Buddhism In Daily Life
by Nina van Gorkom
published by zolag.co.uk
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
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
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
Akusala cittas can be rooted in three different
ill-will (in Påli: dosa)
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
one can reach perfection, that is, when one has become an
at the attainment of the fourth and last stage of
When the citta which arises is accompanied by lobha,
and by moha, the citta is called “lobha-múla-citta”,
or citta rooted
. At that moment there is not only moha, which is
common to all akusala cittas but there is lobha as well.
citta which has moha and lobha as roots is different from
the citta which is rooted only in moha, ignorance of
Lobha can be greed, lust, selfish desire, and it can be a
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
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
which arises is accompanied by dosa and moha, the citta
“dosa-múla-citta”, citta rooted in aversion. At that
is not only moha, which is common to all akusala cittas,
is dosa as well. Dosa appears in its coarsest form as
ill-will. There is dosa when one hurts or kills a living
being, when.The teaching of dhamma
one speaks harsh words, or when one curses. Dosa is
accompanied by unpleasant feeling.
There are more subtle forms of dosa as well: dosa can be
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-aversion or kindness (adosa)
Kusala cittas are not accompanied by lobha, dosa or moha.
are always accompanied by alobha, non-attachment, and
non-aversion, but not always by paññå. Thus, citta can
without wisdom (paññå). One can, for example, help
without understanding that helping is kusala and that
deeds bring pleasant results. However, when there is paññå
citta has a higher degree of wholesomeness. If one
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
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
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
“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:
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
surroundings is the result of kamma. Throughout our life
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
Vipåkacittas arise and fall away within split-seconds,
other types of citta. After the vipåkacittas have fallen
type of citta arises; for example, a citta which likes or
object, that is, lobha-múla-citta or dosa-múla-citta.
If people do
not know the different types of cittas, they may be
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 •
result of kamma. Lobha-múla-citta or dosa-múla-citta is
vipåkacitta but akusala citta.
Different types of citta succeed one another very
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
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
people to understand reality, in teaching them Dhamma..36
• Buddhism in Daily Life.• 37
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
. 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
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
them in liberality; whoso incites his foolish parents
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
other people to have right understanding about the
1 The English
translation has: one can never repay... Here I followed the Thai
2 who have little
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
these ways conditions the performing of them. Paññå,
is the factor which above all conditions the elimination
akusala and the development of kusala. There can be dåna
síla without paññå, but when there is paññå, dåna
and síla are of
a higher degree of kusala. There can be no bhåvanå or
development without paññå. Paññå is an
indispensable factor for
bhåvanå, and on the other hand paññå is developed
Paññå, understanding things as they are, will help
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
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
The third way of kusala kamma included in dåna concerns
giving others, no matter whether they are in this world
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
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
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;
that moment there are no lobha, dosa and moha. It is
kamma to show respect to monks, to teachers and to
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
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
people by words or deeds. The act of helping other people
have a higher degree of wholesomeness if there is the
that helping is kusala kamma, and that this is a way to
eliminate selfishness and other defilements. Thus one
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:
may perform their duties just because they are paid for
work. For example, a teacher teaches his pupils and a
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
enough. When it is the right moment we can help others in
deeper and more effective way, that is, helping them to
who they are, why they are in this world and what the aim
their life in this world is. This way of helping is
or mental development..44 • Buddhism in Daily Life.• 45
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
dåna or generosity, síla or morality and bhåvanå or
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
dosa) and ignorance (in Påli: moha) are common to
everybody, not only to Buddhists. Should not everyone eradicate lobha, dosa and
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:
How is it that you come here with clothes and hair still wet at an unseasonable
“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
“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!”
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
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
“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:
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
arises because of ear and sounds it is known as hearing-consciousness;
arises because of nose and smells, it is
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;
arises because of mind and mental objects, it is known
consciousness. Monks, as a fire burns because of this or that.50
• Buddhism in Daily Life
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
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
so, monks, when because of a condition appropriate to
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
truth. We will understand what nåma and rúpa really are
we know through direct experience their different
as they appear one at a time through eyes, ears, nose,
bodysense and mind.
Nåma and rúpa arise and fall away so rapidly that we do
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
Different characteristics of nåma and rúpa can be known
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
are bound to take them for self. We are not used to being
of the phenomena of our life; for example, we are not
being aware of seeing. Seeing is a nåma which
what appears through the eyesense, that is, visible
type of nåma is real and thus it can be experienced.
thinks about what one has seen, there must be the
what appears through the eyes, of visible object. We are
paying attention only to the thing or the person we think
after there has been seeing and thus we are ignorant of
which only experiences visible object, the nåma which
nåma which sees is different from the types of nåma
which like or
dislike the object or which think about it. If one does
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
arises we can learn to be aware of its characteristic; it
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
a time. For example, when we hear, there are both hearing
sound, but we cannot be aware of hearing and sound at the
time, since each citta experiences only one object at a
can be awareness of sound at one moment and of hearing at
another moment, and thus we will gradually learn that
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
In the beginning we are not able to know the arising and
away of nåma and rúpa through direct experience. We
just learn to be aware of whatever characteristic of nåma
presents itself. When, for example, smelling appears, we
help smelling. At that moment we can learn to be aware of
characteristic of smelling, without making any special
is no need to think about it or to remind ourselves that
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,
Jeta Grove, in Anåthapiùèika’s Park, spoke to Anåthapiùèika
different degrees of wholesome deeds which bring their
accordingly. Giving gifts to the Buddha and the Order of
and taking one’s refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and
Sangha are deeds which are of a high degree of kusala,
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.
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
The perception of impermanence is developed when there is
moment of right awareness of nåma or rúpa. One may be
that the perception of impermanence is more fruitful than
kinds of wholesome deeds. It is right understanding which
the impermanence of nåma and rúpa and this kind of
can change our life. It can eventually eradicate our
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
than to part from the world with aversion and fear?.54
• Buddhism in Daily Life.• 55