Today is the first time I give talk via live streaming, I have never done it this way, only via teleconference to specific group of audiences.
This method provides broader coverage. I heard that the coverage is also extend to overseas audiences with ‘real time’ translation. Here in Thailand, many monasteries and households are also tuned in to this channel.
I beg for you all to be mindful whilst listening to dhamma in order to reach to the heart of dhamma. Clicking ‘likes’ and writing ‘comments’ are nonsense behaviours, in doing so our minds wander. Others tend to have the urge to follow the same act, this is not the path for real dhamma practitioners.
We use technology to benefit the practice of dhamma. For this we should not follow acts of typical worldly behaviour, flaunting self-existence, emphasising that we exist in whatever we do.Clicking ‘likes’ and writing ‘comments’ are ways of announcing one’s own existence. We practice dhamma to denounce existence of self because the self is one that is subjected to suffering.
Therefore, coming to study the dhamma is something we choose to do on own’s accord, wanting to detach ourselves from suffering and not for the purpose of fun gathering with peers, acting frivolously making the minds unsettled.
The dhamma is about one’s self: be mindful, observe within our own body and mind.
The self comprises of two components
‘Roop-dham’ refers to one’s physical body (as the place where suffering arises: all sorts of aches and pains, tiredness, diseases etc.)
‘Nam-dham’ refers to one’s mind or mental factors (as the place where mental suffering arises: worrying, grieving, remorse, helplessness etc.)
If we observe carefully we will see the two types of sufferings: physical and mental sufferings which ‘roop-dham’ and ‘nam-dham’ are the cause.
We continue to practice and eventually this body of ours will still be here, but the body will no longer house a suffering mind. There will be feelings and thoughts but no suffering in the mind. To practice detaching ourselves from suffering one must not cling on to the body to avoid physical suffering and not clinging on to feelings and thoughts to avoid mental suffering.
How do we dispel our attachment to the body and to the mind?
We will be able to dispel our attachment to body and mind when we see the truth of body and mind. Learning the way to see the truth of the body and mind is what we call ‘vipassana’ practice. There is no way to completely liberate from suffering other than ‘vipassana’ practice. Because ‘vipassana’ will allow us to attain the wisdom that leads to purity.
It is wisdom that enables us to reach the stage of purity enlightenment.
The Buddha taught that people can only reach purity by way of wisdom. But wisdom does not just happen by coincidence. There must be ‘samadhi’ (well-trained mind) to support it. And ‘samadhi’ will be stable when one strictly observe to taking precepts.
What we need to practice is to observe precepts, samadhi and wisdom. Since we only have a limited time, I will firsly touch upon the topic of wisdom.
To develop wisdom is to see the truth of body and mind, seeing reality of the ‘roop-dham’, the Buddha taught that when we see the truth we become disenchanted. Disenchantment leads to detachment. Detachment leads to liberation from suffering.
There are no more causes to liberate the mind from suffering. In order to see the truth to the point where nibbana is experienced and the mind is released, we have to turn our attention to the practice of seeing the truth of our body and mind.
There are two major tools involved. The two important tools that enable seeing the truth of body and mind: mindfulness and samadhi.
Mindfulness is the tool that recognises the existence, movement and changes of the body and mind, of the ‘roop-dham’ and ‘nam-dham’ phenomena. However, if we only have mindfulness that merely knows the body and mind, it will not lead to wisdom.
The tool that enables the occurrence of wisdom is ‘samadhi’.
In the scriptures, it is written that ‘samadhi’ is the proximate cause for the arising of wisdom. Therefore, having mindfulness that is aware of the body and mind alone will not precipitate genuine wisdom.
Decades ago, I taught my friends how to be aware of one’s self. When they have self-awareness only then can see the true body and mind. This being self-aware, is the mind that is well-trained with samadhi. And it is able to see the body and mind, which is the mindfulness.
Initially, I would tell them to be aware of themselves and some laugh at me. They said Luangpor Pramote’s teachings are off track. Teaching to be self-aware? Why doesn’t he teach that breathing in is ‘buddh’ and breathing out is ‘dho’ or something like that.
That is a technique to practicing the dhamma.
The important aspect, whether it be the breath or other methods of practicing meditation to arouse the self-awareness, to be aware is a starting point to the path of wisdom.
Being aware is not the wisdom development in itself. It is the starting point.
Being aware means:
Knowing that there is a body , acknowledge it.
Knowing that there is a mind, acknowledge it.
There is a mind that is the knower, awakened and blissful.
It is a stable observer, which is another step.
An aware mind should not just stay still in awareness. The awareness or knowing mind needs to be an observer. The mind that is the observer… There is the mind that observes and objects that are being observed.
There are two things happening. They are: the mind that is the observer or knower, and the object, that which is known.
When these two factors arise we can call it the correct way of gaining ‘samadhi’, wisdom will arise. But before we can reach this step of distinguishing the knower from that which is known, we need to practice to be aware of one’s self. If our minds wander all the time, there is no chance of experiencing the separation of ‘khan-dhas’ (aggregates).
Initially, practice to be aware of one’s self. The way to do this is to choose one object of meditation, an object that we are competent at knowing. Meditate on the object and when the mind strays be aware of it. When it strays again, recognise and repeatedly know it…
Practicing like this repeatedly, the mind becomes aware and stable. But don’t stop there, at just awareness. We must watch the body and mind moving and changing for it to be considered ‘vipassana’. Just a still awareness is not sufficient to be called ‘vipassana’.
Some people claimed that Luangpor Pramote’s teaching of still awareness that will lead to enlightenment, those are false claim. Awareness is the initial step we must practice.
Everyone in this world love themselves more than anything else. Yet they always forget about themselves all the time. It is extremely rare to find anyone in this world who has self- awareness.
Thirty years ago I taught a group of friends and the group expanded to 10 people or so I would organise trips to see teachers. We would travel by van to go pay respects to teachers and learn from them. Some teachers have brilliant telepathy skills. After we entered the monastery and when the van is parked, the master will quickly turn around to look whilst we settle to learn dhamma.
The master exclaimed on how is it possible to gather such a big group of practising lay people. Not the group of enlightened beings but just a group of people who have self-awareness and their minds weren’t drifting away.
There was self-awareness. When the body moves, and we are aware, the mind moves, we are aware, not lost in world of thoughts. An average person is usually immersed in thoughts.
When they look at something, the mind strays towards it.
When there is a sound, the mind strays out to the listen.
When there is scent in the air, the mind strays out to sniff it.
When the taste buds tasted flavours, they are frantically indulged by flavours and the experience of eating.
When something touches the body, such as being bitten by mosquito, the mind shoots out to feel the sensation (pain) and to focus on mosquito. Irated at mosquito but it is invisible, wanting to strike out to kill it. Mosquito flew away, they follow it around, wanting to take revenge! They don’t see themselves.
So let’s practice bringing this mind back to self-awareness. This is the beginning point to practice. Don’t let the mind drift and wander away all the time. This world is saturated with people who are lost (adrift). It is extremely rare to find someone who has self-awareness.
The group of ten that went to see the master with me. The master would exclaim ‘How can you gather so many?’ In that era, ten people practicing ‘vipassana’ were counted as big number. There were many meditators back then but only practicing ‘samatha’ method focusing on calmness and stillness not self-awareness.
Aiming for self-awareness, we can easily gain wisdom.
Aiming for calmness alone, the mind won’t develop wisdom. The mind gets delighted and complacent. Upon death, that mind will be reborn on brahma world. If the peace is in depth, they will become brahma dieties. If the peace is superficial, they become angels or good people. That’s all one could achieve. There is no relevance to the liberation from suffering.
Coming to practice the self-awareness, we start on the path to wisdom development, being able to see the truth of our body and mind. Having a body and forgetting so, and having a mind and forgetting so, we won’t be able to see the truth of body and mind. They are all forgotton and we loose interest.
Only have interest of the surroundings, interested in sights, sounds, scents, flavours in tactile sensations that we feel with the body and in the stories we concur in our minds. Lost out there searching for sense objects: sights, sounds, scents, taste, touch and stories, neglecting to know within our own body and mind. The mind strays and lost, we need to try to practice having the mind aware of ourselves, not letting it stray away all the time.
The way to practice being aware of one’s self is to work with a meditation object… and we must do the hard work! We won’t magically become aware without doing the real work. That’s implausible.
With our generations we are not born and blessed to have perfected minds where we can do nothing and awareness will just arise. We must practice.
There are some extreme exceptions with some people who have practiced well in past lives. They practiced well but then when they die, they forget about it. They forget about self-awareness. Then in the next life, at some point their mind experiences a strong emotion, an emotion at the level of being shocked or startled.
What I am talking about is not written in theory, it is experiences that I have learned from associating with practitioners over the years. A number of us have had the observer state occur accidentally when something startling happens.
When I was ten years old, the fire was burning next door. I was playing in front of my house. They were shop houses. I could see pass the fourth or fifth unit the burning fire and fuming smoke. People were panicking. I was startled. I ran into the house tell my father.
My first step in, I felt startled.
The second step, I was still startled.
The third step, I saw the mind that was startled, awake and joyful. It was rather strange phenomena.
Reviewing the experience much later, it was a familiar state when it happened. Like it had occured sometime before, but it was forgotten. I didn’t know how it happened. It just happened on its own when the mind was severely startled,upon seeing the startledness. Though at the time I didn’t know I saw it.
The first step, panicked and startled.
The second step, panicked and startled.
The third step, it was as if a switch of bright light has turned on from the inside. And a bright light appeared. The startled feeling disappeared abruptly.
There was a monk who told me a story. When he was a teen prior to his ordination, he went to a Thai festival (Loy Krathong). He didn’t realise that he was standing where they were about to light up fireworks. When it was time there were sudden lights and and loud noise went off. He said he was shocked! When the shock happened he saw it there. The mind became the stable observer, entering the awakened state.
But he didn’t know what happened. Just like me when I was young, I didn’t know reason why it awakened either.
I didn’t even know that it was called awakened. It was just some state I had no idea about. But I felt like at déjà vu that I practiced this way before, slowly accumulating awareness moments… In case we don’t get enlightened in this life, at least we have familiarised ourselves with the state of awareness.
Next life, when a strong emotion arises awareness will arise on its own. This awareness will be a state of mind that is the knower, the awaken and joyful one. The mind becomes the one who knows instead of the lost one.
Therefore, we need a meditation object. At that time I couldn’t justify that experience. All I knew was the mind awakened much later.
Nothing is free. There are no flukes. It wasn’t a fluke that brought about the awakened state. We have to practice. Pick an object, it can be ‘buddho’, it can be the breath. It can be the mantra of breathing in ‘buddh’ and breating out ‘dho’. It can also be any other meditation object. Attend to the object in order to see the mind that wanders away.
Attending to an object, there are two manners in which the mind can get lost. One is the mind thinks about something else and forgets the object. For example, we breath in ‘buddh’ and breathe out ‘dho’ and the mind drifts to another topic, no longer staying with ‘buddho’.
The moment we come back to know, we only then realised that we were lost! If we see the phenomenon of having been lost in thought, the mind will automatically spring up as the knower, the awakened and joyful one, all on its own at the present moment. The knower will appear. The knower will arise in all such cases,
Such as when our mind is greedy, wanting. Suppose we see a ‘happy cabinet for charity’ outside, as we have in Thailand these days, providing dry foods and goods to the needy. We look at the cabinet and there is desire and wanting. We want items inside. If the desire is strong we will want the whole cabinet. Wanting arises.
If we know the mind is greedy, the greed will disappear. The mind that is aware, that is the knower, will arise automatically. If we see the person in front of us taking a long time to search inside the cabinet, poised to take almost all items and cabinet is almost empty, our anger arises!
If we see anger in the mind, the anger will disappear, and the knower will arise. Thus, it is no matter which of the phenomena we see. If we see the phenomenon correctly, the knower will arise.
So let’s practice by using a meditation object and take note of mind movements. Mostly it moves to think; sometimes to look at. Like when we saw someone opening the cabinet our mind moves to focus on this person.
The mind was lost through seeings. The mind moves out through the eyes (seeings), ears (hearing), nose (sniffing), tongue (tasting) and physical body and we must know so. The mind goes to think, and we know so. The knower will arise.
There are other means to such movement whilst we are meditating, for example breathing in and out, watching the abdomen rising and falling, or shifting hand positions as in Luangpor Thian’s technique, or any other object of meditation.
The manner of movement in regards to a meditation object is moving to stillness. Holding still, and immerse in the object.
The first manner of movement is drifting away, losing the object.
The second manner is movement towards the object, focusing in on it.
When the mind leaves the object, it gets lost somewhere else.
When the mind moves towards the object, it is lost in the object. Both are movements.
We need to know it when the mind has sunk down into the meditation object such as when watching the rising and falling of the abdomen and the mind slides down and concentrates, held still and clung to the abdomen. Be aware of the mind has slid down to the abdomen.
As soon as we acknowledged the phenomenon, that the mind has slid down to the abdomen the movement disappears and the knowing mind will arise.
The mind that moves out has a defilement called ‘udhacca’ , restlessness. It forgot about itself, and restlessly drift out. Let’s know when the mind moves out to the meditation object. The restless movement will fall away. The knower will take its place.
Don’t intentionally try to make the knower arise. No one can deliberately make the knower arise. The knower too is ‘anatta’ (non-self). However, at any moment that the mind is not lost, the knower then arises.
The mind that is lost is unwholesome. If we are able to know the mind is lost, the lost mind disappear and the mind that knows arises on its own. This mind that knows is not something we force to happen. It will happen on its own.
Our job is to be with a meditation object. When our mind is lost in thought, once we know so, the thinking mind falls away and the knowing mind replaces it. The mind gets lost in looking at something. Mindfulness sees that, and mind lost in looking falls away. The mind that knows replaces it. It happens on its own. No need to coerce it to arise — that’s greedy, pushing towards it. ‘I want to be aware!’ That’s a greedy mind.
The greedy mind can never be the knowing mind because it is unwholesome. But if we are able to see that we are driving it
wanting the knower, wanting a peaceful mind, wanting the stable observer, know there is wanting. The wanting falls away automatically. The mind that knows arises automatically.
We can’t command the knower to arise. But we can know when the mind is lost. Knowing the mind is lost isn’t something we can do intentionally either. Intentionally seeing if the mind is lost or waiting for it is a mind lost in focusing.
Know often when the mind leaves the meditation object. The mind will remember what being lost is like. We will get lost and then suddenly the mind will know so and the mind that knows, will arise by itself. We keep training until it arises by itself.
Sometimes we aren’t lost in looking out, in listening, smelling, tasting, touching or thinking. But our mind has sunk down into an object. Speaking politely, about 100 out of 100 practitioners, at the start they force on focusing in, and all new meditators do it too. At the start the meditators usually focus in. It is only natural don’t be alarmed.
For when they recite ‘buddho’ and hold their mind still with the ‘buddho’ mantra. Those who use the breathing method, hold their mind still with the breath. Watching the rising and falling motion, they hold the mind clung to the abdomen. When doing hand movements – focusing in on them. Whatever they do, they focus in.
All new meditators do that, don’t be surprised. But don’t do that throughout your whole life. Don’t be so dull in your whole life, there is no progress. Training to know mental behaviour,when the mind slides out to focus, after a while we see the mind had slid down to focus. Eventually, after frequently training to see it moving to focus,we will quickly come to see the mind slip down after as it starts to do so.
The mind slipping down will disappear. This mind that moves is the unwholesome state of restlessness. As soon as we know the mind has moved, the unwholesome state will vanish automatically. There is no need to put it out. Greed, aversion and delusion — we don’t need to vanish them. In the presence of mindfulness, there is no greed, aversion or delusion there to rid off.
Practicing persistently almost to death, trying to rid of defilements — there are no defilements to rid of. But we rid of our latent tendencies. When we frequently stop following the defilements, our unskillful tendencies diminish. There are no defilements to rid off, because when mindfulness appears, defilements are gone.
Train with an object.
When the mind leaves the object, know so.
When the mind moves in towards the object, know so.
Practice to become skilful at this. All objects are equally good, none is superior to others.
Don’t just accept that the buddho method is the best; the breathe meditation is the best; focusing on abdomen is the best;
hand movements methods are the best! There is no best.
Whichever method promotes mindfulness in us, then it is the appropriate one for us. Appropriate for us — not the best. Others may use what we do and fail to achieve mindfulness. It doesn’t suit their demeanour. So whatever method we choose, do not boast that it is the best. One has own’s best method, we all have our own path.
The masters say we walk the same path, but don’t step over each others’ footprints. Practicing dhamma, we all have our own way. We don’t step in others’ footprints.
These days people not only try to step over others’s footprints, but also try to step on others’ foot! Wanting to get ahead.
All this budding and pushing, is just the work of defilements. If we are dhamma practitioners, choose an object (method) that works for us. If it works, then mindfulness arises often. We are able to see the mind get lost in thought and forget about the object. And get lost in staying still and clinging to the object. Know in this way as often as you can.
Once we achieve the knower mind, we are ready to develop wisdom. We have to do what is called ‘separating physical and mental’; separating the aggregates of body and mind. If we don’t have the knower mind, then we won’t be able to separate the aggregates. Separating the aggregates is the initial phase of wisdom. The technical term is ‘nama-rupa pariccheda-nyana’;
This is preliminary path to wisdom, not yet reaching ‘vipassana’ state. It is a necessary step to achieve vipassana insight.
Separating aggregates, we distinguish the observer and the object that is being observed.
Separating the knower and the known, not separating two different objects. Being able to separate anger that arises now and anger that happened moments ago; that is not ‘vipassana’ at all.
Is it seeing impermanence of a phenomenon?
It isn’t distinguishing body and mind. It is distinguishing between moments of anger and non- anger. It is comparing two mental states happening at two different times.
Comparing two different states isn’t vipassana practice. For vipassana, we must see this phenomenon arises, sustains and falls away. See it is impermanent, unsatisfactory and non-self. Seeing the abdomen rising as one thing and falling as another, lifting up the foot as one thing and putting it down as another…it is definitely not ‘vipassana’. That’s separating physical from physical. It is not separating physical and mental.
Separating physical and mental requires the knower mind. Mental comprises two aspects: the mind and mental factors.The mind must be separated out first. We are training to achieve the mind that knows. That’s the mind aspect.
Then there are the mental factors: pleasant, unpleasant, good and bad states. We will distinguish that pleasant, unpleasant, good and bad states are not the same thing as the mind. That’s genuine separation. Or the body is walking and the mind observes. That’s genuine separation. The abdomen rises and falls and the mind is the observer, that’s genuine separation. If we see the abdomen rises is one thing and falls is another, or the breath in is one thing and out is another,
that’s not separation. Or seeing that the stomping feet as we walk and seeing anger, they are two different things. That’s off target.
Keep training so that the knower mind arises. Separating the mind aspect out. Not having mindfulness, you will not reach into dhamma.
Accomplish the mind aspect first and dhamma can follow. Train to accomplish this mind that knows, is awake and joyful. Then when mindfulness knows the body, it will see that the body is that which is known or seen, not us or ours.
When it knows mental factors, such as happiness, it will see that happiness is that which is known or seen. The mind is the separate observer. The happiness is not us or ours. It is impermanent, insubstantial, and non-self.
When the knower mind sees suffering, it will see it as that which is known. Defilements, wholesome states, are all things that are known or seen. The mind is nothing other that the one who knows.
It isn’t complicated. We just need to train to achieve the mind that knows first. Once we have that mind, the knower mind which is correct ‘samadhi’ and mindfulness observes the body with the knower mind, the stable observer, it will then see the truth of the body.
Samadhi, the mind that knows. The mind that is the knower is not samadhi. The mind that is the knower is a mind that has samadhi. The mind and samadhi are distinct dhammas.
Samadhi is a mental factor, the mind is the knower. But it is a knower with self-awareness, a stable observer. That is what we call the knower mind.
The knower mind is a mind that is sustaining correct samadhi. When mindfulness knows the body, it will see the truth of its impermanence, suffering, and non-selfhood.
When mindfulness recognise feelings of happiness, unhappiness or neutral, only then it will see the impermanence , insubstantial and non-self.
When mindfulness knows mental formations, wholesome or unwholesome, with a knower mind, it will see that all formations, whether good or bad, are all just known or seen, and are all impermanence, insubstantial and non-self.
After that, we see the mind itself. The mind that sees is impermanence, insubstantial and non-self. The mind that hears, smells, tastes, touches, the mind that thinks and fabricates are all impermanent, insubstantial, and non-self.
The knower mind is most difficult to see the truth of. If we can see that the knower mind is impermanent, insubstantial, and non-self, that is where the mind can release and let go of the mind. That is a very advanced stage of practice.
For now, just see that the body and all feelings are impermanent, insubstantial, and non-self. And see that the mind via the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and thoughts, which we call ‘vinyana’. ‘Vinyana’ of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and thoughts are receiver of the sense objects. It is impermanent, insubstantial, and non-self. At the final stage, it all comes down to the knower mind.
So once we can achieve the knower mind, we can develop wisdom from beginning to end state. In the absence of the knower mind, there won’t be genuine wisdom. It will be muddled with thoughts. Thinking and knowing are opposites. Without knowing, there is thinking. It is not ‘vipassana’.
‘Vipassana’ is not the thinking it is the seeing and the knowing.
I am giving a rather intense teaching today. I have been suppressing myself for not being able to teach publicly for a long time.
Actually, I have been teaching daily only to monks in residence here.
For those who are watching live streaming on youtube you will see there are monks sitting in the hall. They are all resident monks living at our monastery. Sitting far apart for social distancing practice, actually there is no need to do this. We have been locked in for many months never go anywhere. Those who are residents here are not allow to go out and the outsiders are not permitted to enter.
No germs or viruses as they don’t just come floating through the air. The seating arrangement this way is done as a test example so when lay-followers return, you will have to sit like this.
Distanced in this way, only 40 people can fit into this hall. There are about 20 monks in here now filling half of the hall. Not wearing masks because they are resident monks living here, just like staying home. This house is virus-free so they are not wearing masks.
At the very back-end of the hall there are a few lay-followers. They are wearing masks. They also are not outsiders, they are the monastery’s kitchen staffs. If we were to be so strict as to not let the kitchen staffs in, the resident monks won’t be able to survive.
On the daily alms round we do not receive enough foods, the amount could only feed two monks. Therefore we need a cook, and she is the one who goes out to buy ingredients to cook meals offering to monks.
Normally the kitchen staffs do not come into this hall, they will cook and deliver food and there will be another team offering foods to monks..
We are well-protected in this monastery. It has strictly been this way well before the government issued ‘social distancing policy’. We have a team of doctors as advisers. Please, there is no need for any further recommendations. Do not give any suggestions which give me headache and dizziness. Because I have to respond to what has been done or what is unnecessary or what is not doable and so on. I have a team of doctors to look after this.
So your sole duty is to learn to practice dhamma. All these suggestions create a burden for me. Save your opinions. Learn how to meditate and practice, and practice. We have strict hygiene rules in place. Just only that monks are not wearing the PPE suit. We are taking good care of ourselves.
It is about time to end and I will stop here.
After listening to the dhamma teaching, now let us concentrate and keep the focus on our practice. Without practicing what I taught, my words are rendered meaningless. As the old masters would compare with those who were taught good dhamma and did not practice, it is just like pouring water on the back-side of a dog! The dog will shake off the water and dry up right away.
Do not act like dogs. We are humans of a superior mind. After listening to dhamma, practice accordingly, keep to the five precepts. Then have a meditation object and know when the mind strays from it. Also know when the mind moves towards it. Eventually, we will achieve the knower mind, and develop wisdom, and able to separate the aggregates.
Freedom from suffering awaits at the end.
23 May 2020