Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera was born in 1870 in Baan Kham Bong,
a farming village in Ubon Ratchathani province, northeastern
Thailand. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1893, he spent the
remainder of his life wandering through Thailand, Burma, and Laos,
dwelling for the most part in the forest, engaged in the practice of
meditation. He attracted an enormous following of students and,
together with his teacher, Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo, was responsible
for the establishment of the forest ascetic tradition that has now
spread throughout Thailand and to several countries abroad. He
passed away in 1949 at Wat Suddhavasa, Sakon Nakhorn province.
Much has been written about his life, but very
little was recorded of his teachings during his lifetime. Most of
his teachings he left in the form of people: the students whose
lives were profoundly shaped by the experience of living and
practicing meditation under his guidance. One of the pieces that
was recorded is translated here. A Heart Released (Muttodaya)
is a record of passages from his sermons, made during the years
1944-45 by two monks who were staying under his guidance, and edited
by a third monk, an ecclesiastical official who frequently visited
him for instruction in meditation. The first edition of the book was
printed with his permission for free distribution to the public. The
title of the book was taken from a comment made by the Ven. Chao
Khun Upali Gunupamacariya (Jan Siricando) who, after listening to a
sermon delivered by Phra Ajaan Mun on the root themes of meditation,
praised the sermon as having been delivered with 'muttodaya'
-- a heart released -- and as conveying the heart of release.
The unusual style of Phra Ajaan Mun's sermons may
be explained in part by the fact that in the days before his
ordination he was skilled in a popular form of informal village
entertainment called maw lam. Maw lam is a contest in
extemporaneous rhyming, usually reproducing the war between the
sexes, in which the battle of wits can become quite fierce. Much use
is made of word play: riddles, puns, innuendoes, metaphors, and
simple playing with the sounds of words. The sense of language that
Ajaan Mun developed in maw lam he carried over into his
teachings after becoming a monk. Often he would teach his students
in extemporaneous puns and rhymes. This sort of word play he even
applied to the Pali language, and a number of instances can be cited
in Muttodaya: in § 3, the pun on the
word dhatu, which can mean both physical element and speech
element (phoneme); the use of the phonemes na mo ba dha (the
basic elements in the phrase namo buddhaya, homage to the
Buddha) to stand for the four physical elements; the play on namo
and mano in § 4; the use of the
Patthana as an image for the mind in § 5;
the extraction of the word santo (peaceful) from
pavessanto in § 13 and
§ 16; the grammatical pun on loke in
§ 14 and santo in § 13; the
threes in § 12; the eights in
§ 16; and so on.
This sort of rhetorical style has gone out of
fashion in the West and is going out of style today even in
Thailand, but in the Thailand of Ajaan Mun's time it was held in
high regard as a sign of quick intelligence and a subtle mind. Ajaan
Mun was able to use it with finesse as an effective teaching method,
forcing his students to become more quick-witted and alert to
implications, correspondences, multiple levels of meaning, and the
elusiveness of language; to be less dogmatic in their attachments to
the meanings of words, and less inclined to look for the truth in
terms of language. As Ajaan Mun once told a pair of visiting monks
who were proud of their command of the medieval text, The Path of
Purification, the niddesa (analytical expositions) on virtue,
concentration, and discernment contained in that work were simply
nidana (fables or stories). If they wanted to know the truth of
virtue, concentration, and discernment, they would have to bring
these qualities into being in their own hearts and minds.
§1. Practice is what
keeps the true Dhamma pure.
The Lord Buddha taught that his Dhamma, when
placed in the heart of an ordinary run-of-the-mill person, is bound
to be thoroughly corrupted (saddhamma-patirupa); but if
placed in the heart of a Noble One, it is bound to be genuinely pure
and authentic, something that at the same time can be neither
effaced nor obscured.
So as long as we are devoting ourselves merely to
the theoretical study of the Dhamma, it can't serve us well. Only
when we have trained our hearts to eliminate their 'chameleons' (see
§ 10) -- their corruptions (upakkilesa)
-- will it benefit us in full measure. And only then will the true
Dhamma be kept pure, free from distortions and deviations from its
§2. To follow the Buddha,
we must train ourselves well before training others.
purisadamma-sarathi sattha deva-manussanam
Our Lord Buddha first trained and tamed himself
to the point where he attained unexcelled right self-awakening (anuttara-sammasambodhiñana),
becoming buddho, one who knows, before becoming bhagava,
one who spreads the teaching to those who are to be taught. Only
then did he become sattha, the teacher and trainer of human
and divine beings whose stage of development qualifies them to be
trained. And thus, kalyano kittisaddo abbhuggato: His good
name has spread to the four quarters of the compass even up to the
The same is true of all the Noble Disciples of
the past. They trained and tamed themselves well before helping the
Teacher spread his teachings to people at large, and so their good
name has spread just like the Buddha's.
If, however, a person spreads the teaching
without first having trained himself well, papako saddo hoti:
His bad name will spread to the four quarters of the compass, due to
his error in not having followed the example of the Lord Buddha and
all the Noble Disciples of the past.
§3. The root inheritance,
the starting capital for self-training.
Why is it that wise people -- before chanting,
receiving the precepts, or performing any other act of merit --
always take up namo as their starting point? Why is it that
namo is never omitted or discarded? This suggests that
namo must be significant. If we take it up for consideration, we
find that na stands for the water element, and mo for
the earth element -- and with this, a line from the scriptures comes
'When the generative elements of the mother and
father are combined, the body comes into being. When it is born from
the mother's womb, it is nourished with rice and bread, and so is
able to develop and grow.' Na is the mother's element; mo,
the father's element. When these two elements are combined, the
mother's fire element then heats the combination until it becomes
what is called a kalala, a droplet of oil. This is the point
where the connecting cognizance (patisandhi-viññana) can make
its connection, so that the mind becomes joined to the namo
element. Once the mind has taken up residence, the droplet of oil
develops until it is an ambuja, a glob of blood. From a glob
of blood it becomes a ghana, a rod, and then a pesi, a
piece of flesh. Then it expands itself into a lizard-like shape,
with five extensions: two arms, two legs, and a head.
(As for the elements ba, breath, and
dha, fire, these take up residence later, because they are not
what the mind holds onto. If the mind lets the droplet of oil drop,
the droplet of oil vanishes or is discarded as useless. It has no
breath or fire, just as when a person dies and the breath and fire
vanish from the body. This is why we say they are secondary
elements. The important factors are the two original elements,
After the child is born, it has to depend on
na, its mother, and mo, its father, to care for it,
nurturing it and nourishing it with such foods as rice and bread, at
the same time teaching and training it in every form of goodness.
The mother and father are thus called the child's first and foremost
teachers. The love and benevolence the mother and father feel for
their children cannot be measured or calculated. The legacy they
give us -- this body -- is our primal inheritance. External wealth,
silver or gold, come from this body. If we didn't have this body, we
wouldn't be able to do anything, which means that we wouldn't have
anything at all. For this reason, our body is the root of our entire
inheritance from our mother and father, which is why we say that the
good they have done us cannot be measured or calculated. Wise people
thus never neglect or forget them.
We first have to take up this body, this namo,
and only then do we perform the act of bowing it down in homage. To
translate namo as homage is to translate only the act, not
the source of the act.
This same root inheritance is the starting
capital we use in training ourselves, so we needn't feel lacking or
poor when it comes to the resources needed for the practice.
§4. The root foundation
for the practice.
The two elements, namo, when mentioned by
themselves, aren't adequate or complete. We have to rearrange the
vowels and consonants as follows: Take the a from the n,
and give it to the m; take the o from the m and
give it to the n, and then put the ma in front of the
no. This gives us mano, the heart. Now we have the
body together with the heart, and this is enough to be used as the
root foundation for the practice. Mano, the heart, is primal,
the great foundation. Everything we do or say comes from the heart,
as stated in the Buddha's words:
'All dhammas are preceded by the heart, dominated
by the heart, made from the heart.' The Buddha formulated the entire
Dhamma and Vinaya from out of this great foundation, the heart. So
when his disciples contemplate in accordance with the Dhamma and
Vinaya until namo is perfectly clear, then mano lies
at the end point of formulation. In other words, it lies beyond all
All supposings come from the heart. Each of us
has his or her own load, which we carry as supposings and
formulations in line with the currents of the flood (ogha),
to the point where they give rise to unawareness (avijja),
the factor that creates states of becoming and birth, all from our
not being wise to these things, from our deludedly holding them all
to be 'me' or 'mine'.
§5. The root cause of
everything in the universe.
The seven books of the Abhidhamma, except for the
Patthana (The Book on Origination), are finite in scope. As for the
Patthana, it is anantanaya, infinite in scope. Only a Buddha
is capable of comprehending it in its entirety. When we consider the
Pali text, which begins hetu-paccayo, we find that the cause
(hetu) that acts as the primal sustaining factor (paccaya)
for all things in the cosmos is nothing other than the heart. The
heart is the great cause -- what is primal, what is important. All
things apart from it are effects or conditions. The remaining
factors mentioned in the Patthana, from arammana (objective
support) to aviggata (not without) can act as sustaining
factors only because the great cause, the heart, comes first. Thus
mano, discussed in § 4; thitibhutam,
which will be discussed in § 6; and the great
cause discussed here all refer to the same thing. The Buddha was
able to formulate the Dhamma and Vinaya, to know things with his
ten-powered intuition, and to comprehend all knowable phenomena, all
because the great cause acted as the primal factor. His
comprehension was thus infinite in scope. In the same way, all of
the disciples had this great cause acting as their primal factor and
so were able to know in accordance with the Buddha's teachings. This
is why the Venerable Assaji, the fifth of the five brethren, taught
Upatissa (the Venerable Sariputta),
ye dhamma hetu-pabhava tesam hetum tathagato
tesanca yo nirodho ca evam vadi mahasamano:
'Whatever dhammas arise from a cause...' This
great cause being the important factor, the primal factor, then when
the Venerable Assaji reached this point -- the great cause -- how
could the Venerable Sariputta's mind help but penetrate down to the
current of the Dhamma? -- for everything in the world comes about
due to the great cause. Even the transcendent dhammas are reached by
the great cause. This is why the Patthana is said to be infinite in
its scope. Whoever trains the heart, the great cause, until it is
clear and dazzling, is capable of knowing everything of every sort
infinitely, both within and without.
§6. The root instigator
of the cycle of death and rebirth.
Each and every one of us born as a human being
has a birthplace: we have our parents as our birthplace. So why did
the Buddha formulate the teaching on sustained conditions only from
the factor of unawareness onwards? What unawareness comes from, he
didn't say. Unawareness has to have a mother and father just as we
do, and we learn from the above line that thitibhutam is its
mother and father. Thitibhutam refers to the primal mind.
When the primal mind is imbued with delusion, there is a sustaining
factor: the condition of unawareness. Once there is unawareness, it
acts as the sustenance for the fashioning of sankhara, mental
fashionings, together with the act of clinging to them, which gives
rise to states of becoming and birth. In other words, these things
will have to keep on arising and giving rise to each other
continually. They are thus called sustained or sustaining conditions
because they support and sustain one another.
Awareness and unawareness both come from
thitibhutam. When thitibhutam is imbued with unawareness,
it isn't wise to its conditions; but when it is imbued with
awareness, it realizes its conditions for what they really are. This
is how the matter appears when considered with the clear insight
leading to emergence (vutthana-gamini vipassana).
To summarize: Thitibhutam is the primal
instigator of the cycle of death and rebirth. Thus it is called the
root source of the three (see § 12). When we
are to cut the cycle of death and rebirth so that it disconnects and
vanishes into nothingness, we have to train the primal instigator to
develop awareness, alert to all conditions for what they really are.
It will then recover from its delusion and never give rise to any
conditions again. Thitibhutam, the root instigator, will stop
spinning, and this will end our circling through the cycle of death
§7. The supreme position:
the foundation for the paths, fruitions, and nibbana.
aggam thanam manussesu maggam satta-visuddhiya:
'The supreme position is to be found among human
beings: the path to the purification of living beings.' This can be
explained as follows: We have received our legacy from namo,
our parents -- i.e., this body, which has taken a human birth, the
highest birth there is. We are supreme beings, well-placed in a
supreme position, complete with the treasures of thought, word, and
deed. If we want to amass external treasures, such as material
wealth, money, and gold, we can. If we want to amass internal
treasures, such as the extraordinary qualities of the paths, their
fruitions, and nibbana, we also can. The Buddha formulated
the Dhamma and Vinaya for us human beings, and not at all for cows,
horses, elephants, and so on. We human beings are a race that can
practice to reach purity. So we shouldn't be discouraged or
self-deprecating, thinking that we are lacking in worth or
potential, because as human beings we are capable. What we don't
have, we can give rise to. What we already have, we can make
greater. This is in keeping with the teaching found in the
danam deti, silam rakkhati, bhavanam bhavetva,
ekacco saggam gacchati, ekacco mokkham gacchati, nissanayam:
'Having worked at amassing wisdom through being
charitable, observing the precepts, and developing the mind in line
with the teachings of the Lord Buddha, those who work only a little
will have to go to heaven, while those who are determined and really
do the work -- and at the same time having the help of the potential
and perfections they have developed in the past -- will reach
nibbana without a doubt. '
Common animals are said not to be supreme because
they can't act as human beings can. So it is rightly said that human
beings are well-placed in a supreme position, able to lead
themselves to the paths, their fruitions, and to pure nibbana.
§8. The stronghold that
forms the practice area for training oneself.
In which set of principles did the Lord Buddha
establish our stronghold? When we consider this question, we find
that he established our stronghold in the great frames of reference
To make a comparison with worldly affairs: In
armed battles where victory is at stake, it is necessary to find a
stronghold. If one obtains a good stronghold, one can successfully
ward off the weapons of the enemy; and there one can accumulate
great strength to launch an attack, driving the enemy to defeat.
Such a place is thus called a stronghold, i.e., a place complete
with strong stockades, gates, moats and embattlements.
So it is with the affairs of the Dhamma when we
take the great frames of reference as our stronghold, in that those
who go into battle with the enemy -- defilement -- must start out by
keeping track of the body as their frame of reference, because when
such things as sensual passion arise, they arise at the body and
mind. Because the sight of a body causes the mind to be aroused, we
can conclude that the body is the provocation, and so we must
examine the body as a means of stilling the Hindrances (nivarana)
and calming the mind. This is a point that you should work at and
develop as much as possible. In other words, keep investigating that
point without giving way at all. When an image (uggaha nimitta)
of any part of the body arises, take that part of the body as the
basic theme for your investigation. You don't have to go shifting to
other parts. To think that, 'I've already seen this part. Other
parts I haven't seen, so I'll have to go and investigate other
parts,' isn't advisable at all. Even if you investigate the body
until you have it analyzed minutely into all of its parts that are
composed of the properties (dhatu) of earth, water, fire, and
wind -- this is called patibhaga -- you should still keep
examining the body as it first appeared in the original image until
you have it mastered. To master it, you have to examine that same
point over and over again, just as when you chant. If you memorize a
particular discourse and then leave it, without chanting or
repeating it again, you will forget it, and it won't serve any
purpose, due to your complacency in not mastering it. The same holds
true in your investigation of the body. Once an image of any part
arises, if you don't investigate it repeatedly, and instead
heedlessly let it pass, it won't serve any purpose at all.
This investigation of the body has many
citations, one being in our present-day ordination ceremony. Before
all else, the preceptor must tell the ordinand the five meditation
themes -- hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, and
skin, i.e., this very body -- because of their importance. In the
Commentary to the Dhammapada, it is said that an unwise preceptor
who doesn't teach the investigation of the body may destroy his
pupil's potential for arahantship. So at present the preceptor must
first teach the five meditation themes.
In another spot the Buddha taught that there is
no such thing as a Buddha or an arahant who has not fixed on at
least one part of the body as a meditation theme. Thus he told a
group of 500 monks who were discussing the earth -- saying that such
and such a village had red soil or black soil, etc. -- that they
were discussing external earth when they should be investigating
internal earth. In other words, they should have been investigating
this body intelligently, penetrating it throughout and making it
absolutely clear. When the Buddha finished his discussion of this
topic, all 500 monks reached the fruition of arahantship.
From this we can conclude that the investigation
of the body must be important. Each and every person who is to gain
release from all suffering and stress has to investigate the body.
If we are to accumulate great strength, we must accumulate it by
investigating the body. Even the Lord Buddha, when he was about to
attain Awakening, started out by investigating the breath -- and
what is the breath, if not the body?
So the great frames of reference, starting with
the contemplation of the body, are said to be our stronghold. Once
we have obtained a good stronghold -- i.e., once we have put the
principles of the great frames of reference into practice until we
have them mastered -- we should then investigate things as they are
in terms of the inherent nature of their elements, using the
strategies of clear insight, which will be discussed next.
§9. The strategies of
clear insight, techniques for uprooting defilement.
The nature of all good things is that they come
from things that aren't good, just as lotuses that are fair and
lovely are born from mud that is filthy and repulsive; yet once they
rise clear of the mud, they are clean and pure, becoming a fitting
headdress for a king, a viceroy, or a courtier, never again
returning to the mud. In this they are like the earnest meditator,
one engaged in a persistent effort. Such a person must investigate a
thing that is filthy and repulsive if the mind is to gain release
from all filthy and repulsive things. The 'thing that is filthy and
repulsive' here is the body. The body is an assemblage of filth,
urine, and excrement. The things that are exuded from the hair of
the head, the hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, and so on are
all forms of excrement. When they fall into food, people take
offense at it. The food has to be thrown out, for no one can stomach
it. Moreover, the body has to be constantly washed and scrubbed if
it is to look presentable. If we don't clean it, it will smell rank
and no one will let us come near. Clothing and other accessories,
when they are apart from the body, are clean and attractive, but as
soon as they come into contact with the body they become dirty. If
we let them go without washing for a long time, no one will let us
come near, because of the smell.
From this we can see that the body is a house of
urine and excrement, asubha -- unattractive; patigula
-- repulsive. When still alive, it's bad enough; when there is no
more life to it, it's even more disgusting, to the point where
nothing else can compare. So from the very beginning, all earnest
meditators investigate the body methodically until they have it
mastered. Before the body becomes clear, they investigate whichever
part or aspect of the body is agreeable to their temperament until a
particular aspect of the body appears as an uggaha nimitta.
Then they focus on that aspect, working at it and developing it
'Working at it and developing it repeatedly'
should be understood as follows: When rice farmers grow rice, they
work in the soil, plowing the soil and planting rice in the soil.
The following year they grow rice in the soil again. They don't grow
their rice in the air or in the middle of the sky. They grow it only
in the soil, and the rice then fills their granaries of its own
accord. When they work repeatedly in the soil, they don't have to
plead, 'Rice, O rice, please come and fill our granaries.' The rice
pours in of its own accord. And even if they forbid it, saying,
'Rice, O rice, don't come and fill our granaries,' if they have
completed their work in the soil, there's no doubt but that the rice
will still come and keep their granaries full.
In the same way, we as earnest meditators should
keep investigating the body at the point that is agreeable to our
temperaments or first appears for us to see. No matter what, we
should not neglect or abandon that point. Working at it repeatedly
doesn't refer only to the practice of walking meditation. We should
be mindful, continuing our investigation in all places and at all
times. Sitting, standing, walking, and lying down; eating, drinking,
working, speaking, and thinking, we should always have all-round
mindfulness of the present: This is what is meant by 'working at it
Once you have investigated the body until it is
clear, you should then consider dividing it up into its various
parts, using your own way of being methodical. Separate the body
into the elements of earth, water, fire, and wind, examining it
until you really see it in those terms. At this stage, you may use
any strategies of your own devising that are agreeable to your
temperament, but you must not in any event abandon the original
reference point that first appeared to you. When you are
investigating at this stage, you should work at it and develop it
repeatedly. Don't investigate once and then let it go for half a
month or a month. Investigate in and out, back and forth, again and
again. In other words, withdraw inward to quiet the mind and then
come out again to investigate the body. Don't exclusively
investigate the body or exclusively quiet the mind.
When you have investigated in this way until you
have it thoroughly mastered, what happens next is what comes of its
own accord. The mind is bound to converge in a big way; and the
instant it converges, everything will appear to converge, being one
and the same. The entire world will be nothing but elements. At the
same time, an image will appear of the world as being level as a
drum head, because the entire world is of one and the same inherent
nature. Forests, mountains, people, animals -- even you yourself --
will all ultimately have to be leveled down in one and the same way.
Together with this vision, knowledge arises, cutting off all doubts
in the heart. This is called yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana vipassana:
the clear insight that both knows and sees things for what they
This step is not the end point. It is the
beginning of the next stage we have to practice, which we as earnest
meditators are to work at and develop repeatedly in order for
heightened awareness to be mastered and complete. Then we will see
that the mental fashionings that suppose, 'This is mine... That is
me,' are inconstancy; and that because of attachment they are
suffering -- for all elements have been the way they are all along:
arising, aging, growing ill, and dying, arising and deteriorating
since before we were born. From time immemorial, this is the way
they have been. But because the conditions of the mind and the five
khandhas -- rupa, vedana, sañña,
sankhara, and viññana -- have fashioned and labeled
throughout every existence up to the present, through lives too
numerous to number, the mind has been deluded into following its
supposings. It's not the case that our supposings have attached
themselves to us. When you come right down to it, there's no doubt
but that all phenomena in the world, whether endowed with
consciousness or not, have been the way they are -- arising and
deteriorating on their own -- in just this way.
So we realize, pubbe ananussu tesu dhammesu
-- these regularities of behavior (lit. 'dhamma-nesses') have been
this way from the past. Even though no one has told us, we know that
this is just the way they have been. This is why the Buddha
maintained with regard to this point that he didn't hear this from
anyone, wasn't taught this by anyone -- for this is just the way
these things had been since before his time. Thus we can see that
the regularities in the behavior of all elements are bound to be
this way. But because the conditions of the mind have fastened into
all of these things for so many lives, they have behaved in line
with those supposings. The mind has been overwhelmed by latent
tendencies (anusaya) to the point where it is deluded into
believing them, and so states of becoming and birth have been
created through the clinging of the conditions of the mind.
Thus the earnest meditator comes to analyze
things down in line with their inherent nature, seeing that,
sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha:
Acts of mental fashioning -- the conditions of
the mind -- are what is inconstant. The world of living beings is
constant: It is simply the way it is. Analyze these things in terms
of the four Noble Truths as a way of rectifying the conditions of
the mind, so that you can see for certain, in your own right, that
these conditions of the mind are inconstant and stressful. And the
fact that you haven't seen in your own right that they are
inconstant and stressful is why you have fallen for mental
fashionings. When you truly see this, it will rectify the conditions
of the mind. The realization will come to you,
sankhara sassata natthi:
'There are no mental fashionings that are
constant and lasting.' Mental fashionings are simply conditions of
the mind, like mirages. As for living beings, they have been a
constant feature of the world all along. When you know both sides --
i.e., that living beings are simply the way they are, and that
mental fashionings are simply a condition of the mind that supposes
them -- then thitibhutam, the primal mind that has no
conditions, can gain release.
As for the teaching that all phenomena or
regularities of behavior are not-self: How could they be the self?
Their business is simply to arise the way they do. Thus the Buddha
sabbe dhamma anatta:
'All phenomena are not-self.' We as earnest
meditators should investigate things to see them clearly in this
way, until the mind is made to converge, enabling us to see truly
and vividly along these lines in our own right, at the same time
giving rise to the knowledge that accompanies this vision. This is
what is meant by vutthana-gamini vipassana (clear insight
leading to emergence). We should work at this stage until it is
mastered, until we see truly and clearly, along with the full
convergence of the mind and its concurrent knowledge, converging
against the current, curing the latent tendencies, turning supposing
into release; or until we converge on the primal mind that is simply
the way it is, to the point where it is absolutely clear, with the
Khina jati ñanam hoti:
'There is the knowledge of no more birth.'
This stage is not an assumption or a supposing.
It isn't anything fashioned or conjectured into being, nor is it
anything that can be obtained by wanting. It is something that
arises, is, and knows entirely of its own accord. Intense,
relentless practice in which we analyze things shrewdly on our own
is what will cause it to arise of its own accord.
This has been compared to rice plants. Once we
have properly nourished and cared for the rice plant, the results --
the grains of rice -- are not something that can be obtained by
wanting. They will appear of their own accord. If a person who wants
to get rice is lazy and doesn't care for the rice plant, he can keep
wanting until the day he dies, but no rice grains will appear for
him. The same holds true with the reality of release: It isn't
something that can be obtained by wanting. A person who wants
release but who practices wrongly or doesn't practice -- and wastes
his time being lazy until the day he dies -- won't meet with release
§10. The primal mind is
radiant and clear by nature, but is darkened because of corruptions.
pabhassaramidam bhikkhave cittam
tanca kho agantukehi upakkilesehi upakkilittham:
'Monks, this mind is originally radiant and
clear, but because passing corruptions and defilements come and
obscure it, it doesn't show its radiance.' This has been compared to
a tree in the poem that runs,
A tall tree with 6,000 branches:
Big chameleons swarm it each day by the hundreds,
Small chameleons, each day by the thousands.
If the owner doesn't watch out,
They'll bring along more and more of their friends every day.
This can be explained as follows: The tall tree
with 6,000 branches -- if we cut off the three zeroes, this leaves
us with six, which stands for the six sense doors, the entry way for
the chameleons, i.e., things that are counterfeit, not things that
are genuine. Defilements aren't genuine. They are simply things that
come drifting in through the sense doors by the hundreds and
thousands. Not only that, defilements that haven't yet arisen will
arise more and more every day as long as we don't find a means for
rectifying the nature of the mind.
The mind is something more radiant than anything
else can be, but because counterfeits -- passing defilements -- come
and obscure it, it loses its radiance, like the sun when obscured by
clouds. Don't go thinking that the sun goes after the clouds.
Instead, the clouds come drifting along and obscure the sun.
So meditators, when they know in this manner,
should do away with these counterfeits by analyzing them shrewdly,
as explained in the strategies of clear insight, §
9. When they develop the mind to the stage of the primal mind,
this will mean that all counterfeits are destroyed, or rather,
counterfeit things won't be able to reach into the primal mind,
because the bridge making the connection will have been destroyed.
Even though the mind may then still have to come into contact with
the preoccupations of the world, its contact will be like that of a
bead of water rolling over a lotus leaf.
§11. One's self-training
as a meditator has to be in keeping with one's temperament.
A famous horse-trainer once approached the Lord
Buddha and asked him how he trained his disciples. The Buddha
responded by asking the trainer how he trained horses. The trainer
replied that there were four kinds of horses: (1) those easy to
tame, (2) those of an intermediate sort, (3) those genuinely hard to
tame, and (4) those that couldn't be tamed at all, and had to be
killed. The Buddha replied, 'So it is with me.' (1) Those easy to
tame, i.e., those whose minds gather easily, should eat enough food
to nourish the body. (2) Those of an intermediate sort, i.e., those
whose minds have some trouble settling down, should not be allowed
to eat much -- only a little food. (3) Those genuinely hard to tame,
i.e., those who really have trouble getting their minds to settle
down, shouldn't eat at all, but they have to be attannu They
have to know their own strength and exactly how much they will be
able to endure. (4) As for those who couldn't be tamed and had to be
killed -- i.e., those termed padaparama who couldn't subdue
their minds at all -- the Buddha would withdraw the bridge. In other
words, he wouldn't teach them, which was tantamount to killing them.
§12. The Mulatika
Tika means three. Mula means root.
Together they mean 'things that are roots in sets of three.'
Passion, aversion, and delusion are three, termed the roots of what
is unwise. Craving comes in threes: sensual craving, craving for
becoming, and craving for no becoming. The floods and effluents (asava)
of the mind each come in threes: sensuality, states of becoming, and
unawareness. If a person falls in with these sorts of threes, then,
He or she will have to keep spinning around in
threes, and so the three realms -- the realms of sensuality, form,
and formlessness -- will have to continue as they are, for these
threes are the roots of the three realms.
The remedy also comes in threes: virtue,
concentration, and discernment. When people practice in line with
the virtue, concentration, and discernment forming the cure, then,
They won't have to keep spinning in threes. The
three realms won't exist. In other words, they will gain utter
release from the three realms.
§13. Only a visuddhi
deva is an individual truly at peace.
akuppam sabba-dhammesu neyyadhamma pavessanto:
'One must have a mind unaroused with regard to
any defilements and must know all phenomena both within and without,
in order to be calm and at peace.' A person at
peace in this way will have a fully developed sense of conscience
and shame, mental qualities that are pure and clean, a firm, steady
mind, and a personal integrity endowed with the qualities of a
deva (celestial being), as stated in the stanza that runs,
santo sappurisa loke deva-dhammati vuccare.
Devas by birth -- the inhabitants of the
celestial realms -- are replete with sensual pleasures and restless
with defilement. How then can they be at peace? This stanza thus
must surely refer to visuddhi devas (devas through
purity), i.e., to arahants. Such people are genuinely at peace and
qualify as having a fully developed sense of conscience and shame,
together with 'white qualities,' i.e., true purity.
is the end point of the world, beyond supposing and formulation.
saccanam caturo pada
kkinasava jutimanto te loke parinibbuta
The four Noble Truths -- suffering, its cause,
its cessation, and the path to its cessation -- are activities in
that each truth has an aspect that has to be done: Suffering has to
be understood, its cause abandoned, its cessation made clear, and
the path to its cessation developed. All of these are aspects that
have to be done -- and if they have to be done, they must be
activities. So we can conclude that all four truths are activities.
This is in keeping with the first verse quoted above, which speaks
of the four truths as feet, stair treads, or steps that must be
taken for the task to be finished. What follows is thus termed
activityless-ness -- like writing the numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0,
then erasing 1-9, leaving just 0, and not writing anything more.
What is left is read as 'zero,' but it doesn't have any value at
all. You can't use it to add, subtract, multiply, or divide with any
other numerals, yet at the same time you can't say that it doesn't
exist, for there it is: 0 (zero).
This is like the discernment that knows all
around, because it destroys the activity of supposing. In other
words, it erases supposing completely and doesn't become involved
with or hold on to any supposings at all. With the words 'erasing'
or 'destroying' the activity of supposing, the question arises,
'When supposing is entirely destroyed, where will we stay?' The
answer is that we will stay in a place that isn't supposed: right
there with activityless-ness.
This explanation is in line with the aspects of
reality that appear clearly only to those who practice, and that
people who don't practice can't know. Only when we listen and then
practice accordingly until we see and know of our own accord will we
be able to understand.
The meaning of the next verse is this: 'Those who
have no more effluents extinguish the three realms and are
dazzling.' In other words, they have practiced persistence and made
an investigation 'bhavito bahulikato.' In other words, they
have worked at it and developed it repeatedly to the point where the
mind has the strength capable of analyzing and destroying all
supposings so as to reach activityless-ness. They can thus gain
release from the three realms.
In extinguishing the three realms, arahants don't
fly up into the realms of sensuality, form, and formlessness. They
stay right where they are. The same was true of the Buddha: When he
extinguished the three realms, he was sitting in one spot, under the
Bodhi tree. He didn't fly up into the three realms. He extinguished
them at the mind -- for right there in the mind is where the three
Those who aim at extinguishing the three realms
should thus extinguish them in their own hearts. Only then will they
obliterate activity -- the act of supposing -- from the heart,
leaving just activityless-ness. This is the primal heart, the primal
Dhamma, which knows no death.
§15. The nine abodes of
The realms of the heavenly beings, the human
realm, and the realms of destitution (apaya) are classed as
the sensual realm, the abode of living beings who indulge in
sensuality. Taken together, they count as one. The realms of form,
the abodes of living beings who have attained rupa jhana, are
four. The realms of formlessness, the abodes of living beings who
have attained arupa jhana, are also four. So altogether there
are nine abodes for living beings. Those -- the arahants -- who are
wise to the nine abodes leave them and don't have to live in any of
them. This appears in the last of the Novice's Questions (samanera-panha),
'dasa nama kim' -- What is ten? -- which is answered. 'dasahangehi
samaññagato arahati vuccati ti' -- The arahant, one who is
endowed with ten qualities, gains release from the nine abodes of
living beings. This can be compared to writing the numerals 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10. 1 to 9 are numbers that can be counted, named, added,
subtracted, multiplied, and divided. As for ten -- 1 and 0 (zero) --
when we erase the 1, because it's a repetition, we are left with 0
(zero). If we use 0 to add, subtract, multiply, or divide with any
other number, it won't increase the value of that number; and 0 by
itself has no value at all -- but you can't say that it doesn't
exist, because there it is. The same is true with the heart: It's a
nature whose attributes are like 0. When 0 is connected to any other
number, it greatly increases the value of that number. For instance,
1 connected with 0 becomes 10. So it is with the heart. When
connected with anything, it instantly proliferates into things
elaborate and fantastic. But when trained until it is wise and
discerning with regard to all knowable phenomena, it returns to its
state as 0 (zero) -- empty, open, and clear, beyond all counting and
naming. It doesn't stay in the nine places that are abodes for
living beings. Instead, it stays in a place devoid of supposing and
formulation: its inherent nature as 0 (zero), or activityless-ness,
as mentioned in § 14.
§16. The significance of
the first sermon, the middle sermon, and the final sermon.
The sermons delivered by the Lord Buddha at three
points in his career have a great significance to which Buddhists
should give special thought and consideration.
A. At the beginning of the Buddha's career
he delivered a sermon to the five brethren at the forest in the Deer
Park at Isipatana near Benares. This was his first sermon, called
the Wheel of Dhamma. He started with the two extremes that those who
have gone forth from the household life should not indulge in,
dveme bhikkhave anta pabbajitena na sevitabba:
'Monks, there are these two extremes that those
who have gone forth from the household life should not pursue:
indulgence in sensual pleasure and indulgence in self--affliction.'
To explain: Indulgence in sensual pleasure lies on the side of love;
indulgence in self-affliction, on the side of hate. Both sides are
causes of suffering and stress. When we practice self-purification
and yet fall into either of these two sides, we can't be said to
have entered the middle way, for when we are making a persistent
effort to practice and the mind becomes fully calm and relaxed, we
are pleased; when the mind thinks and becomes restless and
distracted, we are displeased. Being pleased is indulgence in
pleasure; being displeased, indulgence in self-affliction. Being
pleased is passion, being displeased is aversion, and not being wise
to passion and aversion is delusion.
Whoever makes an effort to develop persistence in
concentration has to start out by running into these two extremes.
If we run into these extremes, we are classed as wrong, but it is
only normal that we be wrong before we can be right. Even the
Buddha, before his Awakening, was completely wrong in just the same
way. Even his two foremost disciples were wrong -- and held
pernicious doctrines to boot. All the other disciples started out
wrong from the beginning as well. But when the Buddha came to follow
the middle way while meditating under the shade of the Bodhi tree,
after having gained the first two knowledges -- remembrance of
previous lifetimes and knowledge of the death and rebirth of living
beings -- in the first two watches of the night, he gained the third
knowledge -- knowledge of the ending of mental effluents -- in the
watch toward dawn. This was when he found the genuine middle way,
releasing his mind from the error of the two extremes. Released from
the clan, class, abodes, lineage, and legacy of convention and
supposing, he attained the clan, class, abode, lineage, and legacy
of the Noble Ones. The Noble Disciples came to know following the
Buddha, acting correctly in line with the knowledge of the ending of
mental effluents, and gained release from error just as he had.
As for us as meditators, in the very beginning it
is only normal that we will have to be wrong. As long as we let
ourselves be pleased and displeased in the development of merit and
wisdom, we fall under the sway of the ways of the world (lokadhamma),
and when we are under the sway of the ways of the world, we are
shaken by pleasure and displeasure. This is called being shaken back
uppanno kho me:
Where do the ways of the world arise? In
ourselves. The ways of the world have eight factors, and the path
that cures them has eight as well. The eightfold path is the cure
for the eight ways of the world. Thus the Buddha taught the middle
way as the cure for the two extremes.
Once we have cured ourselves of the two extremes,
we enter the noble path, cutting across the currents of the world,
making the mind cago patinissaggo mutti analayo --
relinquish, release, and rest easy.
To summarize: As long as the two extremes still
exist in your heart, you are not on the right track. But when your
heart gains release from the two extremes, you become unshakable:
free from impurities and safe from the flood. This is why the
meaning of the Wheel of Dhamma is very significant. When the Buddha
explained the Wheel of Dhamma, it caused the elements of the world
to tremble. And when the message is so significant, how could they
help but tremble? The elements of the world are nothing else but
this very body of ours. Our body is composed of the world's elements
and it trembles because the mind sees into something it has never
seen before. The fact that the mind is released from the two
extremes is what causes the elements of the world to tremble. They
tremble because the mind is not coming back to give rise to them
B. At the mid-point of the Buddha's career
he delivered the Patimokkha Exhortation to an assembly of 1,250
arahants at the Squirrels' Feeding Grounds in the Royal Bamboo Grove
near Rajagaha. One of the important points was,
adhicitte ca ayogo etam buddhana-sasanam:
'Heighten the mind: That is the teaching of the
Buddhas.' To heighten the mind, we have to be calm and at peace.
iccha lobha-samapanno samano kim bhavissati:
'When we are endowed with desire -- greedy,
struggling, and deluded -- how can we be calm and at peace?' We need
to practice by following the discipline as our starting point and by
developing our meditation theme, beginning with walking and sitting
meditation. We must work at our contemplation of the great frames of
reference and develop it repeatedly, starting by keeping track of
the body as our frame of reference. At first we should contemplate
the parts of the body by means of parikamma savana, i.e., by
means of conjecture -- that this part is like that, and that is like
this -- because if we do this mindfully, with self-awareness, the
mind won't wander far from the body and will settle down easily.
When we practice parikamma savana repeatedly, an uggaha
nimitta will arise. We should then master that stage until we
reach patibhaga, analyzing the vision into its parts. When we
master patibhaga fully, it will turn into insight meditation.
We then develop insight meditation to its highest degree so that the
mind will reach thitibhutam, as discussed in the strategies
of clear insight. This is what is meant by 'practice.' When we have
We will cross over and beyond. It is because of
the practices that we have done to completion that we will cross
over and beyond -- i.e., beyond the world. This is what is meant by
the transcendent dhammas.
We will gain relief from bondage.
Thus the message of the middle sermon is
significant because it aims at release.
C. At the end of his career, when he
was about to enter total nibbana, the Buddha delivered his
final sermon in the midst of a gathering of Noble Disciples in the
Royal Sala Grove of the Mallian gentry of Kusinara, saying,
handadani amantayami vo bhikkhave, pativediyami vo bhikkhave,
khaya-vaya-dhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha: 'I say to
you, monks, do not be complacent. Contemplate fashionings that arise
and then decay. When you contemplate in this manner, you will
penetrate completely. ' That was all he said and he never said
anything further. This is thus said to be his final sermon.
To explain the meaning: Where do fashionings
arise? What are fashionings? Fashionings arise in our own minds.
They are an effect or condition of the mind that gives rise to all
supposings. These fashionings are the culprits that suppose and
formulate everything in the world. Actually, the things of the world
-- in their elementary properties as phenomena -- are simply the way
they are. Earth, trees, mountains, sky, and sunshine don't say that
they are anything at all. Even the human body, which is also
composed of the world's elements, doesn't say that it is this or
that. Mental fashioning is the culprit that styles these things as
being this or that -- and we fall for what it says as being true,
holding that all these things are ours or ourselves. Passion,
aversion, and delusion thus arise, causing the primal mind to stray
deludedly after birth, aging, illness, and death, circling around
endlessly through innumerable states of becoming and birth -- all
through the instigation of mental fashioning.
This is why the Buddha taught us to contemplate
mental fashionings as inconstant and stressful:
sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha.
We keep at this until we see them with full and
clear comprehension -- which arises as the fruit of having earlier
developed patibhaga -- to the point where the mind enters the
bhavanga, its underlying state. When the current of the
bhavanga disappears, a genuinely intuitive understanding will
arise right at the heart: 'That's just how they are -- inconstant
and stressful.' When we master this and see it clearly and
distinctly, we will then be wise to mental fashionings. Mental
fashionings will no longer be able to fashion the mind into becoming
aroused ever again, as stated in the verse,
akuppam sabba-dhammesu neyyadhamma pavessanto:
When mental fashioning can no longer fashion the
mind, the mind doesn't become aroused. It is wise to all knowable
and thus calm and at peace, reaching release.
The words of this final sermon are truly
significant. They can make the person who contemplates them awaken
to the ultimate degree -- which is why the Buddha stopped speaking
and said no more.
The sermons given at these three points in the
Buddha's career have a significance over and beyond that of any
other he ever gave. The first sermon aims at release, the middle
sermon aims at release, the final sermon aims at release. In this
way all three of them without exception aim at nothing but release.
§17. Arahants of every
sort attain both release through concentration and release through
discernment, having developed the threefold training to completion.
anasavam ceto-vimuttim pañña-vimuttim
dittheva dhamme sayam abhiñña sacchikatva
'They dwell without effluent, having entered the
release through concentration and release through discernment
realized and verified by themselves in the very present.'
This passage from the Canon shows that arahants
of no matter what sort reach both release through concentration and
release through discernment, free from effluents in the present. No
distinctions are made, saying that this or that group reaches
release only through concentration or only through discernment. The
explanation given by the Commentators -- that release through
concentration pertains to those arahants who develop concentration
first, while release through discernment pertains to the 'dry
insight' arahants, who develop insight exclusively without having
first developed concentration -- runs counter to the path. The
eightfold path includes both Right View and Right Concentration. A
person who is to gain release has to develop all eight factors of
the path. Otherwise he or she won't be able to gain release. The
threefold training includes both concentration and discernment. A
person who is to attain knowledge of the ending of mental effluents
has to develop all three parts of the threefold training completely.
This is why we say that arahants of every sort
have to reach both release through concentration and release through
Anusaya: Latent tendency -- sensual passion,
irritation, views, doubt, pride, passion for states of becoming, and
Apaya: State of deprivation; the four lowest
levels of existence -- rebirth in hell, as a hungry shade, as an
angry demon, or as a common animal.
Arahant: A person whose heart is freed from
mental effluents (see asava) and is thus not destined for
further rebirth .
Arupa jhana: Meditative absorption in a
non-physical object .
Asava: Mental effluent -- sensuality, states
of becoming, and unawareness.
Avijja: Unawareness, ignorance, counterfeit
Dhamma: Event; phenomenon; the way things are
in and of themselves; their inherent qualities; the basic principles
underlying their behavior. Also, principles of behavior that human
beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the right natural order
of things; qualities of mind they should develop so as to realize
the inherent quality of the mind in and of itself. By extension,
'Dhamma' is used also to refer to any doctrine that teaches such
Dhatu: Element; property; potential. The four
physical properties are those of earth (solidity), water
(liquidity), fire (heat), and wind (energy or motion).
Khandha: Component parts of sensory
perception: rupa (physical phenomena); vedana
(feelings of pleasure, pain, or indifference); Sañña
(concepts, labels, allusions); sankhara (mental fashionings,
formations, processes); and viññana (cognizance,
Lokadhamma: Ways of the world -- fortune,
loss, praise, blame, status, disgrace, pleasure, and pain.
Nibbana: Liberation; the unbinding of the
mind from passion, aversion, and delusion, and thus from the round
of death and rebirth.
Nivarana: Hindrances to concentration --
sensual desire, ill will, torpor & lethargy, restlessness & anxiety,
Ogha: Flood; factors that sweep the mind
along the round of death and rebirth -- sensuality, states of
becoming, and unawareness.
Patibhaga: The manipulation of visions that
appear in meditation.
Rupa jhana: Meditative absorption in a
physical object or sensation.
Satipatthana: Frame of reference; foundation
of mindfulness -- body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities.
Uggaha nimitta: An image appearing
spontaneously during meditation.
Upakkilesa: Mental corruption or defilement
-- passion, aversion, and delusion in their various forms.