Stay mindful. Keep it up. Keep training. Familiarize yourself with phenomena like seeing the body sitting, seeing the body moving. Be aware of this. Regular awareness of phenomena, like the body moves and we know so, then later when the body moves, mindfulness will arise on its own, all by itself without trying. But for that to happen, we have to try.
After learning for a while with Luang Pu Dune, he told me that I had reached self-sufficiency in my practice. I went to check out some of the more famous temples like Wat Sanam Nai to see Luang Por Thian. He would teach the 14 hand postures. I gave it a try. I sat in his Temple and practiced the movements. I practiced a few days and I sat in his temple and wasn’t accustomed to the movements. I also would get annoyed easily. Any practice that was too technical, like one with 14 different movements frustrated me. So I modified it two only positions just like this: A fist and opening, a fist and opening. Only that. I kept it up for a while.
Moving in this way, it can be a samatha practice or a vipassana practice. If we move and the mind gets peaceful with it, the mind can enter samatha. I sat in Wat Sanam Nai and my mind entered a deep samatha. Then I saw the mind exiting from the meditation, rising out. First it got bright, then it made contact with mentality, feeling, the mind appeared.
Of course there was a mind ever since the meditation. There’s always a mind. But it didn’t present itself. When it came out of the trance-like state, the first feeling was the brightness. Then it touched the feelings and formations and thoughts. The mind then presented. Then the awareness spread out, and made contact with the body. The body presented. I saw, ah! First consciousness, then mentality, and then physicality appear. It wasn’t my objective to see that, but it happened at Wat Sanam Nai. Then I went home and did that small movement.
One day I saw an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time. A close friend, walking on the other side of the street. When I saw him I was not mindful; I was happy. I looked to the left and looked to the right and saw no cars. I still didn’t have any mindfulness and as soon as I took a step onto the road, mindfulness arose. From being lost, I could be aware of the body and the mind, and realized that moving the body and knowing so was practicing mindfulness of body. The mind was able to remember what body movement was like. I practiced moving the hand but then when the foot moved, mindfulness arose.
So let’s train. Choose a meditation object whether it is body or feelings or the wholesome or unwholesome mind. Choose one. Using dhamma as an object is difficult. Choose either body, feelings or the mind first. Once we become more skilled, mindfulness of dhamma will happen by itself. Practice knowing phenomena often.
I practiced watching the mind with Luang Pu Dune. At first, I would focus on the mind itself. I would grab it, hold it still and bright and beautiful. When I went to submit my homework, I said, “I’m able to watch the mind now”.
Luang Pu Dune said, “No, you’re interfering with the mind. The mind of is the nature to think and fabricate, and you’re making the mind not think and fabricate. You’re holding it still. He said, “That’s wrong, start over”.
He didn’t tell me how to do it right, he just said what I was doing was wrong. That I was holding the mind still. I can say unequivocally, unlike some of Luang Pu Dune’s students that say that we are to hold the mind still, not let it think or fabricate, I had Luang Pu Dune correct me on that very issue. That is not the way. It’s wrong. That is samatha.
So I started over and I saw one moment the mind was happy, one moment unhappy, one moment good, one moment bad. Changing all the time. The mind runs to see, runs to hear, runs to smell, to taste, to feel, at the body, and runs to think. I saw the mind moving. I didn’t make it still. Now, I was annoyed easily, I’d anger. So the annoyed feeling would arise often. Sometimes just the smallest observation would trigger frustration. Traffic would irritate me. If it was hot, that would irritate me. Rain would irritate me. If the sun was too bright it would irritate me. I would train seeing this irritated, annoyed feeling. After a while my mind would be able to remember what feeling annoyed was like. After a while when annoyed would just start to arise, mindfulness would follow by itself. Annoyed would disappear on its own.
Practicing to achieve mindfulness, we need to practice seeing phenomena. Whatever phenomenon arises, then we practice seeing that. So if we’re an irritable person, then we see one moment we’re annoyed, the next it’s gone, the next moment annoyed, and then it’s gone. If we’re greedy person then one moment were greedy, and then it’s gone, the next moment there’s greed, and then it’s gone.
Greed is wanting an object through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. Wanting to see, wanting to hear, wanting to smell, wanting to taste, wanting to feel something, wanting to practice well, wanting to practice continuously. All the wants. For whoever is greedy, greed arises all day long. So we can use this greed, this wanting, as our main practice. Wanting, then knowing right away. Wanting, then knowing again.
After a while, when the wanting arises, mindfulness will be automatic. I practiced noticing anger a rising and falling, a rising and falling. After a while, mindfulness was fast. It saw that the anger would arise and fall. Whatever arose in the mind, mindfulness would know, because it trained seeing anger a rise and fall. So at first, what to use what’s prominent. After a while, we’ll see everything. No need to force that; it’ll happen on its own. The mind will become familiar.
Anger arises at the chest. Wanting, craving arises at the chest. We keep knowing, and then it doesn’t matter what arises there, we will know whether it be happiness, unhappiness, good or bad states. The mind will know all of it.
Real dhamma arises at the centre of the chest.
At the centre of the chest is where most phenomena arise from. It’s called hadaya-rupa. Hadaya-vatthu, or vatthu for short. Hadaya-rupa is a type of form, but most mental phenomena arise from there. In the texts it is taught hadaya-rupa is in the heart, but I took a look in the heart and I didn’t see hadaya-rupa there.
So, I was curious, what is hadaya-rupa? I read that it’s the place of birth of most phenomena. I wanted to know where it is, because it wasn’t in the heart. Hadaya doesn’t mean the “heart”. It actually means the “middle”. Luang Pu Tade used the word “heart” but the real meaning of heart means “center”, like the bullseye of a target is called the heart of it. The heart of the palm of the hand is the centre of the hand. In ancient language, the heart is the centre.
Ajahn Maha Bua (I’m used to calling him “Ajahn”. “Luang Ta” came later. I never called him that). He was Tan Ajahn Maha Bua. He taught that true dhamma occurs at the centre of the chest. He didn’t use the word heart. If hadaya-rupa was in the actual heart, then if one had a heart transplant then their whole personality would change because the hadaya-rupa would change! But it doesn’t because there are two different issues.
Ajahn Maha Bua said real dhamma occurs at the centre of the chest. Take a look: happiness comes from the centre of the chest. That is, mental happiness. Physical happiness happens across the body. Suffering of mind happens at the centre of the chest. All goodness and badness, greed, anger and delusion, arise from there.
Keep practicing and see. In the texts it says that most mental phenomena are born from there, but not all of them are. Physical feelings don’t come from there. If a mosquito or an ant bites us, or our arm or leg is itchy, the feeling happens at the body. The feeling is mental, but only a small amount don’t arise at the chest. Most happen at the heart, at the hadaya. So let’s train in seeing anger arise and knowing anger arises. After a while, whatever arises it will know by itself. We will see it all.
Real dhamma arises at the centre of the chest. What is real dhamma comprised of? Wholesome dhammas are real and appear at the chest. Unwholesome dhammas are real and appear at the chest. Greed, aversion, delusion are real dhammas. The fruit of the Path is a real dhamma. It arises at the chest. When the Noble Path occurs, it bursts open at the centre of the chest, and the fruit of that Path arises there too.
Nirvana doesn’t arise. It doesn’t arise at the centre of the chest. It doesn’t have arising. It already exists. It’s just that our mind doesn’t have enough quality. The mind has craving so it doesn’t see Nirvana. Once we are true experts at seeing craving, craving will disappear. And we will see the Nirvana phenomenon.
Nirvana is the state of having eliminated craving. So train in seeing phenomena continuously. Physical phenomena will suffice. If we aren’t skilled at seeing the body then notice mental phenomena arising at the centre of the chest. But don’t focus in at the centre of the chest. Watching, waiting, holding attention there, nothing will arise. The mind will be neutral. So don’t hold still, don’t focus in.
The principles of watching the mind are: before watching, don’t want to watch. If we’re wanting to watch, then we’re going to focus in and anticipate. Let them arise by themselves and then follow it with mindfulness that knows. Let happiness arise and then know that it has. Let unhappiness arise and then know it has. A wholesome state arises then know that it has. Let greed, anger and delusion arise and then know they have. Follow up with knowing.
Mental phenomena, we follow with knowing. Let it happen first and then have mindfulness that recognizes so. It’s not like with physical phenomena. The body is moving and we can know that directly. The body is sitting, walking, breathing. In contrast, mental phenomena are: the mind was just greedy, was just angry, was just lost. “Oh, anger just arose!” In that way. But if we were angry yesterday and then to know today, that doesn’t qualify.
Knowing has to happen quickly. Immediately. Piggybacking the adjacent present. The moment that is immediately following the present. There are two presents actually. There’s the present moment, and then the adjacent moment. In the present moment, right now, there is moving. Physicality can be immediately observed in the moment. But watching the mind, like anger, when anger is present, there isn’t mindfulness. Because mindfulness doesn’t arise concurrently with defilement.
Watching the mind, we watch in the adjacent moment to the present. This is sufficient for vipassana, it doesn’t have to be the present moment. Nobody can see the mind in the present moment. Even an arahant from the Buddhist era couldn’t do it. Nobody can. Because in the moment that there is defilement, there isn’t the mindfulness that knows. Mindfulness follows immediately. Once mindfulness arises from the chest, mindfulness knows that there was anger and then the anger disappears for us to us see: Arises and falls, arises and falls repeatedly, and the mind develops vipassana.
If we observe the body, we see the body is sitting, the body is breathing. The body that is sitting is not us, the body that is breathing is not us, the body that is standing, walking, sitting lying down, is not us. Right now we are sitting and we can be aware in a comfortable way, not focusing on it. If we focus on it, it’s not useful. Just be aware. Just know, sense.
Knowing doesn’t mean holding and focusing.
Mindfulness is just the knowing or recognizing. It doesn’t mean holding focus.
Mindfulness is just knowing.
Holding focus is entangled with greed. Wanting to know clearly, wanting to know continuously, not wanting to forget. There’s the word “wanting”.
So let’s see ourselves each day. Keep collecting points. The more often we practice, the faster our mindfulness will get. If it is seldom that we watch, mindfulness won’t hardly happen.
When I stayed at Suan Pho as a new monk, there was a youngster that came to learn. They knew me socially since before I became a monk and they didn’t have much faith in me. Mostly a big ego. I told them to watch their mind. But they said, “No, I can’t do that, I have to buddho first”. Whatever I told them, they didn’t listen. The truth is, their mind had enough quality to watch the movement and the changes of the mind. But they insisted they had to buddho first. Okay fine, whatever you say. And then I never saw them again. It’s been 20 years already.
There was another person that I told to watch their own mind. They asked, “Can I do another practice instead?” I asked, “What?” They said, “I’ll become aware when thunder claps”. Well that’s discouraging! I told them to watch their mind that has rising and falling in each moment. And they wouldn’t do it. Or to practice breathing out and knowing, then breathing in and knowing, which is always available to see, but they wouldn’t. They wanted thunder! How many times a year is there thunder?! There’ll be no mindfulness in this life if we choose to be aware only when there’s thunder.
But thunder and lightning can be used, like if we’re sitting and watching the mind, and the mind is happy and then thunder claps. We are startled. We can know the startled feeling that arose. But sitting and waiting for the sound of thunder, we’ll wonder: “When is it going to thunder again?”
These days maybe it’s easier because we can record the sound of thunder and play it all day. But that’s foolish. I know of someone that set their alarm every two minutes. They said it worked well to remind them to be mindful every two minutes. Each time the alarm sounded, they would become aware. And then get lost in thought for another two minutes, and then the alarm triggered awareness.
Eventually the alarm would go off, and she wouldn’t hear it. Whatever object becomes too repetitive, we won’t hear it. Then the practice got very relaxed indeed. Lost all day. Not even hearing the alarm.
It’s like having a house on a main street. The cars drive by and we don’t hear them. They’re making noise all night, yet we sleep soundly without hearing a peep. But in the forest that is completely quiet, the sounds of insects can make our heart waiver.
I am a Bangkokian, born and raised in Bangkok. Once I got older I moved to Nonthaburi. At the time it was in the country. In the evening, one could hear the sounds of birds and insects, bats and different species of birds flying. I could sense that the parks had so much activity overnight.
At first when I moved there, I heard all the sounds in detail because I was in Bangkok previously and would hear cars. When the sounds changed, I heard them clearly, but after a while I stopped hearing those sounds. I barely heard them.
So don’t use sounds as your object in practice because once they’re repetitive, we won’t hear them. Use the body, feelings, the mind, and dhamma. It’s true that sound is form, but it isn’t our own body. The Buddha didn’t teach us to use just any form, he taught us to use our body for meditation. Sound is a rupa, a form, the sound forum. An aroma is a form too.
Let’s not use objects like sights, sounds, scents, tastes and the textures as objects. They are outside of ourselves. Let’s use inside the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind of ours. Keep observing them and automatic mindfulness will occur. At first, when we practice, mindfulness will arise two or three times a day. Then if we keep practicing, mindfulness will arise each five minutes, then each minute. So practice well. Then one day mindfulness will arise each moment. But we can’t do that. That’s the state of an arahant. Let’s just do what we can and be satisfied with the results. If we’re too greedy, it won’t work.
So let’s be mindful. Practice seeing phenomena, any phenomena, within the body, feelings, mind, or dhammas. They all work but the dhamma foundation is difficult. It’s profound. It’s comprised of both mental and physical phenomena. It has both wholesome and unwholesome states. There’s a lot to see. It’s cumbersome.
If we’re irritable, people, we can see anger arise and then disappear. Angry and then gone. Just seeing that is the mind foundation. There’s anger, and we know there’s anger. There is not anger, and the mind knows there is not anger. But if we’d like to upgrade to the dhamma foundation, we’ll see even the slight irritation arise and we’ll know that the anger has a cause. It’s seeing a level deeper. It’s more subtle and harder to see. It’s seeing the hindrances, not the defilements.
Going even deeper, we’ll see the cause of each hindrance. So dhamma-nupassana (4th Foundation) is not an easy thing. If we aren’t powerful enough, don’t even think about it. But one day we’ll arrive at it, whether we have practiced through body, feelings or mind. In the end we’ll arrive at dhamma-nupassana. We won’t clearly see all the dhammas, but we will understand the Noble Truths with clarity. In the final dhamma-nupassana, all arahants understand the Noble Truths with crystal clarity, but their knowledge about other things are not equivalent. So liberation is plenty, no need to do anything too complicated.
Some people love conditioned arising. They read about it and learn about it, but once they practice, that’s all they want to see. What is it that they’re going to use to see this? They don’t have mindfulness. They don’t have enough samadhi. They can’t really see it. They just think about it. They think about it and are happy to do so, enjoying their thoughts. But that isn’t real dhamma.
Conditioned arising isn’t something to think about. Vipassana isn’t thinking. But if we’re going to learn about it to write a test, well then we need to memorize and think. But if we’re going to practice for liberation, we can’t use thinking. We have to see real phenomena. When we practice and see conditioned arising, we’ll see the later portion of it.
It’s easy to see from the point of the senses. From the senses are conditioned sense contact. From sense contact, there are feelings. From feelings there is craving. From craving, there is clinging. From clinging, there is becoming. From becoming, there is birth. And from birth, there is suffering. We’ll see that portion first. The beginning, at ignorance, as the condition for formations, and the formations as the condition for consciousness, and consciousness as the condition for nama-rupa, that’s subtle and hard to see.
When I was an non-monk, I trained to see. I didn’t intend to, but the mind would review these things on its own. I saw the mind that has ignorance, and that arises up to form good states sometimes, and bad states sometimes. It forms trying not to form, sometimes. It all arises up from the heart. All three of these formations.
Once they arise, then light happens and makes contact with the body and mind, first the mind. It’s the light of awareness, the light of being able to feel. Consciousness conditions physicality and mentality. When consciousness arises at first, it’s just light; there’s no physicality. It’s light and it grabs onto physicality and mentality and then there’s body and a mind.
There’s a type of deity called Abhasvara Deva. It’s a being of light. It becomes this light when there are no more beings left. It becomes this deity automatically, out of, karma. When it’s reborn as a being again, the light hits the Earth. The texts say, “eats” the Earth, delicious Earth, and it’s pleased by it, pleased by material things, and thus a body forms. I don’t know what this deity is like but I’ve seen the light make contact with form and then the body comes into being. The light can grab form.
I told Luang Pu Tade about this, that I saw how life begins but I can’t stop it. He was thrilled to hear a student practice so well, that had seen the origins of mind. He just said, “Keep learning, keep watching. When the mindfulness and wisdom are strong enough, they will let go on their own”. That’s what he said.
That evening, I walked around the temple and saw the attendant monk for Luang Pu Tade. I’d always see him taking care of Luang Pu. I told him that since Luang Pu Dune passed, there’s no other master that touches my heart like Luang Pu Tade because he’s a true master of the mind. That’s all he teaches about: the heart and mind. I told him it’s extremely hard to find a teacher that teaches about the heart and mind, who really penetrates like he does. Luang Pu Tade is the only one alive.
The attendance told me that when I left Luang Pu Tade last time, Luang Pu told him that there are very few people that inquire so deeply about dhamma like I do. If he had lots of students like me, he would live to a hundred. Teaching me was a joy for him. The attendant laughed and said, “The student praises the teacher and the teacher praises the student”. I said that he’s so great at answering my questions. The attendant replied, “You’re so great at asking them”.
It all comes down to mindfulness
So keep practicing dhamma and from beginning to end, it all comes down to mindfulness. When we have correct mindfulness, morality will be born, samadhi will be born, wisdom will be born.
Lacking mindfulness, we lack of morality, we lack samadhi, and we lack wisdom.
So let’s try to practice our mindfulness. Have it arise often. Choose and meditation object. Sit and be aware, not just sit and let the mind wander, that’s unseemly. Standing, walking, sitting, lying down… be aware. Or observe mentality, when happy, unhappy, good or bad states arise, then become aware regularly.
Eventually, automatic mindfulness will arise. When the body moves, there will be mindfulness. Whatever mental phenomena arises, there will be mindfulness. When the knower mind changes and moves, changes from the knower to the thinker, to the seer, to the hearer, to the smeller, to the taster, to the feeler, to the thinker, mindfulness will rise on its own. Keep practising until this automatic mindfulness happens.
Once there’s automatic mindfulness, then morality, samadhi and wisdom will complete themselves. At that point, we may want to accelerate the practice, but we can’t. There isn’t any more that we can do. The rest depends on our previous accumulation of merit and the power of our spiritual faculties.
No one can make enlightenment happen. The Buddha said no one can do it. It happens by itself when our morality, samadhi, and wisdom are full. Mindfulness and wisdom can only reach fruition if we have mindfulness. So practice lots of mindfulness.
The lesson in mindfulness is called the foundations of mindfulness. At first we practice the foundations so that mindfulness can arise. In the end we practice it for wisdom. Thus, if we still have mindfulness practitioners, then the world will not be void of enlightened beings. So let’s practice.
That’s enough for today. That’s all.
7 June 2020