Theravada Wisdom Teachings
Selections from talks and discourses given by The Venerable Taungpulu Sayadaw of Burma
If I do everything with awareness, then the whole lot of "I"s will be aware, too.
If I am mindful, then all around me will be mindful; the whole village will be
mindful, then the whole world.
If I am mindful, then you must be mindful if you are around me.
If I am mindful, you cannot disturb me. If I am always mindful,
and you are around me, how long can you remain unmindful?
The three wholesome roots of mind are alobha, adosa, and amoha. We can associate them with the three important qualities of life: dana, sila, and bhavana.
Alobha means that you are not greedy for anything. But further, it means that you have a generous mind and that you give without thinking about getting anything back. Thus, it is associated with dana, charitable giving.
Adosa means having no ill-will or aversion for anyone. But further, it means protecting yourself and others by keeping different kinds of precepts for the purpose of bodily purification and discipline. Thus it is associated with sila, moral observance.
Amoha means not having dullness or being in illusion, but having knowledge. Further, it means practicing meditation to gain insight into the real nature of things. Thus, it is associated with bhavana, mental culture.
Midnight is dark. The new moon is dark. The thickness of the forest is dark. But darkest of all is ignorance.
That which you cannot conquer is anicca (impermanence).
Because you cannot conquer it, there is dukkha (suffering).
If you know, it will break. If you do not know, you will go around and around:
This is dependent origination.
O yogis, you should be like the peacock and not like the dog. In nature, you have most likely seen both baby peacocks and puppies. Which is more lovable? As the baby peacock is brown and without any feathers, you would probably say the puppy is more lovable. But once the peacock is fully grown it has a beautiful blue body and a fan of many colors. However, as it ages the dog loses its fur and suffers from ticks and fleas. Similarly, you must practice sila (virtue), samadhi (concentration), and panna (wisdom) in order to avoid the forlorn fate of an old dog. The continual practice of these three results in spiritual illumination that is like the beautiful royal blue plumage of the full-grown peacock. If you fulfill sila, samadhi, and panna, everyone will love you, and you will love yourself as well.
The body and mind are like the car and its driver. Whenever the driver will start the car, only then will the car go. The car cannot do anything without the driver. So we can say that the car is like the body, rupa, and driver is like the mind, nama. Only when matter makes contact with mind, then you can know this is this, and that is that.
Once a monk asked the Buddha what is meant by a stupid, dumb, and foolish person. And the Buddha said, "Whoever does not practice the Seven Factors of Enlightenment is called stupid, dumb, and foolish."
Once a monk asked the Buddha what he meant by a poor person. The Buddha said, "Whoever does not practice the Seven Factors of Enlightenment is called a poor person, even though a person may have a lot of wealth, nevertheless, they are no different from a poor person if they do not practice the Seven Factors of Enlightenment." Even though a person knows all the scriptures by heart, they are still poor if they do not practice the Seven Factors of Enlightenment.
Everyone should know clearly the Five Hindrances and the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. The first factor is mindfulness; the second is investigation of Dhamma; the third is energy or effort; the fourth, rapture; the fifth, tranquility; the sixth, one-pointedness of mind; and the seventh is equanimity.
We are always thinking "I," "mine," "we," "they," "he," "she," "man," "woman," but when we analyze we will find that there is no "man", nor "woman," there is no
other thing than mentality and materiality. We are made up of mentality and materiality; mental states and material elements. What is this material and
mental phenomena? The mental phenomena-when you see a man or a woman-is nothing but na, mind. Mind cannot exist by itself. Mind needs support. Mind by itself, or consciousness by itself, is nothing. It is very clean, but it has its own support, the mental states-the psychic factors. Therefore, in all of us, whether we are man or woman or whether we are animal, all of us have the same na, which is mind plus mental factors. The yo is materiality. There is no such thing as man, and there is no such thing as woman. We are merely material elements.
When we say, "I am meditating," actually "I" am not meditating, but mentality-materiality is meditating. When we say that "I am eating," who is eating? It is the mentality-materiality that is eating. It is the mind that commands the matter to follow its orders, because matter by itself is nothing; it has no control. The mind and its mental factors control materiality.It is not the body that is eating, it is the mind which wants to eat; therefore, the body is getting the food. It is not that the body wants to meditate, but the mind which commands the body to meditate. It is not the body which wants to do this or that; it is the mind which controls the body or the matter.
In Buddhist psychology, there are four ultimate realities, and these four are the mind, mental factors, materiality, and nibbana.
Sometimes we give names like "sheep," "goat," "man," "woman," and when we give names, we are assigning concepts. The reality is the mentality and materiality, but when we give names and label things, they are just concepts; they are not actually what is real. They are a kind of delusion. When we analyze them, we find they are composed of mentality and materiality.
Is "Kennedy" in mentality and materiality? Is "Kennedy" different from mentality and materiality? Is there mentality and materiality in "Kennedy" Is "Kennedy" permanently there?
These questions explain to us that the name "Kennedy" is still there; it is a concept, a name that will be always there. But actually, who we called "Kennedy" was made up of mentality and materiality, and this is gone. All these names create a view of personal identity. Once we can understand mentality and materiality in a correct way, then we will see that beyond mentality and materiality there is only a label. This is dhammaditthi: the knowledge that the individual is composed of mentality and materiality.
The name-whatever name we give-lives on in memory as an abstract concept, but actually a person is made up of mentality-materiality, and when that person
dies, the mentality and materiality separate from each other. But the name which is a concept will always be there while the reality which makes up the
person is gone at death. The name "Kennedy" is still there, but he is no longer there, the mentality-materiality is gone. In mentality and materiality, there cannot be a name, and in a name there cannot be mentality-materiality, that is, Kennedy. The mentality-materiality is one thing, and the name given is something else.
Two Buddhas, Sumedha and Dipankara, lived long, long ago. Today their names are still here, but their mentality and materiality are no more. The names will always be there, long after the mind and body are gone.
Practice, at least for a week, the fasting known as ekatani patabai, which means sitting in one place with one vessel and eating just once in the whole day. In the afternoon take as much juice as you want but no black tea. Even if you do the ordinary fasting prescribed by the Eight Precepts (eating no solid food past noon), keep the ekatani patabai for seven days. It has much greater value than any other fasting.
There are four different types of people who have trouble meditating:
those who are very talkative;
those who are too sociable and cannot stay alone;
those who are sluggish and tired;
and those who are always very busy and have no spare time.
When you know that you are having greed, you are no longer in ignorance but possess knowledge.
If you know that you are angry, and have hatred, you are no longer in ignorance but possess knowledge.
When you know that you are having ignorance, that knowing becomes knowledge and it is a meditation.
Even if you become aware of the feeling, "I don't want to meditate," that means you have the insight that you don't want to meditate. Since you know that you do not want to meditate, that knowing becomes the meditation-the mindfulness and awareness that you know what you don't want to do.
Breathing in, touching
Breathing out, touching
Bring your mind to the touching
So, three times knowing, you have a meditation.
If you keep your hands and feet in one position for a long time, you will experience all kinds of feelings at every moment. In your mind you will not achieve one-pointedness, your meditation will not go anywhere, and you will not get the most important thing.
On the path which is wholesome, there are no feelings to call painful.
Whenever you have to move, move. With no painful feelings in the mind, the mind will get one-pointedness, the meditation will progress, and the results will be great.
Concerning the practice of meditation, the Buddha said, "Disciples, you should practice so that you always live with mindfulness and clear comprehension. Whatever you do, do with mindfulness." The Buddha's cousin, the Venerable Nanda Thera, was very mindful. Likewise should you be also. Whenever you look, look very mindfully; when you are looking straight ahead you must be mindful of that. When you want to look to the side, turn your head slowly, very mindfully. When you bend, bend slowly and mindfully. When you stretch, stretch mindfully. If there is mindfulness, there is also clear comprehension. Live mindfully and with clear comprehension; this is my request to you.
Whenever putting on your clothes, when washing your clothes, or hanging them on the line; whatever you do with your eating vessels, taking your plate, washing it, your silverware-do it very mindfully. Also, when taking a mouthful of food, chewing, and swallowing, be mindful of every action with regard to eating.
Whatever you drink, as you reach for the cup, raise the cup, touch the cup to the lips, swallow-be aware of hotness or coldness. Be aware of whether or not
there is hardness or softness in the food. When you taste, you must do so mindfully. Be mindful when you are urinating or defecating. When you walk, from
the time you pick up your foot and place it down again, be mindful of the lifting, pushing forward, and dropping down of the foot. When you are standing, you must be aware of the posture of your body. Be aware of:
Seeing, hearing, walking, touching.
Seeing, hearing, standing, touching.
Seeing, hearing, sitting, touching.
Seeing, hearing, lying, touching.
When falling asleep, be aware that you are falling asleep. When waking up, you should be aware that you are waking up. This is very hard in the beginning. If
a person can talk very mindfully, if he is mindful while he is talking, it shows that his mindfulness is very strong. Whenever you want to speak, just remind yourself to speak mindfully, and say, "If I cannot speak mindfully, then I won't speak." So, be very careful when you speak. When you are silent, then you should be aware that you are silent, and note, "silent, silent, silent."
When you see, see as much as you can, and be aware of as many things as you can; don't concentrate only on one object. Your mind should see more, should be aware of more; in this way your mindfulness will become strong. When you hear something, listen very mindfully, the more you can hear the better it is. Without any choosing or rejecting, try to be aware of all the sounds around you. Be aware of many sounds; when you practice this for a long time you will hear a kind of
sound that is inside your ear. At first it is very subtle, and if you are aware of that, keep your mindfulness there, and the sound will become louder and louder. Whatever smell you sense, you must be aware of that; you should note it as "smelling, smelling, smelling."
Whether or not it is pleasant, you must be aware of it.
There are many touching points on your body where you feel touching; there is touching your clothes, touching the floor, etc. Whatever touching sensations there are you must be aware of them. First you should be aware of the most obvious touching sensation.
Then you should try to be aware of the touching sensations over the whole body.
When you practice mindfulness like this, the mind will become calm and quiet. The mind will stay in the present moment, and you will have concentration. Only with concentration can you see things as they are. If you can keep your mind on whatever object you want to, if your mind stays there, this shows that your mind is settled and concentrated. If you have concentration, then you will know the truth, you will know things as they are. So try to keep your mind on one object.
To get good results, you should practice meditation the whole day. You should practice during the first watch of the night, from 6:00 to 10:00 PM. Then you should sleep from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM and from that time, from 2:00 to 6:00 AM, you should practice meditation, and on into the day without interruption. If you can practice like this then you will get results very quickly. Put your effort in practice. Only by practicing continuously without a break will you get good results. If your practice is interrupted frequently, it is very hard to achieve concentration.
There are different techniques for meditation, and there are many different objects which can be taken for our concentration. Breathing in and breathing out is a very important one to do first in order to develop our concentration. For developing our concentration we should always try to get rid of greed, hatred, and delusion, because these three are the greatest obstacles in our mind. To calm our mind, we should practice mindfulness of breathing. Only when we can get rid of greed, hatred, and delusion do the other qualities become strong. To have a wholesome mind, we must get rid of the unwholesome root.
It is always important for all of us to practice mindfulness. To practice mindfulness, different objects are given. Here the emphasis is on breathing in and breathing out. It is the most important basic practice to start with. Only when we achieve concentration can we get rid of the three great obstacles, the three hindrances on our way.
It is very difficult to develop our concentration because our mind is rooted in the unwholesome roots. Now, to get rid of these three roots takes lots of time. To start with, the most basic and most important meditation instruction is simply breathing in and breathing out. When we start our meditation, it is very difficult to control our mind, and when we are trying to get our concentration we will experience the three unwholesome roots trying to arise. But once greed comes up and the mind is colored with this greed, and when I know that it has come up, instead of fighting against it, instead of doing anything reactive, I say, "I'm greedy, I'm greedy, I'm greedy." Then it is very easy to get rid of it.
Also, when anger comes up in the mind and I say, "I'm angry, I'm angry," when I know that I am angry, the anger can never stay. Gradually, the anger will go away, and good-will will come.
In the same way, if I know that I am in delusion, I will have to say, "I'm in delusion, I'm in delusion." Gradually the delusion will go away. Very slowly all the unwholesome roots will go away.
When we sit for our practice the mind is difficult to control because the mind always likes to wander. When the mind is wandering, it is better not to fight with it, but just make a mental note, "Mind is wandering, mind is wavering."
At that moment, you will find that the mind is calming down, and you will be able to gain control over the mind.
If I see that my mind is wandering and I fight it, my mind will wander more. So instead of fighting and reacting, just acknowledge the wandering. Then knowledge arises. Also sometimes it happens that we are sitting for our practice, but due to our sluggishness, due to our sloth and torpor, due to our laziness, our mind goes far away. This is due to sluggishness. At that time, we must again bring our mind back. In this way, instead of fighting, instead of reacting, we must say, "I'm lazy, I'm lazy." When you know that you are lazy, it is no longer ignorance, it is knowledge. Your mind is no longer lazy, there is insight present, and gradually you can control your mind.
Of the Five Hindrances to meditation, sensual desire is the first. The Buddha said, "Monks, as this body depends on nourishment, so it is that these Five Hindrances live on nourishment. Without nourishment, they cannot arise and cannot live on."
What is the nourishment for the arising of the hindrances and for their continuing to arise? It is unwise thinking. When you see something or hear something, usually you think it is permanent, it will bring happiness, and that there is somebody there who is enjoying and seeing it, and that it is beautiful.
For greed to arise, the sign of beauty is the nourishment. If a person thinks of something as nice, as beautiful, greed for that thing will arise. If we keep on thinking of those things as nice or beautiful, this greed will come again and again, and will persist.
Everyone wants to see something very nice, wants to hear something very nice, wants to smell something very nice, and eat good food. It is greed that wants these things, and most people think that if they get want they want, then greed will be satisfied. But in truth this is not so. The more we get, the more we want.
Greed is like a wild animal; if you feed a wild animal you cannot drive him away. Even though you try to drive him away with sticks and stones, he will not go
away. So it is with greed. If we "feed" sensual pleasures to the wild animal of greed, it will never go away, it will become stronger and stronger. Most people think that if we have some desire, the best thing to do is to act, to go and do something to satisfy the desire, but this is not necessarily so.
Usually when a person wants to see something like a movie or TV he does so without hesitation. If you watch your desires with mindfulness, however, you will see that desires are impermanent. The same is true for all sensual pleasures: if you watch them, you will find nothing permanent; they are not "me" or "mine."
The best way to deal with greed is to see it as impermanent, to see that it doesn't really bring happiness, and to see that pleasures are not substantial, not "I," "me," or "mine."
It is not good either to indulge or suppress the desire. The best way is simply to watch the desire and see deeply into the nature of desire, which is accompanied by suffering of its loss. If, out of habit, you think that something is permanent, pleasurable, or beautiful, the desire which has not arisen will arise, and the desire which has arisen will become stronger and stronger. But if you see that things are impermanent and that your attachment to them can bring suffering, if you see that our bodies have the aspect of repulsiveness, those desires will not come. The desire that is there will go away, and the desire which has not arisen will not arise. By being mindful, we are not feeding the wild beast of greed. Those who practice meditation and keep the Precepts put a limit to greed. Eventually, the grasping nature of the mind weakens.
The Precepts are like the ground. Anyone who has to do work has to stand on the ground firmly. So when you practice meditation, observe the Precepts. Your mind will become much stronger and you will feel much happier. Keeping the Precepts helps support meditation and not greed. When you practice meditation, you have to be willing to do everything that will support meditation. If you really practice, you will see the truth.
Whatever we see, hear, smell, taste-if we watch mindfully, we will see the impermanence, the suffering, the soulless quality, we will see the superficial nature of beauty.
If we continuously watch like this, then greed for these things will go away. If you understand this, you will get relief from desire and sensual pleasure; if you don't, then you will go on suffering.
A human being or a deva-anybody who is practicing meditation-can be called bhikkhu (monk). Why can he or she be called bhikkhu? Because that person is destroying greed, destroying hatred, and destroying delusion. Bhikkhu in another way means someone who is engaged in destroying ignorance. You can lead a worldly life, and still develop a very deep understanding of the truth; you can even become enlightened.
In Buddhist psychology, there are three unwholesome roots, and because of these we have to come back many times. These three roots-lobha, dosa, moha (greed, hatred, delusion)-cause pain and suffering and all the different negative fields. To get rid of these three, we have to meditate and we have to practice a lot. Because of these three, we can never find happiness and we can never get peace. To get rid of these three, we will have to practice a lot, so that instead of greed (lobha), we will practice self-sacrifice (alobha). Dosa will become adosa; from ill-will we will develop good-will. And moha, which is delusion, a kind of ignorance-due to your practice this will be replaced by insight (amoha).
If we want to attain the stage of streamwinner (sotapanna), we will have to get rid of six out of ten unwholesome conducts-all three kaya-kan (killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct); from wezi-kan we will have to get rid of two: telling lies and using abusive words or slander; and from mano-kan we will have to get rid
of wrong views.
If we can get rid of these six, we can attain the first stage of sainthood called the stream-winner stage.
"How will we know if we have attained a stage?"
Others may not know that you have attained a stage, but only you can know. If you want to attain the second stage of sainthood, the once-returner stage (sakadagami), then you will have to weaken all the ten unwholesome conducts. When you become a streamwinner, you have already gotten rid of six. Say you went from the size of a human being who is carrying a heavy load to the size of a fly. This is the difference between being an ordinary person with the ten unwholesome conducts and being a person who has attained the first stage of sainthood and has gotten rid of six unwholesome conducts. When you become a once-returner, you have become as light as the legs of that fly.
To attain the third level of sainthood, the never-returner (anagami), we will have to get rid of the ten bad conducts almost completely. There will still be a little bit of delusion and a little bit of greed. When one attains the final stage, that is, the arahat stage, all these ten will be totally gone. And then the arahat attains nibbana.
Did you know that in nibbana there are exquisite carpets, delicious food, and beautiful trees? There are two different stages of nibbana. The first stage is Tha
u pa di the ta neban; the person has attained nibbana but is still alive, and still has the body which consists of the Five Groups (panca khanda): materiality (rupa), feeling (vedana), perception (sanna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana). These five are still there, and the person experiences different kinds of thoughts, painful or pleasurable sensations, and feelings. But these are all experienced without any attachment.
Also, equanimity takes the place of mental pain and happiness. From time to time, as long as the body is there, there is the desire to eat, the desire to
do certain things, but everything is done without attachment. As this enlightened person still has a body, so they will have to do all the things necessary to keep it up, until they drop the body. So, with the first stage of nibbana, one has to do everything, but one's speech, thoughts, and actions are beyond greed, hatred, and delusion, and are carried out without attachment for anything.
There is no greater moment than the attainment of the first stage of nibbana.
In fact, out of all the different moments possible, this moment is the most important moment in the whole universe. This is the first stage of nibbana, tha u pa di the ta neban, the nibbana remaining with the physical bases. The second stage of nibbana is called anu pa di the ta neban- the nibbana remaining without the bases; that is, the enlightened mind and the body are separated.
But even then, something remains. It is the Third Noble Truth-Nirodha-the Cessation of Suffering. All the other Noble Truths are gone. Secondly, there is the dhamma ayatana-the truth base; and thirdly, there is the dhamma dhatu-the truth element. In this stage of nibbana, the "person"-the Five Khandas-is no longer there, and there are no more pleasurable or painful states. The whole cycle of na-yo is controlled.
This is the second stage of nibbana-anu pa di the ta neban.
In the Questions of King Milinda, there is a great dialogue between the king and the wisest man of that time whose name was Nagasena. King Milinda doubted Nagasena: "You have given me so many different definitions of nibbana, but how do I know whether there is any nibbana or not?" So Nagasena said, "O King, you talk about wind, but is there any wind?" The king said, "Without wind, how can I breathe?" "But," Nagasena replied, "I don't see any wind." The king said, "You don't see the wind, but you are breathing, even though I don't see the wind, I see you breathing, and I know that you are alive." "So also," said Nagasena, "nibbana is something like the wind. You cannot see it, but it is there."
All of us are breathing, but none of us can see the breath of one another. So also in the same way, no one can see nibbana, but we can experience nibbana. As you can experience breath, so you can experience nibbana even though you cannot see it. Please try very hard to attain these stages.