Letter about Vipassana VII

the Hague,
May 20, 1991

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for the tapes which you made in Bangkok when you and Jonothan were visiting Khun Sujin. The discussions were in various surroundings: in the Safari Park, in the car, in a restaurant with loud background music, in a Park with a Japanese garden and in Khun Sujin's house. The scenery changes all the time but there are only nama and rupa: visible object and seeing, sound and hearing and all the other realities. They appear but we need reminders so that we are not forgetful of what appears all the time. In your letter you wrote that you had carefully planned Dhamma discussions in the afternoon during the three days you were in Bangkok, but that things turned out quite differently from what you expected. Khun Sujin was ill one of these days and thus she could not speak much. However, you had a good discussion with her sister and with Khun Duangduen. We make beautiful plans but we never know what will happen, because whatever happens is conditioned. Your letter was a good reminder of this truth. I liked Khun Sujin's reminder: "Every day life is a test for the development of understanding." We are in different circumstances, some pleasant, some unpleasant, but we should not forget that there are realities appearing through the six doors, wherever we are.

You spoke about the stress of everyday life, when you are in the situation of your work. You find it difficult to remember that there are only nama and rupa, and this is a problem we all have. When we are rushing around to finish our tasks such as cleaning the house or cooking, we believe that we need more leisure time, more time for reading suttas. But, as Jonathan remarked, do we really use our free time for Dhamma, or do we take up other activities, such as playing with the computer, solving problems with it? There are different cittas which motivate our activities, some are kusala but many more are akusala. They arise because of conditions, and instead of trying to exert control over them we should develop understanding of them. I liked Khun Sujin's answer that we should not worry, that worry is akusala and that we should develop understanding at ease. I will quote her words:

...Develop at ease, don't rush. You should not want a result soon. One should understand one's own understanding. When there is a moment of not understanding it cannot be changed into a moment of understanding. When there is no understanding of visible object yet one can begin to develop understanding of it.'

Khun Sujin spoke about her daily life. She goes out shopping, she plays scrabble or receives visitor's. She does not always read the scriptures, but she listens every day to Dhamma on the radio: She follows the Middle Way. There should not be an idea that we should develop satipatthana. We cannot predict what the next moment will be like. When there is attachment we can see it as just a reality. Khun Sujin pointed out that we need many "ingredients" for the growth of right understanding. These ingredients are the sobhana cetasikas (beautiful mental factors) which have been accumulated and which support one another and co-operate so that right understanding can develop to the degree that it can achieve detachment from the self. A cook needs many ingredients in order to compose a meal. In the same way many ingredients are needed for a moment of precise understanding of the reality which appears. It is necessary to accumulate many moments of reading, listening, studying and considering. When we study the Dhamma in detail, we collect ingredients which lead to direct understanding later on. Khun Sujin said:

We read in order to understand this moment.
We listen in order to understand this moment.
We consider in order to understand this moment.
When one is aware and there is no progress, one can know why: there is not enough understanding of the details of the Dhamma.
You were wondering why one should know about details such as the four Great Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Wind, which are the primary rupas of solidity, cohesion, temperature and motion arising with each group of rupas. I liked the discussion you had with Khun Sujin, because usually people are wondering why it is necessary to know such details. You asked why it was nor enough just to be aware of hardness when it appears. Khun Sujin answered that when one is just aware of hardness it is not enough. There are many realities which appear and they are conditioned by different factors. Visible object is the rupa which appears through eyesense, but visible object does not arise alone, it arises in a group of other rupas in which also the four Great Elements take part. Visible objects are various because they are conditioned by different compositions of the four Great Elements. Detailed knowledge helps us to see that what we experience is nothing but conditioned reality. The more we understand conditions the more will we understand that there is no self. Khun Sujin also said that what we study in this life is forgotten when we are reborn into a next life, but when we listen again there are conditions to understand the Dhamma more deeply. The study of the Dhamma is never lost, it is accumulated from life to life so that understanding can become accomplished.

It is beneficial to know about the different cittas which arise in processes because this is our daily life. As Khun Sujin said, we study in order to know this moment. We should not forget the goal of our study. There is impingement of visible object, sound and the other tense objects on the sense-doors and these objects are experienced by cittas which arise and fall away, succeeding one another in processes. In each process there are moments of citta which are either kusala or akusala, but most of the time we are ignorant of this. On account of the objects which are experienced through the different doorways we form up long stories, we are quite absorbed in our thinking. The cittas which think arise in mind-door processes and they may be kusala, but most of the time they are akusala. We cling to the people around us or we are annoyed about them, and we forget that there are no people, only nama and rupa. Khun Sujin stressed during the discussion that when we go to sleep all the stories we made up during the day are forgotten. It is true that when I am asleep I do not know who I am, whom I am married to or where I live. We have forgotten our joys, fears and worries. When we are asleep and not dreaming there are no processes of cittas which experience objects impinging on the six doors. There are bhavangacittas (life continuum), cittas which have the function of keeping the continuity in life, and these cittas experience the same object as the rebirth-consciousness, which is the object experienced shortly before the dying-consciousness of the previous life. It is beneficial to know about such details, it helps us to understand that all the stories we are absorbed in now are nothing at all. They exist only so long as we are thinking about them, but they are forgotten as soon as we are asleep. Khun Sujin said that we should not wait until we go to sleep to forget about the stories we make up, but that we should become detached from them from now on. Attachment does not bring peace, understanding that everything is very temporary conditions Peace. One can come to realize that the processes of citta which experience sense objects pass like a flash and that there is then thinking about them. We live in our own world of thinking from birth to death. We have different feelings because of our thinking, but everything passes like a flash, it is very temporary. After seeing there is thinking, after hearing there is thinking. What we are used to taking for a permanent thing appears for a very short moment and then it is completely gone. We have heard this before but it is so good to be reminded of the truth. Khun Sujin remarked:

In your idea it is as if things are permanent, but it all is so short, it is nothing at all. When one says, "Life is so short", one should remember that each moment is shorter. It never comes back. We listen to the song of a bird but it is completely gone in split seconds.

You remarked that there is just thinking about temporariness, and that this is a way of samatha or calm with impermanence as object. This is a good point you brought up. We all have the feeling that we understand about impermanence in theory, that we can think about it, but that we do not directly experience the truth. I quote your conversation with Khun Sujin:

Khun Sujin: There can also be a moment of insight, of understanding of realities which arise and fall away, but it depends on the development of understanding whether it has reached that degree or not yet. It is not a matter of wanting or trying, but it is the matter of developing understanding.

Sarah: When we talk about stages of insight one starts to Worry. Why should we not just be aware of the characteristic which appears?

Khun Sujin: Even if one talks about stages of insight one does not have to worry about it. There may be ignorance and attachment. One worries, one wants to experience the stages of insight. One has to develop understanding. Then one does not worry about the different stages. One knows that one will reach them one day if the Path is right. One moment of understanding will lead to more understanding. There are only six doorways.

Seeing continues from life to life. If one dies now and one is reborn for example in a deva plane seeing follows instantly and it is like this from aeon to aeon. One sees a great deal and there is no understanding of seeing until one listens to the Dhamma and begins to develop understanding. There can be understanding of seeing as it is.

If one thinks that the development of understanding is too difficult and that one should do other things in order to have more awareness one does not see the value of a moment of being aware of a reality, of understanding it.

The following sutta reminds us that understanding does not develop by mere wishing, that it only grows by developing it right now. We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Threes, Ch X, par. 91, Urgent):

Monks, there are these three urgent duties of a yeoman farmer. What three?
Herein, monks, the yeoman farmer gets his field well ploughed and harrowed very quickly. Having done so he puts in his seed very quickly. Having done that he lets the water in and turns it off very quickly. These are his three urgent duties.

Now, monks, that yeoman farmer has no such magic power or authority as to say: "Let my crops spring up today. Tomorrow let them ear. On the following day let them ripen." No! It is 'just the due season which makes them do this. In the same way there are these three urgent duties of a
monk. What three?

The undertaking of training in higher sila, in higher citta and in higher insight. These are his three urgent duties. Now the monk has no such magic power or authority as to say: "Today let my mind be released from the asavas without grasping, or tomorrow, or the following day." No! It is just the due season which releases his mind, as he undergoes the training in these three.

Wherefore, monks, thus must you train yourselves: Keen shall be our desire to undertake the training in these three branches of training. That is how you must train yourselves. The training in higher sila, higher citta and higher insight are the sila, samadhi (concentration) and wisdom, which comprise the eight factors of the eightfold Path. We may keep on thinking that the realization of the truth is too difficult. We delay awareness of the present moment and we still expect that there can once be realization of the truth. We should not wait for a miracle to happen. If there is no development of understanding now defilements cannot be eradicated. We cannot hasten the development of understanding, but when we see that the development of the eightfold Path is the only way to eliminate ignorance there will be conditions for awareness. At the same time it is necessary to remember that there should not be an idea of self who tries to be aware. There should not be clinging to awareness, then it cannot arise. It arises because of its own conditions which are study of the Dhamma, listening and considering. We should not blame the situation we are in for our lack of awareness. Khun Sujin said:

When we want to control the situation we create new stories, new concepts. Who sees the value of awareness is aware instantly and has no wish to go to other places. One knows that it takes a long time to develop understanding.

You had a discussion about knowing the difference between kusala and akusala. We know in theory that they are different but we find it difficult to know directly when the citta is kusala and when it is akusala. When we help someone there are kusala cittas, but there are also akusala cittas with attachment to the person we help or with attachment to "our kusala". Cittas are very intricate and they change very quickly. Khun Sujin said that it is necessary to know the difference between kusala and akusala, otherwise we cannot develop kusala. She explained that we can only know the present moment:

If we do not talk about this moment how can we know whether the citta is kusala or akusala? It is helpful to know this in daily life. When you think of the other person's benefit without attachment there can be kusala at the level of dana. People have kusala cittas in a day but they don't know it. Right understanding can understand that there are different namas.

Khun Duangduen had offered coffee to Jonathan and while she was thinking of his benefit without attachment the citta was kusala. Generally we worry too much about the development of kusala. Khun Sujin remarked that some people think and think and think how they can have more kusala whereas others just perform it whenever there is time and opportunity. We keep on worrying about kusala and also about our akusala. I noticed that Khun Sujin stressed several times that one should not worry and that one should develop right understanding at ease. She repeated what she had said in India about her anger. She said that it is no problem to her when she gets angry since it has conditions for its arising. She does not think, "O, I studied a lot and therefore I should not have anger." Gabi had listened to the tapes which were taken in India and she wrote to me about her reactions concerning this subject:

I was so surprised when I heard Khun Sujin say, "I am not bothered by my dosa, I don't want to control it". I was struck by these words and they made me have a totally new approach to dosa and anatta, not self. Khun Sujin had often said, "It is not your dosa", but this had not convinced me. Should one not work on oneself, should one not pull oneself together, and if one has the will to do this can one not succeed? Seminars are organised to help people with problems in relationship and to make them change their behaviour, and these seminars are successful. And now I hear from Khun Sujin, "I am not bothered by my dosa and I don't want to control it". Why am I bothered by my dosa? Because the accompanying feeling is unpleasant and my fellowmen do not like me for it, or they do not admire me.

We cannot prevent thinking, but it is important not to forget that dhammas are anatta, beyond control. I think that one could say that Khun Sujin does not want to control "her" dosa and that she is therefore not disturbed by it.

That is the answer. When one realizes that whatever appears is "only a reality", that it is conditioned, not self, one will be less disturbed by it. This does not mean that we should not  develop wholesome qualities. We notice that we often fail but instead of having aversion there can be a moment of understanding of what appears and then the citta is kusala. There will be dosa again but then there can be a moment of understanding again. When we really consider realities and are aware of them there will be a keener understanding of their characteristics. "One does not worry, one keeps on developing understanding", as Khun Sujin said.

You were having tea and squeezing a lemon, and then Khun Sujin reminded you of the present moment. She said: "When you squeeze a lemon there can be, instead of thinking of awareness, understanding of the characteristic which appears". We think and worry about awareness but we forget to attend to characteristics of softness or hardness which appear time and again. Jonathan remarked that the characteristic of anatta does not appear. Khun Sujin answered:

Now there is visible object. There can be understanding of it as only visible object. One learns to begin to separate the eyedoor from the minddoor. Visible object is just a reality. By understanding this one can take away the idea of something in it. When one begins to develop understanding there is no distinction between nama and rupa, they are all mixed up. Then there cannot be elimination of the idea of self from any reality. By developing understanding of realities one at a time one can learn that the reality which experiences now is just an element, it is a reality different from visible object which is seen. If one understands this one will learn that there is nobody, nothing in it. It takes time to have clear understanding of visible object, seeing, sound, hearing, of all realities appearing through the six doorways.

When we notice people we can remember that this is the same as looking into a mirror, since only visible object is experienced and there are no people. We only make up our stories about people. We begin to see that it is visible object, not a thing or a person. Is this not a beginning of understanding of the nature of anatta of visible object? Khun Sujin pointed out several times during the discussions that when one sees the value of right understanding it can condition instant awareness. We may say that we see the value of right understanding but do we really mean it? The following sutta can remind us of what is most valuable in life. We read in the "Dialogues of the "Buddha" (Digha Nikaya III, The Recital, VI, 18):

Six unsurpassable experiences, namely: certain sights, certain things heard, certain gains, certain trainings, certain ministries, certain recollections."

This passage is short but deep in meaning. Unsurpassable experiences are experiences which are superior, most valuable. The Pali term used here is "anuttariya". Khun Sujin explained the meaning of the six "anuttariya" in the Bovornives Temple and quoted the "Manorathapurani", the commentary to the Anguttara Nikaya (commentary to the Book of the Ones, Ch XIII). This commentary deals with the six anuttariyas.

The first unsurpassable experience is the unsurpassable experience of sight (dassana). Aanda had this experience because he saw the Buddha the whole day and he had developed right understanding and attained enlightenment. If one sees the Buddha but one does not develop right understanding one does not have the unsurpassable experience of sight. One does not really value the Buddha and his teaching. The commentary states that the other enlightened disciples and also the "noble persons" (kaliyana puggala), namely those who developed the eightfold Path, had the unsurpassable experience of sight. We cannot see the Buddha now but we can apply what he said to Vakkali who was attached to the sight of him (Theragatha 205). The Buddha said: "Who sees the Dhamma sees me".

As to the unsurpassable hearing (savana), Aanda heard the Buddha preach and developed right understanding so that he could attain enlightenment. The same is said as to the other enlightened disciples and all those who developed the eightfold Path. They listened and developed satipatthana so that they could attain enlightenment. When we listen to the Dhamma now and we begin to develop satipatthana we can have the unsurpassable hearing. We can come to realize that the explanation of the Dhamma is the most precious thing that can be heard.

What is the most precious gain (labha)? Everybody wants excellent things, but if there is no wisdom one does not know whether what one has is really superior. Those who had strong confidence in the Buddha, like Aanda, had the best of gains. The same is said about the other enlightened disciples and the noble persons who developed the eightfold Path. We find the things which give us pleasant feeling most valuable in our life. However, the teachings remind us that pleasant feeling is very temporary, that clinging to pleasant objects leads to sorrow. When we have enough confidence in the teachings we will continue to develop right understanding of all realities which appear. We will see that it is most valuable to know our defilements, to have less ignorance about realities. Then we will have the best of gains.

As to the three training (sikkha) which are superior, these are the higher sila, higher samadhi and higher wisdom of the eightfold Path. Aanda and the other disciples of the Buddha valued these three trainings as unsurpassable, since they lead to the eradication of defilements. If we consider them as unsurpassable we will not be neglectful, we will be aware of anything which appears, pleasant or unpleasant, kusala or akusala.

The unsurpassable ministry (paricariya) is the ministry to the Buddha, as Aanda and the other disciples performed. They served the Buddha with right understanding of nama and rupa. Without right understanding the ministry to the Buddha is not an unsurpassable experience. The Buddha has passed away but we can still serve the Dhamma. One ministers to the Dhamma when one studies it and explains it to others so that they too can develop right understanding.

The unsurpassable recollection (anussata) is the recollection of the Buddha's qualities, those which are "worldly" (lokiya) as well as those which are supramundane (lokuttara), the commentary states. Without wisdom one cannot recollect the qualities of the Buddha. When we are mindful of nama and rupa we value the Buddha's wisdom at that moment. Without his teaching we could not develop satipatthana. Thus at that moment there is the sixth unsurpassable experience.

Khun Sujin said that enlightenment cannot be attained without these six most excellent experiences. If we do not consider the Dhamma as the most valuable in our life enlightenment cannot be attained. We value the Dhamma not merely by words, but by our deeds, by developing right understanding. When we listen to the Dhamma, consider what we heard and begin to be aware of realities we can verify the truth of what the Buddha taught. Then we can gain more confidence to develop all the "perfections", the good qualities the Buddha had developed together with right understanding during aeons. Aanda and the other disciples had developed the perfections during aeons and when they met the Buddha and listened to him it was the right time for them to attain enlightenment.

Khun Sujin's words at the end of your tape were a good reminder:

In order to come to the moment of enlightenment realities must be deeply and widely understood. Then there can be the moment of awareness which conditions enlightenment. If there is not enough development have more development!

                                                                     With metta,

Letter about Vipassana VIII

the Hague,
June 29, 1991
Dear Robert,

You have understood that the eightfold Path the Buddha taught is the Middle Way. The Buddha said in Isipatana to the five disciples that two extremes should not be followed: devotion to sense pleasures and devotion to self-mortification (Kindred Sayings V, Maha-vagga, Book XII, Ch II). We may understand in theory that we have to follow the Middle Way, but when it comes to the practice doubts may arise. Should we do particular things in order to have more awareness and should we avoid things which seem unfavourable for the development of satipatthana? We may do wholesome deeds such as performing generosity in helping others, but still, attachment, lobha, aversion, dosa, and ignorance, moha, arise time and again, and sati seldom arises. We may become discouraged about our lack of progress. You have understood that satipatthana should be developed naturally, in daily life, but, as you wrote, you have doubts whether you should avoid certain situations.

You mentioned that you had doubts whether you should accept an invitation from your friends to go to the movies or whether you should stay home in order to study Dhamma. You feel that accepting is indulgence in pleasure. Nevertheless you find that, even while watching the movie, you would have the opportunity to face the present reality. I will quote from your letter:

Although I have at home the opportunity to study the Dhamma perhaps there will be a feeling of "my practice", "my sila", so that the benefits may not be high. Whereas if I would accept I would lose the study time but there is less chance of developing attachment to "my practice" and really just as much time to observe the present moment. Of course, as panna develops one may naturally not have any desire to see a movie and then one would decline anyway. I do, however, believe that there are more conditions for developing kusala cittas if one stays home. I guess that the answer to this is that the practice is not so much to accumulate many kusala cittas but rather to develop understanding which recognizes the different characteristics of all rupas and namas and sees them as anatta, including sati and panna.

The answer to this dilemma is that one never knows beforehand which type of citta arises at which moment, Kusala citta or akusala citta. Only the anagami, the person who has realized the third stage of enlightenment, will never indulge in sense pleasures. He will have no inclination to go to movies. For us it is different. Sometimes we will accept an invitation to go to the movies, sometimes we will decline and the cittas arising in both Cases can be kusala or akusala, nobody can predict that. We can also accept an invitation because of kindness, out of consideration for someone else who may not be able to go alone. How could one prescribe citta what to decide? Each citta arises because of its own conditions, it is anatta, beyond control.

Sometimes while watching a movie there can be mindfulness of realities but this depends on the accumulated understanding. There can be study with awareness of visible object, that which appears through the eyes. When we are absorbed in the story there is thinking of concepts. The thinking is conditioned by the seeing. When we stay home in order to study the Dhamma there may not be any awareness at all, how could it be planned? Perhaps we fall asleep or there may be distractions. As you say, there can always be attachment to "my practice", but this is a conditioned nama and it can be realized as such.

You have understood that our goal should not be merely the accumulation of kusala but rather the understanding of all realities, sati and panna included, as anatta. When we try to induce sati by doing particular things we will never see that it is anatta. Someone wrote that a teacher said to his pupils that there should be continuous mindfulness. However, this is not realistic. We cannot help seeing and hearing time and again, these cittas just arise, whether we want it or not. Seeing and hearing arise in processes of cittas and in these processes there are, shortly after seeing or hearing has fallen away, kusala cittas or akusala cittas, but most of the time akusala cittas. Often we may not pay attention to seeing or hearing, they just pass. Also the akusala cittas which arise shortly after seeing and hearing just pass, we do not notice them. Cittas arise and fall away very rapidly. Therefore it is hard to know whether the citta at this moment is kusala or akusala. You were wondering about the types of citta which arise when you are absorbed in a Dhamma subject. Nobody else can tell you, you have to find out yourself. When you study the Dhamma in order to understand realities there are kusala cittas but also akusala cittas are bound to arise. When you study the Dhamma there are also seeing and hearing, and you have to find out whether there are kusala cittas or akusala cittas after seeing or hearing, which are vipakacittas, results of kamma. There is likely to be clinging to seeing, to visible object, to concepts we form up on account of what was seen. We believe that we do not particularly like what is seen, but we are still attached to all objects. We are attached to all the familiar things around us, to books, paper and pen, to the chair we are sitting in. However, when we study the Dhamma we can be reminded to be aware of whatever reality appears. Then we do not forget the goal of our study: to understand what appears now.

You write that you are inclined to slip off the Middle Way. We all do, so long as we are not sotapannas. I quote from your letter:

I am inclined to think, "Well, the accumulations to enjoy are there. I might as well indulge as long as I know it is not self doing it, just desire arising". But often I find that by going ahead and enjoying somehow there is little awareness and more attachment. On the other hand, by suppressing the desire such as by taking the eight precepts a feeling of discomfort may be present. But this has the benefit of marking the defilement in a clear way. Again, we cannot set any rule for citta what to decide to do at a particular moment. When we listen to the teachings and consider them we learn about kusala and akusala'. When we begin to be aware we come to realize that there are many moments of akusala we did not know of before we studied the Dhamma. We also learn about many different ways of kusala we had not thought of before. When understanding, panna, develops it will see more often the disadvantage of akusala and the benefit of kusala. When we give in to enjoyment and think, "It is not self", the thinking can be done with akusala citta but there can also be kusala citta. When there is no sati and panna we can use the thought of not self as an excuse not to develop kusala. On the other hand when sati and panna arise and there is awareness of desire as a conditioned reality, not self, the citta is kusala. You find that the eight precepts bring you discomfort. Nobody else can tell you to take them or not to take them. We should find out what the cittas are like which decide to take them. Do we cling to our own kusala, do we want to be perfect immediately? You may find that you notice your attachment to a soft chair or a soft bed more clearly when you take the eight precepts, but what about attachment after seeing or hearing now? Should we not find out in order to have less ignorance? Sincerity is indispensable for the development of satipatthana. One has to be truthful with regard to the different cittas which arise, be they akusala or kusala. In order to know whether there is at this moment kusala citta or akusala citta we need sati-sampajanna, sati and panna. There are different levels of sati-sampajanna, which is often translated as "clear comprehension". Knowing kusala as kusala and akusala as akusala is one level of sati-sampajanna. If one wants to develop kusala one has to know whether the citta at this moment is kusala or akusala. If sati-sampajanna does not arise it cannot be known. If one wants to develop samatha one needs sati-sampajanna which knows whether there is kusala citta with calm, conditioned by the meditation subject of samatha. Sati-sampajanna in vipassana realizes nama as nama and rupa as rupa, it realizes them as not self. Sati-sampajanna of vipassana is supported by the other levels of sati-sampajanna, by sati-sampajanna which realizes kusala as kusala and akusala as akusala, and which sees the disadvantage of akusala and the benefit of kusala. On the other hand, sati-sampajanna of vipassana supports all levels of kusala.

Sati-sampajanna can develop by listening to the Dhamma and by considering it, and then there will be a finer discrimination of kusala and akusala in our daily life. When we discuss satipatthana we have to discuss as well our different moments of akusala and kusala which arise in daily life. Satipatthana has to be developed along with all other kinds of kusala since the goal is the eradication of defilements. If we learn about nama and rupa but we neglect generosity we will keep on clinging to the self. It is difficult to develop generosity when a great deal of stinginess has been accumulated, but we should get to know our true accumulations. When we notice stinginess we do not like it, we have aversion about it. Or there is regret, kukkucca, about our akusala or about the kusala we omitted, and that is also akusala. When there is an opportunity for the arising of sati-sampajanna there is no aversion, no regret. Sati-sampajanna can realize the characteristic of stinginess as only a conditioned reality, a type of nama. There can be more understanding of its conditions: it arises because it is so deeply accumulated. We do not want to be stingy, we may tell ourselves not to be stingy, not to speak words which express our stinginess, but stinginess still arises. We can learn from such situations. Instead of being discouraged sati-sampajanna can arise and see the disadvantage of akusala, and at that moment there cannot be aversion about it. There should be sati-sampajanna which realizes how often there is conceit in our relationship to others. We may feel displeased about what someone else is doing to us or saying to us. There is a kind of comparing, there is "he" and "me"; we wonder, "How can he do that to me." Then there is conceit, we cling to "our important personality". Conceit hinders generosity and metta. Can we forgive someone else easily? Forgiving is a kind of generosity, dana. It is "abhayadana", the wish that someone else is free from harm. We should more often consider the benefit of forgiving, it helps us to have less conceit.

We may be inclined to blame someone else, we may want to tell him off. However, when sati-sampajanna arises we will investigate our own cittas and then we will be less inclined to blame someone else . We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Tens, Ch V, par. 4, At Kusinara) that the Buddha, while he was staying at Kusinara, said that a monk who desires to admonish another monk should do so after investigation of five conditions in himself and setting up five conditions in himself. We read that he should investigate whether he practices utter purity in body and speech, whether he has metta established towards his fellow monks and is free from malice. If not, people around him will say that he should practice these things himself. We then read:

Then again, monks, a monk who desires to admonish another should thus investigate: Am I or am I not one who has heard much, who bears in mind what he has heard, who hoards up what he has heard? Those teachings which, lovely alike at the be-ginning, the middle and the end, proclaim in the spirit and in the letter the all-fulfilled, utterly purified Brahma-life, have such teachings been much heard by me, borne in mind, practiced in speech, pondered in the heart and rightly penetrated by view? Is this quality manifest in me or not? Then, monks, if he be not one who has heard much... then folk are found to say to him: "Come now, let your reverence complete knowledge of the Sayings." Folk are found to speak thus.  We then read that the monk who desires to admonish another monk should investigate whether he is well trained in the discipline. As to the five conditions which he has to set up in himself we read:

(He considers:) Do I speak in season or not? Do I speak of facts or not, gently or harshly, do I speak words fraught with profit or not, with a kindly heart or inwardly malicious?

These five conditions he must set up in his own self. We can apply this sutta in daily life. When there is sati-sampajanna it can be realized whether these conditions are fulfilled or not. It is very difficult to fulfil them, and when we see that, we may rather refrain from admonishing someone else. When we really consider this sutta it can condition the development of sati-sampajanna which knows the disadvantage of akusala and the benefit of kusala. Then kusala citta can arise because it becomes one's nature. There is no need to impose rules upon oneself or to go to particular places in order to induce kusala. Someone wrote that one should try to put as much kusala in one's mind as one can. Then there could be an idea of self who is trying and one will certainly fail. The same person was in a meditation center and she was hoping that she, in that place, could have more metta. However, she noticed that she could not. It shows that realities are beyond control, anatta. It can be discouraging to see how little metta there is in a day. We used to take for metta what is only attachment. We were inclined to be kind to particular people only, not just to anybody we met But it is helpful to realize that often attachment and conceit hinder metta.

We should consider all kinds of kusala and akusala which arise in the situation of our daily life. You said that you used to separate your meditation life from daily life, but, as you know now, that is not the Middle Way. When we would just be sitting in a quiet room how could we know ourselves as we are in our daily life, in our work situation, in our relationship with others? We should be truthful and we should not pretend, even to ourselves, to be better than we really are.

The word meditation can create confusion. People associate meditation with going apart and trying to concentrate on something special. If one wants to cultivate calm to the degree of jhana one has to live a secluded life and one has to use a meditation subject of samatha in order to make calm grow. For the development of vipassana one does not need to go apart. One should develop it naturally, in daily life. One has to get to know one's real accumulations, one's defilements. If one does not develop understanding of whatever reality appears panna cannot grow. You asked what the difference is between panna in samatha and panna in vipassana The aims and thus the methods to reach them are different. As regards samatha, even people before the Buddha's time saw the danger of sense impressions. They realized that seeing, hearing and the other sense impressions are often followed by defilements. Therefore they used subjects of meditation in order to reach jhana, because at the moment of jhanacitta there cannot be any sense impressions. By means of jhana defilements are temporarily subdued but not eradicated. The aim of Vipassana is the eradication of defilements through the wisdom which knows all realities as they are. The object of vipassana is the nama or rupa which appears right now... The object is not a person, a body or another concept, it is a paramattha dhamma, a nama or a rupa. The meditation subjects of samatha can be concepts but they can also be paramattha dhammas such as the elements. However, the aim is not to realize them as not self, but the aim is to have less attachment to them. In Vipassana the object changes from moment to moment, since it is the reality appearing at the present moment. One never knows what will appear next. It is different in samatha since one has to develop calm with one subject of meditation in order to reach calm to the degree of jhana. One may not have the accumulated skill to develop calm to the degree of jhana. However, one can also develop calm in daily life, naturally, as the occasion arises. For example, when there is sati-sampajanna which knows the characteristic of metta, metta can naturally arise in daily life, without there being the need to think, "I should have more metta". There can also be a moment of satipatthana when one realizes for example metta as a conditioned reality, a type of nama which is not self. Moments of calm and moments of Vipassana can arise naturally in daily life, but it all depends on the sati-sampajanna. As we have seen there are different levels of sati-sampajanna and they are all beneficial.

In order to have right understanding of nama and rupa there should be awareness of whatever reality appears through one of the six doors. This is very difficult and therefore you wonder Whether in the beginning it would not be better to be aware of only what appears, for example, through the body-door. Should one not limit the object of awareness? You find that some suttas
seem to suggest this. You quote the story of Pothila from the Dhammapada commentary (282, commentary to verse 282). A novice who was an arahat instructed the monk Pothila by way of a simile. If there are six holes in an anthill and a lizard enters the anthill by one of these holes, one could catch the lizard by stopping up five of these holes, leaving the sixth one open. Then he could catch the lizard in the hole by which he entered. In the same way should Pothila deal with the six doors of the senses; he should close five of the six doors, and devote his attention to the door of the mind. We then read that he was mindful of the body and began mind development. After hearing a stanza from the Buddha he attained arahatship. It was the following stanza:

From meditation springs wisdom,
From lack of meditation wisdom dwindles away.
He that knows this twofold path of gain and loss
Should so settle himself that wisdom may increase.
When wisdom has reached perfection one will not be shaken anymore by gain and loss and the other worldly conditions. What will happen if one tells oneself that one now will concentrate on only one doorway, such as the bodydoor? Then there would not be awareness of the reality which appears, but there is an idea of self who sets his mind on one object, who selects the object of awareness. He thinks of it and tries to concentrate on it. While he tries to control sati he will not know that each reality arises because of its own conditions, that it is beyond control. Some texts seem to stress the bodydoor, other texts emphasize feeling or other realities. Why is that? This is only to remind us not to be forgetful of the realities which appear. When there is mindfulness of hardness which appears through the bodysense one should study it with awareness in order to know that it is only a kind of rupa, not "my body". There is also the nama which experiences the hardness, or the nama which feels. If one neglects nama which appears one will continue to cling to an idea of self who experiences objects. One should know that there is only an element which experiences, not self. The first stage of insight is knowing the difference between the characteristic of nama and the characteristic of rupa. Thus, both nama and rupa which appear should be studied with awareness. It depends on conditions whether there is more often awareness of hardness, of visible object, of feeling, or of any other reality. This is different for different people. However, we should not deliberately limit the object of awareness, we should not set any rule, because then there is desire and this hinders right awareness.

Eventually all objects appearing through the six doors have to be known. Pothila could not have attained arahatship had he been ignorant of some objects. Some people have the inclination to develop both samatha and vipassana. In the development of samatha one subdues attachment to sense objects. However, in order to develop insight there must be understanding of all namas and rupas which appear. At the moment of mindfulness of the objects appearing through the six doors there is "restraint of the senses" (indriya samvara sila). At that moment there is a "blocking" of akusala on account of what appears through the senses.

We may think that some suttas stress only one object as object of awareness, but it is important to read all texts. We read, for example, in the "Kindred Sayings" IV, Maha-vagga, Kindred Sayings on the Way, Ch III, Par. 9, Feeling) that the Buddha, while he was at Savatthi, said to the monks:

There are these three feelings, monks. What three? Feeling that is pleasant, feeling that is painful, feeling that is neither pleasant nor painful. These are the three feelings.

By the comprehension, monks, of these three feelings the ariyan eightfold way must be cultivated....

It is difficult to know the true characteristic of feeling, to know it as nama, different from rupa. Don't we confuse bodily feeling and rupa such as hardness which impinges on the bodysense? There is feeling all the time but we neglect awareness of it, we cling to feeling and take it for self. This sutta can remind us to be mindful of feeling. The following sutta (par. 10) reminds us to be aware of the sense objects. We read that the Buddha explained to Uttiya about the "five sensual elements". The Buddha said:
There are objects cognizable by the eye, objects desirable, pleasant, delightful and dear, passion-fraught, inciting to lust. There are sounds cognizable by the ear, objects desirable... there are scents cognizable by the nose.., savours  cognizable by the tongue.., tangibles cognizable by the body, objects desirable, pleasant, delightful and dear, passion- fraught, inciting to lust. These, Uttiya, are the five sensual elements of which I spoke.

Now, Uttiya, it is by abandoning these five sensual elements that the ariyan eightfold way is to be cultivated. One cannot start with detachment from the five sense objects. This can only be achieved by right understanding which realizes these objects as they are. One has to begin to be mindful of whatever object appears through one of the six doors in order that understanding can gradually develop.

You asked how we can learn to discern the difference between nama and rupa, and in particular the difference between bodily phenomena and the experience of bodily phenomena, since that is so difficult. Is there again an idea of self who can select phenomena in order to be aware of them? We know that the difference between nama and rupa should be known but there should not be any selection of objects of awareness. We have ignorance of all phenomena. Do we know visible object as it is, seeing as it is, feeling as it is? When visible object appears there can be awareness of it so that understanding of it can be developed. Right understanding can realize it as rupa, different from nama. There can also be awareness of other objects which appear but we should not have the idea that after awareness of visible object there has to be awareness of seeing in order to realize the difference between nama and rupa. There may be awareness of feeling or of sound, we cannot direct sati. It is the same when the first stage of insight knowledge arises, when the difference between the nama and the rupa, which appear, is clearly known. The objects of awareness are not necessarily seeing and visible object, or hearing and sound. They are any kind of rupa which appears and any kind of nama which appears, there is no selection of objects, there is no idea that they would have to appear in a particular order. When we worry about how we can know the difference between a particular kind of nama and a particular kind of rupa we are not developing understanding. Thus, there is no prescription one could follow so that one could find out the difference between nama and rupa. It all depends on the development of sati-sampajanna.

While we were in India Khun Sujin said that if one does not know the characteristic of sati it cannot be developed. On the other hand, only when sati arises can we know its characteristic. It seems like a vicious circle. Khun Sujin said time and again, "Develop it now". We were wondering how we could. The answer is that through the study of the teachings, through considering them, through asking questions, intellectual under-standing is gradually being built up. This is the condition that there can sometimes be direct awareness of a reality which appears. We need patience to listen and consider again and again, we should have no desire for the arising of sati. Khun Sujin said: "If there is no desire for sati it will arise, I guarantee." Why do we discuss visible object time and again? In order to be reminded to study it with awareness. When we see we think immediately of the people and the things around us, and this is because we always did, we are so used to it. However, now we can change our accumulations, we can remember that what appears through the eyes is only visible object. There will again be thinking of people, but then we can remember that this happens because of what we used to do. In that way we will attach less importance to our thoughts. We need to discuss many realities, and then, without selection of particular objects, there will be conditions that gradually the nature of rupa and the nature of nama will become more evident. We may believe that it is sufficient to be aware of visible object just a few times in order to know what it is. This is not enough. Visible object is in front of us but we are often forgetful of it. We do not have to think about it, it is there and it appears through the eyes. We cannot see sound, we can only see what impinges on the eyesense. There can be conditions to study with awareness nama and rupa, if we remember that it is beneficial to know that we do not see people, that it will help us to cling less to people. There is also the element which experiences visible object. It is not self, it is only a reality which experiences. We often lose opportunities to study the objects which are there, every day. We have to continue to study all realities which appear through all the doorways. There should just be awareness of the reality which appears, through one doorway at a time, and we should not think or worry about it whether it is nama or rupa. At the moment of worry or doubt there is no awareness,- the citta is akusala. We should know that enlightenment cannot be attained by developing satipatthana only during one lifetime. Awareness of realities is a new accumulation which is gradually acquired. We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Threes, Ch XIV, par. 131, Fighting-man) that a fighting-man has three qualities: he is a far-shooter, a shooter like lightning and a piercer of huge objects. A monk who is worthy of respect should have these three qualities. We read:

Now, in what way is a monk a far-shooter?

Herein, whatsoever rupa... feeling... perception (sanna)... activity (sankharakkhandha)... whatsoever consciousness he has, be it past, present or future, personal or external to self, be it gross or subtle, mean or exalted, far or near, - everything in short of which he is conscious, - he sees it as it really is by right insight thus: This is not mine. This am I not. This is not for me the Self. That is how a monk is "a far-shooter".

The five khandhas, all conditioned rupas and namas should be realized as they are. We then read that the monk is a shooter like lightning when he understands the four noble Truths: dukkha, its arising, its ceasing and the Way leading to its ceasing. He is a piercer of huge objects when he pierces through the huge mass of ignorance.

If one wants to learn the art of shooting with bow and arrow one has to have endless patience and perseverance to learn this skill. Even so one needs great patience and perseverance to develop satipajthana. It has to be learnt without an idea of self who is training. The right conditions have to be there in order to be able to develop right understanding. The person who shoots from far and can hit the aim very precisely is like the person who has developed panna which has become so keen that it can realize the true nature of the reality which appears. Panna is as swift as lightning and it can pierce through the huge mass of ignorance. Since ignorance is mass accumulated for aeons it cannot be eradicated within a short time.

                                                                                                        With metta
                                                                                                Nina van Gorkom

Letter about Vipassana IX

the Hague,
July 29, 1991
Dear Dhamma friends,

Do we really want to be aware of attachment, lobha, when it appears? We may know that whatever reality appears can be object of awareness, but how is the application of this knowledge? We dislike our defilements and we would rather be free from them, but we forget that the only way to eventually eliminate them is to be aware of them so that they are known as they are. We read in "As it was said" (Khuddaka Nikaya, Itivuttaka, The Ones, Ch I, par. 9) that the Buddha said:

"Monks, the man who does not understand and comprehend lust, who has not detached his mind therefrom, who has not abandoned lust, can make no growth in extinguishing dukkha. But, monks, he who does understand and comprehend lust, who has detached his mind therefrom, who has abandoned lust, can make growth in extinguishing dukkha."
This is the meaning of what the Exalted One said. Herein this meaning is thus spoken.
By whatsoever lust inflamed
Beings to the ill-bourn go,
That lust, completely knowing it,
Those who have insight do reject.
Rejecting it, no more again
They come unto this world at all.
This meaning also was spoken by the Exalted One; so I have heard.

The same is said about ill-will, delusion, wrath, and spite. One may believe that defilements can be abandoned without thoroughly knowing them, but this is impossible. Is there not a tendency to flee from one's defilements instead of facing them with courage and sincerity? So long as there is ignorance our defilements are hidden, they are covered up. When we listen to the Dhamma and consider it, and when we begin to be aware we come to know more and more the defilements which were hidden to us before. We come to know our true accumulations. As we read in the sutta, they can only be eliminated by knowing them with insight. So long as they are taken for self they can never be eradicated. .

Sarah sent me some tapes which were recorded in Bangkok with discussions about the development of right understanding. These discussions were held in Khun Sujin's house and also during a trip to Kanchanaburi. Sarah said that many people want to change their character, that they want to become a better person. There is so much quarrelling in daily life and people become disappointed when their life does not change for the better after they have listened to the Dhamma. They hope to be able to change themselves in a meditation center if they work very hard at it. Khun Sujin remarked that the cittas which quarrel are anatta, not self, that they arise because of conditions. Right understanding can see that there is nobody at that moment. There is only the experiencing and even the words are motivated by such and such realities, they do not belong to anybody. Sarah said that one's aim may be a quiet, peaceful life without quarrels. Khun Sujin explained that there is a lack of understanding at which stage quarrelling will be eradicated. In fact dosa is only eradicated at the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the "non-returner", the anagami. Khun Sujin said:

Instead of minding too much about different defilements one could develop understanding of realities, so that all akusala will become less. Ignorance which is the cause of all akusala will become less. Maybe one is just satisfied to have less quarrelling, but no development of understanding, no elimination of ignorance, but that depends on one's inclinations. Several of the discussions were about going to a meditation center since many people believe that that is beneficial. They think that it is helpful to be away from people. One should find out whether that is one's nature and whether it helps one to be-come more detached, to have less clinging to a result, whether it helps one to understand one's own accumulations more deeply. Is it not better to have a few moments of awareness and understanding without there being any desire to "plan" such moments?  Some people believe that an "intensive course" in a center can be a short-cut to reach the goal. How can there be a short-cut if there is no understanding of this moment? The understanding of this very moment should be the test for our progress. Khun Sujin said:

One has to understand the very subtle desire, when one is waiting for the arising of awareness in the future. Awareness can arise now. If there is understanding now it can be accumulated. One has to notice desire, whether it is there. Instead of having desire there can be awareness and right understanding even now. That is the meaning of the "Middle Way". Understanding realities with awareness, that is the moment of progress. You think that you can get rid of desire, somewhere, at some time, but what about this moment? There is lobha if there is no understanding. Desire is not self, it is a reality. If you don't understand it, you will not get rid of it. When you look at the newspaper you can develop understanding about the conditioned lobha. You cannot do anything about it, but there can be understanding of lobha as a conditioned reality. Different people will react differently when they hear, "you cannot do anything about it", it all depends on the understanding of the listener. It is right understanding when we realize that we cannot do anything about the realities which arise because of their own conditions. It is the development of the understanding of anatta. There is wrong understanding if one believes that it is senseless to develop kusala and right understanding since one cannot do anything about one's defilements. When people speak harsh words to us it is beneficial to realize that we cannot do anything about the hearing, since it is conditioned already. Hearing is vipaka, the result of kamma. As Khun Sujin said, there is nobody there, there is only the experiencing. No self hears, it is only a type of nama, and no self gets hurt by harsh words. When we consider this more deeply and there can be awareness of nama and rupa, we will be less inclined to retort unpleasant words. We will have more understanding of the truth that there is nobody there.

Sarah said that it is a relief that we do not have to do anything special for the development of understanding, such as always reading Dhamma books or going to a center. Khun Sujin replied:

The idea of self always pushes one this or that way. The development of understanding just follows all realities. Then lobha cannot push you to cover up the realities which have arisen now because of conditions. Just understand any reality which is conditioned. Seeing now is conditioned and therefore it arises, it sees. Develop understanding of the reality which is already conditioned. Jonathan said that he should have studied the Dhamma more often, he had regret about losing opportunities for study. Khun Sujin replied:

While talking about realities the "perfection" of panna develops by itself, even if we do not name it or talk about the resolution to develop the perfections. You would not have come from Hong Kong to have discussions if you did not have the determination to develop panna. Your action shows it. When there is awareness arising just for a moment, "slipping in", and then "slipping out", it is also the development of the perfection of panna. Any moment can be a moment of developing the perfections. Listening is not always convenient, but one can then develop other perfections besides listening.

We may have regret about lack of study and we may wonder whether we should avoid particular situations like going out and enjoying ourselves, in order to have more time for study and for consideration of the Dhamma. There is still the idea of self which pushes us this way or that way. Instead we should just "follow" all realities which appear. Alan Weller wrote a letter to me about this subject which I will quote:

I used to think that I should study the Dhamma and be alone rather than going out with friends. When we say this it seems as if there is no self indulgence when we do not go to the movies whereas in actual fact defilements are around all the time. The stories on the screen are no different from the stories in our everyday life. We have pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling conditioned by what we see, no matter whether we are at the movies or not. All situations are the same in the sense that they consist of realities which are dukkha, anicca and anatta. Pleasant feeling has its own characteristic which can be understood, no matter where we are. We cannot force kusala by listening more to the Dhamma. Akusala is conditioned by accumulation, we have to accept, it as it is. By listening to the Dhamma and considering it there are conditions for the development of kusala, slowly and gradually. We should follow our own accumulations wisely, sincerely, understanding them as they really are. I have accumulations to go to the movies, watch T.V. and read magazines. The interest in these is a conditioned reality which can be known. Also the interest in Dhamma is conditioned. I cannot force myself to have more interest in the Dhamma. I understand the value of reading the scriptures and considering the Dhamma and that is a condition for studying it. We cannot read all day every day.  Therefore it is best to live our life naturally according to our own accumulation and to learn to apply Dhamma in any situation.

Whenever we study the Dhamma there is renunciation, so of course sometimes we will study rather than watch T.V., but are we doing this because of renunciation or because of desire? There can so easily be attachment. This should be seen as it is, otherwise our studying will be overmuch, too tense, not according to our own real nature. The beginning of the study of Dhamma is learning to see kusala as kusala and akusala as akusala. We should not force ourselves to have more kusala by being in a particular situation.

To sum up: any time is Dhamma time, but reading, listening to tapes, asking questions is valuable. We have to balance our own accumulation with the study of Dhamma. Too much going to the movies and we will neglect reading and considering. Too much reading and considering may be forced and too tense. We should be easy going, learning to see dhamma as dhamma and realizing the danger of too much self indulgence. Attachment is constantly moving us away from Dhamma.

The perfection of truthfulness or sincerity is indispensable for the development of panna. Susie wrote to me that she realized that there are after seeing many moments of thinking of stories about people and things. She wrote: I certainly see that I get so absorbed that I don't want to hear, read or think about Dhamma. I would rather have my lobha and my story. Pretty natural.

This is sincere. If we try to force ourselves not to be absorbed in stories about people and things there is already desire for result. There is the idea of self who is "doing something" and then we are on the wrong path. Only if we naturally follow all realities, also the moments of being absorbed, we are on the "Middle Way", and then understanding can develop. Do we mind what kind of reality arises? Do we mind lack of sati? We may think that we do not mind but as understanding develops, one knows that one minds a lot. How much or how little we mind indicates to what extent understanding has developed. We can only find out ourselves. When understanding has developed more it does not matter at all which type of reality appears since they are all conditioned. Jonathan remarked that we are just as happy to know dosa as to know generosity, because in the end all realities have to be known as they are. It is very beneficial to be reminded that we should find out how much we mind about the realities which appear. It teaches us to become more sincere. Without noticing it we may have preference for particular realities and we may neglect being aware of certain other realities. We may want to know seeing but we are unhappy about the thinking which arises on account of what we saw, and thus we may neglect that reality. We dislike dosa, and thus we may neglect that reality when it appears. Khun Sujin said:

One can benefit from having lobha or dosa. One can see to what extent one has accumulated these realities. Isn't it useful? One can see one's akusala. Otherwise one could not know how much one has. No one likes it, but instead of disliking it why not use it as an opportunity for the development of understanding. It is very beneficial to understand akusala in detail. It always arises and is there, without there being understanding of it, from morning to night. Panna see akusala as akusala so that the idea of self will be eliminated from all akusala of all levels. If there is no understanding of akusala how can one know whether one has less akusala or more? If there is no understanding of akusala can one say that one has developed understanding?

Several times during the discussions Khun Sujin pointed out that awareness can "slip in" very naturally, and then slip out, just as naturally as thinking or hearing which slip in and out. They come and go and we do not have to do anything about these realities, since they arise because of conditions. We should understand the nature of anatta of awareness instead of trying to have it. Are we glad when there is a moment of awareness? That shows our clinging. There are many conditions necessary for the arising of awareness, such as reading, discussing and considering the characteristic of the reality which appears as not self. When we remember that many conditions are necessary we will be less inclined to induce sati. If one tries hard to make awareness arise one thinks that there is awareness, but it is not right awareness. We may mistakenly think that there is awareness of realities when there is only thinking about realities such as softness or the experience of softness. In some meditation centers people have to sit for one hour, then walk for one hour, but there is no right understanding of the object of awareness. They may hear the teacher say that softness is rupa and that the experience of softness is not self. They learn by heart that there are six doorways and they recite for themselves the objects which can appear through these doorways. This can be a level of sati since sati accompanies any kind of kusala citta, but there is no development of direct understanding of the reality appearing at the present moment. Khun Sujin stressed again that whenever sati arises it is time to develop understanding. We have heard this before, but don't we forget? When panna is being developed there will be less doubt about awareness. We will be less inclined to think, "Was there awareness or was it only thinking?" Khun Sujin said:

There is touching many times, but when there is awareness there is the beginning of understanding the softness as a reality, or the touching as just a moment of experiencing. That moment is not thinking about the idea of softness or thinking about touching, because it is the moment of experiencing very naturally, it is the moment of developing under-standing. There is awareness and understanding without expectation, because it is time to develop understanding when awareness is aware, not when you want to be aware. One knows how much understanding there is when there is awareness. When Sarah asked what the characteristic of visible object is Khun Sujin gave a very meaningful answer which is well worth considering: A reality. Can anybody do something about it at this moment?

It appears now, it has its own characteristic, nobody can change it.

Visible object is just a reality, it is not a person or a tree, as we used to think. When we hear that it is a reality and that we cannot do anything about it  reminds us of the nature of anatta of visible object. It appears already and understanding of it can be naturally developed. It seems that we see immediately a chair or a flower, but if there were no thinking could there be any idea about visible object? Seeing and thinking arise closely one after the other and gradually their different characteristics can be known.

By developing satipatthana one will have a deeper understanding of kamma and vipaka. Someone remarked that it is a relief to understand kamma and vipaka, to know that things have to happen and that it is of no use to control one's life. Khun Sujin remarked that when one thinks, "It is kamma, it is vipaka", it is not as precise as the direct understanding of kamma and vipaka which is acquired through awareness of the realities which appear. We say that seeing and hearing are vipaka, but we just repeat what is in the text. Our understanding is still superficial. When there is awareness and direct understanding of these realities there will be a clearer understanding of what vipaka is. There are different stages of insight, vipassana nanas, and at each stage panna realizes the nature of the realities which appear more clearly. As panna develops kamma and vipaka will be seen more clearly. While one is developing understanding one should not expect clear understanding of realities immediately.  Khun Sujin remarked that the sharp and keen understanding is the result which will arise later, one should not have expectations. One is on the way and one does not mind when and where there will be result, it will arise when it is the right time. There can be understanding of seeing right now, one does not have to waste time.

When right understanding is developed in daily life there will be more patience in the different situations. Situations change all the time and life can be complicated. We maybe overburdened by work or we may have problems concerning our relatives. I will quote a conversation about the perfection of patience between  Khun Sujin and Sarah.

 Khun Sujin: If there are no different situations how does one know that right understanding can cope with them, that it can know the different realities which appear? When there is more understanding of realities as not self there is more patience. When there is patience it can be understood as "nobody". '

Sarah: Is there more patience because one tries less to control realities? .

Khun Sujin: There is less attachment to self.

Sarah: Will there be less frustration about situations?

Khun Sujin: And also less disturbance while one thinks about other people. One understands that there is no permanent being. Sound arises and falls away, it does not belong to anyone. When people speak the sound is conditioned by the namakkhandhas and these also fall away. There is only the thinking of a story about people and things all the time. It is the same as when we watch T.V., read the newspaper or dream about things. What is seen is only visible object. When there is patience one is not disturbed by any circumstances.

One may be inclined to think of a self who cannot bear anymore such or such situation. Patience is a condition not to have aversion. We have to cope with many situations. The growth of the perfections must be in daily life, in any situation.

Sarah: I do not quite understand the perfection of determination or resolution, it seems that it is just thinking.

Khun Sujin: Thinking and taking action.

Sarah: Following the kusala way?

Khun Sujin: When I go to the Bovornives Temple to give lectures or I am preparing the tapes for the radio I do not have to think about which perfections I am developing. The action shows the perfections.

It is not self but sankharakkhandha (the khandha of "formations") which conditions the thinking, "I will do as much kusala as possible" and also the action in accordance with the thinking. Resolution is not only thinking. One needs the perfection of sincerity in order to conform one's deeds and speech with one's thinking to perform kusala. For example, you have the intention to have right speech but when the situation arises for right speech it depends on whether you have sincerity to act according to your resolution. Sincerity can condition kusala at such a moment. Then you develop kusala not for fame, admiration and other selfish motives.

When we notice the unwholesomeness of someone else we find it difficult to have kusala citta. Khun Sujin asked, "When one thinks of Saddam Hussein, what type of citta is thinking?" The person who has no understanding about kusala and akusala can be object of metta. When he commits ill deeds he does not know that it is akusala. We can have metta instead of dosa when there is awareness. Then we do not follow the opinion of others who dislike such a person. When we have aversion about someone's bad deeds we accumulate more akusala.

Khun Sujin had reminded us in India to become like a dustrag which serves for wiping the feet. A dustrag takes up filth and is undisturbed by it. One should become as humble as a dustrag. Sariputta, who could forgive anybody, no matter whether that person treated him in an unjust manner, compared himself with a dustrag. He had no conceit. When right understanding has been developed one will cling less to the self, there will be more humbleness. During the discussions Khun Sujin said again:

I would like to be a dustrag. I follow the way to be one, it is my resolution. Our resolution means that we take action by developing understanding and metta. .

It is beneficial to be reminded again of the dustrag, because humbleness seems to go against our nature. As understanding develops it must lead to letting go of namas and rupas. What we take for self are only impermanent namas and rupas. When their impermanence has been realized can they be as important as before? '

We read in the "Vinaya" (VI, Parivara, Ch XII) how the monk should behave when he approaches the Sangha when it is convened for the investigation of a legal question. We read:

...he should approach the Order with a humble mind, with a mind as though it were removing dust. He should be skilled about seats and skilled about sitting down. He should sit down on a suitable seat without encroaching on (the space intended for) monks who are Elders and without keeping newly ordained monks from a seat. He should not talk in a desultory fashion, nor about inferior (worldly) matters. Either he should speak Dhamma himself or should ask another to do so, or he should not disdain the ariyan silence...
The commentary (the Samantapasadika) adds to "with a mind as though it were removing dust" : "like a towel for wiping the feet." The Vinaya contains many useful reminders about behaviour which laypeople can apply too in their own situation. Some people believe that when they do not harm or hurt others by bad deeds such as killing or stealing, they have good sila. However, should we not know the akusala cittas which arise in the different situations of our daily life? Should we not see the danger of the slighter degrees of akusala, since we keep on accumulating it from life to life? It is important to know our akusala more in detail, even when we perform seemingly unimportant actions. When we are in a hurry to take a seat in bus or train, is the citta kusala or akusala? Do we speak about others in a desultory way? Through awareness there can be more carefulness in our actions and speech, we can become more considerate. Further on in this section of the Vinaya we read:

...he should not speak waving his arms about, he should be unhastening, he should be considerate, he should not be quick tempered, with a mind of lovingkindness he should be gentle in speech; merciful, he should be compassionate for welfare; seeking for welfare, he should not be frivolous in speech; limiting his speech, he should be one who masters hostility, and is without irascibility. When we speak, do we sometimes wave our arms about? We may think that we do not harm others by such a gesture, but should we not find out whether there is at such moments kusala citta or akusala citta? If we want to become like a dustrag all love of self and conceit must eventually be eradicated. Right understanding should be developed while we are busy, while we are in the company of others. Akusala cittas are bound to arise in our dealings with others and when we are alone, but when akusala citta appears we have the opportunity to know akusala as it is.

We are already disturbed by a loud noise, for example, the noise of traffic or the sound of a radio which is too loud. Khun Sujin asked Sarah whether she is disturbed by sound and Sarah answered that she is disturbed many times, that it conditions dosa. I will quote the conversation about this subject:

Khun Sujin: It depends on understanding, not you, whether hearing can be realized as just a moment of experiencing. When dosa appears there must be understanding too of the dosa as not self. Understanding has to develop on and on, one should not stop with awareness, then one will not come to know the dosa as not self. .

Sarah: After a moment of awareness there is a lot of thinking and aversion.

Khun Sujin: That is how one can realize how much understanding one has developed. The development can be very short, just one moment, or more than that.

Sarah: Usually one moment. ,

Khun Sujin: That is not enough. One realizes that one has to continue to develop understanding.

There should not be an idea of self who has to continue to develop understanding, but knowing that one moment of awareness now and then is not enough can condition the continuation of development. There may be awareness of sound just for a moment, but, when there is thinking about it with lobha or dosa we stop short. It is helpful to be reminded that there are so many realities there is still ignorance of. All realities which appear have to be known in order to eliminate the idea of self. It takes more than a lifetime, as Khun Sujin often said.

                                                                                                        With metta
                                                                                                Nina van Gorkom

Letter about Vipassana X

the Hague,
Oct. 2, 1991
Dear Dhamma friends,

Our daily life is complicated, we are busy with our work and there are always problems which disturb us. It seems that there is very little opportunity for wholesome deeds. We believe that we see the value of the Dhamma, but we find it hard to apply it. We read in the "Gradual sayings" (I, Book of the Threes, Ch VI, The Brahmins, par. 51, Two People): Now two broken-down old brahmins, aged, far gone in years, who had reached life's end, one hundred and twenty years of age, came to see the Exalted One... As they sat at one side those brahmins said this to the Exalted One:

"We are brahmins, master Gotama, old brahmins, aged, far gone in years... but we have done no noble deeds, no meritorious deeds, no deeds that can bring assurance to our fears. Let the worthy Gotama cheer us! Let the worthy Gotama comfort us, so that it may be a profit and a blessing to us for a long time!"

"Indeed, you brahmins are old... but you have done no deeds that can bring assurance to your fears. Indeed, brahmins, this world is swept onward by old age, by sickness, by death. Since this is so, self-restraint in body, speech and thought (practised) in this life:- let this be refuge, cave of shelter, island of defense, resting-place and support for him who has gone beyond... "

These two brahmins were sincere, they realized that there are  most of the time akusala cittas. Is it not the same for us?

There are more often akusala cittas than kusala cittas after seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or the experience of tangible object. We are attached to all the sense objects, attachment, lobha, is following us like a shadow throughout our lives. If the object which is experienced is unpleasant our attachment conditions aversion, dosa.

Khun Sujin spoke about the sutta on the two old brahmins in the Bovornives Temple, explaining that it deals with our daily life. I would like to quote her explanation: Conditions are different for different people. Some people think of themselves all the time, they do not do anything for their relatives or friends. From morning unit night they are busy with their work, making a living for their family, and they have to face many problems with regard to their duties. If one does not accumulate kusala so that it becomes one's nature, kusala citta will not arise very easily. One should accumulate kusala when one is in the company of other people, while one is working or while one has free time, otherwise there may not be any opportunity for kusala. When one takes a rest after a busy day there is likely to be lobha. One clings to self, one looks for pleasure, for distraction. Then one thinks that there is no time for kusala. The two old brahmins had faced many problems concerning their families. However, this is the case with all of us. We are bound to have moments that we are worried and disturbed. All kinds of problems arise each day. If there are no problems concerning our house, our family, or our work, there are numerous other occasions for worry. We are worried in this life, but we should remember that there was also worry in former lives. These worries belong to the past. Even so the worry in this life cannot stay. There was worry in the past and there will also be worry in the next lives. One worries about sickness and pain. Also in former lives there was worry about sickness, although we do not know which diseases there were. In this life we may have the same diseases or another one we did not have before, but there is Worry just as there was in past lives during the cycle of birth and death, and there will be worry again in lives to come.

We should not forget to consider again and again eight "grounds for a sense of urgency" (Vis. IV, 63): birth, ageing, sickness and death, the sufferings connected with unhappy rebirth, the suffering in the past rooted in the cycle of rebirths, the suffering in the future rooted in the cycle of rebirths, and the suffering in the present rooted in the search for nutriment.

We cannot remember the sufferings of the past but they are not different from those arising at the present life, and also those in the future will not be different. If one has a house one is bound to worry about it again and again. If one has duties concerning one's daily work one is bound to worry again and again. Since we have a body we will worry again and again about our health. We should ponder over the truth concerning the suffering in this life connected with the search for nutriment. We are actually searching food for dukkha. That is why we are continuously going around in the cycle, always travelling, time and again searching food for dukkha.

Whenever there is the experience of a pleasant object through the eyes one continues to search food for dukkha. We search all around for dukkha in the cycle of birth and death. Whenever there is hearing and one is attached to sound one is already searching for dukkha. Attachment is the cause of dukkha in the cycle. We never stop searching for dukkha. Through the nose there is smelling of fragrant odours, the scent of flowers, of perfumes, and then we keep on searching for dukkha all around, everywhere. We search for dukkha when we taste flavour through the tongue, or when there is the experience of tangible object through the bodysense. When we think of a story don't we search for dukkha? We are searching for dukkha everywhere from morning until night. If we don't realize this we cannot be freed from the cycle of birth and death. Before there can be eradication of defilements, before detachment, alobha, can arise and become powerful, so that selfishness can be given up, we should know the characteristic of the cause of dukkha, the food for dukkha. This is lobha, attachment, which searches all around. Lobha is the cause of dukkha whereas alobha, detachment, is the cause of happiness. When one has less attachment to the objects which appear through the six doors is there not less searching for dukkha? The next life will be again like this life and the cycle will be very long if panna does not know the characteristics of realities as they are. Panna should be developed to the degree that it realizes the four Noble Truths and enlightenment is attained.

In the next life there will be happiness and sorrow, and this depends on kamma. If one has right understanding about kamma and one has determination for kusala one will not be negligent. These were Khun Sujin's words.

The sutta on the two old brahmins is followed by another sutta which is partly similar. The Buddha said to the two old brahmins that the world is all ablaze with old age, sickness and death.

We then read that he spoke the following verse:
When a house is burning, goods removed therefrom,
Not what are burned, will be of use to him
Who removes them. So the world is burned
By old age and death. Then save yourself by giving.
What is given is well saved.
The self-restraint of body, speech and mind
In this life practised, meritorious deeds,
These make for happiness when one has died.

Through the development of right understanding of nama and rupa one will see the danger of akusala and the benefit of kusala. One will come to see the disadvantages of being born again and again. At this moment we do not see that life is dukkha. We are searching for dukkha so long as we are attached to nama and rupa. We can develop more understanding of the dukkha in our life by studying what the scriptures and the commentaries state about this subject. Although our understanding of dukkha is only theoretical it is beneficial to study the different aspects of dukkha. The study of the Dhamma in detail is a condition for the growth of panna. Through the development of satipatthana there can gradually be direct understanding of the truth.

The commentary to the "Book of Analysis" (Vibhanga), the "Dispeller of Delusion" (Sammohavinodani), elaborates on the different aspects of dukkha. We read in the section on the "Classification of the Truths" (Ch IV, Saccavibhanga) about the many kinds of dukkha there are. We read about dukkha, suffering (93):

Herein, bodily and mental painful feeling are called "suffering as suffering" (dukkha-dukkha, intrinsic suffering), because of their individual essence, because of their name and because of painfulness. Bodily and mental pleasant feeling are called 'suffering in change' because of being the cause of the arising of pain through their change. Indifferent feeling and the remaining formations of the three planes are called "suffering in formations" because of their being oppressed by rise and fall... '

All sankhara dhammas, conditioned dhammas, which arise and fall away cannot be any refuge, thus they are dukkha. Under the section about birth we read that birth is dukkha. The commentary explains that birth is suffering since it is the basis for the arising of suffering. Birth is the foundation of many kinds of dukkha when it occurs in the unhappy (See also Visuddhimagga XVI, 32-61 planes), and it also is the foundation of dukkha in happy planes. In the human plane there is suffering rooted in the descent into the womb. The commentary describes the suffering of the unborn being because of heat of the mother's body, because of cold when his mother drinks cold water, because of all the pains when his mother gives birth. In the course of an existence there is pain in one who kills himself, who practices self-torture, who through anger does not eat or who hangs himself, or who undergoes suffering through the violence of others. Old age is dukkha. The commentary explains that it is called suffering as being the basis for both bodily and mental suffering. We read:

...For the person of one who is aged is weak like an aged cart. Great suffering arises in one struggling to stand or to walk or to sit; grief arises in one when his wife and children are not as considerate as before. Thus it should be understood as suffering through being the basis for these two kinds of suffering. Furthermore:

With leadenness in all one's limbs,
With all one's faculties declining,,
With vanishing of youthfulness,
With undermining of one's strength,
With loss of memory and so on,
With growing unattractiveness
To one's own wife and family,
And then with dotage coming on,
The pain that mortals undergo,
Alike of body and of mind-
Since ageing causes all of this,
Old age is thus called suffering.
Death is dukkha. The dying moment is only one moment of citta which falls away and then there is another life, but one is no longer the same person. Death is called suffering because it is the basis of both mental and bodily suffering. There is bodily suffering before dying and also mental suffering. When one loses one's possessions one is unhappy, but at death one loses everything, one loses one's body, one loses one's life as this particular person. Death is the greatest dukkha. We are attached to our possessions and we may be inclined to stinginess. If we remember that at death we have to leave everything behind it can be a condition to be less stingy. Stinginess can condition akusala kamma leading to an unhappy rebirth. "If we want to save things for ourselves we actually save them for Hell", Khun Sujin explained. The commentary states that those who, because of akusala kamma, are destined for an unhappy rebirth, have great fear and grief shortly before dying. At that moment the akusala kamma they committed or an image of hell can appear to them. Thus we see that death is the basis for bodily and mental suffering.

Sorrow (soka) is dukkha. Sorrow ruins, it rejects and destroys welfare, the commentary states. There are five kinds of ruins or losses: of relatives, of property, of health, of virtue, of sila, and of right view. When one is affected by one of these losses and one is overwhelmed by it one has sorrow. These ruins are part of our daily life. One may lose relatives when robbers kill them, or one may lose them because of a war or because of disease. It is obvious that loss of relatives, of property and of health causes sorrow. As to loss of sila, this can cause one to worry about it and to suffer greatly. As to loss of right view, wrong view can condition many kinds of bad deeds which will bring unpleasant results. So long as one is attached to wrong view there is no way to become free from the cycle of birth and death. The commentary uses the words "inner sorrow" and "heart-burning". We read: "... for sorrow when it arises burns, consumes the mind like fire and makes one say: 'My mind is on fire. I cannot think of anything." Sorrow is compared to a dart which causes pain. It is the basis for both bodily and mental suffering. We read in the commentary that it has the characteristic of inner consuming, that its nature is to completely consume the mind and that its manifestation is continual sorrowing. We read the following verse:

Sorrow like a (poisoned) arrow
penetrates the heart of beings,
And like a spear hot from the fire
most grievously it keeps on burning.
And since it brings on many kinds
of suffering such as disease,
Old age and death, this too has thus
acquired the name of suffering.
In the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Twos, Ch I, no. 3, Tapaniya Sutta) we read about the burning of remorse: Monks, there are these two things that sear (the conscience). What two?

Herein, a certain one has done an immoral act of body, he has done immoral acts in speech and thought, has omitted moral acts in body, speech and thought. He is seared (with remorse) at the thought: I have done wrong in body, speech and thought.

I have left undone the good deed in body, speech and thought. And he burns at the thought of it. These, monks, are the two things that sear (the conscience).

The commentary to this sutta, the "Manorathapurani", illustrates how a bad conscience can cause great sorrow. We read that two brothers killed a cow and divided the flesh. However, the younger brother wanted to have more since he had many children. They had a fight and then the older brother killed the younger one. He realized that he had committed grave akusala kamma and kept on worrying about it. He could find no rest, no matter he was standing or sitting and he could no longer digest his food, so that he finally became only skin and bone. He was afterwards reborn in Hell as a result of his akusala kamma. Lamentation (pariveda) is dukkha. It is the basis for both bodily and mental suffering. We read:

Struck by sorrow's dart a man laments,
Yet thus makes worse the pain born of dry throat
And lips and palate, and unbearable-
So the Blessed One called lamentation pain.
Pain is dukkha. Both bodily and mental pain are dukkha, because each of these is the basis for both bodily and mental suffering. When one is afflicted by bodily pain one also suffers mentally. When one is overwhelmed by grief one may bring bodily pain upon oneself by thumping one's breast or even by committing suicide.

Woe, upayasa, is dukkha because it is also the basis for bodily and mental suffering. According to the commentary, it has the characteristic of frustration, its nature is moaning and it manifests itself as dejection.

Furthermore the commentary elaborates on the kinds of dukkha which are: association with the undesired, separation from the desired and not getting what one wishes. These are also the basis for both bodily and mental suffering.

The five khandhas of clinging in short are dukkha. The commentary explains:

In the description of the khandhas as objects of clinging, "in short" (sankhittena) is said with reference to the manner of teaching. For suffering cannot be summed up in short as so many hundred kinds of suffering, or so many thousand kinds of suffering, or so many hundred thousand kinds of suffering; but it can by the manner of teaching. Therefore he spoke thus, summing up the teaching in short in this way: "There is no other suffering at all, but in short the five khandhas as objects of clinging are suffering." All the different kinds of suffering in life could not occur without the five khandhas of clinging. According to the commentary the different kinds of suffering are generated in the five khandhas as grass is on the ground or fruits and flowers are on trees. Dukkha is natural to the five khandhas of clinging.

The fact that in short the five khandhas of clinging are dukkha reminds us of the ultimate truth. There is no being in the ultimate sense, there are only the five khandhas, nama and rupa. They arise and then fall away immediately and thus they are unsatisfactory, one cannot take one's refuge in them. We may say that there is nothing desirable in life, that life is dukkha, but have we realized the truth of dukkha? Right understanding of the reality appearing at this moment should be developed, because this is the only way to know the truth about nama and rupa. Through the development of satipatthana there will be more understanding of cause and result in our life, of kamma and vipaka, and more understanding of our defilements which are conditioned by our accumulations. When there is more understanding there will be less dukkha. We usually react with akusala citta when we experience pleasant and unpleasant objects. We are disturbed by the eight "worldly conditions" of gain and loss, praise and blame, honour and dishonour, bodily well-being and misery. It is kamma which is the cause of our birth and which produces the sense organs through which we experience pleasant and unpleasant objects. Seeing, healing and the other sense-impressions are results of kamma. If it were not for kamma there could not be seeing, hearing or the experience of tangible object at this moment. We cannot see the deeds committed in the past which produce results now but we should remember that we are heirs to kamma. We have theoretical understanding of kamma and vipaka but we do not apply this knowledge in our life. We keep on clinging to the "self" and We wonder why this or that unpleasant experience had to hap-pen to "me". We usually forget that whatever happens has to happen because of conditions. When we suffer a loss there are sorrow, lamentation and woe, we complain and we are sorry for ourselves. When such moments arise there can be mindfulness of them so that we learn that they are only conditioned realities. When panna has developed to the degree that the first stage of insight can arise nama is known as nama and rupa as rupa, their different characteristics are clearly distinguished. This stage can only be reached when understanding has been developed of all kinds of nama and rupa which appear through the six doors. When a stage of insight arises there is no self, no world, there are only nama and rupa which are conditioned. With each stage of insight there is also a growth of "kammassakata nana", understanding of the "ownership of kamma", of kamma and result. The development of satipatthana is the only way to be able to apply in daily life one's knowledge of kamma and result. Instead of reacting to the worldly conditions with akusala citta there will be more conditions to react wisely. There will be more patience and equanimity towards the adversities of life.

                                                                                                     With metta
                                                                                                Nina van Gorkom

Letter about Vipassana XI

the Hague,
October 26, 1992
Dear Dhamma friends,

We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (I, Sagatha-vagga, Ch I , The Devas, 3, The Sword Suttas, par. I, By Impending Sword) that a deva said to the Buddha:

As one downsmitten by impending sword,
As one whose hair and turban are aflame,
So let the bhikkhu, mindful and alert,
Go forth, all worldly passions left behind.
The Exalted One said:
As one downsmitten by impending sword,
As one whose hair and turban are aflame,
So let the bhikkhu, mindful and alert,
Go forth, leaving personality-belief behind.
Just as the person who has been struck by a sword or whose hair and turban are aflame will not be neglectful but apply energy to remedy his dangerous situation, even so should the bhikkhu not be neglectful, but mindful and alert. The Buddha repeated what the deva said, but he changed one line, and this change is very meaningful. The deva spoke about subduing the sense pleasures. However, so long as they have not been eradicated by the magga-citta so long will one be bound by them. We read in the commentary to this sutta, the "Saratthappakasini", that the Buddha, in view of this, wanted to change the deva's verse, using the same similes but applying them to the first magga-citta (the magga-citta of the sotapanna) which eradicates personality-belief, sakkaya ditthi.

We may easily overlook the subtle point of this sutta. We understand in theory that first of all wrong view has to be eradicated before finally, at the third stage of enlightenment, the stage of the anagami, clinging to sense pleasures can be eradicated. Even though we know this, we are still inclined to worry about our attachment to sense pleasures instead of knowing its characteristic when it appears. This is the only way to finally be able to eradicate it. "Should we hate our akusala? It is just a reality, it arises", Khun Sujin reminded Sarah and Jonothan while they were in Bangkok. They recorded their conversations with Khun Sujin and I will give an account of the contents of these tapes.

Khun Sujin explained that she does not think that she should get rid of all defilement's now. She remarked: I do not think, "defilements are so ugly", they are just realities. There should be understanding of them. People want to get rid of all defilements but they do not have any understanding of them. Why should our first objective not be right-understanding? I do not understand why people are so much irritated by their defilements. One is drawn to the idea of self all the time, while one thinks about it whether one has less defilements or more. There is no understanding but merely thinking of kusala and akusala as "ours". So long as there is ignorance there must be different degrees of akusala. We should just develop understanding of whatever reality appears. At the moment of developing understanding one is not carried away by thoughts about the amount of one's defilements, wondering about how many defilements one has or whether they are decreasing. Just be aware instantly!

We may not notice that we think of kusala and akusala as "ours", but the idea is there, deep in our mind. Khun Sujin's reminders can help us to consider more thoroughly what motivates our actions, speech and thoughts. Is it not mostly clinging to ourselves? Sarah remarked that when she reflects on lobha she has dosa and that this "spoils the fun". Khun Sujin answered: That is only reflection, not the understanding of the characteristic which is not self. Who could change the characteristic of attachment. Understanding should be developed in a natural way. This is a relief. Even if lobha arises again, we should realize it as only a reality. You can understand the characteristic of lobha we talk about a great deal. The characteristic of not self is there. This way of developing understanding is the most effective way. Then there is no attachment or aversion towards the object which appears. You should not stop pleasure, it is not "you".

The object which appears is the object of which understanding should be developed. When understanding is being developed there is neither attachment nor dislike of the object, no attachment when the object is kusala, no dislike when the object is akusala. We do not have to feel guilty when we enjoy ourselves, the enjoyment is only a reality. When we think of our defilements it is actually thinking of ourselves in a particular way all the time. Did we notice how busy we are with "ourselves"? We develop understanding and at times there is some awareness, but when we have problems in our daily life we become frustrated and we find it difficult to be aware of realities. Khun Sujin said:

When there is no awareness there has not been enough listening and not enough intellectual understanding of the objects of right understanding. One may think that it is enough to know that there are nama and rupa, but their characteristics have to be realized. Knowing the details of realities can help one to see their nature of anatta. This is very important for the growth of panna. One has to be "someone who has listened a lot", "bahusutta", in order to become enlightened.

Sarah asked Khun Sujin questions about the object of right understanding and about details one has to know. I will quote from their conversation occurring during a traffic jam in Bangkok which lasted for hours.

Khun Sujin: One has to know the details of each of the six doorways, of the way realities are conditioned, of realities as elements, of the ayatanas (bases or sense-fields). The Buddha taught for forty five years about nama and rupa. Sariputta understood as soon as he heard the word "dhamma", he understood realities as nama and rupa. For us it is different, we have to listen again and again and to consider what nama is and what rupa is. Seeing right now is an experience, it is just a reality. One has to consider and listen and discuss a great deal about these subjects.

Sarah: We have considered seeing and discussed about the details of realities a great deal, I wonder how much more we should hear about it.

Khun Sujin: Until awareness is aware with understanding right now. That is why the Buddha taught for forty five years about nama and rupa. The Abhidhamma is the essence of his teachings. He taught about paramattha dhammas so that one can see the difference between paramattha dhammas and concepts. He taught the conditions for realities. Knowing which cetasikas accompany citta helps one to see the nature of anatta. It is amazing that there are so many conditions needed for one moment of experiencing visible object, and then that moment is gone completely. It is all very intricate, not everyone can understand this instantly.

Sarah: It never is enough, one can always know the object more precisely and in a more detailed way.

Khun Sujin: Otherwise we underestimate the Buddha's wisdom, we may think that he used just common, ordinary words. He taught us so that by listening and considering more and more we could one day become a sotapanna. By developing understanding little by little we can one day have the full understanding of realities which appear. Right understanding of visible object and seeing is the only way to eradicate the latent tendency of "I see", and "me", which is there all the time. Whenever there is feeling it is "me" again. The Buddha taught about five khandhas, he taught in many different ways in order to help people to consider more, to understand more, so that, when there is awareness, right understanding can gradually develop from what one has heard.

Sarah: When there is no awareness we become impatient. Why is
there not more awareness?

Khun Sujin: there are not enough paramis (perfections) accumulated.

Sarah: Which paramis?

Khun Sujin: All paramis are needed. We should not be careless about them and we should not neglect any one of them. panna is needed above all, the other nine paramis are the "attendants" of panna. Without panna the other paramis cannot develop.

We read in the commentary to the "Cariyapitaka" that like the aspiration (to become a Buddha), great compassion and skilful means are also conditions for the paramis. We read: "Therein, skilful means is the wisdom which transforms panna and the other nine virtues into requisites for enlightenment." At the moment there is right understanding of realities there is no clinging to "my kusala". However, we usually cling, we want to be "the good person". We find that it feels better to have kusala citta, and then there is clinging again. When we observe the five precepts or eight precepts, there is likely to be clinging, do we want to be better than others who do not observe precepts? When we think of the development of metta, we may be wondering how much metta we have already, we may try to "measure" it. Then we are again thinking of "my kusala", instead of developing metta. We should not underestimate the accumulation of defilements. We do not notice the lobha that clings to "self", that wants the "self" to be good.
Khun Sujin remarked that when there is no understanding there is lobha.

When we try to have metta instead of anger, is there clinging to "self"? Jonothan said that when he is about to lose his temper he tries to be patient. It is unpleasant for the people around oneself if one gives in to anger. We may see that anger is useless and then sati can arise which prevents the arising of anger. There is no "self" who tries, but sati which performs its function. This is one level of sati but not sati of satipatthana accompanying panna which sees realities as nama and rupa, not self. When there is wrong view of self who tries to stop anger it does not work. Khun Sujin remarked:

One should not cling to the idea of "I have lots of anger, I try not to have it". Then there is only thinking with the idea of self all the time. I don't mind what level of akusala will arise, even if it is strong anger. It arises and then it is gone, it cannot stay. What about the present moment? I always encourage people to have right understanding instead of trying to control with the idea of self. Then they will never reach the level of understanding realities, not even understanding based on reflection about nama and rupa. There can be awareness of anger you have talked about a great deal. When it arises and performs its function it is there for you to see its characteristic as "just a reality", instead of thinking about it. Sarah was wondering whether it would not be useful sometimes to set rules for one's behaviour. She was wondering how one can correct unwholesome speech. Khun Sujin reminded her that whatever one is doing or not doing, it is not self. Don't we forget that all the time? We know that we have not eradicated the clinging to the idea of "self", but we do not realize how deeply rooted wrong view is. Khun Sujin said:

Even when one wants to set rules there is no self, it is only thinking. The only way to get rid of the self is to understand all situations. One should not set any rules, there should only be development of understanding of realities. Unwholesome speech can be corrected by panna which sees its danger and that is one level of sati. Another level is sati of satipatthana. The most precious moment is the moment of being aware. If one forces oneself, sets rules or clings to a certain practice it does not help one to understand this moment, one's thinking, seeing or hearing.

Instead of being aware of this moment we are carried away by our thinking of stories about other people or events which took place. We think of other people's lobha, dosa and moha and this conditions aversion. We cannot change someone else because each moment is conditioned. Instead of thinking of other people's faults, what about our own citta which thinks? We may be troubled by thinking about a bad experience in the past but then we need right understanding to start anew. "Forget yesterday", Khun Sujin said. "Satipatthana saves one from akusala moments", she remarked. If there can be awareness of our own akusala which arises, the object is a paramattha dhamma, and there is no involvement in concepts. We have heard this before, but we have to hear it again and again before it sinks in. Our goal is the understanding of the reality appearing at this moment. We do not go any further than this moment. If we think of problems or situations there is no understanding of the reality appearing at this moment, Khun Sujin said.

Through right understanding of nama and rupa we will be more convinced of the truth of kamma and vipaka. This moment of seeing or hearing is result of kamma, a deed done in the past. We cannot know which kamma of the past produces result at a particular moment, but it is helpful to know that a pleasant or unpleasant result is conditioned by a deed we performed. Nobody can prevent the result from taking place. We cannot blame other people. When we, for example, are disturbed by the noise of a radio or the noise made by the neighbours' children, we can remember that hearing is vipaka and that thinking with aversion is akusala citta which arises at another moment. Then the object of citta is the present reality and we are not carried away by thinking of concepts. When there is confidence in the truth of kamma and vipaka there will be less fear and worry. If we cannot sleep we may worry about it, but we should know that this is conditioned by kamma which produces vipakacittas such as seeing or hearing experiencing different objects. When we are fast asleep, without dreaming, there are bhavanga-cittas (life-continuum) and these are also results of kamma. Khun Sujin said to Sarah and Jonothan:

When you understand dhamma as dhamma, you see that everything occurs because of conditions. We fall asleep and get up again, because of conditions. When there are problems, it is because of conditions. There are just different realities, and even though realities appear, ignorance cannot understand them. We take realities for "something" all the time. But awareness can "flash in" any time, because of conditions, and that is the right awareness.

Khun Sujin said that one actually lives alone and that it is most helpful to realize this. We have heard this before, but it becomes more meaningful when there is more understanding of the difference between the moment the object of citta is a paramattha dhamma and the moment we are thinking of a concept of a person or a thing. If we are disturbed by other people it seems that there are people, but what is the reality? Only a citta which thinks. When we are back to the present reality, the paramattha dhamma, we know that we are living alone, and such a moment is beneficial. There are only nama and rupa, no people. When we are thinking we live in our own world of thinking. No matter in the past, in this life or the next life, one always lives alone.

During the discussions Khun Sujin stressed that we should see dhamma as dhamma. We may say that everything is dhamma, just a reality, but right understanding has to grow through awareness of realities, so that they can be seen as just dhammas, no person or thing, no self. We have to hear this again and again, but Sairiputta, when he heard a few sentences about realities he understood immediately and realized dhamma as dhamma. He had accumulated panna for aeons. We read in the "Vinaya" (Part 4, Mahavagga 1, 23, 3-5) that Sariputta asked Assaji what the doctrine was the Buddha had taught him. Assaji answered that he was not long gone forth and could therefore not teach dhamma in full, but only briefly. Sairiputta asked him to explain the meaning of it, saying that he did not need a great elaboration. We read:

Then the venerable Assaji uttered this terse expression of dhamma to the wanderer Sairiputta:

"Those dhammas which proceed from a cause (hetu), of these the Truthfinder has told the cause, And that which is their stopping (nirodha) - the great recluse has such a doctrine." When the wanderer Sariputta had heard this terse expression of dhamma, there arose dhamma-vision, dustless, stainless, that "Whatever is of the nature to upraise all that is of the nature to stop." He said: "If this is indeed dhamma, you have penetrated as far as the sorrowless path, unseen, neglected for many myriads of aeons."

Sariputta understood directly the four noble Truths: dukkha, the cause of dukkha, its ceasing and the way leading to its ceasing. We have intellectual understanding of the four noble Truths, but they can be directly realized without having to think about them. We cannot imagine how this is possible so long as panna has not been developed to that degree. Seeing now arises because of conditions, it is part of the cycle of birth and death. Seeing has to fall away, thus it is dukkha. Sariputta immediately understood that right understanding of the reality arising at the present moment leads to the elimination of ignorance and craving which are the conditions for being in the cycle of birth and death, the conditions for seeing, hearing and the other realities which arise. He understood the reality of the present moment as dhamma, arising because of conditions. He penetrated its characteristic of anatta .For us it is difficult to see dhamma as dhamma because ignorance covers up the truth. We read in the commentary to the "Vibhanga", the "Dispeller of Delusion"(I, Ch VI, Classification of the Structure of Conditions, 140) about the operation of ignorance which is opposed to understanding. We read:

That is to say, knowledge is understanding. It makes known and plain the four Truths with each meaning and each cause. But this ignorance when it arises does not allow that (understanding) to make that (dhamma) known and plain; thus, because of its opposition to knowledge, it is unknowing. Also seeing is understanding. It sees quality. But ignorance when it arises does not allow it to see, thus it is unseeing... We then read that whenever ignorance arises it does not allow understanding to penetrate, to grasp and to rightly consider the truth. Thus, each time it arises it blocks and hinders the operation of understanding. This text reminds us of the activity of ignorance which is unnoticed, because when there is ignorance we do not know that there is ignorance. It is very treacherous. We need to develop understanding of paramattha dhammas life after life, in order to see dhamma as dhamma, to see it as anatta. We cling to the idea of "our whole body", but when there is touching, hardness is the dhamma which appears. The idea of the whole body is only in one's memory. Khun Sujin said: When there is touching, where is your head, where are your legs? Only in your memory. When there is touching you may not realize it as merely a moment of experiencing an object. Deep in your mind there is still the idea of "something". For instance, when you touch something in the dark you like to know what it is, thus there is still "something". There are only six doors, and there is one object appearing at a time. It does not stay, waiting for you to touch it.

Several conditioning factors are needed for the experience of hardness, such as the rupa which is hardness and the rupa which is bodysense. Also these conditioning factors are themselves conditioned. Hardness is one of the four Great Elements and it is conditioned by the other three Elements of heat, motion and cohesion arising together with it. The rupa which is bodysense is produced by kamma. The experience of tangible object through the bodysense is vipaka, the result of kamma. We see how intricate the combination of different conditioning factors are; they are there just for a moment of experiencing hardness. We cannot direct the coming together of these factors and none of them can last. They are only there for an extremely short while, they are insignificant dhammas.

Some people want to concentrate on rupas of the body. By focussing on one point of the body they believe that they can notice the rupa which is bodysense. The bodysense is all over the body but when there is impingement of tangible object on the rupa which is the bodysense, it is only on one point. That extremely small particle is then the rupa which is the physical base for body consciousness, and it is also the doorway through which tangible object is experienced. When a rupa like heat or hardness is impinging on the bodysense it can hurt and there is painful feeling. But can we directly experience the rupa which is the body-door, arising and falling away where there is impingement at that moment? It falls away immediately. It is useless to try to find out where the impingement was. Then we continue to think of realities and there is no awareness of other realities which present themselves, such as seeing or visible object. We cannot help it that we think of the part of the body which hurts, but we should know that this is only thinking, a conditioned reality. If one tries to focus on one part of the body, what about this moment? If one is aware of what appears at this moment there is only that dhamma, and there is no need to find out where there is impingement on the bodysense. Khun Sujin explained that one does not own anything: One thinks of one's whole body and of one's possessions as belonging to oneself, but there isn't anything one owns, not even visible object in this room. It arises, appears and falls away. The succession of different rupas which are visible object conditions the concept of "something". One can see how fast citta arises and falls away, it can lure one like a magician. When one does not know this, there is "I" and "mine" all the time. Does sound belong to anyone? If it is your voice, does it belong to you? Visible object is just a rupa out of twenty-eight rupas. It is the only reality that can be seen. We find our thoughts about visible object so important, but visible object is only a kind of rupa. When one has understanding of visible object and of thinking, one sees the difference between the absolute truth and the conventional truth. One knows how and when conventional truth begins.

When there is more understanding of the difference between seeing and paying attention to shape and form, it will be clearer when the object of citta is just one reality, appearing through one of the six doors, and when the object is a concept.

In the absolute sense there is no owner of anything, but does it then make sense to try to acquire possessions? There was a discussion about this topic in the house of Ivan and El. Ivan used to think that when one contemplates Dhamma one should have fewness of wishes. Then there is no need to expand one's business in order to make more money. Now he understands that satipatthana should be developed in a natural way, that one should not try to change one's life style. If one is a layman one should not try to live the monk's life, a life of contentment with little. Khun Sujin said:

We have lobha, no matter whether we work or do not work. We work because we were born. Working is only seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. You don't have to change yourself or prepare yourself for Dhamma, you don't have to devote all your time to it, but develop understanding of this very moment, in order to see it as just dhamma. Seeing and visible object are just dhammas, everything in one's life is dhamma. One doesn't see dhamma, one doesn't understand dhamma as it is. One tries to give time for dhamma, to change one's life, but just now dhamma is there. If we talk more about realities or dhammas and we begin to understand dhamma as it is, then, at times, there can be awareness very shortly. That is the true awareness. If you try to devote your time to dhamma, and you sit, trying to watch realities, true dhamma does not appear. It is awareness which can be aware if there is enough understanding of realities. We should not force ourselves to have awareness, then there is lobha again. Dhamma is very natural, no need to reserve time for it or prepare oneself for it. One needs more understanding as condition for awareness to arise any time by itself. Then it is the right sati, the samma sati.

We may wonder whether watching T.V. would hinder the arising of sati. While we watch there are many conditions for attachment, or, when the movie is frightening we have fear. Khun Sujin said about this: "Each move is conditioned, that is the meaning of anatta." In other words, if ,we want to watch T.V. this wish is conditioned already. Also while we watch there is seeing, hearing or thinking, one reality at a time. Realities appear, no matter whether we watch or do not watch T.V. there is one world at a time appearing through one of the six doorways. These six worlds should be separated until there is no self. Realities appear because of their own conditions, not because of our wish. Khun Sujin said: Hardness is ready as object to develop understanding of. Visible object appears. One stops doing anything.

When Sarah asked why we always have so much lobha, Khun Sujin answered:

It is the function of lobha to cling, that is why there is clinging. We cannot change its characteristic or function. This reminds us that lobha is dhamma, it arises because of its own conditions, it is there as object to develop right understanding of.

The Buddha taught the monks, the nuns and the lay followers, men and women, to develop satipatthana, each in their own situation and each following their own life style, so that they would see dhamma as dhamma. We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Eights, Ch VII, par. 10, Earthquakes) that the Buddha, while he was at Capala Shrine, gave Ananda three times the opportunity to ask him to live on for his full life-span. Ananda did not ask him to do so, since his heart was possessed by Mara . After Ananda had left Mara came and said to the Buddha that he should now pass away. After his enlightenment the Buddha had said to Mara that he would not pass away until his disciples were able to practise the Dhamma and to proclaim it. Since this was now the case Mara asked him to pass away. The Buddha answered that he would pass away after three months. We read that he "cast away the sum of life" and that there was then a great earthquake. In this sutta we are reminded of what is to be expected of the Buddha's followers. The Buddha had, after his enlightenment, said to Mara:

I shall not pass away, O Evil One, until my monks shall be disciples, learned, trained and courageous, who have attained peace from bondage, who are erudite, Dhamma-bearers, perfect in righteousness of Dhamma, perfect in the right practice, who live in accordance with Dhamma- till they have taken Dhamma as their teacher and can proclaim it, teach it and make it known, can establish it, open it, analyze it and make it plain to others till they can confute any counter-teaching which has arisen, and which may well be confuted by Dhamma, and can set forth sublime Dhamma.

We read that the Buddha had said exactly the same about the nuns and the layfollowers, men and women. The commentary to this sutta, the "Manorathapurani", explains "erudite", bahusutta, as having listened to the three Pitakas. The commentary then adds that one is bahusutta as to "pariyatti", the theory, and as to "pativedha", the realization of the truth. One should be Dhamma bearer in both ways. This reminds us that only listening and reading are not enough. There should be application of what one has heard in order to experience the truth directly. The disciples should be perfect in righteousness of Dhamma. We read that the commentary states: "They practice the Way of vipassana which is the Dhamma fitting to be ariyan Dhamma." The Buddha's followers should take Dhamma as their teacher. Khun Sujin reminded Sarah and Jonothan again that we should not be dependent on someone else. She said:

Take Dhamma as your teacher, do not depend too much on others. The understanding of realities depends on your own consideration. I do not like to depend on others. It has to be my own struggle to understand the teachings. You do not need someone else to tell you how much understanding you have. This present object will tell you.

There is visible object now. We can check whether it is understood as just dhamma or whether there is still "something" in it. Nobody else has to tell us. Dhamma is our teacher.

                                                                                                        With metta
                                                                                                Nina van Gorkom