Translated from the Thai by Santikaro Bhikkhu
Thiện Nhựt phỏng dịch
Source-Nguồn: dhammatalks.net, ftp.budaedu.org, budsas.org, thuvienhoasen.org
Before answering this question we need to understand the meaning of Dhamma. Then the reasons why we must study and practice Dhamma can be discussed. (1)
DHAMMA AND THE SECRETS OF LIFE
An easy to understand explanation of Dhamma is "the secret of nature which must be understood in order to develop life to the highest possible benefit." (2)
To develop life to the highest level means reaching a stage of life that is free from all problem and all dukkha. Such a life is completely free from everything that could be signified by the words "problem" & "dukkha." (3)
A clarification of the word "secret" is important to the understanding of our topic. If we do not know the secret of something then we are unable to practise successfully to obtain the highest results and maximum benefits from it. For example, progress in the exploration of outer space, and developments in nuclear power, as well as other areas, have been possible through the understanding of the secrets of these things. The same thing is true of life. In order to reach the highest possible development of life we must know life's secrets. (4)
Life, especially in the context of Dhamma, is a matter of nature (dhamma-jati). This Pali word dhamma-jati may not correspond to the English "nature" exactly, but they are close enough. Take it to mean something which exists within itself, by itself, of itself, and as its own law. This sense of nature is not opposed to man as some Westerners would have it, but encompasses man and all that he experiences. We must understand the secret of the nature of life, which is to understand Dhamma. (5)
DHAMMA: FOUR ASPECTS
The Dhamma of life has four meanings:
1. nature itself,
2. the law of nature,
3. the duty that must be performed according to that law of nature,
4. the fruits or benefits that arise from the performance of that duty.
Always keep these four interrelated meanings in mind. (6)
Please investigate that Truth within yourselves, in this body and mind that you imagine to be yourselves. Within each of us are various natures compounded into a body, into a being. Then there is the law of nature that controls those natures. And there is the duty that must be performed correctly by and for all things regarding the law of nature. Lastly, there are the results of the performance of that duty. If the duty is performed correctly, the result will be well-being, tranquility, and ease. If the duty is performed incorrectly, however, the result will be dukkha - unsatisfactoriness, anguish, pain, frustration. Even at this beginning level, please observe carefully and see clearly that within each one of us there are all four aspects of Dhamma or nature. (7)
When we have investigated these four meanings of nature completely, we will see that life is made up of just these four aspects of nature. Now, however, we have yet to understand them correctly and completely. We have not truly penetrated into the secret of what we call life. We have not grasped the secret of Dhamma, so we are unable to practice in a way that gets the fullest benefit from life. Let us take the time to study the words "Dhamma" and "secret of life" enough that we may take advantage of them. (8)
DEVELOPING LIFE BEYOND DUKKHA
We must also consider the phrase "developing life." We do not know the secret of this, either. When we talk about developing life, we do not have a clear understanding of what we meant and have little understanding of the extent to which life truly can be developed. We do not realize the highest benefits that are available to mankind, and so we do not take much interest in the secrets of life which enable us to reach those highest levels. You ought to understand how far life can be developed, to what highest degree, and be especially interested in that development. (9)
On this beginning level, we need only to hold to the basic princip1e that "developing life" means causing life to progress to the highest level, that is, beyond all problems and dukkha, beyond the possible meanings and gradations of these two words. For those who have never heard the word "dukkha" before, we can tentatively translate it as "suffering, unsatisfactoriness, conflict, agitation - all the things that disturb life." Dukkha is what we are running from all the time. It is what interferes with a life of calm and ease. It is anything that interferes with spiritual perfection. When life is developed beyond all dukkha, then life reaches its highest possible level. (10)
Now, some people do not know about their own problems. They do not understand what dukkha is, whether in general terms or in their own life. They look at themselves and say, "Oh! I don't have any problems, everything is OK." They accept all their difficulties and sorrow as normal and ordinary. Are we like that? We need to take a serious, detailed look into our own lives to see if there really is anything that could be called "a problem." Is there any dukkha? Is there anything dissatisfying or disturbing about life? Such questions are necessary when we come to a place like Suan Mokkh. If you have not looked inside, if you are unaware of any problems, if you feel no dukkha, then you do not know what you are doing here or what your reason is for-studying Dhamma. Please, take a good, clear look at these things called "problems" and "dukkha" before proceeding any further. (11)
When we talk about developing life, we can distinguish four aspects of it. The first aspect is to prevent things that are dangerous to life from arising. The second is to get rid of and destroy any dangerous things that already have arisen in life. The third is to produce things which are useful and beneficial for life. The fourth is to maintain and preserve those things so that they grow further. Altogether we have the four aspects of developing life: preventing new dangers, getting rid of old dangers, creating desirable things, and maintaining and increasing the beneficial things. These make up what we call "developing life." (12)
Developing life is our duty. We must realize that it is our duty if such development is to happen. (13)
In order to fulfill our duty we must have in our possession four very important dhammas,* four Dhamma tools. These four tools of Dhamma are sati (reflective awareness or mindfulness), sampajanna (wisdom-in-action or ready comprehension), panna (wisdom or knowledge) and samadhi (concentration). Having these four tools will enable us to develop life. (14)
* [In some contexts, "dhamma" merely means "thing." In such cases. We do not capitalize it. (Pali and Thai do not use capital letters.)]
The practice of vipassana or mind-development aims at cultivating and training the mind so that these four Dhamma tools are enriched enough to develop our lives. We ought to take an interest in studying the mental development of these four necessary dhammas. (15)
THE KIND OF ANAPANASATI WE NEED
There are many different kinds of mental development or vipassana. Many different systems and techniques for training the mind exist. But of all the techniques which we have come across, the best is called Anapanasati-bhavana, the cultivation of mindfulness with breathing in and out. This is the practice that we will discuss in detail throughout these lectures. (16)
The correct and complete meaning of Anapanasati-bhavana to take one truth or reality of nature and then observe, investigate, and scrutinize it within the mind with every inhalation and every exhalation. Thus, mindfulness with breathing allows us to contemplate my important natural truth while breathing in and breathing out. (17)
Such study is very important and of great value. If we aspire to know the truth regarding something, we must take the truth of that matter to contemplate, examine, analyze, and study wholeheartedly every time we breathe in and out. Let me repeat that the object must he worked on continuously within the mind. Here, "continuously" means "with every in and out breath." Breathing in, know that object. Breathing out, know that object. Breathing in, understand that thing. Breathing out, understand that thing. This is most necessary, as well as extremely beneficial, for sufficiently developing any knowledge that must be understood. Such study brings about a transformation in the mind-heart, that is to say, on the inside of life. (18)
Actually, the meaning of "Anapanasati" is quite broad and general. It means "to recollect with sati anything at all while breathing in and breathing out." Imagine that you are thinking about your home in some foreign country while breathing in and breathing out; or about your mother, wife, husband, children, or family while you are breathing in and breathing out. That could be called "Anapanasati," also. But that is not what we need to do here. What we require is to recollect Dhamma, that is, the natural truths which will free the mind from the suffering of dukkha. Take those truths to work upon in the mind well enough and completely enough to get rid of all our problems and eliminate dukkha. In other words, acquire the four Dhamma tools mentioned earlier. This is the kind of Anapanasati which is the most useful. (19)
FOUR THINGS WE OUGHT TO CONTEMPLATE
Now, we come to the question, what things are proper, correct, and necessary to take as objects to contemplate every time we breathe in and breathe out? The answer is the secrets of the thing called 'kaya (body)," the secrets of the thing called "vedana (feeling)," the secrets of the thing called "citta (mind)," and the secrets of the thing called "Dhamma." The secrets of these four things are to be brought into the mind and studied there. (20)
These things are important enough for you to memorize their Pali names. For your own clear understanding and future reference remember these words: kaya, vedana, citta, and Dhamma. Remember them as our four most important topics. We must use these four things far more than any other kinds of objects to train and develop the mind, because these four things already exist within us and are the sources of all the problems in our lives. Because we do not understand them and because we cannot regulate* them, they become the things that lead to suffering. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to clearly distinguish and understand these four things: body, feeling, mind, and Dhamma. (21)
* [The Thai word kuab-kum is used throughout these talks. It can be translated 'to regulate; to control or confine; to oversee, supervise, or superintend.' When one of these translations appear, all of the rest should be understood. In all cases, kuab-kum depends on sati and wisdom, never force or will-power.]
STAGE ONE: FLESH-BODY AND BREATH-BODY
Now, let us examine these four separately, beginning with kaya. The Pali word "kaya" literally means "group" and can be applied to any collection of things. In this case kaya means specifically the groups of things that are compounded together into a physical flesh-and-blood body. In fact, our English word "body" can also mean group. So we must be careful of what group is meant.
You ought to look for yourselves to see what these bodies are made out of. What organs are there and how many of them? What kind of elements? What sort of parts and components come together into a body? Further, there is one very important component which nourishes the rest of this body, namely, the breath. The breath also called "kaya" in that it is a group of various elements. We will study how this flesh-body is established and how it is related to the breath.
The breath-body is very important because we can see that it sustains life in the rest of the body. And here we have the crucial relationship that we need to study. The general body, this flesh-body, is something that cannot be regulated directly. Such is not within our ability. However, there is a way to control it, to master it, indirectly by using the breath. If we act in a certain way toward one body (breath), there will be a certain effect upon another body (flesh). This is why we take the breath as the training object. Supervising the breath to whatever degree is equal to regulating the flesh body to that degree. This point will appear to you most distinctly when you have trained up to that particular stage of Anapanasati. (22)
In the first steps of this practice, those concerned with the kaya (body), we study the breath in a special way. We note every kind of breath that occurs and study what each is like. Long breaths, short breaths, calm breaths, violent breaths, fast breaths, and slow breaths: we must know them all. Of all the different kinds of breath which arise, know what nature each one has, know its characteristics, and know its functions.
Observe what influence the different breaths have upon the flesh-body. The breath has a great influence on the rest of the physical body and this influence needs to be seen clearly. Observe both sides of the relationship until it is obvious that they are interconnected and inseparable. See that the breath-body conditions and concocts the flesh-body. That is the first step. Make a special study of the breath. Know the characteristics of all its different forms. Then understand that it is connected to this flesh-body too. This will allow us to regulate the flesh-body by means of regulating the breath. (23)
The meaning of these first steps of this practice is to know the secrets of the kaya, the body. We know that the breath-body, the breathing, is the conditioner of the flesh-body. This important secret can be used to unlock other secrets about the body, such as, the fact that we can use the breath to gain mastery over the body. Nobody can sit here and directly relax the body, but we discover that we can relax the flesh-body by making the breath calm. If the breathing is calm, the flesh-body will be calm. This is how we can control the body indirectly. Further, we know that there is happiness and joy and other valuable benefits in the calming of the breath and flesh bodies. (24)
STAGE TWO: OUR MASTERS THE FEELINGS
Once we understand the secrets of the kaya, we turn to the secrets of the vedana. The vedana have the highest power and influence over human beings, over all living things. My words will surprise you, nonetheless, the entire world - animals, humans, and all living beings – depends on the vedana. They all are under the power of the feelings. This sounds funny and unbelievable, so examine it for yourselves. It is a fact that we - our entire species – are being forced by the vedana to do their bidding. When there are sukha-vedana (pleasant feelings) we try to get more of those feelings. The pleasant feelings always pull the mind in a certain direction and condition certain kinds of activity. Dukkha-vedana (unpleasant, disagreeable feelings) affect the mind and influence life in the opposite direction, but still lead to all kinds of habitual responses. The mind struggles with them and turns them into problems that cause dukkha. The feelings have great power over what we do. The whole world is under the command of these vedana, although there may be other factors involved as well. For example, while tanha (craving) can control the mind, craving itself is first conditioned by feeling. Thus, the vedana have the strongest and most powerful influence over our entire mind. We ought to understand the secrets of vedana. (25)
I will say something at which you can laugh if you wish, "If we can master the vedana we will be able to master the world." We will be able to control the world, when we can control the feelings as we require. Then we could supervise the world as it so badly needs. Now, nobody is interested in controlling the vedana, so the world has gotten out of proper control. Have you seen all the crises and problems that arise constantly? The wars, the famines, the corruption, the pollution, all these things, are activities originating in our failure to control the feelings from the start. If we would control the feelings, then we could control the world. This is something you need to consider. (26)
If we speak in line with the Lord Buddha's words, we say that the causes of everything in the world are centered on the vedana. The myriad activities happen in the world because our feeling of the vedana forces us to desire, and then act out those desires. Even such beliefs as reincarnation and rebirth are conditioned by the vedana. If we believe, we travel around in the samsaric cycle, the cycles of birth and death, of heaven and hell. Everything originates in feeling. To control the vedana is to control the origin, the source, the birth place of all things. This is how necessary it is to understand these feelings correctly and comprehensively. Then, we will be able to control them and their secrets will not deceive us into doing anything foolish ever again. (27)
There are three main points to realize regarding the vedana. First, understand the vedana themselves, the things that cause feeling in the mind, that the mind feels. Second, know how the vedana condition the citta, the mind-heart. They stir up thoughts, memories, words, and actions. Know this concocting of the mind. Third, discover that we can control the mind by controlling the vedana, in the same way that the flesh-body is controlled by the regulation of the breath. Then we win be able to master the mind by correctly mastering the feelings which condition it. These three things make up the secrets of the vedana.
1. Understand the feelings themselves.
2. Know the things that condition the feelings.
3. Then, know how to control those things that condition the feelings, which is the same as controlling the feelings themselves.
These are the three important things to understand about vedana. (28)
Since the first and second stages of practice both follow the same principle, it is helpful to compare the two. In the stage regarding the body, we find out what it is that conditions the flesh-body, and then we study that thing. We study that body-conditioner until we know it in great detail. We study how that thing conditions the body. Then, by regulating that thing, we can control the body. This is our way to make the body more calm and peaceful. As for the mind, its conditioner is the feelings. By controlling the vedana so that they do not condition or stir up the mind, or so that they condition the mind in a desirable way, we are able to calm the mind. This how the first stage regarding the kaya and the second stage regarding the vedana follow the same basic principle and are parallel in their method of practice. (29)
STAGE THREE: THE SUBTLE MIND
First, we practice to know the secrets of the kaya. Second, we practice to know the secrets of the vedana. Then, after fully mastering the first and second stages, we will practice in order to know the secrets of the citta (Thai, cit). The mind is the director and leader of life. The mind leads and the body is merely the tool which is led. If life is to be lead upon the correct path, we must understand the citta correctly until we are able to control it. This will require a special study, because this thing we call, "mind" is very subtle, complex, and profound. We cannot see it with our eyes, something special is needed to ‘see’ it. With well-trained sati such a study is fully within our ability, but we must put forth special effort. Do not lose heart or give up! All of us are capable of studying the citta so that we learn its secrets. (30)
It is impossible to know the citta directly. We cannot touch it I or make contact with it directly. It is possible however, to know it through its thoughts. If we know how the thoughts are, we will know how the mind is. In the material world, for comparison, we cannot know the thing electricity in itself. Instead, we know electricity through its properties: current, voltage, power, et cetera. So it is with the citta. We cannot experience it directly but we can experience its properties, the various thoughts. During each day how many different kinds of thoughts are arising, how many levels of thoughts come up? Observe these different thoughts. This is how we know the citta, first of all. (31)
We begin our study of the mind by observing what kind of thoughts it has. In what ways are its thoughts improper and in what ways correct? Are those thoughts defiled or undefiled? Does it think along correct lines or incorrect lines, good lines or wicked lines? Observe until the citta is understood through all the types of thought that it can think. That's it! Know this truth just a little bit first, that the nature (dhamma-jati) of the mind is like this. At this stage, due to our training of the kaya and the vedana (conditioner of the mind), we are able to direct the mind as we require. The mind can be made to think in different ways or can be kept still. We can make the mind satisfied, or even dissatisfied, if we want. The mind can experience different kinds of happiness and joy. It can be stilled, calmed, and concentrated in different ways and to different degrees. Finally, the .mind can be liberated. We make it let go of things with which it has fallen into loving, hating, and attaching. The mind is liberated from all those things. This is our lesson about the secrets of the mind which we must practice in stage three of Anapanasati-bhavana.
Know all the different kinds of citta. Be able to make the mind glad and content. Then force the mind to stop and be still. Lastly, make the mind let go of its attachments. Force it to let go. It lets go of things it attaches to and the things that attach to the citta let go of it. This is what it takes to be expert, to be well versed, in matters of the mind, in the third lesson of Anapanasati. (32)
STAGE FOUR: REALIZING THE SUPREME DHAMMA
After having learned the secrets of the body, the feelings, and the mind, we come to the fourth stage, which is about Dhamma. As mentioned earlier, Dhamma is nature in all its meanings. Now, take the truth of all those things, the ultimate truth of all natures, to study. This is what is meant by "studying Dhamma." It is to study the truth, the fact, which is the supreme secret of nature. With that knowledge we can live life in the best way. We ought to study the secret of the truth that controls life, the truth of aniccam, dukkham, anatta, sunnata, and tathata.
Aniccam: know that all conditioned things are impermanent and in flux.
Dukkham: know that all concocted things are inherently unable to satisfy our desires.
Anatta: know that all things are not-self, not-soul.
Sunnata: know that everything is void of selfhood of "I" and "mine."
Tathata: know the thusness, the suchness of all things.
Together, these are the one ultimate Truth. We must watch these things until they are fully realized in order that the mind will never again lose its way. When the mind understands this truth of all reality, then the mind will make no errors and will keep itself on the path of correctness. (33)
It may sound funny to you that all Truth - aniccam, dukkham, anatta, sunnata -- ends up with tathata. It may amuse you that the Ultimate Truth of everything in the universe comes down to nothing but thusness. In Thai, tathata is translated "just like that." It is more difficult in English: "just such, only thus, thusness. Isn’t it funny? All Truth boils down to the typical, ordinary words "everything is just like that." Nothing is regarded as good or bad, wrong or right, gain or loss, defeat or victory, merit or sin, happiness or suffering, having or lacking, positive or negative, when we see thusness, the highest Dhamma. The highest Dhamma is right here in "merely thus," for thusness is above and beyond all meanings of positive and negative, above all meanings of optimism and pessimism, beyond all dualities. This is the finish. The Truth to be known in stage four is the secret of nature that says all things are 'only thus - merely such'. (34)
To see Dhamma sufficiently is the first step. That is just the first step. Now, we will see that the mind begins to let go, begins to loosen up its attachments. These attachments will dissolve away. This will be experienced until the step where attachment is extinguished. Once attachment is quenched, the final step is to experience that "the mind is free, everything is free." However, the texts use the words "throwing" back." The Buddha said that at the end we throw everything back. The meaning of this is that we have been thieves all our lives by taking the things of nature to be "I" and "mine." We have been stupid and we suffer for it. Now, we have become wise and are able to give things up. We give it all back to nature and never steal anything ever again. At this last step of practice we realize, "Oh! It's nature's not mine." Then we can throw everything back to nature.
The last step ends in this amusing away. It ends with us not being a thief anymore, with freedom from any and all effects and influences of attachment. The final step of the development of Anapanasati finishes here. To learn the secret of Dhamma is to know that nothing should be attached to, and then not attach to anything. All is liberated. The case is closed. We are finished. (35)
If we choose to give this a name, we can call it "emancipation" or "salvation." It seems that all religions have the same thing as their goal and call it by pretty much the same names. For us, the meaning just described - ending attachment and throwing everything back to nature - is our understanding of emancipation. Other religions may give some other meaning to the word emancipation, who knows? In Buddhism, emancipation means to be free from every type and form of attachment so that we may live our lives above the world. Although our bodies are in this world, our minds are beyond it. Thus, all our problems disappear. This is how to develop life to its fullest potential using this four-stage method of practice. There are many more details to consider, but we will leave them for later.
Today, we have given a general outline of what happens in this way of practice. With this background it should be easy to practice each step as we come to it. May we end today's lecture here. (36)