At the moment, the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand has proposed to the Prime Minister to classify Chonburi as a dark-red province, under maximum and strict control. There are limits on crowd activities, capping them at twenty people. To comply with the government’s measures, we ask for your cooperation in not gathering, or sitting in close groups — eating together in a group is not allowed. When entering the temple to make food offerings, we encourage you to leave early, and not prolong your stay. Please endure the current situation for the time being, as Chonburi province has reported more than one hundred new cases of infections daily for many days now. Today, the number of daily infections is above a hundred, while the overall daily infections in the country are up to a thousand. Therefore, we should stay self-disciplined. The infectious disease is contagious especially when we are in close contact with one another. As long as we distance ourselves, the disease cannot be transmitted to us. So, please take extra precautions when interacting with others.
Listening Alone is Not Sufficient
Currently, we have Dhamma classes for Chinese practitioners residing in China, with a class size of over forty individuals — such gatherings are not banned in China, since the number of infections is relatively lower than in Thailand at this time. Yesterday, Luang Por delivered a sermon to the Chinese practitioners, and noticed from seeing their radiant faces that many of them improved from their practices. Despite the fact that they are situated farther away from Luang Por, they kept up with listening to Dhamma, including watching the livestream online. We offer a live translation from Thai to Chinese. Apparently, they must have practiced — simply listening to Dhamma alone is not sufficient. Evidently, many of them showed decent improvement. Taking this in mind, we must also practice ourselves. It is complacent to think that it is easier for any Thai person to learn, listen, and understand Dhamma. With such a perspective, one may only listen once in a while. While listening to Dhamma only once in a while may be considered insufficient, practicing Dhamma inconsistently is entirely hopeless. No matter how many years are invested, one cannot progress just from listening alone, he or she must practice.
“practicing Dhamma inconsistently is entirely hopeless”
The hands-on approach to learning Dhamma by means of practice is not the same as learning from academic materials. The scope of academic learning involves recitation and memorization of the study materials to aid in passing exams, which then leads to promotion. However, thinking, recitation, or memorization cannot be applied literally to the practice of Dhamma. Instead, it involves the hands-on experience of our observations and perceptions. To perceive what exactly? One must perceive the natural phenomena, not by thinking about it. The story of our thoughts without the presence of the natural phenomena is defined as sense-object specification — we collectively assign terms to represent the content of our thoughts. The content of our thoughts is only a sense-object specification. Vipassanā is about perceiving natural phenomena rather than thinking about it. Therefore, merely thinking that our bodies are composed of human excreta, subjected to the nature of impermanence, suppressed by the suffering conditions that lead to dissipation, and subjected to the nature of non-self does not raise the level of our practice to Vipassanā. Additionally, perceiving the natural phenomena alone does not open the door to insight and intuitive wisdom of Vipassanā — one must also perceive the truth about those phenomena.
The term “natural phenomena” consists of only two departments, namely, the form and formless phenomena. Although there is another kind of phenomenon, which is called nirvāṇa or nibbāna, it is not accessible to a worldly person — thus, we should ignore this for now. We should continue observing the form and formless phenomena until we realize the Three Marks of Existence, which represent the truth of the form and formless phenomena. Because the story of our thoughts is sense-object specification, it is by no means real. What is real remains within the scope of our observations, which is the form and formless phenomena. So, we must observe them until the truth of the Three Marks of Existence is revealed. Therefore, what is critical in our observance lies in perceiving the underlying Three Marks of Existence within the form and formless phenomena.
How about the form phenomena? The easiest form phenomenon observable is the body that exists as matter. Only precise observation will reveal the true attributes of form phenomena, called the Material Qualities of Matter, which are composed of the essential elements: earth, water, fire, and air — these are the true representation of form phenomena. The true elements of form phenomena allow the creation of other kinds of form. For instance, the standing form, walking form, sitting form, or sleeping form all depend upon the assembly of these essential elements to form the body. In other words, the body is made up of these four elements. Therefore, the standing, walking, sitting, or sleeping form do not truly represent a form phenomenon, since the true form of the form phenomenon is earth, water, fire, and air.
The explanation of earth, water, fire, and air elements can be found within two doctrines: one from the original Buddhist texts, and another from the Abhidhamma literature. Content in the original Buddhist texts remains the absolute core, whereas the content in the Abhidhamma literature is applicable only in the field of academia. Besides, the number of individuals who achieved enlightenment after hearing the Abhidhamma literature is not known. On the other hand, there were countless numbers of individuals who achieved enlightenment upon hearing the original Buddhist texts — this is because it represented the words of Buddha himself, his teachings and demonstrations. If we look in the Buddhist Scriptures, Buddha’s teachings mainly reside in the original Buddhist texts and Buddhist Monastic Codes. Buddha’s teaching in the canonical literature of Abhidhamma was meant for the divine beings, rather than human beings; it was the Venerable Sāriputta who clarified this teaching to educate his disciples.
“there were countless numbers of individuals who achieved enlightenment upon hearing the original Buddhist texts”
Most people achieved enlightenment by listening to the Dhamma in the original Buddhist texts, starting with the Venerable Koṇḍañña who listened to the Discourse of the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Dhamma, and with the first five disciples who all became arahants at the hearing of the Not-Self Characteristic Discourse. These discourses were written in the original Buddhist texts, not in the Abhidhamma literature. The three Kassapa brothers, all of them ascetics, combined with their followers to make a group of one thousand, and all heard the Fire Sermon Discourse — this was also written in the original Buddhist texts. Therefore, we should not underestimate their importance, since the original Buddhist texts have given rise to countless numbers of individuals who attained enlightenment. When we observe the form phenomena in accordance with the Doctrine of the original Buddhist texts, the earth element represents solid matter. For example, head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, and bones — these are part of the earth element. By contrast, blood, pus, saliva, mucus, etc. are part of the water element.
Earth and water elements are the primary elements, which coexist with other elements. Earth and water elements work in combination with the coexisting elements, one of which is the fire element. What function does the fire element serve within this combination? It serves the purpose of keeping the body warm, digesting food, enabling the deterioration and aging of the body — this is the burning heat caused by the fire element. The water element was already mentioned. The air element has an air component, which includes for instance, the air breathed in, air breathed out, air in the stomach, and air in the intestines. This is in accordance with the original Buddhist texts. However, the explanation of elements in accordance with the Abhidhamma literature is difficult to define. While to speak about it is not difficult with recitation, it is very challenging to perceive. For instance, a strand of hair is said to contain all the essential elements: earth, water, fire, and air. On the contrary, hair is only made up of earth elements as explained in the original Buddhist texts. If all these essential elements really exist in a strand of hair, how many people can actually perceive it? Thus, the original Buddhist texts should not be overlooked. Should we want to observe our bodies, we simply perceive our hair, nails, teeth, and skin as not us; they are impermanent, suppressed by suffering conditions to dissipate, and non-self. Observe repeatedly in this way. Our bodies are neither good nor special.
The Exquisite Mind
Some may find it challenging, or perhaps, do not like to observe the essential elements. Luang Por, for instance, does not enjoy observing the essential elements as it feels confined. The mind, in comparison, is more exquisite to observe than the elements — nothing is more exquisite than the mind itself. While the elements situate right here, and do not relocate, the mind transcends across the sphere of existence and cycle of rebirth indefinitely. The nature of the mind is both delicate and profound. Learning about it can feel limitless and entertaining. Nevertheless, it all depends on the intrinsic nature of each individual. Some observed head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, and skin, and realized that the observed bodies were not the representation of self; the minds that observed head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, and skin were also not the representation of self. Having acquired this wisdom, they achieved enlightenment. Alternatively, some have observed the bodies that are made up of elements, until the minds let go of the attachment to the former upon the realization that they contain no verifiable substance that can be justified. The minds that observe the bodies also contain no verifiable substance that can be justified. As a result, the mind frees itself from its attachments — those practitioners then attain the end of suffering. As shown, it all depends on your intrinsic nature and preference. Therefore, select the practice that you are comfortable and proficient with.
“select the practice that you are comfortable and proficient with.”
Personally, Luang Por does not like to observe the body. But it is alright if you want to observe it. In fact, Luang Por has taught many of the following disciples to observe the body. But how do we observe the mind? Observing the mind is not about reflecting on the mind itself, nor is it a guessing game whether the mind is currently in a state of happiness or unhappiness, whether it is decent or indecent. Instead, we must observe until we perceive the natural phenomena. The mind cannot arise all by itself; it must arise in conjunction with many of the natural phenomena that coexist with the mind. The nature of the mind itself is the Knower — the Knower of sensations. As for whether the mind is happy, unhappy, decent, or indecent, arises from the natural phenomena that incorporate with the mind at each moment of each individual mind. The things that incorporate with the mind are called mental concomitants. It sounds perplexing when there is not only the mind, but also the incorporation of mental concomitants — these are formless phenomena. While the form phenomena consist of corporeality, the formless phenomena comprise the mind and mental concomitants.
Mental Concomitants and Minds
Mental concomitants such as the feelings of happiness or unhappiness are mental factors. The feelings of happiness and unhappiness are not the mind itself, but rather the phenomena that arise in conjunction with the mind. Some minds have the feeling of happiness, while some have the feeling of unhappiness, and still others have the mental state of equanimity, whereby there is neither the feeling of happiness nor unhappiness. Therefore, happiness, unhappiness, or mental equanimity are simply the things that arise in conjunction with the mind. They are called mental concomitants. They provide the mind with different characteristics; the minds of happiness, unhappiness, or mental equanimity all have distinctive features of their own. We cannot observe the mind directly as it is the Knower by nature — there is no trace we can perceive at all, simply empty. In its very nature, the mind itself is empty, clear, and luminous. However, the transformation resulting from the mental concomitants that arise in conjunction with the minds have enabled us to distinguish one mind from another. For instance, the mind is happy because of the mental concomitant, the feeling of happiness, which arises in conjunction with the mind, or the Knower, but maintains its existence only momentarily until the mind of happiness dissipates. We cannot just observe the mind directly without relying on the observable channel provided by mental concomitants, as there is no trace to perceive.
As the feeling of happiness arises, so does the mind of happiness. When the feeling of happiness ceases, the mind of happiness also ceases — the latter arises and ceases together with the mental concomitants. The mind and mental concomitant arise and cease simultaneously. Therefore, when we want to observe our minds, we should observe via the mental concomitants. Then we will realize that one mind is distinguishable from the next; the preceding mind is the mind of happiness, whereas the current mind is in a state of mental equanimity. Or, the mind of unhappiness that existed previously is being replaced by the emergence of another mind; the mind of unhappiness ceases as the feeling of unhappiness ceases. Then the mind of mental equanimity or happiness arises to replace its predecessor. Therefore, perceiving the phenomena of the mind and mental concomitants will enable us to develop our wisdom in observing within the Doctrine of formless phenomena. In the past, Luang Por was confused when Luang Pu Dune said to observe the mind. As Luang Por was unsure about how to observe the mind, Luang Por practiced concentration by focusing all the mental effort on the mind, and keeping the Knower still, empty, and bright as it is. Luang Pu Dune witnessed the result and said that the current practice is incorrect. Mental proliferation is normal for the mind. However, you have proliferated through interventions, causing it to not think, or proliferate naturally. There is proliferation through intervention, which makes the mind still and empty without us noticing it. As we do not realize the changes in our minds, they remain stable. So, if we observe the mind directly, we will not realize the truth of the Three Marks of Existence since the mind will only remain empty and bright.
“In its very nature, the mind itself is empty, clear, and luminous”
From the mental state mentioned above, some of the Brahma divinities formed a misconception that the mind is permanent. This is because only one kind of mind, which belongs to these divinities, arises continually over a long span of time. For instance, when their mind is in a state of happiness, it remains in this state for a long-standing period — up to ten thousand years, a hundred thousand years, or even a million years. As the Brahma divinities live a long life, they have formed the wrong view that the mind is a permanent and immortal self. The notion that the mind is a permanent self has led to the view that is fundamentally wrong. If we understand how to observe the mind that arises and ceases in conjunction with the mental concomitant, we can realize that the mind arises and ceases all the time — it is impermanent. The mind cannot maintain its existence at any given state for a prolonged period of time. This is called the suppression by suffering conditions to dissipate. For example, when the mind is in the state of happiness, it is suppressed to dissipate and cannot prolong its existence. This also applies to the mind in a state of unhappiness, which is suppressed to dissipate, and must eventually cease. In addition, whether the mind is in the state of happiness or unhappiness, whether the feeling of happiness will arise or cease from the mind, it is not within the control of the mind — this is called the realization of non-self.
“the mind arises and ceases all the time”
Hence, we perceive the mind and mental concomitant as they work together — this is what we should practice observing. There is no need to observe the mind, since it cannot be discovered or traced. Instead, we should focus our practice on observing the mental concomitants. How exactly do we observe? Well, we cannot simply use our eyes to perceive it, because all the mental concomitants belong in the department of the formless phenomena — they have no observable form, but have characters, behaviors, and expressions.
Be Conscious, Feel It
For many different types of feelings, observing the mind or mental concomitants involves becoming aware of it. Like when the feeling of happiness arises, we only need to be conscious of the feeling of happiness that arises in the present moment. Similarly, when the feeling of unhappiness arises, we are conscious of the feeling of unhappiness that arises. How can we be conscious of ourselves as we are happy or unhappy? We can be conscious by feeling it. If right now we are happy, unhappy, or in a state of mental equanimity, then we can be conscious of these sensations by feeling it. Existence of the formless phenomena can be recognized through the use of feeling, by the mind which is the Knower, the one that actually feels. We should be mindful of the mental concomitants — maintain consciousness of the feeling of happiness, unhappiness, or mental equanimity as it arises and falls. Practice observing and feeling it. Devote ourselves to the present moment by being conscious of whether there is a feeling of happiness, unhappiness, or mental equanimity — the practice of observing the mental concomitants and formless phenomena is this easy and simple.
“our thoughts will not provide the answer that we seek. Instead, we must feel it.”
The mental concomitants do not only consist of happiness, unhappiness, or mental equanimity alone — these are only a group of mental concomitants called sensations. We will leave conceptualization for now, since it is difficult to observe. Instead, we can observe the conditioned phenomena of which there are many. Conditioned phenomena refers to the proliferation of good, bad, and neutral — all kinds of proliferation. An excellent example is anger, which occurs on a regular basis. There is no need to keep asking ourselves whether we are currently angry or not; we only need to feel whether we are currently angry or not. Maintain consciousness in this way, in a relaxed mood, without overthinking it. Being conscious of the mental concomitants or formless phenomena is not achieved by thinking, since our thoughts will not provide the answer that we seek. Instead, we must feel it. When we feel angry, we should be conscious of the angriness that is currently taking place within ourselves. If we have a feeling of greed, love, or lust for instance, simply be conscious of these sensations as they truly and currently present. By continuing to practice our consciousness, it will help us familiarize with the natural phenomena of the formless realm — when happiness or unhappiness arises, we are conscious of it. As we frequently practice our consciousness, this will provide us with faster recollection; when happiness, unhappiness, or anger arises, the mindfulness is promptly conscious of these sensations that have arisen.
The practice of observing the phenomenon is not about using our eyes to observe. Instead, it is about using our feelings in order to be conscious of it. When we feel relieved, be conscious of the fact that we are feeling relieved. Alternatively, when we feel depressed, be conscious of the fact that we are feeling depressed. As we use feeling, we will then realize that our feelings change all day long, inconstant — this is the point where we start to develop our practice to the level of Vipassanā. Therefore, perceiving phenomena is the first step. The phenomena in the formless realm cannot be perceived with our eyes, but we can perceive it with our feelings — feeling it with our minds, as it is the mind that feels. We use our feelings when the mind is angry. Simply be conscious of the fact that the mind is angry, or is no longer angry. Likewise, we should perceive greed and mental distraction as they arise and cease. Practice observing all kinds of phenomena. Although, the term “observe” is not exactly correct compared to actually feeling it. Feeling all the phenomena that currently exist, or have only just ceased — this is not difficult.
The Nature of Mental Concomitants
In the beginning, Luang Por was confused when reading the Abhidhamma literature. At the time, Luang Pu Dune had already approved of Luang Por’s practice, which was at a satisfactory level. Nevertheless, Luang Por was still confused when reading the Abhidhamma literature. It mentioned the Absolute Truth about the natural phenomena. This aroused curiosity as to what the natural phenomena was really about. One day, while listening to the radio, or listening to something that Luang Por cannot really remember, it was simply put: anger is an example of natural phenomena. Upon hearing that anger is a natural phenomenon, Luang Por instantly understood how the natural phenomena in the formless realm came to be, as well as how it can be recognized. Hatred, greed, and delusion arise in conjunction with the mind. They are called mental concomitants, similar to happiness, unhappiness, and mental equanimity which also arise in conjunction with the mind. There are many more things that arise in conjunction with the mind, as they are collectively called mental concomitants that consist of 52 kinds. One of these 52 kinds of mental concomitants represents sensations, of which are divided into a group of three: happiness, unhappiness, and mental equanimity. Conceptualization represents another kind of mental concomitant. The other 50 kinds are called conditioned phenomena.
“Hatred, greed, and delusion arise in conjunction with the mind.”
Therefore, most of the mental concomitants are the conditioned phenomena. To be precise, they are the products of mental proliferation by the mind. The mind proliferates the good, the bad, the neutral, merit, demerit, Dhamma that is neither merit or demerit, and Dhamma that arises in conjunction with merit or demerit — it is truly exquisite. We do not have to recognize all these 50 kinds of conditioned phenomena, since some of them we have not acquired. For instance, if we cannot develop meditative absorption (jhāna), especially Absorptions of the Formless Sphere, then the mental concomitants in the category of Absorption of the Formless Sphere are omitted. There are the mental concomitants belonging to the category of sensual pleasures that we all recognize. We should patiently investigate the mind belonging to the category of sensual pleasures, such as the mind of anger, greed, delusion, distraction, and depression. The mind of faith, effort, mindfulness, and wisdom represent a decent group. Concentration is a mental concomitant that can arise in conjunction with the mind that is decent or indecent. Concentration arises with all kinds of mind, some of which are decent, and some indecent. To clarify, if it arises in conjunction with the mental concomitant of an indecent kind, then they assemble to form the mind that is likewise indecent. The mental concomitant existing with the mind does not exist one at a time. Instead, there are many mental concomitants that exist together. In a single moment within the mind, there are many mental concomitants that arise, collaborate, and support one another. However, we do not need to panic, since we can observe the ones that are simple.
“it is about knowing rather than thinking”
This is what Buddha has taught in the original Buddhist texts. If we studied in the ways of Abhidhamma literature, this will give us headaches, as it only serves the purpose of reciting for examinations rather than in dealing with the defilements. Thus, we should observe in the ways presented by the original Buddhist texts. How exactly do we observe the mind? Buddha has already taught us, “Behold, O monks, when the mind has greed, simply know that there is greed; when the mind is absent of greed, then know that greed is absent.” In this way, observing is easy, not difficult at all. “Behold, O monks, when the mind has hatred, simply know that there is hatred; when the mind is absent of hatred, then know that hatred is absent.” How do we know when the mind has hatred? We feel it when we are currently angry, or when we are no longer angry. We feel as we know it with our feelings. Therefore, Buddha used the word “know.” When the mind has greed, simply know that there is greed — it is about knowing rather than thinking. Hence, when it comes to the development of wisdom, we just know, feel, and be conscious of the observed phenomenon, and then later, it presents us with the truth of the Three Marks of Existence.
When the mind of happiness consisting of greed arises, we can realize that the current mind has the presence of greed and happiness, and is a demerit. Sometimes when the mind has greed, it also has the feeling of happiness. Therefore, when the mind has the feeling of happiness, it can be a merit, as well as a demerit. The mind with the desire to listen to a Dhamma sermon, perhaps through faith, and the mind that is buoyant from listening to Dhamma — this is when the mind has the feeling of happiness, but the sort of happiness where the mind is meritorious. It arises in conjunction with other mental concomitants from the merit standpoint, such as having faith, effort, mindfulness, and perseverance. We should remain mindful and practice our consciousness of phenomena. There is no need to know in delicate details about what Luang Por has just explained. But, as we continue to practice, we will later develop the consciousness of those delicate details naturally. It will become apparent that any single mind consists of numerous mental concomitants. Nonetheless, when we study in the practical field of Dhamma, we should rely on simple methods as taught by Buddha. When the mind has greed, simply know that there is greed; when the mind is absent of greed, then know that greed is absent. When the mind has hatred, simply know that there is hatred; when the mind is absent of hatred, then know that hatred is absent. When the mind has delusion, simply know that there is delusion; when the mind is absent of delusion, and not wandered off, or slipped away elsewhere, then know that delusion is absent. Be conscious of oneself. When the mind is conscious of itself, simply know that the mind is conscious of itself; when the mind wanders off and is absent of consciousness, then know that the mind has wandered off.
Eight Kinds of Mind
When it comes to the practice of observing, we should actually observe in a simple way such as this. There is no need to observe what the mental concomitants consist of at the moment. Even the Venerable Sāriputta, who possessed a high level of wisdom and intelligence, could not count all the mental concomitants. In the Realm of neither Perception nor Non-perception, the Venerable Sāriputta said that he could not count them all — only with wisdom from the enlightenment of Buddha can this be achieved. Since it is extremely delicate, the Venerable Sāriputta could only count some of them. Thus, we are definitely outclassed in this area when compared to the Venerable Sāriputta, as we do not even come close to a fraction of his capabilities. We should not be greedy. Follow what Buddha has already taught us. We can practice it easily: when the mind is distracted, be conscious of the distraction; when the mind is depressed, be conscious of the depression. It is very simple, since there are eight kinds of mind that are easy to observe. The mind with greed and the mind absent of greed already count as two. The mind with hatred, the mind absent of hatred, the mind with delusion, the mind absent of delusion, the mind with distraction, and the mind with depression altogether make a total of eight. Another eight kinds of mind are for those who develop meditative absorption. The mind with access concentration, the mind without access concentration, and the mind with fixed concentration — these are more challenging to observe than previous examples. We do not have to adopt such practices. Rather, we should practice on what we have and are capable of achieving.
“Follow what Buddha has already taught us.”
People in our generations do not tend to acquire meditative absorption. Therefore, we should observe the first eight kinds of mind. Patiently observe the first eight kinds of mind, knowing them with feeling. When the mind of hatred is present, know that there is hatred; when the mind of greed is present, know that there is greed; when the mind of delusion is present, know that there is delusion; when the mind is absent of hatred, know that hatred is absent; when the mind is now absent of greed, know that greed which was previously present is now no longer present. Observe in this way. The mind with greed, hatred, and delusion will arise prior to the rise of mindfulness. Mindfulness then causes the rise of the mind that is absent of greed, hatred, and delusion that replaces its predecessor. They arise in pairs. When mindfulness recognizes the arising of the mind of hatred, the mind of hatred dissipates, allowing the Knower mind that arises to replace it. They are represented in pairs. Therefore, when we learn Dhamma, we should learn in pairs. It is sufficient to learn only one pair. Learn any pair that exists frequently. For instance, if someone is calm and never gets angry, smiling all day despite being shouted at, then meditation practice by observing the mind of hatred is not recommended since there is nothing to observe. In contrast, those who are moody should observe the mind with anger since they are frequently angry or irritated. Continue to observe, and it will soon be evident.
Enlightenment through Mindfulness and Wisdom
“everything that arises, ceases”
The mind and anger are natural phenomena that arise and cease together. As they cease, a new kind of mind arises that is absent of anger with the presence of mindfulness. The absence of hatred is a kind of phenomenon. When hatred ceases as a result of a rise in mindfulness, the absence of hatred arises instead to replace it. Observe closely and continually, no matter how many thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands, or million times — this all depends on how strong our spiritual faculties are. If our spiritual faculties are strong, especially the wisdom faculty, we can realize Dhamma with just a few observations. The mind instantly realizes: everything that arises, ceases. It will become apparent that it is not greed which arises and ceases. Rather, everything that arises, ceases. This is the sort of insight we obtain. Therefore, the practice of Dhamma is about perceiving phenomena. To perceive the form phenomena, we must perceive their real form, and recognize their true form. Some kinds of form can be known with the mind. For instance, we can be conscious of a moving form even though our eyes are shut, as we know it with our minds. However, the forms representing the Primary Elements are extremely difficult to observe. Earth, fire, and air elements can be known through the body contact, whereas the water element is known by the mind. This is in accordance with the school of Abhidhamma literature.
On the other hand, according to the school of original Buddhist texts, we can even be conscious of our saliva when we see it or hold it in our mouth. We can feel it, and it can be felt. Observe as much as we are capable of observing. In other words, observe in accordance with the original Buddhist texts, in the way ordinary people like us can observe. To observe according to the Abhidhamma literature is very challenging. As mentioned earlier, a strand of hair contains earth, fire, water, and air elements in a whole package. But what degree of mindfulness, wisdom, and concentration does someone really need to have in order for them to perceive this. Thus, it is more than sufficient to perceive only what was taught by Buddha in the original Buddhist texts. This has led to the achievement of enlightenment and the realization of nibbāna for most individuals. This is what we should be learning from. Some parts of the materials in the original Buddhist texts were provided directly from Buddha himself. Some were provided by close disciples who shared their lessons received from Buddha. And some were provided by the disciples who shared their own realizations in the First Buddhist Council, which was approved by the attending arahants. In the Tipiṭaka, there are many discourses of Dhamma from the arahants, which was approved by the arahant community as inherently true. Those from a later generation, who lack even the qualities to become a sotāpanna (Steam-Enterer), should not doubt the validity of the materials provided by the arahants in the Tipiṭaka since it is beyond their current positions to criticize.
“we should study not only from the words of Buddha himself, but also from his disciples”
Therefore, we should study not only from the words of Buddha himself, but also from his disciples, since they have collected and compiled enough materials that are excellent in their own right. In reality, all materials in the Tipiṭaka did not come directly from the words of Buddha himself. Rather, it was what his disciples recalled and decided to include in the First Buddhist Council. Hence, the Tipiṭaka was created by the disciples from their experiences listening to Buddha, as well as from other disciples whose stories were approved by the council and can be found in the Tipiṭaka. We should patiently study it, learning the easy part rather than the difficult one. If we observe earth, water, fire, and air, then we should really observe what the earth element constitutes: head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, and bones. However, bone marrow is no longer within our perception, but only by our thoughts — we can set this aside. Focus on what we can actually perceive, such as water in our body. Do you know what kind of water we are talking about? We always urinate and have saliva, do we not? Or when we shed blood from a knife cut — this represents a water element. Blood, plasma, pus, and urine are all water elements.
Not a Human, Animal, Self, or Someone Else
“Dhamma is right in front of us.”
Observe attentively as to why we call them elements. It is because they are not human, animals, or self. If anyone perceives urine as self, they should quickly consult the therapists. What element does feces represent? Earth, of course, since it is solid. Some argue that it is sometimes liquid rather than solid. Well, do not be so demanding, as it will solidify later. We should observe elements we can actually perceive. Observe closely to realize that they are not human, animals, self, or someone else. Does anyone ever perceive head hair as a self? When our hair is still attached to our heads, we feel that it is part of ourselves, correct? However, when it is cut off, shaved off, or fallen off it no longer represents us. No one perceives head hair as a human, animal, self, or someone else. Perceiving this would imply that a person is a lunatic.
Don’t you agree that Dhamma is really this easy? Those opposing Dhamma are lunatics. Dhamma is right in front of us. Is a tooth a human, animal, self, or someone else? When a tooth is pulled out, it is clearly not a human, animal, self, or someone else. Observe head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, and skin as they are — not a human, animal, self, or someone else. Continue observing in this way. It is alright to use our thoughts to lead the practice in the beginning. Later, we will start to feel it instead. Can you see that it eventually comes down to feeling? Feeling the existence of elements, which are earth, water, fire, and air. Feel it as it becomes apparent that they do not represent a human, animal, self, or someone else. Realize this with our mindfulness and wisdom when we no longer feel it with our bodies. At the start, we know that solidity implies the representation of the earth element. However, when mindfulness and wisdom arise, we are conscious of this representation with our minds. To clarify, the mind perceives the truth that earth, water, fire, and air elements are not the representation of a human, animal, self, or someone else. The mind with mindfulness and wisdom realizes the truth that all mental concomitants, and all kinds of minds arise, exist, and cease — they are impermanent, suppressed by suffering conditions to dissipate, non-self, and not the representation of a human, animal, self, or someone else.
“the mind itself only has one distinctive feature; it is the Knower of sensations”
For instance, we can perceive that anger arises, exists, and ceases. We do not perceive that anger is the representation of a human, animal, self, or someone else. Patiently observe the mind that arises in conjunction with anger; they arise momentarily. When anger ceases, so does the mind of anger, as they arise and cease together. The mind of anger and anger itself arise and cease together, in the same way as the mind of greed and greed. Be conscious and observe closely, relying on our observations of the arising and ceasing of mental concomitants. The mental concomitants have many distinctive features of their own. It is these distinctions that will help us differentiate from one phenomenon to another. However, the mind itself only has one distinctive feature; it is the Knower of sensations. Therefore, we cannot directly observe the difference between one mind and another. Instead, we must rely on the mental concomitants.
Practice Vigorously, Observe Continually, Achieve Equanimity
We observe phenomena and perceive that those phenomena are real. As we observe continually, we will realize the truth that they do not represent a human, animal, self, or someone else. Practice vigorously until we become proficient at it. Sometimes, we may feel neglected, heartbroken, or let down. If we have been faithful to our practices, we will realize that the feelings of being neglected, heartbroken, or let down are not ours, but rather the mental concomitants — they are merely the kinds of feeling that arise. Once we realize this, they cease, and our minds enter the state of mental equanimity. Later, when we are good at being conscious of the feelings that arise, our minds will be indifferent, immediately achieving a state of mental equanimity. By practicing regularly, the mind will enter the state of mental equanimity, and will not become content by the influence from the feeling of happiness. Similarly, the mind will remain in the state of mental equanimity when the feeling of unhappiness arises, and will not become discontented. The same applies to when the mind remains in the state of mental equanimity as merit arises; the former does not become content by the influence of the latter. Likewise, when demerit, greed, hatred, and delusion arise, the mind remains in the state of mental equanimity and does not become discontented.
“the Noble Paths and Fruits emerge on their own”
The mind that transcends beyond the realm of contentment and discontentment is a stable mind, which is empty. It is precisely where the Noble Paths and Fruits emerge. The mind concentrates inward to eliminate the wrong view and rectify it. During this time, rectification happens in the meditative absorption. There is no need to panic if we do not know how to enter meditative absorption. All we need is to continue developing our mindfulness and wisdom, by observing all the phenomena as they arise and cease. When the time is ripe, our minds will enter meditative absorption automatically, and this is where the Noble Paths and Fruits emerge on their own. No one can order the mind to achieve the Noble Paths and Fruits, as they arise independently when we have completely fulfilled our precepts, concentration, and wisdom. We should practice diligently using this method every day.
Crisis and Opportunity
we will overcome this with the stable and purposeful minds.
Now we must stay and work from home, despite feeling very bored. We may want to travel and change our atmospheres, but it is not possible since it is inconvenient. As a result, we feel frustrated. When this happens, we should be conscious of our minds that are feeling frustrated. This will enable us to perceive that the feeling and the mind are separated. The mind is the Knower, whereas the feeling of frustration is only the mental concomitant that arises in conjunction with the mind. As soon as we are conscious of it, our minds with the feelings of frustration cease, and the minds which are luminous arise instead. Hence, the times we need to be secluded provide wonderful opportunities for us to stay and learn more about ourselves. However, sometimes working from home is not possible, as for those working as undertakers. They cannot ignore the deceased with the excuse of working from home. For monks, it is possible. If someone dies in the future, we can use teleconferences for a long distant chanting. Soon enough, we should develop into this stage. As monks chant every morning, they will develop the tricks of recording and replaying video, thereby allowing them to rest and work from home. Therefore, some things are currently feasible, while some things are not. Nonetheless, we should take every opportunity we have as we live with ourselves. Do not keep getting bored. Since we already live with ourselves, we should learn about ourselves as much as we can so that we will obtain something valuable to bring along with us wherever we go.
Alright, it has been forty minutes today. That is quite enough. At the moment, laypeople are no longer permitted to hear the sermon from outside the temple. We would like to announce that, as of now, the temple is really closed. Nevertheless, if laypeople wish to make food offerings, they are welcome to do so. But please pass them on to the temple personnel, and they will handle the rest. We must comply with the new restrictions to first help resolve the challenges facing our nation. No matter what it takes, we will overcome this with the stable and purposeful minds. Whenever suffering arises, we have to endure rather than complain. Persevere through it, while having self-discipline.
Wat Suan Santidham
1 May 2021