Buddhism In Daily Life
by Nina van Gorkom
published by zolag.co.uk
Questioner: In the development of vipassanå, insight, we learn to
see things as they are. Seeing things as they are means: seeing
nåma and rúpa as they are. Thus, we should distinguish nåma
and rúpa from each other more clearly. Rúpa is that which does
not experience anything. Can we say that nåma is that which
experiences and rúpa is that which is experienced?
Nina: You say that rúpa is that which is experienced. Your
words imply that nåma cannot be experienced. Nåma experiences not only rúpa but it experiences nåma as well. Can you not notice it when there is a happy feeling, when there is aversion, when there is thinking? It is not “self” who notices this, but nåma.
Nåma knows nåma at those moments.
Question: In vipassanå we develop awareness. Awareness is always awareness of something. I am not sure that I understand what awareness is.
Nina: The Påli term “sati” is translated into English as “mindful-ness” or “awareness”. These words might create confusion. When we say in conventional language that we are aware of something it might mean that we know or experience something, but this does not necessarily mean that there is sati. It is, however, not important which word we use to name the reality which is sati, but it is essential to understand its characteristic.
Sati is a “beautiful” mental factor, sobhana cetasika, which arises
only with sobhana cittas
. Each kusala citta is accompanied by
sati which is non-forgetful, heedful, of what is wholesome and
prevents one from unwholesomeness. There are many degrees
and levels of sati. There is sati with dåna, generosity. When we
are generous it is sati which is non-forgetful of generosity. There
1 Sobhana cittas include not only kusala cittas but also kusala vipåkacittas and
kiriyacittas (inoperative cittas) of the arahat, accompanied by sobhana hetus,
is sati with síla, morality. When we abstain from killing it is sati.114 • Buddhism in Daily Life which is heedful, which prevents us from killing. There is sati in samatha, the development of calm. When we for example ponder over the virtues of the Buddha there are moments of calm; it is sati which is mindful of the object which conditions calm. When we develop vipassanå there is sati accompanying the kusala citta, and it is mindful of whatever nåma or rúpa appears now, at this moment, through one of the six doors. Through mindfulness of nåma and rúpa we will learn to see things as they really are.
Thus, no matter whether we perform dåna, observe síla, develop samatha or vipassanå, there is sati with the kusala citta, but the quality of sati is different at these different moments.
Question: How do I know when there is sati of vipassanå?
Nina: In order to know when there is sati of vipassanå we should understand what the object of sati is: a reality, a nåma or rúpa which appears now. Nåmas and rúpas appear one at a time through the six doors. They are realities which can be directly experienced. We are ignorant of realities and we do not know the difference between realities and concepts or ideas. We can think of concepts and ideas but they are not realities which can be directly experienced through one of the six doors. We believe that there are people and things which stay and we do not see that what we take for permanent or self are in reality only different phenomena which are impermanent and not self.
We cling to the concept of a person or thing which exists, but what is there in reality? What can be directly experienced through one of the six doors? Not a person, not a thing which exists, only different elements which present themselves one at a time through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense or mind, through these six doorways.
When we, for example, take a loaf of bread, there is usually no development of insight, but we cling to the concept of a bread which stays, at least for some time. Bread is a concept or idea, it is not a reality which can be directly experienced. What are the realities which can be directly experienced? Through the eyes that which is visible, visible object, can be experienced. We do not see a loaf of bread, but we can think of bread because of remembrance of past experiences. The seeing of visible object conditions the thinking of the concept of bread. Through the eyes appears only visible object. Seeing sees visible object. Visible object.Vipassanå • 115 and seeing are realities which can be known by paññå, right understanding. When we touch the loaf of bread, tangible object can be experienced through the bodysense, namely: hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion or pressure. These are realities, rúpas, which can be known by paññå. The nåma which experiences these rúpas is also real and it can be known by paññå. Through the nose odour can be experienced. The rúpa which is odour and the nåma which experiences odour are realities which can be known by paññå. Through the tongue flavour can be experienced. The rúpa which is flavour and the nåma which experiences flavour are realities which can be known. Thus we see that there are many different nåmas and rúpas which can be known one at a time. We still think: “I see, I hear, I experience”, but through the development of insight we will learn that there are only nåma and rúpa, no self. The nåma which is seeing sees, not self. Seeing arises because of conditions and falls away immediately, although we do not realize this. The nåma which is hearing hears, not self. There are many different types of nåmas which experience different objects.
One nåma or rúpa at a time can be object of mindfulness, not concepts or ideas such as a person, a cup or a loaf of bread. We use names in daily life which denote concepts and ideas, but we must know the difference between concepts and ideas and charac-teristics of nåma and rúpa which can be directly experienced without the need to name them. Namå and rúpa are ultimate or absolute realities (paramattha dhammas) which each have their own characteristic. Seeing, for example has its own characteristic; we can use different names in different languages to denote seeing, but its characteristic is unchangeable. Seeing is always seeing, no matter how we name it; it is a nåma which experiences visible object and it can be known when it appears. Is there no seeing now? Hardness is always hardness, no matter how we name it; it is a rúpa which can be experienced through the bodysense. Is there no hardness now? Thus, we can use different names for a nåma or a rúpa, but their characteristics cannot be changed. When they appear through one of the six doors they can be directly experienced. We can think of concepts and ideas, but they are not ultimate realities. When we think of them the thinking itself is a reality which arises, a type of nåma; it arises because of conditions..116 • Buddhism in Daily Life Sati in vipassanå is mindful, non-forgetful, of ultimate realities, of the nåmas and rúpas which appear. It is completely different from what we mean by “mindfulness” or “awareness” in conven-tional language. Every citta experiences an object, it is “aware” or conscious of an object, but not every citta is accompanied by sati. Hardness, for example, can be experienced by different types of citta, but there is not sati with every type of citta. When there is sati which is mindful of the characteristic of hardness, only that characteristic appears and there is at that moment no thought of a thing which is hard or of a hand which touches something hard. A thing which is hard or a hand which touches something hard are concepts we may think of, but at such moments there is no mindfulness of the characteristic of hardness. At the moment sati is mindful of hardness which appears, paññå can investigate that characteristic in order to know it as it is: only a rúpa, not a thing which stays, not a “self”.
In the beginning there cannot yet be a clear understanding of nåma and rúpa, but through mindfulness of the characteristics of nåma and rúpa which appear one at a time, paññå can gradually develop.
It is important to know the difference between the moments
when there is sati and those when there is no sati. There is often
forgetfulness of realities, but sometimes sati can arise. We will
learn the difference from experience. After there has been forget-fulness
of realities for a long time sati may arise which is mindful
of one characteristic of nåma or rúpa at a time. It is not self who
is mindful, it is sati. We cannot force sati to arise because it is a
type of nåma and not self. It can arise only when there are
conditions for its arising.
Question: We cannot be aware of nåma and rúpa at the same
time, but I would like to know how nåma and rúpa are related to each other. When there is hearing there is also sound which is rúpa. When there is seeing there is also visible object which is rúpa.
Nina: Do you want to have theoretical knowledge of all nåmas and rúpas or do you want to develop the wisdom which knows from direct experience the characteristics of the phenomena ap-pearing through the five senses and through the mind-door? There are different levels of wisdom and we should find out what kind.Vipassanå • 117 of wisdom we are developing.
There are several kinds of rúpa, some of which are conditioned by kamma, some by citta, some by temperature and some by nutrition. There are many kinds of nåma. Nåma can condition rúpa and rúpa can condition nåma in many different ways.
Question: Why do you use the word “condition”? Is condition the same as cause?
Nina: When we speak about cause we usually think of one cause which brings about one effect. There are, however, different kinds of conditions for each nåma and for each rúpa. For example, when there is seeing, the rúpa which is visible object conditions the seeing by way of object. But seeing does not only have visible object as its condition. Eye-sense, which is another kind of rúpa, conditions the seeing too. In studying the teachings we will know more about the different conditions and we will see how complex the way is in which they operate each time we experience an object. When we know that there are various factors which condi-tion the arising of phenomena such as seeing or hearing, we will better understand, at least in theory, that seeing or hearing are only conditioned phenomena and that they do not belong to a self.
We should know, however, what kind of wisdom we want to develop; do we want to develop only theoretical understanding of the truth, acquired by thinking about it, or do we also want to develop the wisdom which knows the truth through direct experi-ence? Question: I do not understand the difference between thinking about the truth and the direct experience of the truth. How can we directly experience the truth?
Nina: The truth can be known from direct experience; however, it is not “self” who knows it, but paññå. Paññå can directly know different characteristics of nåma and rúpa when they appear.
When we, for example, are feeling hot, and sati is mindful of the
characteristic of heat, it can be realized by paññå as a kind of
rúpa. It is not necessary to think about it. At the moment we
think about it or we call it “rúpa”, the characteristic of heat
cannot be known. Only what appears at the present moment can be directly known. Knowledge acquired from the direct experience of realities is deeper than knowledge acquired from thinking..118 • Buddhism in Daily Life Question: When there is seeing, the seeing is conditioned by the rúpa which is visible object and by the rúpa which is eyesense. Could I experience the rúpas which condition the seeing?
Nina: It is important to remember that we can experience only the nåma or the rúpa which appears at the present moment; not the nåma or rúpa which does not appear. It depends on one’s accumulations and on the development of wisdom which types of nåma and rúpa can be directly understood. It is impossible to regulate which nåmas and rúpas we should be aware of and in which order.
Question: Is it right that we should not name realities when we are aware of them, since they have fallen away by the time we name them?
Nina: Is thinking of the name a reality? Does it appear?
Question: Yes, it appears, it is a kind of nåma. We cannot help it that this kind of nåma appears.
Nina: That is right, it arises because of its own conditions. Do you not think that this reality can be known as well? When there is seeing, the characteristic of seeing can be known. When there is thinking about seeing, there is a kind of nåma which is different from seeing. If we try to regulate awareness and think that there should or should not be awareness of particular realities, we do not realize that awareness is anattå, non-self. Nåma and rúpa arise because of their own conditions, they are beyond control. If we try to control sati we will not know realities as they are.
Question: I still think that it is better not to think of the names of phenomena. Am I right?
Nina: There is no need to think of their names; the characteristics of nåma and rúpa can be directly experienced. But if the nåma arises which thinks of a name, we cannot prevent it; thinking is a reality which has its own characteristic and it can be known too. Question: I have heard that the four Applications of Mindfulness or “satipaììhåna” are: mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of feelings, mindfulness of cittas and mindfulness of dhammas. How can I be aware in accordance with the four Applications of Mind-fulness? Nina: There is no need to think of the four Applications of Mindfulness when we are aware of nåma and rúpa. We can develop understanding only of the reality which appears at the present.Vipassanå • 119 moment. The Buddha taught the four Applications of Mindfulness in order to show people that all nåmas and rúpas can be object of mindfulness. This does not mean that we should think of those four Applications when we are aware. We cannot control which nåma or rúpa will appear; they are anattå, non-self.
Question: Can what we call the “ego” be the object of mindfulness?
In which Application of Mindfulness is it included?
Nina: Where is your “ego” and what is its characteristic? How do you experience it and through which door? Do you experience it through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense or mind-door?
Question: I can only think of the self but I cannot directly
experience its characteristic.
Nina: We can think of many different things, but the reality of that moment is only thinking. In the development of insight we learn that what we take for self are only nåma and rúpa which arise and fall away. In reality there is nothing else besides nåma and rúpa. Since there is no “ego” it is not included in any of the four Applications of Mindfulness.
Question: What about realities outside ourselves, can we have wrong view about them?
Nina: Can you give an example of realities outside ourselves?
Question: I mean things such as a bottle, a table or a chair.
Nina: Things such as a bottle, a table or a chair are not ultimate realities, they are concepts we can think of. Because of ignorance and wrong view we take them for lasting things which are real. It is important to know the difference between ultimate realities, nåma and rúpa, which have each their own characteristic, and concepts. What we take for a bottle, a table or a chair are in reality different kinds of rúpas which arise and fall away. Rúpas which fall away are replaced by new ones so long as there are conditions for them.
The wrong understanding of reality can only be eliminated if the characteristics of nåma and rúpa are known when they appear one at a time through the different doorways.
Question: I heard of people who concentrate on the movement of the abdomen. They say that sometimes there is awareness of the arising and falling of rúpa and sometimes there is awareness of the knowing of the arising and falling of rúpa. Is this the right way of developing awareness?.120 • Buddhism in Daily Life Nina: What we call abdomen is in reality many different kinds of rúpa. Sati can be aware of only one characteristic of rúpa at a time. For example, through the bodysense we can experience the characteristics of hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion and pres-sure, but we can experience only one of these characteristics at a time.
Question: When we experience the rúpa which is motion do we not experience the arising and falling away of rúpa?
Nina: In the development of vipassanå there are several stages of insight-knowledge (vipassanå ñåùa). The first stage is knowing through direct experience the difference between the characteristic of nåma and the characteristic of rúpa (in Påli: nåma-rúpa-pariccheda-ñåùa). At the attainment of this stage there is no doubt about the difference between the characteristic of nåma and the characteristic of rúpa which appear at that moment. The develop-ment of vipassanå, however, has to continue in order to have a clearer understanding of nåma and rúpa. Only at a later stage can the arising and falling away of nåma and rúpa be known. This stage cannot be attained unless the previous stages have been realized. How could there be direct understanding of the arising and falling away of a nåma or a rúpa if the difference between the characteristics of nåma and rúpa is not clearly discerned first? Question: Is the arising and falling away of rúpa faster than the movement of the abdomen?
Nina: Nåmas and rúpas arise and fall away extremely rapidly. For example, it seems that there can be seeing and hearing at the same time. In reality this is not so. Hearing can arise very closely after seeing, but when there is hearing, the seeing has fallen away already since there can be only one citta at a time. From this example we see that cittas arise and fall away very rapidly, succeeding one another. Although we know that realities arise and fall away, we do not have yet direct understanding of this truth. The understanding of the different characteristics of nåma and rúpa has to become keener and keener. Only when insight is highly developed can there be direct understanding of the arising and falling away of nåma and rúpa.
Question: How can understanding become keener?
Nina: Only by being aware of nåmas and rúpas when they appear, one at a time. Is there not seeing now, or hearing now? If.Vipassanå • 121 one tries to concentrate on particular nåmas and rúpas there is only thinking, not the direct knowledge of whatever reality appears at the present moment. Realities such as seeing, hearing, hardness or thinking arise because of their own conditions, we cannot regulate their arising. Should we not know their characteristics? Or should we continue to remain ignorant of them? If we try to concentrate on one nåma or rúpa we are clinging and this will not lead to detachment from the concept of self.
Question: It seems that we have to be aware of so many different nåmas and rúpas.
Nina: We have to be aware of nåma and rúpa over and over again in order to become detached from the notion of self. It is not sufficient to be aware of only one kind of nåma or rúpa.
There should be awareness of whatever reality appears. If there is right awareness, without the concept of self who has awareness, this will be a condition for paññå to gradually know more nåmas and rúpas. There is no self who can control anything.
Question: I can see that it is useful to know in theory about the difference between nåma and rúpa. But when we are aware of nåma and rúpa I am inclined to think that it is not necessary to distinguish between them; I doubt whether that will help us to become detached from the concept of self.
Nina: How can there be a precise knowledge of realities if we cannot realize the difference between nåma, the reality which experiences something, feels or remembers, and rúpa, the reality which does not experience anything? If we do not realize the difference between nåma and rúpa we confuse, for example, hear-ing, which is nåma, and sound, which is rúpa. When there is hearing there is also sound, but sati can be mindful of only one characteristic at a time. Sometimes there may be mindfulness of hearing, sometimes of sound. If we do not know which characteristic appears, hearing or sound, it is clear that we are still ignorant of the reality appearing at the present moment.
Question: The reality of the present moment falls away so quickly, how can we ever catch it?
Nina: If we try to “catch” a reality, we do not have the right understanding and thus the truth will not be known. Realities are experienced through six doorways, but if insight has not been developed we cannot clearly know which reality is experienced.122 • Buddhism in Daily Life through which doorway. So long as there is no precise knowledge of the characteristics of realities, there can be no detachment from the concept of self. When insight is more developed, paññå will know which reality is experienced through which doorway. Question: Is it difficult to know that a reality is nåma or that it is rúpa? It does not seem very difficult.
Nina: You may think that it is very simple to know that seeing is a kind of nåma, different from visible object which is rúpa, but are you sure as to what appears at the present moment, whether it is nåma or rúpa? Is there sati and of what is it mindful?
Question: I am not sure about the reality appearing at the present moment. It seems as if seeing and visible object appear at the same time.
Nina: Awareness can be aware of only one reality at a time.
When it seems to us that seeing and visible object “appear” at the same time, then there is no sati, there is only thinking about phenomena. When one has not yet developed precise understanding of realities, they are not known as they appear one at a time. One may know in theory that nåma is different from rúpa, but that is not the paññå which leads to detachment from the concept of self.
The difference between the nåma and rúpa which appear should
be known, but we should not try to “catch” the reality of the
present moment. When we have just started to develop insight,
there cannot yet be a clear understanding of realities. When there
has been mindfulness time and again of characteristics of realities,
paññå will develop until it is so keen that we do not take realities
for self anymore..•
The Eightfold Path
Questioner: I understand that awareness or mindfulness is useful; but I still do not know how to be mindful in daily life. I feel I have no time for it; I have to do my work.
Nina: The development of insight, vipassanå, is precisely the development of right understanding of ourselves, of our daily life. However, it seems that people want to know many other things but not themselves. Are we afraid of knowing ourselves? The Buddha pointed out that knowing ourselves is more beneficial than knowing other things.
We read in the Visuddhimagga (XII, 82) that the Buddha so acted that King Mahå-Kappina and his retinue were invisible to the queen who had followed him with one thousand women attendants and who was sitting nearby. We read:
...And when it was
asked, “Have you seen the king, venerable sir?”, he asked: “But which is
better for you, to seek the king or to seek yourself?” She replied, “Myself,
venerable sir”. Then he likewise taught her the Dhamma as she sat there, so
that, together with the thousand women attendants, she became established in the
fruition of stream entry (sotåpanna), while the ministers reached the fruition
of non-return (anågåmí), and the king that of arahatship.
The development of insight should not be separated from daily life; it is precisely in our daily life that insight, right understanding of realities, should be developed. There should be awareness of nåmas and rúpas which appear in our daily life. Thus we develop the eightfold Path. If people say that they have no time to develop insight they have not understood what the eightfold Path is.
Question: What exactly is the eightfold Path? Is it the same as mindfulness? Is it essential for the attainment of enlightenment?
Will it make us happier and does it help us to fulfil our duties
better?.124 • Buddhism in Daily Life
Nina: When we speak about a reality we should know what
type of reality it is, otherwise we cannot have a clear understanding
of it. Which ultimate reality, paramattha dhamma
, is the eightfold
Path? There are four paramattha dhammas:
cetasika (mental factor arising with the citta)
rúpa (physical phenomena)
The eightfold Path consists of eight factors and these are cetasikas. They are sobhana cetasikas (beautiful mental factors) arising with the sobhana citta which is mindful of a characteristic of nåma or rúpa. In being mindful of nåma and rúpa the eightfold Path is developed. At the attainment of enlightenment the eight factors arise with the lokuttara citta, “supramundane citta”, which experi-ences nibbåna. Then the Path is lokuttara. When the factors of the eightfold Path do not arise with the lokuttara citta the Path is “lokiya”, “mundane”.
You asked me whether the eightfold Path is the same as mind-fulness.
Mindfulness, sati, is one of the factors of the eightfold
Path; it is called “sammå-sati”
or “right mindfulness”. As we have seen, sati arises with sobhana citta. Sati is sammå-sati of the eightfold Path when it arises with the paññå, wisdom, which understands a characteristic of nåma or rúpa appearing through one of the six doors. Any time there is mindfulness of a characteristic of nåma or rúpa which appears, the eightfold Path is being devel-oped. Question: Thus, the object of the eightfold Path has to be any characteristic of nåma or rúpa which appears through one of the six doors, is that right?
Nina: That is right. A person or a tree are concepts or ideas we
can think of, but they are not ultimate realities which appear one
1 A reality with its own unchangeable characteristic which can be known
through direct experience when it presents itself through one of the six doors. It is different from concepts or ideas of which we may think, but which are not real in the ultimate sense.
2 Sammå means: right.
at a time through the six doors. Only ultimate realities are the.The eightfold Path • 125 object of the eightfold Path. Seeing is a reality with its own unchangeable characteristic which can be directly known, without the need to think about it. Seeing is a nåma which experiences visible object, that which appears through eyesense; there is no person who sees. Hearing is another reality with its own un-changeable characteristic; it can be directly known when it appears.
Hearing is a nåma which experiences sound through earsense; there is no person who hears. If we learn to see nåma and rúpa as they are the wrong view of self will be eradicated.
Question: I have learned that the objects of the eightfold Path
are those of the Four Applications of Mindfulness or “satipaììhåna”
which are the application of mindfulness of the body, of feelings,
of cittas and of dhammas. Is sound included in the objects of
Nina: Is sound real?
Question: It is real.
Nina: Why is it real?
Question: Anybody can experience sound through the ears.
Nina: Since sound is a reality which can be experienced can
there not be awareness of it?
Question: Yes, there can be awareness of it.
Nina: Sound is an object of mindfulness or satipaììhåna because it is a reality with its own characteristic which can be experienced. If there is mindfulness of the characteristic of sound more often, we will learn that it is only a kind of rúpa which can be experienced through the ear-door and which is different from the nåma which experiences sound.
Question: What about unhappy feeling, is it also object of mind-fulness?
Nina: Is it real?
Nina: Thus it is object of mindfulness or satipaììhåna. All realities which can be experienced through the six doors can be objects of mindfulness or satipatthåna.
As regards your question whether the eightfold Path is essential for the attainment of enlightenment: it is essential, there is no other way. When one attains the first stage of enlightenment, the stage of the sotåpanna, the wrong view of self is eradicated com-pletely. The clinging to the concept of self can be eradicated only.126 • Buddhism in Daily Life if we develop the wisdom which clearly knows that all phenomena in us and around us are only nåma and rúpa and nothing else but nåma and rúpa. Thus realities will be known as they are.
You also asked me whether the eightfold Path will make us happier, whether it helps us to fulfil our duties better. Our own defilements make us unhappy and at times we find life very difficult. In developing the eightfold Path we do not immediately eradicate defilements but we acquire a clearer understanding of our life. When there is less clinging to the notion of self, there is less darkness in our life. Right understanding is to the benefit of both ourselves and others. When we have more understanding of our own life we will also have more understanding of others.
Through the development of satipaììhåna there can gradually be more conditions for kusala cittas with kindness and compassion. When we do our daily tasks with kusala cittas do you not think that they are performed better?
Question: You explained that the eight factors of the Path are eight sobhana cetasikas, beautiful mental factors. Do all eight factors have to arise with the citta which is mindful?
Nina: Not all eight factors arise together when the citta is not lokuttara citta, “supramundane citta” experiencing nibbåna. When lokuttara citta arises at the attainment of enlightenment all eight factors accompany the citta.
Question: What is the first factor of the eightfold Path?
Nina: The first factor is sammå-diììhi, right view or right under-standing. Sammå-diììhi is the kind of paññå which directly under-stands a characteristic of nåma or rúpa, appearing through one of the six doors. Without right understanding of nåma and rúpa and of the way to develop the eightfold Path enlightenment cannot be attained.
We read in the Kindred Sayings (V, Book XII, Kindred Sayings about the Truths, Ch IV, § 7, The Parable of the Sun) that right view is the “forerunner” of full comprehension of the four noble Truths. The four noble Truths are realised at the attainment of enlightenment. We read that the Buddha said:
Monks, just as the
dawn is the forerunner, the harbinger, of the arising of the sun, even so is
right view the forerunner, the harbinger, of fully comprehending the four Ariyan
truths..The eightfold Path • 127 Of
a monk who has right view it may be expected that he will understand as it
really is: This is dukkha... this is the arising of dukkha... this is the ceasing of dukkha... this is the way leading to
the ceasing of dukkha.
an effort must be made to realise: This is dukkha, this is the arising of dukkha,
this is the ceasing of dukkha, this is the way leading to the ceasing of dukkha.
We should know to what end we wish to develop the eightfold Path. Why do you want to develop it?
Question: I want to develop it in order to eradicate defilements such as anger, jealousy, stinginess, and all other kinds of impuri-ties–in other words, everything which is degrading and immoral.
Nina: People think that vipassanå can solve all their problems at once and they believe that defilements can be eradicated im-mediately. But for how many lives have we accumulated defile-ments?
Since these lives are countless how could we eradicate defilements immediately? So long as we are not yet ariyans the aim of our development of vipassanå is to know the truth about ourselves, in order to eradicate the wrong view of self. We have to be so very patient. We should not forget the sutta about the knife-handle (Kindred Sayings III, Middle Fifty, Ch V, § 101, Adze-handle), where we read that the Buddha said:
... Just as if,
monks, when a carpenter or carpenter’s apprentice looks upon his adze-handle
and sees thereon his thumb-mark and his finger-marks he does not thereby know:
“So and so much of my adze-handle has been worn away today, so much yesterday,
so much at other times.” But he knows the wearing away of it just by its
Evenso some of the wrong view is eliminated each time there is mindfulness of nåma or rúpa, but we cannot see how much is eliminated each day.
Question: But when there is strong attachment or when we are very angry how can there be awareness at the same time?
Nina: When there is a lobha-múla-citta (citta rooted in attach-ment) or a dosa-múla-citta ( citta rooted in ill-will), there cannot be a citta with mindfulness at the same time, since there can only.128 • Buddhism in Daily Life be one citta at a time. But shortly after the akusala citta has fallen away there can be kusala citta with mindfulness. The characteristic of akusala can then be the object of mindfulness, and it can be known as nåma, not self.
Question: Can we not be so disturbed by lobha or dosa, especially when they are intense, that awareness is impossible?
Nina: Are strong desire and intense anger realities?
Question: Yes, they appear, they are realities.
Nina: Then they can be known as they are. If one makes oneself believe that it is impossible to be aware of particular realities, one has not understood what the eightfold Path is: the development of right understanding of whatever reality appears. Some people are so afraid of akusala citta that they try to flee from the reality which appears at that moment. They think that they should apply themselves to a particular practice, such as concentrating on their breathing, in order to regulate awareness. When they act in this way without awareness of the reality which appears at the present moment, they are not developing the eightfold Path. When one develops the eightfold Path which is called the “middle way”, there should be awareness of any kind of reality which appears, even if it is akusala.
We may be inclined to think that there should not be mindfulness of akusala cittas, especially of those types we find particularly ugly such as cittas with strong desire or anger. Why should we be worried by the reality which appears, even if it is akusala citta? We cannot change the reality which has already appeared, but we can know its characteristic. It is useless to go on worrying about strong desire or anger. At such moments there are nåma and rúpa. Why would it not be possible to know these realities as they are: only conditioned phenomena which are not self?
Through vipassanå we come to know more our akusala cittas, not only the coarse ones but also the more subtle ones. Not only strong desire is lobha, but also enjoyment of beautiful things is lobha. We cannot force ourselves not to enjoy beautiful things since we have accumulated attachment, but we should know that at such moments the cittas are not kusala cittas but akusala cittas. The “middle way” is not forcing oneself to particular practices in order to suppress attachment, but it is knowing whatever reality appears. We should also know moha-múla-cittas (cittas rooted in.The eightfold Path • 129 ignorance) as they are. Most of the time we do not realize when there are moha-múla-cittas because moha-múla-citta is not ac-companied by pleasant feeling or by unpleasant feeling, but by indifferent feeling. We may not realize that when the feeling is indifferent there can be akusala citta. When there are no kusala cittas, there are not only many moments of lobha-múla-citta and dosa-múla-citta, but also of moha-múla-citta. We are often ignorant of the nåmas and rúpas which appear, there are countless moments of forgetfulness and ignorance. Moha is dangerous. The moha of today conditions moha in the future. How many more lives will we be ignorant of realities? Through the development of vipassanå we will realize that we are still ignorant of many realities.
Question: I thought that the Buddha said that one should be aware every time one is breathing in and breathing out. Should we not concentrate on breathing?
Nina: So long as we are breathing there is still life. All through life mindfulness should be developed. In vipassanå one does not select any particular object of mindfulness. There can be mindful-ness of whatever kind of nåma or rúpa appears through one of the six doors; in this way wrong view and doubt about the realities one takes for “self” can be eradicated.
In vipassanå one does not have to follow any rule. One does not have to concentrate on breathing; if one selects the object of awareness and in this way tries to control sati, there will not be detachment from the wrong view of self. When we speak of breath-ing, we are using a conventional term of every day language.
What are the realities which can be directly experienced when breathing? There can be awareness of phenomena such as softness, hardness, heat, cold, motion or pressure when they present them-selves through the door of the bodysense, and they can be known as different kinds of rúpa. Nåmas and rúpas appear, but there is no self who can decide of which reality there should be awareness. Question: Reflecting on what you said about awareness of nåma and rúpa, I can accept and understand that there is no self, but I cannot experience it as the truth. And sometimes I still feel that there must be a self who directs the mind and makes decisions.
Suppose that I decide today to study the teachings and to observe
the five precepts; I find it difficult to believe that there is not an
ego or self who makes this choice, this decision..130
• Buddhism in Daily Life
Nina: So long as we are not ariyans, the wrong view of self has
not been eradicated; there are yet conditions for clinging to the
concept of self. Awareness of nåmas and rúpas will gradually lead
to a clearer understanding of what things really are. Then we
shall realize that decision-making is a type of nåma arising because
of conditions. When wisdom has been developed to the degree
that enlightenment can be attained there will be no more doubt
about realities and there will be the clear comprehension that
there is no self.
In order to develop the right Path there must be from the
beginning right understanding about the way of development. If there is some misunderstanding in the beginning one may go the wrong way for a long time. It may be very hard to find the right way again. If one continues having wrong understanding, for how many more lives will there be wrong view?
Question: Is the development of the right Path just watching or observing all the phenomena of one’s life?
Nina: Who is watching? There may be an idea of self who is
watching and one may not notice this.
The development of right understanding is not watching or
observing. When visible object appears it can be known as only a reality which is experienced through the eyesense, not somebody, not something. When seeing appears it can be known as only the experience of visible object, no self who sees. When one pays attention to the shape and form of something there is another type of nåma, different from seeing, and its characteristic can be known too. All realities which appear through the six doors can be object of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not self, it arises because it is conditioned by listening to the Dhamma, by the study of the Dhamma and by right consideration of it. From the beginning there should not be an idea of self who is watching phenomena or who can select the object of mindfulness.
A very precise knowledge of all the different phenomena which
appear should be developed in order to see them as they are, as
anattå, beyond control. This is the development of the eightfold