Được dạy bởi Sư Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu
Dịch Việt: Việt Hùng
Lời người dịch: Trong bài này, tôi sẽ chủ yếu dịch thoát ý, chứ không chặt chữ. Một mặt đây là việc tôi làm để có thể nghiền ngẫm phần chỉ dạy của Sư Yuttadhammo. Một mặt, tôi chia sẻ lại đây, và hy vọng nó hữu ích cho các thiền sinh Vipassana tham khảo.
Bài pháp này được đăng tải trên Youtube vào ngày 18/12/2010. Đây là phần chia sẻ được thực hiện trên kênh The Buddhsit TV. Phần English transcript ở cuối bài. Link Youtube của bài pháp ở đây: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFqdlfeq7wE
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Con xin thành kính đảnh lễ tạ ơn Sư Yuttadhammo về bài pháp thoại quí báu này. Con nguyện cho Sư được mọi thuận lợi và sức khoẻ trong hành trình tâm linh của Sư.
Các bạn có thể tìm hiểu thêm thông tin của Sư Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu và các lời dạy của Sư tại trang web: https://www.sirimangalo.org/.
English Transcript (quickly jotting down)
Hello. Today, I would like to lead you through the basics of meditation practice in terms of the Buddhist teaching. When we practice meditation and in line with the Buddhist teaching, we have to understand what it was that the Buddha wanted us to accomplish. Buddhist meditation shouldn’t be understood as simply a calming of the mind or the attaining of a peaceful state for a temporary amount of time. Many people, when they hear about the practice of meditation, they think of it as being exactly that, a vacation, a means of escape from reality. But if we look at the word meditation, as we understand it in the Western world, we can see that it means something very different, something that is much more in line with the Buddhist teaching. Because the Buddha had no intention that through the meditation practice, we should only feel peaceful and calm on a temporary level. The Buddha likened this to the temporary suppressor of the growth of, say, grass by covering it up with a large stone. When you take a large object as a stone or a brick or something and place it over top of grass, the grass stops growing. But this is only temporary. If you take the brick or the rock off, the grass will continue to grow. In the same way, if you practice meditation only to suppress the unwholesome states that rest inside of you, the things that causes suffering and cause you upset, without gaining understanding in regards to these states and understanding of what are the causes, understanding of the nature of unwholesome things for what they are so as to avoid them in the future, then these states will always have the opportunity to arise, when the causes present themselves. For instance, at certain times we can, for some time we can do away with anger through the practice of loving kindness, or we can do away with the state of greed or of lust by focusing on the impurities of, say, the body or food, focusing on those things that are impure. By doing this, we replace something with its opposite and as a result, the unwholesome state disappears for some time. It is suppressed. We can force these states away by encouraging their opposites. But this doesn’t address the real problem. The problem being that greed or lust has a cause and anger also has a cause. When we dig deeply, we can see that anger arises based on the perception of something as unpleasant. When greed arises, it arises based on the perception of something as pleasant. The recollection or the recognition of something as a pleasant or an unpleasant object as the case may be. Until we can overcome this and come to see that, that is not truly the case, come to see things as they are, as neither pleasant nor unpleasant, we’ll never be free from these emotions, these causes for suffering.
So meditation in a Buddhist sense has much more to do with the word meditation in English, which means to consider, to examine, to analyze in a sense, to work at training the mind, to see things as they are, not to train the mind to cover up the things that we don’t like or the things that are causing us suffering, but rather to understand them. So this is the meditation that I’d like to explain today. And I’d like to go through some of the basics of how to put into practice and about what the meditation will lead to.
The most clear discourse on the the practice of Buddhist meditation is found in the Satipatthana Sutta. This is a discourse given by the Buddha on the establishment of mindfulness or the establishment of recollection, of recognition. This word that we have is sati that is often translated as mindfulness. But actually means something a little bit different. The word mindfulness is useful to understand what we’re trying to, what sort of mind state we’re trying to create through the practice. But the essence of it is this recognition. We’re trying to recognize things as they are. And that’s really what the meaning of sati is. When you recognize something as being this or as being that, when you recognize it, its characteristics or when you recognize its nature, this is the meaning of sati. So here we’re trying to recognize things for their essential nature.
When you experience anger, we’re going to recognize it for what it is. What is anger? What is the experience of anger? We’re not going to judge it. We’re not going to attach any label or meaning to it. We’re just going to see it for what it is. When we see it for what it is and recognize it simply is that, there will arise wisdom and understanding. Same when we have lost in the mind. When there’s lost than the mind, instead of trying to suppress it or change our mind in any way, we’re going to look at this mind and see what it does? What this lust, this greed does to our minds and so on? We’re going to look at the objects of our desire and our aversion. We’re going to look at those things which we say are pleasant, which we say are unpleasant, and we’re going to examine them impartially, not with any prejudgment of what we shouldn’t be able to see. Once we do this, look at them simply for what they are. We’ll come to see that there’s nothing inside of ourselves or in the world around us that is worth clinging to us either pleasant or unpleasant. Nothing that truly makes us satisfied and and nothing that we can truly become satisfied through attaining or through repelling. Once we see in this way, we’ll be able to live with anything and be content and peaceful at all times and never give rise to any unwholesome state of mind that might cause us suffering.
So in the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha talked about four objects or four parts of reality. Really four frames of reference, four groups or aspects of reality that we can use in the meditation practice. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but in fact, you should understand that all of them together comprise reality. The Buddha explained or the four categories that the Buddha gave are as follows: the body, the feelings, the mind, and dhamma or realities. Why this is a a categorization of reality is? Because all of reality can be broken down into experience. Everything that we say is real, the only true way in which we can say that it’s real is because it is experienced. That which just not experienced we call imaginary. When you experience a person in the room who is not there, you say this is an imaginary person. Or when you hear a sound and you think it’s a ghost, you say you’re imagining things. Because it’s not really there. What you’re really experiencing is maybe just the wind in the trees or the creaking of the boards or so on. It’s a sound that it’s something else. So what is real is what is actually experienced. Experience can be broken down into two parts. This is the physical part aspect and the mental aspect.
So all of reality, we say, can be broken down into the physical and mental aspects of experience. And this is in line with modern scientific thinking in terms of quantum physics, which says that there is the physical side of things which can only be understood in terms of the observation of the consciousness. What the experimenter or what the observer looks at, which objects they choose to look at or what intentions they choose to make. The Buddha said that there are these six experiences that we have in this makes up all of reality. There is the seeing, the hearing, the smelling, the tasting, the feeling and the thinking. And when we see, when we hear, when we smell, when we taste, when we feel or when we think, there are these two parts, the physical and the mental. And this is what we mean by the four satipatthana or the four foundations or setting up, establishments of mindfulness, the body, the feelings, the mind and the dhamma – the realities. So here we can see what we’re really talking about is experience. The body, this is not the physical body that you see of someone else. It’s the physical part of experience. So, for instance, when you’re walking, this is the feeling of the feet moving, the different parts of the experience. There’s the stiffness in the legs, the hardness of the floor, the cold or the heat and the cold as you move your foot and the cold when you touch the floor, the heat in the body and so on. It’s these physical aspects of reality, of experience that we call body. So when you walk, you try to know that you’re walking. As the Buddha said [Pali] when walking, one knows clearly and completely ‘I am walking’, meaning there’s no other awareness except the movement as it is. So we have meditators, when they walk, we’ll have them say to themselves, ‘walking, walking, walking’, just knowing that they’re walking, reminding themselves and recognizing the walking for what it is. Just as the Buddha said, when you walk, know that you’re walking. When you’re sitting in meditation with your eyes closed, we have meditators watch the breath. When the breath comes into the body, what happens to the body? The body will expand, especially located in the stomach. So this is the physical manifestation of the breath. If you try that, you close your eyes, you’ll be able to see and be able to feel. Maybe putting your hands on your stomach and there’s the movement of the body. So in meditation, we’re going to focus on this movement, the movement of the stomach as it rises and as it falls. When it rises, we’re going to say to ourselves, ‘rising’. When it falls, we’re going to say to ourselves, ‘falling, rising, falling’.
Another example of how we practice mindfulness of the body. This first establishment of mindfulness, this first way of looking at one aspect of reality. Again, what this does is it allows us to see through the illusion of pleasurable and painful, of pleasant and unpleasant. It allows us to be free from our greed and our anger and our attraction and our aversion. So that we’re not carried around back and forth from liking to disliking, from pleasure to pain. So that we’re content and at peace at all times, just seeing things as they are.
In the beginning, this is very difficult. Because the mind is used to judging. It will even begin to judge the meditation. Many people, when they come to start meditation, think that it’s useless or improper to meditate in this way. Because as they practice, they say that it’s quite unpleasant. It’s boring. It’s un-interesting. It’s even unpleasant at times. They find that focusing on the stomach or even repeating these words is arduous, is unpleasant, is an unpleasant task that they think is perhaps even against the Buddhist teaching. People have said that it’s mechanical and repetitive and unnatural. What we’re trying to do is see nature for what it is. The problem with our ordinary reality is that we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we believe them to be or as we want them to be. And we see them through our own filters. We like certain things. We dislike certain things. And based on no rational evidence whatsoever. Because other people will like other certain things and dislike certain things. Sometimes we can like something and someone else might dislike it. It’s based totally on subjective terms.
Once we start to look at things as they are, we’ll start to change our minds, even looking at our partiality, our judgments, our extrapolation of things. And the thoughts, what we think of things, our judgments and so on. We’ll see that these are things which are causing suffering for us. That our judgments, our personalities, our likes and dislikes are a cause for stress and suffering. They’re not based on any rational evidence. They’re not based on reality. That there’s no reason to like or dislike anything. It doesn’t lead to happiness. It doesn’t lead to peace. It leads only to stress and and disturbance in the mind. So simply by watching the stomach or watching the feet or watching some aspect of the body, knowing that we’re sitting. The Buddha said when you’re sitting, you know that you’re sitting. Know it as sitting. Recognize it for what it is. The sitting is the experience of the pressure in the back, the pressure with the body touching the floor and the feet touching the floor, saying to yourself, ‘sitting, sitting, sitting’. Just knowing it for what it is, reminding yourself again and again, training the mind to see even for just a moment, one moment at a time. See it for what it is.
This is the experience of the body as the body, seeing the body as the body. In regards to the body, seeing only the physical, not seeing it as good or bad as me or mine and so on. So you can pick anything. Normally we have people start with the stomach and say ‘rising, falling, rising falling’. You can say to yourself, ‘sitting, sitting’. When you walk, you can say to yourself, ‘walking’. We may have seen people doing walking meditation and we’ll often do walking meditation back and forth, slowly moving the foot, saying to ourselves, ‘step being right’, with the left, ‘step being left’, or breaking it up into pieces, ‘lifting, placing, lifting, placing’. You can do this anywhere. You can do this on your own. You don’t need a teacher. You teach yourself. If you understand this technique, you can teach yourself how to see clearly. You can see things clearly for yourself. You don’t have to have anyone tell you. And it won’t help, if someone tells you what is the nature of reality. But once you practice for yourself and simply look, look at things as they are and recognize them for what they are, your mind will come to see things simply as they are no longer judged. Then it will come to see that judgments are unnecessary and unpleasant and unsubstantiated, of course, of action. So this is the first one.
The second one is suppose while you’re sitting in meditation, the second one is feelings. So suppose while you’re sitting in meditation, you can start to learn about the second part of reality, the sensation, the pleasant and unpleasant or the painful and the pleasant experience. Sensations that arise that is pleasant, painful and even the neutral sensation. So suppose you’re sitting in meditation and suddenly you start to feel happy. Maybe you’ve never meditated before. This is your first time and you start to feel happy. Well, ordinarily, when this arises, you’ll find yourself getting carried away, you’ll find yourself liking it, enjoying it, and you lose track of the meditation entirely, instead of looking at things objectively. If you’ve fallen out of objectivity into subjectivity, where suddenly you like it, you’re enjoying it and you’re giving rise to addiction, you’re no longer seeing the thing clearly. Your mind is no longer clear. And as a result, the happiness disappears, the happiness which was a result of seeing things clearly. It’s not a result of happiness. Just because you’re happy doesn’t mean you’re going to get more and more happiness. So it disappears and you’re left frustrated, you’re left bored, you’re left wanting the happiness back. If instead you see the happiness for what it is, you’ll find that it either stays or even when it goes, you’re not unhappy. You’re not disappointed. Because there was no attachment to it at all. You see that it’s just a feeling, just like any other feeling.
By the same token, if you’re sitting in meditation and you feel pain, you feel something that is thought to be unpleasant, a painful or an aching feeling in the body, you see it for what it is. If you feel pain, you say to yourself, ‘pain, pain, pain’. If you feel happy, say to yourself, ‘happy, happy, happy’. And in doing this with the happiness or with the pain, you’ll see it for what it is. In the case of the pain, you’ll see that it’s not something that is necessarily unpleasant. The idea that it’s unpleasant arises in the mind. You’ll see that actually it’s no longer painful. Even though we would still call it pain, it no longer becomes a problem. It simply becomes a phenomenon that has arisen in the body. It becomes a sensation. And that’s really all it was in the first place. We remove this judgment, this unclear thought, or this muddled or confused, ignorant thought with a clear thought. We replace it with a thought which sees the feeling as it is, simply as a painful feeling. We say to ourselves, ‘pain, pain, pain’. And whether it goes away or doesn’t go away, we see it for what it is and we’re not disturbed by it. We don’t give rise to anger or aversion. We simply see it for what it is.
If we feel calm sensations the same, it’s the same really as happy sensations. When you feel a sensation, you tend to like it and enjoy it and as a result you’ll stop looking at it objectively. You’ll start to hope for it to stay on and want for it to remain, to get stronger, to come back again and again, to be under your control. And as a result of that, because you’re no longer seeing things clearly, the neutral feeling will disappear or eventually it will disappear by itself. Because all the feelings are, none of them, permanent. And then you feel disappointed because you actually can’t control it. You can’t make it stay and make it last. If you instead acknowledge the natural feeling for what it is saying to yourself, ‘calm, calm, calm’, until it goes away, you’ll simply see it as a calm feeling. And you’ll maintain this clarity of mind when it disappears. You won’t feel upset. You won’t feel disappointed. You’ll simply continue on with whatever comes next. Your inherent or internal state of calm is not ruffled. It’s not threatened by the feelings. Simply seeing these things for what they are allows you to do away with the judgments as either good or bad and as me or mine, as under my control, as belonging to me. You will have no identification with the feelings. So when they disappear, you won’t feel disappointed.
The third foundation is the foundation of establishment of mindfulness on the mind. So this is where the mind actually looks at, contemplates and understands what’s going on in the mind. What goes on in the mind is all of the thinking that we do. You’ll find that when you’re sitting in meditation, it’s generally thought to be a real obstacle to meditation practice. This thinking goes on. But the truth is the mind has as its nature, as its very nature, the the act of thinking. Thinking is something that we do all the time. You know, it’s the way of the mind. Any experience that we have automatically there’s a thought about it. This is why we have this word, this label, so to speak, that we’re using when we walk, saying ‘walking’, when we sit, saying ‘sitting’, when we watch the breath, saying ‘rising, falling’, or ‘pain’, when we have pain and so. This word is a clear thought. It’s not creating anything new. It’s simply replacing the ordinary thought with a clear thought. So when other thoughts arise, thoughts of the past, thoughts of the future, and good thoughts or bad thoughts, any kind of thought, we shouldn’t see it as an obstacle or a negative thing at all. We should see it simply as a part of nature. It’s the nature of the mind to think, as I said. And how we do this is to see it as thinking it is what it is.
So if you’re sitting in meditation watching the stomach, ‘rising, falling’, and then your mind starts to wander. Because you’re watching the stomach very, very carefully, you’ll be able to see the moment when the mind starts to wander and you’ll be able to catch it. You’ll see the thinking arise. And instead of getting angry or upset or attached and addicted to it or interested in it, chasing after the thought, you simply see it for what it is. Say to yourself ‘thinking, thinking, thinking’. Just knowing that you’re thinking. When you do this, you’ve replaced the thought with a clear thought, the thought that you’re thinking. When you do this, the other thought will disappear by itself naturally, without forcing it away. And you’ll be able to come back again to the rising and falling and continue on with your meditation. No matter how many times you think, there’s nothing wrong with it. But when you chase after it, if instead of seeing it as simply thinking, you get involved in it and understand, this is my thought and I take it as your own and follow after it and get caught up in it. You’ll find that you’ve now lost your awareness of reality and you’re getting caught up in fantasy, creating all sorts of plans about the future or reminiscence about the past. And you’re not able to see things as they are. And you’re losing your sense of tranquillity, of balance and of clarity of mind. As a result, there will arise greed, there will arise anger, that will arise conceit and jealousy and fear and depression and so on. And all of these things will arise, have the potential to arise based on our thinking.
So to keep our minds clear, to keep our minds truly aware of things as they are, we simply say to ourselves when we’re thinking, ‘thinking, thinking, thinking’, no matter what we’re thinking. This is the awareness of the mind.
So you can see that these three together make up most of reality. But there’s one thing missing. And this is the reality which exists in the mind and being the mind states the things that arise out of the mind. So based on the thoughts, these are these emotions. This is what I mentioned in the beginning, liking, disliking states of mind, states of drowsiness, states of worry or confusion, states of stress, states of confusion, states of doubt. These states of mind, which caused the disturbance in our being, which caused us suffering. The states of mind, which take us out of our state of balance state and take us out of our state of harmony, of tranquility. So it’s important for us to acknowledge these as well. This is the final part of reality. How do we acknowledge this? Well, we have basically five sets of them. These are the mind states that have some disturbing quality to them. They’re called the hindrances. These five are the first reality that we’re going to realize, the first dhamma that we’re going to have to tackle in the meditation practice. And why we have to tackle them? It is because they’re the hindrances. When we focus on the first three, we’re going to find that these last ones always get in the way. They keep us from having a calm and content and peaceful meditation practice. They’ll also interfere with our lives. This is what really causes the problem, as I said. So we have five groups and these are liking, disliking, drowsiness, distraction and doubt. These are the Buddhist center, the five groups of nine states that can arise to one’s hindrance and to act as obstacles in one’s meditative progress and in one’s clarity of mind. They obstruct them the clarity of mind. So when we like things, as I said, when we like things or want things, we simply say to ourselves, ‘liking, liking’ or ‘wanting, wanting’, even if we like the meditation practice or like something that has arisen. Because, as I said, when we like when we follow after the liking, we’re no longer meditating, we’re no longer seeing things clearly. We’ve changed our minds to one of possessiveness and ego and attachment. The idea that it’s me, it’s mine. And we’ve fallen into this idea that these things are somehow pleasant. So when we like, say ‘liking’. When we want, we say ‘wanting, wanting’. Disliking, we simply say to ourselves, ‘disliking, disliking’ and whatever arises.
That’s when you have to be careful of. Because this is the one that’s going to stop us from meditating. It’s going to make us angry, when something bad arises and make us say this meditation is useless. There’s no good, way to get angry because the meditation is not making us happy, not bringing us peace and so on. Wishing we were doing something else and getting bored, feeling sad, feeling depressed and so on. All of these things can arise in the meditation and can lead us to think that something’s wrong with the meditation itself. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with the meditation, nothing wrong with this mind state. This mind state, the anger, the aversion is something that we’ve carried around and developed for a long time. It’s something that has its causes in the way we’ve lived our lives. It’s something that we can’t remove from our minds simply by wishing for it. It’s something that we can only be free from through understanding and retraining our minds out of this bad habit. So we do this by simply seeing it clearly for what it is. And also, as I said, seeing everything else clearly. So that we don’t give rise to the anger. But when the anger arises, we see it for what it is and simply say to ourselves,’ angry, angry’ or ‘disliking, disliking’.
If we feel bored, we say ‘bored, bored’. And if we feel depressed, we say ‘depressed, depressed’. We feel sad or frightened or any kind of negative emotion, we simply see it for what it is. We replace the thoughts surrounding it. Instead of being angry and then thinking about what we have to do to change the situation, we create a thought about the anger that this is anger. Instead of having anger and thinking this and this and this and this, think now I have anger. So now I have anger. And that’s all it is. Our thoughts are pure. Our feeding back into the reality of the situation instead of extending the situation beyond what it really is. If we feel drowsy, if we feel the mind is not flexible, is not awake, alert, we say to ourselves, ‘drowsy, drowsy’ or ‘tired, tired’.
If we feel distracted, our minds are not focused, when we’re sitting and our minds are running everywhere, thinking, not just thinking, but thinking many things all at once and unable to take a single object as our meditation object. Normally, we would think this is a problem. And many people have said that they just can’t meditate because their minds are too distracted, their minds are not calmed enough. And the truth is, this kind of distraction is really the reason why one should practice meditation. It’s because of this state of distraction that one should work to train one’s mind. Because the state of distraction, this tendency to become distracted and not be able to focus on a single object is a sign of the untrained mind. It’s what we have to do, what we have to change through the meditation practice. And it’s really not a problem unless we let it, unless we follow after it and make more of it than it really is. If it’s only distraction, then it can’t hurt us. We can actually meditate on it. And when we see it clearly. Our minds will focus. Our minds will focus back into clarity. And we’ll no longer chase after all of the different objects of the sense. We say to ourselves, ‘distracted, distracted, distracted’, and we let it go. We don’t chase after it. But we don’t chase it away either. We simply see the state for what it is. If we feel confused or worried, we say to ourselves, ‘worry, worry’ or ‘confused, confused’.
And finally, if we have states of doubt where we’re not sure, sometimes not sure if the meditation practice is working, not sure if we are capable of realizing the fruits of the practice. Doubt about the Buddha’s teaching, doubt about the meditation, doubt about the things that have arisen, what are they and so on. What do the things mean that arise when we experience something? How we should react to it? These doubts that arise that actually have no bearing on reality and have no benefit to the meditator. They’re red herrings, so to speak. There’s something that takes you out of the basic awareness of reality. They are questions that shouldn’t be asked. The answers won’t give us any benefit. Because the meditation really is simply this awareness of things as they are. So there’s no question of whether it’s useful or not. It’s obviously useful to see things as they are. But when doubt arises, it clouds the mind and it creates unnecessary questions. Is this right? Is this wrong? Sometimes thinking about the teacher, is he enlightened or is his teaching proper and so on? When actually it’s simply a matter of whether we agree with the fact that seeing things as they are is an appropriate way of interacting with reality. If we can understand that seeing things as they are is important, then all we should do is see the doubt, everything else, along with the doubt for what it is. So when we have doubt, we focus on it just as we would with anything else. We say to ourselves, ‘doubting, doubting, doubting’, simply knowing that we’re doubting, not judging it, not following after it, or not letting it lead us on to some conclusion of what we should do to get rid of the doubt. Maybe we should go and study more. Maybe we should switch teachers. Maybe we should practice many different techniques or so on. All of which is unnecessary. If you simply see reality for what it is, as I said, you don’t need a teacher. You’re teaching yourself. Because you’re coming to see reality for what it is for yourself.
So these are the four aspects of reality. The fourth one actually goes on and there are many other parts, for instance, actually acknowledging the six senses. When you see things you can say to yourself, ‘seeing’, even you see lights when you close your eyes. This is a very common one for meditators. They’ll see things and they’ll get carried away and they’ll think it means something, that it’s God or an angel or so on. And they won’t be able to see that it’s simply a visual hallucination or a visual stimulus, so to say. And they won’t understand it. They’ll get lost in this conceptualization of it being something else. So when we see things, we simply say to ourselves, ‘seeing, seeing’. When you hear noises outside or voices in your head, ‘hearing, hearing’. When you smell ‘smelling’, when you taste ‘tasting’, when you feel something on the body, ‘feeling’, when you think ‘thinking’, acknowledging the six senses and so on. There are many others. But for basic meditation practice, this should really suffice.
Now, the next question that I’d like to address is what is it that this is going to allow us to see? I’ve gone over a little bit about how it’s going to allow us to see reality clearly. But I’d like to just answer the question in more detail and for perfect clarity to understand what exactly it is that these four things remove in the mind. What is the misunderstanding? The Buddha said that there are four misunderstandings. These are the four misunderstandings that keep us tied to the cycle of suffering that caused us to give rise to unwholesome thoughts, unwholesome consciousness, unwholesome mind state, which in turn give rise to unwholesome deeds, which in turn gives rise to unwholesome results or suffering, and then suffering in turn makes us want to do bad things, do makes us give rise to unwholesome thoughts and also mind states. And it goes in a cycle. These four things, because we we misunderstand reality om four ways, we therefore give rise to this. We therefore continue this cycle giving rise to unwholesome mind state.
First of all, we see reality as being being attractive. Second, we see reality as as being where we see things, the objects of reality, of experience as being pleasant. Third, we see the objects of experience as being permanent. And fourth, we see the objects of reality as being controllable or possessed, possessions as being belongings. These four misconceptions about reality, about experience, the Buddha said, are what keeps us down to suffering.
So the four foundations of mindfulness each works on a different aspect of our misunderstanding, each of these four misunderstandings. The first foundation of mindfulness, the mindfulness of the body, its awareness of the stomach moving, of the body moving and so on, allows us to see the nature of reality as not being attractive. Because the most attractive thing that we have as human beings is the physical body. We see that certain bodies are attractive, certain others are repulsive, but in general, talking about the physical aspect of reality, we see things as being attractive, even though there’s nothing inherently beneficial about seeing certain things, about hearing certain sounds. We find the physical aspect of reality attractive. Because we have this memory that it’s somehow rather pleasure and happiness. Once we focus on the physical body, we’ll be able to break it up into pieces. We’ll see that the foot moving is merely an experience of motion. The stomach moving, likewise, is only an experience of motion. The tension in the backs, in the back, in the the pressure of sitting on the chair, on the floor, the hardness and softness, the heat and the cold. These are all on the individual realities that arise in scenes. When we break it apart, in this way, the the ancient texts say it’s like when a butcher takes apart a cow. If he hasn’t taken apart the cow, he still has this idea of it, of this being a cow. But once he cuts it up into pieces and separates it out, he loses the idea of it being a cow. Suddenly he sees it as meat. So when he sells the pieces of the cow, he doesn’t think that he’s selling cow. He thinks that he’s selling meat. It’s lost the idea of cow. In the same way a person who takes apart the physical body, not intellectually, but simply watches one piece at a time, looks at what it is that we call body, sees that it’s broken up into pieces. And when we see it in this way, we lose this idea of attractiveness, of beauty, that somehow the body has a positive and beautiful nature to it. We lose sight. It doesn’t mean we see the body as repulsive. We simply see it for what it is. And because we lose this attraction, we no longer have this partiality, this need to see certain things, this need to see beauty, this need to hear beautiful sounds and so on. We see things as arising and ceasing. We lose this need to attain these things. We lose the greed and the aversion from the various experiences.
Number two is the foundation of mindfulness of the feelings, establishing mindfulness based on the sensations that arise in the body and in the mind, does away with the misunderstanding that experience is pleasant. Because for the ordinary human being… This is exactly where happiness lies, it lies in the pleasant feelings, the pleasant sensations that arise from time to time. And so we will find ourselves living our whole lives simply for the attainment of these feelings, which will arise from time to time based on their causes and conditions. We find ourselves working very hard in order to save up money, to be able to go on vacations or holidays or go to musical events or theater, or to have good food, to have beautiful possessions and so on, to get all of these these pleasant sensations that arise based on the physical reality. And as a result, we find ourselves actually in a lot of suffering where most of our lives is consumed, doing things that are even perhaps meaningless or the very least that are unpleasant. And through our need to attain pleasant experiences, we actually have to endure a lot of unpleasantness. Moreover, our minds become clouded and unclear and become very much caught up in the cycle of addiction so that we’re never able to see things as they are. And we’re never able to be at peace with ourselves, even to the moment when we die. And when we die, we’ll die with a mind that is clinging, a mind that is unhappy, a mind that is unsatisfied.
So when we practice mindfulness, the feelings, we’ll come to see this. We’ll come to see how feelings arise and cease. And as I said, we’ll come to see them simply as feelings. But moreover, we’ll come to see that none of them last. Even pleasant feelings only arise from time to time. We’ll come to see that the spectrum of feelings is actually much more than simply the happy feelings that we’re looking for. And that no matter how hard we try, we can’t we can’t hold on to these feelings. That there’s nothing really beneficial about clinging to them at all. There’s nothing actually beneficial about the feelings, just like painful feelings not being inherently unpleasant. Pleasurable feelings are not inherently pleasurable. That there’s nothing inherently good about them whatsoever. There’s simply a different type of sensation that has arisen. Once we can see this by acknowledging ‘happy, happy’ or ‘pain, pain’, which we come to see that sensation, simply our sensations, seeing them simply for what they are. We’ll find that instead of what we thought of losing all of our happiness, we find that we’re actually much more happy and much more content and much more at peace with ourselves. That the happiness that we were looking for actually comes from giving up this chasing of, this search, this pursuit of happiness. This is the second.
The third misperception that we clear up is of permanence. This is cleared up by practicing the establishment of mindfulness based on the mind. Why is this? Because whereas all things are impermanent. The truth is that everything that we experience is impermanent. There is nothing more impermanent or nothing that changes quicker or more clearly than the mind. When we focus on the thoughts, when we focus on the workings of the mind, how the mind jumps from object to object, we’ll be able to see clearer than watching any other object. How impermanent reality really is. One of the reasons why we cling to things, why we are always chasing after good things, running away from bad things, because we think of them as having some entity. We think that somehow we can create stability in our lives. That somehow if we work hard enough, we’re going to create a state that is stable, that is safe, that is lasting and secure. And so we are always trying to set up our lives with things around us which are going to last, which are going to protect us, which are going to keep us in a stable state. But the truth is that no matter what we do externally to attain this, if our mind is still jumping around from object to object, we can never be said to have gained any stability whatsoever. Until, we can stabilize the mind and until we can come to really attain this true security inside. All of the things external to us are meaningless. When we look at how the mind works, we come to see that all of the objects of the sense only arise based on the mind. So if the mind is jumping from experience to experience that there’s nothing really stable at all. Even if we look at our belongings, our possessions, even our own body, and think of it as lasting, as permanent, as stable, it only lasts as long as the experience associated with it. So as we watch the mind jumping from object to object, we’ll see that no matter what the mind takes as an object, there is no stability to be found whatsoever. It’s something that arises and ceases incessantly from moment to moment to moment. We can do this again by acknowledging to ourselves, ‘thinking, thinking’ and watching the thoughts arise and cease. Because this will give us the understanding of how reality works. And it’s all based on the mind. Our whole lives are based on this, jumping around is arising and ceasing of the mental experience of both the physical and the other mental reality. This is the third the third misperception that we clear up.
The fourth misperception, misunderstanding that we clear up, as I said, is the misperception that things belong to us or that they’re under our control. We have this idea of that inside of ourselves, there is some kind of controlling essence that is able to control the other aspects of our being. We have this idea that the experiences that we have, we can somehow control them. That they somehow belong to us, that we have some sort of self. And moreover, we have the idea that when pleasure or pain comes, it belongs to us. And therefore, as a result, we do everything we can to maintain the pleasure and to remove and be free at all times from the pain, from the displeasure. So as a result, we give rise to this attachment and this great intention to keep things as they are when the happiness comes. And we give rise to great anger, when unpleasant things arise. We think of everything as our as ours. When pain arises, it’s my pain. When pleasure arises, it’s my pleasure. And therefore, we create all sorts of labels about it. We have categories for everything. Certain things are acceptable or pleasurable or nice. Certain other things are pleasurable or unacceptable, are not nice. And again, these are not based on any real objective criteria. They’re simply based on on some kind of idea of what and who we are. This idea of self and what we believe, what we like, what we appreciate. When we start to look at the dhamma, the reality is starting with the emotions, we’ll be able to do away with this. We’ll come to see that this anger, this dislike of things does not have anything to do with the true nature of the experience of the phenomenon.
When we hear a loud noise or someone yelling at us and we get angry thinking that they’re yelling at us. We have this cycle of all where we feel righteous about our anger, that somehow this person is doing something bad to us and therefore anger is the right response somehow. So identifying with the anger that I am angry and and therefore never having any question about the anger, that it might not be the right response. We have this idea that I’m angry that it would be absurd for us in our minds to think that there was something wrong with it. Because it’s who I am. This person is attacking me. I’m getting angry. So now is the time to fight back or to hurt them or to yell at them or to cause suffering for them. When we look at the anger, we come to see that that’s not the case at all. That the anger is simply something that has arisen. It’s arisen based on our partiality, our dislike of this object that is not objective at all. Our dislike of something that is totally a subjective interpretation that we have accumulated through our lives and through our our misunderstandings and our misperceptions. As we focus on the anger, saying to ourselves, ‘angry, angry, angry’, we lose this idea of self. We come to see that anger is just another experience, just another phenomenon that arises. When greed or lust or wanting arises, just the same, we focus on it as saying ‘wanting, wanting’. And we come to see that there’s no connection between the object and the wanting. The object has only given rise to wanting because of our misperception of the object. Because remembering, thinking back that this is ours. This is a part of those things that are pleasurable. This is those things that we appreciate. When in fact, there’s nothing inherently pleasurable or beneficial about the object at all. It simply arises and ceases, just like everything else. So we focus on the liking. We focus on the wanting. And we come to see this, that there is no connection. The wanting is simply a result of the misinterpretation. It’s something that has arisen based on causes and conditions and misunderstanding of reality. If we feel drowsy, we say to ourselves, ‘drowsy, drowsy’ and distracted or worried, we say ‘worried, worried, distracted, distracted’. And we don’t attach to the state of mind. We have doubt. We don’t attach to the doubt. Normally we would, as I said, attached to the doubt, attached to all of these, actually. And think of it as a part of who I am. When we have doubts, we take it very seriously. We think there must be something wrong with the experience, something wrong with what we’re doing, for instance, or something wrong with the meditation practice. Because now I’m doubting it.
We never doubt the doubt. We never think that there could be something wrong with the doubt. We think that it’s the natural part of our being. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s who we are. When we focus on the doubt and say to ourselves, ‘doubting, doubting’. We focus on all of these, as I said, we come to see them for what they are, as things that have arisen and have no connection and no objective connection with the object of doubt, with the object of worry or confusion or so on. They simply are things that have arisen. And therefore we lose this sense of possessiveness, of identification, this idea of self.
So many people when they hear about the Buddha’s teaching against the idea or against the theory of an internal self, they become very frightened. And this is because they look at it intellectually and they try to understand what did the Buddha mean when he said, you know, that basically there is no self. Well, it wasn’t an intellectual teaching. It’s not something that you can create a philosophy. Based on the Buddhist teachings, they are not just for the purpose of philosophy or philosophizing or intellectual liasing or the ability to discuss. The things should be practiced. And through this practice, one stops identifying with the realities as they arise and all of reality, really.
And so the mind of the individual person becomes free from any sort of clinging that we’re simply able to see things as they are, which is as phenomena that arise and cease that come and go. This is really the practice of meditation. This is how I would like to explain what the Buddha meant by meditation. And so this is how I would encourage people to practice, if they would like to practice meditation according to the Buddhist teachings.
Again, I would like to encourage you all to put this teaching into practice. Don’t simply be content with having some kind of intellectual knowledge or having some kind of pleasure that you gain from listening to this talk. If you find that it has been useful, has been interesting, please make real use of it and actually put it into practice here and now. You can do it while you’re sitting here listening to the Buddhist TV, watching the Buddhist TV. You can do it here. Now when you’re in your room, turning off the television and actually taking the time, do some few minutes of meditation to clear your mind and to start on the path of true and clear understanding of reality.
So thank you all for tuning in. And I hope that these teachings have been useful and that they lead you all to true peace, happiness and freedom from suffering. Thank you. And have a good day.