Be aware of suffering to relinquish attachment

Dhamma is important and invaluable. Dhamma teaches us how to live a life that is free from suffering. Many other disciplines also attempt to answer this question of eliminating suffering. Doctors learn how to treat diseases. Governments learn how to govern people to be happy through political science. Economics teaches how to have a good economy to make people happy.

It’s an important question in people’s lives: How to live a happy life? Buddhism answers this question, and other disciplines and religions also answer this question, but the final answer is different. Whoever prefers whichever answer should follow that discipline. I used to know a physicist who said he didn’t respect the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha. He said that he only respects physics and that physics could answer everything. So, it is up to each person’s understanding.

When we hear the Buddha’s teaching, we don’t have to believe him yet. He doesn’t tell us to believe him but dares us to prove it. Let’s see where suffering is. Suffering is either at the body or the mind, only these 2 places. Let’s study our body and mind. The Buddha teaches us to be aware of suffering. Suffering is at the body and the mind, so look into them.

We can start by having mindfulness to be aware of our body. Be aware of the body when it breathes out or in, when it is standing, sitting, lying down, etc. Don’t let your mind float around thinking haphazardly all the time. Watch the body, and we will see that the body always experiences suffering. Sitting for a long time, standing for a long time, walking for a long time, and even lying down for a long time all lead to suffering. With mindfulness, we can see that the body suffers in all postures. Why do we always have to move around? If we stay still, it will cause soreness and pain. The body always feels soreness, pain, or itchiness here and there, so we always have to move or scratch.

The body is showing us that it experiences suffering all the time, but we neglect to acknowledge it. So, we go on with our lives, not seeing the truth that the body is suffering. But with enough mindfulness, we will see that the body is suffering with its in-breath and out-breath. Let’s try breathing. Can you feel that even breathing itself is a burden. We can’t stop breathing; we must breathe out every time we breathe in, and vice versa. We can see that suffering is present with every breath.

With constant mindfulness, we can see nothing else in the body except varying degrees of suffering. But people who haven’t trained their mind won’t realize this fact. They have to get very sick before realizing that the body is suffering. Why do we always have to change our posture? Why do we always have to breathe in and out?

We move our body to get away from suffering. So, movement blocks seeing suffering. After we get sore from sitting for a long time, we move our body. After we move, suffering subsides temporarily. The intense discomfort is gone. But then, after a short while, the discomfort returns, and we have to move again.

So, movement obscures the suffering of the body. The texts say that movement obscures suffering, but it’s only bodily suffering. The mind runs away from suffering by changing its sensation (“arama”). When bored with an arama, it changes to a new one. However, no arama can be forever happy, no matter how good it seems to be. After the mind stays with an arama for some time, it feels bored and wants to change its arama. So, it runs around searching for a new aroma through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodily sensation, and mind.

It is hungry for arama. It hopes that it can change the arama to avoid suffering. For example, if we listen to a song we like a few times, it’s ok. But if we listen to it hundreds of times, then we’ll get so bored when we hear it. Previously, many temples liked to play Tibetan meditation music. At first, it sounds nice and calm. However, after listening to it for some time, now people are bored with it and want it to be turned off. So, we always have to find new aramas to please the mind. When we stay with a spouse for several years, we may also get bored.

The mind is always suffering, but we don’t see it because we change the arama all the time. Changing of arama obscures seeing the truth of suffering in our mind. So, how do we see that the body and mind are suffering? We need to have mindfulness and concentration. Don’t let your mind float away, but don’t force your mind.


To be aware of suffering

Being mindful is the middle path. It’s not being so lenient as to forget the phenomena and not forceful on the body and mind. If we have mindfulness in the body, we can see that the body is full of suffering. We need to change our posture to get away from suffering all the time. If we can’t change our posture, suffering will increase to the point that we could die. This is not even about not being able to breathe. Some lay still without moving, such as some sick people. If they just lay still, soon their body will rot. If people just lay still, their back will begin to rot because they can’t move.

So, let’s be aware of the suffering in our body before we move to get away from suffering. Just be aware first, and then move if necessary. It’s not that we see suffering but just stay still. Doing so is self-mortification. We want to learn the truth. We don’t want self-mortification. So, we need to have mindfulness. Whenever you feel sore, just be aware of the soreness before you move. Be aware before changing your posture, whether you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying down and feel soreness or pain. This is the initial practice to be aware of suffering in our body.

On the other hand, suffering of the mind is more delicate. More delicate mindfulness and stronger concentration are required to see the suffering of the mind. Even before my ordain, I saw that the mind suffers whenever the eye sees, the ear hears, the nose smells, the tongue tastes, the body senses, the mind thinks. How does it suffer? If we have enough mindfulness and concentration, we can see that: Whenever the eye sees, the mind quivers. Whenever the ear hears a sound, the mind also quivers. Whenever the nose smells, the mind also quivers. So, the mind quivers whenever it has a sensation. We can see that it’s so much burden and suffering.

Who can see this? Please raise your hand. Who can see that whenever the mind senses something, it quivers? Please raise your hands high. That’s quite many of you. The group in the middle that raised your hands, please raise your hands again. One representative, please stand up. It’s great. You really see it and not just assume it. Some people answer so well, but it’s just from their memory. They never see the actual phenomena. Whenever our eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind encounters an arama, phassa (sensation) arises. Then, quivering is going to arise in the mind. The mind must work and quiver all day because sensation is never ceasing. So, we can see that happiness is nowhere to be found. There’s only suffering. Sometimes, the quivering is strong; sometimes it’s weak, but all is suffering. This is seeing the truth, not just thinking.

Keep practicing; wisdom will arise when we see nothing else in the body, only strong or weak suffering. The mind also has nothing else except strong suffering or weak suffering. Keep learning the truth. The Buddha taught us to be aware of suffering, so I’m teaching you one method. There are several ways, and each person may practice differently, but I’m teaching you the simple way. Try sitting still for a long time and see if it’s pleasant or suffering. There’s no need to think. Just sit and see the suffering that arises.

On 6 February 1982, I went to learn from Luang Pu Dule for the first time. He taught me to watch my mind, so I practiced it. I was on the train on the way back from Surin, and I kept watching and separating the aggregates. He told me to watch my mind. I didn’t know where the mind was, but I knew it must be within this body. I set my mind to my hair. In the hair, there is no mind. In the physical body, there is no mind. The mind is within the body, but not in any part of the body. Or is the mind in the vedana (feelings)? So, I made my mind calm and concentrated. When my mind was happy, I looked into the happiness; it disappeared, and there was no mind. Or is the mind in suffering?

I knew how to make the mind happy, but didn’t know how to make it suffer. So, I sat still and watched the body. The train was shaking, but I sat still so soreness and pain arose. I sat and watched the discomfort that arose. I looked into the pain and soreness. The pain and soreness disappeared, but I didn’t see the mind. I saw that if the body doesn’t move, the suffering of the body can be seen clearly. That’s why I’m telling you that movement obscures seeing suffering in the body. I’m not talking about profound suffering such as illness, or getting hit on the head. For such severe pain, even if we move, it won’t go away. I’m talking about ordinary suffering.

That is not caused by something else. When people are very sick, see how they keep turning and wriggling. Have you seen it? When some people are very sick, they toss and turn. They move around trying to reduce their suffering. But they can’t escape because they are very sick. Therefore, the reason we have to move around is to escape suffering.

So, we need to have awareness of our body and we will not be deceived by its movement. When we sit and suffering arises, or when hunger arises, be aware of the suffering first before moving or eating. Overeating is suffering. A full stomach is suffering. Constipation is suffering. Diarrhea is suffering. If we keep watching the body with mindfulness, we will see that suffering is ever-present. There is everyday suffering, such as hunger or needing to go to the bathroom. There’s also suffering because of the cold, the heat, from being hit, being bitten, or illness.

By being mindful, we can see that the body is a base for suffering. As we continue to observe, our wrong view that the body is something good or special will disappear. We will see the truth: the body is not good. It is only suffering. As for the mind, we can observe that after it senses something happiness, suffering, sadness, anger, and delusion always follow. We can see how it works constantly, always changing. This is another way to see the suffering of the mind. We can see that it is always in flux, sometimes greedy, sometimes angry, sometimes lost. It is never stable or reliable.

When we meditate, our mind can feel happy and peaceful. However, with wisdom, we can see that happiness and peace are also impermanent. Or, if we like someone and we can win their heart, we will feel happy, but this is only temporary. It will eventually fade away or even turn into suffering. We spend our live searching for happiness to satisfy our mind, but happiness is always fleeting. Our mind is exhausted by the search for happiness and by the attempt to escape suffering. But in the end, happiness never stays with us. Suffering cannot be escaped. See it like this.

There are many ways to cultivate wisdom through mindfulness of the body or mind and there are many techniques. Each person does not have to do the same practice. This is why the masters say that each person’s path is different. But the main principle is the same as what the Buddha taught: know suffering. Some discover suffering through the body, others through the mind. Their approaches differ, but the conclusion is the same: suffering permeates both.

Those who observe the mind can notice that constant craving or hate for arama lead to suffering. We also see the mind’s constant quivering when it has sensation through the six senses. This is a very delicate suffering. I saw before my ordain that the mind is inherently unsteady and shaken by stimulus through the senses. I continued watching this quivering for months and it was pure suffering, but I didn’t know how to get through it.


Dhamma practice also requires both wisdom development and samatha practice.

On 1st December, I went to meet Luang Por Phut at the Salawan forest temple. On that day, there was a ceremony, and a lot of people were there. Luang Por Phut was preparing for a public preaching when I went in and asked my question. I asked, “I see my mind sensing and quivering all the time, there’s only suffering. What should I do?” “It is too stressful. I see it all day and night. Even while I’m sleeping, my mind wouldn’t let go and I continued to see such quivering.”

Luang Por Phut tried to help me. He said that dhamma practice in the delicate stage only remains such subtle quivering. There is no major suffering, but subtle quivering is seen as suffering. I listened to him, but I still felt miserable. I wanted to get some rest. Even though he said it’s a normal process to see such subtle quivering and suffering, it was too tiring. I saw such quivering for months and I wanted to take some rest.

He preached me for about an hour, and all the while, several monks came to call him to go preach elsewhere. People were waiting for Luang Por Phut, but he said they could wait as they only listened as a matter of tradition. It is more important to teach 1 serious meditator rather than a big group of people who don’t understand the preaching. He tried to correct me until he was exhausted. But my mind was fed up with suffering and didn’t understand him. Finally, I had to tell him that he should go preach elsewhere and that I’d find my own solution.

After returning home, I wrote a letter to ask Luang Ta Maha Bua. I used to write letters to ask him many times, and he’d always answer me back. This time I asked him, “My mind senses the quivering and suffering all night and day. What should I do?” He just wrote back that he just had eye surgery and couldn’t write much, so he attached a book for me to read. The book was a thick book called ‘Dhamma Preparation’.

I’m not someone who likes to read dhamma books, normally I only read the Tripitaka. It was such a big book to search for a single answer, but he already sent it to me, so I must read it. I put the book on the table, paid him respect and turned a page. Bingo! It’s exactly that page. That page answers the question about the mind quivering all day and night. He answered that, in the delicate stage, there remains only quivering as Luang Por Phut taught me earlier. I sighed and thought that this didn’t address my concern. How could I get through this suffering?

One day, on my way to work, I was waiting for a bus, and I saw my mind working and suffering. I thought I hadn’t practiced calm meditation for a long time, so I’d better practice some calm meditation. Right at the bus stop, I breathe in, noting ‘Bud’ and counting 1, breath out, noting ‘Dho’ and counting 2. After several breaths, my mind went into deep concentration and there was no more body. Only my mind remained. After my mind came out, I felt so refreshed. I felt like I’d rested through a long weekend.

Once I realized this, I almost hit myself. I cultivated wisdom without letting my mind rest by calm meditation, so my mind couldn’t handle the suffering. If we watch the suffering of the body or the mind continuously, then at some point, we will not be able to withstand it. Roughly watching the mind may be possible, but in the delicate stage, it will be quivering all day and night and it’ll be torturous.

Therefore, when we experience this condition, we should return to samatha (calm meditation). Whatever type of meditation makes our mind calm, we should do it to give our mind some rest. I have been practicing samatha ever since I was a child. I did it for 22 years but didn’t gain anything from it. So, my subconscious mind looked down on samatha. When I met Luang Pu Dule, I started cultivating wisdom, but stopped practicing samatha altogether. After a long time, the power of samatha that I had accumulated was gone. I couldn’t continue cultivating wisdom, and I experienced this condition many times. It’s like we’re walking with our 2 alternating legs. Our 2 legs need to work together, the same as wisdom and samatha practice. Our 2 legs need to alternate left and right. Suppose this is wisdom development, we walk left and stop, then alternate to the right leg. If we move only the left or right leg, we can’t go anywhere.

Dhamma practice also requires both wisdom development and samatha practice. The Buddha taught that the 2 practices that we should practice with guiding wisdom are samatha and vipassana. The 4 noble truths: Dhukka, Samuthaya, Nirrodha, Magga. We’re to know dhukka, relinquish samuthaya, make nirodha clear and develop magga. Once he preached that developing magga is practicing samatha and vipassana, but we need to practice with guiding wisdom.

To practice with guiding wisdom is to know the suitable time for samatha and vipassana practice. To practice with guiding wisdom is to know the suitable time for samatha and vipassana practice. Knowing when to do something for what purpose is called acting with the guidance of wisdom. We should practice samatha and vipassana with the guidance of wisdom. We should know what, when, how, and how much we should practice which one. Let’s practice patiently and we’ll improve.


Once we know suffering, can relinquish our which is the cause of suffering.

Let’s try. Just sit still and see if it brings suffering or pleasantness. That’s enough. Just as an example. Can you feel that it’s suffering? Those who can see please raise your hands. Those who don’t see it yet, please try sitting for longer, and the truth will show up. Keep having mindfulness and the truth of the body will appear. The truth is suffering, nothing else. Then, continue to watch the mind. See that the mind works all day and night and is full of suffering. I can only tell you how to practice, but you must practice by yourself. I’m telling you that changing of posture obscures suffering. But if you never care to notice, then you won’t see suffering. If we keep running away from suffering, then we won’t see any. We’ll only see it when we have no more energy to run away, such as when we’re sick, then we’ll see.

But we don’t have to wait. Just see it in our everyday’s life. If we wait to see soreness, it takes time, so we can watch itchiness instead. There’s almost always somewhere that is itching. As soon as I said that, many people started scratching. Previously people just scratched without awareness. I saw many people scratching like monkeys.

If we have frequent mindfulness in our body, then we’ll see that the body is full of suffering. Keep having mindfulness and we’ll see that the mind is also full of suffering. Knowing suffering is relinquishing the cause of suffering, which is desire. Can you notice that we love our body a lot? We have a strong attachment to our body and wish it to be pleasant, live long, and be healthy. Why so? Because we love our body a lot. But if we have mindfulness, we will see that the body itself is suffering. Knowing that the body is suffering leads to relinquishment of desire, tanha, raga, greed. It has several names but it’s the same thing, which is raga – affection.

We have strong attachment because we think that the body is something good. But if we can see that the body is purely suffering, then love and attachment to the body will reduce until there’s no attachment. Then, when the body gets old, gets sick, and dies, it’s only the body. It is no longer ‘us,’ getting sick, getting old, and dying. The body is never our self, no matter how we look at it. Once we know suffering, then we can relinquish our affection and attachment, which is the cause of suffering. To relinquish affection is to relinquish attachment. Then, the mind is free from burden;

This is called nirodha. There are 5 levels of nirodha – cessation by calm meditation, by vipassana, by the noble path, by the noble fruition, and by nirvana. We don’t need to study too much, just see the truth. When the mind doesn’t have attachment to the body, does it feel lighter, or does it suffer more? When it doesn’t have attachment to the body, it gets rid of lot of burden because the body is a lot of burden.

Next, we see that the mind is suffering and we will relinquish the cause of suffering, which is affection in the body and mind. This releasing of attachment is Nirvana. We can reach this stage by practicing samatha and vipassana. We should practice samatha at the correct time – when the mind is restless or tired. When the mind has enough power, let it come out to see the truth of the body and mind. Once the mind truly knows suffering, it will relinquish affection and attachment to the body and mind. It will let go of its attachment to the body and mind and does not pick up anything else. That is the end of suffering. The end of suffering is when we release attachment in the body and mind.


“All things shouldn’t be attached to.” This is the heart of the Buddha’s teaching.

One person used to ask the Buddha: What is Buddhism’s ultimate teaching? Please summarize it in a single sentence. The Buddha replied that it is: “All things shouldn’t be attached to.” This is the heart of the Buddha’s teaching.

Things’ here mean all physical and mental phenomena. These shouldn’t be attached to. It means that the mind and the body shouldn’t be attached to. We’re attached to them because we don’t know that the body and mind are suffering. As we continue our practice, we see that the body and mind are suffering, and we will lose interest and attachment to them.

To have no attachment is the ultimate teaching of the Buddha. If somebody asks you what is the ultimate teaching in Buddhism. It is that all things shouldn’t be attached to. The way to have no attachment is to know suffering until it relinquishes the cause of suffering. To relinquish affection and attachment is to transcend all suffering. This is the key message, the core teaching of the Buddha.

Once we have no attachment to the body, we won’t suffer, even when the body suffers. Once we have no attachment to the mind, there will be no more place for suffering, because the mind is not us. The mind is not us and suffering is not related to us. The mind will reach true tranquility, which is nirvana. Nirvana is the true happiness of which there’s no more thorn. The pleasantness of the body is something temporary. It is always under pressure to change. Happiness in the mind is also under pressure. With practice, we can see this.

With enough practice, one day, we’ll not be attached to anything, whether the mind or the body, the physical or mental phenomena. Even nirvana is not to be attached to. As long as we have attachment, we can’t reach nirvana; we can only reach nirvana once we have no attachment. Nirvana is non-self and is not a subject for attachment. The subject for attachment is the body and the mind, our 5 aggregates.

That’s all for today. My preaching is quite difficult. Be patient and continue your practice. One day, you’re going to understand what I’m teaching. My teaching is based on my practice experience. It’s not from a textbook or from my imagination. I learned from the masters and practiced until I had no more doubt. So now I’m teaching you.

As we start mindfulness practice, we will experience shorter suffering and more happiness in our life. As our knowledge grows, we will realize that there is no happiness, only varying degrees of suffering. Once the mind sees this, it will let go of attachment and hence the cause of suffering. To let go of affection in the body and mind is to let go of attachment. We’ll understand that the Buddha has taught dhamma for us to reach this point. The point we see that all things shouldn’t be attached to. Suffering arises from attachment, attachment arises from desire, and desire arises from avija, which is ignorance of suffering.


Luangpu Pramote Pamojjo
Wat Suansantidham
24 September 2023