How to Deal with Restlessness

This morning, a layperson who comes to help around at the temple asked me a question. It’s a good and beneficial question for almost all of us. He asked, ‘Unlike when I was a monk, being a layperson, why is it so hard to achieve the mind firmly established in awareness?’ In reality, ordination is just a change of uniform, a change of clothing, but our minds remain the same. The convenience of ordination is that we don’t have to worry about making a living, we don’t have family issues or worldly matters to concern ourselves with. We have time to take care of our own minds. However, Luangpor told him that mostly, monks are just laypeople wearing saffron robes, but their minds are still the minds of laypeople. They still have to deal with defilements just like everyone else.

At initial levels, if laypeople grasp the meditation principles and diligently practice, they are not inferior to monks. We say we live in a chaotic world, but the temple is also a world–it is not less chaotic, just smaller. How can we achieve a mind firmly established in awareness amid this chaos? This is a challenge for practitioners. Laypeople can do it if they know how and persist. There are two conditions: knowing how to do it correctly and continuing to do it. If laypeople understand these two points, they can do no worse than monks at initial levels. However, they can’t compete with monks at the higher levels, because laypeople are still ensnared by desires.

So, if it’s still at the level of sensual realms, such as the stage of stream-enterer or once-returner, laypeople are not inferior to monks. Just know how and persevere. The method of practice is not about raising the question of how to establish the mind. Do you see? There’s a word in there—’an action verb.’ How can we establish the mind? The answer is we can’t. Why can’t we? Because the mind is non-self. We can’t make it firmly established just as we wish. We need to address its causes. A firmly established mind is a mind that doesn’t scatter or wander to grasp this and that mental state. If the mind is wandering off, it’s not firmly established in awareness.

How can the mind not wander off? There are various methods. One approach is to seek a joyful object that captivates it, allowing it to find contentment within that single object. As for Luangpor, during my childhood, the object that brought joy when I meditated was the breath – inhaling while reciting ‘Bud’ and exhaling while reciting ‘Dho.’ When I practice this way, the mind becomes joyful and remains undistracted, staying tranquil within body and mind.

Another method is to rely on our mindfulness, always maintaining awareness. When any mental state arises, for instance, restlessness. When the mind becomes restless, refrain from thinking about how to restore tranquility. If we engage in thinking about doing something, peace remains elusive, as taking action is akin to disturbing water, rendering it turbid. Instead, we refrain from actively doing anything and simply maintain mindfulness of our own mental states.

The mind is restless; simply acknowledge its restlessness. Some people claim they know, but the mind remains restless and is not firmly established in awareness. This reminds me of the phrase Luangpor teaches, ‘Have awareness of the body and mind as they truly are,’ and in parentheses, (with a mind firmly established in awareness and equanimity.) When our minds resist becoming stabilized, and the more we dislike it, the stronger our desire for stability becomes—now, we are not neutral regarding instability. We yearn for a mind firmly grounded in awareness. Therefore, the simplest, most straightforward method is this: when our minds are restless or clouded by delusion, not knowing anything, becoming entirely perplexed, refrain from thinking about how to remedy it.

You don’t need to think about how to remedy it. When the mind is restless, just know that it’s restless. When the mind is clouded by delusion, just acknowledge that it’s clouded. Then, be aware of the mind itself as well. The mind doesn’t like restlessness. The mind doesn’t like cloudiness. The mind craves tranquility or longs for brightness. Be aware.

The mind is pleased with one aspect and displeased with the other. It is displeased with restlessness, but it is pleased with tranquility. When there is restlessness, tranquility, or brightness, the mind becomes pleased or displeased. When the mind becomes pleased or displeased, it struggles and engages in more effort—instead of being still, the mind works more.

When we meditate, and our mind isn’t calm, we make an effort to calm it down. We do it like this, we do it like that, but it only increases restlessness. When we want to do something and the mind struggles, it intensifies restlessness even more. But if we are to cut it off at the root, we acknowledge it. We don’t like restless mind, be aware of disliking. Then, this disliking fades away, and the mind becomes neutral. Once the mind is neutral, restlessness can’t endure. It vanishes immediately. When the mind naturally settles into this equanimity, it promptly becomes firmly grounded in awareness. When the mind becomes firmly grounded in awareness and equanimous, it leans towards wisdom. Wisdom’s duty is to eliminate what is not good.

Regarding restlessness, when it arises and mindfulness recognizes it, the mind becomes firmly established in awareness and neutrality. Wisdom then arises and immediately cuts off restlessness. The mind becomes firmly grounded, calm, and radiant. Therefore, there’s no need to make an effort to calm the mind, no need to strive for grounding the mind. Simply be aware when the mind is not calm, when it’s not firmly established in awareness.After becoming aware, observe it. If the mind is pleased, be aware. If the mind is displeased, be aware. If we can free ourselves from liking and disliking, mental struggles and fabrications cease. The mind then becomes calm, firmly grounded, radiant, and neutral.

It’s easy, very easy. But if you don’t know the method, oh, it’s difficult. For instance, when our mind is restless, we sit in meditation, we walk diligently, and we wonder when it will become calm. People practice concentration for decades to become proficient, which is not soon enough to satisfy the defilements of this generation.

Therefore, we rely on mindfulness to recognize mental states. If the mind becomes restless, be aware of it. If the mind becomes averse to restlessness, be aware of that too. As a result, the mind will naturally calm down and establish itself in awareness. This is the method of wisdom leading to Samādhi. This is the fundamental principle of meditation, where wisdom leads to Samādhi.

But at the outset of my practice, Luangpor employed the approach of using Samādhi to lead wisdom because, at that time, I didn’t encounter any meditation teachers instructing about wisdom leading to Samādhi. Wherever I went, it was all about inhaling, reciting ‘Bud,’ and exhaling, reciting ‘Dho,’ or simply reciting ‘Bud-Dho.’ It was all about the practice of Samādhi. The issue is that most practitioners, when practicing Samādhi, fail to develop their wisdom. They become stuck in tranquil Samādhi, simply abiding without gaining any understanding. Almost 100% of those who practice Samādhi get trapped in this state, merely dwelling without gaining insight. Some may become semi-conscious, and some may experience various mental images. When they do, they tend to become conceited.

Some of us, as we progress in mindfulness, begin to wonder, ‘Where is my father now that he has passed away? Where is my mother?’ We yearn to know. We meditate, and our minds long to explore and discover what lies beyond. In the initial stages of our meditation, when our Samādhi is still strong, everything appears clear and correct as we look outward. However, as our minds become more adept at exploring and perceiving the external world, defilements begin to creep in. We start to believe we are superior, that we know everything. For example, there is a cave in that area, and we know everything that’s in it. When we know too much, our minds swell with pride, and defilements interfere. As a result, the things we see become unreliable, and we begin to get confused. Despite our confusion, we continue to delude ourselves into thinking we are still skilled. Therefore, the act of exploring and perceiving things externally is meaningless and serves no purpose.

Therefore, when the mind becomes restless, there’s no need to struggle or succumb to its whims. Following the mind’s whims may seem enjoyable, as it involves seeking new experiences and discoveries. When restlessness arises, we succumb to defilements. Another group of practitioners resists defilements. When restlessness arises, they seek ways to resolve it. They attempt to fix restlessness by practicing mindful breathing, reciting ‘Bud-Dho’ rapidly, walking briskly, or making physical movements, with the hope that the mind will eventually calm down. Nevertheless, this approach doesn’t work. It involves seeking a solution for the mind. When defilements arise,… Although Luangpor has discussed this many times, we still don’t quite grasp it. When defilements emerge, we neither yield nor resist them.

Not yielding, not resisting. For example, when defilements arise, we perceive external things. We know everything we want to know. We yield to defilements, and we’re pleased, we’re satisfied. Or we can contact celestial beings, and we become inflated with pride. This signifies we succumb to defilements.

Resisting defilements means that when the mind isn’t calm, we wonder how to attain calmness. When the mind isn’t good, we wonder how to make it better. When the mind is unhappy, and we wonder how to make it happy. In our heads, all we have are the words about “doing something.” Can we do it? Yes, but it takes time. For instance, when the mind isn’t calm, we engage in meditation for 10, 20 years to attain calmness, which takes a lot of time. However, most of the time, when it finally becomes calm, we’ll need to correct it again. If we become trapped in this state of calmness, how do we then progress toward wisdom? This is a circuitous route and time-consuming.

So, moving forward, when the mind is not at peace, acknowledge that it’s not peaceful. When you desire peace, acknowledge that desire. When the mind is not firmly grounded in awareness, acknowledge its instability. If you don’t like this lack of stability, acknowledge that dislike. When you desire for stability, acknowledge that desire. Be mindful of both liking and disliking. When a wholesome state arises, when merit and happiness emerge, we recognize them in the same manner. Being pleased, be aware. Being displeased, be aware.

For instance, if the mind desires to listen to a Dhamma talk, it’s a wholesome state. But then, we become lost and get carried away, pondering “How am I going to secure a seat in the lucky draw?” or “How am I going to get to the class or a meeting on time?” The mind becomes restless and anxious. Just acknowledge it right away. Just wanting to be virtuous, suffering already follows. Maintain awareness. Acknowledge your feelings of contentment and discontentment towards goodness and evil. Initially, focus on recognizing our bad aspects, as they are more prevalent.

When the mind becomes greedy, angry, or restless, and we desire for it not to be greedy, not to be angry, or to be tranquil, simply be aware of these desires, be aware of the feeling of displeasure when it’s not in a good state, and be aware of its desire for positive states. Be aware of these states often, and the mind will naturally become calm. When the mind is neither pleased nor displeased, it remains neutral. In this neutral state, it is firmly rooted in awareness and tranquility. Practice continuously, and the mind becomes firmly grounded in awareness and powerful. It’s important that the mind is neutral.

The beginning level of neutrality is neutrality of Samādhi, which means not becoming pleased or displeased, not interfering states, and simply observing. When restlessness arises, be aware. When you don’t want to be restless, be aware. When restlessness disappears and you become calm and content, be aware. Maintain mindfulness of both liking and disliking, and the mind will achieve neutrality and Samādhi. Subsequently, there is a higher level of neutrality, a neutrality driven by wisdom. When the mind attains neutrality through the power of Samādhi, then progress further with wisdom.

As we observe the mind, the method to keep the mind tranquil does not require fixing it. When the mind is not tranquil, be aware of its lack of tranquility. When the mind desires tranquility, be aware of that desire. When the mind feels displeased with restlessness, be aware of it. If we are aware of liking and disliking, the mind naturally becomes calm. When the mind is calm, firmly grounded, and possesses self-awareness, it’s time to progress with wisdom—to perceive the truth of the body and the mind. If we cultivate wisdom through observing the mind, we can continue to observe the mind further.

If someone’s mind has reached the level of Appanā Samādhi (absorption concentration), when they come out, observe the body. It’s because when the mind enters Appanā Samādhi and then withdraws, the mind remains empty for quite some time. Sometimes, it can last for several days. It feels vacant and comfortable, but they can’t truly perceive the Three Marks of existence. They would feel great, thinking ‘I’m doing well. I’ve made my mind tranquil and firm for several days.’ You would feel that way. If the mind has reached the level of Appanā Samādhi, I would suggest observing the body because the body will continuously remind you that this body is not permanent, this body is suffering, and this body is beyond our control.

But if we don’t have deep Samādhi like that, we observe the mind. The mind is not neutral; we are aware that it’s not neutral. It will become calm, firmly grounded, possessing self-awareness. After that, we cultivate wisdom by observing the mind further. When the mind is firmly established, don’t hold on to that firmness. Here, you need to be courageous. Many people, once the mind is firmly established, hold on to the knower, maintaining the knower. That’s why Luangpor often asks us, ‘Do you see that all the known things are impermanent, however, within us, there’s one thing that is still? There is one element that remains still. Can you see it?’ The element that remains still is the mind that we control, because we fear that if we don’t control it, it might go awry.

If we practice Samādhi continuously, when the mind becomes lost, be aware. Lost again, be aware again, without being pleased or displeased. When the mind is restless, be aware, without being pleased or displeased. As we continue to do this, the mind will gain strength and become firmly established and radiant. After that, don’t hold on to the mind. If you hold on to the mind, it will see that everything the mind knows is impermanent, but the mind itself is permanent. It will feel that within me, there is really a ‘self’. And this self remains still, stiff, and rigid. Almost a hundred percent of practitioners are stuck here. Almost all of them get stuck here, but they claim that they can cultivate wisdom. Just two days ago, someone reported, ‘Wisdom has developed significantly. I see arising and passing away, see this and that, and see vibrating in the middle of the chest. Do I see it correctly?’

Last Tuesday, Luangpor went out and met a man in a roadside restaurant. The man came in to pay his respects and said that he had experienced a state, which arises and passes away, and seen that in his chest there is a swirling and wavering movement and seen something arising. He asked, ‘Do I see correctly?’ Luangpor replied, ‘It’s correct, but the mind that sees is not correct. Do you notice that all these states move and change, but there is one element that remains still?’ What he saw were correct. He could see various states exhibiting the Three Marks of Existence. That’s correct. But the one that saw—the mind—was not correct. He forced the mind to remain still and stiff. Just be aware. This state arises because we wish the mind to be good.

We want the mind to see, we want the mind to perceive correctly, to see correctly, to understand correctly. It also arises from the desire. We are content when the mind is firmly established and discontent when the mind wanders about. Do you see that we’re still not neutral?

It’s not about neutrality regarding restlessness, cloudiness. That’s still easy. This is about not neutral towards the mind itself. We want the mind to be aware of body or mind all the time. We don’t like it at all when it slips away. Be aware of it. It’s still not truly neutral. The act of holding onto and preserving the mind remains as long as there is still the preservation of any of the five aggregates. And thus, true wisdom cultivation can’t be achieved. Especially the act of holding onto and preserving the mind.

Therefore, we practice. We know the state with a neutral mind. The mind remains aware of liking and disliking, and then it becomes neutral and attains Samādhi. When the mind attains Samādhi, let it function naturally; don’t attempt to keep it still. The eyes see forms; if there are forms to see, and if the mind experiences pleasure or displeasure upon seeing them, be aware. The ears hear sounds, and the mind recognizes them. The mind is the one that perceives these sounds. Consequently, when the mind feels liking or disliking towards these sounds, be aware. When we encounter a smell, the nose comes into contact with it. The mind arises in the nose’s nerve endings to perceive the smell. Subsequently, the mind develops liking or disliking in response to these smells. Be aware.

If we are stuck in still Samādhi, our mind is still. When the eyes see forms, the mind is still. When the ears hear sounds, the mind is still. When the nose smells odors, the tongue tastes flavors, the body experiences sensations, the mind is still. This doesn’t work. We have the habit of holding the mind still.

When we attain Samādhi and the mind becomes firmly grounded in awareness and neutral, don’t preserve the mind; it’s not our duty to do so. The one who protects the mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness protects the mind. Therefore, the duty of mindfulness is to protect the mind. We don’t need to protect the mind ourselves. Whenever we protect the mind, the mind, and the mind alone, becomes rigid and stagnant. That’s a mistake.

Therefore, when we cultivate wisdom, our minds are firmly grounded. When our eyes see forms and whatever states arise in our minds, be aware. When our ears hear sounds and whatever states arise in the mind, be aware. Happiness, suffering, wholesomeness, unwholesomeness, pleasure, or displeasure arises, be aware. When our eyes see forms and the mind changes, be aware. When our ears hear sounds and the mind changes, be aware. When our nose smells an odor, our tongue tastes a flavor, our body feels sensation, or our mind perceives thought, and the mind changes, be aware. But it’s not like when the eyes see forms, the ears hear sounds, the nose smells odors, the tongue tastes flavors, the body feels sensations, or the mind perceives thoughts, the mind is still and stagnant. If it stays still all day and night, wisdom won’t arise. Wisdom won’t arise. What arises is conceit, thinking, ‘I’m doing so well.’

Do you notice? In the initial stage, we train the mind to be firmly established. Once our mind is firmly established, we allow it to come into contact with the six sense objects. Then, we observe the changes in the mind. This is for those who practice observation of the mind.

For those who observe the body, once the mind is firmly established, they will observe the body at work. They will see the body as just elements, as aggregates: earth, water, fire, and wind. This is for practitioners of body observation. They observe the body until they perceive it as earth, water, fire, and wind. To be able to do so, they need to achieve Jhana. If they can’t achieve Jhana, the mind won’t have enough strength to discern these elements distinctly.

Therefore, the contemplation of the body is suitable for those who achieve Jhana. The contemplation of the mind is suitable for those who lead with wisdom, who are thinkers, i.e. those with speculative temperament.

We of this generation are not Jhana practitioners; we’re extremely restless. However, every day, we practice in a formal manner and observe. We practice our meditation, and when the mind becomes tranquil, be aware. When it’s calm and we’re pleased, be aware. If today the mind is restless, be aware. If the mind doesn’t like restlessness, be aware. Be aware of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Eventually, the mind will become impartial. When the mind is equanimous and strong enough, go out to confront real life. Let our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind contact objects. After perception, the mind is shaken and concocts good states, bad states, happiness, or suffering; be aware of the changes. We won’t keep the knower mind still forever. Don’t maintain the mind, but let mindfulness protect it.

When we see beautiful women, our minds become pleased, like, and want to approach. Mindfulness immediately recognizes this reaction. When we see a beautiful form, the heart desires to own the form. Mindfulness immediately recognizes this pleasure; the pleasure naturally subsides. If mindfulness becomes aware, the mind won’t fall under the control of craving that pulls us toward that form. Do you see? Mindfulness protects the mind in this way. But if we try to protect the mind, it means making the mind rigid. That’s not the way. Don’t make the mind rigid. We don’t need to protect the mind. We cultivate mindfulness well, and then mindfulness becomes the protector of the mind. If we protect the mind, the mind becomes rigid. That doesn’t work. It’s self-mortification (Attakilamathanuyoga). But if we don’t protect the mind and don’t have mindfulness either, it’s self-indulgence (Kāmasukhallikānuyoga). We will be lost in sensual objects.

The middle path means allowing the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind to contact sensory objects, which leads to changes in the mind. We then become aware of these changes. As a result, all unwholesome states cease instantly, and even wholesome states exhibit the Three Marks: both happiness and suffering, both good and bad. During meditation, when our mind is happy, be aware. If we become pleased with that happiness, be aware. Our mind will then become equanimous and observe the arising, persistence, and passing away of happiness. When our mind experiences suffering, be aware. Our mind does not like it, be aware. Our mind will then become equanimous, firmly established in awareness, and observe the arising, persistence, and passing away of suffering.

Continuing to repeatedly observe, the mind begins to sharpen. The mind is not permanently ignorant. The mind is non-self, it can’t be ordered or forced, but it’s a natural quality that can be trained. We can’t command it, but we can train it. We train it by remaining mindful as it goes. As the mind contacts an object and whether it becomes pleasant or unpleasant, we are aware of it. It observes happiness arising and then passing away. It observes suffering arising and then passing away. Subsequently, the mind becomes equanimous. When happiness arises, the mind remains equanimous. When suffering arises, the mind remains equanimous. The equanimous mind is crucial. In the realm of Samatha practice, the equanimous mind stays impartial to all objects, be they good or bad, pleasant or unsatisfying.

And in the stage of cultivating wisdom, when wisdom truly matures, the mind becomes equanimous. It becomes equanimous. At this point, it is equanimous without needing to be maintained; it is naturally equanimous. Initially, in the realm of Samatha practice, it is equanimous because we are aware of pleasure and displeasure. However, as wisdom develops, the mind becomes equanimous because it perceives the truth—that all things arise, exist, and cease on their own, not under our control. It becomes equanimous due to wisdom.

Initially, it is equanimous through Samādhi, by remaining aware of our own mind. Whether the mind is pleased or displeased, be aware. Once the mind is firmly established and radiant, no matter what object comes into contact, it sees them all falling under the Three Characteristics. The happiness that we have been yearning all along, the happiness we still desire even while sitting in meditation, we will see that happiness falls under the Three Characteristics.

The suffering that we despise, as we practice continually and the mind becomes wise, we will see that suffering also falls under the Three Characteristics. Happiness and suffering are perceived as equal. Therefore, the mind will cease its fabrication. When the mind has matured in wisdom, the fabrication will cease. When the mind has matured in wisdom, the fabrication of the mind will subside. Previously, as we hungered for happiness and despised suffering, the mind struggled—sometimes it became greedy, and sometimes it became angry. Desiring happiness is greed; despising suffering is anger.

But now, it sees that happiness and suffering are equal, in terms of the Three Characteristics. As a result, the mind loses its craving for happiness, loses its aversion to suffering. Happiness and suffering are perceived as equal. The mind stops struggling for happiness, stops struggling to maintain happiness, and stops struggling to push away suffering. The mind becomes equanimous towards all objects.

The objects that we come into contact with, some bring joy, some bring suffering. We perceive joy and favor it. However, wisdom arises; it recognizes that joy is mediocre—it will pass. It’s futile to expend effort in pursuing happiness. It’s futile to exert effort in sustaining happiness. The pursuit of happiness is driven by the force of sensual desire or craving for sensual pleasures (Kāma-taṇhā). The endeavor to maintain happiness is fueled by the force of craving for existence (Bhava-taṇhā). The aversion to suffering and the desire for it to cease represent a craving for non-existence (Vibhava-taṇhā). When there is a craving (Taṇhā), the mind struggles greatly. It struggles, seeking happiness even when it hasn’t arrived. When happiness comes, it struggles to maintain it. When suffering arises, it struggles to push it away. Then, when suffering hasn’t come, there is worry and fear that it might come. The mind struggles with the worry of how to prevent suffering from arising again.

Mental struggling is a state of becoming or a realm (Bhava). Taṇhā or craving is the creator of a realm. It is created in this way: when craving arises, the mind struggles. And mental struggling is a realm. Whenever a realm arises, suffering arises instantly. The moment a realm emerges, we grasp the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind as our own, or as our ‘self’. Now that the self becomes strong, the mind clings to certain objects and abhors others, causing the mind to struggle incessantly. Every time the mind struggles, it suffers. Therefore, whenever fabrication occurs, suffering arises at that moment.

The fabrication is called Saṅkhāra. Therefore, when the venerable one achieved enlightenment, he proclaimed, “Cessation of all fabrications is happiness.” This type of fabrication is mental formation, be it a good formation, a bad formation, or a no-formation formation. Wanting to dwell in an empty state; an empty state created is a kind of formation.

As long as the mind is still ensnared in fabrication, it continues to cycle through the process of birth and death. If it is entangled in unwholesome fabrication, we revolve within the realms of unwholesomeness, also referred to as the lower realms. If there is wholesome fabrication, at a level where one still finds delight in forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations, we reside in the human or celestial realms. If we still have mental fabrications but perceive forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and bodily sensations as insubstantial and they can be discarded, the mind finds contentment in the happiness and tranquility of Jhana or deep concentration. This implies an attachment to the subtle formations of form Jhana and/or non-form Jhana. This represents the spiritual level of non-returners, who are bound to this state.

We gradually practice—continuing to be aware and cultivating wisdom. First and foremost, we need self-awareness—a firmly grounded mind. If the mind is very restless, don’t be startled. Stay neutral with it, and soon it will naturally calm. Practice this regularly, and the mind will gain strength, becoming luminous, firmly rooted in awareness, as the knower mind. Then, let’s cultivate wisdom. The way to cultivate wisdom is to use our senses: see with our eyes, listen with our ears, smell with our nose, taste with our tongue, touch with our body, and sense with our mind. However, when sensed, it impacts both humans and animals alike. What distinguishes us from animals? Upon sensing, if the mind becomes pleased, acknowledge it, or if it becomes displeased, acknowledge that too. Be aware in a timely manner. If we’re not aware in time, what will happen? If we are not aware in time, the mind will create a realm, leading to mental turmoil. If we are aware in time, it cuts the cycle.

For example, when desire (Taṇhā) emerges, we crave a pleasing object, crave to keep the pleasing object, or crave to eliminate the unfavorable object – be aware. Once craving is acknowledged, it ceases immediately, and the mind becomes equanimous, not perturbed, not generating formations, not creating realms. However, if desire is unnoticed, and happiness arises, the mind struggles to keep it. When happiness disappears, we become unhappy, desiring its return.

The mind grapples with what to do for happiness to come back. The mind was once tranquil, and now it’s not. The mind becomes struggling. How to regain tranquility? The word of action comes into play. Whenever there is an action, there’s a formation—the mind creates something. The term used is ‘concocting,’ but to put it simply: it does something, it creates something. Be continuously aware. You will see that everything the mind creates is non-essential. Happiness and suffering, good and bad, are non-essential. Happiness and suffering are equal in terms of the Three Marks of existence. Good and bad are equal in terms of the Three Marks of existence.

But pay attention here. Good and bad are equal in terms of the Three Marks of existence. Good and bad per se are not equal. Between good and bad, we must do good, not do bad. However, at the level of cultivating wisdom, we perceive that good is temporary, bad is temporary—they arise and cease similarly. Fabricating good brings the suffering of a good person, fabricating bad brings the suffering of a bad person. When the mind realizes that whenever fabrication arises, suffering arises repeatedly, it stops fabricating because it becomes wise. The mind can cease fabrication because it gains wisdom by seeing the Three Marks of existence.

If one day we clearly understand that all formations display the Three Marks of existence, be it happiness, suffering, good, bad, and that they are all equal in terms of the Three Marks of existence, the mind will cease formation. A mind that ceases formation will then experience Nibbāna in that moment. No need to wait for death to experience Nibbāna. No need to wait to enter Jhana before experiencing Nibbāna. Nibbāna can be experienced right before our eyes.

In the past, Luangpor also misunderstood, thinking that Nibbāna required us to set the mind in such a way, so I practiced accordingly. Luangpu Dune advised, ‘Don’t send the mind outward.’ Luangpor then sent it inward. Luangpu Sim saw Luangpor sending the mind inward and said, ‘Hey, defilements are not inside; come outside.’ Oh, outside Luangpu Dune forbade, and inside Luangpu Sim forbade. So, I maintained it in the middle. Luangpu Thate taught, ‘Whoever reaches the middle will be free from all suffering.’ So, I maintained it in the middle. This middle was very subtle. It’s the middle of paired things. Objects were known, the mind was the knower, not clinging to objects, not clinging to the knower, not clinging to both the knower and the known. Then the mind promptly converged into deep Samādhi.

No thoughts, no time, nothing at all. Tranquil and serene, yet awareness was present, the mind was present, operating automatically all the while. And when the mind withdrew, oh, Nibbāna was like this. I played, going in and out of that state until one day I realized it was a kind of Samatha (calmness Samādhi). It’s a kind of Samatha where I extinguished all kinds of thoughts and fabrications, dwelling in emptiness. I went to pay respects and told Luangpu Thate, ‘I think this is a Samatha Samādhi.’ He said, ‘It’s a Samatha Samādhi, but practice it. It’s a type of concentration. In this era, no one plays with it. Go play with it, get familiar and become adept with it.’ I said, ‘I’m afraid of getting stuck.’ He said, ‘If you get stuck, I’ll fix it for you.’ He said this, and so I continued playing like this continuously.

One day, I encountered Luangpu Boonchan. I had never met him before, and out of the blue, he instructed his assistant monk to bring me to see him. When I arrived, Luangpu Boonchan pointed at me and asked, “How do you meditate?” I replied, “Not clinging to any object, not holding onto the mind—just an empty mind.” He scrutinized me and exclaimed, “Hey, what kind of Nibbāna requires getting in and out?” He didn’t talk like this. He scolded, “Hey, what kind of Nibbāna requires getting in and out?” Then he yelled, “How are you going to meditate?”

At that moment, I thought he didn’t understand what I was saying because our accents were different. I had difficulty understanding him, and he probably had difficulty understanding me. So, I repeated my answer and got yelled at for the second time, as a result, my mind quit doing it. The mind abandoned such practice. This meditation was just Samatha; the mind gave it up. Then, I truly understood—in the genuine Nibbāna state, there’s no entering or exiting.

When craving ends, formations end. When formations end, at that moment, Nibbāna appears right before your eyes. There’s no need to send the mind into Nibbāna. When a monk or a nun passes away, we often say things that don’t make sense, like, ‘Oh, we would like to respectfully send them to Nibbāna.’ If they’ve attained Nibbāna, they are already in the Nibbāna state before they die. So, there’s no need to send them. If they haven’t attained Nibbāna, even if we respectfully send them to Nibbāna, they can’t reach it. It’s just pointless talk; it may sound good, but it’s just gibberish. No one can send anyone to Nibbāna. You have to send yourself. Learn gradually. When the mind sees the truth of all fabrications, of all formations, both physical and mental, when it sees the truth that they all are subject to the Three Characteristics, the mind loses all desires.

When it truly understands that this body is inherently suffering, it loses the desire for the body to be happy, loses the desire for the body not to suffer. When it truly understands that the mind is inherently suffering, it loses the desire for the mind to be happy, loses the desire for the mind to be free from suffering. There is no craving. When there is no craving, the mental struggling does not arise. When the mental struggling does not arise, the mind reaches tranquility, Nibbāna. What is Nibbāna? What are the characteristics of Nibbāna? Nibbāna has the characteristic of peace. Peaceful characteristics. It is called having peace, having the characteristic of peace. This temple is called ‘Wat Suan Santidham.’ If someone asks what it means, ‘Santi-dham’ (Santi = peace; Dham(ma) = phenomenon) translates as Nibbāna. It’s not something inane.

When one knows the truth of formations, at that moment, desires or craving can be cut off. When craving is cut off, the realm or formation is also cut off. When the realm is cut off, Nibbāna is realized at that very moment. Nibbāna is a state beyond craving, called ‘Virāga.’ Nibbāna is a state beyond fabrications, free from formations, called ‘Visaṅkhāra.’ These are the names for Nibbāna. Nibbāna is beyond all suffering, known as ‘Vimutti.’ Therefore, practice.

Today, I taught from the beginning until the end. Initially, engage in meditation. When the mind becomes restless and you don’t like it, be aware. When the mind becomes cloudy and you wish for it to be luminous, be aware. Practice like this until the mind becomes impartial. Once the mind is impartial, it will naturally gain Samādhi and become firmly rooted in awareness. With regular practice, the mind gains strength, firmly establishing itself in awareness and becoming radiant. After that, cultivate wisdom. To cultivate wisdom by observing the mind is to let the mind work. Don’t control the mind; don’t keep it still. Dare a little.

Luangpor used to say that letting the mind work is like crossing a canal in the countryside in the old days. Back then, we used bamboo bridges to cross canals. With only one bamboo, we crossed the canal, and there was another bamboo serving as a handrail that we held onto. If we wanted to cross the bamboo bridge but were afraid of falling, we gripped the bamboo handrail tightly. Holding on tightly like that, we couldn’t move forward. We had to dare to let go. Letting go of the bamboo handrail is akin to letting the mind work.

In situations where we wobble and are about to fall into the water, grab the handrail. Meaning, when the mind is powerless, our Samādhi is weak, and we can’t observe any phenomena, then practice Samatha. Grab the handrail; this handrail is Samatha. When the mind gains strength and stability, move forward. Release your grip and walk on. Allow our sense bases to naturally contact objects. Then, observe the natural reactions of the mind. In this way, wisdom will be gained, and you will see that all formations are impermanent, suffering, and non-self. Once this is seen, craving will cease. When craving ceases, formations, which are realms, will cease. As a result, suffering will also cease.

Can you understand? Is it too difficult? Today, it doesn’t feel difficult. It’s simple; just let go of formations, and Nibbāna is right there. Easy, isn’t it? It’s easy. So, go ahead and do it.


Luangpu Pramote Pamojjo
Wat Suansantidham
16 September 2023