(Editors remark: Bhante G is 85 years old now, so please notice the remarkable biological
youth of the Dhamma practioner…) He looks like ~
The Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant, spent twenty- five
years with the Buddha serving him. The Buddha asked him several times to strive
hard and attain enlightenment. He had known all the Dhamma and theories of
meditation. However, as he enjoyed serving the Buddha and other fellow
bhikkhus, he neglected his own attainment of enlightenment until finally a
great pressure came from the 499 Arahants assembled to hold the first Buddhist
council. They insisted that he should attain enlightenment before the
designated date for the council planned for the third month after the Buddha’s
had already said: “Monks, meditate. Don’t be heedless. Don’t
let your mind be filled with defilements. Don’t weep and wail saying:
This life is full of trouble, full of misery, full of pain, full of
agony.” The mind not developed through the practice of mindfulness
meditation creates tension, anxiety and worry. Don’t keep crying and
repeating the same mistakes. You cannot run away from reality. Life is not
rosy. It has ups-and-downs and bumps all over. These are facts we face every day.
practice of mindfulness meditation is similar to a the
shock absorbers in a car. If the shock absorbers are not good, you will see how
difficult it will be when you drive. This vehicle of ours – the body and
mind, this combination – is full of such difficult moments. There is no
place to run away from them. Even if you go to the moon (not an impossibility
these days), still you will go with your body and mind filled with all kinds of
impediments still existing in the mind. You cannot leave them here and go over
there. They follow persistently and doggedly wherever you go, and they keep
bothering you, day and night. Most people experiment with three solutions.
They perceive the problem is “over there, in the
world.” Therefore, they think that by correcting the world, trying to
solve society’s ills, they can solve their problems. They wish to make
the environment “proper, beautiful” and free from problems. Only
then can they live happily. So they get engrossed and, sometimes, even
obsessed, in trying to straighten out society. Of course, the desire to improve
society’s ills, itself, is commendable. They see suffering and become
compassionate and then act. They may keep themselves fully occupied trying to
correct the society’s ills. They might think that they keep themselves
out of trouble without realizing that they actually are forgetting their own
nagging problems. They continue to have their own pains and suffering
unattended primarily because they do not have time for themselves. These people
are very compassionate, understanding, ready to render
their service to the society selflessly or without any reward from the society.
We read many wonderful accounts of many such noble persons who at the expense
of their own attainment of enlightenment dedicate their lives to the society.
External activities might hinder solving one’s own problems.
we live in society with people, each one of us has a little world of our own,
views about the world, our own perception and understanding of the world. Each
follows his or her perceptions, and views of the world. We may sometimes think
that all the problems we experience are generated from the outer world.
Therefore, we turn our energies to the world believing involvement in doing
something to correct society will solve our problems.
second line of thinking which people pursue to solve their problems is to think
that there is no problem at all. They believe that everything is imaginary.
They think: “I exist by myself, I am most important, and I am all alone,
and nothing else matters to me.” The third way to solve personal problems
is to run away from our problems.
may receive temporary solace, temporary comfort thinking either the problem
exists over there in the external world or it does not exist, or diverting our
attention to something, ignoring that there is a problem, or running away from
real solution lies in none of these methods. The real solution, according to
the Buddha’s teaching, is to discover a way to purify the instrument, the
agent, which makes the world happy or unhappy, peaceful or miserable, pleasant
or painful. That which creates problems and suffering for
everybody. This instrument is our mind. Purification of this mind is one
of the purposes of mindfulness meditation.
we all know, all our thoughts, words and deeds originate in the mind. Mind is
the forerunner. All conditions which we experience are mind-made. They are
created in the mind, directed and led by the mind. Mind puts them into action.
“All actions are all led by the mind: mind is their master, mind is their
maker. Act or speak with a defiled state of mind, then suffering follows like
the cart-wheel that follows the foot of the ox. All actions are all led by the
mind; mind is their master, mind is their maker. Act or speak with a pure state
of mind, then happiness follows like a shadow that remains behind without
departing.” (Dhammapada 1-2)
analogy of the ox pulling the cart is most appropriate to illustrate our
problems. The ox pulling the cart does not enjoy pulling the cart. He is not
happy with this burden; it is not a pleasure. This poor bull pulling the cart
has a terrible time. The whole burden of the cart is on his shoulders, and he
will be in pain. The bull would have done better if he had not been born a
bull. The condition of the bull is compared to the condition of ignorance, and
stupidity – not seeing the truth as is. An unenlightened life is full of
ignorance and given to defilements of all kinds. Therefore, an unenlightened
person committing thoughts, words, and deeds with impure minds suffers very
much like the bull who always suffers by pulling this heavy cart. On the other hand, when we speak or do something with a pure mind
we feel happy, and have no regrets, no pain, no suffering following us.
purpose in life is to improve ourselves everyday and become happy. We do many
things to gain happiness. However, most of the things we do to gain happiness
may generate unhappiness, pain, suffering and trouble
because our minds are not pure. It is the pure mind that can generate
happiness, not the impure mind. Therefore, the first purpose of practicing
meditation is to purify our mind; that generates peace and happiness.
second purpose of meditation is to overcome sorrow and lamentation. When a
meditator begins to see the truth he or she can bear and conquer sorrow and
lamentation caused by impermanence.
third purpose is to overcome suffering and disappointment caused by greed and
fourth purpose of meditation is to tread the wise path, the correct path which
leads to liberation from grief, sorrow, disappointment, pain and lamentation.
This is the path of mindfulness – the only path that liberate
us from suffering.
fifth purpose of meditation is to liberate ourselves completely and totally
from mental pain and defilements and to free our minds from greed, hatred and
five purposes are very noble purposes. All other purposes of meditation may be
overlooked because none of them is capable of generating these results making
us really peaceful and happy by eliminating our problems. We don’t try to
ignore or avoid them but mindfully we face and tackle them as they arise in our
people simply want to meditate without having any background knowledge of
meditation. They think knowledge of the theory of meditation is an impediment.
This attitude can be compared to the attitude of a traveler who wishes to go to
a definite destination – let us say Washington DC. The traveler has great
confidence in his ability and believes his confidence alone is sufficient to
get him there. This person may have a vehicle – a car. Then, getting into
the car, sitting behind the steering wheel, he starts to drive. However, there
has been no preparation for the journey. There is no knowledge of the roads or
the conditions of the roads or of the weather. He hasn’t even consulted a
map. All he has is a car and confidence and some experience in driving. The car
may carry a sufficient quantity of gas, oil, and other items, so, the traveler
gets into the car and starts driving. He may be on the road for a long time
spending a good deal of money on gas, time and energy. Indeed, driving will
lead him somewhere, but not necessarily to his destination. A wise driver, on
the other hand, studies the map in detail, determines the detours, and may ask
others who are more experienced.
the driver wishes to go to Washington DC and if there is a place called
Washington DC, the driver will find it. Similarly, we need to have a goal in
meditation. We want to reach this goal and realize our purpose. And we do need
some guidelines. We do not necessarily need a great deal of philosophical and
speculative theory. The guidelines are road signs to follow so that we will
know (not guess) if we are heading in the right direction. Certainly confidence
is necessary, but in itself, is not sufficient. In addition, we need
understanding and knowledge of the theory.
what is meditation? How do we reach this goal of purifying the mind, overcoming
grief and lamentation, overcoming pain and disappointment, treading the path
leading to liberation from pain, suffering and samsara – this world of
birth and death?
is a way to attain it. When we refer to “the Way” it may turn many
people off. They might think the speaker is trying to sell something and trying
to deprecate everything in the world, and say “If this is the only way,
we are not prepared to buy it.” Now, when you wish to go to Washington DC,
there are a number of ways to get there. Flying is the quickest way these days,
of course. In other times, we would use a car or boat, or only our two feet.
Whatever the means of transportation, we have to cover a specific distance to
arrive in Washington DC. What is essential is that we get there – whether
by slow or fast means. Therefore, “the Way” means “The Way of
Mindfulness” that transverses a certain distance or area to realize our
way of Mindfulness does not, however, lie in a geographical area or in space.
It is in our own mind. We have to do certain things. That
doing is also “the Way” — the way to cultivate our minds to
accomplish this journey. Cultivating the mind means practicing
mindfulness. When no mindfulness is present, when we are unmindful all the
time, we are entrapped by “red herrings.” We are caught in all
kinds of confusion. We don’t understand things as they really are. To
enable us to get to our destination, we need a clear understanding of where we
are. Clear understanding is born from mindfulness. No matter what else we do or
other practices we engage in they have their own purposes and goals. We learn
that they do not purify the mind.
very word meditation means cultivation. We know what we mean when we say,
“We cultivate a land.” We know that there has to be a land and some
means of cultivating it. We have to do certain things, such as cutting down the
trees to clear the land, remove weeds and other things, and till it over and
over and fertilize it. Then we can plant seeds and nourish it and grow certain
crops. Similarly in the practice of meditation, we
need to mentally cultivate the mind. We do not need to sit in one place just
waiting for something to happen. We may wait indefinitely, or for a very long
time, without anything happening. We might say that we have spent so much time
in meditation. Sitting in one place doing nothing is not meditation. And also
simply watching our breath all the time is inadequate and insufficient. Of
course, mindfulness of breath is an important part of meditation. Simply
watching the breath without any mindfulness may be called the practice of
tranquillity meditation, however, it is not Right Concentration without
mindfulness. We begin, however, with watching our breath. This meditation which
is totally distinct to Buddhism is called Vipassana meditation or Insight
meditation. There are guidelines for the practice of Insight or Vipassana
meditation. These guidelines are given in the Sutta called the Four Foundations
Four Foundations of Mindfulness are: Mindfulness of the Body, Mindfulness of
Feeling, Mindfulness of the mind and Mindfulness of
Mental Objects. We will explain them in turn.
me take the first part – Mindfulness of the Body. Mindfulness of the body
is divided into six sections. The first of them is Mindfulness of breathing.
Now, why is the breath included in the mindfulness of the body? The breath is a
part of our body. This body, as we know it, is made up of four basic elements:
the element of extension (solid parts), the element of cohesion (the liquid
part), the element of heat (radiation) and the element of air (oscillation or
movement). Therefore, when we try to practice mindfulness of the body we begin
with the mindfulness of the breath which is the element of air.
this meditation, we do not dwell upon some imaginative fairy land. We are not
trying to induce self hypnosis. We are not trying to discover the hidden,
mystical elements of the universe. We are not trying to become absorbed in the
whole universe. We are not trying to become “One” with the whole
universe. All these are interesting words. We are trying to use this
personality of ours: our own body and mind. We watch mindfully this body and
mind and their activities, we investigate them because they are what we carry
with us wherever we go. This body and mind is our laboratory. All we have to
work with is there — the raw material, chemical substance, gases, heat,
air, water, extension — all are there. It is in this body, in this personality
that we find all this. My laboratory is my body and mind. I always try to watch
them within me. I cannot work in your laboratory. You have to work in your own
laboratory. Most of us forget our own laboratories and try to get into somebody
else’s laboratory. We try to see what so-and-so is eating, what so-and-so
is doing, whom so-and-so is associating with, where so-and-so is going, what
so-and-so is reading, how much money so-and-so has, etc. We always forget our
own laboratories. We may never know what is in this laboratory within
ourselves. We, in this practice of Insight meditation, become introspective,
mindful and careful to watch what is happening here in this mind and body in
the present moment. That is what Vipassana meditation is all about; methodical investigation
in the laboratory within ourselves.