Taking Refuge

in Buddhism

Sujin Boriharnwanaket


published by zolag • London



Chapter 2

Confidence in the Buddha’s Teachings

Discussion in Battambang (Part Two)

Buth Sawong: The listeners have questions about akusala kamma. The citta cannot think of akusala kamma, unwholesome deeds, which have been performed many lives ago. We do not know which akusala kammas we have performed in former lives, but the tendency to akusala has been accumulated, it has become stronger and stronger.  What can we do to overcome these accumulated tendencies to akusala?

Sujin: At the attainment of Buddhahood, the Buddha realized the truth of Dhamma by his wisdom which eradicated defilements completely. His teaching is different from all other teachings and methods. The highest degree of wisdom taught by other religions and philosophies is only the degree which can temporarily subdue defilements. Defilements can only be completely eradicated by paññå, wisdom, developed through satipaììhåna, which is actually the development of right understanding of the eightfold Path 15 . Only the Buddha has taught this Path, there is no other way leading to the eradication of defilements.

Bhikkhu: I can develop this Path sometimes, but I want to

develop it thoroughly and reach the goal. I do not know

how many lives it will take to reach the goal. I have listened

to lectures about vipassanå, the development of insight,

and I have heard that through insight clinging and the

15 The development of satipaììhåna or the development of the eightfold

Path is the development of right understanding of nåma and rúpa by mindfulness of them when they appear at the present moment.

other defilements can be eradicated. The eradication of.28•Taking Refuge in Buddhism defilements is most important, but it is extremely difficult, not only for laypeople but also for bhikkhus.

Sujin: The venerable bhikkhu said that the eradication of defilements is difficult, no matter it concerns bhikkhus or laypeople. It is only paññå which can eradicate defilements.  If paññå does not arise it is impossible to eradicate them.  Through the accumulation of wisdom together with all the other perfections 16 the Bodhisatta could in his last life, at the attainment of enlightenment, become an omniscient Buddha. Therefore, everyone who is sincerely interested in the Dhamma and who is motivated to study it, should realize that the development of paññå is of the highest benefit.  Without paññå it is impossible to eradicate defilements, and if someone who does not develop paññå believes that he can eradicate them, he is utterly deluded. Each person has accumulated many defilements during countless lives, they are accumulated from the past on to this present life, and in this life from the moment of birth until now. However, we should not be discouraged because of this. If we listen to the Dhamma and there is more understanding of it, we can very gradually learn to investigate the characteristics of the realities which appear. This is the way leading to the realization of the truth that dhamma is dhamma, not “I”, mine or self.

When someone begins to listen to the Dhamma and sees

that the Dhamma is a most difficult subject, he should not

become disheartened. If people, instead of being discouraged,

begin to develop paññå, they will see that what at first

seemed most complicated gradually becomes clearer. The

development of right understanding in daily life can become

one’s habitual inclination and eventually one will be able to

16 The perfections are: generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom,

energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, loving kindness and equanimity.

fully develop it..•29

Buth Sawong: The listeners say that while they are listening to the Dhamma their minds are occupied with the Dhamma, and there is understanding of it. However, when they have finished listening they are distracted, they are absorbed in other things. What should they do in order to cause the citta to be firm and steady with regard to what is wholesome, to be intent on the Dhamma all the time?

Sujin: This is not possible all the time. However, the citta can gradually become more intent on the Dhamma, depending on one’s understanding and confidence. The person who has understanding of the Dhamma will not be forgetful of what he has heard, he will ponder over it and consider it. If he has free time he may be inclined to read the scriptures. When he wakes up in the morning he may still think of the Dhamma he has heard. He may, for example, remember what he heard about rúpas of the body. When he touches hardness he can remember that tangible object is not self, not a being, not a person. No matter whether we are asleep or awake, sit, lie down, stand or walk, there is the body; the body is right at hand. There are rúpas of the body appearing whenever we touch what is hard or soft. If someone has firm remembrance of the Dhamma he has heard, and if he has accumulated confidence and the other “spiritual faculties”, indriyas 17 , there are the right conditions for the arising of mindfulness. Sati can be directly aware of the characteristics of realities which are appearing at the present moment. Then he understands that the dhammas, the realities which are appearing, are not abstract categories.

Citta, cetasika and rúpa, all realities which are explained in

the Tipiìaka, are appearing now. The truth of Dhamma

17 These are the wholesome cetasikas of confidence, energy,

mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. They are “indriyas”or controlling faculties, they can “control” the defilements which are their opposites.

pertains to this very moment..30•Taking Refuge in Buddhism As paññå develops there can be awareness and investigation of the characteristics of realities and in this way they will be seen more clearly. However, if people cling to paññå it cannot be developed. When we have listened to the Dhamma we acquire more understanding of it, and then, in accordance with what we have learnt about realities, sati can be aware of the characteristics of realities which appear. Some people have a great deal of understanding whereas others do not have much understanding, depending on the extent they have listened to the Dhamma and considered it. Listening to the Dhamma, intellectual understanding of it and pondering over it, these are conditions which support the arising of sati, and in this way the truth about realities can be understood more clearly. However, we should not be negligent with regard to the development of understanding.  We should remember that the Buddha in countless former lives as a Bodhisatta had to accumulate the “perfections”.  In his last life during which he attained enlightenment, he was a human being, just like all of us who are sitting here.  He was seeing visible object through the eyes, hearing sound through the ears and thinking of different things; he was not all the time thinking of the Dhamma. However, he needed to know the true nature of seeing while he was seeing, he needed to know the true nature of hearing while he was hearing. He needed to know these phenomena as they are because they are realities. After seeing and hearing there are like and dislike of what has been seen and heard, and these are also realities which should be known as they are.

The Buddha knew that it is extremely difficult to know the true nature of phenomena such as seeing or hearing, which are realities occurring time and again, in daily life. We could reduce our life to just one moment, because life actually occurs during one moment of citta which experiences an object and is then gone. However, if one is not a Bodhisatta.•31 one is absorbed in thinking for a long time about what appears just for a moment through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the bodysense or the mind. The Bodhisatta was altogether different from us who are time and again infatuated with what we experience. Since he knew that the way leading to enlightenment was extremely difficult, he accumulated patience, energy and the other perfections, which were necessary conditions to attain Buddhahood. He had endless endurance and he did not become disheartened while he accumulated the perfections with the purpose to penetrate the truth of realities and to be able to teach other beings, so that they also could become free from dukkha just like he himself.

Everybody here has the opportunity to listen to the Dhamma which the Buddha realized at the attainment of enlighten-ment and which he taught to others as well. You do not need to accumulate the perfections to the extent the Buddha accumulated them for the attainment of Buddhahood, but you can listen to the Dhamma and practise the way the Buddha has shown us.

Listening to the Dhamma, listening intently, is an essential condition for the arising of paññå, there is no other method to develop paññå. If people are listening only superficially they are not really listening to the Dhamma. They may call listening what is not really listening, because what they hear goes in at one ear and out at the other; there is no understanding of what they heard. Listening to the Dhamma is actually paying careful attention to what one hears and pondering over it with understanding. It is most important to remember that listening also means applying what one hears. It is not enough to have only theoretical understanding of what one hears, but one should also practise what the Buddha taught.

Buth Sawong: The venerable bhikkhu says that he has listened

already but that he now wants to really practise the Dhamma..32•Taking Refuge in Buddhism

However, he has many different tasks to accomplish with

regard to the Order of monks, and because of his work his

citta is distracted. He has no opportunity to sit quietly,

alone. He has listened to the Dhamma and he has understood

what he has heard, but he has no leisure time. He wonders

whether there is only one way of practice or more than

one, depending on one’s way of life. A monk has a way of

life which is different from the life of laypeople. He

understands that laypeople can practise the Dhamma, but

he, as a bhikkhu, has many tasks to do which make it

difficult to practise. Since he himself is still young he has a

lot of work to do. When he is older he will have more

leisure time for the practice.

Sujin: The venerable bhikkhu said that he had listened to the Dhamma already, but, our listening is never enough.  Even the arahats in the Buddha’s time continued to listen to the Dhamma. The Buddha taught the Dhamma for fortyfive years with the purpose to help people to understand the Truth. We may have listened for a long time, but if we do not come to understand the characteristics of the realities which are appearing, we have not listened long enough yet.  It would be better, instead of wanting to practise, to begin to understand the characteristics of the realities appearing at this very moment. We may wish to have no more defilements, but can defilements be eradicated at all if we do not listen to the Dhamma and understand as they are the characteristics of the realities which are appearing?  As regards the venerable bhikkhu’s remark about his lack of free time for the practice, not only monks but also laymen have many tasks to fulfil; also many laymen complain that they have no leisure time for the practice. However, the practice of the Dhamma does not depend on the amount of free time one has. Just now, while we are sitting here, there are realities appearing. There are seeing and hearing, and these are real. Also when we are doing our work there.•33 are realities appearing. We cannot select a particular time for the understanding of this or that reality. It is necessary to develop paññå which understands the realities which are appearing in daily life, until there is complete understanding of them. In this way ignorance, doubt and wrong view of self can be eradicated.

Buth Sawong: Some listeners ask how to apply the mind so that they have true confidence in the Buddhist teachings.  Sujin: If people do not understand the Dhamma they cannot have true confidence in the Buddha’s teachings. People may just repeat the words they have heard about the Buddha, namely, that he was the most excellent person who eradicated all defilements completely. However, if they do not understand what defilements are, where and when they arise, and how they can be eradicated, they do not know what real confidence in the fully Enlightened One really means. Thus, how could confidence arise? When there is true confidence, there can be the firm conviction that the Buddha is the Enlightened One, the Perfect One, who has taught the Dhamma for fortyfive years in order to help all beings. If someone has firm confidence in the wisdom of the Buddha, he will be inclined to listen to the Dhamma, to study it and to ponder over it, he will develop the wisdom which leads to the realization of the four noble Truths 18 which the Buddha has taught.

Buth Sawong: Some of the listeners still wonder how to apply the mind, citta and cetasikas, so that they have firm, unshakable confidence in the Buddha’s teachings.

18 The Truth of dukkha, the Truth of the origination of dukkha, which is

craving, the Truth of the cessation of dukkha, which is nibbåna, and the Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of dukkha. Dukkha or suffering is in this context the unsatisfactoriness due to the impermanence of conditioned realities.

19 At the attainment of enlightenment the lokuttara citta, supramundane

Sujin: This happens when the lokuttara magga-citta 19 and.34•Taking Refuge in Buddhism the accompanying cetasikas of the sotåpanna, who attains the first stage of enlightenment, arise. Then there is the taking of refuge in the Triple Gem with unshakable confidence due to his realization of the truth of realities.  The ordinary person who has not attained enlightenment cannot take refuge in the Triple Gem with unshakable confidence, since he has not yet penetrated the truth of realities. He has not yet realized the truth that the realities appearing at this moment are non-self, that they are arising and falling away, as the Buddha has taught. So long as he has not penetrated the four noble Truths it is still possible for him to change to another belief.

Buth Sawong: I would like to ask once more how to develop the mind, citta and cetasikas, so that there is no longer confusion, no more inclination to change one’s belief. At this moment a great variety of beliefs are propagated in Cambodia. I do not want to become confused and drift away from Buddhism, I want to have firm confidence in Buddhism.

Sujin: As I said before, there is the taking of refuge in the Triple Gem with unshakable confidence at the moment the lokuttara citta arises and this is the condition that one will not change anymore to another belief. Before someone can take his refuge in the Triple Gem in such a way, however, he should have confidence in the Buddha’s wisdom, and for this confidence he does not only depend on the cetasika saddhå, confidence, but also on other sobhana (beautiful)

citta, arises which experiences nibbåna. There are four stages of

enlightenment and at these stages defilements are progressively

eradicated. These stages are: the stage of the sotåpanna or

streamwinner, the stage of the sakadågåmí or once-returner, the stage of the anågåmí or non-returner, and the stage of the arahat, the perfected one, who has eradicated all defilements. At each stage there is the arising of the magga-citta or path-consciousness which eradicates defilements, and the phala-citta or fruition-consciousness, which is the vipåkacitta or result, produced by the magga-citta.

cetasikas, such as paññå, understanding. If there is just.•35 confidence without any understanding, someone’s belief in the truth of Buddhism cannot be well-founded.

The Buddhists who feel that they have already confidence in the Buddhist teachings want to pay respect to the Buddha, recite texts and perform their usual tasks as Buddhists.

However, they should also listen to the Dhamma and consider

what they heard. The more they listen, the more will they

understand the wisdom of the Buddha. The Buddha taught

the true Dhamma, which everybody can immediately verify,

without delay..36•Taking Refuge in Buddhism.•37

Chapter 3

The Meaning of Dhamma

Second Discussion in Battambang

Buth Sawong: How do we have to practise according to the four Applications of Mindfulness?

Sujin: People often ask how they should practise satipaììhåna.  Also in Thailand people ask this question. Instead of asking how one should practise and wondering about it, one should, from the beginning, have right understanding of realities, of paramattha dhammas. At this moment we are seeing and hearing; these are realities and, as the Buddha taught, they are non-self. Seeing is just one moment of citta which arises because of conditions and then falls away. One should, instead of wondering how one should practise, understand the realities which appear at this moment. We should understand that seeing is dhamma, hearing is dhamma, thinking is dhamma, smelling is dhamma, tasting is dhamma.  Everything is dhamma, dhamma is never lacking. Does paññå know already the characteristics of the dhammas as they are? People should not try to practise in an unnatural way, but they should develop right understanding which knows more and more the characteristics of the realities which are appearing naturally, in daily life.

Buth Sawong: What exactly are dhammas?

Sujin: The word “dhamma” refers to everything which is

real. In Påli the word “sacca-dhamma”20 , true dhamma, is

also used, and this word designates that which is real. At

this moment there is seeing, and this is real. Therefore,

20 sacca means real or true.

seeing is sacca-dhamma, true dhamma. Hearing is also sacca-.38•Taking Refuge in Buddhism

dhamma, true dhamma. At this moment there is sacca-dhamma or dhamma, but when there is ignorance, dhammas are not known. The Buddha, at the attainment of enlightenment, penetrated each kind of dhamma, he realized their true nature. He understood that there are only realities which arise because of their appropriate conditions and which are not a being, not a person, not self. However, so long as we have not understood realities as they are, we cling to the wrong view of “I am seeing”, “I am hearing”, and we cling to the rúpas of the body as “my body”.

Buth Sawong: Some people think that our ordinary life at this moment is not dhamma. Is this correct?

Sujin: If this moment is not dhamma, what is then dhamma?  Buth Sawong: Everything which is seen or heard, no matter it is alive or not, is dhamma.

Sujin: This is right, and all dhammas are anattå. We read in the Dhammapada (vs. 277-279, Khuddaka Nikåya):

All conditioned realities are impermanent.

All conditioned realities are dukkha.

All dhammas are anattå



This shows us that everything, nothing excluded, is dhamma, a reality which is non-self. The characteristic of hardness, for example, is dhamma. Can anybody cause the arising of hardness? There isn’t anybody who can cause its arising. It arises because of its appropriate conditions. All phenomena which are real are dhammas.

Buth Sawong: What is the meaning of the penetration of the true nature of dhammas?

21 “All dhammas” include conditioned realities and also the

unconditioned reality, nibbåna.

Sujin: At this moment realities are appearing. Before we are.The Meaning of Dhamma•39 able to penetrate the true nature of dhammas, we should know, one at a time, the characteristics of realities which we are used to taking for self. The understanding of dhammas is conditioned by listening, studying and considering. In this way we will know that there are two kinds of realities: nåma dhamma, the reality which knows or experiences something, and rúpa dhamma, the reality which does not experience anything. Seeing, for example, is the reality which experiences what appears through the eyes, whereas that which appears through the eyes, visible object, does not know anything. When paññå clearly understands the characteristics of nåma dhamma and rúpa dhamma as only realities which are non-self, it will realize later on their arising and falling away and it will penetrate the four noble Truths.

Buth Sawong: I know that all realities are not self, not a being, not a person. I know that everything with consciousness and without it is impermanent, but I would like to know what the realization of the four noble Truths means. Is knowing that realities are impermanent and dukkha the realization of the four noble Truths?

Sujin: Knowing these things is not yet the penetration of the four noble Truths.

Buth Sawong: Knowing that all realities which are dukkha are non-self, is that right understanding of the truth?

Sujin: Is there understanding of dukkha now, while you are sitting here? What is it that understands dukkha now? In other words, is there at this moment sati, is there the development of the eightfold Path? If sati does not arise, can it be understood that the reality which is seeing is nåma, and that it arises and falls away, that it is impermanent?  Buth Sawong: What are the conditions for the arising of sukha, happiness, and dukkha, suffering?

Sujin: No matter whether a person is Cambodian or Thai,.40•Taking Refuge in Buddhism no matter where he lives, or whether he is rich or poor, so long as he has defilements he will have dukkha. Because of lobha, attachment, dosa, aversion, and moha, ignorance, he is worried and oppressed, and thus he is bound to suffer.  There isn’t anybody who is really happy and peaceful unless he has become an arahat who has eradicated all defilements and who, when he passes away, attains final nibbåna. The arahat will not be reborn and thus there will not be anymore dukkha for him.

I appreciate very much the interest in the Dhamma shown by you, my Cambodian brothers and sisters. Your kusala in the past conditions your interest in listening to the Dhamma today. You are listening, because you know that the Dhamma is your true refuge. We can listen at this moment, because kamma is the condition that our life still continues, from one moment to the next moment, wherever we are. The moment of seeing or hearing something pleasant, wherever we are in Cambodia or somewhere else, is the result of kusala kamma. However, more important than pleasant experiences through the senses is the fact that you, conditioned by listening to the Dhamma in the past, have confidence today to go on listening and to develop right understanding. In this way the characteristics of realities which appear now can be understood as they are. Nothing else in the world is more valuable than the Triple Gem which is our true refuge.

Buth Sawong: Should we drive defilements away or should we flee from defilements?

Sujin: Defilements accompany the citta, they have been accumulated. No matter to where you flee, defilements will always go with you. Where there is citta there are defilements.  But when the citta is kusala, when there is paññå, there are no lobha, dosa or moha; there are at that moment no defilements which cause dukkha..The Meaning of Dhamma•41 Buth Sawong: What should I do to overcome defilements?  Sujin: Do you believe that you can overcome defilements yourself? Or should you develop right understanding, paññå, which performs the function of eradicating defilements?  Buth Sawong: Some people ask what they should do to attain nibbåna.

Sujin: At this moment nibbåna does not appear. You are seeing or hearing now. When you have penetrated the characteristics of the realities which are appearing now, clinging to these realities can be eliminated. When paññå has been developed to the degree that enlightenment can be attained, the citta turns away from conditioned realities which arise and fall away, it has no inclination to experience them; it turns towards the unconditioned reality, to nibbåna.  At the moment of enlightenment paññå is lokuttara paññå, supramundane paññå.

Buth Sawong: People have questions about the different degrees of the state of the sotåpanna, of people who have reached the first stage of enlightenment. Different sotåpannas have a different number of rebirths and different kinds of rebirths.

Sujin: This depends on the strength of paññå of the sotåpanna.  If he has a high degree of paññå he will be reborn only once. If he has a lesser degree of paññå he will be reborn more than once, but, according to the scriptures, the sotåpanna cannot be reborn more than seven times 22 .

Buth Sawong: How can there be different degrees of the

paññå which penetrates the four noble Truths at the moment

of enlightenment? Can a distinction be made between paññå

22 The sotåpanna has to continue to develop paññå in order to attain

higher stages of enlightenment. When the stage of the arahat has been reached there will be no more rebirth. This means the end of dukkha.

of a lesser degree and of a higher degree?.42•Taking Refuge in Buddhism

Sujin: This can be compared with the passing of an

examination by different students. They all pass the

examination, but some have high marks and others have

low marks, depending on their different degrees of knowledge

and capacity. Even so, when enlightenment is attained, the

paññå of different people has different degrees, but be it of

a lesser degree or of a higher degree, it penetrates the four

noble Truths..•43

Chapter 4

Listening to the Dhamma

Dhamma Discussion with Cambodians in Nakorn Nåyok (Thailand) (Part One)

Sujin: I wish to pay my deepest respect to the venerable bhikkhu who is present here. I am so happy that you all have come here for a discussion on the Dhamma. For a discussion on the Dhamma I should not be the only person who speaks, but different people should take part in the discussion. If there are problems and questions concerning the Dhamma, please, let us discuss these now, because our time is limited.

Interpreter: We do not dare to ask questions yet.

Sujin: If there are no questions yet, I would like to speak about the Triple Gem, about the meaning of taking refuge in the Triple Gem 23 . As we all know, we take our refuge in the Exalted One, the Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One.  We take refuge in his wisdom, his purity, and his compassion.

Taking refuge in the Buddha seems nothing extraordinary.  However, if people do not study and if they do not have profound understanding of the meaning of the Buddha’s wisdom, purity and compassion, they pay respect only in a superficial way, they follow only what they know about these qualities from hearsay. If we want to know what the Buddha’s wisdom, purity and compassion really are, we should study and investigate the Dhamma. If people have not studied the Dhamma, they do not really know what it means that the Buddha was a person without defilements.  There must be a way leading to the eradication of defilements.

23 The three Gems of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

After the Buddha attained enlightenment, he showed this.44•Taking Refuge in Buddhism way to others. Therefore, we must really understand what the Dhamma is the Buddha penetrated at the attainment of enlightenment and taught to others as well. The Dhamma is something people cannot conceive by themselves. The Buddha accumulated the excellent qualities which are the “perfections” for four incalculable periods of time and a hundred thousand aeons, in order to realize at the attainment of enlightenment the true Dhamma (sacca dhamma). Thus he was able to teach the Dhamma to others as well.

We should have right understanding of the word “sacca dhamma”, true Dhamma, the Dhamma which is the truth.  Nobody can change the nature of that which is true, that which is real. There is at this moment dhamma, that which is true or real. If we do not study the teachings, we may try to find the true dhamma somewhere else, but if we study what the Buddha taught we will know that at this very moment there is true dhamma, dhamma which is real, and everybody can verify for himself the truth of dhamma.  Everybody who is born has eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. It is through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind that we can know dhammas, realities.

If there were no seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, the

experience of tangible object and thinking, nobody could

know that there are dhammas, realities. Since realities are

known because of the experiences through the senses and

the mind, we do not have to look for dhamma somewhere

else. Seeing at this moment is dhamma, it is a reality which

sees. In the Tipiìaka the Buddha explains the truth of seeing,

hearing, smelling, tasting, the experience of tangible object

and thinking. At this moment there is already dhamma, but

because of ignorance we are not able to understand that

there are dhammas, not self. Therefore, we have to listen to

the teachings of the Buddha who explains that everything is

dhamma..Listening to the Dhamma•45

The dhamma which appears through eyes at this moment appears because it has arisen. If it had not arisen it could not appear. The dhamma which is sound appearing through the ears, is dhamma which has arisen. If it had not arisen it could not appear. Whatever arises must have conditions for its arising, and after it has arisen it falls away again. Someone who has developed paññå, understanding, is able to realize through direct experience the characteristic of impermanence, the arising and falling away of realities appearing through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. He can directly understand that everything in and around him is dhamma which arises and then falls away.  If one listens to the teachings one can have theoretical understanding of realities. When there is seeing, one can understand that this is a reality which arises and then falls away. When there is hearing, one can understand that this is a reality which arises and then falls away. If the realities appearing through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind are not dhammas, where else can dhamma be found?  In order to be able to understand and to become familiar with dhammas one should, by listening to the teachings, learn more about the things which are real and which are appearing. In this way people will very gradually acquire more understanding of realities. Generally people are inclined to think of the result which is far off, namely the penetration of the noble Truths, the direct experience of the characteristic of nibbåna. However, if one does not know the characteristic of the dhamma which appears right now, one will not be able to realize the characteristic of nibbåna.  At this moment the characteristic of nibbåna does not appear, but the reality which can be experienced through eyes appears. The reality which can be experienced through ears appears, it arises and then falls away, time and again.

Therefore it is important to remember that we should

investigate and study the Buddha’s teachings. The Dhamma.46•Taking Refuge in Buddhism

he taught is about all realities which can be experienced in daily life through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. If we listen to the Dhamma we can gradually come to understand the characteristics of the realities which are appearing right now. We will not merely have theoretical understanding acquired by thinking about them, but we will have understanding of the characteristics of the realities which appear.

Theoretical knowledge about realities is quite different from direct understanding of the characteristics of realities which are appearing. These are two different levels of understand-ing. We may, for example, speak now about seeing as a reality, a kind of nåma which is not self, an element which experiences visible object. When someone speaks about the nature of seeing but he is not yet aware of the characteristic of seeing while there is seeing, there is merely understanding on the level of thinking, thus, theoretical understanding which stems from listening and considering what one hears.  It is important to consider and investigate the Dhamma one hears, this is a necessary foundation for right understanding.  The understanding which stems from listening is accumulated and this accumulated understanding is a condition for the arising of direct awareness later on. Then there can be awareness of seeing when it presents itself and at such a moment direct understanding of its characteristic can develop; seeing can be understood as a reality, as only an element, not self.

Seeing does not appear through the eyesense. The reality which sees and the reality which appears through the eyes, visible object, which is rúpa, have different characteristics which should be distinguished from each other. Seeing experiences visible object, whereas visible object does not experience anything. Visible object is a reality which contacts the eyesense and which is a condition for the arising of the citta which sees. The reality which appears through the.Listening to the Dhamma•47 eyes, visible object, is different from the reality which appears through the ears, sound. Sound is another reality which arises and contacts the earsense. Sound is a condition for the arising of the citta which hears. Sound is a kind of rúpa, it is different from the citta which hears. All dhammas are non-self, they are not beings or persons.

Paññå is developed by gradually understanding the characteristics of the realities which are appearing. We read in the Tipiìaka, in the Mahå-satipaììhåna sutta and also in other suttas, about the person who “lives contemplating” the characteristics of the realities which are appearing. That is, he is habitually inclined to be aware of the realities which are appearing. Not all realities appear, but all mental phenomena and physical phenomena of our life, also those which do not appear, arise and fall away. Paññå can directly understand only the realities which are appearing.

Dhammas are the realities of our daily life, and gradually one can have more understanding of them by listening to the teachings and studying them. It is important to remember that realities appear here and now, that one should not look for them somewhere else but here, or at another moment but right now. When there is awareness and understanding of the dhammas which are appearing now, paññå can come to know them as they are, as realities which arise and fall away and which are non-self. When someone merely repeats the words, “dhammas arise and fall away”, there is only theoretical understanding of realities, but no direct understanding of their arising and falling away, no direct understanding of the truth.

If there are questions, please, feel free to ask them.

Interpreter: Some people wonder about the arising and falling away of realities. What arises and what falls away?

Sujin: There are now seeing and hearing. If paññå has been developed and it has become keener, it can understand.48•Taking Refuge in Buddhism directly the arising and falling away of one reality at a time. Those who have not yet studied the Dhamma or who have not considered it may only have theoretical understanding of the fact that seeing is not hearing. The development of satipaììhåna is the way the Fully Enlightened One, the Buddha, and all his disciples have gone. Also Buddhists today can, in following this way, practise what the Buddha taught, even at this very moment. However, people should begin at the very beginning, that is, they should first listen to the teachings. The Buddha taught Dhamma in all details for fortyfive years to his followers, and he taught also to us today. The Buddha taught during his life, before his final passing away, Dhamma to different people with different accumulations. Even when he did not teach in detail, people could, if they had accumulated paññå, while they were listening realize the arising and falling away of realities which appeared through each of the six doorways. Realities arise and fall away, both formerly and now; they are not self, they are not beings, not persons.  Someone who sincerely studies and investigates realities does not delude himself with regard to his own understanding. Although he has heard that realities arise and fall away, that they are non-self, he may not directly experience the truth. When he is sincere, he knows that he has not realized the truth; he knows that while he is seeing now, it still seems that he “sees” this or that person or thing 24 . It is necessary to be sincere with regard to the degree of one’s understanding and to remember that one should continue to develop paññå so that eventually realities will be seen as they are.

Wherever and whenever we are seeing, it can be understood

that seeing is only a kind of reality, an element which

24 Person or thing are concepts one can think of; they do not impinge

on the eyesense, they cannot be seen.

experiences an object, a type of nåma. There are many.Listening to the Dhamma•49 kinds of nåma. Seeing which experiences visible object at this moment is a kind of nåma. The citta which hears sound through the ears is another kind of nåma, different from seeing. Hearing is only an element which arises and then falls away, there is no self who hears. It can be compared to a fire which appears and is then extinguished. The fire which is extinguished has completely disappeared, it did not go anywhere else. The reality which arises now and then falls away has disappeared completely. It is not in accordance with the truth to take what has fallen away and disappeared for self or mine. During our whole life from birth until this moment there is no single reality which, after it had arisen, did not fall away. All realities are like a fire which originates and is then extinguished; they do not last and they are non-self. Hearing which has arisen just for a short moment has fallen away. The hearing of this moment is different from the hearing of a previous moment. The hearing of a previous moment is nowhere to be found.  There is no self who hears, hearing is only a reality, a kind of element which arises, hears and then falls away completely.  Realities arise and fall away in succession; they are succeeding one another until the last moment of this life, the moment of dying. We all know that death is departure, that it is the severance, the separation from everything; at death there is nothing left of our life in this world. It is the same with hearing which previously arose; it has fallen away completely, there is nothing left of it, it has “died”. In the teachings the expression “momentary death” (khaùika maraùa) has been used. If we understand the meaning of this term we will see that there is death of each reality which has arisen and then fallen away completely. One does not have to wait until the approaching of death with developing understanding that there is nothing left of “ourselves”. Paññå should realize “momentary death”, namely, the arising and falling away of realities at this moment. In this way the wrong view which takes realities.50•Taking Refuge in Buddhism for “mine”, self, beings or persons can be eradicated. We should gradually develop understanding of the characteristics of the realities which appear at this moment. Otherwise we will remain only on the level of theoretical understanding; we will merely remember the words of the Buddha’s teaching about the impermanence of dhammas and their nature of non-self.

Everybody here would like to know in what way he can penetrate the truth of the realities which are now arising and falling away and which are non-self. The Buddha showed the one and only way to realize the truth, and that is: awareness of the characteristics of realities which are appearing at this moment. People have heard about the term “sati”, awareness or mindfulness, but this does not mean that they understand the characteristic of sati. One should listen to the Dhamma so that one can understand that sati is a sobhana (beautiful) dhamma. Sati is different from thinking (vitakka). Thinking can be kusala, wholesome, or akusala, unwholesome, and when there is unwholesome thinking there is no sati. We should know that sati is a sobhana cetasika (mental factor) which is heedful, aware of what is wholesome. We listen to the Dhamma at this moment, and if there comes to be more understanding of realities, it is due to sati which is aware, heedful with regard to what has been heard. When someone, however, is drowsy, takes no interest in the Dhamma, and thinks of something else, the citta is not kusala citta and thus there is no sati. From birth to death, throughout one’s life, sati, thinking (vitakka) and other dhammas arise, but if one does not listen to the Dhamma which has been taught, there will be confusion about all realities. One cannot distinguish different characteristics of realities from each other and one will take them for self. Some people may use terms from the teachings they believe they have already understood, such as sati, samådhi (concentration) or paññå, but they do not know.Listening to the Dhamma•51 the meaning of these terms, or they give their own interpretation of them. If someone has studied the Dhamma he can have right understanding of these terms, he will know that sati is different from samådhi and different from paññå, and he will not believe that these three realities are the same. He knows that when a particular reality arises it does so depending on several conditions. Nowadays some people believe that they practise the Dhamma, but they do not know whether they have right understanding of the practice or not. The Buddha taught the Dhamma he had realized himself at the moment of enlightenment, so that those who listened could also develop paññå themselves.  This shows the Buddha’s incomparable compassion towards his followers. If someone teaches Dhamma it may happen that those who listen do not acquire any understanding from what they hear. If paññå does not arise as a result of listening to the Dhamma the listening is not helpful. Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha because he taught them the Dhamma in such a way that they could develop paññå themselves and penetrate the four noble Truths. When people listen to the Dhamma and they understand what has been taught, there will be paññå which knows in what way the Dhamma should be practised. There is no self who practises, there are only different realities, dhammas. Sati is not self, it is a particular kind of dhamma. Samådhi is another kind of dhamma and paññå is again another kind of dhamma. If there is no right understanding of what sati, samådhi and paññå are, people will mistakenly believe that they are practising the Dhamma.

In the scriptures, the Tipiìaka, the Buddha taught what the right Path is and what the wrong Path. A person who has studied the Dhamma and who has right understanding of it knows which way of practice is the wrong Path and which the right Path. He knows that the right Path is the development of paññå which penetrates the true nature of.52•Taking Refuge in Buddhism the realities which are appearing. If someone believes that he can practise the Dhamma without understanding the realities which are appearing he is definitely on the wrong way. Thus, the wrong Path is the practice without the development of paññå whereas the right Path is the practice which is the development of right understanding of realities.  If paññå does not arise one does not know in what way the characteristic of samådi, concentration, is different from sati and from paññå, and then one is on the wrong Path.  From the beginning we should know whether we practise the Dhamma at this moment or not. If someone believes that he cannot practise the Dhamma at this moment, he does not follow the teachings as contained in the Tipiìaka.  Those who have penetrated the noble Truths have done so in their ordinary daily lives. Paññå can penetrate whatever reality arises naturally in daily life. However, if there is no paññå the truth of this moment cannot be understood. The Dhamma the Buddha taught is not something separate from our ordinary daily life; the Buddha taught the truth about what appears through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind, about lobha, dosa, kusala and mettå (loving kindness). The Buddha taught about all realities in detail.  We should understand in what way sati is different from samådhi. People are often confused as to these two realities, they take samådhi for sati. They mistakenly believe that they should concentrate on particular realities and that is the right Path. If someone develops the way leading to the realisation of the noble Truths he knows that at this moment sati can arise naturally in daily life. So long as there is no right understanding of the Dhamma there is no foundation for the right practice, and therefore, it would be better not to try to practise at all.

All those who were disciples of the Buddha had listened to

the Dhamma. The degree of their understanding of the

Dhamma was dependant on the extent they had accumulated.Listening to the Dhamma•53

the “perfections”. If they had a great deal of understanding,

right mindfulness, sammå-sati, could be aware of the

characteristics of realities and in this way their true nature

could be penetrated in accordance with the Buddha’s


54•Taking Refuge in Buddhism.•55