Buddhism In Daily Life

by Nina van Gorkom

published by


Chapter 3

The Teaching of Dhamma

The Buddha proved his compassion for men in his teaching of Dhamma. One may wonder why it is especially the teaching of Dhamma that proves the Buddha’s compassion. Are there no other ways of helping people, such as visiting the sick and speaking kind words to other people in order to make them happy? It is true that one can help one’s fellow men in doing good deeds and in speaking kind words. However, it is not possible to give them true happiness in this way. When one is kind to other people one might help them in so far as one can make them feel more relaxed or less depressed for a moment. However, there are people who tend to go on being anxious and depressed, no matter how kindly one treats them.

The Buddha knew that the deepest cause of happiness and sorrow is within man. It is not possible to give other people real happiness; one can only be a condition for them to feel happy for a while. The Buddha helped people in the most effective way: he helped them to have right understanding about their life, about themselves, and about the way to find true happiness.

His disciples followed his example and helped people by teaching them Dhamma. We read in the Discourse on an Exhortation to Channa (Middle Length Sayings III, no. 144) that Såriputta and Mahå Cunda, while they were staying on Mount Vulture Peak, visited a sick monk whose name was Channa. First Såriputta asked Channa how he was feeling, and then he offered to give him the right kind of food and medicines, and to attend personally to his needs if he wanted this. However, he knew that kind words and deeds were not enough. When it was the right moment Såriputta and Mahå Cunda spoke to Channa about the Dhamma, in order to help him to have right understanding about his life.

In the Discourse on the Analysis of the Undefiled (Middle Length Sayings III, no. 139) we read that the Buddha, when he was staying near Såvatthí in the Jeta Grove, spoke about the eightfold.28 • Buddhism in Daily Life Path which is the “Middle Way”. One should not be intent on the happiness of sense-pleasures and on the other hand not be intent on the practice of self-mortification. The Buddha told his disciples that they should not say of other people that they are walking the right path or the wrong path; he said that there should be neither approval nor disapproval of persons, but that they should teach them what is the right course and what is the wrong course. They should teach them which cause brings which effect. They should simply teach Dhamma. Dhamma means everything that is real.  The Buddha helped people to develop right understanding about everything one can experience, no matter whether it is good or bad.

If one wants to eliminate defilements one should first understand what are akusala cittas and what are kusala cittas and be aware of them when they arise. Only when we can be aware of cittas when they appear will we know them as they are. We will not know cittas by speculation. As we have seen, cittas do not last.  Citta arises and then falls away immediately to be followed by the next citta. There is only one citta at a time. Life consists of an unbroken series of cittas, arising and falling away continuously.

There is no moment without citta. There are many kinds of cittas which perform different functions such as seeing, hearing and thinking. Moreover, there are akusala cittas, unwholesome cittas, and kusala cittas, wholesome cittas. An akusala citta and a kusala citta cannot arise at the same moment since there can be only one citta at a time. However, akusala cittas may arise shortly after kusala cittas have fallen away, even during the time one is doing a good deed. When the kusala cittas have fallen away, regret about one’s good deed may arise. This is akusala.

In the Discourse on an Exhortation to Channa, mentioned above, we read that Channa suffered severe pains. As he could not stand the pains any longer he committed suicide. The Buddha knew that before the moment of his death Channa had kusala cittas after the akusala cittas which motivated him to perform this un-wholesome deed. He was able to purify himself of defilements after his deed. The Buddha said therefore: “He took the knife to himself without incurring blame”. We do not know about the citta of someone else from the outward appearance of his deeds, because we do not know each different moment of citta. We can.The teaching of dhamma • 29 only find out with regard to ourselves at which moment there is akusala citta or kusala citta, and even that is most difficult.

Akusala cittas can be rooted in three different unwholesome “roots”, “akusala hetus”. They are:

attachment (in Påli: lobha)

aversion or ill-will (in Påli: dosa)

ignorance (in Påli: moha)

By the word “root” is meant the foundation of the citta. The root is the foundation of the citta just as the root of a tree supports the tree and makes it grow. There are many different degrees of these three akusala hetus.

All akusala cittas are caused by moha, ignorance. Ignorance is, for example, not knowing what is unwholesome and what is wholesome, and not knowing which cause brings which result in life. There are many degrees of moha. An animal has a great deal of moha; it does not know about kusala and akusala, it does not know how to cultivate wholesomeness. However, not only animals have moha, human beings can have a great deal of moha as well.

Akusala cittas arise more often than kusala cittas and thus there are countless moments of moha, no matter whether we are walking, standing, sitting or lying down. Moha can only be completely eradicated when paññå has been developed to the degree that

one can reach perfection, that is, when one has become an arahat

at the attainment of the fourth and last stage of enlightenment



When the citta which arises is accompanied by lobha, attachment,

and by moha, the citta is called “lobha-múla-citta”, or citta rooted

in attachment


. At that moment there is not only moha, which is

common to all akusala cittas but there is lobha as well. Lobha-múla-

citta which has moha and lobha as roots is different from

the citta which is rooted only in moha, ignorance of realities.

Lobha can be greed, lust, selfish desire, and it can be a very

subtle form of attachment as well, a form of attachment one can hardly recognize if one does not yet have the right understanding.

1 There are four stages of enlightenment and at each stage defilements are

progressively eradicated.

2 Múla means root; it is the same as hetu.

Lobha can be accompanied by pleasant feeling. For instance,.30 • Buddhism in Daily Life when we enjoy beautiful music there is lobha-múla-citta. Then the citta is akusala, although this kind of lobha is not as gross as greed or lust. One might be inclined to think that whenever there is pleasant feeling, the citta which is accompanied by this feeling must be kusala citta. However, when there is pleasant feeling the citta is not necessarily kusala citta; pleasant feeling can also accompany akusala citta. For instance, when we do a good deed there can be kusala citta with pleasant feeling, but when we feel happy because of beautiful music or a beautiful view, the citta is akusala; it is lobha-múla-citta with pleasant feeling. We can be deluded about the truth very easily. We find feeling so important that we cannot see anything else. We are unable to know whether the citta is akusala or kusala because we pay attention only to the feeling at that moment.

Lobha-múla-cittas, cittas rooted in attachment, can be accompa-nied either by pleasant feeling or by indifferent feeling. When we want to do something such as standing up, walking, taking hold of an object, the lobha-múla-cittas which arise may be accompanied by indifferent feeling. We do not, usually, have pleasant feeling when we stand up or when we reach for a glass of water. We cannot help having lobha very often. All people, except arahats are bound to have lobha.

The Buddha did not speak to those who still have defilements in terms of “sin” or “punishment”. The Buddha pointed out every-thing which is real and he explained which cause would bring which effect. The bad deeds one does will bring about their own results, just as a seed produces a tree. This is the law of cause and result, of “kamma” and “vipåka”. The Buddha explained to his disciples that there should be neither approval nor disapproval of persons, but that they should simply teach Dhamma. In that way people will know what is real. Lobha is real and one should therefore know what lobha is, what its characteristic is, and when it arises.

Another unwholesome root is dosa, aversion. When the citta

which arises is accompanied by dosa and moha, the citta is called

“dosa-múla-citta”, citta rooted in aversion. At that moment there

is not only moha, which is common to all akusala cittas, but there

is dosa as well. Dosa appears in its coarsest form as anger or

ill-will. There is dosa when one hurts or kills a living being, when.The teaching of dhamma • 31

one speaks harsh words, or when one curses. Dosa is always

accompanied by unpleasant feeling.

There are more subtle forms of dosa as well: dosa can be a

slight aversion when we see or hear something unpleasant, or when we are in a bad mood. Dosa can be recognized by the feeling which accompanies it. Even when there is a very vague feeling of uneasiness we can be sure there is dosa. Dosa arises quite often in a day. We are bound to have dosa when there is a loud noise or an ugly sight.

There are three “wholesome roots” or “sobhana hetus”, which are the opposite of the akusala hetus. They are:

non-attachment (alobha) non-aversion or kindness (adosa)

wisdom (amoha or paññå)

Kusala cittas are not accompanied by lobha, dosa or moha. They

are always accompanied by alobha, non-attachment, and adosa,

non-aversion, but not always by paññå. Thus, citta can be kusala

without wisdom (paññå). One can, for example, help other people

without understanding that helping is kusala and that wholesome

deeds bring pleasant results. However, when there is paññå the

citta has a higher degree of wholesomeness. If one observes the



only because one considers them as rules, prescribed in the teachings, without any understanding of the reasons for those precepts, ill deeds can be suppressed, but not at all times. If the temptations are too strong one will transgress the precepts. If one has understanding of unwholesome deeds and wholesome deeds, and knows the effect of those deeds, this understanding is a condition for observing the precepts more often. We can develop more wholesomeness in understanding realities, in understanding their causes and effects.

Everyone, except the arahat, has both akusala cittas and kusala cittas. Each citta arises because of the appropriate conditions.

Cittas cannot arise without conditions. It depends on various con-1

Laypeople can observe five precepts, which are rules of training to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants, including alcoholic drinks.

ditions whether there will be akusala citta or kusala citta. We all.32 • Buddhism in Daily Life have accumulated conditions for both unwholesomeness and wholesomeness. If the present citta is akusala one accumulates a condition for more unwholesomeness and if the present citta is kusala one accumulates a condition for more wholesomeness. For example, when we have a slight feeling of aversion, there is dosa-múla-citta. If dosa-múla-cittas occur quite often, we accumu-late dosa and dosa becomes a habit. If one is easily inclined to strong dosa it can motivate unwholesome deeds and unwholesome speech.

One may wonder how one can accumulate unwholesomeness and wholesomeness, as each citta which arises falls away com-pletely.  Each citta which arises falls away completely but it condi-tions the succeeding citta. Cittas arise and fall away in succession.

That is the reason why past accumulations can go on from one moment to the next moment. If we understand how different people’s accumulations are we will be less inclined to blame other people when they do wrong. We will try to help them to have right understanding of the accumulation of kusala and akusala. If we have more right understanding of the conditions which make us act the way we do we will be able to lead a more wholesome life.

One may wonder what the Buddha taught about the will or intention which motivates ill deeds and good deeds. Is there no “free will” which can direct one’s actions, speech and thinking?  When we think of a “free will”, we generally think of a “self” who has control over one’s decisions to do good or to do wrong.

However, cittas arise because of their own conditions; there is no “self” who can let cittas arise at will.

The Påli term “kamma” literally means action. In reality kamma is intention or volition. It is not that which is generally understood by “free will”. Kamma does not last, it arises and falls away with the citta. Thus, one should not take it for “self” or as belonging to a “self”. Kusala kamma or akusala kamma is volition which moti-vates good or bad deeds. For example, there is akusala kamma through the body when one hits someone; there is akusala kamma through speech when one speaks harsh words or when one curses someone; there is akusala kamma through the mind when one has the intention to take away something which belongs to someone else, or when one plans to kill someone..The teaching of dhamma • 33 The Buddha taught that everyone will experience the result of the kamma he has performed; one will reap what one has sown.  Kamma is the cause which produces its result. The mental result of kamma is a type of citta which is called “vipåkacitta”. Akusala kamma will bring an unpleasant result or akusala vipåkacitta; kusala kamma will bring a pleasant result or kusala vipåkacitta.  People are born with different mental capacities, with different bodily features and in different circumstances. In the Discourse on the Lesser Analysis of Deeds (Middle Length Sayings III, no. 135) we read that, when the Buddha was staying near Såvatthí in the Jeta Grove, the brahman Subha asked him what the cause was of the differences among human beings:

“Now, good Gotama, what is the cause, what is the reason that lowness and excellence are to be seen among human beings while they are in human form? For, good Gotama, human beings of short lifespan are to be seen and those of long lifespan; those of many and those of few illnesses; those who are ugly, those who are beautiful; those who are of little account, those of great account; those who are poor, those who are wealthy; those who are of lowly families, those of high families; those who are weak in wisdom, those who are full of wisdom.”

The Buddha answered Subha:

“Deeds (kamma) are one’s own, brahman youth, beings are heirs to deeds, deeds are matrix, deeds are kin, deeds are arbiters. Deed divides beings, that is to say by lowness and excellence.”

Not only birth in a certain plane of existence and in certain

surroundings is the result of kamma. Throughout our life we

receive unpleasant and pleasant results. Everyone would like to experience only pleasant things through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and bodysense. However, everyone is bound to experience both unpleasant and pleasant things through the five senses because everyone has performed both akusala kamma and kusala kamma.  A deed we have performed may produce a result shortly after-wards, or it may produce a result a long time afterwards. We should remember that volition or kamma which motivates a deed.34 • Buddhism in Daily Life is a mental phenomenon and that it can therefore be accumulated.  Thus, it can bring about its result later on. The Buddha taught that the akusala kamma and the kusala kamma we have ac-cumulated throughout our life and during countless existences before this life, will produce their results when there are the right conditions for the results to be produced. Vipåkacitta is the result of kamma. When we see unpleasant things, there is at that moment akusala vipåka, which is the result of akusala kamma. This akusala vipåkacitta receives an unpleasant object through the eyes. When we see pleasant things, the kusala vipåkacitta, which is the result of kusala kamma, receives a pleasant object through the eyes.  When we hear unpleasant things the akusala vipåkacitta, which is the result of akusala kamma, receives an unpleasant object through the ears. When we hear pleasant things the kusala vipåkacitta, which is the result of kusala kamma, receives a pleasant object through the ears. There is vipåka every time we see, hear, smell, taste or receive an impression through body-contact. We cannot prevent the arising of vipåkacitta; we cannot help seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and receiving impressions through body-contact.  Each citta, and thus also each vipåkacitta, has its own conditions; nobody can make cittas arise at will. Which particular vipåkacitta arises at the present moment is beyond control. When one does good deeds one can be sure that those deeds will bring a pleasant result, but the moment when the result will take place depends on other conditions as well.

The akusala vipåkacitta which experiences an unpleasant object through the eyes, is not the same as the akusala vipåkacitta which experiences an unpleasant object through the ears. There is not a “self” who experiences different unpleasant and pleasant objects through the five senses. Each citta has its own conditions and it is different from all other cittas. The more one realizes this truth, the less will one be inclined to believe in a “self”.

Vipåkacittas arise and fall away within split-seconds, like all

other types of citta. After the vipåkacittas have fallen away another

type of citta arises; for example, a citta which likes or dislikes the

object, that is, lobha-múla-citta or dosa-múla-citta. If people do

not know the different types of cittas, they may be inclined to

think that like or dislike is still vipåka. However, like and dislike

arise after the vipåkacittas have fallen away; they are not the.The teaching of dhamma • 35

result of kamma. Lobha-múla-citta or dosa-múla-citta is not

vipåkacitta but akusala citta.

Different types of citta succeed one another very rapidly. For

example, when we hear a harsh sound, the vipåkacitta arises at the moment the sound is perceived through the ears and then falls away immediately. The moments of vipåka are extremely short. After that there may be akusala cittas. For instance, dislike of the sound may arise, and this follows so closely that it seems to occur at the same moment as the hearing. In reality these cittas do not arise at the same moment. Each citta has its own conditions and each citta performs its own function. Vipåkacitta is the result of former akusala kamma or kusala kamma. The like or dislike after the vipåka is unwholesome. We should realize that through the arising of akusala citta more akusala is accumulated and that this leads to still more unwholesomeness in our lives.

Many times we may not know at which moment there is vipåka and at which moment there is akusala citta, because we find our feelings about the object we experience so important. The pleasant feeling which accompanies lobha-múla-citta and the unpleasant feeling which accompanies dosa-múla-citta can be so strong that we are carried away by these feelings. Thus we cannot see things as they are.

Part of our life is spent in receiving pleasant or unpleasant results and part of our life is spent with akusala cittas or kusala cittas which can motivate unwholesome or wholesome deeds.  These deeds condition life in the future, they condition the results which will be received in the future. If we have more understanding of vipåka, which is the result of our own deeds, it will help us to be more patient when there are unpleasant results in our life. We will not blame other people for unpleasant vipåka we receive, because kamma is the real cause of vipåka. We will give in less to our feelings concerning vipåka when we know the different cittas which arise at different moments.

Indeed, the Buddha showed his great compassion in teaching

people to understand reality, in teaching them Dhamma..36 • Buddhism in Daily Life.• 37

Chapter 4

Wholesome Deeds

The Buddha helped people to have right understanding of un-wholesomeness and wholesomeness; he helped them by teaching them Dhamma. Dhamma excels all other gifts, because the most beneficial gift one can give others is helping them to develop right understanding so that they can lead a more wholesome life.  In this way they will find more happiness.

In the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Twos, Ch IV, § 2) we read that it is not easy to repay one’s parents for all they have done:

Monks, it is not an easy task to repay two persons, I declare


. What two? Mother and father. Even if one should carry about his mother on one shoulder and his father on the other, and so doing should live a hundred years, attain a hundred years; and if he should support them, anointing them with unguents... if he should establish his parents in supreme authority, in the absolute rule over this mighty earth abounding in the seven treasures–not even thus could he repay his parents. What is the cause of that? Monks, parents do much for their children: they bring them up, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world.

Moreover, monks, whoso incites his unbelieving parents, settles and

establishes them in faith; whoso incites his immoral parents, settles and

establishes them in morality; whoso incites his stingy parents, settles

and establishes them in liberality; whoso incites his foolish parents



settles and establishes them in wisdom,— such a one, just by so doing, does repay, does more than repay what is due to his parents.

In this sutta the Buddha points out how important it is to help

other people to have right understanding about the development

1 The English translation has: one can never repay... Here I followed the Thai


2 who have little understanding

of wholesomeness; he explained that this is the way to repay.38 • Buddhism in Daily Life one’s parents. Establishing one’s parents in faith is mentioned first. The word “faith” however, is not used in the sense of “faith in a person”. The Buddha did not want people to perform whole-some deeds in obedience to him or in obedience to certain rules.

Faith means confidence in wholesomeness, confidence that the cultivation of wholesomeness is beneficial. Therefore, any time there is wholesomeness there must be faith. After faith the above-quoted sutta speaks about “morality”, and then generosity is men-tioned.  Wisdom or right understanding is mentioned last.

When the different ways of kusala kamma are explained in the suttas, dåna or generosity is usually mentioned first, síla or morality is mentioned next, and after that “bhåvanå” or mental development.

There are many ways to develop kusala and understanding of

these ways conditions the performing of them. Paññå, understand-ing,

is the factor which above all conditions the elimination of

akusala and the development of kusala. There can be dåna and

síla without paññå, but when there is paññå, dåna and síla are of

a higher degree of kusala. There can be no bhåvanå or mental

development without paññå. Paññå is an indispensable factor for

bhåvanå, and on the other hand paññå is developed through


Paññå, understanding things as they are, will help people to

lead a more wholesome life. There are many levels of paññå. To the extent that paññå is developed defilements will be eliminated and thus people will find peace of mind. It is beneficial to develop right understanding of akusala as akusala and of kusala as kusala and to help others to develop this understanding as well.

All akusala cittas are caused by ignorance or moha. There are different types of akusala citta. Some akusala cittas are rooted in moha alone. There are also akusala cittas rooted in moha and lobha. Lobha is attachment, selfishness or greed. Furthermore there are akusala cittas rooted in moha and dosa. Dosa is aversion, ill-will or anger. Unwholesome deeds are motivated by akusala cittas.

When there is kusala citta there are no lobha, dosa or moha with the citta. Wholesome deeds are motivated by kusala cittas.  When we perform dåna, síla or bhåvanå, there are no lobha, dosa or moha with the kusala cittas which motivate these wholesome deeds. It is helpful to know more about dåna, síla and bhåvana in.Wholesome deeds • 39 order to lead a more wholesome life.

One way of developing wholesomeness is dåna. Dåna is giving useful things to other people, for example, giving away food, clothing or money to those who are in need. True generosity is a way of eliminating defilements: at such moments we think of other people, we have no selfish thoughts. When there is generosity there are no lobha, dosa or moha.

Giving with the right understanding that generosity is kusala is more wholesome than giving without this understanding. People who give with the understanding that this wholesome act is a means to have less selfishness, are stimulated to develop more wholesomeness. One may think it a selfish attitude to consider one’s own accumulation of kusala. However, it is not a selfish attitude. When we have the right understanding of the ways to develop kusala, it is the condition for kusala cittas to arise more often and this is to the benefit of everyone. It is to our fellow-man’s advantage too when lobha, dosa and moha are eliminated. It is more agreeable to live with someone who is not selfish and who is not angry than with a selfish or an angry person.

There are many degrees of paññå. When paññå is more highly developed, one understands that it is not “self” who performs wholesome deeds, but cittas which are conditioned by the accumulation of kusala in the past. Thus there is no reason for conceit or pride. By the development of paññå, which is a mental phenomenon and which is not “self”, more wholesomeness can be accumulated.

Young children in Thailand are trained to give food to the monks and thus they accumulate kusala. The Thais call the per-forming of good deeds “tham bun”. When children learn to do good deeds at an early age it is a condition for them to continue to be generous when they are grown-up.

When someone gives food to the monks, it is the giver in the first place who will benefit from this wholesome act; the monks give him the opportunity to develop wholesomeness. The monks do not thank people for their gifts; they say words of blessing which show that they rejoice in the good deeds of the giver. One might find it strange at first that the monks do not thank people, but when there is more understanding of the way wholesomeness is developed, one sees these customs in another light..40 • Buddhism in Daily Life Even when we are not giving something away ourselves, there is still opportunity to develop wholesomeness in appreciating the good deeds of other people: at that moment there are no lobha, dosa or moha. The appreciation of other people’s good deeds is a way of kusala kamma included in dåna as well. It is to everyone’s advantage when people appreciate one another’s good deeds. It contributes to harmonious living in society.

The third way of kusala kamma included in dåna concerns

giving others, no matter whether they are in this world or in

other planes of existence, the opportunity to appreciate our good deeds so that they can have kusala cittas as well. In performing kusala we can help others to perform kusala as well. It is very inspiring to see other people looking after their old parents, or to see people studying and teaching Dhamma. We should follow the example of the Buddha. We should continually think of means to help others to develop wholesomeness. This way of kusala kamma is a means to eliminate our defilements. There are opportunities to develop kusala at any moment. When we have developed more wisdom we will try not to waste the opportunity for kusala which presents itself, because human life is very short.

There are three ways of kusala kamma included in síla or morality.  The first way is observing the precepts. Laypeople usually observe five precepts. These precepts are:

abstaining from killing living beings

abstaining from stealing

abstaining from sexual misbehaviour

abstaining from lying

abstaining from the taking of intoxicants

including alcoholic drinks

One can observe these precepts just because one follows the rules without thinking about the reason why one should observe them.  Observing them is kusala kamma, but the degree of wholesomeness is not very high if there is no right understanding. One observes the precepts with paññå when one understands that one purifies oneself of akusala while one observes them.

The killing of a living being is akusala kamma. One may wonder whether it is not sometimes necessary to kill. Should one not kill.Wholesome deeds • 41 when there is a war, should one not kill insects to protect the crops, should one not kill mosquitos to protect one’s health? The Buddha knew that so long as people were living in this world they would have many reasons for transgressing the precepts. He knew that it is very difficult to observe all the precepts and that one cannot learn in one day to observe them all. Through right understanding, however, one can gradually learn to observe them.  The precepts are not worded in terms of, for example, “You shall not kill”. They are not worded as commandments, but they are worded as follows: “I undertake the rule of training to refrain from destroying life.”

The Buddha pointed out what is unwholesome and what is wholesome, so that people would find the way to true peace. It is paññå or right understanding which will lead people to train themselves in the precepts. Without paññå they will transgress them very easily when the temptations are too strong, or when the situation is such as to make it very difficult for people to observe them. When paññå is more developed it conditions the observing of the precepts more often. One will find out from experience that the precepts are transgressed because of lobha, dosa and moha. When it has been understood that observing the precepts is a way of eliminating defilements, one will even refrain from intentionally killing mosquitos and ants. We always accumu-late dosa when there is the intention to kill, even if it is a very small insect. We should find out for ourselves that we accumulate akusala when killing living beings, no matter whether they are human beings or animals. However, we cannot force others to refrain from killing living beings.

To refrain from killing is a kind of dåna as well–it is the gift of life, one of the greatest gifts we can give. The classification of kusala kamma as to whether it be dåna or síla is not very rigid.  The way realities are classified depends on their different aspects.  As regards the taking of intoxicants, people should find out for themselves how much unwholesomeness is accumulated in this way. Even if one has but a slight attachment to them, one ac-cumulates unwholesomeness, and this may be harmful in the future. When the attachment is strong enough it will appear in one’s speech and deeds. Even the taking of a little amount of an alcoholic drink can cause one to have more greed, anger and.42 • Buddhism in Daily Life ignorance. It may have the effect that people do not realize what they are doing and that they cannot be aware of the realities of the present moment. Paññå will induce one to drink less and less and eventually to stop drinking. One does not have to force oneself not to drink, one just loses the taste for alcohol because one sees the disadvantages of it. In this way it becomes one’s nature not to drink. The person who has developed paññå to such degree that he attains the first stage of enlightenment, the “streamwinner” or “sotåpanna”, will never transgress the five precepts again; it has become his nature to observe them.

The second way of kusala kamma included in síla is paying respect to those who deserve respect. It is not necessary to show respect according to a particular culture; the esteem we feel for someone else is more important. This induces us to have a humble attitude towards the person who deserves respect. The way in which people show respect depends on the customs of the country where they are living or on the habits they have accumulated. In Thailand people show respect to monks, teachers and elderly people in a way different from the way people in western countries show their respect. In some countries the respect people feel towards others may appear only in a very polite way of addressing them.

Politeness which comes from one’s heart is kusala kamma; at

that moment there are no lobha, dosa and moha. It is kusala

kamma to show respect to monks, to teachers and to elderly

people. In Thailand people show respect to their ancestors; they express their gratefulness for the good qualities of their ancestors.  This is kusala kamma. It is not important whether ancestors are able to see the people paying respect to them or not. We cannot know in which plane they have been reborn–in this human plane, or in some other plane of existence where they might be able to see people paying respect to them. It is wholesome to think of one’s ancestors with gratefulness.

We should always try to find out whether there are akusala cittas or kusala cittas which motivate a deed, in order to understand the meaning of that deed. Thus we will understand and appreciate many customs of the Thais and we will not so easily misjudge them or find them superstitious. In the same way we should understand the paying of respect to the Buddha image. It is not.Wholesome deeds • 43 idol worship; indeed, it is kusala kamma if one thinks of the Buddha’s excellent qualities: of his wisdom, of his purity and of his compassion. One does not pray to a Buddha in heaven, because the Buddha does not stay in heaven or in any plane of existence; he passed away completely. It is wholesome to be grateful to the Buddha and to try to follow the Path he discovered. In which way one shows respect to the Buddha depends on the inclinations one has accumulated.

The third way of kusala kamma included in síla is helping other

people by words or deeds. The act of helping other people will

have a higher degree of wholesomeness if there is the right under-standing

that helping is kusala kamma, and that this is a way to

eliminate selfishness and other defilements. Thus one will be

urged to perform more kusala kamma; one will be more firmly established in síla. It is therefore more wholesome to perform síla with right understanding or paññå.

Performing one’s duties is not always kusala kamma: people

may perform their duties just because they are paid for their

work. For example, a teacher teaches his pupils and a doctor

takes care of his patients because it is their profession to do so.  However, they can develop wholesomeness if they perform their duties with kindness and compassion.

Paññå conditions one to perform kusala kamma, no matter what one’s duties are. Wholesomeness can be developed at any time we are with other people, when we talk to them or listen to them.

Helping other people with kind words and deeds alone is not

enough. When it is the right moment we can help others in a

deeper and more effective way, that is, helping them to understand

who they are, why they are in this world and what the aim of

their life in this world is. This way of helping is included in

bhåvanå or mental development..44 • Buddhism in Daily Life.• 45

Chapter 5

Mental Development

The Buddha said that one should realize the impermanence of all things. Everybody is subject to old age, sickness and death. All things are susceptible to change. What one is enjoying today may be changed tomorrow. Many people do not want to face this truth; they are too attached to the pleasant things they can enjoy through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and bodysense. They do not realize that these things are not true happiness.

The Buddha cured people’s ignorance by helping them to have right understanding about their life; he taught them Dhamma.

The Buddha taught different ways of developing wholesomeness:

dåna or generosity, síla or morality and bhåvanå or mental devel-opment.

Bhåvanå is a way of kusala kamma which is on a higher

level, because wisdom is developed through bhåvanå.

One may wonder why wisdom, paññå, is essential. The answer is that only understanding things as they are can eliminate igno-rance.  Out of ignorance people take what is unwholesome for wholesome. Ignorance causes sorrow. The Buddha always helped people to have right understanding of their different cittas. He explained what akusala cittas and kusala cittas are, in order that people could develop more wholesomeness.

We can verify in our life that the Buddha taught the truth. His teachings are true not only for Buddhists, but for everybody, no matter what race or nationality he is or what religion he professes.

Attachment or greed (in Påli: lobha), aversion or anger (in Påli:

dosa) and ignorance (in Påli: moha) are common to everybody, not only to Buddhists. Should not everyone eradicate lobha, dosa and moha?

People do not always realize that lobha, dosa and moha lead to sorrow. They may recognize unwholesomeness when it is coarse, but not when it is more subtle. For example, they may know that the citta is unwholesome when there is lobha which is as coarse as greed or lust, but they do not recognize lobha when it is more.46 • Buddhism in Daily Life subtle, such as attachment to beautiful things or to dear people.  Why is it unwholesome to have attachment to our relatives and friends? It is true that we are bound to have lobha, but we should realize that attachment is not the same as pure loving-kindness (in Påli: mettå). When we think that we have pure loving-kindness, there can be moments of attachment too. Attachment is not whole-some; it will sooner or later bring unhappiness. Although people may not like to see this truth, one day they will experience that lobha brings unhappiness. Through death we are bound to lose people who are dear to us. And when sickness or old age affect our sense faculties we may no longer be able to enjoy beautiful things through eyes and ears.

If we do not have the right understanding of the realities of life we will not know how to bear the loss of dear people. We read in the Udåna (Verses of Uplift, Ch VIII, Påìaligåma, §8, Khuddaka Nikåya) that, while the Buddha was staying near Såvatthí in East Park, at the storeyed house of Migåra’s mother, Visåkhå came to see him. Visåkhå who had lost her grand-daughter came to see the Buddha with wet clothes and wet hair. The Buddha said:

“Why, Visåkhå! How is it that you come here with clothes and hair still wet at an unseasonable hour?”

“O, sir, my dear and lovely grand-daughter is dead! That is why I come here with hair and clothes still wet at an unseasonable hour.” “Visåkhå, would you like to have as many sons and grandsons as there are men in Såvatthí?”

“Yes, sir, I would indeed!”

“But how many men do you suppose die daily in Såvatthí?” “Ten, sir, or maybe nine, or eight. Maybe seven, six, five or four, three, two; may be one a day dies in Såvatthí, sir. Såvatthí is never free from men dying, sir.”

“What think you, Visåkhå? In such case would you ever be without wet hair and clothes?”

“Surely not, sir! Enough for me, sir, of so many sons and grandsons!”

“Visåkhå, whoso have a hundred things beloved, they have a hundred

sorrows. Whoso have ninety, eighty... thirty, twenty things beloved...

whoso have ten... whoso have but one thing beloved, have but one

sorrow. Whoso have no thing beloved, they have no sorrow. Sorrowless

are they and passionless. Serene are they, I declare.”.Mental development • 47

People who see that it is unwholesome to be enslaved by attachment to people and to the things around themselves, want to develop more understanding of realities by applying themselves to bhåvanå, mental development. Studying the Buddha’s teachings and ex-plaining them to others is kusala kamma included in bhåvanå. In studying the teachings paññå will be developed. If we want to understand what the Buddha taught it is essential to read the scriptures as they have come down to us at the present time in the “Three Collections”: the “Vinaya”, the “Suttanta” and the “Ab-hidhamma”.  Study alone, however, is not enough. We should experience the truth of Dhamma in daily life. Only then will we know things as they really are. Teaching Dhamma to other people is kusala kamma of a high degree. In this way one not only helps others to have more understanding about their life, one develops one’s own understanding as well. Teaching Dhamma is the most effective way of helping other people to develop kusala and to eradicate akusala.

Another way of kusala kamma included in bhåvanå is the devel-opment of calm or “samatha bhåvanå”. In samatha there are specific meditation subjects which can condition the calm which is temporary freedom from lobha, dosa and moha. One must have right understanding of the meditation subject and of the way to become calm. When samatha has been highly developed different stages of jhåna or absorption can be attained. However, the attain-ment of jhåna is extremely difficult and one must have accumulated the right conditions in order to attain it. When the citta is jhånacitta there are no lobha, dosa and moha. Jhåna is kusala kamma of a high degree. Jhåna is not the same as a trance which might be experienced after taking certain drugs. Those who take drugs want to obtain the desired end in an easy way and their action is prompted by lobha. Those who apply themselves to samatha have the sincere wish to purify themselves of lobha, dosa and moha; they do not look for sensational or thrilling experiences.

Samatha can purify the mind, but it cannot eradicate unwhole-some latent tendencies. When the citta is not jhånacitta, lobha, dosa and moha are bound to arise again. The person who applies himself to samatha cannot eradicate the belief in a self, and so long as there is the concept of self, defilements cannot be eradicated.  The clinging to the concept of self can only be eradicated through.48 • Buddhism in Daily Life vipassanå. Vipassanå or “insight meditation” is another way of kusala kamma included in bhåvanå. Through the development of vipassanå ignorance of realities is eliminated. One learns to see things as they are in being aware, for example, when one sees, hears, smells, tastes, when one receives impressions through the bodysense or when one thinks. When we experience that all things in ourselves and around ourselves are only mental phenomena or nåma and physical phenomena or rúpa which arise and fall away, we will be less inclined to take them for self.

What is the reason that we all are inclined to cling to a self?

The reason is that because of our ignorance we do not know things as they really are. When we hear a sound, we are ignorant of the different phenomena which occur during the moment we are hearing that sound. We think that it is a self who is hearing.  However, it is not a self who is hearing; it is a citta which hears the sound. Citta is a mental phenomenon, it is nåma, that is, the reality which experiences something. The citta which hears experi-ences sound. Sound itself does not experience anything, it is rúpa.

Rúpa is the reality which does not experience anything. Sound and earsense are conditions for hearing. Earsense is rúpa as well.  One may wonder whether it is true that earsense does not experience anything. Earsense is a kind of rúpa in the ear which has the capacity to receive sound, but it does not experience the sound. It is only a condition for the nåma which experiences the sound.  Each citta has its own conditions through which it arises. Seeing is conditioned by eyesense which is rúpa and by visible object which is also rúpa. There is no self who performs different functions such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, receiving impressions through the bodysense and thinking. These are different nåmas, each of which arises because of its own conditions.

We read in the Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving (Middle Length Sayings I, no. 38) that the Buddha, while he was staying near Såvatthí, in the Jeta Grove, spoke to the monk Såti who had a misconception about the Buddha’s teachings. Såti understood from the Buddha’s teachings that consciousness lasts, and that it is one and the same consciousness which speaks, feels, and experiences the results of good and bad deeds. Several monks heard about Såti’s wrong view. After they had tried in vain to dissuade him from his wrong view, they spoke to the Buddha.Mental development • 49 about him. The Buddha summoned Såti and said to him:

“Is it true, as is said, that a pernicious view like this has accrued to you, Såti: ‘In so far as I understand Dhamma taught by the Lord, it is that this consciousness itself runs on, fares on, not another’?” “Even so do I, Lord, understand Dhamma taught by the Lord: it is this consciousness itself that runs on, fares on, not another.” “What is this consciousness, Såti?”

“It is this, Lord, that speaks, that feels, that experiences now here, now there, the fruition of deeds that are lovely and that are depraved.” “But to whom, foolish man, do you understand that Dhamma was taught by me thus? Foolish man, has not consciousness generated by conditions been spoken of in many a figure by me, saying: ‘Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness’? But now you, foolish man, not only misrepresent me because of your own wrong grasp, but you also injure yourself and give rise to much demerit which, foolish man, will be for your woe and sorrow for a long time.”

... Then the Lord addressed the monks, saying:

“Do you, monks, understand that Dhamma was taught by me thus so that this monk Såti, a fisherman’s son, because of his own wrong grasp not only misrepresents me but is also injuring himself and giving rise to much demerit?”

“No, Lord. For in many a figure has consciousness generated by conditions been spoken of to us by the Lord, saying: ‘Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness.’ “ “It is good, monks, it is good that you understand thus Dhamma taught by me to you, monks. For in many a figure has consciousness generated by conditions been spoken of by me to you, monks, saying:

‘Apart from condition there is no origination of consciousness.’

... It is because, monks, an appropriate condition arises that conscious-ness

is known by this or that name: if consciousness arises because of

eye and material shapes, it is known as seeing-consciousness; if

consciousness arises because of ear and sounds it is known as hearing-consciousness;

if consciousness arises because of nose and smells, it is

known as smelling-consciousness; if consciousness arises because of

tongue and tastes it is known as tasting-consciousness; if consciousness

arises because of body and touches, it is known as tactile-consciousness;

if consciousness arises because of mind and mental objects, it is known

as mental consciousness. Monks, as a fire burns because of this or that.50 • Buddhism in Daily Life

appropriate condition, by that it is known; if a fire burns because of

sticks, it is known as a stick-fire; and if a fire burns because of chips, it is

known as a chip-fire; and if a fire burns because of grass, it is known as a

grass-fire; and if a fire burns because of cowdung, it is known as a

cowdung-fire; and if a fire burns because of chaff, it is known as a

chaff-fire; and if a fire burns because of rubbish, it is known as a

rubbish-fire. Even so, monks, when because of a condition appropriate to

it consciousness arises, it is known by this or that name... “

Thinking about different kinds of nåma and rúpa and the conditions for their arising will help us to have right understanding of them.

However, this is not the same as the direct experience of the

truth. We will understand what nåma and rúpa really are when

we know through direct experience their different characteristics

as they appear one at a time through eyes, ears, nose, tongue,

bodysense and mind.

Nåma and rúpa arise and fall away so rapidly that we do not

realize that there are different nåma-units and different rúpa-units.  For example, only perceiving sound is a moment which is different from liking or disliking the sound. We are often inclined to find our like or our dislike with regard to the object we experience so important that we do not notice the characteristic of the nåma or rúpa which appears at that moment. Thus we cannot see things as they are; we take like or dislike for self. Like and dislike are only nåmas arising because of conditions; like and dislike are due to one’s accumulations. There are conditions for each citta; there is no self who can let any citta arise at this or at that moment.  We do not only take mental phenomena for self, we take the body for self as well. However, the body consists of nothing else but different rúpa-elements which arise and fall away. There are many different kinds of rúpa. The rúpas which can be directly experienced through the bodysense are: hardness or softness, heat, cold, motion and pressure. These rúpas can be directly experienced through the bodysense, there is no need to think about them or to name them. The direct understanding of rúpas whenever they appear is the only way to know that they are different rúpas and that we should not take them for self.

Different characteristics of nåma and rúpa can be known one at

a time as they appear through the five sense-doors and through.Mental development • 51

the mind-door. So long as we do not know them as they are we

are bound to take them for self. We are not used to being aware

of the phenomena of our life; for example, we are not used to

being aware of seeing. Seeing is a nåma which experiences only

what appears through the eyesense, that is, visible object. This

type of nåma is real and thus it can be experienced. Before one

thinks about what one has seen, there must be the experience of

what appears through the eyes, of visible object. We are used to

paying attention only to the thing or the person we think about

after there has been seeing and thus we are ignorant of the nåma

which only experiences visible object, the nåma which sees. The

nåma which sees is different from the types of nåma which like or

dislike the object or which think about it. If one does not know

seeing as it is, one is bound to take it for self. It is the same with

hearing, which is just the perceiving of sound. When hearing

arises we can learn to be aware of its characteristic; it can be

known that it is nåma, a reality which just perceives sound through the ears. We can gradually become familiar with the characteristic of hearing and then we will know that it is different from thinking and from other types of nåma. We will learn that it is different from rúpa. Thus we will be less inclined to take it for self.

We can be aware of only one characteristic of nåma or rúpa at

a time. For example, when we hear, there are both hearing and

sound, but we cannot be aware of hearing and sound at the same

time, since each citta experiences only one object at a time. There

can be awareness of sound at one moment and of hearing at

another moment, and thus we will gradually learn that their

characteristics are different.

Only if we learn to be aware of the nåma or rúpa which appears at the present moment will we see things as they are. Thinking about nåma and rúpa, reminding ourselves of them or naming realities “nåma” and “rúpa” is still not the direct experience of reality. If we only think of nåma and rúpa and do not learn to experience their characteristics, we will continue to cling to them and we will not become detached from the idea of self. It is beyond control which characteristic presents itself at a particular moment. We cannot change the reality which has appeared already.  We should not think that there should be awareness of hearing first and after that of thinking about what we heard. Different.52 • Buddhism in Daily Life realities will appear at different moments and there is no particular sequence we should follow when we are mindful of realities.

In the beginning we are not able to know the arising and falling

away of nåma and rúpa through direct experience. We should

just learn to be aware of whatever characteristic of nåma or rúpa

presents itself. When, for example, smelling appears, we cannot

help smelling. At that moment we can learn to be aware of the

characteristic of smelling, without making any special effort. There

is no need to think about it or to remind ourselves that it is

smelling, or that it is nåma.

It is essential to realize that awareness


is a type of nåma as well, which can only arise when there are the right conditions.  There is no self who is aware or who can let awareness arise at will. Right understanding of the development of vipassanå is a condition for the arising of awareness. After a moment of awareness there will be a long time without awareness, or there will be moments when we are only thinking about nåma and rúpa. In the beginning there cannot be a great deal of awareness, but even a short moment of right awareness is beneficial, because paññå developed through the direct experience of realities is of a higher degree than the paññå developed through thinking about realities or the paññå developed in samatha. Vipassanå is kusala kamma of a very high degree, because vipassanå leads to detachment from the concept of self and eventually to the eradication of all defilements. If there is less lobha, dosa and moha, it is for the happiness of the whole world as well.

In the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Nines, Ch II, § 10, Velåma)

we read that the Buddha, while he was dwelling near Såvatthí, at

Jeta Grove, in Anåthapiùèika’s Park, spoke to Anåthapiùèika about

different degrees of wholesome deeds which bring their fruits

accordingly. Giving gifts to the Buddha and the Order of monks,

and taking one’s refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the

Sangha are deeds which are of a high degree of kusala, but there

1 Awareness or mindfulness is in Påli: sati. It is a mental factor which

accompanies each sobhana citta, “beautiful citta”. Sati is heedful, non-forgetful of what is wholesome. There are different levels of sati: there is sati with dåna, with síla, with samatha and with vipassanå. Sati in vipassanå is aware, mindful, non-forgetful of the characteristic of nåma or rúpa which presents itself through one of the six doors. Further on in this book I will explain more about sati.

are other ways of kusala which are of still higher degrees..Mental development • 53 We read that the Buddha said:

... though with pious heart he took refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, greater would have been the fruit thereof, had he with pious heart undertaken to keep the precepts: abstention from taking life, from taking what is not given, from carnal lusts, from lying and from intoxicating liquor, the cause of sloth.

...though with pious heart he undertook to keep these precepts, greater would have been the fruit thereof, had he made become a mere passing fragrance of loving-kindness.

...though he made become just the fragrance of loving-kindness, greater would have been the fruit thereof, had he made become, just for a finger-snap, the perception of impermanence.

The perception of impermanence is developed when there is a

moment of right awareness of nåma or rúpa. One may be surprised

that the perception of impermanence is more fruitful than other

kinds of wholesome deeds. It is right understanding which realizes

the impermanence of nåma and rúpa and this kind of understanding

can change our life. It can eventually eradicate our clinging, aver-sion

and ignorance. The time will come when we have to leave

this world because of old age, sickness or accident. Is it not better

to take leave of the world with understanding of what things are

than to part from the world with aversion and fear?.54 • Buddhism in Daily Life.• 55