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The Path of Strength
Ven. Acariya Maha Boowa Đanasampanno
Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

We have gone forth from the household life and are abstainers from all things that are our own enemies and enemies of the common good. That's why we're said to have gone forth: It means that we abstain. 'Abstaining' here means refraining from the things that work to our detriment. Once we have gone forth, our duty is to abstain from things that are unwise and to develop wisdom -- intelligence -- as much as we can until it is enough to carry us past our obstacles: the entire mass of suffering.

At present we all know that we have gone forth. The world calls us 'people who have gone forth,' so be conscious of your status at all times and in your every movement in thought, word, and deed. You are ordained in the Buddha's religion and have his teachings as your guide. His teachings have both a fence and an open way. The fence is the Vinaya, which prescribes penalties for our errors -- major, intermediate, and minor. This is the fence that blocks the wrong paths so that we won't stray down them, and that opens the right path -- the Dhamma -- so that we can follow it to the goal to which we aspire. The Vinaya is a fence on both sides of the path. If we go astray, it means we've gone wrong. If we go just a little astray, we've gone just a little bit wrong. If we go far astray, we've gone far wrong. If we go so far astray that we can't get back on the path, we've gone absolutely wrong. This is like a person who loses his way: If he gets just a little lost, he can quickly get back on the path. If he gets more lost, it wastes a lot of his time. If he gets really lost, he has no chance of reaching his goal. Thus the Vinaya is like a fence to prevent those who have gone forth from going wrong. This fence has various levels -- in line with the differing levels of lay people and those who have ordained -- for us to observe in line with our moral duties, beginning with the five precepts and going up to the eight, the ten, and the 227 precepts.

As for the Dhamma, which is the path to follow as taught by the Buddha, it has conviction as its basis -- in other words, conviction in the path to be followed for good results -- and persistence in making the effort to follow the path unflaggingly. Mindfulness is what guides our efforts as we follow the path. Concentration is firmness of the heart in following the path, in addition to being food for the journey -- in other words, mental peace and ease along the way before we reach the goal. And discernment is circumspection in following the path step by step from beginning to end. These qualities support and encourage us to stay on the right path. When we have these five qualities -- conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment -- constantly with us, there's no need to doubt that the results will appear as our reward, clear to the heart, in line with our strength and abilities. If we develop these five qualities so that they are powerful within our hearts, the results that the Buddha proclaimed as lying at the end of the path -- release and nibbana -- won't be able to elude us, because all of these qualities aim at these results.

So I ask that you as meditators nourish your conviction in the Dhamma and in your own capabilities. Make your persistence adequate to the task. Concentration will then appear as a result, so try to make it adequate, and take mindfulness and discernment as your guardians. The results will then appear to your full satisfaction. You don't have to worry about where the paths, fruitions, and nibbana lie. Try to nourish the causes I have explained here and make them adequate. Nothing will then be able to prevent the results that will arise from those causes.

These five qualities -- principles in following the path -- are called the five indriya or five bala. 'Indriya' means dominant factor. 'Bala' means strength. As for the Vinaya, it's a fence guarding both sides of the path to keep us from straying from the way to the paths, fruitions, and nibbana. The Buddha closed off both sides and then opened the way -- the five strengths -- for us to follow as much as we like.

 

Kaya-viveka: physical seclusion in your dwelling place. The place where we are staying now is fairly conducive in this respect. Citta-viveka: mental seclusion. Those of you aiming for inner seclusion in line with the levels of your concentration have already attained a fair amount. Those of you who are just beginning, who don't have any mental seclusion in your hearts, should try to nourish the five strengths to make them solid. Inner seclusion will gradually appear step by step. Those of you who have attained an adequate amount of inner seclusion should try to make it more and more refined, at the same time developing discernment or circumspection with regard to your seclusion. As for those of you at the higher stages of the practice, you should urgently gather up persistence with discernment so as to make it adequate, and it will bear fruit as upadhi-viveka -- absolute seclusion from the defilements -- appearing clearly to your hearts.

Physical seclusion means finding peace in solitary places. You don't get embroiled in external matters; you don't latch on to work to disturb the body to the point where you turn your temporary dwelling place into a factory, viewing physical work as the basis of the religion and as your occupation as a monk -- as we see happening everywhere -- to the point where you no longer have any interest in the inner effort of the practice that is a monk's true duty. Mental seclusion refers to the peace of mind endowed with the inner effort of the practice to keep it from running wild with the things that make contact. You rein it in so as to keep it still with watchfulness and restraint at all times. The nature of this level of mental peace is that even though external things may not be making any disturbance, there are still some enemy preoccupations lurking within the mind. This is why this level is termed simply mental seclusion, seclusion from the disturbance of external objects.

As for seclusion from the defilements, this refers to peace with regard to such external things as sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, as well as to peace with regard to internal preoccupations that are the particular enemies of the mind. In other words, you are free both from external enemies and from internal enemies. This is absolute seclusion from the defilements, without even the least thing infiltrating the heart. The heart is in this state at all times. Even though various things may come and make contact, or the khandhas may do their work in line with their duties, these things can't permeate into the heart to cause it any difficulties.

These are the results that come from the basis of physical and mental seclusion. These three qualities -- physical seclusion, mental seclusion, and seclusion with regard to the defilements -- are qualities that all of you as meditators should be capable of developing fully within yourselves. There should be nothing blocking your way. All I ask is that you don't abandon your efforts. Be courageous and enthusiastic in searching out lonely, isolated places: places where you can shed your foolishness with regard to yourselves once and for all. This is the way through which the Buddha and all his Noble Disciples passed before reaching the land of nibbana -- so how could these places turn into the enemies of those of us who are following the Buddha's example? Don't be worried that you'll lose your lives in such places. If that were to be the case, the Buddha would have had to change his preliminary instructions to us after our ordination from rukkhamula-senasanam -- living in the forest -- to something else, in keeping with his compassion for all living beings, human and divine. If living in lonely, solitary places, making the effort in line with the Buddha's example, were to give results other than those corresponding to the Dhamma he taught, he would have had to modify his various teachings to be in keeping with the demands of time and place. The 37 wings to Awakening (bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma) -- which are like the Buddha's very heart that he gave to us so rightly -- would have had to be completely altered.

But these truths are constant and unwavering. The Buddha never changed them. We as meditators should thus modify our thoughts, words, and deeds to fit in with this Dhamma. It would be highly inappropriate for us to modify the Dhamma to conform with the influence of our hearts with their defilements. If we were to do such a thing, we would become Devadatta's in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and our Teacher -- the Buddha's right teachings -- would be lost to us without our even realizing it.

So try to be persistent, in line with the teachings given by the Buddha. Be brave in contending with the enemies of the heart -- both those that come from within and those that come from without -- together with the results they bring. Always take an interest in seeing where suffering and stress come from and how they arise. Don't abandon this work or get bored with it. Try to know the causes and effects of the things that come into contact or become involved with the heart to see how they give rise to stress, until you can ultimately see the causes clearly -- and in that same moment, you will clearly understand the results.

The most important points, no matter when I teach you -- and they are teachings that lie close to my heart -- are mindfulness and discernment. These qualities are very important. If you lack mindfulness and discernment, the results of your practice will be erratic. The progress of your efforts will be interrupted and uneven. The techniques of your intelligence for curing defilement will be lacking, and the results -- peace and ease -- will be sporadic. If mindfulness and discernment are interrupted, you should know that all the efforts of your practice have been interrupted in the same instant. So I ask that each of you realize this. Every time I've given a talk, I've never omitted the topics of mindfulness and discernment. You could almost say that I give them the limelight more than any other topic, for I've considered the matter to the best of my ability, from the time I first started the practice until today, and I have never seen any qualities superior to mindfulness and discernment in being able to unravel things within or without so as to make them clear to the heart. For this reason, I teach you these two qualities so that you'll know: To put them in terms of wood, they're the heartwood or the tap root of the tree. In terms of the Dhamma, they're the root, the crucial tools for eliminating all defilements and mental effluents (asava), from the blatant to the most extremely refined levels, once and for all.

If you lack mindfulness, you can't even give rise to concentration. If you lack discernment, your concentration might turn into wrong concentration -- for the word 'concentration' is a neutral term. There's no assurance as to what sort of concentration it may be. If it lacks discernment as its guardian, it's sure to turn into concentration that deviates from the principles of the Dhamma without your realizing it. There are many levels of wrong concentration -- those that appear blatantly to the world, as well as intermediate and subtle levels -- but here I'll discuss only those forms of wrong concentration that can occur to us in the area of the practice without our realizing it.

For example, when we enter concentration, the mind may gather and rest for a long or a short time, but when we withdraw, we're still attached to that concentration and not at all interested in developing discernment. We may feel that the concentration will turn into the paths, fruitions, or nibbana; or else we are addicted to the concentration and want the mind to stay gathered that way for long periods of time or forever. Sometimes, after the mind gathers into its resting place, it then withdraws a bit, going out to know the various things that make contact, becoming attached and engrossed with its visions. Sometimes it may float out of the body to travel to the Brahma worlds, heaven, hell, or the world of the hungry shades, without a thought for what's right or wrong, as we become engrossed in our visions and abilities, taking them as our amazing paths, fruitions, and nibbana, and those of the religion as well. When this happens, then even if someone skilled and experienced in this area comes to warn us, we won't be willing to listen at all. All of these things are termed wrong concentration that we don't realize to be wrong.

So what is right concentration like, and how should you practice for the sake of rightness? This is where a few differences lie. When you sit in concentration and the mind gathers to rest -- no matter what the level of concentration -- how long it stays there depends on the particular strength of that level of concentration. Let the mind rest in line with its level of concentration. There's no need to force it to withdraw. Let it rest as long as it wants, and then it will withdraw on its own. Once it withdraws, try to train yourself to explore with your discernment. Whatever level of discernment corresponds to that level of concentration, use it to investigate and contemplate the physical properties (dhatu) and khandhas. Whether you investigate these things within or without is not an issue. All that is asked is that you investigate for the sake of knowing cause and effect, for the sake of curing or extricating yourself: Just this much is what's right. Use your discernment to investigate conditions of nature (sabhava dhamma) both within and without, or else exclusively within or exclusively without. Contemplate them in terms of any one of the three characteristics (ti-lakkhana) until you are experienced and astute, until you can find the openings by which you can extricate yourself step by step. When you have investigated to the point where you feel tired, and the mind wants to rest in its home of concentration, let it rest as much as it wants. Whether it rests for a long or a short time is not an issue. Let it rest until it withdraws on its own. As soon as it withdraws, continue with your investigation of such phenomena as the body, as before.

This is right concentration. Be aware of the fact that concentration is simply a temporary resting place. When you have investigated a great deal in the area of discernment and feel mentally tired, rest in concentration. Once the mind is strong again, it'll withdraw. If it's in shape to investigate, then continue investigating. Keep practicing this way constantly. Your concentration will go smoothly, and your discernment will always be astute. Things will go evenly, both in the area of concentration and in the area of discernment, because concentration is beneficial in one way, and discernment in another. If you let yourself follow only the path of discernment, you'll go wrong because you won't have concentration as a support. If you let yourself follow only the path of concentration, you'll go even more wrong than by simply following the path of discernment.

To summarize: These two qualities are like a right arm and a left arm, a right leg and a left leg. Wherever a person walks or whatever he does, he needs both arms and both legs. Concentration and discernment are necessary in just the same way. If you feel that concentration is better than discernment, or discernment better than concentration, then you should have only one arm or one leg, not two arms and two legs like everyone else. In other words, you don't fit in with the rest of the world. Whoever doesn't fit in with the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha -- criticizing discernment and praising concentration, or criticizing concentration and praising discernment -- is the same sort of person.

What's right is that when you are developing concentration, you have to do your duties in terms of concentration and really see the value of concentration. When you are contemplating with discernment, you have to do your duties in terms of discernment and really see the value of discernment. Let each side rest at the right time. Don't get them mixed up together. It's the same as when you walk: When your right foot takes a step, your left foot has to stop. When your left foot takes a step, your right foot has to stop. They don't both step at the same time. Thus both concentration and discernment have their benefits. But when mindfulness and discernment develop enough strength from being trained together, concentration and discernment will then step together -- it's not the case that they'll always take turns -- in the same way that your right arm and left arm work together.

Here we've discussed the relationship between concentration and discernment for those who tend to develop concentration first, who are usually in danger of their concentration's going out of bounds without seeing discernment as the other side of the practice. If it's a necessary quality, you should use it at the appropriate times. As for those who tend to have discernment fostering their concentration, their minds can't settle down into stillness simply through the power of concentration practice alone. They need to use discernment to put brakes on the mind -- which is restless and running wild with its various preoccupations -- by keeping track of the restlessness of the heart so as to see why it is restless and what there is that encourages it to be that way. Discernment has to go ferreting out the various things the mind is labeling and interpreting until the mind surrenders to its discernment and is able to enter stillness. This sort of stillness of mind is said to be still through discernment.

Some people, even when their minds have entered stillness, can at the same time use discernment to investigate and form thoughts without these things being an enemy to that stillness. Perhaps you may think, 'If the mind is concentrated, how can it form thoughts?' and then become doubtful about your concentration. This is called not understanding your own tendencies. These doubts are normal for those who aren't experienced and don't know -- since no one has given them any directions that they can hold to as authoritative -- so they may become uncertain about their practice when this sort of thing happens to them. So here I'd like to take the opportunity to explain: The mind that attains stillness through the method of using discernment as its guardian can continue having thought processes occurring on one level of concentration, but when we reach a fully refined level, no matter which way our concentration is fostered, all thought-formations will cease. No labeling of things will be left in that refined concentration; no thought-formations or cognizance of various things will appear.

To summarize: The intermediate level of concentration for those whose minds gather quickly -- namely, those who start out with concentration -- won't have any thought processes, because the moment thoughts forms, their minds will begin to withdraw from concentration. The concentration attained through the guardian power of discernment, though, can still form thoughts without the mind's withdrawing from concentration -- and both types of concentration must have mindfulness alert as they gather inward.

Today I've explained the differences between wrong and right concentration -- enough so that you as meditators will understand and take this as a guide. I've stressed that mindfulness and discernment are very important factors. Those of you who are training mindfulness shouldn't wait to train it only when you are meditating. You must train it at all times. Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful. Always take your stance in the effort of the practice. Once there is mindfulness, there also has to be self-awareness (sampaja˝˝a), because self-awareness comes from established mindfulness. If mindfulness is lacking, no self-awareness appears. So try to develop your basic mindfulness until it is capable and strong enough to be the sort of mindfulness suitable for the effort of the practice within the heart. From that point it will become super-mindfulness because you have continually fostered it and kept it established.

The same holds true with discernment. Try to contemplate the things that make contact with the mind: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and the thoughts that occur exclusively within. You have to explore these things, ferreting out their causes, until you find it habitual to contemplate and think. When this level of discernment gains strength, it will advance to a higher level, and you will be able to use this higher level of discernment to investigate your doubts about the situation exclusively within the heart. You will be able to see things clearly and cut away your various doubts through the power of discernment, the discernment you have trained in this way so that it becomes super-discernment, just like super-mindfulness. I've never seen it happen anywhere that anyone who hasn't started out by training discernment in this way has suddenly gained full results through superlative discernment. Even those who are termed khippabhi˝˝a -- who have attained Awakening quickly -- started out from crude discernment, advancing quickly, step by step, and gained Awakening in the Buddha's presence, as we all know from the texts. So when we train our mindfulness and discernment to follow our every movement, without any thought for whether we're meditating or not, but simply keeping this hidden sort of meditation going at all times, then no matter what, our minds will have to enter stillness, and discernment will begin to appear.

In particular -- for those of us who are monks, or who are single-mindedly intent on practicing for the sake of mental peace and release from suffering and stress -- mindfulness and discernment are even more necessary. Once we have trained mindfulness and discernment to become so habitual that we're constantly circumspect, then when we focus outside, we'll be intelligent. When we focus inside -- on the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena -- we'll become more and more astute. When we investigate body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, we'll develop techniques for removing defilement without break. Mindfulness is especially important. If you lack mindfulness as a protective barrier at any time, discernment will simply turn into labels without your realizing it. Thus mindfulness is the quality with a solidity that helps discernment become astute in a smooth and even way. The power of mindfulness acts like the bank of a river, keeping discernment from going out of bounds. Discernment that goes out of bounds turns into labels. If it's true discernment, it doesn't go out of bounds, because it has mindfulness in charge.

If you use discernment to focus within the body, things will catch your attention at every step. Inconstancy (anicca), stress (dukkha), and not-selfness (anatta): One or another of these three characteristics is sure to appear, because all of them are always there in the nature of the body. When mindfulness and discernment reach this level, the mind and its objects will come into the present. You should know that no Dhamma has ever appeared because of past or future affairs. It appears only because of the present. Even if you contemplate matters of the past of future, you have to bring them into the scope of the present if you hope to gain any benefit from them. For example, if you see someone die, refer it to yourself: 'I'll have to die as well.' As soon as the word 'I' appears, things come running back to you and appear in the present. Matters of past and future, if you want them to be useful, must always be brought into the present. For example, 'Yesterday that person died. Today or tomorrow I may die in the same way.' With the 'I', you immediately come into the present. External matters have to be brought inward; matters ahead and behind have to be brought into the present if they are to serve any benefit. If you always use mindfulness and discernment to contemplate the conditions of nature -- such as the body -- all around you, then no matter what, things won't lie beyond your grasp. You'll have to understand them clearly.

In investigating phenomena, such as the body, analyze them into their parts and aspects, and use your discernment to contemplate them until they are clear. Don't let thoughts or allusions drag you away from the phenomenon you are investigating, unless you are using thoughts as a standard for your discernment to follow when it doesn't yet have enough strength for the investigation. Keep mindfulness firmly in place as a protective fence -- and you will come to understand clearly things you never understood before, because the conditions of nature are already there in full measure. You don't have to go looking anywhere for inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. They are qualities filling your body and mind at all times. The only problem is that mindfulness and discernment haven't been able to ferret them out to make them your own wealth. But if you are set on investigating observantly day and night -- thinking not about how many times you do it in a day or night, but taking the skill and agility of your discernment as your standard -- keeping mindfulness as a steady flow in the present and radiating discernment all around you, then whatever makes a move in any direction, mindfulness and discernment will follow right after it. When we have trained mindfulness and discernment to be sufficient to the task like this, how will their foes be able to withstand them? After all, we haven't made it our purpose to encourage such things as restlessness and distraction. We're trying at all times to practice the Dhamma -- the means for stopping such things -- so as to keep abreast of the movements of the bandits always lying in wait to rob us at any moment.

We must thus force the mind to investigate in the way we've mentioned. Ferret out each part of the body so as to see it clearly, from the outside into the inside, or take just the inside and bring it out for a look. Look forwards and backwards, up and down, separating the body into pieces. You can imagine fire burning it into ashes and dust, or whatever other ways you can imagine it scattered into pieces, depending on what comes easiest to you. All count as ways in which your discernment is making itself ingenious and astute. When it's sufficiently developed, you'll be wise to all of these things, and they'll be clear to your heart without your having to ask anyone else about them at all.

The more you investigate the body until you understand it clearly, the more clearly you will understand the affairs of feelings, mind, and phenomena, or feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, because all these things are whetstones for sharpening discernment step by step. It's the same as when we bail water out of a fish pond: The more water we bail out, the more clearly we'll see the fish. Or as when clearing a forest: The more vegetation we cut away, the more space we'll see. The things I've just mentioned are the factors that conceal the mind so that we can't clearly see the mental currents that flow out from the heart to its various preoccupations. When you use discernment to contemplate in this way, the currents of the heart will become plain. You'll see the rippling of the mind clearly every moment it occurs -- and the heart itself will become plain, because mindfulness is strong and discernment quick. As soon as the mind ripples, mindfulness and discernment -- which are there in the same place -- will be able to keep track of it and resolve it in time. But be aware that in investigating the five khandhas or the four frames of reference (satipatthana), we aren't trying to take hold of these things as our paths, fruitions, and nibbana. We're trying to strip them away so as to see exactly what is the nature of the fish -- namely, the heart containing all sorts of defilements.

The more you investigate....You needn't count how many times you do it in a day. Focus instead on how expert and agile you can make your mind at investigating. The more you investigate -- and the more skillful you get at investigating -- the more the astuteness of your discernment, which is sharp and flashing as it deals with you yourself and with conditions of nature in general, will develop until it has no limit. You'll eventually have the knowledge and ability to realize that the conditions of nature you have been investigating in stages -- beginning with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations throughout the cosmos, and turning inward to your own body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance -- are not defilements, cravings, or mental effluents in any way. The heart alone is what has defilements, cravings, and mental effluents with which it binds itself. Nothing else has the power to reach into the heart so as to bind it. Aside from the heart that is ignorant about itself -- searching for shackles for its neck and setting the fires of delusion to burn itself to no purpose -- there are no traces of enemies to the heart anywhere at all. We can compare this to a knife, which is a tool made to benefit intelligent people, but which a foolish person grabs hold of to kill himself and then accuses the knife of being his enemy. What precedent is there for making such a charge? All conditions of nature in general are like useful tools, but a stupid person grabs hold of them to bind himself and then claims that the conditions of nature throughout the world have put their heads together to abuse him. Who can decide such a case? -- for the plaintiff has already killed himself. If we decide that the instrument of death loses the case to the dead plaintiff, what sort of vindication is the plaintiff going to gain to give him any satisfaction?

The heart that's deluded about itself and about its own affairs is in the same sort of predicament. Thus when discernment begins to penetrate in to know the conditions of nature -- beginning with the body -- it will also have to penetrate into the causal point. It will know clearly with its discernment the objects to which the mind tends to send its mental currents, and how strong or weak, many or few those currents are. It will come to see that the things that it used to see as enemies aren't really enemies at all. This is because of the power of discernment that has contemplated things carefully and correctly. At the same time, it will turn around to perceive the awareness inside itself as being its own enemy. This is because of the power of the discernment that sees clearly and comes in, letting go stage by stage, the things it can no longer hold to. This is why clear understanding through discernment -- once it has realized that sights, sounds and so forth, on into the body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance, are not enemies -- must let them go stage by stage until they no longer remain in the heart.

And as for this knowing nature: Before, we weren't able to tell whether it was harmful or beneficial, which is why we went about branding things all over the cosmos as being good or bad, beautiful or ugly, lovable or hateful, so amazing as to make us feel like floating or so dreary as to make us miserable and unable to sleep because of the dreariness: in short, making ourselves pleased, displeased, and endlessly miserable without our realizing it. What is the cause that makes the mind like a wheel, turning in cycles around itself, generating the fires of passion, aversion, and delusion to burn itself at all times? When discernment has contemplated things until they are clear, all conditions of nature, within and without, will be seen to have the same characteristics. None of them are enemies to anyone at all. You will see -- the moment discernment removes all the things concealing it -- that the only fault lies with this knowing nature. At this point, when the knower moves or ripples -- blip! -- you'll know immediately that the inner wheel is getting into the act. This is the troublemaker, heaping up misery. It's the direct cause of suffering and stress. Aside from this knowing nature, there is no cause of suffering and stress anywhere in the world.

When we reach this level, only this awareness -- this entire awareness -- is the cause of suffering. When this fact becomes this clear to the heart through discernment, who would be willing to hold to this knower -- this wheel -- as his or her self? This is the subtle discernment, the automatic discernment in the principles of nature, that was trained by our forcing it in the beginning stages. The results now appear as an ingenuity and intelligence sufficient to the task. There's nothing wrong with calling it super-discernment. In addition to knowing the revolving mind that is the cause of stress, this discernment turns inward to know why that mind is a cause of stress, and how. Intent on knowing, it probes in after the reasons that reveal themselves.

But for the most part when we reach this level, if our discernment hasn't really considered things with precision and thoroughness, we're sure to get stuck on this revolving awareness, because it's the supreme cause of the cycle -- so deceptive and attractive that we as meditators don't realize our attachment to it. In addition to being deluded and attached without our realizing it, we may even spread this subtle form of delusion, through our misunderstanding, to delude many other people as well.

So to let you know: This knowing nature, in terms of it marvelousness, is more marvelous than anything else. In terms of its radiance, it's more radiant than anything else, which is why we should call it a pit of burning embers secretly lying in wait for us. But no matter what, this knowing nature can't withstand the discernment that is its match in subtlety. We are sure to learn the truth from our discernment that this knowing nature is the foremost cause of suffering and stress. When we know this, this nature won't be able to stand. It will have to disintegrate immediately, just as when people smash a solid object to pieces with an iron bar.

When this nature disintegrates after having been destroyed by discernment, a nature marvelous far above and beyond any conventional reality will appear in full measure. At the same moment, we will see the harm of what is harmful and the benefits of what is beneficial. The awareness of release will appear as dhammo padipo -- the brightness of the Dhamma -- in full radiance, like the sun that, when unobscured by clouds, lets the world receive the full radiance of its light. The result is that the awareness of release appears plainly to the heart of the meditator the moment unawareness has disbanded.

This is the result. What the causes are, I've already explained to you: conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. This is the path to follow leading right to this point. It doesn't lead anywhere else. Whether you live at home, in a monastery, or in a forest, whether you're a woman or a man, ordained or not: If you have these five qualities always with you, you're heading toward this point. In other words, we all have the same full rights in the practice and in the results we'll receive.

So I ask that all of you as meditators -- and you know clearly that you are meditators and abstainers as well -- I ask that you practice so as to develop your thoughts, words, and deeds, and that you fully abstain from things that are your enemies until you reach the goal -- the release of nibbana -- as I've already explained. None of these qualities lie beyond your mindfulness, discernment, and relentless effort. These are the teachings the Buddha gave to us as svakkhata-dhamma -- the well-taught Dhamma. In other words, he rightly taught us the path to follow. He taught that the wrong path was really wrong, and the right path really right. And the results -- release and nibbana -- that come from following the right path were also rightly taught. The only problem is with those of us following the path: Will we really follow it rightly or not? If we follow it rightly in line with what the Buddha taught, the results are sure to appear as sammadeva asavehi vimuccati -- right release from all defilements and mental effluents.

So for this reason you should make an effort to train your mindfulness and discernment at every moment and not just in any one particular position. Don't think that this is making too much of an effort. The more you understand, the more ingenious you become, the more you can cure defilement, the more you gain release from suffering and stress: These are the results we all want step by step until we really gain release with nothing left. In other words, we gain release while we're conscious and aware in this lifetime, while overseeing these five khandhas. This is the most certain Dhamma -- because the word svakkhata-dhamma, the Dhamma rightly taught by the Buddha, doesn't mean that it's right only after we die. It's also right while we are practicing it, and the results that come in line with our efforts appear clearly to the hearts of meditators while they are alive.

As for the methods or techniques you use to train your hearts, I ask to leave them up to each person's intelligence and ingenuity in the course of making the effort in the practice. You have to notice which positions are most helpful in your practice. Don't simply sit and keep on sitting, or walk and keep on walking. You have to remember to notice what results and benefits you get from your efforts as well, because different people may find themselves more or less suited to the four different positions of sitting, standing, walking, and lying down.

Today I've explained the Dhamma to all of you from the beginning to the final point of my ability, so I feel that this should be enough for now. I ask that each of you take the Dhamma that I've explained today and that you have encountered in your practice, and make it food for thought or a companion to your practice. The results you will receive can in no way deviate from today's explanation.

So I'll ask to stop here.

Evam

 


Updated: 1-11-2000

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