published by zolag • London
Different Degrees of Understanding
Dhamma Discussion with Cambodians in Nakorn Nåyok (Part Two)
Sujin: We should know the dhammas as they appear in daily life. For example, is there dhamma when we are laughing?
Interpreter: There is dhamma, there is no person who laughs. Sujin: There are different feelings (in Påli: vedanå). When we do not laugh what kind of feeling is there?
Interpreter: There can be indifferent feeling, upekkhå vedanå.
Sujin: We know the names of all the different feelings:
pleasant bodily feeling, painful bodily feeling, happy feeling, unhappy feeling and indifferent feeling. People may only know their names. But when a particular feeling appears and there is awareness of its characteristic, feeling will be known as it is. Through awareness the different characteris-tics of different feelings will be known and understood as they are.
There is, for example, indifferent feeling at this moment of seeing ( Seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting are vipåkacittas, cittas which are results of kamma) , which are accompanied by indifferent feeling). After seeing has fallen away happy feeling can arise together with attachment, lobha, and that moment is different from seeing (Lobha can be accompanied by happy feeling or by indifferent feeling). When we are enjoying pleasant things there must be happy feeling which accompanies lobha-múla-citta, citta rooted in attachment. Whereas, when we listen to the Dhamma and we are happy that we hear things we had not heard before, there is happy feeling accompanying. kusala citta 27 . This kind of happy feeling is different from the happy feeling accompanying lobha-múla-citta. Realities have each their own nature, their own characteristic, and paññå is able to know the true nature of different characteristics of realities when they are appearing.
Do you think that this is difficult to understand, or easy?
Interpreter: It is difficult.
Sujin: That is true. If someone believes that it is easy he deludes himself. The Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One, did certainly not teach a Dhamma which would be easy to understand.
When paññå can penetrate the true nature of realities it will be known that realities change extremely rapidly. Feelings change all the time. We all have moments that we feel unhappy, sad, discontented and depressed on account of our thoughts. At the moment of seeing there is no thinking, but after seeing has fallen away thinking can arise. Some people have unhappy thoughts, others have happy thoughts.
Because of the Buddha’s teachings we can come to know the true nature of the realities of our daily life, and thus we can see that his teachings are of immense benefit. We can verify the truth of his teachings ourselves. We all can find out, for example, that a moment of grief is different from seeing which is accompanied by indifferent feeling. Different realities should be distinguished from each other. Happy
feeling or unhappy feeling can arise after seeing or hearing,
they do not arise at the moment of seeing or hearing. If we
gradually come to know the true nature of realities, ignorance
and the suffering due to ignorance can eventually be
overcome. If paññå realizes the truth of realities more deeply,
that is, if it knows them as only dhammas which arise and
27 Kusala citta can be accompanied by happy feeling or by indifferent
fall away and which are non-self, the suffering which arises.
on account of our thoughts will become less. To the extent that paññå has become developed our suffering will decrease. Paññå which is of the level of theoretical understanding, conditioned by listening to the Dhamma, is quite different from paññå which is developed through awareness of nåma and rúpa. The latter kind of paññå is again different from the paññå which penetrates the true nature of realities at the attainment of enlightenment. The paññå of those who attain enlightenment is of different levels in accordance with the four different stages which are attained. The paññå which penetrates the four noble Truths at the attainment of the stage of the sotåpanna, the streamwinner, is of a level which is different from the degree of paññå which penetrates the four noble Truths at the attainment of the stage of the sakadågåmí, the once-returner; the paññå of the stage of the anågåmí, the non-returner, and the paññå of the stage of the arahat, the perfected one, are again different degrees of paññå 28 .
Those who are followers of the Buddha should have great patience in order to listen to the Dhamma and consider what they heard, and in this way there can be more understanding of realities. This cannot be achieved by going somewhere else in order to follow a particular practice. If one is truly patient sati and paññå can very gradually develop. Moreover, we should be truthful as to our development of paññå. If there is still ignorance of realities we should realize this and not mistakenly believe that we know realities already.
We should not delude ourselves, taking for paññå what is
not paññå. So long as the realities which are appearing
through the six doors are not known as they are, there is no
right understanding which can only be developed by the
28 Defilements are progressively eradicated at the attainment of the
different stages of enlightenment, and at the attainment of arahatship all of them are eradicated.
right practice. Those who follow the Buddha’s teachings.58•Taking Refuge in Buddhism must start in the right way from the beginning. When they are listening to the Dhamma they should do so for the right purpose, and this is: the understanding of realities as they are. The goal is not gain, honour, fame or praise; the goal is not to be esteemed by others as a person who has a great deal of paññå. From the beginning, paññå should be developed for the right purpose, it should not be developed with clinging to the understanding of the four noble Truths. Someone who develops paññå should be sincere with regard to himself: he should know whether there is already understanding of the characteristic of the reality which is appearing at this moment or not yet. If there is not yet such understanding he should continue to listen to the Dhamma and consider again and again what he has heard, and he should continue to develop sati and paññå.
Nobody knows when he will die, when he will have to take
leave of everything in this world. If we do not develop
paññå the clinging we have accumulated will have the
opportunity to arise again and again, also in future lives,
and it will become firm and obstinate. Therefore, what is
most valuable in our life is paññå which knows realities as
they are. Paññå is the only factor which can eradicate
defilements. We should see the invaluable benefit of paññå
which is conditioned by listening to the Dhamma and which
is able to understand realities more and more. Paññå should
be developed without having expectations as to the moment
when the four noble Truths will be penetrated. If one begins
to gradually understand realities one is on the way leading
to the penetration of the four noble Truths, to the experience
of nibbåna at the attainment of enlightenment. There is no
other way leading to this goal. One should not mistakenly
believe that something else should be known but what
appears in daily life. It is essential to remember this. The
right Path is knowing realities as they naturally appear at
this moment. If someone wants to know something else, if.Different
Degrees of Understanding•59
he does not develop understanding of the reality which naturally appears at this moment, he walks the wrong way. Interpreter: Some people wonder about the meaning of dukkha. In the scriptures sometimes the term dukkha sacca, the truth of dukkha, is used and sometimes the term dukkha ariya sacca, the noble Truth of dukkha. They wonder whether the dukkha of the ariyans, the noble persons who have attained enlightenment, is different from the dukkha of ordinary people.
Sujin: The realities which arise and fall away are dukkha and nobody can change this truth. The term dukkha sacca or dukkha ariya sacca refers to one of the three characteristics of conditioned realities, namely their arising and falling away 29 . Nobody can prevent the reality which has arisen from falling away again. The characteristic of the reality which arises and falls away is dukkha, because arising and falling away is suffering, not happiness. All people want happiness which lasts, which continues forever and which does not fall away, but conditioned realities have the characteristic of dukkha, because they arise and then fall away immediately. There are three characteristics common to all conditioned realities, namely: the characteristic of impermanence, that is, the arising and falling away, the characteristic of dukkha, suffering or unsatisfactoriness, since what arises and falls away cannot be happiness, and the characteristic of anattå, non-self. There is no self who can exert control over realities, because they are as they are, according to their own nature.
Interpreter: People are still confused as to the terms dukkha
sacca, the truth of dukkha, and dukkha ariya sacca, the
noble truth of dukkha. They believe that the first term refers
to dukkha of ordinary people and the latter term to dukkha
29 These three characteristics are: impermanence, dukkha and anattå,
of the ariyans. I myself understand that dukkha ariya sacca,.60•Taking Refuge in Buddhism the noble Truth of dukkha is the first one of the four noble Truths, whereas dukkha sacca, the truth of dukkha, refers to dukkha as one of the three general characteristics common to all conditioned realities.
Sujin: Dukkha sacca, one of the three characteristics common to all conditioned realities, is nothing else but dukkha, suffering, due to the arising and falling away of realities. The person who has directly realized and penetrated the three characteristics of realities is an ariyan, a person who has attained enlightenment. He has directly realized the truth through his own experience, he has realized the arising and falling away of realities, and this is different from merely repeating that all realities which arise and fall away are dukkha. A person may repeat these words without directly experiencing the arising and falling away of realities.
Dukkha sacca is the truth of dukkha, and what is true does not depend on whether a person understands and realizes it or not. Nobody can change the truth of dukkha. The person who has realized by his own experience the truth of dukkha is an ariyan. Therefore, also the term dukkha ariya sacca, the noble truth of dukkha, is used, which is the truth of the ariyans, the enlightened ones, the truth realized by the ariyans.
Interpreter: Some people wonder whether it is true that there are three levels of being a buddhist, namely, the beginning, the middle and the end. They believe that the beginning is the taking of refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha 30 . They believe that the middle is, in short, wholesome conduct, and that the end is the realisation of the four noble Truths. Some people have wrong view, they do not take their refuge in the Triple Gem nor do they have wholesome conduct; they steal in order to obtain food.
30 The sangha means the order of monks, but as one of the three refuges
it is the ariyan sangha, the community of enlightened ones.
However, they still come to listen to the preaching of
Degrees of Understanding•61
in the temple and it is said that they then can become enlightened. I am puzzled and I wonder whether this is possible or not.
Sujin: When people have listened to the Dhamma and grasped what they heard, they will understand who the Fully Enlightened One, the Buddha, really is. So long as people have not studied the Dhamma, they may just pay respect to the Buddha statue, but they may do so without any understanding of who the Buddha is. Those who have listened to the Dhamma will know that there is no other person except the Buddha who taught the truth of the Dhamma, which they can verify for themselves and realize through their own experience.
When people listen to the Dhamma and consider what they heard they can acquire right understanding of realities which appear now, such as seeing and hearing. They can understand that at the moment of seeing there cannot be hearing, and that seeing has to fall away before hearing can arise. They can verify that the characteristic of thinking is different again from seeing and hearing. Some people who listen to the Dhamma are not able to understand it, whereas others who listen understand what they hear, they understand immediately that there is no self, that there are only different realities. It depends on the extent to which someone has accumulated the “perfection” of paññå, whether he is able to understand the Dhamma he hears and can develop paññå to such a degree that it can penetrate the true characteristics of realities and even realize the four noble Truths. When the Buddha, before his final passing away, explained the Dhamma, some people could, even while they listened, realize the four noble Truths and become arahats. Some people reached the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the anågåmí, non-returner, others the second stage, the stage of the sakadågåmí, once-returner, and others again the first stage, the stage of the sotåpanna, streamwinner. King.62•Taking Refuge in Buddhism Bimbisara and the people of his retinue, for example, attained enlightenment to the degree of the sotåpanna. There were also people who listened but did not attain any stage of enlightenment. It depends on the degree of a person’s understanding whether he can penetrate the true nature of the characteristics of realities or not. Those who listen to the Dhamma and understand what they hear can truly take their refuge in the Triple Gem. They know that there is nobody else but the Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One, who can teach the Dhamma.
Interpreter: The Buddhists who have come here to listen to the Dhamma are full of enthusiasm and joy, they are so happy that they can meet you, Åcariya 31 Sujin. Some people wonder whether they, although they have not first undertaken five or eight precepts 32 , can, after listening to the Dhamma, practise it and develop insight, vipassanå. Or do they first have to take their refuge in the Triple Gem and observe the moral precepts for a long time?
People who ask such questions are confused about these matters, they have not applied themselves much to the study of the Dhamma. They like to use this opportunity to ask their questions so that they can hear your answer and gain more understanding.
Sujin: Anumodana 33 , I appreciate the interest of all people
here. In this present time it is normal that Buddhists find it
difficult to study and understand the Tipiìaka. Therefore,
they are generally inclined to give their own interpretation
to the Buddhist teachings and they believe that they have
right understanding of the texts of the Tipiìaka. However,
the Buddha’s teachings are subtle and deep, and nobody
31 The Påli term for teacher.
32 Rules of wholesome conduct.
33 This is the Påli term for thanksgiving or satisfaction. By this word
one’s appreciation of someone else’s good deeds is expressed.
can understand the truth just by himself..Different Degrees of Understanding•63 Interpreter: Is there a method by which sati can be aware of realities appearing through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind? How can sati arise fast enough in order to be aware of the present moment?
Sujin: There is no method which can be followed, but at this moment realities are appearing already. One can begin to develop more understanding of them. If one first listens to the Dhamma and understands what one hears, sati can arise and be aware of realities. However, we have to listen again and again in order to gain more understanding of realities as non-self. What appears through the eyes, visible object, has contacted the rúpa which is eyesense; it just appears for an extremely short moment and then it falls away. If we gain more understanding of realities we will not forget that rúpa-kkhandha (the khandha of physical phenomena), vedanå-kkhandha (feelings), saññå-kkhandha (remembrance or “perception”), saòkhåra-kkhandha (for-mations or activities, all cetasikas other than vedanå and saññå) and viññåùa-kkhandha (consciousness), thus, the five khandhas, are not self, not “I”. Listening conditions the accumulation of sati and paññå, and thus, awareness of the reality which appears can arise and at that moment under-standing of it can develop. This is in fact satipaììhåna. Sati-paììhåna is not a particular method which should be followed in order to be aware of realities. Satipaììhåna is the devel-opment of the understanding of the characteristics of realities which arise and appear, each because of their own conditions.
Do you know ahead of time when realities such as hearing,
anger or sati will arise? If there are not the right conditions
for hearing we cannot cause its arising. Only when there
are conditions for it, it arises. Even so, when there are not
the right conditions for the arising of sati, we cannot cause
its arising. When there are the right conditions for sati, it
arises and then we will know that there is no self who can
its arising..64•Taking Refuge in Buddhism
The development of satipaììhåna is very subtle; if there is no right understanding of its development people will cling to wrong practice (sílabbatå paråmåsa kåya-gantha). Only paññå can eradicate wrong practice. When someone does not know the difference between the moment when there is sati and the moment when there is no sati, he may try to follow another way which is the wrong practice. Right understanding of the way how to develop satipaììhåna is indispensable; paññå should know that sati is anattå, non-self, and it should know when there is sati and when there is forgetfulness of realities. If the difference between such moments is not known paññå cannot be developed. There will be clinging to the concept of self who tries to “do” something.
The way to begin is knowing when sati arises and when there is forgetfulness. I will give an example. We all touch things which are hard. Even a child knows that something is hard, because hardness impinges on the rúpa which is bodysense and there is citta which experiences the characteristic of hardness. This happens time and again in daily life. When we just experience or notice hardness, it does not mean that there is sati and paññå. Someone, however, who has listened to the Dhamma knows that hardness is a reality which appears when it contacts the rúpa which is bodysense. Hardness is non-self, there is nobody who can create the element of hardness. Whenever the bodysense, which is all over the body, from head to toes, is contacted by something hard, the element of hardness appears. The true characteristic of that particular element presents itself at such a moment. However, when there is forgetfulness of realities and there is no right understanding, we take the whole body, from head to toes, for self.
From the time we have been getting up in the morning
until now we have, time and again, touched what is hard,
but if one has not listened to the Dhamma one is
Degrees of Understanding•65
of such moments. A person who has listened to the Dhamma and has grasped what he heard, has right understanding of the characteristic of hardness when it appears. He understands that it is only a reality which appears, not a “self”.
Just a moment ago we experienced something hard, and
now, at this moment, we can begin to understand that
hardness is only a reality. Such understanding is due to sati
which has arisen and which is aware of the characteristic of
hardness. When sati arises it is aware of a reality just for an
extremely short moment, and after that there is again
forgetfulness of realities, we are thinking of other
Refuge in Buddhism.•67
The Eightfold Path
Dhamma Discussion with Cambodians in Nakorn Nåyok (Part Three)
Sujin: When the Buddha explained about realities such as seeing and visible object which is experienced through the eyes, and the listeners understood the characteristic of sati, they could know whether there was mindfulness while seeing, or forgetfulness. When the Buddha explained about hearing and sound, the listeners knew, when sati arose, whether there was mindfulness of the characteristic of sound or of hearing, the reality which experiences sound. The Dhamma I am referring to now is the Dhamma the Buddha taught in the Jeta Grove, in the Bamboo Grove and in other places. If we go back to the Buddha’s time, more than two thousand five hundred years ago, the Dhamma I refer to now was true also for people at that time. If people at that time were not forgetful of realities, they could penetrate their true nature. Some people could during the explanation of realities penetrate the truth, and others could do so after a more detailed explanation 34 , but today there are no such people.
Even after listening to an explanation about seeing it is not
sure that there will be awareness of it. We should develop
34 The first kind of people are called in Påli: ugghaìitaññú, and the
second kind: vipacitaññú. The first and the second kind of people attain enlightenment quickly, they cannot be found today. There are also people who penetrate the truth after having asked questions and considered the Dhamma for a longer period of time, and they are called: neyya puggala, people who need guidance. Those who, although they heard much and considered much, do not attain enlightenment are called pada-parama, which means: those whose highest attainment are the words (of the texts).
precise understanding of the realities appearing through.68•Taking Refuge in Buddhism the six doors and we should know whether there is mindful-ness of those realities or not yet. People should investigate with regard to themselves when there is forgetfulness of realities and when there is sati. They should understand that when sati does not arise it is impossible to know as they are the realities which are appearing. It is impossible to force the arising of sati, but paññå can be developed little by little if one is sincere as to one’s own development and knows for oneself whether there is sati or forgetfulness. This is daily life and people should know their daily life. The Buddha taught the development of the eightfold Path and this consists of eight factors which are the following cetasikas:
right understanding or sammå-diììhi
right thinking or sammå-sankappa
right speech or sammå-våcå
right bodily action or sammå-kammanta
right livelihood or sammå-åjíva
right effort or sammå-våyåma
right mindfulness or sammå-sati
right concentration or sammå-samådhi
Right understanding and right thinking are the supporting factors which constitute the wisdom of the eightfold Path 35 .
Right speech, right action and right livelihood are the sup-
porting factors which constitute the síla, morality, of the
35 Right thinking has the function of “touching” the nåma or rúpa which
appears, it assists right understanding so that it can know its true nature.
36 These three cetasikas have the function of abstaining from wrong
speech, wrong action and wrong livelihood. When enlightenment is attained they have the function of eradicating the causes of wrong speech, wrong action and wrong livelihood.
eightfold Path 36 . Right effort, right mindfulness and right.The Eightfold Path•69 concentration are the supporting factors which constitute the concentration or calm of the eightfold Path 37 . Thus, there are síla, samådhi (calm) and paññå of the eightfold Path.
When there is right mindfulness of a reality there is at that moment “training” in higher síla, higher citta (concentration or calm) and higher paññå 38 . These three kinds of “training” are called “higher training”, because they are training of a higher degree, more subtle and refined than other kinds of training. At the moment someone performs akusala kamma there is ignorance of lobha, dosa and moha. When sati arises it can be aware of akusala, even when there is only a slight degree of lobha which does not have the intensity of akusala kamma; sati can be aware of the true characteristic of that reality. This is the higher training in síla, morality, because even a slight degree of akusala is realized.
As regards samådhi, concentration, this is ekaggatå cetasika, the reality which is focusing on the object which is experi-enced; it conditions citta to experience only one object.
There is wrong concentration, micchå-samådi, accompanying
37 Concentration has the function of focussing on one object and it
arises with each citta. As regards right concentration of the eightfold
Path, when there is awareness of a nåma or rúpa, sammå-samådhi has
the function of focussing on that one object so that right understanding
can understand it as it is. As regards right effort, this is the cetasika
viriya, energy or effort. It has the function of strenghtening the citta and
accompanying cetasikas, so that they can perform their functions. Right
effort strengthens the other factors, so that there is courage and
perseverance with the development of right understanding.
38 When there is mindfulness of realities appearing through six doors
there is restraint of the six doors, there is no opportunity for akusala. This also means that there is calm at that moment. Sati can prevent one from committing akusala kamma and also from akusala which is of a lesser degree. Thus, at the moment of right mindfulness there is the threefold higher training: training in higher síla, higher calm and higher paññå. Training is the translation of the Påli term sikkhå. Training means applying oneself again and again.
akusala citta, and right concentration, sammå-samådi,.70•Taking Refuge in Buddhism accompanying kusala citta. Whenever sati arises and is aware of the characteristics of realities, sammå-samådhi focuses on the object of mindfulness. At that very moment under-standing of that object can develop, and gradually the char-acteristics of realities can be known as they are.
The development of paññå is a kind of mental development which takes a great deal of time because sati does not often arise in a day, it does not arise as frequently as akusala citta. Sati arises very seldom, but when it arises and it is aware of realities, paññå can gradually have more understanding of them. When there is forgetfulness again, there is ignorance which does not know realities as they are. Every day there are many moments of ignorance and thus, a great deal of ignorance is accumulated, whereas sati and paññå can only be accumulated little by little.
Right understanding is able to penetrate the true character-istics of all realities. When a person has realized the arising and falling away of realities, there can gradually be the elimination of the wrong view that realities are self, and then he can, at the attainment of enlightenment, penetrate the four noble Truths. The person who has penetrated the noble Truths at the attainment of the first stage of enlight-enment is the streamwinner, sotåpanna. At that moment, the characteristic of nibbåna is experienced and doubt and wrong view of realities are eradicated.
The sotåpanna knows that he is not a once-returner, sakadågåmí, who has realized the second stage of enlighten-ment, nor a no-returner, anågåmí, who has realized the third stage, nor an arahat, the perfected one who has erad-icated all defilements. The paññå of the degree of the sotå-panna cannot eradicate lobha, dosa and moha. There are still accumulated conditions for the arising of akusala dham-mas, other than the ones he has eradicated. Therefore, the sotåpanna has to continue developing paññå in the way he used to, and this is: awareness of the characteristics of.The Eightfold Path•71 realities which are naturally appearing in his daily life. This is the only way to reach the goal, there is no other way. Interpreter: What is the meaning of the expression: fixing one’s attention in order to know realities in time?
Sujin: This is clinging to the idea that realities are self. When sati does not arise and there is forgetfulness of realities, one takes realities for a “thing” which exists. For example, when there is seeing, people believe that they see a temple hall, persons and different things which seem to exist. Whereas when there is paññå it realizes that what appears through the eyesense are not people or different things but only visible object, a kind of element which appears through the eyesense. When we close our eyes that which was seen is no longer there; we can still think of people who are sitting, we can remember them, but such moments are different from the moments of seeing visible object which appears through eyesense. If someone closes his eyes and all the people would leave the temple hall, he might believe that there are still people inside the temple hall. This shows that the moments of thinking of concepts is altogether different from the actual seeing. Realities arise and fall away, succeeding one another very rapidly. The realities which alternately appear through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind are taken as a “whole”, a person or a particular thing. We should not try to fix our attention on a reality at a certain moment in order to know it “in time”, that is impossible. It is sati itself which is aware of the characteristic of the reality which is appearing, one characteristic at a time, until it is clearly understood, until it appears as non-self.
Interpreter: The listeners would like to know more about the personal life of Achåriya Sujin: her education, her work, also her work with regard to the explanation of the Buddhist teachings. They would like to know about these things, no matter in short or in detail. I would like to be the interviewer..72•Taking Refuge in Buddhism Is Achåriya from Bangkok?
Sujin: I do not know whether I can say that I am from Bangkok. My father worked in the Forestry Department and his children were born in the province where he lived. I was born in Ubonrajadhani, but I had my education in Saint Mary’s school in Bangkok. I lived during my childhood in Bangkok until I finished the sixth class of the Secondary School. After that I passed the entrance examination to a school of preparatory education for Chulalongkorn Universi-ty. Then I enlisted at that University and studied there until the second year. However, I did not finish my study there. Since I often missed lectures about important subjects and did not study regularly, I failed twice my examinations and finally had to leave the University. I then went to stay with my father who was at that time at the Forestry Department in Chiangmai. His children usually went to school from their early childhood in Bangkok, where they had someone to take care of them, since my mother had passed away when we were still very young. In vacation time we would visit my father in the province. When my older sister had become a bachelor of arts, she started to teach at the Prince Royal School in Chiangmai. I was given a special permit to teach at the Dara School, near the Prince Royal School. When my father left the government service and returned to Bangkok, we followed him and also went to live in Bangkok. Someone encouraged me to teach Thai to foreigners at the Thai Language Department of the Missionary School and there I taught for a long time. After that I left this school together with some friends and we founded our own school, namely the Thai Language School Association. Later on the school was moved from the building where it originally was to another one near my house in Sathorn. Finally my father sold this house were we had lived for more than forty years, and then we moved near my younger sister’s house in Soy Patthanavet (Sukhumvit 91). Since this was far away.The Eightfold Path•73 from the school I stopped teaching and delegated the teaching to friends, so that they together would continue this work. Interpreter: Where did you first study the Dhamma?
Sujin: I started with the study of the Abhidhamma. I came
across an announcement in the newspaper the “Bangkok
World”, explaining that the Buddhist Association had started
classes for the study of Buddhism and thereupon I began to
study with Achåriya Neb Mahåniranan and with others who
were members of an association of teachers of Dhamma. I
mostly studied in the class of Achåriya Neb. At that time I
was still working, but only half a day, and the rest of the
day I spent reviewing what I had learnt from the Abhidhamma
teaching on Sunday. Before 1957 there was not yet a trans-
lation of the Tipiìaka from Påli into Thai, there were only a
few textbooks on Buddhism in Thai. After 1957, when there
were translations available, I started to study the Thai trans-
lations of the Tipiìaka and other books such as the Visud-
dhimagga (“Path of Purification”) 39 . I visited Achåriya Neb
almost every Thursday and when I had doubts about certain
topics I asked her opinion. She explained such topics to me
with great kindness. Whenever she wanted me to accompany
her and help her to explain the Dhamma I went with her,
no matter the occasion was a cremation ceremony in the
province or something else. When I had studied the Abhid-
hamma for two or three years, Achåriya Neb asked me to
give lectures on the Dhamma in the National Cultural Institute
and also in the women’s prison. Whenever Achåriya Neb
wanted me to do something for the propagation of Buddhism
I did it to my best ability. When Achåriya Neb founded in
1963 the Research Centre on Buddhism and the Society of
Spiritual Aid I lectured there as well. Later on I gave lectures
in the Mahå-dhåtu Temple and then in the building of Mahå-
39 An encyclopedia on Buddhism written by the great commentator
Buddhaghosa, in the fifth century A.D.
makut College Association of the Bovornivet Temple..74•Taking Refuge in Buddhism Nowadays I do not give lectures any more, but I help with Dhamma discussions and I review my lectures people have heard on the radio programs. Professor Somporn gives now lectures on the “Manual of Abhidhamma” (Abhidhammattha Sangaha). At the moment I am rearranging and reviewing all the tapes, more than two thousand in number, of my programs on the different radio stations. I review them in order to make them more compact, with less repetitions. Interpreter: You have read the Tipiìaka and studied it. How did you acquire understanding of the development of satipaììhåna from your study?
Sujin: There is no doubt that the Dhamma is our guide and therefore people should not be attached to teachers. It is very difficult to thoroughly and completely understand the Tipiìaka, both as to the letter and the meaning, but we are able to acquire more understanding of it by listening to any person who can explain the truth of Dhamma. However, we should not accept what is not in conformity with realities. We should not cling to persons, we should not believe in persons more than in the Dhamma itself. We should really have confidence in the Dhamma the Buddha assigned as his successor, as our guide.
Everything which occurs does so because of the appropriate
conditions. Nobody knows in the case of a particular person
his accumulated conditions for such or such aspect of the
Dhamma or for the performing of such or such task in the
field of Buddhism. May everyone who has the desire to
study the Dhamma help to make known the Dhamma in
accordance with his own ability. If someone helps explaining
the Dhamma, it is not necessary that there are many people
who come to listen to him or her. People who have knowledge
and understanding of the Dhamma can, each in their own
way, help others who do not know the Dhamma to acquire
understanding of it. There is no need to think, “I succeed
this person”, or, “That person succeeds me”. Different
can each perform a task in the field of Dhamma, in accordance
with the understanding and capability they have
The way to make known the Dhamma is to first study it oneself, in order to have right understanding. It is wrong to expect others to study the Dhamma and not to study it oneself. Someone may say that Buddhism is most beneficial, that it gives solutions to the problems in our life and in society, but does he really study the Dhamma himself? The person who wants to study Buddhism should be quite sure when he will do so. Otherwise he will keep on thinking about the study he will do in the future, instead of actually studying the Dhamma. When a person is sure when he will study the Dhamma he should also know what exactly he will study and where, in which place, he will study. These are things people should investigate in the right way; they should not neglect studying and gaining understanding of the Dhamma themselves, they should not merely repeat what they have heard from others.
There is only one way which is the right way: everyone
should be his own refuge by studying the Dhamma with the
purpose to acquire more understanding of it. Everyone who
studies the Dhamma and has right understanding of it,
contributes to the propagation of the Dhamma, both with
regard to himself and others. When people do not have
right understanding of the Dhamma themselves they cannot
it..76•Taking Refuge in Buddhism.•77
The Right Way and the Wrong Way
Dhamma Discussions in Pnompenh (Part One)
Buth Sawong: All people who are present here would like to hear about the development of satipaììhåna. I would like to know what the difference is between the paññå which is of the level of thinking of nåma and rúpa and the paññå which penetrates the true nature of nåma and rúpa.
Sujin: First of all, people should listen to the Dhamma in order to have right understanding, to understand the truth that there are at this moment realities which are non-self. It is, however, not easy to understand that at this moment of listening to the Dhamma there is no self who listens, but that there are only realities, dhammas.
Everybody knows that he is seeing now and that seeing is real. The Buddha explained that seeing is a reality which is nåma, an element which experiences something. However, people do not realize the truth, namely that seeing experiences only what appears through the eyesense, visible object. They still believe that what is seen are this or that particular “thing”.
We should listen to the Dhamma in order to have firm, well-founded understanding of realities. It seems that one sees at this moment people, flowers or a table, but one should know that the Fully Enlightened One, the Buddha, at the attainment of Buddhahood, had penetrated the true nature of realities, that he had realized that what was seen was only a reality appearing through the eyesense. This can remind us that the Dhamma which the Buddha penetrated is the truth appearing at this moment..78•Taking Refuge in Buddhism Although people may have listened to the Dhamma already for some time, it seems that, when their eyes are open and there is seeing which just experiences visible object, they still see different people and things as usual. This shows that there is a great deal of ignorance. Ignorance, avijjå, is the reality which does not know the characteristics of realities as they are.
Everybody here knows that he should continue to develop
paññå, because paññå which is still theoretical understand-
ing, conditioned by listening, is not able to clearly understand
the true nature of realities. For the development of paññå it
is important to know the difference between the moments
that there is sati and the moments that there is no sati but
forgetfulness of realities. When one is listening to the Dham-
ma there can be, because of sati which is mindful, under-
standing of what one hears. However, this is not the level
of sati which is directly aware of the characteristic of the
reality which is appearing. Listening is of great benefit if
one also considers the Dhamma one has heard and thus,
there can gradually be more understanding of the reality
which occurs at the present moment; there can be more
understanding of seeing when there is seeing. There should
not be any expectation about the time when there will be
clear understanding of realities. One can begin to understand
that what appears through eyesense is only a kind of rúpa,
visible object. Colour or visible object is conditioned by the
four Great Elements, the rúpas which are solidity (the
Element of Earth), cohesion (the Element of Water), heat
(the Element of Fire) and motion (the Element of Wind). If
there would not be these four Great Elements arising together
with visible object, it could not appear 40 . Colour or visible
40 Rúpas arise in groups or units of rúpas. There are different kinds of
rúpas and the four Great Elements always have to arise together with each kind of rúpa. Sound, for example, could not arise without the four Great Elements.
object could not arise just by itself, as if in a vacuum.
It.The Right Way
and the Wrong Way•79
needs the support of the four Great Elements arising together with it. Since these four Great Elements are arising together with it, we can perceive different shapes and forms. Saññå 41 can recognize these as this or that particular “thing”. Saññå, remembrance, is not wrong view. Also those who have eradicated wrong view can, because of saññå, recognize what they have seen.
When sati has been developed and paññå has become keener, doubt about the difference between the characteristic of nåma, the reality which experiences an object, and the characteristic of rúpa, such as visible object appearing through eyesense, can be eradicated. But there should be a great deal of patience to listen to the Dhamma, to consider and investigate the truth that everything which appears at this moment is dhamma, reality. If sati arises it can be aware of the characteristic of whatever reality is appearing. In the beginning there is still the idea of self. Sati may arise, but there is still a feeling of wanting or trying to understand realities. It is important to notice the difference between the moment of understanding and the moment of clinging to the understanding of realities. We should be aware of our clinging to understanding, otherwise clinging cannot be eradicated. Clinging is the origination of dukkha, and this is the second noble Truth. Clinging is the cause of not knowing the truth of realities.
We should know the purpose of listening to the Dhamma.
The purpose is not obtaining something for oneself, it is not
honour or fame; it is not being admired as a clever person
who is full of wisdom. The purpose is knowing oneself,
realizing one’s lack of understanding of the characteristics
of realities, one’s ignorance of, for example, visible object
which appears through the eyes. We should remember that
41 The cetasika which is remembrance, arising with each citta. Because
of saññå we can recognize things.
what is most precious, so long as we are still alive, is paññå.80•Taking Refuge in Buddhism which knows realities as they are.
If the Buddha had not taught the way to develop right understanding, we would not be able to be aware of the characteristics of realities. We would, our whole life, continue to see without knowing what the reality of seeing is. Because of the Buddha’s teaching of Dhamma, people can realize for themselves when sati arises and when there is forgetfulness of realities. Nobody else can tell us whether there is sati or forgetfulness, we can know this only for ourselves. Even when sati arises, the characteristics of realities may not yet be seen as they are. However, sati can arise again and in this way there can gradually be a little more understanding of realities. One can understand that realities are appearing naturally in daily life when there are the appropriate conditions for them, and that also the reality of sati can only arise when there are conditions for it, that its arising cannot be forced. One should remember that it is sati, not self, which is aware of the characteristics of realities.
Understanding this is the only way to eradicate the idea of self, the idea of, “I am practising”.
The Dhamma people hear today is the Dhamma the Buddha taught in the Jeta Grove, in the Bamboo Grove and in other places. People who have listened to the Dhamma understand that seeing, hearing, thinking, happiness or sorrow are realities, dhammas. This is the true Dhamma, sacca dhamma, this is the Dhamma which is true in each life. The understanding of the true Dhamma is conditioned, it depends on whether people have heard the Dhamma in former lives.
If someone during a lifespan has no opportunity to hear
and understand the Dhamma, then his life is full of lobha,
attachment, dosa, aversion, moha, ignorance, and other kinds
of defilements, and he accumulates all the time evermore
unwholesomeness. Therefore, when there is an opportunity
to listen to the Dhamma, we should listen and consider it,
we should also investigate for ourselves the
Right Way and the Wrong Way•81
of the realities which are appearing at this moment. We should listen again and again, and continue to investigate realities in order to develop understanding, little by little. If someone intends to develop paññå he should accumulate it from now on. If he does not begin at this moment there cannot be paññå.
I appreciate the kusala of the listeners which was accumulated in the past. This accumulation is the condition for the arising of paññå which understands the benefit of the Dhamma; it is the condition for being interested in listening to the Dhamma and applying it.
Buth Sawong: I would like to ask again what the difference is between the paññå which is theoretical understanding and the paññå which directly penetrates the truth of the Dhamma.
Sujin: At this moment people listen to the Dhamma and they understand what they hear, but this is not yet direct understanding which, when there is, for example, seeing, penetrates the true nature of this reality. Hearing appears at this moment and people know that it is a kind of nåma, hearing-consciousness (sotaviññåùa), which arises and then falls away. They have theoretical understanding of this reality but they may not yet realize the true characteristic of the reality which hears sound, which is arising and falling away. Then there is only paññå of the level of thinking, theoretical understanding of realities. Hearing which arises at this moment is real, it is a dhamma which arises and falls away. So long as one does not directly understand the truth of the reality appearing at this moment, there is only paññå which is theoretical understanding, conditioned by listening. Whereas, when someone directly understands and penetrates the true characteristics of realities, he knows that this kind of paññå is different from theoretical understanding.
First of all, people should know the characteristic of sati..82•Taking Refuge in Buddhism Sati of the eightfold Path is not a “self” who is aware. Sammå-sati, right mindfulness, of the eightfold Path is aware of the reality which is appearing. When it arises there is not merely theoretical understanding. Sati is directly aware of the characteristic of the reality which is appearing, so that its true nature can be understood at that moment. Thus we can see the difference between theoretical understanding and paññå which directly understands the characteristic of the reality which is appearing. Everybody can find out for himself what level of understanding he has.
When, in the past, the Buddha taught Dhamma and explained about the six doors of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind, the listeners could, when right mindfulness arose, each for themselves realize the true nature of the realities appearing through these doorways. When sati did not arise they knew that there was only theoretical understanding which was conditioned by listening to the Dhamma.
It is paññå which can understand the characteristics of realities and we do not have to do anything special. If at this moment paññå penetrates the characteristics of realities it is not because of a self who has to make a special effort. There is no being, no person who is developing satipaììhåna.
When sati arises and it is aware of realities, one can know
the characteristics of sati and paññå and in this way the
wrong view which takes realities for self can gradually be
eliminated. Finally, there can be clear understanding of the
truth that everything which is appearing at this moment is
dhamma. Dhammas are appearing every day through the
doorways of the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the
bodysense and the mind. When sati arises it is aware of
realities, and if it does not arise there is ignorance which
does not understand realities. Sati can be aware of the
characteristics of realities which are appearing naturally,
one does not have to do anything special. Paññå develops
very gradually, but this way is the right way of
Way and the Wrong Way•83
Wanting to know something else but what appears now is useless. Realities are already appearing at this moment and thus whatever appears now can be understood as it is. If one does not understand realities yet, one should listen again, consider again, one should learn to be aware again and again, and thus there can be more understanding. Patience and perseverance are indispensable.
The right way should be developed. Someone takes the wrong way when he wants to know something else but the reality which is appearing at this moment. Then there is no paññå. If there is paññå it must be able to understand the characteristic of the reality which is appearing now.
Those who have realized the truth can understand the great wisdom of the Buddha, they can understand that he at the attainment of enlightenment penetrated the truth of realities which are extremely difficult to understand. Realities are appearing all the time, but although one may have listened to the Dhamma for a long time, paññå may seldom arise and it may only develop very slowly. However, this is to be preferred to the wrong way where there is no paññå at all. Buth Sawong: Some of the listeners would like to ask how the four Applications of Mindfulness should be practised. I have noticed that there is a great deal of wrong practice. Many people practise in the wrong way mindfulness of breath, which is included in the Application of Mindfulness of the Body. They do not know the realities which constitute the body.
Sujin: Please ask questions, because this is a Dhamma discussion. Let us discuss why a person does not practise in the right way.
Buth Sawong: How can people practise in the right way? Sujin: There is right practice and wrong practice. Now I would like to ask you in my turn: because of what does.84•Taking Refuge in Buddhism someone practise in the wrong way?
Buth Sawong: Please can you help us to explain this? Sujin: The person who asks questions should consider and investigate these questions himself as well. He should find out which cause brings which result. If he does not think over his question himself, he will not know which cause brings which result. It is because of paññå that he can answer himself questions about the practice. If he cannot answer such questions he cannot follow the right practice. You may answer briefly to my question: what is the reason that someone practises in the wrong way?
Buth Sawong: I would like to ask again in a few words: how can someone practise in the right way?
Sujin: Could you just consider the reason why someone does not practise in the right way?
Buth Sawong: Because he does not know the truth.
Sujin: He does not know what is wrong practice. He has ignorance, he does not understand anything. If he would have right understanding he would follow the right practice.
Wrong practice is a form of wrong view, micchå-diììhi, and
this is conditioned by ignorance. If someone tells other people
that sitting is necessary for the right practice, do the people
who follow this advice gain any understanding? If they do
not gain any understanding while they are sitting, what is
the reason for sitting? Understanding is indispensable for
the right practice. The Buddha taught the Dhamma with
the purpose of helping people to understand the
characteristics of realities which are appearing naturally at
this moment. The Buddha did not tell people to sit, but he
asked them to listen to the Dhamma so that they would
gain understanding. If people do not have theoretical
understanding of realities which is conditioned by listening,
in which way are they practising? If they do not have any
understanding there is moha, ignorance, and there is
also.The Right Way
and the Wrong Way•85
wrong view which conditions all kinds of wrong practice. It is essential to understand that there is no self who is practising. Everything is dhamma: right understanding (sammå-diììhi) is dhamma, wrong view (micchå-diììhi) is dhamma, lobha (attachment), alobha (non-attachment), do-sa (aversion), adosa (non-aversion), moha, paññå, they all are dhammas, realities which are non-self.
A person who has wrong view will follow the wrong practice, he cannot follow the right practice. Whereas a person who has right understanding cannot follow the wrong practice. If someone tells a person who has right understanding that sitting is necessary for the right practice, he will not sit, because he knows that by just sitting he will not develop any understanding, and that there is thus no reason for him to sit.
Buth Sawong: How should we practice in the right way satipaììhåna, and in particular Mindfulness of Body?
Sujin: Why do you choose any particular object of
Buth Sawong: I read in the scriptures about Mindfulness of Body, but I do not know how to practise it.
Sujin: There are the six doors of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. The objects presenting themselves through these six doors constitute the “world” which appears to us; in fact there are six worlds appearing through the six doors. If there were not those six worlds we would not experience anything. At this moment there is seeing, but one may not know seeing as it is: only a type of reality, a kind of experience, different from thinking or hearing. What appears through the eyes is visible object, and this is different from sound.
The person who realizes the truth at the moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, experiencing tangible object or.86•Taking Refuge in Buddhism thinking, will not have any doubts about the four Applications of Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Body, of Feeling, of Citta and of Dhammas. There may be doubts about the names of the four Applications of Mindfulness, about concepts, but not about realities. The person who realizes the truth knows that there are realities of the body, rúpas, which are appearing time and again. The rúpas appearing all over the body, from head to toes, are dhammas, realities. Citta can experience the reality which appears through the bodysense when the body is touched. Are teeth, blood or heart appearing at this moment?
Buth Sawong: They exist in conventional sense.
Sujin: You can remember that they are there, but do they appear at this moment?
Buth Sawong: They do not appear now.
Sujin: They have already arisen and fallen away. What has already arisen and fallen away does not appear at this moment. But people remember them in a distorted way, as if they would persist. They take the whole body from head to toes for self. That is the wrong remembrance of self (attå saññå).
The Buddha said that all dhammas are non-self, anattå.
Rúpa-dhamma is rúpa-dhamma and nåma-dhamma is nåma-
dhamma. They have each their own characteristic and nobody
can alter these characteristics; they are realities which are
non-self. Rúpa-dhamma arises and then falls away very
rapidly, but nåma-dhamma which arises falls away even
more rapidly then rúpa-dhamma. When the truth has been
realized there is nothing left of our life but just one moment
of citta which experiences the rúpa or the nåma which is
appearing. People cling to the self, they know because of
saññå that they have lungs, liver, heart or spleen which
seem to persist, but when there is paññå it can realize that
this is only thinking. Satipaììhåna is not thinking,
it is the.The Right
Way and the Wrong Way•87
development of direct understanding of the characteristics of realities which are appearing.
When we touch any part of the body, the characteristic of softness or hardness appears. Hardness and softness are rúpas which arise and then fall away immediately. Because of saññå we think of different parts of the body and I will give an example of this. Someone who had a leg being amputated still has a feeling that he has that leg. It is saññå, remembrance, which conditions him to think that he still has that leg, although it has been amputated. There is remembrance of all the rúpas of that leg. In reality the rúpa which appears now falls away immediately and, when there are the appropriate conditions, it is replaced by another rúpa which arises and falls away again. However, people think, because of saññå, of their whole body from head to toes, just as in the case of the person who had his leg amputated but still has a feeling that he has that leg. Only when the wrong remembrance of self, attå saññå, because of which one is used to thinking that the whole body exists, has been eradicated, can one really understand that all dhammas are anattå, non-self. Then there is nothing left of the body as a whole, there is only one characteristic of rúpa at a time which is appearing. This is the way to understand the meaning of anattå.
It is difficult to eliminate the wrong remembrance of self. When the rúpa which is cold impinges on a certain part of the body, it falls away immediately, but it is difficult to realize this. There is still remembrance of, “It is I who is sitting”, there is still remembrance of arms, legs, head, of the body as a whole. The wrong view of self has not been eradicated. The Buddha explained that, when sati arises and is aware of the characteristic of the reality which is appearing, one at a time, through the bodysense, there is at such a moment the Application of Mindfulness of the Body. The Four Applications of Mindfulness are not something.88•Taking Refuge in Buddhism else but mindfulness of what appears through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the bodysense or the mind. People should not select the object of mindfulness, because then there is clinging to an idea of self who can select such an object. Nobody can direct sati to a particular object, it is sati itself which is aware of such or such object. Sati can be aware of what appears through the eyes or of seeing at this moment when there is seeing. At such a moment there is not Mindfulness of Body. There can be Mindfulness of Dhammas or Mindfulness of Citta, depending on conditions. There is no method which tells one to do particular things in order to have Mindfulness of Body, of Feeling, of Citta or of Dhammas. There is no method at all to be followed. The only way to develop satipaììhåna is to gradually understand the realities which are appearing. Sati can be aware of whatever reality is appearing. For example, when there is seeing, there may be awareness of feeling. When there is awareness of the characteristic of feeling, there is at that moment not Mindfulness of Body or Mindfulness of Citta. The Påli term used in this context is vedanånupassanå 42 satipaììhåna, meaning: consideration or observation of feeling. This shows that paññå develops by being mindful, by considering the characteristics of realities. If people never are aware of the characteristic of feeling, they will continue to take feeling for self.
42 Vedanå means feeling. Anupassanå means viewing, contemplating,
The Natural Way to develop
Dhamma Discussions in Pnompenh (Part Two)
Sujin: There is no particular method which should be followed for the development of satipaììhåna. The understanding acquired by listening which has been accumulated, conditions sati to be aware of the characteristics of realities which are appearing now. Understanding can be developed of the realities which are appearing naturally in daily life. It is of no use to ask which method of practice should be followed.
If there is no understanding at this moment, it is necessary
to listen to the Dhamma again in order to gain more
understanding. In this way people will know at which
moment there is sati and at which moment there is no sati but forgetfulness. If someone thinks of practising in the future there is no sati. Realities are appearing already but he does not realize this. It is useless to think of the future which has not come yet. If someone thinks that he will practise in the future he does not know that at this moment there are realities which should be understood. It is not helpful to wonder about what one should do, how one should practise. Sati can be mindful of seeing at the present moment which is real, or of hearing at the present moment which is real. It can be mindful of realities such as softness or hardness which are experienced by touch, of thinking, of happy, unhappy or indifferent feeling, or of pleasant or unpleasant bodily feeling. All these phenomena are real and they can be object of mindfulness.
We do not have to delay the development of understanding, we should not believe that we have to do anything special.90•Taking Refuge in Buddhism first. At this moment there is seeing which experiences what appears through the eyesense. There can be mindfulness of seeing. The characteristic of seeing is nåma, an element which experiences an object. We can see, we are different from a dead person who, even though he has eyes, cannot see, who cannot perceive a table or a chair. We can see so long as we are alive and we have not gone blind. At this moment there is seeing and this is only one moment of citta. Nobody can create seeing, it arises because of its appropriate conditions. The citta which is seeing is different from the citta which is hearing. We should remember that these are different realities. Gradually we can come to understand the characteristic of the citta which is seeing at this moment. Understanding cannot yet be clear in the beginning. If someone wonders of what there can be ignorance, the answer is that ignorance does not know as it is seeing which presents itself, that it does not know the true nature of what appears now. Paññå is the opposite of ignorance; paññå understands realities whereas ignorance does not know anything.
Seeing arises because of its appropriate conditions. When sati is aware of seeing, paññå can at that moment understand its nature, it can understand it as a type of reality. Sati and paññå arise and fall away together very rapidly. They arise only when there are conditions for their arising. Nobody can cause their arising, but they can develop little by little. Their development takes a great deal of time. Nobody can, even when sati arises, have clear understanding of realities immediately.
The Buddha, in order to be able to attain Buddhahood, had
to fulfil the “perfections” from the time that the Buddha
43 There were other Buddhas before the Buddha Gotama. The Buddha
Gotama was in one of his former lives the brahman Sumedha, aeons ago.
In that life he aspired to be a future Buddha.
Dípaòkara 43 declared
him to be a future Buddha, he had to.The Natural Way to develop Understanding•91
accumulate them for four incalculable periods and a hundred thousand aeons. Ånanda accumulated the perfections for a hundred thousand aeons. Therefore, why should people ask how they should practise? If someone asks such a question it shows that he wishes to understand immediately the real-ities which appear at this moment, but this is impossible. The person who develops the eightfold Path must know himself, he must be truthful with regard to himself. At the moment when there is ignorance, he does not understand realities and at the moment when sati arises he can find out that there is awareness. When sati arises it is aware of realities which arise naturally in daily life. At this moment seeing arises naturally in daily life. We can investigate in the right way what seeing is, we can understand that it is a type of reality. At such a moment there is sati arising with theoretical understanding. When there is direct understand-ing of the characteristic of seeing as nåma, there is sati-paììhåna. At such a moment there is understanding of the characteristics of realities as they are, but there cannot be clear, thorough understanding immediately. Understanding has to be developed gradually. The person who develops understanding has no doubt about it that if sati does not arise, if there is no awareness of the characteristics of realities, paññå cannot grow and that thus the characteristics of real-ities cannot be clearly understood. Therefore, he develops satipaììhåna naturally in his daily life. He realizes that there are moments when sati can be aware of realities, and that there are also moments when sati does not arise, but he has no desire to try to induce the arising of sati. He knows that sati does not arise because of one’s desire for it. Each cause brings its appropriate effect. If someone wants to be a person who is intent on kusala he should begin at this moment. If he does not want to be angry he should from now on begin to be less inclined to anger. Kusala dhammas should be developed, they cannot arise just according to our wish. If one wants to develop paññå, one can begin to be aware of.92•Taking Refuge in Buddhism the characteristics of realities in a natural way, and there should not be an idea of “I” or self who is aware. When sati arises and it is aware of realities, one can find out that there is sati already and that it is not necessary to make a special effort for sati. Nothing else can be done but gradually developing more understanding of the characteristics of realities .
Someone may feel happy about his understanding or about
the arising of sati, but then there is clinging and he should
get rid of it. One should not hope for the arising of sati in
the future, neither should one cling to sati which has arisen,
that is wrong practice. The right practice is the development
of awareness of realities just as they appear naturally. When
there is right practice, there is no attachment nor aversion
with regard to the reality which is appearing, because that
reality is not “I”, mine or self. Not only in this life there is
clinging to the concept of “I” or self, also in countless past
lives there was such clinging. How could we then today
have immediately clear understanding of the characteristics
of nåma and rúpa? If there has not often been listening to
the Dhamma and considering it, it is impossible that there
is at the moment of awareness of realities direct
understanding of their arising and falling away.
When the Buddha taught the Dhamma, there were each
time many people who penetrated the four noble Truths,
but this does not mean that every listener could attain
enlightenment. Those who attained enlightenment to the
degree of arahatship were fewer in number than those who
attained the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the
non-returner (anågåmí). Even so, those who became non-
returners were fewer in number than those who attained
the second stage of enlightenment, the stage of the once-
returner (sakadågåmí), and those who became once-
returners were fewer in number than those who attained
the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the
Natural Way to develop Understanding•93
(sotåpanna). Those who became streamwinners were again fewer in number than those who did not attain any stage of enlightenment. Listening and considering the Dhamma is never enough, people should continue to listen to the Dham-ma and consider what they have heard.
When we read the stories about the past lives of the Buddha’s disciples, we learn that there were people who, although they studied the whole Tipiìaka and its commentaries, still did not penetrate the four noble Truths. Therefore, it is of no use to wonder when one will understand the truth. Besides, people should not ask someone else whether they will have right understanding after a long time of develop-ment or within a short time. Everybody should know with regard to himself whether at this moment sati is aware of the realities which are appearing, or whether there is no sati. People should know the truth about themselves, and they should be sincere with regard to their own development. The only way which should be followed is to continue devel-oping understanding, little by little.
Buth Sawong: With regard to the practice of the Dhamma, people who have listened to the Dhamma find that realities arise and fall away too rapidly. They say that for this reason they cannot clearly understand them. They still seem to see beings and persons, not visible object, because the different realities arise and fall away too rapidly. They feel that they are not fast enough to discern different realities.
Sujin: Are they not fast enough to understand realities, or do they not understand them at all ?
Buth Sawong: They know them as beings, people and self. Sujin: Is this a matter of being too slow to understand realities, or of just not understanding them at all?
Buth Sawong: Actually, they do not understand realities, and this is not a matter of being too slow to catch them..94•Taking Refuge in Buddhism Sujin: That is right. At this moment realities are appearing to all of us, because we are not asleep 44 . There is seeing, but is there understanding which knows that seeing is a reality which experiences something, that there is no “I” who is seeing? That which is experienced through the eyes, visible object, is appearing. Is there understanding of it already? We should not look for that which appears through the eyes, it is there already. At this moment realities are appearing, but they are not known as they are. This, however, is not a matter of being too slow to catch them. Therefore, people should not say that they are too slow to understand dhammas; they have only theoretical understanding of the fact that realities arise and fall away very rapidly. At this moment realities are arising and falling away and it is of no use to think that one is too slow to realize this. Only paññå which has been developed can realize the truth of impermanence. What has fallen away has fallen away, nobody can alter this fact. During the time when someone is thinking that he is too slow to realize the falling away of realities, realities still arise again and fall away again. The only way which can be followed is developing understanding of the characteristic of what appears at this very moment, and this does not have to be delayed. This is the way to check one’s own understanding, to find out whether there is understanding of the true nature of realities or not yet. If someone gradually has more understanding of realities, it means that paññå is developing.
Does one want to attain enlightenment without knowing as
they are the characteristics of realities appearing at this
moment? That is impossible. So long as someone has not
penetrated the truth of the realities appearing now he should
44 When we are fast asleep and not dreaming, there are bhavanga-cittas
or life-continuum. These cittas do not arise within processes of cittas which experience objects through the six doors.
not believe that he will realize the four noble Truths,
Way to develop Understanding•95
he will attain nibbåna. Everybody can repeat the Dhamma
he has heard, he can repeat that realities arise because of
conditions, and that the realities which have arisen can be
experienced. However, when at this moment something hard
is touched, do people have direct understanding of the truth,
namely, that hardness which is experienced by touch appears
because it has arisen, and that if hardness does not arise it
cannot be experienced by touch? Everybody is touching one
thing or other and if sati does not arise people think that it
is a table or a hand which is experienced by touch. When
sati arises it can be aware of the characteristic of hardness,
but this does not mean that paññå is able to penetrate the
true nature of realities immediately. We should remember
the Buddha’s words we read in the scriptures, about being
mindful often, again and again 45 . Only if there is mindfulness
again and again will it be understood that hardness is a
kind of rúpa, different from the reality which experiences
hardness, from nåma. When there has been mindfulness
more often of the characteristics of nåma and rúpa, paññå
can become keener and reach the degree of insight-
knowledge, vipassanå ñåùa, and at that moment realities
appear as they are. This does not mean, however, that the
arising and falling away of realities can be penetrated
immediately. In the course of the development of paññå
there are different stages of insight-knowledge, and the
arising and falling away of realities is not penetrated at the
first stage of insight-knowledge, but at a later stage 46 . When
someone believes that he can immediately penetrate the
45 See for example the Satpaììhåna Sutta, Middle Length Saings I, 10,
where it is said after each section of Mindfulness of the Body, “Thus he
lives contemplating the body in the body...”, and after the other sections,
that he lives contemplating feelings in the feelings, citta in citta,
dhammas in dhammas.
46 At the first stage the difference between the characteristic of nåma
and the characteristic of rúpa is clearly distinguished.
arising and falling away of realities he is on the wrong
Refuge in Buddhism
He should not think of having to be in time to “catch” the
arising and falling away of realities. He should begin to
understand the characteristic of the reality which experiences
something, of nåma, and of the characteristic of the reality
which does not experience anything, of rúpa. He can begin
to be aware of the realities appearing through the eyes,
ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. There are only six
doorways through which realities are appearing, but
ignorance cannot understand this.
The Buddha taught the Dhamma in detail for fortyfive years, he taught the Vinaya (Book of Discipline for the monks), the Suttanta (Discourses) and the Abhidhamma. He taught the Dhamma in so many details, because he knew the amount of our ignorance. Realities are only nåma and rúpa, but the Buddha taught different aspects of them: he taught the four Applications of Mindfulness so that we would be able to understand realities as non-self. He taught, for example, the Application of Mindfulness of Feeling, so that we would know the truth that the different feelings, including happy feeling, unhappy feeling, indifferent feeling, pleasant and painful bodily feeling, are not “I”, not self. We can notice today that there are many kinds of nåma and rúpa, realities appearing through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. Feeling arises each time when there is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, experiencing tangible object or thinking.
When we take into account the reality of feeling, we see
that it is manifold, but apart from feeling there are also, for
example, lobha (attachment), dosa (aversion), jealousy, av-
arice and many other kinds of akusala cetasikas. Besides
these there are also many kinds of sobhana (beautiful) ce-
tasikas. All these realities which arise time and again are
dependant on the appropriate conditions. In our daily life
there is forgetfulness and ignorance when there is no aware-
ness of the characteristics of realities which are
Natural Way to develop Understanding•97
Buth Sawong: I received a question from someone who asked what a person who practises satipaììhåna should do when he is near death.
Sujin: There is no “I”, no self who can do anything. There are only citta, cetasika and rúpa which arise time and again because of their appropriate conditions.
Buth Sawong: When at death rúpa has fallen away, nåma also has fallen away. What is it that will be reborn?
Sujin: There will again be the arising of nåma and rúpa. Is
it not true that just a moment ago nåma and rúpa fell
Buth Sawong: That is true.
Sujin: Is there again arising of nåma and rúpa?
Buth Sawong: Yes.
Sujin: Nåma and rúpa arise and then fall away completely according to conditions, all the time. If nåma and rúpa would not arise we would not be sitting here.
Buth Sawong: When I and my relatives came to meet you at the airport, you said about us that we have paññå. Paññå in what respect?
Sujin: Did your relatives who came to meet me not listen to the Dhamma you explained in your lectures?
Buth Sawong: They did.
Sujin: If they had not gained understanding from listening, would they listen again?
Buth Sawong: They have listened and gained understanding from what they heard.
is paññå which understands..98•Taking
Refuge in Buddhism.•99
Abhidhammattha Sangaha an Encyclopedia of the Abhidhamma, written by Anuruddha between the 8th and the 12th century A.D.
Åcariya The Påli term for teacher
adosa non aversion
akusala unwholesome, unskilful
alobha non attachment, generosity
amoha wisdom or understanding
anågåmí non returner, person who has reached the third stage of enlightenment, he has no aversion (dosa)
Ånanda the chief attendant of the Buddha
anantara paccaya contiguity condition
anattå not self
anumodhanå thanksgiving, appreciation of someone else’s
arahat noble person who has attained the fourth and last stage
ariyan noble person who has attained enlightenment
åyatanas sense-fields, namely the five senses and the mind and
the objects experienced by them
bhåvanå mental development, comprising the development of
calm and the development of insight
bodhisatta a being destined to become a Buddha
Buddha a fully enlightened person who has discovered the truth
all by himself, without the aid of a teacher.100•Taking
Refuge in Buddhism
cetasika mental factor arising with consciousness
citta consciousness, the reality which knows or cognizes an
dåna generosity, giving
dhamma reality, truth, the teachings
diììhi wrong view, distorted view of realities
dosa aversion or ill will
dukkha suffering, unsatisfactoriness of conditioned realities ekaggatå concentration, one-pointedness, a cetasika which has the function to focus on one object ganthas bonds, a group of defilements indriya faculty. Some are rúpas such as the sense organs, some are nåmas such as feeling. Five ‘spiritual faculties’ are wholesome faculties which should be cultivated, namely:
confidence, energy, awareness, concentration and wisdom.
kamma intention or volition; deed motivated by volition
kammajå-rúpa rúpa which is originated by kamma
kåya body. It can also stand for the ‘mental body’, the cetasikas khandhas aggregates of conditioned realities classified as five groups: physical phenomena, feelings, perception or remembrance, activities or formations (cetasikas other than feeling or perception), consciousness.
khaùika maraùa momentary death of a reality
kusala wholesome, skilful
lobha attachment, greed
lokuttara citta supramundane citta which experiences nibbåna magga path (eightfold Path)
mettå loving kindness
micchå-samådhi wrong concentration
citta rooted in ignorance.•101
nåma mental phenomena,including those which are conditioned and also the unconditioned nåma which is nibbåna. ñåùa wisdom, insight nibbåna unconditioned reality, the reality which does not arise and fall away. The destruction of lust, hatred and delusion. The deathless. The end of suffering.
Påli the language of the Buddhist teachings
paññå wisdom or understanding
paramattha dhamma truth in the absolute sense: mental
and physical phenomena, each with their own characteristic.
rúpa physical phenomena, realities which do not experience
sakadågåmí once-returner, a noble person who has attained
the second stage of enlightenment
samådhi concentration or one-pointedness, ekaggatå cetasika
samatha the development of calm
Sangha community of monks and nuns. As one of the triple
Gems it means the community of those people who have
saññå memory, remembrance or “perception”
saòkåra dhamma conditioned dhamma
sati awareness, non-forgetfulness, awareness of reality by direct
satipaììhåna applicatioms of mindfulness. It can mean the
cetasika sati which is aware of realities or the objects of
mindfulness which are classified as four applications of
mindfulness: Body, Feeling Citta, Dhamma. Or it can mean the development of direct understanding of realities through awareness.
in action or speech, virtue.102•Taking
Refuge in Buddhism
sobhana (citta and cetasika) beautiful,
sotåpanna person who has attained the first stage of
enlightenment, and who has eradicated wrong view of realities sukha happy, pleasant sutta part of the scriptures containing dialogues at different places on different occasions.
suttanta a sutta text
Tipiìaka the teachings of the Buddha
upekkhå indifferent feeling. It can stand for evenmindedness or
equanimity and then it is not feeling
vedanånupassanå satipaììhåna mindfulness
vinaya Book of Discipline for the monks
viññåùa consciousness, citta
vipåkacitta citta which is the result of a wholesome deed
(kusala kamma) or an unwholesome deed (akusala kamma). It
can arise as rebirth-consciousness, or during life as the
experience of pleasant or unpleasant objects through the
senses, such as seeing, hearing, etc.
vipassanå wisdom which sees realities as they are
Visuddhimagga an encyclopaedia of the Buddha’s teaching,
written by Buddhaghosa in the fifth century A.D
From discussions with Sujin Boriharnwanaket
and Phra Dhammadhara
If one does not realise yet that one has wrong understanding, it is impossible to develop right understanding.
The beginning is understanding the characteristic of
Some people are afraid to watch TV, but now we are lost in the concepts with no awareness.
One takes subtle attachment for calmness because of lack of understanding of calmness.
Life is so short, so fragile. Get rid of attachment.
Always burning with lobha, dosa, moha …renunciation with satipatthana… Understand accumulations from moment to moment. Right action is abstaining from wrong action. There must be awareness of a nåma or rúpa to be right action of the eightfold path.
The aim of thinking about concepts in the right way is to know more about realities.
Seeing sees visible object. What is seen is not a person. We
have attachment to individuals, but individuality has no
characteristic..104•Taking Refuge in Buddhism
If you think you are so clever and others don’t think so, you feel sorry. Attachment to self brings sorrow.
Aversion prevents listening.
The understanding that begins to know conditioned
realities is also conditioned.
The arising of any conditioned reality is dukkha because of
its arising. If there is no arising, there is no dukkha. If there
is no awareness of the reality now, how can one
understand the absolute reality of dukkha?
The arising happens because there is passing away of previous moments. Once there is no arising there can be total peace and calm.
Can you tell what is beyond this moment?
If there is no thinking of this or that concept, can there be concept at this moment?
The game of life that tanha always wins.
Don’t be a victim of the conceptual system, but the
conqueror of your ignorance.
When there is dosa, there is strong lobha somewhere that has conditioned it.
Propagating wrong view is the most dangerous thing to do. Don’t force yourself to think it is the right time and right place for the arising of awareness, because awareness can arise anytime or place. Don’t limit it..•105 At the moment of developing right understanding, there is real rest no matter what one is doing.
Without satipaììhåna , there is always cling to self, always
wanting the best for self, even wanting more
We think it’s enough listening so now we need time and place for the development, but in reality it’s never enough listening.
We don’t understand the game of taùhå (craving), so we follow it wherever it goes.
The Buddha taught us to listen to dhamma, not people. Let go of desire and attachment for other objects that do not appear now. When there’s awareness, there’s letting go. The Buddha taught everyone to have kusala citta at any moment, at any level, because to have kusala citta at any moment is so helpful.
Right understanding brings detachment. If there is even a
little attachment, it hinders the progress of right
Samatha doesn’t get rid of concepts.
As understanding grows, it grows beyond the level of thinking of sammuti sacca and knows the difference between paramattha sacca and sammuti sacca (concept) instead of clinging to sammuti sacca and taking for self. We must be brave enough to study with panna any reality.
We need to be brave to begin to study visible object as
visible object..106•Taking Refuge in Buddhism
It is kindness to others if we don’t cling to them or
encourage them to be attached to us.
The test is at this moment. Test now...Visual object now is the test of whether one has understanding or whether there should be more understanding developed.
With understanding and awareness of calmness, calmness grows.
The world of paramattha sacca is the world of
understanding reality as it is.
One is burnt by one’s desire all the time. In reality one is attached to one’s feeling, not really the person...
Attachment is only a conditioned moment. Attachment is like a trap or a bait.
One kills oneself and one’s heart by one’s attachment and ignorance. We are trapped, lured by attachment all the time. It’s truly poisonous.
We are cut up with sammuti sacca when there is no
awareness of thinking.
There are different conditions for different namas and rupas. With more understanding of different conditions you will see that there is no self.
It needs right understanding to know whether this moment
is kusala or akusala..•107
The Buddha’s Path
By Nina van Gorkom
Explains the basic principles of Buddhism to those who
have no previous experience and knowledge of this way of
life. The four noble Truths - suffering - the origin of
suffering - the cessation of suffering - and the way leading
to the end of suffering - are explained as a philosophy and a practical guidance which can be followed in today’s world.
The contents include: the Buddha’s life, the truth of
suffering, the truth of non-self, the mind, deeds and their
results, good deeds and a wholesome life, meditation and
the Eightfold Path. 1994, paperback, 150 pages, 140mm x 210mm, ISBN 1 897633 12 2, price £7.95.
Buddhism in Daily Life
By Nina van Gorkom
A general introduction to the main ideas of Theravåda
Buddhism. The purpose of this book is to help the reader
gain insight into the Buddhist scriptures and the way in
which the teachings can be used to benefit both ourselves
and others in everyday life. Several chapters are written in
the form of question and answer, inspired by questions
posed by ordinary people who were confronted with
difficulties in the practical application of the teachings. The
book will be an invaluable aid for those individuals who
wish to develop the Buddhist path to true understanding.
Suitable for both practising Buddhists and newcomers to
the teachings. ISBN 1 897633 16 5, 192 pages, paperback,
135mm x 210mm, price £7.95
Mettå: loving kindness in Buddhism
By Sujin Boriharnwanaket
An introduction to the basic Buddhist teachings of metta,
loving kindness, and its practical application in today’s
world. It shows metta as the “foundation of the world”
essential for peace and happiness of both ourselves and
others. It gives guidance to its development, explaining
conditions for it and impediments to it. And shows the
importance of the Buddhist meditation practice of insight
for its development. 1995
ISBN 1 897633 14 9, 128 pages, paperback, 210mm x
135mm, price £7.95..108•Taking Refuge in Buddhism
The World in the Buddhist Sense
By Nina van Gorkom
Explains the realities in and around ourselves. Analyses the
difference between the development of calm and the
development of insight. Discusses the meditation practice of
“mindfulness of breathing”. Illustrates with many quotes
from the Påli Tipiìaka. Suitable for those who have a
background of Buddhism but who seek a deeper
understanding. October 1993, 123 pp, paperback, 210mm x 140mm. ISBN 1 897633 11 4, price £7.95.
Abhidhamma in Daily Life
By Nina van Gorkom
We live mostly in a changing world of ideas. We are caught
up in concepts. What is real and important can be lost as we
strive to compete. Abhidhamma in Daily Life goes straight
to the heart of Buddhist doctrine. It defines what is real
with the aim of freeing us from the daily rat race.
The purpose of the book is to give a fundamental
understanding of the five senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and the all important sixth sense, the mind. Only when we truly understand these six senses can we begin to comprehend what is important and truly real.
Abhidhamma in Daily Life shows us how to apply the basic precepts of Buddhist teaching in our daily life which will impact not only on ourselves, but also on those around us.
It cuts through the complexities of the original text, the Påli
Tipiìaka, simplifying the scriptures without losing their
meaning. Many Påli terms are used, but they are defined as
they are introduced making it suitable for the beginner as
well as practising Buddhists.
Abhidhamma in Daily Life is a vital key for unlocking the
deep meaning of the Buddha’s teachings and the Buddhist way of life.
ISBN 1 897633 17 3, 272 pages, paperback, 135mm x
216mm, price £11.95, US $17.95..•109
by Nina van Gorkom
Cetasika means ‘belonging to the mind’. It is a mental factor
which accompanies consciousness (citta) and experiences
an object. There are 52 cetasikas. This book gives an outline
of each of these 52 cetasikas and shows the relationship
they have with each other. It will help the student have
more understanding of the intricate operations of the mind
enabling the development of good qualities and the
eventual eradication of all defilements. It will help to
understand that citta and cetasika act according to their
own conditions and that an abiding agent (soul or self) is
not to be found. The book assumes some previous knowlege of Buddhism.
First edition, author: Nina van Gorkom, ISBN 1897633 18
1, 416 pages, 216mm x 135mm, hardback,price £24, Publication date 1st April