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By Sayadaw U Jotika
A Map of the Journey
A Map of the Journey
As I see most of you are in your thirty’s, forty’s and fif- ty’s. You have done and experienced quite a lot in your life, you have had your own successes and disap- pointments. Now, I think you are ready for something better. In fact you have been doing this for quite a while, developing your inner qualities and spiritual nature. As today is our first day it is going to be an introduction.
Before we really meditate we need to prepare ourselves.
Whenever we want to do something we need to be prepared, this is very important. It is something I learnt a long time ago, and I teach this to my friends and students: be prepared. If you really prepare for what you are going to do it is really surprising how natural and easy it becomes. Just like a farmer or a gardener who wants to grow flowers or any crop, first of all he needs to prepare the land. Without doing this if he just goes and scatters the seeds, some of them might sprout but they won’t bear fruits, very soon they will die out. They cannot take root properly because there is not enough fertilizer, not enough nutrients for the plant and not enough water.
Preparing the Mind
In the same way the person who wants to cultivate his inner qualities must do the same. The two have many similarities.
Maybe you know the meaning of the Pæ¹i word bhævanæ. One of the meanings is cultivation. Bhævanæ literally means to make something grow. The root of the word bhævanæ is bhþ meaning to grow, i.e. cultivation. When you grow something it implies that you have the seed, either in the form of a grain or another part of the plant like a branch. So, you already have something to grow. If you don’t have the seed you cannot grow anything.
Just to have the seed is not enough; you also have to prepare the land. When you prepare the land first of all you pull out the weeds, clear the land. This is something we should also do in our life. It is very natural for weeds to grow. Look deeply into your life, into the way you are living and find out what kind of weeds are there. Some of them have been there for a very long time and have grown strong roots, it might take sometime to dig those roots out, just like a bad habit, taking intoxicants, drinking, etc.
Pulling out weeds and removing stones is very important.
If you love doing something don’t bargain. A lot of people ask me how long you need to sit in order to develop samædhi (concentration), how long do they need to meditate to attain Nibbæna. How can anybody tell how long? If you really love doing it, you are happy because you are doing it; this happiness and joy gives you a lot of motivation. Please don’t bargain! People want to give as little as possible and get as much as possible. I think this is not the right attitude especially in meditation. In other areas of our life as well, like in relationships, if you want to give
a little and get a lot you won’t get anything. The truth is that you get as much as you give. If you give a little you’ll get a little, if you give yourself totally you’ll really get a lot. When practic- ing meditation look deeply into your mind, why are you doing it? Are you really willing to do it? When you do something, no matter what, there are some sacrifices you need to make. You need to give up something in your life. Like for coming to this class, you have already given up something.
Our human nature is basically spiritual; within us we have very beautiful qualities like loving kindness, compassion, mind- fulness, peace of mind. We already have the seeds and we want those seeds to grow. Human nature is very mixed, on one hand we want to enjoy sensual pleasures and on the other we don’t want to enjoy anything at all. We want to give up!
When the student is ready the Teacher will appear, I have heard this saying and I like it very much,
I think it is very true.
Look very deeply, a lot of us here are not so young any- more, we have done already many things in our lives and we know that there is nothing really fulfilling. We have never really found anything, either in possessions or pleasure that has given us any real lasting satisfaction. Really we are looking for some- thing else. When we are truly ready to receive, what is needed will be available. Ask yourself “am I truly ready to receive?”
Before we meditate there are few things we need to reflect on in order to prepare our mind. In our daily life we get dis- tracted by so many things. To make our mind suitable for medi- tation one of the things we need to do is to reflect on death.
Life is very short, very soon we’ll be gone, considering our age here, for some very soon life will be over. If we have awareness and clarity before we die, we can reflect on what we have done in our life. What would we find really satisfying? I have been very close to death a few times. Once when I was very sick with malaria for a few months, I was living in the forest and medicine was not available. I couldn’t eat and my body was very weak and I was about to die. My friends were around me and they were saying: “he is unconscious, he is in a coma”. I was able to hear but I could not move anymore. At that time I reflected on what I had done with my life and I felt that I hadn’t done anything really satisfying. I had a degree, had a job, married and did many other things. In many ways I had been successful but all that didn’t mean anything anymore. The only thought that came to my mind which was really meaningful was that I had learnt to meditate. At that moment I turned my mind to meditation and I felt that if I died it was ok, but I wanted to die mindfully, I wanted to die meditating. That was the only thing that gave me some peace of mind, something I could rely on, all the other things were not around me anymore.
To prepare our mind for meditation we need to reflect on the shortness of life. No matter how long we live, even one hundred is not very long. If we think of our life and compare it with the
life of this world it is like a split second. Think of the shortness of life and tell yourself that there is no time to waste, time is very precious and time is life. If we ask someone: “do you want to live a long life?” The answer would be “of course I want to live a long life!” What are you going to do if you live a very long life? For most of us we don’t have a clear answer, we don’t really know what we want to do with our life; we just want to live a long life.
This shows our attachment to life but we don’t really know how to make the most of it. If we live really mindfully and make the best use of our time then we can achieve something. For exam- ple, something that would take someone five years to achieve we could do it in one year. We can make one year equal to five years. If we live for about sixty or seventy years and make the best use of our time it is like we lived for two — three hundred years.
So much of our time is wasted because we are so unmindful.
When we understand that life is short and time is precious and if we will have developed
some understanding of the Dhamma, it becomes more precious.
Do not procrastinate, do what should be done today, we don’t know whether
we will be still alive tomorrow.
Today, now, do what should be done,
try to accomplish, to do.
Ajj’eva kiccam ætappaµ.~ MN iii.187
An earnest meditator doesn’t procrastinate.
No matter where you are or what you are doing;
that is the time and the place to meditate.
We should reflect on the qualities of the Buddha. The more you learn about the Buddha the more you know about His nature, His purity, His wisdom. When we think of the qualities of the Buddha the mind reflects the object of the mind, for example when we think about something that makes us unhappy, naturally we will become unhappy. The happiness or unhappiness of our mind depends on the object and how we look at the object. When we think of someone that we love we develop loving kindness, we feel love.
In the same way when we think about the Buddha, His freedom, His wisdom, His peace, His purity, what will happen to our mind?
A similar nature will arise. It is very important to find out more and more about the Buddha. When we think of the Buddha we appreciate His qualities and we ourselves would like to have them.
It makes our mind attracted to them, and it can become our goal,
“I want to be free, peaceful, and wise”. Although we won’t become a Buddha we will develop those qualities to a certain extent. When we become enlightened, in a certain way we become a Buddha.
When we take Buddha as a teacher,
His purity, wisdom and freedom gives us a direction,
“Where am I going, what is my goal”?
Reflect on the Dhamma as well, on what the Buddha taught.
As you have been meditating for a while you have some experi- ence of the Truth of the Teaching of the Buddha, you know that it is true. You know where it leads. His teaching is not something we listen to and we believe in, it is not blind faith.
You can find it out for yourself; it is a very practical Teaching, reflect on it. Studying Dhamma and practicing meditation, it is worth doing. Sometimes we waver, “should I meditate or should I go out and do something”? If you really know the value of meditation you can let go of distractions, enjoyments and pleas- ures and give more time to meditation. Keep thinking about the benefits of meditation.
When you’ve really see that meditation is worthwhile you’ll give your life to it. The more you give,
the more you get. Do it with all your heart!
This is another requirement for success in whatever you do.
If you do something whole heartedly you’ll succeed. If you do it half heartedly, after a while, because you are not making much progress you’ll think that although you have been doing it for a long time it hasn’t taken you anywhere. You become discour- aged. If you do it half heartedly you don’t develop enough moti- vation to make any progress, and because you don’t make any progress you won’t believe in it anymore.
Another requirement is restraint. I know some people don’t like to hear this word because they think that restraint is the
opposite of freedom; that is not true. If by freedom we mean to do whatever we want, this is not real freedom.
Freedom really means knowing what is useful, what is beneficial and worthwhile,
knowing what is wholesome and what is unwholesome and choosing what is wholesome, good and right
and doing it whole heartedly.
Restraint has many meanings and one of them is keeping the precepts. Why do we need to keep the precepts? For lay people it is five or eight precepts and for monks more then two hundred. In the beginning when we try to keep the precepts we feel very cramped, we feel as if we don’t have enough room to move. We can’t do anything! When we keep training our mind after a while it gets used to living with them. At this point we don’t have to try anymore to keep them, actually it becomes our nature and we feel very free.
What happens when we don’t keep the precepts? What happens when we kill, steal, commit adultery, tell lies or take intoxicants? What happens to that person? When a person does not take the precepts he does not have self respect. Naturally, deep inside us we know what is proper and what is not. We give in to the temptation; we give in to greed, to anger, and to other sensual pleasure. When we don’t restrain ourselves we do things that are improper. We harm ourselves and we harm other peo- ple. In the process of harming others we harm ourselves because
there is no way to harm others and not harm ourselves. It is impossible. I have noticed this even in minor things. Once in my monastery it was raining and there was a foot mat outside my door and a little dog, (which I’ll call he, because for me dogs are like people, they have consciousness and are also very sensitive).
Because of the rain he wanted to be in a dry place just like me.
When it rains I want to be in a dry place because I don’t want to get wet. This little dog came up to my kuti (little hut) and slept on the door mat and whenever I wanted to go out I couldn’t open the door because he was sleeping there and sometimes I got very upset. I thought I must teach this dog not to come and sleep here. Do you know what I did? I got a bucket of water, opened the door and threw it on the dog, just to teach him that he would get wet if he came here. When I was doing it, suddenly my awareness came and I caught my state of mind, “what am I doing?” I found that I was feeling some sort of pain. I was feeling like I was not a good compassionate person, actually I was very cruel. That feeling hurt me very much, it was very painful to be a cruel person and not to be a compassionate loving one. When I caught myself I realized that I was harming the dog, but by get- ting wet he is not really harmed, but what harmed me most was loosing my peace, tranquility and self respect.
That is more harmful. In many instances I have noticed this again and again. Sometimes I was not deliberately harming anybody, for example when somebody came I was not feeling very friendly, I didn’t want to give my time to that person. This person came again and again, I didn’t have any time for him,
and so I didn’t go out and receive him. When I looked into my mind I found that I could give some time to this person if I wanted to, just a few minutes, but I felt very cold inside me, not loving, not kind, and not warm. When I watched that, I found it to be very painful. Ignoring a human being is very painful. Not acknowledging, not feeling loving and kind it is very painful.
Whenever we do something like that we lose our self respect, this is very painful and harmful. It is true that in some cases we have to put a limit. But when we do that we should do it with understanding, with kindness and not with coldness.
When we don’t keep the five precepts we harm others as well as ourselves.
These precepts are not imposed by somebody. It is nature.
Deep inside us we know that not keeping the five precepts is improper, harmful. Even though a person may not be keep- ing the five precepts, deep inside him he has respect for those who keep them. He has respect, admiration and appreciation for those who are loving, kind, and generous. When we lose our self respect we don’t feel worthy. When we don’t feel wor- thy what happens? Even though we do something, because we don’t feel worthy we don’t give ourselves whole heartedly, we do things half heartedly. Those who feel unworthy won’t really try their best, they will feel themselves pretending that they are doing something but actually they are not. To feel worthy of
something it is very important to feel worthy of love, of freedom, peacefulness, deep wisdom, and understanding. You can only rise as high as your self esteem. This is very important.
So, how can you develop your self esteem? You do what is right. You avoid doing what is wrong. When you have self esteem you also have self confidence and self respect. With this you believe that you are a good person. When you do what is good and when you avoid what is not good then you feel you are a good person. We have to train ourselves not to do what is unwholesome and to do what is wholesome with right atti- tude, whole heartedly. Cultivating the quality of loving kindness towards anyone, animals included will nourish the heart and give a lot of energy. It will make you feel that you are a loving person, and at the same time you feel worthy of receiving love.
To feel worthy of mettæ (love), to feel worthy of something good it is very important; unless you have that you cannot meditate.
Do something to develop that quality more and more.
Let go of the past and be willing to fully live in the present.
Be willing to change and to grow.
Often we are afraid to change, to grow, and because of lack of confidence
we don’t try our best.
We are responsible for ourselves and our lives, no matter what happened in the past,
without blaming anybody.
I have met many people who are always blaming others for their unhappiness, but they don’t try to learn anything that will help them to become more happy and peaceful. Try always to think about wholesome thoughts although it is very difficult to do. Most of our thoughts are unwholesome: greed, anger, pride, envy, jealousy. During the day try to be aware of what you are thinking about without wanting to control it. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about something unwholesome about someone or about something, try to look at it from a different angle and see if you can learn something from that situation and become positive about it. You determine to think some- thing positive as much as possible. All this is just preparation for meditation. If you think unwholesome thoughts all day and then sit and meditate and expect to be peaceful and happy, it is not possible because you have not prepared your mind. Think- ing in a positive and wholesome way is reflecting and thinking properly.
It is a natural thing for every being to experience good and bad things in life, reflecting on this it
helps to let go, to not get attached.
Another important thing is restraint of the senses. We see so much; hear so much, so limit yourself. Watching television, reading, do only if it is necessary, try to limit it. If we don’t put a limitation in our daily life, we’ll not have enough time and energy to meditate. To avoid agitation try to restrain the senses.
Purity of livelihood is very important, look after your needs in a proper way. A friend who is a meditator told me that in his office he used to use the copy machine for personal needs before he started meditating, but since he has been meditating and is very aware of his mental states he has noticed that whenever he used the machine for himself he felt guilty, he felt as if he was stealing. Although nobody said anything, the purpose of the machine was for office use, he stopped using it. It does not mat- ter if other people do it, let them do it, but you are developing your spiritual qualities, and making yourself be worthy of real peace, real insight, real liberation.
Try to make your life as simple as possible, in eating, in clothing, in everything. Whatever you do, whatever you have, it demands your time and energy, and it may cause some sort of agitation. My teacher in his housing in the monastery has liter- ally, nothing. He has only three robes on his body and washes them in turn. There is no furniture at all, the floor is very clean.
If you live in an empty room your mind becomes empty. When you go to a supermarket what happens to your mind? In an empty room there are no distractions. If you want to develop in meditation as much as possible live a very simple life.
Meditation is like cultivating the land.
Look very deep into your mind every day, and try to weed, because every day seeds are coming in the mind. They will take root and if you let them stay there long, their roots will become
very strong and it will be harder for you to root them out, but if you can throw away the seed before it germinates it will be very helpful.
A NSWER:In the beginning I won’t suggest that you give it up completely. Give up little by little but be very honest.
See if you can give up something, especially talking about music. I told you that I love music. I was a musician when I was young and because of my love for music I came in contact with another person who was a musician and also a very good meditator. You can be a musician and a good meditator. My first meditation teacher was a layman who was a music instrument maker and a musician. Even when he was making musical instruments, playing instruments he would do it with all his attention, with real care, real love.
The kind of music he played was very soothing and calming.
If you like music, find the kind of music which is calming and soothing for the mind. You don’t need to give up every- thing; you can give up just as much as you can.
Do it slowly and gradually.
If music is your livelihood and it disturbs your meditation practice you have to make a decision.
QUESTION:By the way, what happened to the dog?
A NSWER:I gave him a proper place to sleep on. I felt very happy about it. Any time you show any kindness to any being it makes you very happy, it is very nourishing, it helps your practice. As much as possible be kind. Sometimes you might get angry or upset but we can learn from those experiences as well. Learn to forgive yourself. We’ll never be perfect. Ask yourself “am I trying my best?” You all have been meditating for quite a while, try your best.
Every moment of peace has a tremendous effect on the mind. Peace of mind, no matter how
momentarily is of great value.
Every time the mind becomes peaceful even for a few sec- onds it gives you a contrast. In life we are always making choices, so choose to be peaceful even for a few seconds.
Every day, every moment I choose to be a monk. It is not easy being a monk. If it was, so many would not disrobe.
Until the person attains Anægæmø-magga (non-returner), a monk can always chose to be a layman. So, we choose to be mindful. All psychological problems are basically spiritual.
If you have the right attitude and the right understanding you can do away with a lot of psychological problems. I have come here to spend four months. Coming here is also part of my learning process. It is necessary for my growth.
In our life we need balance;
we need time for ourselves and time for others.
If we live only for ourselves we won’t feel satisfied.
If you really want to be happy, help others to be happy, in whatever way.
The more you can give the more you become mature. The biggest disturbance comes from unwholesome thoughts and actions.
Iwant to remind you of what we talked last week, maybe some of you have good memories and will remember quite a lot. Memory lasts a very short time, some people say that if you hear something once, after one day you remember ten per cent, after two or three days you remember five per cent, after a week you remember one or two per cent. So to make your memory stronger you have to revise things again and again, especially when you get older it is difficult to remember things, especially short term memory. So, I want to remind you of a few things I talked about last week.
Do you remember the simile I gave about gardening? It is always very important to remember that simile, always to remember that meditation is cultivating… bhævanæ means cul- tivation, to make something grow. So, in order to cultivate you need to prepare the land, remove all the weeds, rocks, stones, all the rubbish, until the land becomes soft, then enrich the land, put some natural fertilizer especially, and water the land, pre- pare the land properly so that when you put seeds in it, seeds will sprout easily, will take root easily. Even after that you can’t
Basic Skills &
forget about it, you can’t leave it like that, you have to go and check every now and then to see if some weeds are growing again, because it is quite natural for weeds to grow easily, it is harder to grow a flower, a vegetable or a crop, than to grow weeds. Weeds grow naturally, weeds are very hard to kill, very hard to uproot. That’s why farmers spend a lot of time weeding and weeding.
When we meditate that is what we do most of the time, we are weeding most of the time, and
enriching the soil also.
What do we do to enrich our mind? We cultivate mettæ, karu¼æ (compassion), to be more thoughtful, kinder, and more considerate to yourself and others. We do not have a right to be cruel even to ourselves. Some people say “I suffer for other people” I think this is not right attitude, I think nobody should suffer! So cultivate kindness to yourself and kindness to other people, and that means also keeping the precepts. If you are really kind to yourself and if you are really kind to other people then you are already keeping five precepts because you cannot break precepts without being unkind to yourself and to others.
One person said… “I don’t kill, I don’t steal, I don’t commit adultery and I don’t cheat, but I drink…I am not causing harm to anybody. I just like to drink a little bit…” but then you are harming yourself and indirectly, when we are harming ourselves
we harm others too. We are all connected, related, you cannot harm yourself without harming other people, without harming your parents, without harming your spouse, without harming your children, without harming your friends.
So we are all related, connected.
We cannot harm anybody without harming ourselves or without harming somebody else.
Not harming is very important.
Here is a very beautiful poem which expresses what I am trying to say:
“What power of man can grow a rose?” this is the question
“what power of man can grow a rose?” “Prepare the soil”, that is what I am talking about “and the rose itself will grow, brought into being by some force within”, so prepare the soil!!
To achieve peace it requires that we have the courage of our convictions; we have the courage to value something… So what do we value? As meditators we value mindfulness, peace and quietness of mind, we value contentment, we value deep insight, we value liberation, freedom and to use another Pæ¹i word we value Nibbæna, ultimate peace, ultimate freedom.
So, if achieving peace requires we have the courage of our convictions it also requires an unrelenting consistency, very important…unrelenting consistency. If we really value mindful- ness we have to try our best to be mindful always. It is very
important, unrelenting consistency… we cannot say that…
well… now this is the time from four o’ clock to five o’clock I’ll be mindful and after five o’clock I’ll be unmindful, we cannot say that.
The person who really understands
what meditation means, what mindfulness means, has no timetable for meditation.
What does that mean? A person who really understands what it really means, what happens in the mind when it is really mindful and what happens to the mind when it is not mindful, if the person understands the difference, then he will never say that “this is the time to be mindful and that is the time not to be mindful”, there is no choice.
To be unmindful, means you are allowing your thoughts to create all sorts of negativity, because in our surroundings there are a lot of things contributing negativity, contributing greed, contributing selfishness. They are making us become greedier, more selfish, more unsatisfied, and more discontent. When I talked about discontentment in America I said “If you are con- tent you can reduce the cost of your living to half, because we are spending so much unnecessarily.” One person said “If you reduce spending to half, that will cause a breakdown in the economy, you should not do that, you should spend more.” They are only thinking about the spending for the economy only, not spirituality. Here you have to make a big choice, what do you
value? Is it to develop your inner qualities, your spirituality or just to keep up with the Jones’s?
There is no short cut to really
developing our inner qualities, there is no easy way.
In America they advertise meditation courses: in three days you’ll become enlightened, you have to pay a thousand dol- lars, it will take you only three days to become enlightened….
there is no short cut like that, you cannot buy enlightenment.
You have to develop your inner qualities slowly, and slowly to understand very deeply about all the good things and all the bad things about yourself.
Even when you see bad things in you, you have to be very open and very compassionate, with acceptance you see it as something not personal, see all the greed, anger, frustration, pride, jealousy, as something natural. When you feel guilty about such kind of thoughts you are reinforcing ego again. When you can see greed, envy, jealousy and pride as something natural then this seeing mind has equanimity. It is not upset; it is not happy or unhappy about it.
If you can see with mindfulness, with equanimity then whatever comes up that tries to take over, the ego does not feed the defilements.
Defilements are not afraid of being attacked.
No matter how much you try
to attack defilements they will not lose the battle, they become even stronger.
Defilements which mean greed, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, pride are afraid of being looked at very straight, looked at with equanimity, looked at with wisdom, and looked at as something natural, not a being, not me, not mine, not myself.
We have to be mindful all the time, doing the right thing all the time.
As a meditator, even when we are not really trying to con- centrate on something we should at least maintain some sort of awareness all the time. Whenever thoughts come in we know what kind of thoughts they are and just by watching them some- times they go away and sometimes if they don’t go away, we can turn our mind to something wholesome.
In the Pi¥aka texts it also says to read Dhamma books. Some- times the emotions, the defilements are so strong that we don’t know what to do. Then in that sort of difficult situation read a Dhamma book to divert your mind to wholesome thoughts. Or if that is not possible or you don’t want to do that, then talk with somebody who is very mindful, very peaceful.
To come into contact with somebody who is mindful and peaceful makes you
become more peaceful and mindful.
It is very important.
The Buddha talks a lot about a spiritual friend, to be in con- tact with somebody who is mindful and peaceful.
This is my experience too; my first experience with my teacher also was that he was very mindful and peaceful all the time even when he was working. I have told you often about my best friend, my first teacher who was a musician and musi- cal instrument maker. I still think of him quite a lot, so mindful he was. I never saw him getting upset about anything at all. I never saw him doing anything in a hurry, always taking his time, doing things very mindfully and slowly, perfectly. He was always perfect in whatever he did. I never heard him boasting about anything, about any accomplishment or qualities or skills. He was a very skillful person too, but he never talked about himself or his skills. He never talked about money.
So, everyday choose some little thing that you can do to build up your confidence and put it into practice. This self con- fidence, self respect, feeling of worthiness is very important. If you don’t feel worthy, even if you do something, you will not get good results especially in meditation and in other cases too.
If you are not confident, if you don’t respect yourself, don’t feel you are worthy of something you will not achieve it. Don’t for- get that, to begin is half done and half won; make a start today.
The nature of wisdom, the nature of insight is such that if you know that something is good and
you don’t do it, you loose your insight.
This is something very deep, we should understand it very well, if you know that something is good like meditation or gen- erosity, morality and loving kindness anything that you know is good, do it! If you know that something is good and you don’t do it, your mind gives it up. Maybe you sometimes get interested and you think, “Oh I’ll do that someday”, but you’ll not do it.
The nature of wisdom is like that, all of us are in some ways very intelligent and wise. Once in a while we know what to do but we get diverted to something else and we don’t do what we think is good to do right away. So if you put into practice what you feel is a good thing to do then you develop deeper insight, even a small thing.
Especially with what happens in meditation. You sit and meditate; your mind becomes very calm and peaceful. Then a flash of insight comes into your mind, you see that you made a mistake, or you see that there is something you needed to do and you forgot to do it. Immediately get a piece of paper and write it down, don’t let it be forgotten, it is very important. Our nature is that we are naturally and spiritually intelligent, but this for- getfulness and other things that make us greedy, very often take over our minds. So we forget to do good things. Whenever some flash of insight occurs in your mind, get it, catch it, get a piece of paper and write it down. Then try to put that into practice as soon as possible. In your meditation when you realise you have made a mistake or you have said something wrong, said some- thing which is not really true; you must correct that mistake as soon as possible.
If you want to develop deep insight, put into practice as soon as possible what you understand to be the right thing to do.
If you do just this one thing I assure you that you can develop your very deep spiritual qualities.
This is something that my teacher told me a long time ago and I found it to be true in my own practice.
Many people came to him and asked him many questions and he answered hundreds of questions every day. Some peo- ple even asked him very simple questions like “my knee hurts, should I go and see a doctor” Questions like that; they came and ask to my teacher because they cannot decide for themselves.
But he was always very compassionate he always gave them the answer that they needed. Then many times he said,
“Be more mindful, your mind will tell you the right thing to do”.
It sounds very simple, unbelievable, but if you really do the right thing that your mind tells you to do, it will tell you more and more. I call it ‘it’ as it is not something personal; your mind is not something personal. It will tell you the right thing to do because in our nature we know what is right and what is wrong, in most cases, I mean we know it.
Not only humans. I read a book about somebody train- ing a chimpanzee, The Education of Coco they made it into a
television show. I know the trainer who trained the chimpan- zee. They have many trainers but one of them was the chief trainer, an anthropologist I think. One of the trainers, when leaving his shift, said to the trainer who was taking over, that the chimpanzee that day was causing a lot of trouble, that he was very naughty, something like that. This chimpanzee was so intelligent that she could understand human language and she was so angry, jumping, because somebody was saying that she was bad. Then she said “no… telling a lie…lying… lying.”
that the trainer was lying. Then when this first trainer left (she does not like this first trainer) the other trainer was more sensi- tive to the chimpanzee, she could understand the chimpanzee’s feelings more intimately. So she tried to calm Coco down and asked what happened, Coco said “I was bad” she admitted that.
Even the chimpanzee knew she was bad, she got into trouble.
How much more a human being can know!! Although we know what is right and what is wrong we don’t always do the right thing we don’t always try to avoid the wrong thing and if we know something and we don’t do it, what is the point of trying to know more and more.
No matter how much
we know if we don’t put it into practice, what is the point of knowledge.
Another day when the trainer came, the chimpanzee was very upset again. The trainer asked the chimpanzee what happened
and the chimpanzee said “cat bad”, (she can speak sign lan- guage,) the trainer asked why? The chimpanzee said “cat killed bird” she can make all the signs even speaking in sentences. You see the chimpanzee knows that it is not good to hurt another being, and she was very upset about it, because she felt for the bird. Another day many visitors came to see Coco, because she was becoming very famous, many people came to see her and one visitor looked at Coco and said “beautiful” (using sign lan- guage) and when the visitor said Coco is beautiful, do you know what Coco said? Can you guess? With American Sign Language she said “lying”. She scratched her nose, so they understood,
“lying”, and she didn’t like that, for even a chimpanzee which is very close to a human being, can understand that it is not good to lie; it is not good to kill.
We know that, if we don’t put into practice what we know there is no point in trying to find out more. If you put into prac- tice what you know is the right thing to do, then your mind will let you know more and more; this is very encouraging. When I first found out about this truth I felt very happy about it. I have the quality, the ability to know. When many people asked my teacher many questions my teacher said “try to be more mindful and your mindfulness will let you know the right thing to do”.
Unless you do something everyday to make yourself feel that you are becoming a better person, which means, to be more lov- ing, more compassionate, more caring and sharing, more mind- ful, more understanding, then there is bound to be a feeling of failure. Unless you do that you may feel your life is a failure.
“What am I doing… just going around and around”. As you get older and older you feel the failure more and more. If we develop our inner qualities every day we feel better and better about ourselves. “Oh! Another day has gone and I have devel- oped some good qualities. I am becoming more understanding more loving, more caring, more sharing, more compassionate”
and that will make you very happy.
Take small steps to improve yourself every day, consistently and with determination,
it gets easier as you go on.
As long as you head in the right direction and keep going you’ll get there.
Actually, we know quite a lot but many of us like to procras- tinate. “I’ll do it later”, many of us procrastinate like that hoping that if we delay we’ll be better equipped to take up the job later.
We need to learn more and more about how to do this… how to do that… we think that if we know more then we will be able to do it more easily, but that is not the truth. If you do what you know, that will make it easier for you to learn more and more.
So, doing and knowing should go together. If you just do one thing that you know how to do, if you take but one step forward something will happen to make the second step easier.
There is a power within you greater then you realize, it awaits you,
So do what you know now and it will make it easier for you to do the next thing.
As we use what is in hand, then greater opportunities are given. Use your knowledge now; if you use it, then you will get more knowledge, from yourself and also from your teachers too. Teachers will come to you, or you will be there where your teacher is, so, use what is yours to use today, your motivation, knowledge, ability, today’s resources are sufficient for today’s task and what you need tomorrow it will come, which means don’t wait until tomorrow, you already know what to do now, do it now! This is the most important thing.
I got very simple instructions from my meditation teacher, just to sit very relaxed, deeply breathing in, breathing out…
feeling more and more relaxed, keep the mind on breathing, very simple instructions like that. After that he said go through the whole body from the head to toes, check all the sensations in the body. Those simple instructions I practiced for six years, no more instructions; that was just enough. Just sitting breath- ing in and breathing out, feeling more relaxed and after that going through the whole body, seeing whatever sensation there is. It might be cold or hot, pain, tension, ache or it might be just feeling good. Sometimes it feels very good, so I am aware of that, feeling very relaxed… very peaceful… sometimes thoughts
come in… just watch the thoughts… see the nature of them and they will go away.
Everything comes and goes, we don’t need to push it away,
and it will go away by itself.
I did that for six years, not in a hurry and later another teacher told me that you can practice meditation while walking too! I didn’t know about it before. I thought at first to meditate meant to sit in full lotus, so I tried to sit in full lotus and, actually it was not difficult for me. The first thing I heard about medita- tion was… you sit like this… and keep your hands like this…
and meditate, I thought this is the only position that you can meditate. Then later somebody told me that you can meditate while walking, that was a surprise for me… so, I said “Really?
How do you do that?” The person was actually my friend, we were living in a hostel in university”. He was next to me and sometimes we talked about Dhamma and he said “You can med- itate while walking”… “How do you do that?” He said “You can be mindful of breathing while walking… quite simple… you don’t need to change your object of meditation, try to be mind- ful of breathing while you are walking” or he said “You can be mindful of each step… you can do that too”. So, when every- body was asleep I just walked around the university campus try- ing, just very happy to experiment with it. I was very interested in doing that. It was very nice, quiet and cool also. I think it
was in December and in the northern hemisphere it is a cold season. Walking around the university campus very excited…
“Oh really it works! It really works!”
Later we discussed about meditation and he said that you can meditate anywhere.
No special place, but
if you have a special place it is good, but if you don’t it does not matter
you can meditate anywhere.
There was a Chinese cemetery in the east of our university, a big cemetery, we crossed over the hill and went there. It was very nice like a park, even clean. We would sit and meditate there for a while and then come back. Sometimes late in the night when we could not go to the Chinese cemetery, I went to the tennis court where there were benches to sit and nobody there at night. So I meditated there, very peacefully.
Learning a few things at a time and immediately putting them into practice.
That is the most important thing to do, don’t wait for more knowledge.
Do what you know right now,
that will make you know more and more.
So when you are really doing something and somebody gives you advice, you know the value of that advice because you are already doing it. If you are doing something and are having dif- ficulty, and somebody comes and tells you… “Oh, if you do it like this it will solve your problems”, immediately you use that knowledge and solve the problem and you know the value of that advice. However if you are not doing anything and some- body tells you how to do something again and again, you won’t learn anything, you don’t value their advice.
It is very, very important to prepare. There are many things we should think about. What you eat affects your mind and body.
A meditator should be aware of that and should be sensitive to that. Recently somebody told me that his meditation was very good. He felt very calm and peaceful and he asked me, why? In fact he should ask himself “What have I done right?”, and if it is not good you have to ask yourself “What have I done wrong.”
You should think about how much you ate and if you ate a big meal before you sat and meditated, I am sure that won’t be a very good sitting. Even the quality of your food, if you eat for instance too much fried, oily fatty food it will make your mind dull, and it affects your mind. If you drink too much coffee it makes your mind agitated. It depends on the right balance. If you like to drink coffee, drink just the right amount, just to keep you alert, but don’t drink too much because it will agitate your mind.
Also what you talk about it is very important. If you talk about something that causes agitation in the mind, then you go and sit, your meditation will not be very good. It is quite natural that what
you talk about affects your mind very much. That’s why in Burma (Myanmar) in some meditation centres, here also, the teachers instruct the students not to talk. In our daily life it is not possible for us not to talk, so we should be careful what we talk about and how much we talk. If we talk mindfully and we are talking about something not useful we will be able to cut it short.
I am not trying to push you to live an ideal daily life, it is not possible.
I understand how difficult it is for a lay person to live daily life.
However if you are mindful
you’ll know how and what you talk about affects your mind, affects your meditation.
If you talk about something unwholesome, something that makes you greedy, angry or upset, it makes you feel hopeless and depressed and it will affect your meditation. If possible, talk about something positive, something encouraging, and even though the situation is not a happy one, you can see it from a positive angle and learn something from it… “This is a lesson I need to learn… this is something that is teaching me to be more patient. This is teaching me to be more content”. Even when somebody says something bad about you… “Oh this person is testing my forgiveness, how much I can forgive, how much I can maintain my equanimity”. If you look at it from that point of view it helps your meditation.
Your peace of mind also depends with whom you are associating,
if you associate with those people who are loving, kind, generous, mindful and peaceful,
it helps your meditation.
But if you are associating with people who are unmindful, jumpy, talking about one thing after another or unkind, angry, upset, greedy or proud, they will affect you negatively. So what- ever happens to us in our daily life affects our mind and affects our meditation.
For meditation it is very important to understand how food affects your mind.
I do that all the time. I watch what I eat and how much I eat; sometimes I eat too much because I don’t want to throw things away. When people throw away food I feel very bad about it. But very carefully as much as possible I try to get the right amount of food, the right kind of food. When I eat the wrong food my stomach won’t digest, it will stay a long time in the stomach, I don’t have energy, and the mind gets dull. If you eat the wrong kind of food it becomes poison to your body. For example I cannot eat anything made with milk because I cannot digest lactose. When I eat milk or anything made from milk my stomach becomes poisoned.
Not only food but
what we see poisons our mind as well.
We are more concerned about our physical body only. We think so much about our physical body but not enough about our mind. We are careful enough not to poison our body, how- ever many people are poisoning their body eating the wrong food, junk food. Similarly what we see can poison our mind, what we hear can poison our mind because ideas are coming into our minds; ideas are poison for the mind. We need to be very careful of how our ideas affect our minds especially with our children. Be careful of what they are getting on the televi- sion, what they hear from their friends, what kind of ideas they are getting. Also be very careful about how, what you see and what you hear affects your mind. A good meditator should be careful of that.
Clothing is important;
when you meditate it is much better to wear loose fitting clothes, not very expensive,
just simple clothes.
Food affects you, what you talk about affects you, what you see affects you, what you hear affects you, what you wear affects you and your surroundings affect you. It is best to meditate in a very peaceful and clean place.
The place should be very clean, like this, it is very clean here, with a quiet peaceful atmosphere, because a lot of people here are trying to
cultivate their spirituality and that affects the place too.
Sometimes we have no choice and the place is not suitable to meditate in. In that case what shall we do? I’ll tell you what I did. It is very useful; I do it all the time, every day. I’ll tell you the story so you’ll get the idea very well. Once I was in Amer- ica living in a monastery and there were about seven or eight monks and more than twenty people in the place. It had been a school for children but this meditation group bought that school and made it into a monastery, actually into a meditation centre.
I was the only English speaking monk in that monastery and I talked a lot all day, from about five o’clock in the morning until eleven or twelve in the night. Sometimes I got very tired and distressed, sometimes so many people around making so much noise, it disturbed my mind. I told one friend it is very difficult to meditate here and to relax and sometimes I want to relax I can’t ignore the noise and relax. So when I wanted to relax I wrote on a piece of paper ‘please don’t disturb’ and I would stick that paper on the door outside my room. But there were so many people who needed to talk to me they would come and knock at the door, take off the paper and show it to me saying that “Maybe you forgot to take off the paper”.
So no time to rest… all day… talking… talking… I want to run away, to go away, I can’t do it anymore. I told my friend
“What to do now? I can’t go on doing like this for a long time,”
so my friend said… “I am very sorry! Let’s go into the redwood forest”. The monastery is in a redwood forest, we walked up the hill, it was a very nice place, the moment we walked out- side it was forest, no houses. In that area they don’t allow many houses. One house here and you walked one mile and found another house. We walked out of the monastery, the path was very simple, just rocks and gravel and up the hill we go, down the hill and then climb another hill and found a very nice spot.
They had cut down the trees and when they did that small trees grew again from the roots, and they grew like a ring and inside that area the redwood tree needles filled the gap and it is like a bed, soft. We spread a cloth on there and we sat there and meditated. It is very nice to meditate in the redwood forest, very quiet and peaceful. Sometimes we lay down and took a nap in the afternoon and then came back to the monastery.
That helped quite a lot, but sometimes I could not go out so what I did was I just sat in my room imagining that I was back in my monastery in Burma. Don’t think that imagination is use- less… it affects my mind very much. So I sat there… breathing in, breathing out… relax and relaxing… the mind became a little bit calmer…. The way to my monastery goes through rice paddy fields, on the left and on the right green paddy fields, very wide and the wind blowing, very cool and I can hear the birds.
I go slowly and slowly imagining that I was really there walking
on that road, feeling the temperature, the wind, the sound, the smell of the rice fields and then going across a small wooden bridge. There is a small waterfall near the bridge, in my imagina- tion I would be there and sit there for a while, listening to the water falling and also the wind blowing very cool. Then from there after I crossed the bridge I climbed a very gentle slope going up the hill to my monastery. It goes through a small open- ing and on the side there is a cliff, so in between there a small road about eight or ten feet wide with bamboo groves and other small trees growing. So I would go through that place, climb the hill very slowly and I get to the top where it is flat. Not many big trees up there so I can look and see everything around. I look far away and see the mountains to the east, the Shan hills and I keep going slowly and slowly, feeling everything in that area in the surroundings and then after that I have to go slowly down the hill again to get to my monastery. The slope goes down slowly and slowly and as I go down into my monastery the trees are becoming bigger and bigger because people don’t cut down trees in the monastery. Outside the monastery they are cut down. As I go into the monastery trees become taller and taller, shadier and also quieter because the trees absorb noise, so as you go into the trees it becomes quieter, cooler. Then I would go deep into my monastery. In the middle of the monastery there is a clear space without trees. Near that place is the shrine room and the meditation hall, not as big as this, it is quite small. I go into my meditation hall shrine room and close the door. As I go into my monastery, even physically when I go there, I feel that
I am leaving the whole noisy, busy world behind, … the noisy, busy world… it has nothing to do with my place. My monastery is just outside the world. Not disconnected… it is in touch with the world but outside the world; that is the way we feel about it.
I go into the monastery and I feel that the noisy, busy world is left behind. I get into the place, pay respect to the Buddha, sit down and meditate. That takes about five minutes to imagine but that imagination affects my mind very much. If you cannot find a suitable place to meditate, try to do that. You imagine that you are into your ideal meditation place. Take your time, slowly and slowly. When your mind believes that and accepts that it affects your mind.
You know that you are imagining, you know that it is not real but
even though it is not real it has real effect on your mind and
that is the most important thing.
You sit down and meditate; the mind becomes very calm and peaceful. If you imagine bad things it affects your mind in a bad way, if you imagine good things it affects your mind in a good way, it is quite natural, so try to do that.
Last week I talked about wholesome thinking: any kind of thought that is wholesome. We can’t make ourselves not think about anything at all because thoughts are coming and going all the time, but sometimes we have a choice to turn our mind
towards wholesome thoughts. Try as much as possible through- out the day to do that. When you get used to doing that your mind will stay in that wholesome state mind more and more and whenever unwholesome thoughts come to your mind you find that your mind becomes uneasy, not peaceful, agitated, tired…
you feel the difference.
Some people are so used to thinking unwholesome thoughts that they like to think unwholesome thoughts, they like to be angry and upset most of the time. I know some people like that.
I asked one of them, “Why do you want yourself to get angry, you are making yourself angry, do you know that?” He said “Yes I know I’m making myself angry” and I asked him “Why do you do that?” This person knows that he is making himself angry, deliberately thinking about bad things, and he said that “When I am angry I feel I have more energy”. Some people do that to make themselves angry so that they have more energy and this person will try to think about all the things that go wrong about government, weather, food, about everything in the newspaper, in the television, something is always wrong for him. I asked him “Why do you want to see all the faults?” We are very close friends and we can talk very openly. He said “If you don’t know what is wrong then you are stupid!” What is he trying to prove?
He is trying to prove that he is not stupid by looking at all the things that go wrong.
When we get upset, try to look deep inside.
Why are we doing that?
What are we are trying to prove?
What do we get from that?
Whenever we do something we expect something, so… what do we get from getting upset?
He was trying to prove that he is not stupid; also he wanted to be more energetic. Another thing I found out was that this person was not doing anything wholesome. When you are really inter- ested in doing something wholesome and useful whether worldly or meditation, then you have no time to have unwholesome thoughts, no time to look around and find faults in people. Those who are not doing something wholesome will naturally do some- thing unwholesome, you cannot stay in between. For most people there are only two ways: to be wholesome or to be unwholesome.
When you become used to keeping your mind peaceful and calm and relaxed, the moment any kind of
unwholesome thoughts come into the mind you’ll see the difference.
You become unpeaceful agitated, hot, you become tired.
When I talked about keeping the five precepts with another person that person asked me “How long do I need to keep the five precepts intact to start to meditate?” This is a very valid
question, a good question. Some people say that first of all you have to develop your søla (morality), you have to keep the five precepts, your søla intact before you meditate but how long? It is very difficult to say how long, so I asked this question to some of my teachers, and I also tried to find out what the texts say and I got a very reasonable answer.
The answer is it does not matter how long;
the only thing that matters is your sincerity.
If you decide right now
“I will not harm myself, I will not harm anybody else”
from that moment you can start to meditate.
If you still have in your mind that you’ll harm somebody even though you meditate you cannot really develop deep concentra- tion, peacefulness and insight because you need the intention not to harm yourself and others. Intentionally make a decision and that is a necessity. Honestly make a decision “I’ll not harm myself and I will not harm anybody else”, with sincerity.
If you can make the decision from that moment you are ready to meditate.
It all goes together, søla, mettæ and vipassanæ bhævanæ (morality, loving kindness and insight meditation),
they all go together, and you cannot leave anything separate.
We have a tendency to keep things separate.
Each aspect of our life is connected with other aspects of our life,
this is very important especially for meditators.
Each aspect of our life it is connected to every other aspect of our life.
Whatever you do, it will affect your meditation, either in a good way or in a bad way.
This truth is the basis for our awakened life.
This is the basis.
Someone who was a member of a meditation centre in Burma, he was a business man and in his business dealings he was dishonest. So one of his friends pointed that out; “Look you are meditating to develop your spiritual qualities to attain liberation, something very noble and high but in your business dealings you are not really honest”. He was cheating a little bit and everybody does that; he was not exceptionally bad but he was just normally bad. So this businessman said “The two are different, when I go to the meditation centre I meditate and I try do develop my spir- itual qualities to attain liberation but when I am doing business it is business, it is another matter!” No way can you do that!! Keep this in mind and see what you are doing and see if what you are doing is appropriate to your spiritual ideals, what your ideal is, and always keep your ideal in your mind and always check with everything you do whether what you are doing now will harm your spiritual practice or will support your spiritual practice.
What counts is how we live our daily life.
How constructively we use the resources that we have and how lovingly we treat the people around us. The two keys to successful living are attunement to spirituality and service to our fellow man, the two go together. If we harm anybody in any way it will harm our spiritual practice. Søla has many aspects.
Keeping five precepts and whenever we use something we have to reflect why we are using it. When we eat something we have to reflect on it, “Why do I eat?” When we use clothing also “why do I use this clothing?” If we don’t reflect on that then greed will take over, and we will eat greedily and we will wear clothes with greed, just to show off. Whenever we see or hear something try to be very mindful, so that we will not react automatically.
When you go down the road, go down to busy shopping centres try to be mindful. See what happens. Our eyes looking here and there all the time and we try to listen to many things. We are not trying to be mindful at that moment and when we are not mindful then we become more and more agitated.
There are other things that hinder our spiritual attainments.
One is killing one’s mother. If one has killed one’s mother one cannot attain magga-phala (the path and fruition), one can meditate and he will not achieve supramundane consciousness, because to kill a mother, to kill a father, to kill an Arahant and to cause injury to a Buddha affects the mind very badly. Wrong views are also very important! If somebody thinks that there is no such thing as wholesome or unwholesome actions, everything is
the same, if somebody believes that if you do something good it will not give any good result, if you do something bad it will not give you any bad results, if a person believes that sort of wrong view he cannot attain any spiritual goal. I know you don’t have those sorts of wrong views.
If even mentally you have accused anybody, any fellow meditator even, if you have any bad thoughts about that per- son, remember that, and ask for forgiveness. Please tell yourself
“I have made a mistake”. It is very important to have positive thoughts about each other. If you have any negative thoughts about each other or any other people who are meditating, that unkind negative thought can hinder your progress. That’s why when we sit and meditate first of all we try to develop this feel- ing of belonging, connectiveness, support, loving kind thoughts.
It is very important to do that. Whenever we sit and meditate whether in group or alone, first think of those people and try to develop mettæ for them, “I support their practice”. If you don’t support their practice then you feel isolated, you feel very selfish.
When some meditators accuse each other, I have noticed that that caused them guilty feelings and agitation and that destroys their concentration.
This is another important point here; somebody asked me a similar question few days ago. There are some people who have been meditating for quite a long time but mostly they are doing only one thing for example sitting and trying to be mindful all the time of breathing, breathing in and out, just one thing.
The Buddha said
“Cattæro Satipa¥¥hænæ(MN i.56),
Four Foundation of Mindfulness”
We have to practice all four foundation of mindfulness not just one. To really develop deep insight we need to develop all four. The first is kæyænupassanæ, mindfulness of the body and I’ll go into that later in detail, the second is vedanænupassanæ, mindfulness of feelings, even in kæyænupassanæ there are many aspects. Another is cittænupassanæ, mindfulness of thoughts;
another is dhammænupassanæ which generally means the con- tent of any consciousness. Try to develop as much as possible all four.
The Satipa¥¥hæna meditation is all inclusive, it is not exclusive.
Samatha meditation is exclusive,
you choose one thing and you leave everything else out.
But vipassanæ meditation is that first you start with one thing slowly and slowly you take in more and more, be aware of eve- rything happening in your body and in your mind, in your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, everywhere.
Whenever we want to learn how to do something we need a method from somebody. We have enough methods in the Pæ¹i texts and there are a lot of teachers around as well. To learn the method is not very difficult anymore.
However one important thing is to clarify whether you have understood it well or not,
you must ask questions.
Don’t just listen and make notes and go away; ask ques- tions. This is the best way to learn. Either in meditation or any other kind of learning, those who really ask more questions, I mean really thinking and asking questions and really listening, do understand more. And asking again and again until you get it very clear is the best way to learn. Discussion is very important.
Learn the method; ask questions to clarify and practice; and as you practice you’ll find some difficulties coming up. Whenever you have difficulty ask your teacher, talk with your teacher, take their advice.
In most cases if you keep on practicing you get your own answers, this is true. We lived in the forest most of the time and we were very far away from our teachers. We can only see our teachers once a month. So, when we meditate and have difficul- ties we say “I will ask this to my teacher when I go to see him”
and then we go on meditating and one day the answer comes in the mind and we don’t have to ask anymore. With many other of my students also, I go to their city sometimes and when I go away and they have difficulties, they write down their questions about their difficulties thinking that “I’ll ask my teacher when he comes”, but they keep meditating really earnestly, honestly, whole heartedly and then they find their own answers. So when I go and see them many of them say “I wrote down a lot of
questions to ask you when you came but as I keep meditating I find my own answers so now I don’t have many questions just one or two”.
If you keep meditating you’ll find your own answers.
A good friend; a good teacher is a good friend, a teacher and a friend they are the same, not two different things. Even Buddha talked about himself as a good friend. To have a good teacher, to have a good friend, to be in touch with the teacher to ask him questions, to take his advice all this is very impor- tant. Without a teacher and without a friend, without a guide it will be very difficult for us to go on this path. We’ll make a lot of mistakes, we’ll sidetrack a lot.
In the beginning stage of meditation naturally we’ll try to keep our mind concentrated on one object. For example breath- ing in and out, we try to keep our mind there as much as pos- sible. As we keep our mind there, slowly and slowly we develop more concentration, our mind stays on that object longer and longer. As our mind becomes a little bit calm we can see the changes in the nature of this sensation, of this object. Even in this mindfulness of breathing there are many steps. If you do each step systematically it is much easier to develop mindfulness and concentration.
For example the first thing you know is that you are breath- ing. If you know that you are breathing, then you have taken one step because most of the time although we are breathing we