Take a look at the example
of the Buddha. Both in his own practice and in his methods for
teaching the disciples he was exemplary. The Buddha taught the
standards of practice as skillful means for getting rid of conceit,
he couldn't do the practice for us. having heard that teaching we
must further teach ourselves, practice for ourselves. The results
will arise here, not at the teaching.
The Buddha's teaching can only enable us to get
an initial understanding of the Dhamma, but the Dhamma is not yet
within our hearts. Why not? Because we haven't yet practiced, we
haven't yet taught ourselves. The Dhamma arises at the practice. If
you know it, you know it through the practice. If you doubt it, you
doubt it at the practice. Teachings from the Masters may be true,
but simply listening to Dhamma is not yet enough to enable us to
realize it. The teaching simply points out the way to realize. To
realize the Dhamma we must take that teaching and bring it into our
hearts. That part which is for the body we apply to the body, that
part which is for the speech we apply to the speech, and that part
which is for the mind we apply to the mind. This means that after
hearing the teaching we must further teach ourselves to know that
Dhamma, to be that Dhamma.
The Buddha said that those who simply believe
others are not truly wise. A wise person practices until he is one
with the Dhamma, until he can have confidence in himself,
independent of others.
On one occasion, while Venerable Sariputta was
sitting, listening respectfully at his feet as the Buddha expounded
the Dhamma, the Buddha turned to him and asked,
"Sariputta, do you believe this teaching?"
Venerable Sariputta replied, "No, I don't yet
Now this is a good illustration. Venerable
Sariputta listened, and he took note. When he said he didn't yet
believe he wasn't being careless, he was speaking the truth. He
simply took note of that teaching, because he had not yet developed
his own understanding of it, so he told the Buddha that he didn't
yet believe -- because he really didn't believe. These words almost
sound as if Venerable Sariputta was being rude, but actually he
wasn't. He spoke the truth, and the Buddha praised him for it.
"Good, good, Sariputta. A wise person doesn't
readily believe, he should consider first before believing."
Conviction in a belief can take various forms.
One form reasons according to Dhamma, while another form is contrary
to the Dhamma. This second way is heedless, it is a foolhardy
understanding, micchaditthi, wrong view. One doesn't listen to
Take the example of Dighanakha the Brahmin. This
Brahmin only believed himself, he wouldn't believe others. At one
time when the Buddha was resting at Rajagaha, Dighanakha went to
listen to his teaching. Or you might say that Dighanakha went to
teach the Buddha because he was intent on expounding his own
"I am of the view that nothing suits me."
This was his view. The Buddha listened to
Dighanakha's view and then answered,
"Brahmin, this view of yours doesn't suit you
When the Buddha had answered in this way,
Dighanakha was stumped. He didn't know what to say. The Buddha
explained in many ways, till the Brahmin understood. He stopped to
reflect and saw...
"Hmm, this view of mine isn't right."
On hearing the Buddha's answer the Brahmin
abandoned his conceited views and immediately saw the truth. He
changed right then and there, turning right around, just as one
would invert one's hand. He praised the teaching of the Buddha thus:
"Listening to the Blessed One's teaching, my mind
was illumined, just as one living in darkness might perceive light.
My mind is like an overturned basin which has been uprighted, like a
man who has been lost and finds the way."
Now at that time a certain knowledge arose within
his mind, within that mind which had been uprighted. Wrong view
vanished and right view took its place. Darkness disappeared and
The Buddha declared that the Brahmin Dighanakha
was one who had opened the Dhamma Eye. Previously Dighanakha clung
to his own views and had no intention of changing them. But when he
heard the Buddha's teaching his mind saw the truth, he saw that his
clinging to those views was wrong. When the right understanding
arose he was able to perceive his previous understanding as
mistaken, so he compared his experience with a person living in
darkness who had found light. This is how it is. At that time the
Brahmin Dighanakha transcended his wrong view.
Now we must change in this way. Before we can
give up defilements we must change our perspective. We must begin to
practice rightly and practice well. Previously we didn't practice
rightly or well, and yet we thought we were right and good just the
same. When we really look into the matter we upright ourselves, just
like turning over one's hand. This means that the "One Who
Knows," or wisdom, arises in the mind, so that it is able to see
things anew. A new kind of awareness arises.
Therefore cultivators must practice to develop
this knowing, which we call Buddho, the One Who Knows, in
their minds. Originally the one who knows is not there, our
knowledge is not clear, true or complete. This knowledge is
therefore too weak to train the mind. But then the mind changes, or
inverts, as a result of this awareness, called wisdom or insight,
which exceeds our previous awareness. That previous "one who knows"
did not yet know fully and so was unable to bring us to our
The Buddha therefore taught to look within,
opanayiko. Look within, don't look outwards. Or if you look outwards
then look within, to see the cause and effect therein. Look for the
truth in all things, because external objects and internal objects
are always affecting each other. Our practice is to develop a
certain type of awareness until it becomes stronger than our
previous awareness. This causes wisdom and insight to arise within
the mind, enabling us to clearly know the workings of the mind, the
language of the mind and the ways and means of all the defilements.
The Buddha, when he first left his home in search
of liberation, was probably not really sure what to do, much like
us. He tried many ways to develop his wisdom. He looked for
teachers, such as Udaka Ramaputta, going there to practice
meditation... right leg on left leg, right hand on left hand... body
erect... eyes closed... letting go of everything... until he was
able to attain a high level of absorption samadhi.  But
when he came out of that samadhi his old thinking came up and
he would attach to it just as before. Seeing this, he knew that
wisdom had not yet arisen. His understanding had not yet penetrated
to the truth, it was still incomplete, still lacking. Seeing this he
nonetheless gained some understanding -- that this was not yet the
summation of practice -- but he left that place to look for a new
When the Buddha left his old teacher he didn't
condemn him, he did as does the bee which takes nectar from the
flower without damaging the petals.
The Buddha then proceeded on to study with Alara
Kalama and attained an even higher state of samadhi, but when
he came out of that state Bimba and Rahula  came back into his
thoughts again, the old memories and feelings came up again. He
still had lust and desire. Reflecting inward he saw that he still
hadn't reached his goal, so he left that teacher also. He listened
to his teachers and did his best to follow their teachings. He
continually surveyed the results of his practice, he didn't simply
do things and then discard them for something else.
Even when it came to ascetic practices, after he
had tried them he realized that starving until one is almost
skeleton is simply a matter for the body. The body doesn't know
anything. practicing in that way was like executing an innocent
person while ignoring the real thief.
When the Buddha really looked into the matter he
saw that practice is not a concern of the body, it is a concern of
the mind. Attakilamathanuyogo (self-mortification) -- the
Buddha had tried it and found that it was limited to the body. In
fact, all Buddhas are enlightened in mind.
Whether in regard to the body or to the mind,
just throw them all together as Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless
-- aniccam, dukkham and anatta. They are simply conditions of
Nature. They arise depending on supporting factors, exist for a
while and then cease. When there are appropriate conditions they
arise again; having arisen they exist for a while, then cease once
more. These things are not a "self," a "being," an "us" or a "them."
There's nobody there, simply feelings. Happiness has no intrinsic
self, suffering has no intrinsic self. No self can be found, there
are simply elements of Nature which arise, exist and cease. They go
through this constant cycle of change.
All beings, including humans, tend to see the
arising as themselves, the existence as themselves, and the
cessation as themselves. Thus they cling to everything. They don't
want things to be the way they are, they don't want them to be
otherwise. For instance, having arisen they don't want things to
cease; having experienced happiness, they don't want suffering. If
suffering does arise they want it to go away as quickly as possible,
but even better if it doesn't arise at all. This is because they see
this body and mind as themselves, or belonging to themselves, and so
they demand those things to follow their wishes.
This sort of thinking is like building a dam or a
dike without making an outlet to let the water through. The result
is that the dam bursts. And so it is with this kind of thinking. The
Buddha saw that thinking in this way is the cause of suffering.
Seeing this cause, the Buddha gave it up.
This is the Noble Truth of the Cause of
Suffering. The Truths of Suffering, its Cause, its Cessation and the
Way leading to that Cessation...people are stuck right here. If
people are to overcome their doubts it's right at this point. Seeing
that these things are simply rupa and nama, or corporeality and
mentality, it becomes obvious that they are not a being, a person,
an "us," or a "them." They simply follow the laws of Nature.
Our practice is to know things in this way. We
don't have the power to really control these things, we aren't
really their owners. Trying to control them causes suffering,
because they aren't really ours to control. Neither body nor mind
are self or others. If we know this as it really is then we see
clearly. We see the truth, we are at one with it. It's like seeing a
lump of red hot iron which has been heated in a furnace. It's hot
all over. Whether we touch it on top, the bottom or the sides it's
hot. No matter where we touch it, it's hot. This is how you should
Mostly when we start to practice we want to
attain, to achieve, to know and to see, but we don't yet know what
it is we're going to achieve or know. There was once a disciple of
mine whose practice was plagued with confusion and doubts. But he
kept practicing, and I kept instructing him, till he began to find
some peace. But when he eventually became a bit calm he got caught
up in his doubts again, saying, "What do I do next?" There! the
confusion arises again. He says he wants peace but when he gets it,
he doesn't want it, he asks what he should do next!
So in this practice we must do everything with
detachment. How are we to detach? We detach by seeing things
clearly. Know the characteristics of the body and mind as they are.
We meditate in order to find peace, but in doing so we see that
which is not peaceful. This is because movement is the nature of the
When practicing samadhi, we fix our
attention on the in and out-breaths at the nose tip or the upper
lip. This "lifting" the mind to fix it is called vitakka, or
"lifting up." When we have thus "lifted" the mind and are fixed on
an object, this is called vicara, the contemplation of the
breath at the nose tip. This quality of vicara will naturally
mingle with other mental sensations, and we may think that our mind
is not still, that it won't calm down, but actually this is simply
the workings of vicara as it mingles with those sensations.
Now if this goes too far in the wrong direction, our mind will lose
its collectedness, so then we must set up the mind afresh, lifting
it up to the object of concentration with vitakka. As soon as
we have thus established our attention vicara takes over,
mingling with the various mental sensations.
Now when we see this happening, our lack of
understanding may lead us to wonder: "Why has my mind wandered? I
wanted it to be still, why isn't it still?" This is practicing with
Actually the mind is simply following its nature,
but we go and add on to that activity by wanting the mind to be
still and thinking "Why isn't it still?" Aversion arises and so we
add that on to everything else, increasing our doubts, increasing
our suffering and increasing our confusion. So if there is vicara,
reflecting on the various happenings within the mind in this way, we
should wisely consider..."Ah, the mind is simply like this." There,
that's the One Who Knows talking, telling you to see things as they
are. The mind is simply like this. We let it go at that and the mind
becomes peaceful. When it's no longer centered we bring up
vitakka once more, and shortly there is clam again. Vitakka
and vicara work together like this. We use vicara to
contemplate the various sensations which arise. When vicara
becomes gradually more scattered we once again "lift" our attention
The important thing here is that our practice at
this point must be done with detachment. Seeing the process of
vicara interacting with the mental sensations we may think that
the mind is confused and become averse to this process. This is the
cause right here. We aren't happy simply because we want the mind to
be still. This is the cause -- wrong view. If we correct our view
just a little, seeing this activity as simply the nature of mind,
just this is enough to subdue the confusion. This is called letting
Now, if we don't attach, if we practice with
"letting go"...detachment within activity and activity within
detachment...if we learn to practice like this, then vicara
will naturally tend to have less to work with. If our mind ceases to
be disturbed, then vicara will incline to contemplating
Dhamma, because if we don't contemplate Dhamma the mind returns to
So there is vitakka then vicara,
vitakka then vicara,vitakka then vicara and
so on, until vicara becomes gradually more subtle. At first
vicara goes all over the place. When we understand this as
simply the natural activity of the mind, it won't bother us unless
we attach to it. It's like flowing water. If we get obsessed with
it, asking "Why does it flow?" then naturally we suffer. If we
understand that the water simply flows because that's its nature
then there's no suffering. Vicara is like this. There is
vitakka, then vicara, interacting with mental sensations.
We can take these sensations as our object of meditation, calming
the mind by noting those sensations.
If we know the nature of the mind like this then
we let go, just like letting the water flow by. Vicara
becomes more and more subtle. Perhaps the mind inclines to
contemplating the body, or death for instance, or some other theme
of Dhamma. When the theme of contemplation is right there will arise
a feeling of well-being. What is that well-being? It is piti
(rapture). Piti, well-being, arises. It may manifest as
goose-pimples, coolness or lightness. The mind is enrapt. This is
called piti. There are also pleasures, sukha, the coming and
going of various sensations; and the state of ekaggatarammana,
Now if we talk in terms of the first stage of
concentration it must be like this: vitakka, vicara,
piti, sukha, ekaggata. So what is the second stage
like? As the mind becomes progressively more subtle, vitakka
and vicara become comparatively coarser, so that they are
discarded, leaving only piti, sukha, and ekaggata.
This is something that the mind does of itself, we don't have to
conjecture about it, just to know things as they are.
As the mind becomes more refined, piti is
eventually thrown off, leaving only sukha and ekaggata, and
so we take note of that. Where does piti go to? It doesn't go
anywhere, it's just that the mind becomes increasingly more subtle
so that it throws off those qualities that are too coarse for it.
Whatever's too coarse it throws out, and it keeps throwing off like
this until it reaches the peak of subtlety, known in the books as
the Fourth Jhana, the highest level of absorption. Here the
mind has progressively discarded whatever becomes too coarse for it,
until there remain only ekaggata and upekkha, equanimity.
There's nothing further, this is the limit.
When the mind is developing the stages of
samadhi it must proceed in this way, but please let us
understand the basics of practice. We want to make the mind still
but it won't be still. This is practicing out of desire, but we
don't realize it. We have the desire for calm. The mind is already
disturbed and then we further disturb things by wanting to make it
calm. This very wanting is the cause. We don't see that this wanting
to calm the mind is tanha (craving). It's just like
increasing the burden. The more we desire calm the more disturbed
the mind becomes, until we just give up. We end up fighting all the
time, sitting and struggling with ourselves.
Why is this? Because we don't reflect back on how
we have set up the mind. Know that the conditions of mind are simply
the way they are. Whatever arises, just observe it. It is simply the
nature of the mind, it isn't harmful unless we don't understand its
nature. It's not dangerous if we see its activity for what it is. So
we practice with vitakka and vicara until the mind
begins to settle down and become less forceful. When sensations
arise we contemplate them, we mingle with them and come to know
However, usually we tend to start fighting with
them, because right from the beginning we're determined to calm the
mind. As soon as we sit the thoughts come to bother us. As soon as
we set up our meditation object our attention wanders, the mind
wanders off after all the thoughts, thinking that those thoughts
have come to disturb us, but actually the problem arises right here,
from the very wanting.
If we see that the mind is simply behaving
according to its nature, that it naturally comes and goes like this,
and if we don't get over-interested in it, we can understand its
ways as much the same as a child. Children don't know any better,
they may say all kinds of things. If we understand them we just let
them talk, children naturally talk like that. When we let go like
this there is no obsession with the child. We can talk to our guests
undisturbed, while the child chatters and plays around. The mind is
like this. It's not harmful unless we grab on to it and get obsessed
over it. That's the real cause of trouble.
When piti arises one feels an
indescribable pleasure, which only those who experience can
appreciate. Sukha (pleasure) arises, and there is also the
quality of one-pointedness. There are vitakka, vicara,
piti, sukha and ekaggata. These five qualities all
converge at the one place. Even though they are different qualities
they are all collected in the one place, and we can see them all
there, just like seeing many different kinds of fruit in the one
bowl. Vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and
ekaggata -- we can see them all in the one mind, all five
qualities. If one were to ask, "How is there vitakka, how is
there vicara, how are there piti and sukha?..."
it would be difficult to answer, but when they converge in the mind
we will see how it is for ourselves.
At this point our practice becomes somewhat
special. We must have recollection and self-awareness and not lose
ourselves. Know things for what they are. These are stages of
meditation, the potential of the mind. Don't doubt anything with
regard to the practice. Even if you sink into the earth or fly into
the air, or even "die" while sitting, don't doubt it. Whatever the
qualities of the mind are, just stay with the knowing. This is our
foundation: to have sati, recollection, and sampajañña,
self-awareness, whether standing, walking, sitting, or reclining.
Whatever arises, just leave it be, don't cling to it. Be it like or
dislike, happiness or suffering, doubt or certainty, contemplate
with vicara and gauge the results of those qualities. Don't
try to label everything, just know it. See that all the things that
arise in the mind are simply sensations. They are transient. They
arise, exist and cease. That's all there is to them, they have no
self or being, they are neither "us" nor "them." They are not worthy
of clinging to, any of them.
When we see all rupa and nama 
in this way with wisdom, then we will see the old tracks. We will
see the transience of the mind, the transience of the body, the
transience of happiness, suffering, love and hate. They are all
impermanent. Seeing this, the mind becomes weary; weary of the body
and mind, weary of the things that arise and cease and are
transient. When the mind becomes disenchanted it will look for a way
out of all those things. It no longer wants to be stuck in things,
it sees the inadequacy of this world and the inadequacy of birth.
When the mind sees like this, wherever we go, we
see aniccam (Transience), dukkham (Imperfection) and
anatta (Ownerlessness). There's nothing left to hold on to.
Whether we go to sit at the foot of a tree, on a mountain top or
into a valley, we can hear the Buddha's teaching. All trees will
seem as one, all beings will be as one, there's nothing special
about any of them. They arise, exist for a while, age and then die,
all of them.
We thus see the world more clearly, seeing this
body and mind more clearly. They are clearer in the light of
Transience, clearer in the light of Imperfection and clearer in the
light of Ownerlessness. If people hold fast to things they suffer.
This is how suffering arises. If we see that body and mind are
simply the way they are, no suffering arises, because we don't hold
fast to them. Wherever we go we will have wisdom. Even seeing a tree
we can consider it with wisdom. Seeing grass and the various insects
will be food for reflection.
When it all comes down to it they all fall into
the same boat. They are all Dhamma, they are invariably transient.
This is the truth, this is the true Dhamma, this is certain. How is
it certain? it is certain in that the world is that way and can
never be otherwise. There's nothing more to it than this. If we can
see in this way then we have finished our journey.
In Buddhism, with regard to view, it is said that
to feel that we are more foolish than others is not right: to feel
that we are equal to others is not right; and to feel that we better
than others is not right... because there isn't any "we." This is
how it is, we must uproot conceit.
This is called lokavidu -- knowing the world
clearly as it is. If we thus see the truth, the mind will know
itself completely and will sever the cause of suffering. When there
is no longer any cause, the results cannot arise. This is the way
our practice should proceed.
The basics which we need to develop are: firstly,
to be upright and honest; secondly, to be wary of wrong-doing;
thirdly, to have the attribute of humility within one's heart, to be
aloof and content with little. If we are content with little in
regards to speech and in all other things, we will see ourselves, we
won't be drawn into distractions. The mind will have a foundation of
sila, samadhi, and pañña.
Therefore cultivators of the path should not be
careless. Even if you are right don't be careless. And if you are
wrong, don't be careless. If things are going well or you're feeling
happy, don't be careless. Why do I say "don't be careless"? Because
all of these things are uncertain. Note them as such. If you get
peaceful just leave the peace be. You may really want to indulge in
it but you should simply know the truth of it, the same as for
This practice of the mind is up to each
individual. The teacher only explains the way to train the mind,
because that mind is within each individual. We know what's in
there, nobody else can know our mind as well as we can. The practice
requires this kind of honesty. Do it properly, don't do it
half-heartedly. When I say "do it properly," does that mean you have
to exhaust yourselves? No, you don't have to exhaust yourselves,
because the practice is done in the mind. If you know this then you
will know the practice. You don't need a whole lot. Just use the
standards of practice to reflect on yourself inwardly.
Now the Rains Retreat is half way over. For most
people it's normal to let the practice slacken off after a while.
They aren't consistent from beginning to end. This shows that their
practice is not yet mature. For instance, having determined a
particular practice at the beginning of the retreat, whatever it may
be, then we must fulfill that resolution. For these three months
make the practice consistent. You must all try. Whatever you have
determined to practice, consider that and reflect whether the
practice has slackened off. If so, make an effort to re-establish
it. Keep shaping up the practice, just the same as when we practice
meditation on the breath. As the breath goes in and out the mind
gets distracted. Then re-establish your attention on the breath.
When your attention wanders off again bring it back once more. This
is the same. In regard to both the body and the mind the practice
proceeds like this. Please make an effort with it.
1. The level of nothingness, one of the "formless
absorptions," sometimes called the seventh "jhana," or
2. Bimba, or Princess Yasodhara, the Buddha's
former wife; Rahula, his son. [back]
3. Rupa -- material or physical objects;
nama -- immaterial or mental objects -- the physical and
mental constituents of being. [back]