Forest Sangha Newsletter October 1992

Learning and Spirituality; Ajahn Sucitto
Complementary Education; Medhina Fright
Meditating with Children; Sister Abhassara
Life of a Forest Monk (Pt V); Luang Por Jun
Alone on a Mountain; Venerable Chandako
In the Deathless Land; Sister Rosemary
Questions and Answers; Luang Por Chah

Signs of Change:


Questions & Answers - Luang Por Chah

Extracts from a conversation between Luang Por Chah and a lay Buddhist.

There are those periods when our hearts happen to be absorbed in things and become blemished or darkened but we are still aware of ourselves - such as when some form of greed, hatred, or delusion comes up. Although we know that these things are objectionable, we are unable to prevent them from arising. Could it be said that even as we are aware of them, we are providing the basis for increased clinging and attachment and maybe putting ourselves further back than where we started from?

That's it! You must keep knowing them at that point; that's the method of practice.

I mean that, simultaneously, we are both aware of them and repelled by them, but lacking the ability to resist them; they just burst forth.

By then, it's already beyond your capability to do anything. At that point, you have to readjust yourself and then continue contemplation. Don't just give up on them there and then. When you see things arise in that way, you tend to get upset or feel regret, but it is possible to say that they are uncertain and subject to change. What happens is that you see these things are wrong, but you are still not ready or able to deal with them. It's as if they are independent entities, the leftover kammic tendencies that are still creating and conditioning the state of the heart. You don't wish to allow the heart to become like that, but it does and it indicates that your knowledge and awareness is still neither sufficient nor fast enough to keep abreast of things.

When you reach the point where you are able to know things and put them down with ease, they say that the Path has matured...

You must practise and develop mindfulness as much as you can in order to gain a greater and more penetrating awareness. Whether the heart is soiled or blemished in some way, it doesn't matter; whatever comes up, you should contemplate the impermanence and uncertainty of it. By maintaining this contemplation at each instant that something arises, after some time you will see the impermanence of all sense objects and mental states. Because you see them as such, gradually they will lose their importance and your clinging and attachment to that which is a blemish on the heart will continue to diminish. Whenever suffering arises, you will be able to work through it and readjust yourself, but you shouldn't give up on this work or set it aside. You must keep up a continuity of effort and try to make your awareness fast enough to keep in touch with the changing mental conditions. It could be said that so far your development of the Path still lacks sufficient energy to overcome the mental defilements; whenever suffering arises, the heart becomes clouded over. But one must keep developing that knowledge and understanding of the clouded heart; this is what you reflect on.

You must really take hold of it and repeatedly contemplate that this suffering and discontentment is just not a sure thing. It is something that is ultimately impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self. Focusing on these three characteristics, whenever these conditions of suffering arise again, you will know them straightaway, having experienced them before.

Gradually, little by little, your practice should gain momentum, and as time passes, whatever sense objects and mental states that arise will lose their value in this way. Your heart will know them for what they are and accordingly put them down. When you reach the point where you are able to know things and put them down with ease, they say that the Path has matured internally and you will have the ability to swiftly bear down upon the defilements. From then on, there will just be the arising and passing away in this place, the same as waves striking the seashore. When a wave comes in and finally reaches the shoreline, it just disintegrates and vanishes; a new wave comes and it happens again - the wave going no further than the limit of the shoreline. In the same way, nothing will be able to go beyond the limits established by your own awareness.

That's the place where you will meet and come to understand impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self. It is there that things will vanish - the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self are the same as the seashore, and all sense objects and mental states that are experienced go in the same way as the waves. Happiness is uncertain; it's arisen many times before. Suffering is uncertain; it's arisen many times before. That's the way they are. In your heart you will know that they are like that, they are 'just that much'. The heart will experience these conditions in this way, and they will gradually keep losing their value and importance. This is talking about the characteristics of the heart, the way it is. It is the same for everybody, even the Buddha and all his disciples were like this.

If your practice of the Path matures, it will become automatic and it will no longer be dependent on anything external. When a defilement arises, you will immediately be aware of it and accordingly be able to counteract it. However, that stage when they say that the Path is still neither mature enough nor fast enough to overcome the defilements is something that everybody has to experience - it's unavoidable. But it is at that point where you must use skilful reflection. Don't go investigating elsewhere or trying to solve the problem at some other place. Cure it right there. Apply the cure at that place where things arise and pass away. Happiness arises and then passes away, doesn't it? Suffering arises and then passes away, doesn't it? You will continuously be able to see the process of arising and ceasing, and see that which is good and bad in the heart. These are phenomena that exist and are part of nature. Don't cling tightly to them or create anything out of them at all.

If you have this kind of awareness, then even though you will be coming into contact with things, there will not be any noise. In other words, you will see the arising and passing away of phenomena in a very natural and ordinary way. You will just see things arise and then cease. You will understand the process of arising and ceasing in the light of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self.

The nature of the Dhamma is like this. When you can see things as 'just that much', then they will remain as 'just that much'. There will be none of that clinging or holding on - as soon as you become aware of attachment, it will disappear. There will be just the arising and ceasing, and that is peaceful. That it's peaceful is not because you don't hear anything; there is the hearing, but you understand the nature of it and don't cling or hold on to anything. This is what is meant by peaceful - the heart is still experiencing sense objects, but it doesn't follow or get caught up in them. A division is made between the heart, sense objects and the defilement; but if you understand the process of arising and ceasing, then there is nothing that can really arise from it - it will end just there.