New karma is the indicator

At this time, the Chinese students will be returning home, returning to celebrate the Chinese New Year, to visit their parents. Normally, there are many Chinese students at the temple. It’s pitiful. They come seeking Dhamma.

The Dhamma can be easy, and it can also be difficult. It’s easy for those who have accumulated virtues from past lives, i.e. they have “Pubbe-ca kata-punnata”. But if you start accumulating it from scratch, then learning Dhamma becomes difficult. Simply maintaining moral conduct can be challenging. We should examine our own minds, see how much merit we have accumulated, how mature our spiritual faculties are. To examine is easy. If one can commit wrongdoing with indifference, this indicates his weak spiritual faculties. We should examine ourselves. If our conduct is good, it means we have been training our minds. Some people achieve tranquility in a short time of meditation, while others, even after many years, still refuse to calm down. This indicates they haven’t accumulated in terms of concentration. Some people can’t perceive the three marks of existence. They meditate, achieve Samādhi, and their minds become still. They find contentment in this state, remaining trapped in the happiness and tranquility of meditation. This suggests a deficiency in the accumulation of virtues necessary for cultivating wisdom.


The most important aspect is the new karma

Try examining our own minds. Some people meditate for just a few days and want to achieve enlightenment already. They see others progressing quickly, within just days or months, and achieving success. Then, they want success too. Before looking at others, try looking at ourselves first. At the beginning, how much capital do we have? For people without life capital, without money, and without the intelligence to make any investment, it’s not easy to make a living. For people with intelligence, money, and capital, it’s easy for them to make a living, convenient and comfortable, with good profits. But after a while, oh, the global economy changes, politics changes. Their businesses get disrupted and they go out of business. They have merit, but it’s not sustainable. In the realm of Dhamma, it’s the same. Some people meditate for a short time and do well, their minds are rooted in awareness, but they don’t want to continue. They get lost in the world’s pleasures. They had good spiritual capital, but their karma intervenes, turning them into people lost in the world. Their then meditation deteriorates.

We can gauge ourselves to see how much spiritual capital we possess. The simplest measure is to see whether we commit wrongdoings with indifference. If our result comes out poor, then let’s focus on upholding the precepts. Even if it’s tough, just endure it. At first, you don’t know how, and it’s difficult and exhausting. The most violated precept is speech. Have you ever noticed that in the Noble Eightfold Path, right speech comes before other precepts? Following it is right action, which covers the first, second, and third precepts. Right action involves loving kindness and compassion, not harming others or animals, not stealing, not cheating, not engaging in sexual misconduct. This practice comes after right speech.

Therefore, the Noble Eightfold Path incorporates right view, right thought, which means thinking under power of wholesome state, not greed, anger, or delusion. Furthermore, Noble Eightfold Path encompasses right speech, right action, and right livelihood. Hence, the easiest aspect of virtue to fail in is right speech. Speaking improperly is wrong speech. So, if we still speak falsely with indifference, it means our spiritual faculties are still weak. Gradually observe yourself. Or if you enjoy harming others or animals, this behavior can be seen since childhood. Some children see dogs, cats, or something else, they feel compassion and do not harm. Another child may hit a dog, kick a cat, the foundation of their mind isn’t very good. Their accumulated wholesomeness brings them human form, but with a great deal of accumulated unwholesomeness, the opportunities to do wrong are still plentiful. This is the answer.

This is part of the answer as to why some people achieve results quickly, while others achieve them slowly. Their spiritual capital is good, so they have the opportunity to achieve results quickly. Luangpor uses the term “opportunity” because it’s not that having good capital always brings good results. Even with good capital, which includes accumulated old good karma, the real indicator is the new karma. Even if the old karma is good, such as performing good deeds and maintaining moral conduct, being born with a good appearance, if one performs new bad karma, like committing sexual misconduct by using one’s good-looking body to arouse and cause defilements to arise in those whose defilements haven’t yet arisen. One has committed the new bad karma. Or, if someone is wealthy, they may lend money with high interest rates, be ruthless in seizing others’ property with indifference, and take advantage of others. Even though their old capital is good, their new karma isn’t.

The decisive aspect we need to develop well is our new karma. Old karma cannot be changed; it’s already done. If we have good old karma, we reap good results from it. If it’s not good, we reap bad results. Even if we experience unfavorable outcomes, such as being born with an unattractive appearance, low financial status, or poor education, by performing new good karma and earnestly maintaining moral conduct, it doesn’t matter if we’re not physically attractive. Possessing virtue and morality, and being earnest in meditation, internally, we will be beautiful. Despite the external appearance affected by old karma, internally, the mind can be radiant, clear, and bright. There are cases like this, and it’s because of their good new karma. Therefore, some people may not appear attractive externally, but why do people love them? Why do they want to be near them? Some teachers may not have attractive appearances or graceful gestures, but why do people want to be near them? Even deities want to be close to them because their minds are beautiful. Their minds are beautiful because their new karma is good, as they earnestly practice generosity, moral conduct, and meditation every day.

Therefore, between new karma and old karma, the most important aspect is the new karma, as it pertains to the present. Old karma is already done and cannot be changed, so let it go. Just ensure that you do not repeat unwholesome actions in the present. Then, strive to maintain our precepts well, cultivate Samādhi, and practice daily. Some people have never practiced before and may find tranquility difficult to attain. If tranquility seems hard to achieve, simply continue practicing every day. Engage in meditation, such as inhaling and reciting “Bud” and exhaling and reciting “Dho”, or any other form of meditation that you feel comfortable with, including chanting mantras. If you enjoy chanting mantras, keep doing so multiple times a day. Do you know that one day Luangpor chants mantras five times? I also recite “Bud-dho” countless times. When I have idle moments, my mind naturally recites “Bud-dho” repeatedly. Breathe and recite “Bud-dho” — it’s become a habit. When it’s time to pay respects to the Buddha and chant mantras, I do so five or six times daily. If I have extra time, I chant long mantras. This is how I accumulate virtues.


Samādhi power is not sufficient

At first, some people find it difficult to practice, while I find it easy. I have enjoyed meditation since childhood, learning from Ajahn Lee at Wat Asokaram. Ajahn Lee taught me to breathe in, recite ‘Bud,’ and breathe out, recite ‘Dho.’ So, I practiced, and before long, I became tranquil. But for some people, I wonder why they can’t meditate peacefully. It’s because their minds have never been trained, so their old capital isn’t good. If their old capital isn’t good, what can they do? They must build new assets, perform new wholesome actions. Every day, pay respect to the Buddha and chant mantras, and practice formal meditation, such as sitting meditation and mindful walking. If you truly want to transcend suffering, you have to do it. Claiming that you’ll cultivate mindfulness in daily life alone won’t work. I can confidently say that you won’t succeed. I have been practicing Samatha (calmness meditation) since childhood for 22 years, so I’m adept at Samatha.

When I began cultivating wisdom, I then looked down upon the practice of Samatha (calmness Samādhi), abandoning it. The energy accumulated from meditation over 22 years was used for wisdom cultivation for two years. After passing those two years, when I meditated, I saw defilements emerging, watched the defilements, and saw them moving outward. Anger moved outward, and the mind followed along with the anger, moving outward. The anger immediately ceased, and the mind became bright and empty. It felt comfortable as it seemed like no defilements, only happiness and tranquility. It had been like that for a year when I came to think of it. The Buddha taught that the mind is impermanent, so why is my mind permanent? The Buddha taught that the mind is suffering, so why is my mind full of happiness? The Buddha taught that the mind is non-self and uncontrollable, so why can I control it? The mind remained tranquil and happy, and it could just stay like that no matter how long. There must be something wrong, but it’s hard to see exactly what was wrong.

One day, I had the opportunity to meet Luangta Maha Bua. At that time, not many people went to see him, as there were still many other venerable monks who were more senior. Luangta Maha Bua wasn’t very busy, so I had the chance to meet him. I asked, “May I have an opportunity, please?” He nodded, so I continued, “My teacher has taught me to observe the mind, and I have been doing so. However, I feel that it hasn’t progressed at all. It remains like this.” He replied, “Saying that you observe the mind, but you can’t really see the mind. You have to believe me. This is crucial. I’ve been through this myself. Nothing is better than reciting ‘Buddho’.” That was his answer. This is because he was skilled in reciting ‘Buddho’, so he said nothing is better than reciting ‘Buddho’, and I must believe him as he’d been through this himself. He didn’t speak from textbooks but from real experience.

Luangpor moved back and sat about 3 to 4 meters away from him. He told me to recite “Buddho,” so I did it repeatedly. However, the mind didn’t like it; the mind didn’t like reciting “Buddho”. I came to think of why he told me to recite “Buddho”. It indicated that my Samādhi was not sufficient. So, he told me to recite “Buddho” to help my mind root in Samādhi, attaining Samādhi. Luangpor was sitting slightly behind him. I then started inhaling, reciting “Bud” and exhaling, reciting “Dho”, not afraid that he would chide me because I already understood what he was teaching. It was because I lacked Samādhi. As I practiced inhaling, reciting “Bud”, and exhaling, reciting “Dho”, after just a few breaths, my mind started to be rooted in Samādhi. I felt I wanted to give a knock on my head. Oh, I was such a fool to abandon the practice of Samatha and just kept on cultivating wisdom non-stop. When Samādhi power is not sufficient, a defilement of insight will arise.

Those who observe the mind will experience a type of defilement of insight called “Obhāsa” (bright light), where the mind becomes empty, bright, comfortable, and radiant. It appears devoid of defilements and completely free from suffering. However, truly, the mind isn’t truly rooted in awareness; it’s bright but it remains outside. When I meditated, the mind returned inwardly and became truly rooted in Samādhi. So, I realized, “Hey, for about a year, the mind has been outside; it’s futile.” Immediately, I understood what the teacher instructed. I observed myself and realized that I lacked Samādhi, so I started meditating.

If you ask Luangpor what kind of meditation is good, Luangpor would say, breathing in, reciting ‘Bud’, and breathing out, reciting ‘Dho’ is good, because I practice like this. However, upon seeing the diversity of practitioners, Luangpor would rather say, there is no meditation better than any other. The kind of meditation that brings mindfulness, awareness of the body and mind, is good. It’s good for us. Therefore, the kind of meditation that’s good for us may not be the same for others. We need to observe ourselves. All kinds of meditation have benefits and significance, but which one suits us, that’s something we need to investigate ourselves.

If we want to meditate, we need to consider what kind of meditation, what kind of meditation object that brings us happiness, then we gently guide our mind to stay with that meditation object. As we stay there comfortably, the mind becomes content. When the mind is content, it becomes tranquil. Why does it need to be content to become tranquil? Because if the mind is restless, it isn’t happy; it then wanders around seeking happiness, wandering to the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, craving happiness but not finding it. If we are wise, we use the meditation object that the mind is content to be with to draw the mind. Then the mind won’t wander elsewhere; it will be tranquil.

As I have been meditating for a long time, I grasped the secret, the key to making the mind tranquil during meditation. There are 2-3 secrets, remember them, and then the problem of not being tranquil no matter what you do will disappear. Firstly, choose a meditation object that suits you. If staying with the object brings comfort, choose that one. However, that meditation object must not provoke defilements. If kicking a dog or a cat makes you comfortable, that’s a defilement. Don’t choose it. Choose a meditation object that doesn’t stimulate defilements. So, first, we know the meditation object that suits us. As for my case, I know that breathes in, reciting “Bud” is suitable. Just plain “Buddho” is not suitable; back then I didn’t like it. Now, any meditation object is the same; it depends on the mind. If you know how to practice with the mind correctly, any meditation object is the same.

First, we choose the meditation object that suits us. Second, that meditation object must not stimulate defilements. Third, we need to be aware of that meditation object with a normal mind. Almost all meditators can’t attain tranquility, because as soon as they start meditating, they begin to force themselves. Let me show you by meditating in an overacting manner, so you can easily observe. We try to force ourselves to be tranquil. If the mind is forced, it won’t be happy. If the mind isn’t happy, it won’t be tranquil. Therefore, we should use a normal mind. A normal mind is your minds right now. Let’s try using the mind at this moment, don’t alter it, and then try meditating with one meditation object. Just try. Use the normal mind.

Many students’ minds enter deep Samādhi already, okay, let’s withdraw your minds from Samādhi. Go practice on your own at home. Don’t meditate while driving and let the mind enter deep Samādhi like this. Otherwise, when you exit Samādhi, you will already be in heaven, because of car accident. We need to know when to do what. When you’re in an unsafe place, don’t practice a tranquil meditation. Because when your mind enters deep Samādhi, you won’t know what’s going on. It’ll be dangerous.

If we use a normal mind, a normal mind is the mind at this moment, the mind that doesn’t concern itself with meditation. Use a normal mind. Don’t manipulate it. Then, be aware of the meditation object that you’re comfortable with, and soon you’ll become tranquil. When some people observe their breath in and out, their minds become agitated and won’t settle. Then, they get frustrated and keep thinking, “When will the mind be calm? When will the mind be calm?” But their minds will never be calm because they are being forced, suppressed, and not happy. So their minds can’t attain tranquility. The mind is like a child. If we want the child to behave, we shouldn’t use a stick to hit it to forbid it from going out to play.

But kids these days don’t go out of the house. It’s concerning. Kids in the past, when elders were not aware, would go out of the house, climb trees, swim in the canal, or something. Even though their homes were located by the canal, they would go out to find joy elsewhere. If adults were wise, instead of forbidding this and that, pushing until the children are stressed, they could use methods to entice them. For example, they would make snacks, and children would come to see how to make snacks. The adults would start making snacks, and kids would all sit around the stove waiting, not going elsewhere, waiting to eat snacks. They’d bring things we liked to entice us, so we wouldn’t go elsewhere. In the same way, to meditate, we use the meditation object that our mind likes to entice it, so our mind wouldn’t go elsewhere. Minds are like children. If they don’t have comfortable objects that bring happiness and joy within the house, they’ll run off to find joy elsewhere.


Obstacles to meditation practice in this era

As for kids nowadays, they’re no longer living in the real world. They’re in the world of social media, the virtual world. It’s not the real world. In Luangpor’s time, kids were in the real world. When they wanted to play, they went out to play with friends, ran around, went swimming, climbed trees, caught crickets. I also caught crickets. They lived in a real world. But kids nowadays are in a virtual world, a cyber world. This is frightening. They’re in a virtual world, not in the real world. They don’t know how to associate with humans, but with virtual beings. They don’t even know if who they’re interacting with is real or not. The appearance they present may be beautiful, the image they provide, but their true form might be like that of a crossbred cow and buffalo. They’re not in the real world. This makes it difficult.

When you’re in the virtual world, can you still be aware of the body and mind? No, you can’t, because the virtual world is entirely a world of thoughts, not reality. The chance to get out of the virtual world and stay in the real world is difficult. In the past, children lived in the real world. They played, fell down, hurt their knees, bled, cried, and then, practicing meditation wasn’t difficult. When it hurt, they just knew that it hurt. If they had practiced before, when they were startled, they would know they were startled. So, as time goes by, studying the Dhamma becomes increasingly difficult because people don’t live in the realm of reality. Therefore, if you have children or grandchildren, try to pull them out of the virtual world and let them live in the real world occasionally. Don’t let them stay in the dream world all the time, or they won’t be able to connect with humans.

This generation doesn’t fit into society. When they do interact, it’s often rude and sometimes even violent because when they’re in the virtual world, they can be rude and aggressive in any way. When they communicate with each other in writing, it’s often coarse, but it’s acceptable because everyone does the same. However, when they’re in the real world, they can’t behave the same way. What should they do now? When it’s necessary to live in the real world, they can’t cope, and eventually, it leads to mental illness. Nowadays, countless cases of mental illness occur every day.

In the past, elderly people were lonely and felt sad, leading to depression. Later, as people had to compete with each other to earn a living, working-age individuals experienced stress, depression, and mental illness. Nowadays, many children also experience these illnesses, so we need to take good care of them. Many children suffer from mental illness. This is because they are not living in the world of humans; they are living in the world of artificial beings. The world of artificial beings is not the human world; it is a virtual world, the world of artificial beings. Therefore, we must strive to live in the real world. Let’s not be lost into the world of dreams. We have a body; feel it. We have a mind; feel it.
The environment in this era poses many obstacles to meditation practice. Therefore, it’s not surprising if people find it increasingly difficult to achieve enlightenment. In the days of my meditation teachers, they lived in the real world where there were rains, floods, droughts, water scarcity. These really happened, not just imagination. If they could harvest rice this year, they were happy; if not, they were sad. These were real matters. However, people nowadays dwell in the world of thoughts and dreams. They can dream in any way they want, but it’s not reality. Therefore, let’s strive to awaken ourselves from the world of dreams and live in this real world.

When you have a body, be aware of it. When you have a mind, be aware of it. When you have eyes, let them see forms. When you have ears, let them hear sounds. When you have a nose, let it smell odors. When you have a tongue, let it taste flavors. When you have a body, let it feel tactile sensations. When you have a mind, let it contact mental object. When they make contact, there is a change in mental state. For example, when we hear someone scold us, our mind becomes angry. We immediately know that our mind is angry. This is our reality. Some people don’t know how to observe their minds. When they become angry, they don’t realize it. Then, they raise their hands as if to hit others, their hands move, and they feel their body in motion. This indicates that awareness has arisen already. Continue to be aware of the body. Continue to be aware of the mind. If you can be aware of the mind, then do so. If you can’t be aware of the mind, then keep being aware of the body.

When we’re in a good mood and someone tells us a funny story, we feel amused. If our mindfulness is quick, we’ll notice our mind feeling amused. If it’s slow, we’ll see our body laughing. Or if we encounter a pleasant object, our body will smile. So observe our body laughing or smiling; this is still good. But if we’re not aware, our body will laugh out loud without our knowledge, which is pitiful. It’s especially pitiful if it’s a monk. If a monk laughs out loud unknowingly, that’s very pitiful. It’s another level of pitifulness, as monks should have mindfulness. If they lack awareness and laugh out loud unknowingly, that’s very deplorable. If it’s a layperson laughing out loud unknowingly, it may seem ordinary. But if it’s a practitioner laughing out loud unknowingly, that indicates they are lost.
If we are practitioners and encounter something amusing and our mind feels amused, don’t suppress it. Don’t recite ‘amusing, amusing’ to make it disappear. Not like that. If it feels amused, be aware that it feels amused. If it feels very amused and the face begins to smile, be aware that the face is smiling. Or perhaps it will result in outright laughter. When our mind feels amused and we are not aware of it, the face and body will laugh. Then, just be aware that the body is laughing. Even in this case, it’s still good. Consider it acceptable. We’re still aware of the body. At the very least, remain aware of the body. When it gets finer, we’ll be aware of our own mind.


Without firmly established mind, cultivating Vipassanā is impossible

We need to practice. Initially, the mind doesn’t stay with the body. So, we practice meditating on a meditation object, any object that brings content when practiced. Then, we use the ordinary mind to stay with that object. And if something unusual arises, be aware. For example, when we breathe, we stay with our nose. Then, suppose our mind wanders away from the nose, be aware. The mind sinks into the breath—be aware. This is no longer ordinary. The mind wanders and sinks into the breath—this is not ordinary. While contemplating on the rise and fall of the abdomen, if the mind escapes into thoughts, be aware. The mind sinks into the belly—be aware. This meditation object is fine. Any meditation object related to our body and mind can be used. Then, practice staying aware of our own mind. If we are aware of our mind, Samādhi will develop quickly because the training that brings Samādhi is called “Adhicitta-sikkhā.” There are Sīla-sikkhā (training in higher virtue), Citta-sikkhā (training in higher mind), and Paññā-sikkhā (training in higher wisdom). There’s no word “Samādhi- sikkhā,” but there’s ” Citta-sikkhā.”

Sīla-sikkhā teaches the methods to cultivate morality. Initially, set the intention to uphold moral conducts, keeping the precepts you’re committed to. Next, develop the practice of upholding morality further. Stay mindful, remaining aware of our own mind. When defilements arise, be aware of them promptly. Through this, we will attain automatic morality. It is a morality cultivated by allowing the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind to contact objects and remain aware. This is a refined form of morality, known as ‘Indriya-saṃvara-sīla,’ a finer level of morality. To truly meditate, this form of morality is essential. If one wishes to progress to Vipassanā, manually keeping each precept doesn’t suffice. The mind and morality must integrate and function automatically. Therefore, we must practice, cultivate morality, and then maintain mindfulness of the mind. When defilements are recognized, morality naturally arises.
If one wants to meditate, this training is called ‘Adhicitta-sikkhā,’ which involves learning about the mind. Initially, when I began teaching, some people resisted and said, ‘Hey, you have to practice inhaling, reciting ‘Bud,’ and exhaling, reciting ‘Dho,’ first before talking about the mind. How can you talk about the mind first?’ The practice of inhaling, reciting ‘Bud,’ and exhaling, reciting ‘Dho,’ almost a hundred percent of the time, doesn’t lead to good meditation. It leads to false meditation. Why? Because the mind isn’t firmly established in awareness. In fact, meditation doesn’t mean a tranquil mind; meditation means firmness, not tranquility. They’re different matters. People are often confused and think that cultivating a tranquil mind is meditation. It’s false meditation—the mind is just foolishly tranquil like that or it just wanders to see this and that.

If it is Sammā Samādhi (Right Concentration), the mind is with mindfulness. Meditate with a meditation object, and when the mind wanders off to thoughts, be aware. When the mind sinks into the meditation object, be aware. Keep being aware of the mind, and then good Samādhi will arise. The mind will settle and firmly rooted in awareness, without drowsiness or being lost. It becomes tranquil, sometimes to the extent that the body disappears, the world vanishes, and even the storms and thunderbolts also disappear—there’s nothing left. This is because the mind cuts off perceptions, leaving only the mind with mindfulness, without our intentional effort.

Therefore, we must practice. If we want to attain Samādhi, we should meditate with a meditation object and then be aware of our own mind. When the mind escapes from the object of meditation, be aware. When the mind focuses on the object of meditation, be aware. Then, the mind will become tranquil. If we desire wisdom, this training is called “Adhipaññā-sikkhā.” We use the mind that’s tranquil and firmly established in awareness. Tranquility alone is not enough; the mind must be firmly established in awareness. A tranquil mind may not necessarily be firmly rooted in awareness; for example, when we observe the rising and falling of the abdomen, if the mind is just tranquil at the abdomen, it’s tranquil but not firmly established in awareness. If it’s firmly established in awareness, the mind withdraws and becomes the knower and observer.

Therefore, a tranquil mind may not necessarily be firmly established in awareness, but a firmly established mind remains tranquil automatically within itself. So a firmly established mind is both tranquil and firmly rooted in awareness, while a tranquil mind may not be firmly rooted. It may immerse itself in one particular object, moving off and remaining immersed externally, or moving in and sinking into internal object. Moving out to immerse externally is wrong, as is moving in to immerse internally. But if it’s firmly established, the mind withdraws from phenomena. All forms and non-forms are merely phenomena, and the mind is merely the observer of these phenomena. Forms move, but the mind is just the one who sees the movement. Happiness and suffering arise within the body; the mind is the knower. Happiness and suffering are just stranger visitors. They arise and then cease, altogether. This moving body is not us; it’s like a robot, a mere object, a conglomerate of elements.

When the mind is firmly established in awareness, wisdom will arise. If there is no firmly established mind, wisdom will not arise for sure. Remember this principle: if there is no firmly established mind, it means there is no right Samādhi. Without right Samādhi, cultivating insight (Vipassanā) cannot happen. The mind must be firmly established. Once the mind is firmly established in awareness, the aggregates will break apart. The separation of aggregates is indeed the first step in the development of wisdom. At this moment, while listening to my Dhamma teachings, the mind has gained strength. Do you see that this body sitting here is merely something known and observed? The body is only something known and observed. It is not the mind. The mind is the knower, the observer.

Being able to separate between name and form is the initial level of wisdom. At the initial level of wisdom, we can separate between name and form and see how forms and names change; however, thought processes still occur. If our mind is firmly rooted in awareness, it will act merely as an observer, not as a thinker. Once the mind becomes the observer, whatever forms and names appear are just passing phenomena for the mind to temporarily recognize. They come and go, that’s called Aniccā (impermanence). All current phenomena are being pushed to disintegrate, called Dukkhā (suffering). All phenomena are not us, not ours, called Anattā (non-self). Only then can we progress to Vipassanā, not by thinking. When I led you by saying that your minds are firmly established, and asked “can you see that your body is sitting?”, this indicates application of thought. So, this is just initial level of wisdom, not yet Vipassanā. Merely the separation of form and name is not yet Vipassanā.

When we see forms and names as mere passing phenomena, with the mind as the knower, the observer. When we see phenomena flow by, it’s as if we’re standing here and the phenomena flow by. Or it’s like we’re standing on a building by the street, watching cars passing by. We don’t jump onto the street. It’s like we’re standing by the riverbank, watching boats sail by. We don’t dive into the water. We don’t go aboard the boats. We’re on the land. We see the phenomena moving. In this way, wisdom can develop. If we were to dive into the water and saw a piece of driftwood floating nearby, we’d float along with the wood. We’d see this piece of wood as permanent because it never goes anywhere else. It stays with us until reaching the sea. Therefore, the mind must withdraw and become the knower, the observer, without getting involved. Only then can wisdom develop, only then can we see the three characteristics.

When we’re on land and see driftwood floating by, we’re on land, and the wood floats in and then floats away. It’s impermanent; once the wood floats in, it will float away. We can’t control it. It follows its own causes and conditions, such as being carried by the water or the wind. It’s not under our command. We are just observers. When we practice Vipassanā, we must train in this way. We train until our mind withdraws and becomes the knower, the observer. Then, we see that the phenomena of forms and names constantly move and change, exhibiting the three characteristics. If that happens, it’s truly the cultivation of Vipassanā. Then, we’ll see that all forms are impermanent, suffering, and non-self. All names are also impermanent, suffering, and non-self.

Practice continuously, and at some point, when our mind is firmly established, it will reverse. It sees forms arise and cease, names arise and cease, and then it will reverse back to this knower. Even this knower arises and ceases. We must allow this reversal to occur naturally, without intentional effort. If you intentionally try to reverse, it will immediately become non-form Jhana. That means, if you try to grasp the knower, it becomes infinite consciousness jhana (Viññāṇañcāyatana); the consciousness becomes infinite, without any end. It focuses on the mind; you perpetually see the mind as the knower; one knower ceases, and another arises incessantly. However, if you see that the knower arises and then disappears, this is Vipassanā. But mostly those who try to grasp the knower will not see the arising and disappearing of the knower. This kind of absorption is very difficult to fix, very difficult, because of that, don’t intentionally focus on the knower.

With the mind as the knower, the observer, it sees forms and names constantly changing. The mind is just the observer. If the mind gets entangled with forms and names, be aware. If the mind wanders off to other thoughts, forgetting the forms and names that are currently present, be aware. That’s all. Then, when the mind has strength, it sees forms and names arising and ceasing continuously. Then, it reverses back to the knower. Then, it sees the knower arising and passing away. For the mind to reverse towards the knower, we must practice formal meditation every day, so the mind will be tranquil and firmly established. Thus, we must practice; otherwise, our Samādhi will be incorrect. Once, I wasted a year when my mind was not firmly established in awareness; it wandered and dwelled in emptiness. When the mind resides in empty space, it enters the infinity of space Jhana (Ākāsānañcāyatana), a type of non-form Jhana. If we reverse to observe the mind directly, it enters the infinite consciousness Jhana (Viññāṇañcāyatana).

If we let go of both mental object, which is emptiness, and the mind. And if the mind doesn’t observe or focus on anything, including the mind or any object, it will become the third type of non-form jhana called infinite nothingness (Ākiñcaññāyatana). Then, the mind will settle further down into a state of neither perception nor non-perception (Nevasaññānāsaññāyatana), another non-form jhana. This practice leads to formless jhana. It’s challenging to cultivate wisdom in formless realms. But for those skilled in the formless jhana and skilled in observing the mind, they can cultivate insight in formless realms. If not skilled, they cannot proceed. Mostly, when they reach that point, it’s so subtle that the mind becomes not firmly established, losing awareness.


Well, that’s all for the sermon. Go and develop yourselves. It’s okay if you have little capital to start with. What matters is the new capital you must create. If you have little old capital, starting anew can be somewhat difficult, just like someone born into poverty without education or money. It takes time to establish oneself, but is it possible? Yes, it is. In the past, when the Chinese came to Thailand, the period was known as the ‘one mat and one pillow era’ (they arrived with nothing but a mat and a pillow), yet they still managed to become successful entrepreneurs. It was because they were patient, knew how to make a living, knew their own ability, chose their companions wisely, and didn’t fall for allurements which lead to ruin. Eventually, they established themselves.

In the same way, for our practice, during the days when we have only one mat and one pillow (very low capital), if we still indulge in debauchery, drink alcohol in the evenings, and sometimes party endlessly, we will be poor for the rest of our lives. This means we won’t excel in meditation and can’t acquire anything good in this life, coming from darkness and returning to darkness. However, if we start from darkness, meaning we begin with poor capital, we can create new, good capital and elevate ourselves to a brighter place. Therefore, accumulate good virtues and help yourself, as no one else can do it for you.”

Help yourself as much as you can. I am old now and don’t have much energy to help us extensively. You need to meditate by yourself. I told the Chinese students that the Dhamma is not with me, the Dhamma is not at the temple, the Dhamma is within oneself. Help yourself by staying aware, observing the body at work, observing the mind as it functions. When it’s time, pay respects to the Buddha and chant mantras, and practice calmness meditation. Uphold the precepts. If you can do this, you’ll progress. Wherever you are, it’s like being with Luangpor all the time. You’ll feel as if Luangpor is nearby. You won’t feel like you’re in a different country.

Luangpu Pramote Pamojjo
Wat Suansantidham
6 January 2024