Yesterday, another teacher, Luangpu Ian passed away. He wasn’t well known to Bangkok people, but he’s known in Surin. He was from Luangpu Dune’s lineage. There were a lot of students of Luangpu Dune who trained students. The most prominent ones were Luangpor Kim and Luangpor Kuen. Luangta Panuek was a bit younger, and then Luangpu Ian, who passed away yesterday. I was hoping to visit him before the Buddhist lent period, but I had Bell’s palsy. It required constant medical care, so I missed the opportunity. On Tuesday, I heard the news that he was having serious symptoms, and had stopped eating. So, I went to see him on Wednesday. He was sleeping, and his student whispered to him that “Luangpor Pramote comes to visit you.” He nodded, but he couldn’t speak.
His mindfulness was exceptional. When I saluted him, his student told him so, and he raised his arms in lotus posture to accept it. The results of his practice were clear. He was 96, and was about to pass away in a few hours, but his mindfulness was still luminous. He said, “my body won’t last anymore. I could have only 5-6 spoons of boiled rice in the morning. If I had more, I’d throw up.” His body was lacking energy and sugar, so he was slumbering, but his mindfulness was full. The mind was very wholesome and bright. Another teacher passed with great elegance. His students were trying to build a pagoda for him, but it couldn’t be finished on time.
When a teacher passes away, it serves as a reminder to us not to be complacent. When we have an opportunity, we must take it and practice. If we get stuck on our practice, we can still ask our teacher. If the teacher that we fully trust passes away, we’ll no longer have anyone to ask for advice. We have to rely on our own observation. The last teacher I learned from was Luangpu Suwat. After the first Buddhist lent period of my monkhood, I went to visit him, and he passed away not long after that.
After my first year in monkhood, I practiced by myself. I carefully observed myself with principles that the teachers had taught. Observing what actions led to cultivation of existing wholesomeness, reduction of wholesomeness, developing unwholesomeness, or what prevents unwholesomeness to develop. I observed constantly, using yonisomanasikara (proper consideration). If we no longer have a teacher that we’re fully confident of, we have to use yonisomanasikara; observe ourselves. See whether each action leads to growth of wholesomeness or unwholesomeness. Is each action reducing unwholesomeness, or developing new wholesomeness? Observe yourselves.
Proper Consideration & Virtuous Friend
In the scripture, the Buddha said, “kalyāṇa-mitta (virtuous friend) is all of ariya-magga (the path to liberation),” In another sutta (narration), he also said “yonisomanasikara is all of ariya-magga.” The full narration said, “morning twilight is the first sign of sun rising. Having kalyana-mitta (virtuous friend) is the first sign of ariya-magga (the path to liberation).” In another sutta, he said the similar thing with yonisomanasikara (proper consideration) in place of kalyana-mitta (virtuous friend). So, there are 2 things he praised equally: yonisomanasikara (proper consideration) and kalyana-mitta (virtuous friend).
We struggle to find virtuous friends. Some people told me when they reported about their practices that, “my virtuous friend taught me this and that.” I saw the friend’s face and I wouldn’t consider that person your virtuous friend. You just assigned that title yourself.
It’s hard to find a virtuous friend during the period where teachers are hard to find. The most important thing we must have is proper consideration. Insightfully observe yourself. What actions cause our unwholesomeness diminish, and prevent new unwholesomeness from arising? What actions give rise to new wholesomeness and develop existing wholesomeness? We have to observe which actions are worthy. This is the characteristics of yonisomanasikara (proper consideration), which is very important.
Some monks found that consuming too much food causes haziness, so they reduced the intake. They observed themselves as to which gives rise to mindfulness. Mindfulness is wholesome. Some monks can fast, but can’t tolerate lack of sleep. Some said a sleepless night would make him blurry for 3 days, needing extra sleep to get out of blurriness. So, they observe themselves. They fast but they get enough sleep. Some can practice without sleeping but cannot fast. Some need both enough food and sleep. Some can practice with fasting and without sleeping. They observe themselves, not others. They observe the actions that lead to development of their wholesomeness.
It’s hard to find a virtuous friend during the period where teachers are hard to find. The most important thing we must have is proper consideration. Insightfully observe yourself.
Observing wholesomeness is easy: does mindfulness occur frequently? Mindfulness is the indicator. Whenever there’s mindfulness, the mind is wholesome. Samadhi (stability and concentration) isn’t the indicator. A peaceful mind isn’t necessarily wholesome. Be careful here. But if you’re mindful, and able to observe the body and the mind’s actions, this is definitely wholesome. But if the mind is peaceful, bright, but engrossed in stillness and comfort, the mind may be deluding. There’s moha-samadhi (delusional stability). So, to observe wholesomeness, observe mindfulness and panna (wisdom). These 2 are definitely wholesome. Viriya (rIght effort) is definitely wholesome. Saddha (confidence/conviction) without blind faith is definitely wholesome. But you can’t judge wholesomeness using samadhi (stability).
Sometimes I observe some students practicing samadhi (stability and concentration) very diligently, and I think some of their practices are useless. They are practicing mijja-samadhi (wrong stability and concentration). This happens when your mind becomes hazy and sleepy, and is overcome by mindlessness during practice. Or, when practicing, you see mental visions of ghosts, angels, hell, or heaven; That’s also not samma-samadhi (right concentration).
All samma (right) ingredients must be conducive for the enlightenment process. Otherwise, they’re not right.
Samma-Ditthi (right view) must support development towards enlightenment, and so must Samma-Sankappa (right thoughts). There are 2 types of samma samadhi (right concentration) that support development. One is called aramanupanijhana (object-focusing concentration) and the other is lakkhanupanijhana (characteristic-focusing concentration). They both consist of mindfulness, which is very important. Whenever there’s a lack of mindfulness, the mind isn’t wholesome. When you become sleepy and listless, forgetting your mind and your body, that’s not right. It lacks mindfulness.
So, when we want to practice, you must practice sati (mindfulness). To practice mindfulness well, practice observing phenomena because the cause of sati (mindfulness) is the ability to recollect phenomena accurately. In order for the mind to recall phenomena well, the mind must see the phenomena frequently. Samma samadhi (right concentration), which supports the enlightenment process, has sati. And this sati (mindfulness) must be satipatthana (mindfulness that recollects phenomena), which recollects the physical and abstract phenomena. Sati that doesn’t recall phenomena isn’t satipatthana. If it’s not satipatthana, it is not samma-sati (right mindfulness).
The Buddha elaborated on samma-sati (right mindfulness) with satipatthana (mindfulness that knows phenomena). Satipatthana recollects your own body and mind. You must practice. For example, knowing that the wind is blowing leaves, the birds are flying, or the snakes are slithering are not samma-sati (right mindfulness). Samadhi (stability and concentration) that arises is looking outwards, because sati (mindfulness) is looking outwards. If your sati (mindfulness) knows the internal physical and abstract phenomena, samadhi (stability and concentration) that arises will be samma-samadhi (right concentration), which can observe your own body and mind. If mindfulness observes one phenomenon without getting lost, forgetful, or over-focusing, that is Aramanupanijhana (object-focusing concentration). If the mind wanders off and we know, mindfulness observes the mind that wanders off, Lakkhanupanijhana (characteristic-focusing concentration) will arise. We need mindfulness that observes the mind and the body. Without it, samma-samadhi (right concentration) will not arise.
Full samma-samadhi (right concentration) arises from full samma-sati (right mindfulness). They support each other. When we practice, we practice mindfulness. To have all the right ingredients for enlightenment, have mindfulness observing your own mind. When it wanders off to think, what’s behind the thought? When you speak, what’s behind the speech? When you do something, what’s behind the action? Be mindful of what drives our thoughts. If you’re mindful of what’s driving thoughts, your thoughts will be right. It won’t be tainted by impurities of greed, aversion, or delusions. Observe that most people have low-quality thoughts because their thoughts are tainted by these impurities.
So, when you read Facebook posts that people argue or discuss some topics, you’ll see that people were biased when they wrote things. If you are a practitioner, before you participate, you need to observe yourself first that you are not doing it because of your greed. For example, if you like this politician, no matter how stupid his words and actions are, you’ll still like him. This is the bias. If another politician is someone that you hate, no matter what good actions he does, you’ll still judge them as bad. This is the bias caused by your aversion. Sometimes, your thoughts are without knowing right from wrong. This is caused by moha (delusions/ignorance), which is the most harmful. Thoughts full of moha (delusions/ignorance) are worse than raga (greed) and dosa (aversion). If your greed or aversion are behind your thoughts, once mindfulness observes greed or aversion, greed or aversion will cease. But thinking with moha (delusion/ignorance), like thinking that kickbacks paid to politicians or officials are ok, as long as they can do something useful. This is a thought driven by moha (delusions/ignorance), not knowing right from wrong. As a Buddhist, we avoid committing even little unwholesome actions.
So, if you hear someone say: “corruption is ok, as long as it benefits the public,” know that this isn’t ok. If someone says this with conviction, that thought was tainted by moha (delusions/ignorance). But if he knows that corruption isn’t ok, but he benefits from it, and tries to justify it with that speech, his thoughts were full of greed. So, judge yourself before you speak. This is important. Observe yourself well. If you’ve studied with me, judging yourself isn’t difficult. Just observe your mind. Is it overcome by greed, aversion, or delusions and ignorance? Has the mind just wandered off?
It all links back to knowing what’s behind our thoughts.
Practice often. Be mindful of these phenomena. Know what’s behind your thoughts. If you do so, your thoughts will be the right thoughts. They consist of loving-kindness, free from vengefulness, and free from delusions. Samma Sankappa (right thought) arises, and samma-vaca (right speech) will be there. Wrong speech arises from wrong thoughts. Wrong thoughts arise from not being mindful of impurities. So, right thought gives rise to right speech and samma-kammanta (right action). When we have right thought, right speech, and right action, samma-ajiva (right livelihood) will result. When these things are right, samma-vayama (right effort) will result. We’ll have the effort to eradicate existing unwholesomeness, prevent arising of new unwholesomeness, build new wholesomeness, and develop existing wholesomeness. This is samma-vayama (right effort).
It all links back to knowing what’s behind our thoughts. These good qualities rise sequentially and overall wholesomeness grows. When we have this quality, mindfulness will get better. Then, when the body moves, mindfulness knows. When the mind moves, mindfulness knows. The right effort focuses on knowing the body and the mind frequently. Eventually, samma-sati (right mindfulness) will grow. So, right effort gives rise to right mindfulness.
At the moment of samma-sati (right mindfulness), whatever physical phenomenon arises, sati (mindfulness) will know it automatically. The same goes for abstract phenomena. It happens automatically. If you study with me, and your mindfulness isn’t yet automatic, I view that your skills aren’t good enough. But if wholesomeness, unwholesomeness, pleasure, or pain arises and the mind knows without any intention, that is sufficient mindfulness. At the moment of knowing a phenomenon correctly and accurately, samadhi (stability and concentration) of the type that’s used for vipassana (insight) practice arises. This type of samadhi arises not only from knowing the mind that wanders off. If the mind becomes greedy, and the mind knows that it’s become greedy, greed will cease and the stable mind will arise. This applies to all phenomena. So, samma-sati (right mindfulness) is the ability to recognize phenomena. And this gives rise to samma-samadhi (right concentration). This samma-samadhi does not occur all the time. Sometimes, the mind lacks strength. If it sees the mind wandering off, mindfulness occurs. After that, the mind will sometimes enter peacefulness as deep as jhana (deep concentration). The mind can have aramanupanijhana (object-focusing concentration). Or it can have lakkhanupanijhana (characteristic-focusing concentration), which is the tool for wisdom cultivation. The mind can switch between these 2 types of samadhi. One can do wisdom cultivation and the other only has peacefulness.
Before I let outsiders enter this hall earlier this morning, the monks were busy with their meals. I was checking on them. Some said they had some weird symptoms. I told them that today, their samadhi (stability and concentration) is good. The minds have both samadhi and strength. The samadhi is also the wisdom cultivating type. The resting-peaceful type of samadhi is for resting. Developing mindfulness constantly will lead to peaceful stability. But once the mind has enough strength, samadhi will transform into a wisdom cultivation type. This type of samadhi won’t force the mind to be still. It doesn’t wander off, nor does it overly-focus. The mind will work naturally. So, students may be confused once they get to this stage. They feel that their minds were diffused but I tell them that they’re practicing well. Earlier, Luangpor Pudh also taught me that samadhi (stability and concentration) that’s doing wisdom cultivation looks similar to a diffused mind. The difference is, without samadhi, the mind works and the mind doesn’t know its actions. If the mind works and you don’t know, it’s a diffused mind. If mindfulness knows the mind’s actions, then it’s wisdom cultivation. They’re different.
So, today, I praised many monks that their minds have strength, samadhi, and are doing wisdom cultivation. Some monk told me he thought his mind wasn’t good. It had some weird peacefulness, and the peacefulness existed with a lot of diffusions. I told him that that’s what Luangpor Pudh taught. The mind that’s doing wisdom cultivation won’t sit still. If the mind was too still, the teachers would criticize you, or knock on your skull. If the mind had no samadhi (stability and concentration) at all, the teachers wouldn’t chide you, because you’re beyond saving. So they wouldn’t teach you. After practicing and the mind becomes too still or clinging on emptiness, they’ll tell you that it’s wrong and you must cultivate wisdom. For the forest monks, they start by silently reciting “Buddho” until the mind becomes still. If the mind gets stuck on this stillness or emptiness, they’ll advise you to examine your body. Thinking and scrutinizing the body to stimulate the mind to work. It’s a trick to let the mind start wisdom cultivation. But if you start your practice by observing the mind, the mind is always everchanging. Once you obtain enough samadhi (stability and concentration), you see that the mind is sometimes still and empty, and sometimes the mind acts, but the mind is also the observer. Keep practicing and you will develop until mindfulness, samadhi (stability), and wisdom cultivation arise automatically. You must practice until these things occur automatically. Your practice will then be proper. If you still have intention to practice, the practice is tainted by your greediness to practice. It’s still contaminated by impurities.
Mindfulness is always necessary
Before getting to this level of practice, keep observing. Observing what’s behind our thoughts. We’ll then be free from biases. This includes biases for or against everyone, including yourself. Some students berate themselves all day for having too much impurity and wonder why other people seem to have less. They think, “why am I having such a hard time when others gain comfort in their practices.” This is so because everyone’s different. Some philosophers said all humans are equal. That’s not true. Humans have never been equal. Some people were born rich, some poor. Some have good looks, some do not. Some have good looks but are dumb. Some are both good looking and smart. Some aren’t great looking but smart. Our endowments are not equal. The view that all humans are equal isn’t true. It’s an ideology. But the truth is far from it.
So, there’s no need to be zealous about democracy. Don’t be deluded. It doesn’t exist. Observe your mind until you see it clearly. What’s behind your thoughts, speech, and action? Once you’re skillful at observing your mind, your speech will be right. Your actions will be right. Your livelihood will be right. Your practice, which is your effort will be right.
Luangpu Mun taught this: “When you have mindfulness, you have effort. When you’re mindless, you don’t.”
Sati (mindfulness) is always necessary for the practice, from the beginning until the end. So, have mindfulness observing what’s behind your thoughts, speech, and actions. If you can do this, existing unwholesomeness will cease. New unwholesomeness won’t arise. New wholesomeness will arise. Existing wholesomeness will develop. Your sati (mindfulness) that used to be hard to arise will arise automatically. Your samadhi (stability and concentration) that used to be dull and cloudy will turn into samadhi that enables wisdom cultivation. These good qualities will develop. The no-good wisdom that only exists in your thoughts will become the wisdom that automatically arises from observing the truth of the phenomena.
So, I’m giving you the homework. Observe what’s behind your thoughts, your speech, and your actions. That’s your practice. With it, we will have right effort: effort to eliminate existing unwholesomeness and develop more wholesomeness. We have the right goal. We aren’t practicing to be good, happy, or peaceful, but we practice to eradicate unwholesomeness and develop more wholesomeness. We don’t practice for other things. We’ll achieve this if we have mindfulness knowing the body and the mind. By knowing so, satipatthana (mindfulness practice) arises. This mindfulness is of a high level. Some teachers call this maha-sati (great mindfulness). The word maha-sati doesn’t exist in the scripture, except as the name of a sutta (narration). There are many satipatthana (mindfulness) suttas. Some are short. Some are long, but the complete version is called maha-satipatthana sutta (great mindfulness narration). So, some teachers use the word maha-sati (great mindfulness) or maha-panna (great wisdom) to describe automatically arising mindfulness, stability, and wisdom. If these still don’t arise automatically, they aren’t yet maha (great). (A Thai joke follows here–translator) You only are a buddhist scholar level 3, or whatever level. If you want to be a maha (great or big scholar), you must practice until automatic mindfulness, stability and wisdom arise.
The beginning point is to observe your thoughts. After a lot of practice, mindfulness will arise automatically. Right effort will also arise automatically. There’s no other goal for practice. Don’t practice for magical ears, eyes, an ability to read people’s minds, an ability to know the long past or the future, an ability to see people’s next lives, an ability to see how many levels there are in heaven and hell. Your mind won’t be interested in these things, because knowing these things isn’t helpful for your liberation. If your mind will have such ability, it will arise automatically. They’re just mental toys, or extra bonuses. We don’t practice these special abilities intentionally. We practice to eradicate our impurities and develop wholesomeness; doing this is samma-vayama (right effort). After a lot of practice, you’ll be more skillful. When the body moves, mindfulness knows immediately. When the mind moves, mindfulness knows immediately. Mindfulness knows these things automatically. Your mindfulness will become full. Once mindfulness becomes full, samma samadhi (right concentration) will occur. Full samma-sati (right mindfulness) causes full samma-samadhi. This is not an ordinary sati (mindfulness), but it must be satipatthana, which is mindfulness knowing the physical and abstract phenomena. All samma (right/proper) qualities consist of mindfulness, and it leads to an enlightenment process. It doesn’t lead to anything else. It’s the mindfulness that observes your own physical and abstract phenomena. If you ignore this, there’s no opportunity to attain enlightenment.
When I met Luangpu Ian and had a dhamma chat with him, I told him that Luangpu Dune taught me that “when you find the observer, destroy it. when you find the mind, destroy it. you’ll then be completely pure.” But destroying the observer isn’t directly attacking it. We destroy it because we see the truth that the mind also has trilaksana (three characteristics of phenomena). Once you see that, the mind will let go of itself. Luangpu Dune’s words for this are “to destroy.” It actually is the mind letting go of itself. The end of suffering is there, when the mind lets go of itself. That was our conversation. We talked about the minds. When I visit a teacher, we don’t talk about other things like, “are you doing ok?” or something like that. It’s a waste of time. When I met Luangpu Ian, I saluted him and he acknowledged. His mind then enters deep samadhi (concentration) to rest. My mind also went into samadhi. It’s a visit without words. His students asked whether I wanted a conversation, but I said there’s no need. I wanted him to rest and didn’t want to disturb him.
True practitioners don’t talk much. True practitioners practice mindfulness much. When I was with Luangpu Ian, I was observing my mind and my body. Once the appropriate time came, I saluted him as a farewell. His student told him that “Luangpor Pramote is leaving. He’s saluting you.” Luangpu Ian acknowledged. His mindfulness was complete. We need to practice until our mindfulness, samadhi (stability and concentration), and panna (wisdom) are all automatic. Keep practicing.
Question 1: I have tried to formally practice, but I couldn’t do it every day; I was exhausted from work. When I practiced, my mind was diffused, but I tried to be mindful and bring the mind back to its base. I’d like to know whether that’s considered reeling the mind back in or not? I can see the aggregates separate, but not frequently. I’d like to ask for your advice.
Luangpor: You’re practicing correctly. But when you’re tired from thinking all day, it’s impossible to attain peacefulness from sitting meditation. We try to practice in little chunks of free time we have during the day. When you walk to the restroom, be mindful. Accumulating many short practices will give mind strength. So, when you practice more in the evening, the mind won’t fall asleep easily, because the mind has got chunks of rest or wisdom cultivation during the day. So, add more short sessions of practice during the day. Practice 5 or 10 minutes depending on the free time you have available. Do it by being mindful and observing the mind’s workings. If you can’t observe the mind, observe the body. After a lot of knowledge work, your mind may feel dizzy, and mindfulness can’t observe the mind. So, observe the body instead. When I was a layperson, I observed my body on the way to the restroom. But my mind gained enough strength to observe the mind on the way back. Keep accumulating small pieces of practice like this. Doing so helps your practice in the evening; the mind won’t fall asleep. If the mind still needs more rest, it will do so with mindfulness. Once it has enough strength, it’ll start to do wisdom cultivation with mindfulness. What you’re practicing is correct. It’s got much better. The mind has good samadhi (stability and concentration). Once the mind is stable, the khandas (five aggregates) may split and the mind can do wisdom cultivation. If the mind becomes stable and still, because it’s too tired. If the mind wants to rest, don’t force it. If you try to force it you may get a headache.
Question 2: When I’m practicing in sitting posture, I feel that my breathings are restricted. Breathing isn’t comfortable sometimes, but some days they are comfortable and the mind is peaceful like right now. Sometimes I also see the mind that clings to parikamma (silently reciting) “Buddho,” but I feel that mind is overly-focused. What should I do to stay on the correct path?
Luangpor: Knowing phenomena as they are is the correct way. If you recitie “Buddho” and the mind overly-focuses on it, know so. If the mind is diffused, know so. That’s ok. Right now you’re excited and overly-focusing, know so. Know the phenomena as they are. Your mind gets diffused easily. You must have a home base for your mind. It can be reciting “Buddho,” breathing, or something else. The same practice doesn’t yield the same results every day. Some days the mind will be peaceful. Some days the mind will be diffused. That’s normal. We have a duty to offer our practice to the Buddha and we do so. Whether the mind is calm or not, we keep practicing. If you expect peacefulness every day, greed has already arisen. What’s behind your practice is greed. Know what’s behind it and you’ll develop. What you’re currently practicing is good. Practice more.
Question 3: I practice by silently reciting “Buddho.” I feel my mind isn’t cultivating wisdom much. Please advise me on how to improve.
Luangpor: Keep practicing reciting “Buddho.” The mind doesn’t have enough samadhi (stability and concentration) to cultivate wisdom. It tends to diffuse easily. Many monks practice reciting “Buddho” for years. There’s a student of Luangpu Tui who told me a story. Luangpu’s first teaching was to recite “Buddho.” He did it constantly for a year. One day they met each other on the begging for alms routes. Luangpu Tui told him “be mindful.” It took him a year to go from reciting “Buddho” to start practicing mindfulness. Your mind gets diffused easily because you don’t have enough samadhi. “Buddho” frequently and continuously. If the mind becomes diffused during reciting, know so. If it becomes peaceful, know so. When reciting, if the mind becomes happy, sad, wholesome, or unwholesome, know so. Keep observing the mind when reciting “Buddho.” The mind will slowly develop and will start doing wisdom cultivation.
Question 4: The practice object you gave me was doing chanting. I have been doing that for 2 years. One day, I saw that the body that’s chanting, the conflicting feeling in the chest, the floating thoughts, and the observer all separated, and none of that was self. When I got curious about where “self” has gone, I saw the grabbing of the observer and then “self” arose. I then knew that this grabbing is the cause of all the suffering. Afterwards, my mind got restless trying to let go of this grabbing. I’d like to ask for further advice.
Luangpor: You’re practicing correctly. When the mind grabs something, it is called upadana (attachment). When the mind grabs something, the mind struggles, this is bhava (becoming). Self then arises. This is called jati (birth) and suffering results. You saw the process correctly, but don’t crave to see it again. Don’t make an effort to try to see it again. Our duty is to practice mindfulness. Continue chanting. But hoping to see it again while chanting won’t work. The greed has already arisen; it excludes mindfulness, stability, and wisdom. Know what’s behind your chanting. It is the same thing that’s behind your thoughts. If you know it, the mind will become purer, and samadhi will arise. Wisdom cultivation will then follow. Keep practicing, but don’t hope for good results every time. You’ll never get any that way. Be neutral to whether you will see it again. Just work on the cause, which is practicing. Your mind is diffused right now. Can you see it? Know this phenomenon.
Question 5: I formally practice by doing Luangpor Tian’s 14-step hand movements. Right now I added silently reciting chanting verses for about a minute. I’ve been doing this for 7-8 months. The verses frequently get played back and the mind also wanders off. I’d like to ask for your advice.
Luangpor: You practice correctly. It’s good. So, keep reciting in your mind. Knowing that the mind has wandered off when you’re reciting is the correct practice. Keep practicing. Don’t be greedy for results. You are practicing very well. Your mind has samadhi (stability and concentration). Do you feel it? Can you tell? Your samadhi got a lot better. It’s no longer dull and dumb. It’s full of strength without any intention to be stable. The mind then sees the mind acting on its own. Has your mind just wandered off? Did you see? This is it. Keep practicing. Your current practice is good.
Question 6: I try to keep the moral precepts and try to make actions and speech in sucarita (good conduct). I try to practice in my daily life, but I can’t formally practice for a long period of time. I’d like to ask for your advice.
Luangpor: Formally practice, even if it’s for a short time. When you become more skillful, the practice will be longer. Don’t ignore formal practice even if you practice while living a daily life; your strength won’t last. I had been formally practicing since I was 7. I did it for 22 years before I started doing wisdom cultivation in daily life. Back then, I looked down on samadhi (stability) from formal practice and stopped doing it. 22 years of my samadhi allowed me to cultivate wisdom in daily life for only 2 years. Your mind still doesn’t have enough samadhi (stability). Keep doing formal practice. Don’t aim for peacefulness. If you practice without greed for wholesomeness, the mind will slowly become peaceful and gain more strength by itself. But if you practice with greed, nothing will happen except a diffused mind. After the mind gets diffused for a long time, you’ll feel that formal practice is useless, and aim to practice mindfulness in daily life. I have made this mistake before. I was observing my mind. When I saw it wander off, I thought I knew so, but the mind has wandered off from its base. The impurity then ceased, and the mind stayed unstable and I felt empty for over a year. The mind was comfortable, open, and clear. At first, I thought it was good, but after a while, I sensed that something was wrong. The Buddha taught that phenomena are impermanent, but I felt the comfort was permanent. He also taught that it’s full of suffering, why did I see happiness? He said it’s not under our control, but why did I feel it was under my control. I sensed that something’s wrong because I had yonisomanasikara (proper consideration). What I was experiencing was in conflict with the Buddha’s teachings. So I must’ve been wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I then had an opportunity to visit Luangta Maha Bua. Back then there weren’t so many people surrounding him. I asked him that my teachers taught me to observe my mind. I was doing so, but I felt that nothing had developed for a year.
Luangta told me that “you thought you were observing your mind, but you’re not doing so. You must trust me. I have already walked the path myself. This is important. Nothing beats parikamma (silent reciting).” I saluted him and stepped back a few meters so he could have his meal. I started silently reciting “Buddho,” but the mind got tensed up. My mind disliked silently reciting “Buddho.” I felt that this wasn’t right, either. So, I carefully consider the teaching. There must be a reason why the teacher just taught me to silently recite. The effect of silently reciting is samadhi (stability and concentration). So that means I lacked samadhi. So, I adjusted the practice a bit to suit my skills. The silent reciting was good for him, but it tensed me up. It didn’t suit me. But I was used to silently reciting “Bud” while breathing in and “dho” while breathing out. Luangpor Lee taught me that since I was little. So, I started observing my breathing. After a few cycles, the mind attained samadhi (stability and concentration) and I suddenly realized that my mind was without proper samadhi for more than a year.
So, practicing in daily life isn’t sufficient. You also need formal practice. During formal practice, don’t care whether the mind is peaceful. Offer your practice to the Buddha, showing your respect to him. Make it the time to make an offer to the Buddha. Whether today’s flower is beautiful doesn’t matter. Neither is the peacefulness from our practice offering. We offer him what we have. Doing this will develop your samadhi (stability). Your formal practice time may also get longer. It’s not gonna be just 15 – 20 minutes like before. Even today, sometimes I silently recite “Buddho” when breathing right after I lie down in bed, and I forget to fall asleep because the practice is so peaceful. Not sleeping for a day or two is ok, but if it’s longer, the body gets weaker and sleep is needed. Some monks resolve not to sleep. I know Luangpu Pleung who resolved not to sleep. When I met him, he told me he hadn’t slept in 13 years. He resolved to keep nesajjika (not sleeping) practice. I asked whether he resolved to do this to make more effort to practice, and he told me it wasn’t for practice. He just felt more comfortable without sleep. If he fell asleep, he didn’t feel good after he woke up. It was strange. If you guys don’t sleep you’ll feel uncomfortable, don’t you? At least you’ll have mental discomfort. If you lack sleep, you can become stressed without having any physical problem. But Luangpu Pleung hadn’t slept for 13 years. I asked him further whether there was no sleep whatsoever. He said during the cool season, if it got too cold, the mind entered a trance for a very short period. After it woke up, he could stay awake all night. So, there were some really short sleeps. Everyone’s different. If we try to imitate his practice, we’ll probably die quickly. For him, having too much sleep was uncomfortable. So, you do formal practice diligently with patience. Don’t hope for anything good. Offer your practice to the Buddha. If you’re not greedy, you’ll make progress faster. Practicing with greed in your mind isn’t good.
Question 7: I feel that I struggle less during practice. I formally practice by doing morning chants. I observe the mind that wanders off and practice observing the mind and the body. When impurities arise, I know so. Recently, right after waking up, I notice a phenomenon that the mind and the body are separated. I feel the struggle of the body and the mind. They struggle by themselves. I don’t practice sitting posture now, because right after I start, the mind feels squished, becomes diffused, and I fall asleep. Please advise me further.
Luangpor: You must formally practice. Otherwise, your mind won’t have enough samadhi (stability and concentration). Do you feel that you don’t yet have sufficient samadhi right now? It’s a bit too weak. Formally practice and be neutral to whether you’re peaceful, just like what I just told another person earlier. You have accumulated a lot of good qualities, but without sufficient samadhi, enlightenment won’t arise. This is so because samadhi is the container for 7 other components of the Noble path. Enlightenment can’t arise without samma-samadhi (right concentration). So, you must practice formally. Don’t neglect this. Continue practicing without greed. Practice as an offer to the Buddha, and your mind will gain strength. Your mind’s qualities are much better than before. Your mind has more strength and stability, but it’s a bit blank and not truly stable. Can you tell? Good. That’s what can be improved: insufficient samadhi. But don’t try to force it. Forcing the mind to be peaceful will make you stressed. By seeing the body and the mind as burdensome is seeing suffering. The five khandas (aggregates) are burdens. Someone carrying a burden is suffering.
The fully enlightened ones have put down the burden, and will never pick it up again. They are free from all suffering. So, you share the right view with the fully enlightened ones. You see that the body and the mind are a burden. But enlightenment still hasn’t arisen because you still lack samadhi (stability and concentration).
Question 8: This is my result from 2 years of practice. I find the mind isn’t yet strong. It is running away from suffering. The mind caves in to many impurities. Recently, when mindfulness arises, I think it gets stuck in some emptiness or nothingness. Please advise me.
Luangpor: That you see suffering is something good. The Buddha taught us to know suffering, not running away from suffering. To cultivate wisdom is to observe the body and mind, which are suffering. In real life, there’s a lot of suffering, and you’re tired of it. So, when you practice, the mind runs away to observe emptiness. Is that good? It’s good in a worldly sense. We get away from stress that can drive us nuts. But is it good in a dhamma sense? It’s not totally good. To be good in a dhamma sense is to be able to cultivate wisdom and not running away from the truth. The one who runs away from problems cannot really solve them. Do you know ostriches? They put their heads underneath their wings when predators appear, instead of running away. After doing so, they no longer see the predators, and they feel safe. Predators love this. They can hunt other animals first and return to the ostriches later, because they won’t move.
We do the same thing when we practice. We’re scared of the suffering, so the mind focuses on emptiness. But you won’t be able to run away from it, because suffering is the truth of life. Don’t be attached to the joy of emptiness. Otherwise, you’ll suffer even more in daily life and this makes the situation worse. Be more patient. Adjust the practice. Once the mind has gained some strength, come out from observing emptiness and see the truth of the body and the mind. When the mind becomes exhausted, go back to observe emptiness. Switching between observing these 2 things is much better than only observing emptiness. If you only observe emptiness, one day you’ll be taken by a predator, which is Kilesa-Mara (impurities as a destroyer). They will hunt you down. Understand? Ok. Practice more.
29 August 2020