to do it, don't dare to try it out, we're afraid.
When it comes to eating and the like I've suffered over them for a long time now so I know what they're about. And that's only a minor thing as well. So this practice is not something one can study easily.
Consider: What is the most important thing of all? There's nothing else, just death. Death is the most important thing in the world. Consider, practice, inquire.... If you don't have clothing you won't die. If you don't have betel nut to chew or cigarettes to smoke you still won't die. But if you don't have rice or water, then you will die. I see only these two things as being essential in this world. You need rice and water to nourish the body. So I wasn't interested in anything else, I just contented myself with whatever was offered. As long as I had rice and water it was enough to practice with, I was content.
Is that enough for you? All those other things are extras, whether you get them or not doesn't matter, the only really important things are rice and water.
''If I live like this can I survive?'' I asked myself. ''There's enough to get by on all right. I can probably get at least rice on almsround in just about any village, a mouthful from each house. Water is usually available. Just these two are enough....'' I didn't aim to be particularly rich.
In regards to the practice, right and wrong are usually co-existent. You must dare to do it, dare to practice. If you've never been to a charnel ground you should train yourself to go. If you can't go at night then go during the day. Then train yourself to go later and later until you can go at dusk and stay there. Then you will see the effects of the practice, then you will understand.
This mind has been deluded now for who knows how many lifetimes. Whatever we don't like or love we want to avoid, we just indulge in our fears. And then we say we're practicing. This can't be called ''practice.'' If it's real practice you'll even risk your life. If you've really made up your mind to practice why would you take an interest in petty concerns?... ''I only got a little, you got a lot.'' ''You quarreled with me so I'm quarreling with you....'' I had none of these thoughts because I wasn't looking for such things. Whatever others did was their business. Going to other monasteries I didn't get involved in such things. However high or low others practiced I wouldn't take any interest, I just looked after my own business. And so I dared to practice, and the practice gave rise to wisdom and insight.
If your practice has really hit the spot then you really practice. Day or night you practice. At night, when it's quiet, I'd sit in meditation, then come down to walk, alternating back and forth like this at least two or three times a night. Walk, then sit, then walk some more... I wasn't bored, I enjoyed it.
Sometimes it'd be raining softly and I'd think of the times I used to work the rice paddies. My pants would still be wet from the day before but I'd have to get up before dawn and put them on again. Then I'd have to go down to below the house to get the buffalo out of its pen. All I could see of the buffalo would be covered in buffalo shit. Then the buffalo's tail would swish around and spatter me with shit on top of that. My feet would be sore with athlete's foot and I'd walk along thinking, ''Why is life so miserable?'' And now here I was walking meditation... what was a little bit of rain to me? Thinking like this I encouraged myself in the practice.
If the practice has entered the stream then there's nothing to compare with it. There's no suffering like the suffering of a Dhamma cultivator and there's no happiness like the happiness of one either. There's no zeal to compare with the zeal of the cultivator and there's no laziness to compare with them either. Practicers of the Dhamma are tops. That's why I say if you really practice it's a sight to see.
But most of us just talk about practice without having done it or reached it. Our practice is like the man whose roof is leaking on one side so he sleeps on the other side of the house. When the sunshine comes in on that side he rolls over to the other side, all the time thinking, ''When will I ever get a decent house like everyone else?'' If the whole roof leaks then he just gets up and leaves. This is not the way to do things, but that's how most people are.
This mind of ours, these defilements... if you follow them they'll cause trouble. The more you follow them the more the practice degenerates. With the real practice sometimes you even amaze yourself with your zeal. Whether other people practice or not, don't take any interest, simply do your own practice consistently. Whoever comes or goes it doesn't matter, just do the practice. You must look at yourself before it can be called ''practice.'' When you really practice there are no conflicts in your mind, there is only Dhamma.
Wherever you are still inept, wherever you are still lacking, that's where you must apply yourself. If you haven't yet cracked it don't give up. Having finished with one thing you get stuck on another, so persist with it until you crack it, don't let up. Don't be content until it's finished. Put all your attention on that point. While sitting, lying down or walking, watch right there.
It's just like a farmer who hasn't yet finished his fields. Every year he plants rice but this year he still hasn't gotten it finished, so his mind is stuck on that, he can't rest content. His work is still unfinished. Even when he's with friends he can't relax, he's all the time nagged by his unfinished business. Or like a mother who leaves her baby upstairs in the house while she goes to feed the animals below: she's always got her baby in mind, lest it should fall from the house. Even though she may do other things, her baby is never far from her thoughts.
It's just the same for us and our practice - we never forget it. Even though we may do other things our practice is never far from our thoughts, it's constantly with us, day and night. It has to be like this if you are really going to make progress.
In the beginning you must rely on a teacher to instruct and advise you. When you understand, then practice. When the teacher has instructed you follow the instructions. If you understand the practice it's no longer necessary for the teacher to teach you, just do the work yourselves. Whenever heedlessness or unwholesome qualities arise know for yourself, teach yourself. Do the practice yourself. The mind is the one who knows, the witness. The mind knows for itself if you are still very deluded or only a little deluded. Wherever you are still faulty try to practice right at that point, apply yourself to it.
Practice is like that. It's almost like being crazy, or you could even say you are crazy. When you really practice you are crazy, you ''flip.'' You have distorted perception and then you adjust your perception. If you don't adjust it, it's going to be just as troublesome and just as wretched as before.
So there's a lot of suffering in the practice, but if you don't know your own suffering you won't understand the Noble Truth of suffering. To understand suffering, to kill it off, you first have to encounter it. If you want to shoot a bird but don't go out and find it, how will you ever shoot it? Suffering, suffering... the Buddha taught about suffering: the suffering of birth, the suffering of old age... if you don't want to experience suffering you won't see suffering. If you don't see suffering you won't understand suffering. If you don't understand suffering you won't be able to get rid of suffering.
Now people don't want to see suffering, they don't want to experience it. If they suffer here they run over there. You see? They're simply dragging their suffering around with them, they never kill it. They don't contemplate or investigate it. If they feel suffering here they run over there; if it arises there they run back here. They try to run away from suffering physically. As long as you are still ignorant, wherever you go you'll find suffering. Even if you boarded an airplane to get away from it, it would board the plane with you. If you dived under the water it would dive in with you, because suffering lies within us. But we don't know that. If it lies within us where can we run to escape it?
People have suffering in one place so they go somewhere else. When suffering arises there they run off again. They think they're running away from suffering but they're not, suffering goes with them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don't know the cause of suffering then we can't know the cessation of suffering, there's no way we can escape it.
You must look into this intently until you're beyond doubt. You must dare to practice. Don't shirk it, either in a group or alone. If others are lazy it doesn't matter. Whoever does a lot of walking meditation, a lot of practice... I guarantee results. If you really practice consistently, whether others come or go or whatever, one rains retreat is enough. Do it like I've been telling you here. Listen to the teacher's words, don't quibble, don't be stubborn. Whatever he tells you to do go right ahead and do it. You needn't be timid of the practice, knowledge will surely arise from it.
Practice is also patipadā. What is patipadā? Practice evenly, consistently. Don't practice like Old Reverend Peh. One Rains Retreat he determined to stop talking. He stopped talking all right but then he started writing notes... ''Tomorrow please toast me some rice.'' He wanted to eat toasted rice! He stopped talking but ended up writing so many notes that he was even more scattered than before. One minute he'd write one thing, the next another, what a farce!
I don't know why he bothered determining not to talk. He didn't know what practice is.
Actually our practice is to be content with little, to just be natural. Don't worry whether you feel lazy or diligent. Don't even say ''I'm diligent'' or ''I'm lazy.'' Most people practice only when they feel diligent, if they feel lazy they don't bother. This is how people usually are. But monks shouldn't think like that. If you are diligent you practice, when you are lazy you still practice. Don't bother with other things, cut them off, throw them out, train yourself. Practice consistently, whether day or night, this year, next year, whatever the time... don't pay attention to thoughts of diligence or laziness, don't worry whether it's hot or cold, just do it. This is called sammā patipadā - right practice.
Some people really apply themselves to the practice for six or seven days, then, when they don't get the results they wanted, give it up and revert completely, indulging in chatter, socializing and whatever. Then they remember the practice and go at it for another six or seven days, then give it up again.... It's like the way some people work. At first they throw themselves into it... then, when they stop, they don't even bother picking up their tools, they just walk off and leave them there. Later on, when the soil has all caked up, they remember their work and do a bit more, only to leave it again.
Doing things this way you'll never get a decent garden or paddy. Our practice is the same. If you think this patipadā is unimportant you won't get anywhere with the practice. Sammā patipadā is unquestionably important. Do it constantly. Don't listen to your moods. So what if your mood is good or not? The Buddha didn't bother with those things. He had experienced all the good things and bad things, the right things and wrong things. That was his practice. Taking only what you like and discarding whatever you don't like isn't practice, it's disaster. Wherever you go you will never be satisfied, wherever you stay there will be suffering.
Practicing like this is like the Brahmans making their sacrifices. Why do they do it? Because they want something in exchange. Some of us practice like this. Why do we practice? Because we seek re-birth, another state of being, we want to attain something. If we don't get what we want then we don't want to practice, just like the Brahmans making their sacrifices. They do so because of desire.
The Buddha didn't teach like that. The cultivation of the practice is for giving up, for letting go, for stopping, for uprooting. You don't do it for re-birth into any particular state.
There was once a Thera who had initially gone forth into the Mahānikai sect. But he found it not strict enough so he took Dhammayuttika ordination5. Then he started practicing. Sometimes he would fast for fifteen days, then when he ate he'd eat only leaves and grass. He thought that eating animals was bad kamma, that it would be better to eat leaves and grass.
After a while... ''Hmm. Being a monk is not so good, it's inconvenient. It's hard to maintain my vegetarian practice as a monk. Maybe I'll disrobe and become a pa-kow.'' So he disrobed and became a pa-kow so that he could gather the leaves and grass for himself and dig for roots and yams. He carried on like that for a while till in the end he didn't know what he should be doing. He gave it all up. He gave up being a monk, gave up being a pa-kow, gave up everything. These days I don't know what he's doing. Maybe he's dead, I don't know. This is because he couldn't find anything to suit his mind. He didn't realize that he was simply following defilements. The defilements were leading him on but he didn't know it.
''Did the Buddha disrobe and become a pa-kow? How did the Buddha practice? What did he do?'' He didn't consider this. Did the Buddha go and eat leaves and grass like a cow? Sure, if you want to eat like that go ahead, if that's all you can manage, but don't go round criticizing others. Whatever standard of practice you find suitable then persevere with that. ''Don't gouge or carve too much or you won't have a decent handle6.'' You'll be left with nothing and in the end just give up.
Some people are like this. When it comes to walking meditation they really go at it for fifteen days or so. They don't even bother eating, just walk. Then when they finish that they just lie around and sleep. They don't bother considering carefully before they start to practice. In the end nothing suits them. Being a monk doesn't suit them, being a pa-kow doesn't suit them... so they end up with nothing.
People like this don't know practice, they don't look into the reasons for practicing. Think about what you're practicing for. They teach this practice for throwing off. The mind wants to love this person and hate that person... these things may arise but don't take them for real. So what are we practicing for? Simply so that we can give up these very things. Even if you attain peace, throw out the peace. If knowledge arises, throw out the knowledge. If you know then you know, but if you take that knowing to be your own then you think you know something. Then you think you are better than others. After a while you can't live anywhere, wherever you live problems arise. If you practice wrongly it's just as if you didn't practice at all.
Practice according to your capacity. Do you sleep a lot? Then try going against the grain. Do you eat a lot? Then try eating less. Take as much practice as you need, using sīla, samādhi and paññā as your basis. Then throw in the dhutanga practices also. These dhutanga7 practices are for digging into the defilements. You may find the basic practices still not enough to really uproot the defilements, so you have to incorporate the dhutanga practices as well.
These dhutanga practices are really useful. Some people can't kill off the defilements with basic sıla and samādhi, they have to bring in the dhutanga practices to help out. The dhutanga practices cut off many things. Living at the foot of a tree.... Living at the foot of a tree isn't against the precepts. But if you determine the dhutanga practice of living in a charnel ground and then don't do it, that's wrong. Try it out. What's it like to live in a charnel ground? Is it the same as living in a group?
Dhutanga: this translates as ''the practices which are hard to do.'' These are the practices of the Noble Ones. Whoever wants to be a Noble One must use the dhutanga practices to cut the defilements. It's difficult to observe them and it's hard to find people with the commitment to practice them, because they go against the grain.
Such as with robes; they say to limit your robes to the basic three robes; to maintain yourself on almsfood; to eat only in the bowl; to eat only what you get on almsround, if anyone brings food to offer afterwards you don't accept it.
Keeping this last practice in central Thailand is easy, the food is quite adequate, because there they put a lot of food in your bowl. But when you come to the Northeast here this dhutanga takes on subtle nuances - here you get plain rice! In these parts the tradition is to put only plain rice in the almsbowl. In central Thailand they give rice and other foods also, but around these parts you get only plain rice. This dhutanga practice becomes really ascetic. You eat only plain rice, whatever is brought to offer afterwards you don't accept. Then there is eating once a day, at one sitting, from only one bowl - when you've finished eating you get up from your seat and don't eat again that day.
These are called dhutanga practices. Now who will practice them? It's hard these days to find people with enough commitment to practice them because they are demanding, but that is why they are so beneficial.
What people call practice these days is not really practice. If you really practice it's no easy matter. Most people don't dare to really practice, don't dare to really go against the grain. They don't want to do anything which runs contrary to their feelings. People don't want to resist the defilements, they don't want to dig at them or get rid of them.
In our practice they say not to follow your own moods. Consider: we have been fooled for countless lifetimes already into believing that the mind is our own. Actually it isn't, it's just an imposter. It drags us into greed, drags us into aversion, drags us into delusion, drags us into theft, plunder, desire and hatred. These things aren't ours. Just ask yourself right now: do you want to be good? Everybody wants to be good. Now doing all these things, is that good? There! People commit malicious acts and yet they want to be good. That's why I say these things are tricksters, that's all they are.
The Buddha didn't want us to follow this mind, he wanted us to train it. If it goes one way then take cover another way. When it goes over there then take cover back here. To put it simply: whatever the mind wants, don't let it have it. It's as if we've been friends for years but we finally reach a point where our ideas are no longer the same. We split up and go our separate ways. We no longer understand each other, in fact we even argue, so we break up. That's right, don't follow your own mind. Whoever follows his own mind, follows its likes and desires and everything else, that person hasn't yet practiced at all.
This is why I say that what people call practice is not really practice... it's disaster. If you don't stop and take a look, don't try the practice, you won't see, you won't attain the Dhamma. To put it straight, in our practice you have to commit your very life. It's not that it isn't difficult, this practice, it has to entail some suffering. Especially in the first year or two, there's a lot of suffering. The young monks and novices really have a hard time.
I've had a lot of difficulties in the past, especially with food. What can you expect? Becoming a monk at twenty when you are just getting into your food and sleep... some days I would sit alone and just dream of food. I'd want to eat bananas in syrup, or papaya salad, and my saliva would start to run. This is part of the training. All these things are not easy. This business of food and eating can lead one into a lot of bad kamma. Take someone who's just growing up, just getting into his food and sleep, and constrain him in these robes and his feelings run amok. It's like damming a flowing torrent, sometimes the dam just breaks. If it survives that's fine, but if not it just collapses.
My meditation in the first year was nothing else, just food. I was so restless... Sometimes I would sit there and it was almost as if I was actually popping bananas into my mouth. I could almost feel myself breaking the bananas into pieces and putting them in my mouth. And this is all part of the practice.
So don't be afraid of it. We've all been deluded for countless lifetimes now so coming to train ourselves, to correct ourselves, is no easy matter. But if it's difficult it's worth doing. Why should we bother with easy things? So those things that are difficult, anybody can do the easy things. We should train ourselves to do that which is difficult.
It must have been the same for Buddha. If he had just worried about his family and relatives, his wealth and his past sensual pleasures, he'd never have become the Buddha. These aren't trifling matters, either, they're just what most people are looking for. So going forth at an early age and giving up these things is just like dying. And yet some people come up and say, ''Oh, it's easy for you, Luang Por. You never had a wife and children to worry about, so it's easier for you!'' I say, ''Don't get too close to me when you say that or you'll get a clout over the head!''... as if I didn't have a heart or something!
When it comes to people it's no trifling matter. It's what life is all about. So we Dhamma practicers should earnestly get into the practice, really dare to do it. Don't believe others, just listen to the Buddha's teaching. Establish peace in your hearts. In time you will understand. Practice, reflect, contemplate, and the fruits of the practice will be there. The cause and the result are proportional.
Don't give in to your moods. In the beginning even finding the right amount of sleep is difficult. You may determine to sleep a certain time but can't manage it. You must train yourself. Whatever time you decide to get up, then get up as soon as it comes round. Sometimes you can do it, but sometimes as soon as you awake you say to yourself ''get up!'' and it won't budge! You may have to say to yourself, ''One... two... if I reach the count three and still don't get up may I fall into hell!'' You have to teach yourself like this. When you get to three you'll get up immediately, you'll be afraid of falling into hell.
You must train yourself, you can't dispense with the training. You must train yourself from all angles. Don't just lean on your teacher, your friends or the group all the time or you'll never become wise. It's not necessary to hear so much instruction, just hear the teaching once or twice and then do it.
The well trained mind won't dare cause trouble, even in private. In the mind of the adept there is no such thing as ''private'' or ''in public.'' All Noble Ones have confidence in their own hearts. We should be like this.
Some people become monks simply to find an easy life. Where does ease come from? What is its cause? All ease has to be preceded by suffering. In all things it's the same: you must work before you get rice. In all things you must first experience difficulty. Some people become monks in order to rest and take it easy, they say they just want to sit around and rest awhile. If you don't study the books do you expect to be able to read and write? It can't be done.
This is why most people who have studied a lot and become monks never get anywhere. Their knowledge is of a different kind, on a different path. They don't train themselves, they don't look at their minds. They only stir up their minds with confusion, seeking things which are not conducive to calm and restraint. The knowledge of the Buddha is not worldly knowledge, it is supramundane knowledge, a different way altogether.
This is why whoever goes forth into the Buddhist monkhood must give up whatever level or status or position they have held previously. Even when a king goes forth he must relinquish his previous status, he doesn't bring that worldly stuff into the monkhood with him to throw his weight around with. He doesn't bring his wealth, status, knowledge or power into the monkhood with him. The practice concerns giving up, letting go, uprooting, stopping. You must understand this in order to make the practice work.
If you are sick and don't treat the illness with medicine do you think the illness will cure itself? Wherever you are afraid you should go. Wherever there is a cemetery or charnel ground which is particularly fearsome, go there. Put on your robes, go there and contemplate, ''Aniccā vata sankhārā....''8 Stand and walk meditation there, look inward and see where your fear lies. It will be all too obvious. Understand the truth of all conditioned things. Stay there and watch until dusk falls and it gets darker and darker, until you are even able to stay there all night.
The Buddha said, ''Whoever sees the Dhamma sees the Tathāgata. Whoever sees the Tathāgata sees Nibbāna.'' If we don't follow his example how will we see the Dhamma? If we don't see the Dhamma how will we know the Buddha? If we don't see the Buddha how will we know the qualities of the Buddha? Only if we practice in the footsteps of the Buddha will we know that what the Buddha taught is utterly certain, that the Buddha's teaching is the supreme truth. 


     In the Dead of Night...1
Given on a lunar observance night (uposatha), at Wat Pah Pong, in the late 1960s
Glot - the Thai forest-dwelling monks' large umbrella from which, suspended from a tree, they hang a mosquito net in which to stay while in the forest.
... time3
The body on the first night had been that of a child.
The last line of the traditional Pāli lines listing the qualities of the Dhamma.
... ordination5
Mahānikai and Dhammayuttika are the two sects of the Theravāda Sangha in Thailand.
... handle6
A Thai expression meaning, ''Don't overdo it.''
Thirteen practices allowed by the Buddha over and above the general disciplinary code, for those who wish to practice more ascetically.
... sankhārā....''8
Part of a Pāli verse, traditionally recited at funeral ceremonies. The meaning of the full verse if, ''Alas, transient are all compounded things / Having arisen, they cease / Being born, they die / The cessation of all compounding is true happiness.'' 
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