Forest SanghaNewsletter
April 1998

Self-naughting; Aj Sumedho
Discernment v's Self-Deception; Upasika Kee Nanayon
Meditation Class; Aj Sucitto
Dhammma Refugee ; Ajahn Viradhammo
Pilgrim's Way: the Place of the Buddha; Ajahn Candasiri

Signs of Change:


Discernment vs. Self-Deception

Upasika Kee Nanayon -- also known as Kor Khao-suan-luang after the hill onwhich she established her hermitage -- is generally regarded as the formostfemale Dhamma teacher in Thailand this century. She never took any formalordination or discipleship under a teacher; using the ermitic situation, thePali Canon and her own determined introspection as her Dhamma-guides. As aresult of her practice and example, other women came to live with her astheir teacher, and the resultant community continued to maintain thehermitage after her death in 1978.
    Collections of her talks have been published both bythe Buddhist Publication Society of Kandy, Sri Lanka, and for distribution inThailand and the West. The following extract comes from a collectiontranslated by Ajahn Thanissaro entitled 'An Unentangled Knowing' anddistributed as an act of dana from Barre, Massachusetts.

It's important that we discuss the steps of the practice in training themind, for the mind has all sorts of deceptions by which it fools itself. Ifyou aren't skilful in investigating and seeing through them, they are verydifficult to overcome even if you're continually mindful to keep watch overthe mind. You have to make an effort to focus on contemplating these thingsat all times. Mindfulness on its own won't be able to give rise to any realknowledge. At best, it can give you only a little protection against theeffects of sensory contact. If you don't make a focused contemplation, themind won't be able to give rise to any knowledge within itself at all.

This is why you have to train yourself to be constantly aware allaround. When you come to know anything for what it really is, there's nothingbut letting go, letting go. On the beginning level, this means the mind won'tgive rise to any unwise or unprofitable thoughts. It will simply stop towatch, stop to know within itself at all times. If there's anything you haveto think about, keep your thoughts on the themes of inconstancy, stress, andnot-self. You have to keep the mind thinking and labelling solely inreference to these sorts of themes, for if your thinking and labelling areright, you'll come to see things rightly. If you go the opposite way, you'llhave to think wrongly and label things wrongly, and that means you'll have tosee things wrongly as well. This is what keeps the mind completely hiddenfrom itself.

Now, when thoughts or labels arise in the mind, then if you focus onwatching them closely you'll see that they're sensations - sensations ofarising and disbanding, changeable, unreliable, and illusory. If you don'tmake an effort to keep a focused watch on them, you'll fall for thedeceptions of thought-formation. In other words, the mind gives rise tomemories of the past and fashions issues dealing with the past, but if you'reaware of what's going on in time, you'll see that they're all illusory.There's no real truth to them at all. Even the meanings the mind gives togood and bad sensory contacts at the moment they occur: if you carefullyobserve and contemplate, you'll see that they're all deceptive. There's noreal truth to them. But ignorance and delusion latch onto them all, and thisdrives the mind around in circles. In other words, it doesn't know what'swhat - how these things arise, persist, and disband - so it latches onto themand gets itself deceived on many, many levels. If you don't stop to focus andwatch, there's no way you can see through these things at all.

Thanks to the teachings of the Buddha, we can gain knowledge into the mind... which, when you look into it deeply, you'll find to be empty - empty ofany meaning in and of itself.


But if the mind keeps its balance or stops to watch and know within itself,it can come to realise these things for what they are. When it realises them,it can let them go automatically without being attached to anything. This isthe knowledge that comes with true mindfulness and discernment: it knows andlets go. It doesn't cling. No matter what appears - good or bad, pleasure orpain - when the mind knows, it doesn't cling. When it doesn't cling, there'sno stress or suffering. You have to keep hammering away at this point: whenit doesn't cling, the mind can stay at normalcy. Empty. Undisturbed. Quietand still. But if it doesn't read itself in this way, doesn't know itself inthis way, it will fall for the deceits of defilement and craving. It willfashion up all sorts of complex and complicated things that it itself willhave a hard time seeing through, for they'll have their ways of playing up tothe mind to keep it attached to them, all of which is simply a matter of themind's falling for the deceits of the defilements and cravings within itself.The fact that it isn't acquainted with itself - doesn't know how mentalstates arise and disband and take on objects - means that it loses itself inits many, many attachments.

There's nothing as hard to keep watch of as the mind, because it's soaccustomed to wrong views and wrong opinions. This is what keeps it hiddenfrom itself. But thanks to the teachings of the Buddha, we can gain knowledgeinto the mind, or into consciousness with its many layers and intricaciesthat, when you look into it deeply, you'll find to be empty - empty of anymeaning in and of itself.

This is an emptiness that can appear clearly within consciousness.Even though it's hidden and profound, we can see into it by looking inward ina way that's quiet and still. The mind stops to watch, to know within itself.As for sensory contacts - sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and that sort ofthing - it isn't interested, because it's intent on looking intoconsciousness pure and simple, to see what arises in there and how itgenerates issues. Sensations, thoughts, labels for pleasure and pain and soforth, are all natural phenomena that change as soon as they're sensed - andthey're very refined. If you view them as being about this or that matter,you won't be able to know them for what they are. The more intricate themeanings you give them, the more lost you become - lost in the whorls of thecycle of rebirth.

The cycle of rebirth and the processes of thought-formation are oneand the same thing. As a result, we whirl around and around, lost in many,many levels of thought-formation, not just one. The knowledge that would readthe heart can't break through to know, for it whirls around and around inthese very same thought-formations, giving them meanings in terms of this orthat, and then latching onto them. If it labels them as good, it latches ontothem as good. If it labels them as bad, it latches onto them as bad. This iswhy the mind stays entirely in the whorls of the cycle of rebirth, the cycleof thought- formation.

For this reason, to see these things clearly requires the effort to stop andwatch, to stop and know in an appropriate way, in a way that's just right. Atthe same time, you have to use your powers of observation. That's what willenable you to read your own consciousness in a special way. Otherwise, if youlatch onto the issues of thoughts and labels, they'll keep you spinningaround. So you have to stop and watch, stop and know clearly by focusing down- focusing down on the consciousness in charge. That way your knowledge willbecome skilful.

Ultimately, you'll see that there's nothing at all - just the arisingand disbanding occurring every moment in emptiness. If there's no attachment,there are no issues. There's simply the natural phenomenon of arising anddisbanding. But because we don't see things simply as natural phenomena, wesee them as being true and latch onto them as our self, good, bad, and allsorts of other complicated things. This keeps us spinning around withoutknowing how to find a way out, what to let go of - we don't know. When wedon't know, we're like a person who wanders into a jungle and doesn't knowthe way out, doesn't know what to do....

Actually what we have to let go of lies right smack in front of us:where the mind fashions things and gives them meanings so that it doesn'tknow the characteristics of arising and disbanding, pure and simple. If youcan simply keep watching and knowing, without any need for meanings,thoughts, imaginings - simply watching the process of these things in and ofitself - there won't be any issues. There's just the phenomenon of thepresent: arising, persisting, disbanding, arising, persisting,disbanding....There's no special trick to this, but you have to stop andwatch, stop and know within yourself every moment. Don't let your awarenessstream away from awareness to outside preoccupations. Gather it in so it canknow itself clearly - that there's nothing in there worth latching onto. It'sall a bunch of deceits.

To know just this much is very useful for seeing the truth inside yourself.You'll see that consciousness is empty of any self. When you look at physicalphenomena, you'll see them as elements, as empty of any self. You'll seemental phenomena as empty of any self, as elements of consciousness - andthat if there's no attachment, no latching on, there's no suffering orstress....

So even if there's thinking going on in the mind, simply watch it,simply let it go, and its cycling will slow down. Fewer and fewerthought-formations will occur. Even if the mind doesn't stop completely, itwill form fewer and fewer thoughts. You'll be able to stop to watch, stop toknow more and more. And this way, you'll come to see the tricks and deceitsof thought-formation, mental labels, pleasure and pain, and so on. You'll beable to know that there's really nothing inside - that the reason you weredeluded into latching onto things was because of ignorance, and that you madeyourself suffer right there in that very ignorance....

So you have to focus down on one point, one thing. Focusing on manythings won't do. Keep mindfulness in place: stopping, knowing, seeing. Don'tlet it run out after thoughts and labels. But knowing in this way requiresthat you make the effort to stay focused - focused on seeing clearly, notjust on making the mind still. Focus on seeing clearly. Look on in for thesake of seeing clearly...and contemplate how to let go. The mind will becomeempty in line with its nature in a way that you'll know exclusively within.