Following Nature (2)
Ajahn Puth Thaniyo
Translated by Sumano Bhikkhu
For free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma
Nuggets of a Teaching
1) Meditation, the natural way
The teaching of the Buddha is a teaching for intelligent people. It isn't a teaching for someone to believe in blindly without reason. The Buddhist religion teaches people to learn about nature and the laws of nature. If someone asked me, "What is Dhamma?" I would answer, "Dhamma is nature". "What is nature?" To this I answer, "it is our body and mind."
The samadhi of the Buddha is the samadhi which notes what is going on in everyday life. This is more important than sitting in formal practice. The teaching of samadhi which must be taught is the samadhi that is concerned with the things which are closest to us. You don't need to know about or be interested in the things which people boast about. You need to know thoroughly your own body and mind. As for the body, you need to know the coarse nature of the body as it must always be in a state of constant change and movement, be it standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking and thinking.
This is the way of body and mind.
2) Samadhi - What is it for?
An important problem with the practice of samadhi is the confusion people have about the fundamental principles.
One kind of samadhi is the samadhi we practise in order to attain a still, peaceful mind.
A second kind of samadhi is the samadhi we practise in order to develop mindfulness and clear comprehension, so that we are aware of whatever is going on in each and every moment.
Some kinds of samadhi are of the kind which we practise in order to attain special realizations. For instance, we may practise to see extraordinary things like insights into the past and into the future. By insights into the past I mean recollection of past lives. By insight into the future I mean insight into one's future destination. This is the kind of practice aimed at special insights.
Now if we really contemplate these matters with integrity we will see that the past is already gone, and the future has not yet arrived. Therefore should we not be more interested in the present moment?
Some teachers teach that meditation will enable you to see this and that, but these special effects are useless. You must come to see your own mind.
Don't get caught up in the concept that in practising samadhi you will see the hell realms or the heaven realms or all sorts of miraculous things. The things you see in this practice are no different from the images in your dreams. What we must really come to know is our own body and mind.
3) The universal principle for practising samadhi
In practising meditation for the development of samadhi, mindfulness and wisdom, there is a principle which meditators should adhere to: train the mind to sustain awareness on a meditation object, train mindfulness to have an object of recollection. Whatever the mind experiences, let mindfulness register it at that moment.
Standing, walking, sitting or lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking and thinking ... let mindfulness be aware at all times. No matter what anybody should do, just have mindfulness. When you are going to sleep, let the mind think as it will, but follow the thoughts with awareness until you drop off to sleep. This is a universal principle for practising samadhi.
If anyone asks how to practise meditation, the answer is quite easy. Practising meditation is to give the mind an object of awareness, to give mindfulness an object of recollection. This comes down to whenever your mind thinks of anything, let there be mindfulness at all times, no matter what arises in any mind moment.
If you practise in this way, you will feel as if you are practising meditation continuously.
4) Samadhi is not just sitting with the eyes closed
If we regard samadhi, as the state of concentration which can only arise when we are sitting with our eyes closed we are still clinging to the common perception of samadhi. But we should know that the state of samadhi is a quality of mindfulness and awareness at all times, no matter whether we are standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking or thinking. That is, the matters and modes of daily life. In this way we will have a very broad understanding, and we will come to see that meditation practice is not just sitting with the eyes closed and concentrating on a meditation object. When we leave the meditation session, we continue to have mindfulness while standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking or thinking, even though we may not be sitting meditation as it is usually taught. This is because we are developing mindfulness at all times. When we lie down to go to sleep, all people, be they intellectuals or simple workers, have thinking. At this time, as we are. going to sleep, let the mind think, but have mindfulness, follow the thoughts until you drop off to sleep.
If we practise in this manner continually, day in and day out, we can attain a remarkably strong level of samadhi.
If we understand samadhi in this way, samadhi is not an obstacle to everyday life, to work and progress in society. But if we think that samadhi is simply concentrating on a single object and abiding in stillness, everything will seem like an obstacle and everybody we meet will get in the way of our practice. This is the samadhi of hermits.
5) Practising in the right way is not running away from the world of problems
The meditator who is practising correctly will respond properly to the world. For instance, suppose you have a family. As a meditator, you should love your family more and more. As your love increases, it should become transformed from the common kind of love into goodwill and kindness.
We have to brave the confusion of the work place, but whereas before we felt entangled in the confusion, now, through our samadhi practice, we are able to work without any confusion. The mind will change radically, in a way which can automatically rectify any unexpected problems that arise. Whenever a problem arises, it's as if we have a manual to refer to and the mind instantly accesses the answer. This is the samadhi which is involved with everyday life.
Any kind of samadhi which takes no interest in everyday life and seeks only to escape to somewhere far away from the world causes the world to degenerate further, and is not nutriment for enlightenment; the Path, Fruit and Nibbana itself.
6) Everyone has already practised samadhi
Everything that we do is only accomplished through the power of samadhi.
Without samadhi, how could one complete a degree?
Without samadhi, how could one teach students?
Without samadhi, how could one complete big work projects?
Without samadhi, how could one run a country?
(Actually) we have been practising samadhi way back from the time we were nursed and our parents taught us how to eat, to sleep, to read and to recognize people. The beginning of our samadhi practice started way back then.
When we go on to higher education we beginning learning to practise samadhi in earnest. However, when we meet highly regarded meditation monks and they ask us, "Have you practised samadhi?" people tend to think that they haven't yet practised it since we have not yet done so formally. This comes about because we think of samadhi in a limited way that it is only sitting with the eyes closed that meditation can be practised.
7) You don't have to live in a temple to practise samadhi
Anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to stay in a Wat (meditation centre) and practise formal meditation, sitting still with the eyes closed as it is usually taught, can practise in this way. Take standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking and thinking as your meditation objects and thereby establish mindfulness continuously.
Everyone who has already practised samadhi naturally from since they were toddlers just beginning to know the world. Now we are going to train anew, in other words, reinforce our old training.
Please don't misunderstand me. Standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking and thinking are objects for mindfulness. We perform these tasks with mindfulness, knowing them thoroughly at all times. When lying down to go to sleep, note what the mind is thinking Let it go on thinking but have mindfulness, follow the thinking until you fall sound asleep. Practise continuously on a daily basis and you will find yourself, unexpectedly, maintaining samadhi.
While working, use your concentrated mindfulness to be fully aware of the work. When you are engaged in thought, include mindfulness with the thinking. Take working and thinking as your meditation objects. If the mind is being aware of sense objects as they come and go with mindfulness, the mind is naturally inclined towards calmness. Joy (piti), ease (sukha) and one-pointedness (ekaggata) can arise at any time if the meditator practises earnestly.
8) A business person who practised samadhi while working
A lady came to see the Master and asked, "Venerable Father, I want to practise meditation but don't know how to."
The Master answered, "If you don't know how to sit, you don't have to sit. Just train mindfulness to be with your every action, standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, talking and thinking. " If we develop samadhi in this way, we will come to feel that everything we do, say and think is part of meditation practice, samadhi will harmonize with your daily life.
Look at the kinds of work which used to bring on confusion. After samadhi is stabilized you won't be caught in that entanglement again. The mind will be unconfused and able to solve problems. Sometimes when we are stuck, the mind will collect into onepointedness and the answer to the problem will spontaneously arise, even the nasty problems which concern work can be resolved in this way.
We tend to attach to the idea that we shouldn't think about the world, but only about the Dhamma, but in fact the things of the world are objects of awareness for the mind. Because the mind is that which knows the truth of the world, it must use the world as a stepping stone to go beyond the world.
The world is an object of awareness for the mind. Our body and mind are the world. All the situations and experiences we come into contact with are the everyday activities of the world. When we develop mindfulness and are aware of the world, we detach from it. Even though we live in the world, we are only lightly involved. We see all our duties as simply duties. We will be aware of our duties and take responsibility for them, carrying them out in the most direct way.
9) Practising meditation as a novice
There was once an Ajahn named Ajahn Soowan Sucinno who was a senior disciple of Ajahn Mun. One day he noticed me carrying a book and reciting Pali scriptures while I was walking to and from on my walking path. He said to me, "Novice, if you are studying just study. If you are going to practise walking meditation, then just do that. You need two hands to carry a fish."
We can apply this principle when we fix our attention on a kasina
Fire kasina - fixing the attention on fire
Earth kasina - fixing the attention on earth
Air kasina - fixing the attention on air
Space kasina - fixing the attention on space
Consciousness kasina - fixing the attention on consciousness
Our body contains all these teachers: earth, water, air, fire, space and consciousness. We can take these kasinas as objects of meditation. They can be both objects of awareness and places to establish mindfulness.
10) Studying is Dhamma Practice. An student can practise samadhi.
These days you students are spending long hours studying. The important question for you is: How can samadhi and mindfulness be of help in your studies?
I will instruct you on how to practise samadhi right in your classrooms. Suppose that, at this moment, I am your teacher in your classroom. Look intently straight at me. Be interested and observe everything I do. When I raise my hand, you know, when I write, you know. Whatever I say, you determine to hear. If you can observe even the slightest movements, sounds, and every blink that occurs, all the better. When you enter the room, gaze straight at the teacher, Put all your attention on him or her. Don’t give your attention to anything else beside the teacher. This is all there is to practise samadhi in the classroom. If you can remember this technique, you can begin practising samadhi right from the time you are in kindergarten.
In the beginning it may be difficult for you to control your line of vision and to maintain your attention directly on the teacher, but you must try. Train yourself until you become proficient with this technique and you will find that it will take hold of you and happen on its own. Later on, without even trying, as soon as you see someone pass by, your attention will focus on that image. As soon as your teacher enters the room your attention fixes onto him. Think carefully and deeply on this question; if you concentrate your attention solely on the teacher, will you still be able to take in the lessons?
After you become adept in this skilful technique you will find that even while your line of vision is on the teacher, your attention is turned inward toward your heart. You are concentrated toward yourself in a profound way. At this point in your development, regardless of what the teacher is saying, as soon as he finishes his sentence your mind will already have moved in advance and will recognize what he is going to say next. So that, when taking an examination, as soon as you finish reading the question, the answer will pop into your mind and you will respond immediately.
This is the samadhi technique which has worked well for me.
11) What is the benefit of samadhi while studying?
Sometime ago there was a girl who I sponsored to go to university who was reluctant to continue her studies because she thought her brain wasn't good enough. I urged her to enter and she agreed. I advised her that she should practise meditation when studying in the university. She said, "If I have to practise meditation, when will I find the time to study?"
Superficially there seems to be a problem here. I explained that it is possible to practise samadhi in the university without it interfering with one's studies. I said, "When you are in the classroom, simply concentrate your mind so that mindfulness is present, that is, make the mind aware. Wherever attention is needed, fix the mind right there. For instance, when the professor enters the room, bring your complete attention to the professor. Do not let the mind wander. "
She graduated after only 4 years. At first, she thought she would probably need at least 6 years to earn her degree. But, unexpectedly, everything changed. Her initial feelings that she wasn't clever enough for university changed around until she eventually felt that her mind was quite a good one. She was quite capable of practising samadhi and where there is samadhi there is mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati sampajanna) which support and encourage awareness in the present moment.
If a student tries to practise samadhi in this manner, several benefits will result. Feelings of respect, appreciation and gratitude will arise towards the teacher. These feelings will go deep into the heart and a radical change will occur. No longer will one harbour negative feelings for the teacher. Instead, one will hold him or her in high regard. In the end, you will find that your grades are much better than you thought they would be!
12) The intuitive inventor
Not long ago one of the leading members of the business community took a break from his work so that he could come up here from Bangkok. As soon as he arrived he came to me and said, "I have come here to ask you to accept me as your meditation disciple. It is said that you teach meditation in a clear and thorough manner. "
I asked him, "Sir, what is your occupation?"
He answered, "I invent things which can be profitably marketed.
"Tell me, while thinking about an invention or creation, what happens?"
He then went on to relate an actual example of the process: "Suppose I want to create a doll. I have to think of how the face should look, how the hair style should be and how the shape of the body should be designed. I then consider these features many, many times. I consider this image backwards and forwards and from all sides until I become drowsy from thought. This is followed by a feeling of dropping off to sleep. During that period which is sleep-like, the mind becomes bright and I can see clearly a model of the very doll I would like to design floating in the air right before me.
"Then I continue to consider this doll until I am certain it is the doll I want. After that happens, this state of mind withdraws and I awaken from the daydream. At the time the mind entered into this sleep I would dream the image of a doll hanging suspended in the air. So I would go ahead and construct this doll from the memory of the one in my dream. Afterwards, the dolls were manufactured, marketed, and shipped off to the market where it was a hit with the customers.
I responded to this, "Sir, you are already proficient at practising samadhi. You don't have to come here to find a competent meditation monk. You can just continue developing samadhi by creating dolls. That is the very samadhi practice you want to learn from me.
"Now, if you want to enhance. your samadhi, you should vow to uphold the 5 precepts. Then your samadhi will incline towards abandoning defilements, attaining virtue and making the heart pure and clean. "
13) Developing samadhi with a Meditation Word
To practise samadhi with a meditation word means that we recite a meditation word of one sort or another such as Bud-dho, rising-failing, or samma araham. The meditator keeps on reciting the meditation mantra until the heart is at peace. As they practise, the factors which compose jhana are developed. These factors are: vitakka (initial application), vicara (sustained application), piti (rapture or delight), sukha (happiness), ekaggata (one pointedness of mind). As these factors are developed the sense of the body disappears (for the mind is being made calm and tranquil) leaving only the still, bright and peaceful heart. There is no thinking going on.
When the heart withdraws from samadhi so that body sensation and thinking returns, one should immediately apply mindfulness (sati) in order to be fully aware of conditions as they are in the moment. Don't rush off from your sitting place. If you practise in this way, wisdom will arise quickly.
If, in this period, you refrain from rushing off, the samadhi will continue to examine the objects of mind as they arise. That is, we can examine the sensations in the mind without thinking about anything at all. Let the heart freely think by itself and do not impose intentional thought.
After withdrawing from samadhi thoughts begin to arise and the mind can see these thoughts precisely. If the mind is thinking continuously, be aware of it continuously. Wherever thinking wants to go, let it go freely. When there is thinking, be aware of the thinking as it goes on and on and on. If you feel yourself becoming slightly drowsy, you will experience the body becoming light, the heart-mind-citta becoming light. The body becomes peaceful and the citta becomes peaceful. The body is light and peacefully abiding in a state of deep rest (kayaviveka). The mind is slight and peaceful for it too, is in a state of deep rest (cittaviveka).
In this state of peace, the mind has returned to its original state. In that moment, it is in the state of original existence (upadhiviveka).
14) Reciting Bud-dho and being aware of the heart citta function under the same principle
Keep on reciting the word Bud-dho until the mind fixes onto it and then leave it stay that way. If the mind drops Bud-dho to think about other things, let it think as it will but be aware of the thinking with focused mindfulness (sati).
The Bud-dho which you have been reciting inwardly has several benefits:
1) It functions as a means of recollecting the Great Teacher, the Buddha.
2) It functions as a means of initiating the mind to think on its own.
As soon as the mind drops bud-dho, it switches onto other thinking. Here it is manifesting its ability to find bait to feed itself. We don't have to worry about finding objects to feed the mind. Just allow it to think according to its nature. Our duty is to be fully aware with mindfulness.
This is the way to bring samadhi into your daily life.
15) If the mind wants to think, don't suppress it.
If you have developed the mantra Bud-dho, Bud-dho to the point where the mind reaches a refined and tranquil state of samadhi, the sense of body will disappear. Then you can take this state further so as to realize the full benefits of practice (Path, Fruits and Nibbana). After practising to this level the mind will not want to enter calm and tranquility any longer. It will just hover about before it shifts into standing, walking, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, doing, saying, thinking. This is something I have experience for myself.
In trying to get still as before, we find the mind now rebels. It doesn't want to incline to stillness. The more we force it,, the more it struggles. Due to the collision between these forces we experience a sense of heat and flushing and end up with a headache. Finally, the idea occurs: Mind, you can think as you like, be my guest. I will simply remain aware of you. Let the mind think as it will. Sati has the reins on awareness. Now and again, the thinking/thinker does not stop, but the mindfulness keeps track. Mindfulness relentlessly pursues the thought.
After enough thinking like this, there arises a feeling of pleasure which feels as if the mind is moving further and further away. Mental solitude then occurs. The body is light, the mind is light. The body is tranquil as is the mind. In time, the speed of thinking is accelerating and mindfulness cannot catch up with it. Piti (delight, rapture) and sukha (happiness) are produced. Then, there is oneness in which mind is aware of mind. All thinking which occurs within the mind is just thinking for the sake of thinking. As thinking arises, it is let go of. Mind does not hold onto any thoughts which cause trouble or make problems for us.
And, finally, when thoughts are cut off, the mind reverts toward the tranquility and peacefulness you have known.
Thus we learned that, "Oh, The nature of mind is like this." Morality cultivates samadhi, which cultivates wisdom, which cultivates the mind. Any thinking which sati is fully aware of is thinking with wisdom (panna in samadhi). This is the characteristic of the mind-citta progressing and functioning with vipassana.
At the same time, should we regard this in terms of Jhana factors, thinking is vitakka ; sati which fully knows at the same time as thinking is vicara. When the mind has vitakka and vicara, piti and sukha will occur without any problem. Here when rapture arises the mind will return to its original state. Awareness is fixed on the arising and ceasing (of thought) in every moment and there is just oneness. If the mind is functioning in this manner, we call it a mind which is functioning at the level of first jhana. That is the first level of jhana which is composed of vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and ekaggata.
16) Regardless of whether the mind is wandering about or is bringing up wisdom, let it all go.
The thinking which the mind brings up by itself is vitakka (the initial application of thought). When sati is fully aware, the thinking which arises is vicara, (the applied application of thought).
Thinking is an object to be known by the mind, as well as that which is to be recollected by mindfulness. When sati sampajanna improves we will recognize that:
1. Thinking is food for the mind
2. Thinking is exercise for the mind
3. Thinking is an activity which releases and relaxes tension.
4. Thinking is the reflection which tells us what is. It informs us of the implications of suffering (dukkha) and not-self (anatta).
This thinking will provoke and arouse good moods and sour moods. Here we see both ittharammana (pleasant objects) and anittharammana (unpleasant objects) which build up into kilesa (defilement).
When the mind has both pleasant and unpleasant aspects mixing together, it will be somewhat happy and somewhat unhappy.
Finally it realizes Dukkha Ariyasacca (The Noble Truth of Suffering).
17) The Straight Path for Realizing the Enlightenment of The Buddha
The fundamental principle that the Buddha taught is, essentially, the basic practice in which the mind knows what is what (i.e. the mind has an object to know; mindfulness has an object to recollect). The Buddha himself practised taking the breath (anapanasati as the thing which the mind is to know. Then, taking this state of mindfulness, he made it take its stance right at the breathing. He made his mindfulness aware of the in-breathing and the out-breathing. His mindfulness knew the breathing when it was coarse and when it was refined and knew about any changes that occurred.
In any mind-moments when he was not observing the breathing he would take note of the objects which were arising within his mind. His knowing came through the concentration of sati. Sati was fully aware and attentively watching sense objects and feelings as they arise and faded away within the mind. When his mindfulness and clear comprehension were vigorous, they could nurture and support the mind to actually see the changes in feelings which occur naturally. That is, impermanence, conflict and non-self (the conditions inherent in Nature which flow along with Nature).
Upon realizing that feelings are impermanent, infected with suffering, and not-self, he understood that any feeling to which there was clinging would provoke a pleasant or unpleasant feeling which caused suffering. When suffering presented itself in his mind he was able to pin-point the Noble Truth of Suffering. This was real, unavoidable suffering. He began tracing back for the root cause. This suffering, where does it come from? What is its cause? This suffering arose from tanha (craving). Tanha arose from where? It arose from liking (pleasant) and disliking (unpleasant). Liking is kammatanha (craving for sensual pleasure). Disliking is vibhavatanha (craving for annihilation). Clinging to both pleasure and displeasure is bhavatanha(craving for existence, rebirth, and sensual pleasure). When there is bhavatanha suffering will occur.
This is the providence of the Dhamma which the Buddha was searching for and met in the Four Noble Truths and thereby, became a Tathagata, One gone to Suchness.
Bud-dho: a parikamma (preparatory) word for the recollection of the Buddha
Dhamma :Event; phenomenon; the way things are in and of themselves; their inherent qualities; the basic principles underlying their behavior. Also, principles of behavior that human beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the right natural order of things; qualities of mind they should develop so as to realize the inherent quality of the mind in and of itself. By extension, 'Dhamma' is used also to denote any doctrine that teaches such things. Thus the Dhamma of the Buddha denotes both his teachings and the direct experience of nibbana, the quality at which those teachings are aimed.
Samadhi: Concentration; the practice of centering the mind in a single sensation or preoccupation.
Nibbana (nirvana):Liberation; the unbinding of the mind from mental effluents, defilements, and the round of rebirth (see asava, kilesa, and vatta). As this term is used to denote also the extinguishing of fire, it carries the connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. (According to the physics taught at the time of the Buddha, a burning fire seizes or adheres to its fuel; when extinguished, it is unbound.)
Sati : Mindfulness; alertness; self-collectedness; powers of reference and retention