THE NATURAL CURE FOR SPIRITUAL DISEASE:
A Guide into Buddhist Science
(translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu)
Copyright 1991 by Evolution/Liberation
Published by The Vuddhidhamma Fund
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First electronic edition: December 1996
Transcribed directly from disks provided by Santikaro Bhikkhu
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I. The Scientific Cure of Spiritual Disease
II. The Use of Dhamma
III. New Life of Peace
About the Author
Buddha-Dhamma is as vast as the universe and as concise as a moment’s flash of
insight. Many sentient beings have gotten lost between the two, unable to resolve
through direct personal experience the many teachings available today.
Fundamental perspectives are required for us to begin sorting out the
multiplicity of experiences and concepts. Here, we offer a clear, direct, and
practical guide into the essentials of Buddhism, that is, the Dhamma.
While many Buddhists take Dhamma to be “the Buddha’s teaching,” it really means
“Natural Truth” or “Natural Law.” Of course, this is what the Buddha taught and
demonstrated, but we must be careful to distinguish the teaching from the Truth
itself. Thus, to understand Buddhism one must begin with the Dhamma.
This guide examines the three inter-related aspects of Dhamma and pinpoints the
key elements in each. Although Dhamma is One, we interact with it in three basic
ways: study (pariyatti-dhamma), practice (patipatti-dhamma), and realization
(pativedha-dhamma). Dhamma study is finding the right perspective on our human
predicament & what we must do about it. Dhamma practice is developing & correctly
applying the basic tools needed for spiritual survival. Dhamma realization is the
benefits that occur naturally with correct practice. Each aspect can be
approached in many ways. Here, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu approaches each in a direct and
Ajahn Buddhadasa conceived of these talks as an introduction to the study,
practice, and realization of Buddha-Dhamma. He emphasizes that practice is the
key. Nonetheless, without sufficient and correct study, one cannot practice
properly. And without realization or the fruition of the rightful benefits of
practice, everything is wasted. In short, we cannot have one without the others.
We must have all three elements of this trio, and they must be fully integrated
This guide is translated from the first series of talks given by Ajahn Buddhadasa
to foreign meditators attending the monthly courses at Suan Mokkh. It is intended
for Western Dhamma friends, including those who are new to Buddhist understanding
and practice. We hope that the perspectives offered here will help new students
of Buddhism to get their bearings straight from the start. Those who have studied
and practiced Buddhism for some time, no matter what the school or approach,
should also find this guide helpful. We can never be too clear what Dhamma and
Dhamma practice is about. Many have gotten lost for lack of clarity and a good
Ajahn Buddhadasa is keen to foster “mutual good understanding among religions.”
This translation should contribute to that effort by clarifying what exactly
Buddhism is about. Many non-Buddhist visitors to Asia have trouble separating the
local culture from the Buddhist teachings about Dhamma. We hope that
non-Buddhists who read this may understand the true nature of our religion. Then,
“dialogues” will have honest and worthy foundations. It does nobody any good to
compare (or criticize) the best of one path with the misuses of another. We must
offer each other what is best from each of our paths and then understand and
appreciate each other. In this way, all religions may work together to combat our
common enemy — selfishness.
We hope that this little book will enable you to start your practice of Dhamma on
the right foot. Confusion about what practice really is, meditating for the wrong
reasons, inability to integrate meditation with daily life, and uncertainty about
where practice actually leads all wreak havoc on the spiritual lives of both
“beginners” and “old hands” alike. The Buddha stressed the need for “right
understanding” (samma-ditthi) which is not a particular dogma or acceptance of
some doctrine. Rather, it is an attitude of alert and joyful investigation of
life characterized by the four noble truths. These truths are not to be believed
or accepted; they are to be reflected upon and scrutinized until we have mined
them for all they are worth. May we all find in this life the inner knowing which
frees us from any doubt as to what is true and what is not, without having to
defend or proselytize that understanding.
May all beings be free.
These talks originally were transcribed and translated in 1986 for the one and
only edition of the “Suan Mokkh International Newsletter” (superseded by
Evolution/Liberation). There were only 350 copies of this mimeographed
publication, which went out of print quickly. The Dhamma Study & Practice Group
has since taken interest in them, and so they appear again, in a more attractive
and readable package. We have made some adjustments in the original translation,
and hope that it now reads more smoothly and clearly.
Most Dhamma talks in Thai, and especially those of Ajahn Buddhadasa, are full of
Pali terms (Pali is the canonical language of early Buddhism). These terms have
found their way, along with many Sanskrit words, into Thai and are familiar to
all practicing Buddhists. They are rich words, and precise, which express
concepts and perspectives which are not always apparent in English. They have the
further advantage of being fixed, for Pali is a “dead language,” like Church
We have tried not to overdo the use of Pali terms, here, although Ajahn
Buddhadasa asks students to become familiar with them. When possible, we have
used an English equivalent. But when there is no English word which captures the
full meaning of the Pali term, it is left in Pali and explained parenthetically
and in footnotes. Words requiring longer explanations can be found in the
glossary, which you may want to rummage through in order to acquaint yourself
with these important terms.
All footnotes are provided by the translator.
Finally, thanks to the friends who helped bring this books to print. Steve
Schmidt, Daniel Kalish, David Olsson, Sister Dhammadinna, Mae ChiNandini, the
Venerable Dusadee Metamkuro\, and the Dhamma Study & Practice Group.
May their efforts help more people to live with less dukkha and nurture greater
peace in this world.
I. SCIENTIFIC CURE OF SPIRITUAL DISEASE
YOUR STUDY OF DHAMMA
(3 February 1986)
To begin, I would like to express my joy that you have come here to study Dhamma
(Natural Truth) [editor’s note: there is a small glossary explaining Pali terms.
All notes are by the editor] Second, I would like to thank each of you for
helping to make Suan Mokkh a useful and worthwhile place.
Today, I would like to talk with you concerning the question: What benefits will
we receive from studying Dhamma? If you get any benefits from Buddhism, you will
become a Buddhist automatically, whether or not you go through a conversion
ceremony. To convert or not to convert is a meaningless issue. The relevant
issue, the important thing, is whether you will get anything useful from
So we will talk about the things that you will gain from Buddhism. Only after
realizing that Buddhism has benefitted you will you know what Buddhism is about.
Until you understand what it is that you have received, you can’t really know
anything about Buddhism. Let’s discuss, then, the things that you will obtain
from Buddhism. Thus, you will understand Buddhism and will become a Buddhist
I would like to say that you will get the best, the highest thing that a human
being ought to get. There is nothing more worth getting than this; it surpasses
everything. We might call this thing, simply, “New Life.” The best thing to do
here is to talk about the characteristics of New Life.
Now, for you to understand what is going to be said, I ask you to forget
everything. Please forget all the faiths, creeds, and beliefs which you have ever
held. Put them all aside for the time being. Even if you prefer to believe in
scientific principles more than any of the so-called religions, leave them
completely alone for now. Make the mind empty, free, and spotless, so that you
can hear something new. Actually, Buddhism shares many characteristics and
principles with science, but Buddhism is a science of the mind-heart rather than
a science of physical things [in Buddhist terminology, there is no real
distinction made between the heart and the mind. The intellect and the emotions
are not seen as being polar opposites. Rather, it is all citta, which can be
translated “mind,””heart,” or “mind-heart.” We use these three terms as
synonyms.] Buddhism is a spiritual science. For this reason, it may be something
new for you.
The first thing we would like you to realize is that Buddhism, or Dhamma, is a
medicine for curing disease. This is a strange and special medicine because it
can be taken by anyone, regardless of religion, nationality, ethnic background,
education, class, or language. Anyone may use this medicine, for Dhamma is like
those modern drugs that cure physical ailments. Such drugs can be taken by people
all over the world, no matter what their religion, race, sex, profession, or
language. Although we come from different cultures, we can use the very same kind
of medicine. Take aspirin, for example. No matter who and where we are, we can
take a few aspirin to get rid of a headache. Dhamma is the same. It is the
We like to say that Dhamma is a medicine for disease or roga. I would like for us
to use this Pali word “roga,” because it has a clear and useful meaning. Although
it’s usually translated as “disease,” roga literally means “that which pierces
and stabs,” thus causing pain. We don’t really know where the English word
“disease” comes from, so we prefer “roga.” ÊIts meaning is certain and
appropriate: stabbing, piercing, skewering. Dhamma is something that can cure
this stabbing and piercing of roga.
The roga with which we’re most concerned is spiritual. We can call it “spiritual
disease.” Physical disease pierces the body; spiritual disease stabs the mind or
spirit. Dhamma is the latter’s remedy. If we have no spiritual disease, to come
and study Dhamma is a complete waste of time. Hence, everyone must look closely
in order to know both kinds of roga: physical disease, roga of the body, and
spiritual disease, roga of the mind, heart, or spirit. Then, look within
yourselves — right now! — is there any spiritual disease in you? Are you free
from disease or merely enduring it?
We begin our study of Dhamma by getting to know our own roga. You must look and
search within yourself until seeing and discovering how spiritual disease
afflicts you. To do so, you must look inside! If you don’t, you won’t have a
proper beginning to your study of Dhamma. Unless we understand the roga from
which we suffer, we will only study Dhamma in a foolish, aimless way. Actually,
most of you already have some knowledge about your spiritual disease, but for
most that knowledge will be slight, scattered, or unclear.
Let’s talk about the disease a bit more in order to clarify it. All of the
problems which disturb the mind are problems which arise from ageing, illness,
and death. These are the first symptoms of the disease. Our minds are disturbed
and pestered by problems that result from the fact that we all must grow old,
fall sick, and die. These problems are the first thing to look at. Next, there
are three general, miscellaneous problems: we get separated from the things we
love, we experience things we dislike, and we have wishes which go unfulfilled.
These are general problems leading to spiritual disease. Before anything else,
each of you must know these problems or roga as you actually experience them
This is why there is the principle that Dhamma must be studied and learned
internally, rather than externally. We must learn from life itself. Learn from
all the things that you experience within this fathom-long body. Please be
certain to learn inside only, and don’t bother learning outside. The things that
we learn from external sources, such as books and talks, are never enough. Only
by looking within can we come to understand these spiritual diseases completely.
The external kind of study and learning, such as reading books, discussion, and
listening to talks as you are doing now, can do no more than explain the method
and means of inner study. This external study only learns how to go about the
inner study. Then, you must go and do that inner study in order to understand
I ask all of you to begin your studies from within by studying the problems that
you inwardly experience. Please take a look at the problems that arise from
ageing, sickness, and death. We are afraid of ageing, sickness and death; all
kinds of problems on many different levels arise from them. We must clearly
observe these things in the same way that a geologist examines a rock, as when we
take up something with our own hand, hold it up to the light, and carefully
examine it until we see it clearly in all its detail. In the same way, we must
see clearly the problems that arise from our own ageing, illness, and death.
Further, we must investigate the problems which develop out of them, such as
being separated from beloved things, meeting with unloved things, and desiring
things and then not getting them.
The result of all of the above problems is dukkha (pain), both physical and
mental. The symptoms and conditions of dukkha are many and varied. It comes in
many forms: sorrow, sadness, dissatisfaction, grief, lamentation, tears,
frustration, pain, misery, agony, and more. There are Pali terms for all of
these, but what we call them isn’t important. We needn’t know all of their names,
yet we ought to know how these things really feel when we experience them. To
begin with, you must know them inside yourselves. All of these are roga, the
symptoms of roga, and the results of the roga which we have caught.
Dhamma is the medicine for roga, spiritual disease; thus, the matter we’re
discussing here is a matter of the mind and spirit. The Buddha was one who came
to know this disease, found a cure for it, and used the cure in order to free
himself from disease. After doing so, the Buddha was then able to teach us about
the roga, its cure, and the way to administer the cure. Please understand the
Lord Buddha in this way. If you are afflicted by spiritual disease, you ought to
be interested in his Dhamma [here, Dhamma is both Natural Truth and the knowledge
of Natural Truth which enables us to end the disease, that is, dukkha.] However,
if any one of you is completely free of spiritual disease, you are wasting time
on Dhamma — you can go home. I repeat, anyone who has no spiritual disease is
invited to leave.
DEVELOPING THE CURE
Now, let’s talk about studying Dhamma, which is the medicine that cures spiritual
disease. There are many stages and levels to Dhamma. We begin by studying, as we
do with any ordinary subject [Here, study is not just an intellectual learning.
It involves thinking, investigation, training, experimentation, and direct
experience, with emphasis on the training and experience.] Maybe we have no real
understanding of Dhamma at the start. Although we have read many books and
listened to talks, we don’t really know Dhamma. We study in order to know, then
we have knowledge. Once we have some knowledge, it must be used. In short, for it
to be worthwhile, we must know Dhamma, until having Dhamma, and then use Dhamma.
Let’s go through these three things again. Even though we may have read about and
studied Dhamma a great deal, although we may have much knowledge of it, we may
not have the right kind of knowledge. This means we don’t really have Dhamma. If
it isn’t the correct knowledge, we won’t be able to use it. Thus, we need to
study until we have a sufficient amount of the right knowledge. Otherwise we
won’t be able to use it. Please investigate this fact thoroughly. Therefore, we
must have Dhamma, we must have correct and sufficient understanding of Dhamma.
But having the right knowledge isn’t enough, we must have a sufficiently large
amount of this correct knowledge and it must be very quick. If it isn’t quick, it
is never on time and in the place where it is needed. We must be agile and expert
in the use of Dhamma.
Simply having this knowledge somewhere in the back of our minds doesn’t cure the
spiritual disease. We must be expert in it; we need to be very skillful in its
proper use. We need to be deft, agile, and expert, so that we are able to
understand the spiritual disease that is already present, as well as any new
spiritual disease that may arise. If we have this understanding, it is a good
start in becoming able to use Dhamma to cure our disease. So study the disease
within yourselves. This is the kind of knowledge that you must develop.
JUST ONE TEACHING
You must know that the Buddha spoke of just one thing and nothing else: dukkha
(pain, dissatisfaction) and the quenching of dukkha. The Buddha taught only the
disease and the cure of the disease; he didn’t talk about anything else. When
people asked questions about other matters, the Buddha refused to waste his or
their time with such things. Nowadays, we spend our time studying all kinds of
other things. It’s a pity how our curiosity is aroused by matters such as: After
death, will I be born again? Where will I be reborn? How will it happen? Please
don’t waste your time on those things. Instead of reading lots of books, take
what time you have to focus on dukkha and the complete, utter quenching of
dukkha. This is the knowledge to store up, this is the studying to do. Don’t
bother studying anything else!
The Lord Buddha taught only dukkha and the total cessation of dukkha. He taught
that we must study these two things within our bodies. You can only do this while
the body is alive. Once the body dies, you don’t have to concern yourselves with
this problem any more.But now, while there’s life, constantly, continuously, and
inwardly study dukkha (spiritual disease) and the utter quenching of dukkha (the
cure of the spiritual disease).
Throughout this world there is little interest in this matter of dukkha and its
end. None of the world’s schools pay any attention to it. In the universities,
they don’t teach or study it. The only thing taught in our schools and
universities is cleverness, the storing up of many facts and the ability to
perform mental tricks with them. Students graduate with cleverness and some way
to make a living. This is what modern education means– being clever and earning
lots of money. Dukkha and the quenching of dukkha are totally ignored. We believe
that all education in today’s world is incomplete. It is imperfect because the
most important subjects are forgotten; a general base of knowledge and the
ability to earn a living are not enough. There is a third area of knowledge which
the schools and universities don’t teach: how to be a human being. Why do they
ignore what it takes to be a proper human being, that is, a human being free of
dukkha? Because a proper human being ought to have no spiritual disease, modern
education will be incomplete and insufficient as long as it fails to cure
WHAT ARE HUMAN BEINGS?
It is correct and proper that each of you has come here to undertake the third
kind of education: how to be a human being without any problems, how to be free
of dukkha. It is good that you have come here and are interested in this topic.
In short, use this opportunity to learn what it takes to be a human being.
If someone tells you that you’re not yet human, please don’t get angry and please
don’t feel sad. First, you must look and see what it means to be human. So let’s
take a look at “manusaya,” the Pali word for human being. This is a very good
word for it has a very useful meaning. Manusaya means “lofty-minded one,” a mind
high enough to be above all problems. Problems are like flood waters, but they
can’t flood the lofty mind. When one’s mind is elevated to a high level, then we
can say that one is a manusaya. The speaker isn’t sure where the English word
“human being” comes from. Our guess is that it must mean “high-minded,” also.
“Man” is probably related to mana (mind) and “hu” ought to mean “high.” So, human
ought to mean “high-minded.”
As things are, Dhamma is the knowledge which tells us exactly what it means to be
human. We’re interested in what it is to be fully human, rather than merely
masquerading in “human” bodies. To be truly human is to be above all problems.
Study and learn in order to be completely human. Study, practice, and work to
develop a mind, heart and spirit that is above all problems. By problems, we mean
dukkha, the thing which, if it arises, we cannot tolerate or endure. When it
occurs, we can’t stand it and struggle to get away from it. This causes
agitation, discomfort, unhappiness, and unhealthiness. Dukkha, our problem, means
“unbearableness, intolerableness. “We can’t stand it, we can’t put up with it.”
Once again, let me repeat that if you have no problems you can go home. You need
not waste your time studying Dhamma. However, if you happen to have some
problems, just one little problem, or perhaps many, then take a good look at
them. Stick around and learn how to look at problems.
I dare say that every one of you has a problem, and further, that you all have
the same problem. This one problem that bothers us all is the thing we discussed
above. It is the problem that arises out of ageing, illness, and death. In short,
we don’t get the things that we want. We can’t maintain this body forever. Life
is never exactly what we want it to be, we can’t have things our way all of the
time. This problem is shared by each and every one of us.
We are all in a situation where we must use a scientific method to solve our
problem. We must use a specifically scientific approach, because the methods of
philosophy and logic can’t solve the problem. [Ajahn Buddhadasa makes a clear
distinction between philosophy and science as he understands them. The former is
mere speculation devoid of practical application, while the latter can be
directly experienced and personally verified through practice.] There are myriad
philosophies concerning everything imaginable, but none of them can solve our
problem. Philosophies are very popular with people in today’s world, they are fun
and interesting, but they don’t work. This is why we must turn to a scientific
method which can and will solve the problem.
It is now time to recall something about which you’ve probably already heard: the
four noble truths (ariya-sacca). Please reflect upon this most important matter.
The four noble truths are Buddhism’s scientific principle of the mind. The four
noble truths allow us to study the specific problem exactly as it is, without
relying on any hypothesis. Most of you are familiar with the standard scientific
method in which a hypothesis is proposed, then tested through experimentation.
Such hypotheses are merely forms of guessing and estimation. With the ariya-sacca
such clumsiness isn’t necessary. Reality is experienced and examined directly,
rather than through the limitations of hypothesis, predictions, and
What, then, are the four noble truths that you must look into? They are:
2) the cause of dukkha;
3) the quenching of dukkha, through quenching its cause;
4) there is a way or path that quenches dukkha by ending its cause.
These are the ariya-sacca. They have the features of science, the reasoning of
science, and the methodology of science. In short, we apply these truths to real
things as they actually happen in life, without using any hypotheses.
Merely reading books won’t enable you to do this science. Books lead to more
hypotheses, ideas, and opinions. Even in a book about Buddhism, the four noble
truths become just more hypotheses. Such is not science, it is only philosophy,
which is always inviting us to play around with hypotheses. So we often get stuck
in endless circles of suppositions, propositions, and arguments. There is no true
Dhamma in that, there is no reality of actually quenched dukkha.
THE REAL THING
If we want to be scientific about it, practice with the real thing and forget the
hypotheses. Study the real thing itself: study dukkha as you experience it. Look
at the cause of dukkha by experiencing that cause. Observe through direct
personal experience the other side of the coin — the end of dukkha. Lastly,
investigate what you must do to end dukkha. This way is scientific. For as long
as you aren’t doing this, you’re doing philosophy. You’ll only have a
philosophical Buddhism. Don’t get stuck in theories. Look inside, study inside
yourselves, see these truths as they actually happen. Just playing around with
ideas about Buddhism, you will never find the real thing.
If you study Buddhism from books only, no matter what your sources, or how you
study, in the end you’ll always come away with the feeling that Buddhism is a
philosophy. This is because the authors of most books on Buddhism approach it as
a philosophy. They actually believe that Buddhism is a philosophy, which is
FORGET ABOUT PHILOSOPHY
This idea that Buddhism is a philosophy, put it aside, lock it up in a drawer, in
order to practice by studying directly in the mind, as they happen, dukkha, the
cause of dukkha, the end of dukkha, and the way that leads to the end of dukkha.
Study these until you experience the quenching of some dukkha. As soon as you
experience this, you’ll know that Buddhism is no philosophy.
You will know instantly that Buddhism is a science. It has the structure,
principles, and spirit of science, not of philosophy. At the same time, you’ll
see that it is a religion, one with its own particular character, that is, a
religion entirely compatible with modern science. Everything that is truly
understood by science is acceptable to Buddhism, the religion which is a science
of the mind and spirit. Please understand Buddhism in this way.
You may be one of the many who believe that a religion must have a God and that
without a God it isn’t a religion. Most people believe that a religion must have
at least one God, if not many. Such understanding is not correct. A wiser view is
that there are two kinds of religion: theistic and non-theistic. Theistic
religions postulate a God as the highest thing and belief in that God is
all-important. Consider Buddhism to be non-theistic, for it doesn’t postulate any
belief in a personal God. Buddhism, however, has an impersonal God, that is the
Truth (sacca) of Nature according to scientific principles. This Truth is the
highest thing in Buddhism, equivalent to the God or gods of theistic religions.
You should study the word “religion,” it doesn’t mean “to believe in God.” If you
look up this word in a good dictionary, you’ll see that it comes from the Latin
religare, which means “to observe and to bind with the Supreme Thing.” Ancient
grammarians once thought that religare came from the root lig, to observe. Thus,
religion was “a system of observance that led to the final goal of humanity.”
Later scholars considered that it came from the root leg, to bind. Then, religion
became “the thing that binds human beings to the Supreme Thing (God).” Finally,
both meanings were combined and religion was understood to be “the system of
observance (practice) that binds human beings to the Supreme Thing.” The Supreme
Thing needn’t be called “God.” If, however, you insist on calling it “God,” then
recognize that “God” must have two meanings: personal God and impersonal God.
THE BUDDHIST GOD
If you prefer to call it “God,” you should understand that Buddhism has the law
of nature as its God. The Law of Nature — for example, the law of idappaccayata,
which is the law of causality and conditionality — is the Buddhist God.
With this as condition, this is;
Because this arises, this arises.
Without this as condition, this is not;
Because this ceases, this ceases.
[Some translators render these lines “this … that …,” but the Pali original
explicitly repeats “this … this ….” We leave it to the reader to reflect
This is the Supreme Thing in Buddhism; this Law of Nature is the Buddhist God. In
Buddhism there isn’t a personal God; its God — the Law of Nature– is an
impersonal God. Because Buddhism, in fact, has a God, it is a religion.
Many Western writers and scholars of Buddhism say that it isn’t a religion, since
it has no God. They make a terrible blunder, because they don’t know anything
about the impersonal God. If they knew it, they would see that it is more real
and true than any personal God. Then, they wouldn’t write that Buddhism isn’t a
religion. They would write that Buddhism is another kind of religion. Religions
with personal gods are one kind of religion, but Buddhism is the other kind, the
kind that has an impersonal God.
Most religions believe in a Creator, usually an individualistic God with a
personality. The Buddhist Creator is impersonal. This impersonal God, the Law of
Dhamma or Nature, is the law of idappaccayata:
Because this is, so this is.
Because this is, thus this is.
Because this is, so this is.
This is the law of causality, the natural evolutionary process of this causing
this which in turn causes this and so on in endless concocting. Buddhism has a
Creator, but it is the impersonal God. If you are able to understand the
difference between these two kinds of Gods — impersonal law of causality and
personal Creator — it will be easy for you to realize what Buddhism is.
When things happen in this way, you’ll realize that this matter of dukkha and its
quenching happen according to the law of the impersonal God. Then, you’ll
understand Dhamma correctly and live in harmony with Dhamma. You’ll see it as
science rather than mere philosophy. The distinction between science and
philosophy will ensure that your study of Buddhism is correct and in line with
If you have this knowledge and use it, you have the medicine for curing spiritual
disease. By taking this medicine, the heart is emancipated; it is saved, that is,
freed from all dukkha. Every religion teaches emancipation, but only Buddhism
teaches freedom from all problems, from all of the problems discussed above.
Thus, there is no problem or dukkha to dominate us; this is called
“emancipation.” We have been cured of all the diseases discussed above.
I hope that you understand the general principles, the meaning, and the genuine
goal of Buddhism. If you do, you’ll steadily solve your problems, because your
understanding will be correct from the start.
If you understand what has been said, you will proceed smoothly in the study and
cure of spiritual disease. As time has run out, more details must wait until the
next talk. Before closing, I would like to express my joy at the right action of
all of you who have come to work on this problem of spiritual disease.
And, once again, I thank you for helping to make Suan Mokkh a useful place.
II. THE USE OF DHAMMA:
YOUR PRACTICE OF DHAMMA
(February 6, 1986)
I’d like to express my happiness at this second opportunity to speak with you.
Last time, we discussed what we will get from Dhamma, from Buddhism. This time,
we’ll discuss the successful use of Dhamma, that is, how to live with Dhamma.
When speaking about Dhamma, we mean the knowledge that we must practice in order
to cure spiritual disease. When speaking about this practice, there are four
important things (dhammas) to be understood. [The most basic meaning of the word
“dhamma” is thing. Here it has the sense of “quality” or “virtue”. You will find,
however, that it has many meanings, levels, and ramifications. See the Glossary,
for a start.] These four things are sati (mindfulness, reflective awareness),
sampajanna (wisdom-in-action, ready comprehension), samadhi (collectedness,
concentration), and panna (intuitive wisdom, insight). If you consider them
carefully, you will find that you have caused these four things to arise through
your practice of anapanasati (mindfulness with breathing). [The system of
meditation taught at Suan Mokkh. See “Mindfulness With Breathing”, by Buddhadasa
Bhikkhu (Dhamma Study & Practice Group, Bangkok:1988)] Now, we must discuss in
detail how to use these four dhammas. We’ll consider them one by one.
Sati (mindfulness, reflective awareness, recollection) is the quick awareness and
recall of the things which must be recalled. It must be as quick as an arrow. We
also can describe sati as a vehicle or transport mechanism of the fastest kind.
This most rapid transport doesn’t carry material things, it carries wisdom and
knowledge. Sati delivers panna (wisdom) in time to meet our needs. Through the
practice of mindfulness with breathing, sati is trained fully.
The second dhamma is sampajanna. Sampajanna is wisdom as it meets up with and
immediately confronts a problem, as it deals with and wipes out that problem —
this is wisdom-in-action. It is only that wisdom specifically related and applied
to a particular situation or event. Nonetheless, you may have come across a
variety of translations for “sampajanna,” which can be rather confusing. We
recommend that you remember it as “wisdom-in-action.” Even better, learn the Pali
word about which there is no doubt. The word “wisdom” encompasses many meanings
and understandings, we can’t even begin to estimate its content. However, the
word “sampajanna” is far more limited in its meaning. It is exactly that wisdom
directly needed for the problem that confronts us. Active wisdom isn’t general,
it is a matter of particulars.
The same holds for the word “Dhamma,” which has an incredible variety of
meanings, depending on how it is being used. When Dhamma is applied to solve a
specific problem, event, or situation, there is a specific Dhamma particular to
that situation. The meaning is limited to the occasion and its circumstances. In
this case of Dhamma solving problems, the most precise and proper term is
“dhamma-sacca” (Dhamma-Truth). Dhamma-sacca is the particular dhamma called for
by the immediate situation with which we must cope, be it the onset of spiritual
disease or exposure to the germs of spiritual disease. It is the use of just the
right thing in a specific incident or event.
We can compare Dhamma with the medicine chest in our house. In it we store a wide
variety of drugs, pills, capsules, ointments, powders, and syrups for possible
use. When we’re actually sick, we must choose from among the many the one drug
which will be effective in treating our ailment. We can’t take them all; we take
just what is needed to cure our illness here and now. The same is true for
Dhamma. Understand that there’s an incredible amount of what we call Dhamma and
panna, but that we only apply a little bit at a time. We apply just that portion
which can take care of the immediate situation. Know how to use the Dhamma, the
panna, which is exactly relevant to our situation and problem. The Dhamma or
wisdom which controls that situation and problem is what we call “sampajanna.”
The third dhamma of today’s session is samadhi. This literally means
“well-established mind, properly-maintained mind, correctly-founded mind.” The
Buddha gave the broadest possible meaning to samadhi when he defined it as “the
one-pointed mind (ekaggata-citta) that has nibbana as its object.”
[“Ekagatta-citta” should not be confused with “ekagatta.” Although both may be
rendered “one-pointedness,” they are used in different contexts. The latter term
refers to a factor of jhana. The former term refers to the “mind with a single
purpose or object.”]
We can say that samadhi has three characteristics: parisuddhi (purity), samahita
(firmness, steadiness, stability), and kammanaya (activeness, readiness,
workableness). Thus, when you want to know whether the mind is in a state of
samadhi or not, examine it for these three qualities. See whether or not it is
pure, stable, and active.
When we speak of the power or energy of samadhi, we mean the way the mind
focusses all of its energy on a single point. This is similar to the magnifying
glass’s ability to focus the sun’s rays onto a single point so that a flame
appears. Similarly, when the mind’s power is collected into one point, then it is
one-pointed. The mind that is samadhi produces a very powerful energy, which is
stronger than any other kind of power. We can describe this highly concentrated
mind in two ways. The first is indriya, which means “sovereign” or “chief.” The
second is bala, which means “power, force, strength.” Thus, we have
samadhi-indriya and samadhi-bala, the mind that has sovereignty and is more
powerful than any other thing.
Samadhi must work together with wisdom. Samadhi is like a knife’s weight and
panna is like its sharpness. For a knife to cut anything properly, it must have
two things: weight and sharpness. A knife that is heavy but dull, like a hammer,
can’t cut anything and only makes a mess. On the other hand, a very sharp knife
that lacks weight, like a razor blade, likewise can’t cut through whatever it
iswe must cut. A knife needs both properties; the mind is the same. To do what it
needs to do the mind requires both samadhi and panna. You might wonder what it is
that cuts, is it the knife’s weight or its sharpness? If you can understand this,
it will be easier for you to understand how Dhamma cuts through problems, that
is, mental defilements. In the moment of sampajanna’s activity, both samadhi, and
panna are working together to slice through the problem. They’re interconnected
and, in practice, can’t be separated.
There remains only the last dhamma to discuss: panna (wisdom, intuitive
knowledge, insight). The meaning of this word is broad and includes much.
Literally, it means “to know fully,” but not everything that there is to know,
only those things which should be known. Panna is the full and adequate knowing
of all things which should be known. Of all the things that we could know, panna
refers only to those things which we need to know, the knowledge which is able to
solve our problems. For example, it isn’t necessary to know about atomic nuclei
or outer space. We only need to know what quenches dukkha (spiritual disease)
directly in our mind.
That which we should know is solely a matter of the quenching of dukkha. This
statement agrees with the Buddha who said that he says nothing about other
matters, that he speaks only of dukkha and the end of dukkha. There is a
beautiful, meaningful quotation in the Pali which we’d like you to hear:
Pubbe caha bhikkhave etarahica dukkhanceva
pannapemi dukkhassa ca nirodha.
Bhikkhus! In times past, as well as now, I speak only
of dukkha and the utter extinction of dukkha.
The Buddha didn’t mention the future because it doesn’t exist. As for the past
and present, he taught only these two things.
Among the things we should know, we can talk of four important aspects of wisdom.
The first topic I’d like to point out is the three characteristics of existence
(ti-lakkhana): anicca (impermanence, change), dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and
anatta (non-self, selflessness). Detailed explanations of the three
characteristics can be found in many different books. Today we will only
Anicca means that all compounded things are constantly changing. Please note that
we’re speaking only of compounded things. The uncompounded thing doesn’t have the
characteristic of anicca. Impermanence only applies to things that are produced
through causes and conditions. As this term “compounded thing” is important, you
would do well to learn the original Pali term, “sankhara.” Sankhara means “to
form, to compound, to concoct, to condition,” that is, all the myriad things are
constantly conditioning new things. This is a characteristic or activity of all
phenomenal things, such as these trees around us. Different causes have come
together in them. New things arise, there is growth and development, leaves grow
and fall, there is ceaseless change. Sankhara is this continuous activity of
formation. Anything which is conditioned into existence is called “sankhara.”
That, in turn, conditions the arising of other things and those things are also
called “sankhara.” Thus, sankhara are both things conditioned and the things
which condition, both the causes and results of conditioning.
We can compare this endless compounding of sankhara with the bricks in a wall.
Each brick props up another brick and that brick props up another, which props up
other bricks, and so on through the successive layers of bricks. Each brick is
supported by some of the bricks, while it supports other bricks; it relates to
them both as supporter and supportee. Thus, sankhara has three meanings, both
verb and noun. The first meaning, the verb, is the activity of forming,
conditioning, compounding. The second meaning refers to the things conditioned by
that activity and the third refers to the causes and conditions of that activity.
The meaning of sankhara is as broad as this.
Observe the activity of conditioning; you will see it in everything. Without this
fact of things being continually formed and ceaselessly forming other things,
there would be no existence or life. There can be life or existence only through
this constant conditioning and reconditioning. But sometimes this conditioning is
very subtle and we don’t see it. It may even be hidden, as in a rock. There is
perpetual conditioning happening within each rock, but when you look, your eyes
may not detect it. Nevertheless, see the process of ceaseless conditioning in all
things which exist.
The best approach is to see the conditioning within ourselves. It’s all happening
within our bodies. We can see the conditioning here, we can see the things as
they are conditioned here, and we can see the things which make the conditioning.
By looking within, we can see all this sankhara. There’s the conditioning of the
body-aggregate (rupa-khandha); the conditioning of the feeling-aggregate
(vedana-khandha); the conditioning of sanna-khandha (the aggregate of
perceptions, recognitions, and classifications); the conditioning of the
thinking-aggregate (sankhara-khandha); and, lastly, the conditioning of the
consciousness-aggregate (vinnana-khandha). These five important groups, or
aggregates, of existence and their constant conditioning can all be seen within
our living bodies.
Examine the transmission or contact points: now the eyes work, now the ears work,
now the nose works, now the tongue works, now the skin works, now the mind works.
One-by-one they perform their duties and do their work. When one functions, in
that moment there is sankhara. This is when, where, and how the conditioning can
be observed. In the body alone, there is ceaseless conditioning and constant
change. The cells die and new ones form such that before long they’ve all been
replaced. Even these physical aspects of existence fully exhibit sankhara. For in
this body there are the six internal sense organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue,
body, and mind. They meet up with their external objects: forms, sounds, smells,
tastes, touches, and mental objects. When the sense organ interacts with the
corresponding sense object — for example the eyes see a form or the ears hear a
sound — there is immediate conditioning. A form is seen, a sound is heard, an
odor is smelled. We call this “phassa” (contact). It’s the starting point for
conditioning; a series of further sankhara arises from it. The meeting of sense
organ and sense object (eyes and form, ears and sound, … mind and mental
object) conditions phassa. Phassa conditions vedana (feeling: the pleased and
displeased mental reactions toward the sense experiences). Vedana helps to
condition sanna, because perceptions and recognitions arise through the influence
of feelings. What is felt, that is recognized and classified. Sanna then
conditions various thoughts and thinking, including emotions (sankhara-khandha).
This leads to doing this and doing that. Then, there are the results of the
actions, which lead to further thinking, which lead to further action, and so it
goes. This is one example of what we mean by “conditioning.” We see that this
sort of conditioning goes on constantly, even in our own bodies. It never stops,
never takes a rest, never pauses. It continues whether we’re asleep or awake.
This perpetual flux, this ceaseless flow, is the characteristic of anicca.
When we clearly see the characteristic of anicca, it is easy to understand the
second characteristic, dukkha — unsatisfactoriness, unbearableness, ugliness,
worthlessness. If we want things to go our way according to our thoughts, we’ll
experience dukkha. When things change from what we like or want, we feel dukkha.
In fact, they never really are what we want, because they never stop changing
long enough to really be something. Thus, we have the problem that
unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) is endless. It’s so difficult to with all of this
conditioning, amid all these shifting things. This is the characteristic of
Looking closely we see that we ourselves are impermanent, painful, and
unsatisfying. The things that we love, that satisfy us, are anicca and dukkha.
The things that we dislike are anicca and dukkha. There is nothing among all this
sankhara which is nicca (permanent) and adukkha (satisfying, endurable). We must
see anicca and dukkha within ourselves in this way.
When we see impermanence completely, when we see unsatisfactoriness fully–
clearly and obviously — then we automatically see that all those things are
anatta (not-self). They aren’t permanent selves that we can call “me.” Amid all
the change and conditioning, there is no individual entity or eternal substance
that can be called a “self.” Everything is anatta or not-self. Things exist; we
are not saying they don’t. What is, is; but everything that is, is not-self. We
shouldn’t misunderstand and think that we have a self (atta). There is only the
flow of change. All this is the understanding or panna regarding anicca, dukkha,
The second topic is the understanding or panna regarding sunnata (voidness). When
we see the three characteristics of anicca, dukkha, and anatta, when we realize
that all things are not-self, then we understand that everything is not-self, is
void of anything that has the meaning of the word “self,” and is free of anything
that ought to be called “self.” This is the meaning of sunnata. This single
characteristic of voidness gathers together and caps the previous three
The meaning of “sunnata” is better, broader, easier, and more useful than any
other word to take as a principle of practice and life, but only if we understand
it on the Dhamma level, in the language of sati-panna (mindfulness and wisdom).
It should not be misunderstood through materialistic interpretations, such as
“nothing exists” or that “all is a vacuum.” The Buddha pointed out that such
nihilist views are one extreme of wrong understanding. Sunnata isn’t nihilism or
a nothingness. Everything exists, but is void and free of anything that could be
called a “self.” Thus, we say that everything is void, which is the meaning of
“voidness” in the language of Dhamma. If we see voidness, it includes seeing
anicca, dukkha, and anatta also. We don’t need too many things, the three can be
untidy. Just one — voidness — is enough to prevent against the mental
defilements. [Kilesa: disruptions and contaminations of the mind’s natural
peacefulness and radiance. They are discussed in Chapter III.]
When we see voidness in the things that we love, we don’t love. When we see
voidness in the things we hate, we don’t hate. Then there’s no love and no hate,
no liking and no disliking, no happiness (sukha) and no dukkha. There is just
centeredness, living quietly and freely in the middle. Such is the fruit of truly
seeing the voidness of things. If we don’t see the voidness of all things, we
will love some things and hate others. While love and hatred remain, the mind is
enslaved by attachment to the things loved and hated. With full penetration of
sunnata, the mind is free and no longer a slave to those things. True freedom is
Sunnata is a synonym of nibbana. Nibbana is voidness. When the mind realizes
voidness, there are no defilements. When there are no defilements, there is no
heat. When there is no heat, there is nibbana, which means “coolness.” Thus, when
there is sunnata, there is coolness, nibbana. The Lord Buddha said, “You should
always view the world as something void of atta (self) and attaniya (belonging to
self).” This is the second aspect of panna. [For more on sunnata, see Ajahn
Buddhadasa’s Heartwood From The Bodhi Tree, published by Wisdom Publications,
THE LAW OF NATURE
The third topic I’d like to mention is conditionality (idappaccayata), which
because this is, this is;
because this arises, this arises;
because this is not, this is not;
because this quenches, this quenches.
These conditions are called “idappaccayata,” the law that things happen according
to causes and conditions. We can also call it dependent origination
(paticca-samuppada) because idappaccayata and paticca-samuppada are the same
thing, the same principle of wisdom to be studied, seen, and understood. You will
see that everything in the world is constantly flowing, that all the world is in
continual flux. It is a profound and complex matter. Many books treat it in great
detail, particularly when it’s described in terms of dependent origination. As we
don’t have much time today, you may need to consult some of those books. [See
Ajahn Buddhadasa’s Practical Dependent Origination (Dhamma Study & Practice
Group, Bangkok: 1992). Other talks on paticca-samuppada will be published in the
next year or two.]
Now, we come to the fourth and last topic: tathata (suchness, thusness). “Merely
thus,” “just such”: everything is such as it is and in no way different from that
thusness. This is called “tathata.” When tathata is seen, the three
characteristics of anicca, dukkha, and anatta are seen, sunnata is seen, and
idappaccayata is seen. Tathata is the summary of them all — merely thus, only
thus, not-otherness. There is nothing better than this, more than this, other
than this, thusness. To intuitively realize tathata is to see the truth of all
things, to see the reality of the things which have deceived us. The things which
delude us are all the things which cause discrimination and duality to arise in
us: good-evil, happiness-sadness, win-lose, love-hate, etc. There are many pairs
of opposites in this world. By not seeing tathata, we allow these things to trick
us into believing in duality: this-that, liking-disliking, hot-cold, male-female,
defiled, enlightened. This delusion causes all our problems. Trapped in these
oppositions, we can’t see the truth of things. We fall into liking and disliking,
which in turn leads to the defilements, because we don’t see tathata.
What we must see constantly and deeply is that good is a sankhara and that evil
is a sankhara too. The pleasant and unpleasant feelings, sukha and dukkha, are
both sankhara. Getting and disappearing, losing and winning all are sankhara.
There isn’t anything which isn’t a sankhara. Thus, all things are the same —
tathata. All things are just suchness, just this way, not otherwise. Further, we
can say that heaven is a sankhara and hell is a sankhara. So, heaven and hell are
tathata — just thus. Our minds should be above heaven and above hell, above good
and above bad, above joy and above dukkha in all respects. Tathata is the fourth
area of understanding or panna, the wisdom that must be developed to a sufficient
degree. We must study reality on both the physical-material level and on the
mental-spiritual level, until our knowledge and wisdom is adequate, natural, and
Now, we know these four dhammas: sati, sampajanna, samadhi, and panna. Next, we
must know how to apply them so that they will be correct, successful, and
beneficial. The question, now, is how to use Dhamma, or Buddhism, in our everyday
How are we going to use them in our daily reality? A quick answer is that we must
live through these four dhammas. We must use these four dhammas correctly to face
all the situations and problems that arise each day. Whenever there arises a
situation which can lead to problems or dukkha — such as the eyes seeing a form,
the ears hearing a sound, or the mind thinking a thought — we must have sati.
Sati realizes that something is happening and recalls the panna relevant to that
event. Sati immediately transports the necessary wisdom to that situation in time
to deal with any possible problems. Mindfulness comes first.
That wisdom applied to the experience is sampajanna. Delivered on time by sati,
wisdom-in-action deals with the immediate situation. Then, in the very moment
when sampajanna goes to work, the power and strength of samadhi gives force and
energy to wisdom so that it can cut through the problem. To the degree that there
is samadhi, to that degree wisdom-in-action will be able to solve the problem.
Panna acts as the warehouse of accumulated knowledge and insight which sati draws
upon to deal with the sense experiences.
When these four dhammas work together in this way, we’ll see that we are most
intelligent in that moment. We are so clever because we’re able to encounter the
situation right then and there without any problems arising. We don’t become
enslaved to the meanings of any of the pairs of opposites. This is the free life,
which is peaceful and cool. It’s the best thing human beings ought to get.
To summarize, we must have sufficient panna, must use sati at all times, must
apply sampajanna correctly and sufficiently, and must apply samadhi properly and
in adequate strength. Together these four dhammas are sufficiently and correctly
used in every situation that may arise with us. This is the answer to the
question: how do we use the Dhamma successfully?
I hope that each of you will try to use these four dhammas in your lives. Nothing
else will justify the time, effort, and expense which you have spent in coming
here. I hope that you don’t leave here in debt, but that you make a profit out of
III. NEW LIFE:
YOUR FRUITS OF DHAMMA PRACTICE
(February 11, 1986)
I would like to express my joy in having a third opportunity to speak with you.
In the first talk, we spoke about the way to study Dhamma. In the second talk, we
spoke of how to practice Dhamma. Today, we will speak about the fruits and
benefits of practicing Dhamma.
When we speak of the benefits of practicing Dhamma, we can divide them into two
categories: first, a happy life free of problems, and second, the ability to use
that life in the most successful and productive way according to our needs. Put
another way, the two kinds of benefits are happiness and the appropriate use of
that happiness for our needs. Together they can be called “New Life.” We will get
New Life from practicing Dhamma.
We will begin with the first benefit, the happy life free of problems. You must
recollect, observe, and see the fact that this on-going process of life follows
our instincts and proceeds under the power of these instincts, which we are
unable to control. Because they are out of control, the instincts lead to things
called “defilements” (kilesa). [Kilesa is usually translated “defilement.” We use
it both in a general sense, covering all the aspects and levels of things which
dirty, pollute, or tarnish the mind, and in a specific sense, limited to the most
noticeable aspect of defilement, the selfish thoughts and emotions such as lust,
anger, fear, worry, laziness, and envy.] Before going further, we ought to
examine the defilements until they’re understood clearly, for they are bound up
with all spiritual disease.
When defilements arise, this life — in the language of Dhamma — is sorrowful,
that is, dukkha. We have experienced over and over again the kind of dukkha that
we’re discussing. We’ve become so familiar with it that most of us consider it
normal, we don’t even think it’s a problem! Let’s learn to distinguish the
difference between two kinds of life: life when the defilements are in control
and possession, and life when the defilements aren’t running the show. We must
understand both kinds of life. If you are unable to see andunderstand the
defilements, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for you to practice
and benefit from Dhamma. You won’t know how to compare the life of defilement
with a life free of defilement and see how different the two are. This is why I
request that you try to understand the defilements as they arise in your own
lives, even if they annoy you in the process. Study them and get to know them as
they arise within you. The more deeply and completely you know them, as your
insight into them grows, to that degree and no other, you will understand Dhamma
and be able to benefit by Dhamma.
The first nivarana, sensuousness, is of the greed type and the second, aversion,
is of the anger type. The remaining three are of the delusion type. The third
nivarana is thana-middha, when the mind lacks energy and is weak, tired, groggy,
numb, drowsy, or stupefied. When the mind is low in energy it lacks clarity,
freshness, brightness, and alertness. There are many symptoms of the dull,
shrunken, lazy mind which all can be summarized as the lack of mental energy.
This includes the dullness and sleepiness that follows from overeating. Hindered
by thana-middha (sloth and torpor), it is difficult to think, reflect, listen,
meditate, or do anything.
The fourth nivarana is the opposite of the third. This hindrance,
uddhacca-kukkucca, is the agitation and distraction when the mind goes beyond its
limits and is out-of-control. We can see it as a kind of nervous disorder. In
your attempts to meditate, I’m sure that you have all come across this
out-of-control mental activity. An example of restlessness and agitation is the
inability to sleep at night because the mind won’t slow down, won’t rest and
relax, but scatters itself in all directions thinking this, thinking that,
thinking anything, thinking everything. Such unnecessary agitation doesn’t allow
the mind to get the rest and peace it needs. When the mind keeps running all over
the world, keeps getting involved in everything, it is impossible to perform even
a simple task like writing a letter.
Now, we’ve come to the last nivarana, vicikiccha, wavering and uncertainty.
Vicikiccha is uncertainty and doubt concerning the correctness and safety of
things. It is being unsure about what is truly correct and safe. We lack
confidence and trust in what is happening and what we’re doing. Those who follow
a religion that takes faith as the basic principle, faith in God or whatever,
seldom have a problem with this hindrance. Those of us who follow a religion
based in self-confidence, however, encounter doubt much more easily.
This uncertainty, non-belief, trustlessness, and doubt is about what one is, what
one has, and what one is doing. For example, we may have doubts about our health,
our economic situation, or even our personal safety. We may have doubts about the
things we’re involved with: “Is it right and proper? Is it safe? Can I depend on
it?” This doubt may often have to do with everyday concerns, but it can arise
toward Dhamma, or Natural Truth, as well. “Is it really true? Is it of any use?”
You might even doubt that there is such a thing as Truth, have doubts about the
way to realize Truth, or lack confidence in your potential for awakening. If
uncertainty about everyday things hinders us from using them correctly, how much
more so when the doubt is about Dhamma. If we think, “What if it’s just words?
How can I know it’s true? This isn’t taught at university,” then we won’t be able
to take advantage of and benefit by the Dhamma.
For Christians, vicikiccha may be regarding God, the Bible, or Jesus Christ. For
Buddhists, doubt may concern the Buddha, the scriptures, the Dhamma, or practice.
When one has even the slightest doubt that everything is correct and that life is
safe, then one is under the influence of this nivarana. Take a good, deep look
inside and see that vicikiccha might exist in our subconscious all the time.
Together these five things are called the “nivarana.” How is the mind when it is
free of the nivarana? If the mind is free of all five hindrances, how is our
mental life? Study this mind and know what it is like. Can we call such a life
Here, freedom from the nivarana is called “New Life.” Further, New Life ought to
be free of the kilesa as well. Half-formed defilements are called “nivarana.”
Fully developed defilements are called “kilesa.” To be New Life, it must be free
from the kilesa, too. We must now consider the kilesa in some detail. They can be
known easily by the symptoms of the influence they have on the mind. These can be
experienced easily and known clearly. It isn’t necessary, however, to know all
the tiny details of the defilements. We just need to know the main symptoms. With
electricity, we may not see the electricity itself and we may not understand it,
but we can see its power, its influence, and its symptoms through various
electrical appliances and equipment. Similarly, we may never see the defilements
themselves, but we can learn all we need to know from their symptoms, from the
influence they have on the mind. Their symptoms are many and varied, but we don’t
have to discuss them all. We will talk about the most important ones, the ones
that cause the most trouble in our lives.
The first of these troublesome symptoms is love. When love arises in the mind, is
anything lost? Is there something the mind must suffer and endure? Does it pick
up any burdens or loads? What effects does this thing love have on the mind? I’m
sure that each of us can understand this phenomenon, as all of us have had some
experience with this thing called “love.” Previously, we mentioned the meaning of
roga, a synonym for kilesa, as “something that pierces and stabs.” Does love
pierce? Does love stab? To know, we need not look anywhere but within our own
experience. So look and see for yourself. Other meanings of defilements are
“things that burn”; “things that bind, fetter, and chain”; and “things that
dominate and imprison.” Do any of these meanings fit with the thing we call
“love”? You ought to see whether it is a problem or not. Although many people
consider love to be bliss, from the Dhamma point of view it is utter lack of
calmness, that is, supreme disturbance. Examine it closely and realize for
yourself whether or not love causes problems. Don’t take our word for it, but
don’t believe all of the romantic propaganda of TV, novels, and pop music,
Ordinarily, the thing we call “love” is conditioned out of ignorance (avijja,
not-knowing), the ultimate defilement. Although there may, only in certain
situations, arise a kind of love that comes from wisdom or is governed by it, as
soon as it is the mind of “love,” it becomes a problem. It is no longer peaceful
or joyful. Just by labeling it “love,” it changes from wisdom to ignorance. The
terrible dilemma of love developed from the instinct to preserve the species and
reproduce. Take a good look at its effects. Can you see all the problems it
causes and the torments through which it drags us? Is it a burden? Is it an
obstacle to peace, purity, and joy? At the same time, consider how well off we
would be if free of this problem. Even non-sexual love, such as the love of our
children, parents, and friends, causes us problems by destroying tranquility and
happiness. Non-sexual love must be controlled just as much as sexual love.
Otherwise, there is no peace. If we said, “Do everything as a lover would do, but
do it without love,” would you believe that it is possible? Could you act in such
a way without any defilement?
There are kinds of love which are Dhamma, such as metta (friendliness, kindness)
and karuna (compassion), but they must be correct if problems are to be avoided.
Metta and karuna can be defiled by distinctions, discriminations, and attachment,
then they are dukkha. Not being able to love and not being able to love what we
want to love are problems, are dukkha. All these are wrong. Even the love that
isn’t directly defiled, love that has nothing to do with sex or sensuality, may
be defiled indirectly when contaminated by ego and selfishness. Even the higher
forms of love, such as metta and karuna, must be correct.
In short, love is a problem, it isn’t peacefulness and joy. It must be
controlled, or, if possible, abandoned. Then, the mind will not be disordered. We
must transform defiled-love into Dhamma-love. A life that can master love, that
is above its influence, should we call that “New Life”? I’m sure that each of you
can find the answer.
ANGER & HATRED
Now, we’ll talk about love’s opposite: anger or ill-will. When it arises, what is
it like? It’s another kind of fire that burns the mind. It stabs, imprisons,
dominates, and fetters the mind. We all know anger very well, we know the many
problems it causes. We don’t want to get angry, yet we do. We don’t want to be
angry, yet we remain so. You know how disturbing anger is. If we can control it,
how peaceful will that be? Ponder this, please.
The third defilement is hatred, which is different from anger, although both are
forms of dislike or not-liking. When something ugly, dirty, or repulsive appears,
we hate it. We can’t control ourselves, we just hate unattractive, hateful
things. That’s how it is, because we can’t endure the cause of the hatred. Thus,
hatred burns, possesses, and torments our mind. Now, think what it would be like
if there was nothing to hate and nothing to love. No love and no hate — what
blissful peace that would be! Just like the Arahant (the perfected human being).
The Arahant is above the feelings of both hate and non-hate. The liberated mind
has no problems with “hateful” or”ugly” things, because there is nothing hateful
and nothing not-hateful for that mind which totally fulfills Dhamma by fully
realizing Dhamma. Don’t misunderstand that it is dangerous to be free of hate,
that we need hatred to protect ourselves from danger. Hatred itself is the
danger! It’s best not to hate, but we never seem to learn. Thus, pitiful
instances of hate continue in our world. White-skinned people hate black-skinned
people. What’s the excuse for such a problem? We shouldn’t have problems like
that. If we understand correctly, there will be no need to hate and we won’t
FEAR OF LIFE
The fourth defilement is fear. Everyone is having this problem, we’re all afraid
of something. Fear comes from stupidity, from selfishness, from the craving of a
self that desires things it can’t have. So we fear! Nowadays, we have every
possible kind of fear in this world of ours, especially the fear of nuclear war
and annihilation. When we’re afraid we become helpless. When there is fear, we
lose our mindfulness and wisdom (sati-panna), and our ability to struggle with
problems and protect ourselves. To be unafraid is much better.
Fear comes from the instinct of egoism, fear is an instinctual necessity. If
there is insufficient knowledge and wisdom, this instinct is impossible to
control. Through the study and practice of Dhamma, necessary and sufficient
wisdom is developed so that this instinct can be controlled and fear does not
arise. Understanding and insight into anatta (not-self) allows us to be free of
fear, helps us to uproot fear, and protects us from its future arising. All of
you surely can see that fear has no use at all, that it always leads to dukkha.
We ought to be able to do anything in the face of fearful and frightening things.
Then, we will be in a much better position to deal with those things and succeed
in the business of living. If we must fight with an enemy, but cannot do it
without fear, we are in no position to fight effectively. Our abilities will be
weakened, our wisdom will be diminished, and our mindfulness will be slow. We
will be defeated by whatever foe it is. Unafraid, we are able to use our wisdom,
mindfulness, and skills in the degree needed to defeat that enemy. Face all
frightening things fearlessly. A fearless life is of great use.
There are many other forms of kilesa. Another is worry and anxiety about the
things we love. In Thai and Pali this is called “alaya-avarana,” the anxious
worrying and thinking about, longing after, dwelling upon, and missing of things
we love. This is that spinning around of the mind when it can’t stop thinking of
beloved things. If the mind can’t stop, this keeps it awake at night and causes
headaches during the day.
Another kilesa is envy. This happens instinctually on its own. It happens in
children without their being taught. Envy is a huge problem for the one who feels
it, but it isn’t any problem for its object. The first feels dukkha, the latter
Finally, we come to possessiveness and miserliness. If it gets too strong, it
becomes jealousy, especially the sexual kind. This is yet another form of
selfishness. It often takes place in marriages. The husband doesn’t want his wife
to talk with other men; the wife jealously worries that another woman will steal
her husband away. We are all familiar with that pain and suffering.
These are six examples of defilements. There are many more which we could bring
up, but we are limited by time. Nonetheless, these few examples are enough to
illustrate our point: if we are free of every symptom and condition of
defilement, how healthy, well, at ease, happy, and peaceful will we be? It’s up
to you to discover what this is like, yet even now you ought to be able to
imagine its value. The mind that is totally free from all symptoms of these
defilements is a totally new way of living. This peace and freedom, this coolness
and bliss, is one meaning of New Life.
USING NEW LIFE
Now, for the time that remains, we’ll discuss a second meaning of New Life. We
must be able to skillfully use this new way of existing — that comes with
freedom from defilements — to meet our needs. The first aspect of applying the
New Life is making the mind happy at any time. For example, through successfully
practicing mindfulness with breathing (anapanasati) it is possible to have
genuine happiness at any time, in any place. Because of the proper development of
mindfulness with breathing, we have influence and control over the mind. We have
instant happiness as we need it.
The second aspect of using the New Life is that fully practiced Dhamma can help
the sense organs — eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind — to perform most
efficiently, as if they were “divine.” [Divine Eye and Divine Ear are believed to
be results of highly perfected mental concentration (samadhi). They’re commonly
viewed to be magical, and the foolish may meditate solely to gain these powers.]
By this we mean only that they have more ability and effectiveness than is
ordinary. The eyes are more effective than ordinary, the ears are more efficient
than ordinary, the nose and so on are more capable than ordinary, as if they were
“divine.” Divine (dibba) simply means “beyond ordinary.”
Third, is the ability to control experience, that is, the mind, so that it is
always in a state of correctness. This type of mastery has three aspects: control
of the vedana (feelings) [feeling (vedana), here, does not mean emotions],
control of sanna (perceptions, recognitions, classifications), and control of
vitakka (thinking). Controlling the vedana means preventing them from
conditioning defilements, or not experiencing any unwanted feelings. Sanna —
recognizing, evaluating, classifying things as this or that — can be controlled
so that it doesn’t lead to dukkha. Controlling vitakka (thought conception) is to
control the thinking so that either it is correct or there is no thinking at all.
Feelings, perceptions, and thinking can be controlled because there is Dhamma.
Eating delicious food provides an example of the first kind of mastery. If the
food is very delicious we become stupid or crazy over it through our delusion
about deliciousness. When there is enough Dhamma, we can control the feelings
that arise toward that delicious food. Then, we aren’t deluded by the
deliciousness, we don’t eat more than we should, and we don’t make any problems
out of it. We see it all as “just thus, merely thus,” rather than with
foolishness and delusion. The delicious food doesn’t defeat us, it doesn’t
control us, it isn’t our boss, it doesn’t make us do anything stupid. We don’t
force it to be not delicious. If it’s delicious, it stays delicious, but the
deliciousness can’t control us. We control the deliciousness so that it doesn’t
control us and force us to do something wrong or foolish.
We can see most easily that people throughout the world today are slaves to
deliciousness. Much time is spent making delicious things which serve no other
purpose than to excite desire and craving. Then, we compete for those things.
Finally, we divide up the world in attempts to control those things and fight
endless wars, only because we have lost control of and are slaves to
deliciousness. The words “Satan” (the Christian Devil) and “Mara” (the Buddhist
Tempter) represent our stupidity regarding deliciousness. We need to know that
the feelings (vedana) can be controlled.
Now, let’s talk about the control of sanna (recognition, classification).
Previously, we couldn’t remember things well or recall them correctly. From now
on, we’ll have an excellent memory and clear recollection. Through the mastery of
sanna the mind won’t fall into false distinctions and misperceptions, that is,
the ones which punish us with dukkha. For example, sanna can be controlled so
that we don’t identify and regard things as being male and being female. Thereby,
we’re free of the problems that arise from masculinity and femininity. The mind
remains cool and calm. Mastery of sanna means controlling it so that it is always
correct. Correct means that it causes no dukkha.
Controlling vitakka is to control thought. Whenever there is sanna of something,
it invites thinking along the meaning of that sanna. So we think. If it isn’t
controlled, the thinking goes wrong and dukkha is born. So we control thought
only along ways which are correct and beneficial: thinking along the lines of
leaving behind sensuality, of not harming or injuring others, and of not
troubling anyone even unintentionally. If we want more than that, we can stop
thinking altogether. For example, if we will enter samadhi (one-pointed
concentration) or samapatti (attainment of deep levels of concentration), we can
stop the thinking totally, in all respects. We are able to control vitakka: we
can think or we can not think. Or we can think only in the ways we ought to
think. Nothing wrong happens and there is no dukkha. This is what is meant by
REMOVING THE WOMB OF DEFILEMENT
A fourth, and final, aspect of this mental mastery is the direct control of the
defilements themselves, which is to control dukkha and prevent its arising. When
there is enough Dhamma, and when Dhamma is practiced sufficiently, attachment
(upadana) can be controlled. This control prevents attachment to “good” and
attachment to “evil.” With no attachment, there is no dukkha. We won’t let
upadana arise, then the concept of “I” (egoism), which is the womb of
defilements, isn’t born. Without the concept of “I,” there will be no
defilements. Once the defilements can be controlled, they are finished. This is
the last good result, a fourth kind of mastery, the control of attachment, which
automatically controls dukkha.
In these ways, life is mastered and used wisely, so that wereap all the
appropriate benefits. Such is the New Life of peace, coolness, and bliss. For
example, we have the ability to be happy whenever we need to be. We have such
splendid sense organs — eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind-sense — that
they can be called “divine.” Then, we can control the feelings, perceptions, and
thinking. Finally, we control attachment so that it never again arises. Thereby,
all problems vanish! There isn’t even the slightest, most remote chance that the
defilements will arise or that there could be dukkha. With these capabilities,
life is maintained in the most skillful way and we accomplish whatever must be
done. If you look honestly, you’ll know within yourself that this is the New Life
in its complete meaning: the highest, the supremely new life. This is what you’ll
receive from the correct and successful application of Dhamma.
The first thing is you study Dhamma, the second is you practice Dhamma, and the
third is you receive the fruits of practicing Dhamma. Look at these clearly and
carefully consider their benefits. Each of you must be fully self-reliant in
doing so. It’s up to each of you to realize the meaning, way, and benefits of
Finally, I’d like to express my joy that you have begun to study, practice, and
receive the Dhamma. And one last time: thank you. Thank you all for coming to
this place, for making use of it, and helping to make it beneficial. You don’t
have to thank us for anything, but please allow us to thank you.
January 25, 1992
The talks which comprise this book were the first of many series Ajahn Buddhadasa
has given during the monthly meditation courses at Suan Mokkh. Subsequently, all
the points in these three talks have been expanded upon in greater detail. To the
degree allowed by causes and conditions, we will publish as many of these series
of talks as possible.
For more on the subject of Spiritual Disease, see “Heartwood Of the Bodhi Tree”,
(Wisdom Publications, Boston, USA).
For more about Mindfulness with Breathing (anapanasati), the system of meditation
taught at Suan Mokkh, see “Mindfulness With Breathing: Unveiling the Secrets of
Life” (Dhamma Study & Practice Group, Bangkok).
Other books by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu which are available in English:
Handbook For Mankind
Keys To Natural Truth
Practical Dependent Origination
The Prison of Life
Why Were You Born?
The Buddha’s Doctrine of Anatta
The First Ten Years of Suan Mokkh
An English language journal named Evolution/Liberation is published once a year
at Suan Mokkh. It contains some news and an eclectic mix of translations from
Ajahn Buddhadasa’s writings, talks, poems, and conversations. To get on the
mailing list, write to:
c/o Suan Mokkh
Surat Thani 84110
A Suan Mokkh website has recently been established. Please see:
ANATTA, not-self, the fact that all things, without exception and including
nibbana, are not-self and lack any essence or substance that could properly be
regarded as a “self.” This fact does not deny the existence of things, but denies
that they can be owned or controlled, that they can be the owner or controller,
in any but a relative, conventional sense.
ANICCA, impermanent (or aniccata, impermanence), flux, instability. Conditioned
things are ever-changing, constantly arising, manifesting, and ceasing. This is
the first fundamental characteristic of conditioned things.
ANUSAYA, tendencies: familiarity with defilement. When a defilement occurs, it
makes the later occurrence of a similar defilement more likely. The more these
tendencies build up, the more we react to experiences in defiled ways. Sometimes
the pressure is strong enough for something to escape even without some external
cause (excuse), that something is called a “nivarana.”
ARAHANT, Worthy One, one far from defilement, one who has broken the wheel of
birth and death, one without secrets: the mind totally and finally free of greed,
anger, and delusion; void of “I” and “mine”; which has ended kamma; which is
unaffected by dukkha. The Arahant should not be regarded as a “person” or
ARIYASACCA, noble truth: truth which frees one from all enemies (ari), namely,
defilements and dukkha. Usually expressed in the fourfold formula: the fact that
dukkha exists; the truth that there is an origin of dukkha, namely, tanha
(desire); the truth of the quenching of dukkha, by quenching desire; and the
truth of the practice leading to the quenching of dukkha. Although the
traditional formula is fourfold, “Truth is but One, there is no second.”
ATTA, self, ego, soul, (Sanskrit, atman): the instinctual feeling (and illusion)
that there is some “I” who does all the things to be done in life. Through
ignorance and wrong understanding this instinctual sensibility is attached to and
becomes “ego.” No personal, independent, self-existing, free-willing, lasting
substance or essence can be found anywhere, whether within or without human life
and experience, not even in “God.” (Cf. anatta, idappaccayata, and sunnata.)
AVIJJA, ignorance, not-knowing, wrong knowledge: the lack, partial or total, of
vijja (correct knowledge) regarding the things that need to be known (e.g., the
four noble truths, sunnata, tathata), as well as knowing things in the wrong way,
i.e., as permanent, satisfying, and self. The most original cause of all dukkha.
Without Dhamma practice, ignorance grows into increasingly wrong knowledge.
ANAPANASATI, mindfulness with breathing in and out: the only meditation or
vipassana system practiced and taught by the Buddha, it covers all four
foundations of mindfulness and perfects the seven factors of awakening, leading
to liberation. Ajahn Buddhadasa considers it the best way to realize sunnata.
CITTA, mind, heart, consciousness, mind-heart: that which thinks, knows, and
experiences. In a more limited sense, citta is what “thinks,” can be defiled by
kilesa, can be developed, and can realize nibbana. Although we cannot know citta
directly, it is where all Dhamma practice occurs.
DHAMMA, thing, nature, natural thing: all things, mental and physical,
conditioned and unconditioned, are dhammas.
DHAMMA, Truth, Nature, Law, Natural Truth, Duty, Order, “the way things are”:
this impossible to translate word has many meanings, the most important of which
are Nature, the Law of Nature, our Duty according to Natural Law, and the Fruits
of doing that Duty correctly according to Natural Law. (See paticca-samuppada.)
DUKKHA, pain, hurt, ill-being, suffering, misery, (or dukkhata,
unsatisfactoriness, imperfection): the spiritual dilemma of human beings.
Etymologically, dukkha can be translated “hard to endure, difficult to bear”;
“once seen, it is ugly”; and “horribly, wickedly void.” In its experiential
sense, dukkha is the quality of experience that results when the mind is
concocted by avijja into desire, attachment, egoism, and selfishness. This
feeling takes on many forms — from the crudest to the most subtle levels — such
as disappointment, dissatisfaction, frustration, agitation, anguish, dis-ease,
despair. In its universal sense, dukkhata is the inherent condition of
unsatisfactoriness, imperfection, and misery in all impermanent, conditioned
things (sankhara). To fully understand the meaning of dukkha, one must realize
that sukha (happiness, bliss) is also dukkha. Nibbana (i.e. sunnata) is the only
thing which is not dukkhata.
KHANDA, aggregates, groups: the five subsystems or basic functions which
constitute the human being. These groups are not entities in themselves, they are
merely categories into which all aspects of our lives can be analyzed. None of
them are “self,” “of self,” “in self,” or “my self”; they have nothing to do with
“selfhood” and there is no “self” apart from them. When they attach or are
attached to the five are known as the “upadana-khandha” (aggregates of
attachment). The five are: -rupa-khandha, form-aggregate, particularly the body,
its nervous system, and sense objects (the world); -vedana-khandha,
feeling-aggregate; -sanna-khandha, recognition-aggregate, the discrimination,
labelling, and evaluation of sense experience; -sankhara-khandha,
thought-aggregate, thought processes and emotions,including volition, desire,
attachment, and “birth”; -vinnana-khandha, consciousness-aggregate, the bare
knowing of a sense object, the most primitive function of mind through which
physical sense stimulation becomes conscious (although often without awareness).
KARUNA, compassion: wanting to help due to awareness and understanding of dukkha,
both one’s own and that of others.
KILESA, defilements, impurities: the harmful thoughts and emotions which tarnish,
dirty, and pollute the mind. Merely passing clouds obscuring the sun’s light. The
three primary categories of kilesa are greed, hatred, and delusion.
MANUSAYA, human being, high-minded being: a mind above the ebb and flow of
NIBBANA, coolness, quenching: the Absolute, the Supreme, the Ultimate Reality in
Buddhism; the “goal” of Buddhist practice and highest potential of humanity.
Nibbana manifests when the fires of defilement, attachment, selfishness, and
dukkha are cooled. When they are permanently cooled, nibbana manifests perfectly,
totally, timelessly. Not a place, for nibbana is beyond existence and
non-existence, not even a state of mind, for nibbana is neither mental nor
physical, but a dhamma the mind can realize and experience. To be realized in
NIVARANA, hindrances, obstacles: disturbing moods and mental qualities which
interfere with the mind’s task, whether worldly or spiritual. Half-strength
defilements, they arise from the tendencies toward defilement built up through
carelessness and need not be triggered by outside objects. To overcome them,
correct samadhi is needed. The traditional list of five are sensual desire,
aversion, sloth and torpor, restlessness and distraction, and doubt.
PANNA, wisdom, insight, intuitive understanding: correct seeing, knowing,
understanding, experiencing of the things we must know in order to quench dukkha,
namely, the four noble truths, the three characteristics, dependent origination,
and voidness. The various terms used for “knowing” are not meant to express an
intellectual activity, although the intellect has its role. The emphasis is on
direct, intuitive, non-conceptual comprehending of life as it is here and now.
Memory, language, and thought are not required. Panna, rather than faith or will
power, is the characteristic quality of Buddhism.
PATICCA-SAMUPPADA, interdependent origination, co-conditioned arising: the
profound and detailed causal process or flow, and its description, which concocts
dukkha. Due to ignorance, there arises, dependent on sense organ and sense
object, consciousness (vinnana). These three things working together are contact
(phassa). Upon this ignorant contact there arises feeling (vedana), desire
(tanha), attachment (upadana), becoming (bhava), birth (jati), decay and death
(jaramarana), and all the forms of dukkha.
PHASSA, the meeting and working together of sense organ, sense object, and sense
consciousness (vinnana). When a sensual stimulus makes enough of an impact upon
the mind — that is, has “meaning” — to draw a response, either ignorant or
wise, beginning with vedana.
SAMPAJANNA, wisdom-in-action, functional wisdom, ready comprehension, clear
comprehension. While panna (wisdom) is developed, or “stored up,” through
introspection and insight, sampajanna is the immediate and specific application
of wisdom to, and into, a particular situation or experience. While panna
understands that “everything is void,” sampajanna understands that “this is
void.” All understanding relies on mindfulness for its appearance, recall, and
SAMADHI, concentration, collectedness: secure establishment of the mind, the
gathering together of the mental flow. Proper samadhi has the qualities of
purity, clarity, stability, calmness, readiness, and gentleness. It is perfected
in one-pointedness (ekaggata). The supreme samadhi is the one-pointed mind
(ekaggata-citta) which has nibbana as its sole concern. In a broader sense,
samadhi can be translated “meditation,” meaning development of the mind through
the power of samadhi.
SANKHARA, concoction, compound, conditioned thing; concocting, compounding,
conditioning. As a verb, sankhara is the endless activity of concocting and
change in which new things arise, manifest, and cease. As a noun, sankhara are
impermanent, created things acting both as the products of the concocting and the
causes of ever new concoctions.
SANNA, recognition, classification, evaluation, perception: once the mind has
made contact (phassa) with a sense object and then feels it (vedana), a concept,
label or image is attached to the experience, which involves recognizing
similarities with past experience and discriminating the value of the object.
SATI, mindfulness, attention, awareness, recall, recollection: the mind’s ability
to know and observe itself. Sati is the vehicle and transport mechanism for
panna, without sati wisdom cannot be developed, retrieved, or applied. Sati is
not memory or remembering, although related to them. Nor is it mere heedfulness
or carefulness. Sati allows us to be aware of what we are about to do. It is
characterized by speed and agility.
SATI-PANNA, mindfulness and wisdom: sati and panna must work together. Panna
depends on sati. It arises through mindfulness of life’s experiences and is
applied to present experience through mindfulness. Yet, without sufficient
wisdom, mindfulness would be misused.
TATHATA, thusness, suchness, just-like-that-ness: neither this nor that, the
reality of non-duality. Things are just as they are (void and dependently
originated) regardless of our perceptions, likes and dislikes, suppositions and
beliefs, hopes and memories.
TILAKKHANA, three characteristics, three marks of existence: inherent features of
all conditioned things, namely, the facts of impermanence (aniccata), dukkha-ness
(dukkhata), and not-self (anattata).
UPADANA, attachment, clinging, grasping: to hold onto something foolishly, to
regard things as “I” and “mine,” to take things personally. Not the things
attached to, but the lustful-satisfaction (chandaraga) regarding them. The Buddha
distinguished four kinds of upadana: attachment to sensuality, to views, to
precepts and practices, and to words concerning self. (To hold something wisely
VEDANA, feeling: the mental reaction to or coloring of sense experience (phassa).
Feeling comes in three forms: pleasant or agreeable (sukhavedana), unpleasant or
painful (dukkhavedana), and indeterminate, neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant
(adukkhamasukhavedana). Vedana is a mental actor. Sometimes, however, a more
loose sense of the term is used regarding physical sensations. This primitive
activity of mind is not emotion, which is far more complex and involves thought,
or the more complicated aspects of the English “feeling.”
VINNANA, consciousness: knowing sense objects through the six doors (eyes, ears,
etc.). The most basic mental activity required for participation in the sensual
world (loka), without it there is no experience.
VITAKKA, thought conception, thinking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BuddhadasaÊBhikkhuÊ(Servant ofÊ theÊ Buddha) went forthÊ asÊa bhikkhuÊ(Buddhist
monk)ÊinÊ 1926, at the age of twenty. After a few yearsÊofÊstudy in Bangkok, he
was inspired to live close with nature inÊorderÊto investigate the Buddha-Dhamma
directly. Thus, he established Suan MokkhabalaramaÊ(TheÊ GroveÊ of the Power of
Liberation) in 1932, near hisÊhometown. At that time, it was the only Forest
Dhamma Center and one ofÊtheÊfewÊ placesÊ dedicatedÊto vipassana (mental
cultivation leadingÊtoÊ”seeing clearly” into reality) in Southern Thailand. Word
ofÊBuddhadasaÊBhikkhu,ÊhisÊ work,ÊandÊSuanÊMokkh spread over the
yearsÊsoÊthatÊtheyÊareÊ easilyÊdescribed as one of the most influential eventsÊ
ofÊBuddhistÊhistory in Siam. Here, we can only mention some of the more
interesting services he has rendered Buddhism.
Ajahn Buddhadasa has worked painstakingly to establish and explain the correct
and essential principles of original Buddhism. That work is based in extensive
research of the Pali texts (Canon and commentary), especially of the Buddha’s
Discourses (suttanta-pitaka),followed by personal experiment and practice with
these teachings. ThenÊhe has taught whatever he can say truly quenches dukkha.
His goal hasÊbeen to produce a complete set of references for present and
futureÊresearch and practice. His approach has been always scientific,
straight-forward, and practical.
Although his formal education only went as far as ninth grade andÊbeginningÊPali
studies, he has been given five Honorary DoctoratesÊbyÊThai universities. His
books, both written and transcribed fromÊtalks, fill a room at the National
Library and influence all serious Thai Buddhists.
Progressive elements in Thai society, especially the young, haveÊbeen inspired by
his teaching and selfless example. Since the 1960’s,Êactivists and thinkers in
areas such as education, social welfare, rural development, and ecology have
drawn upon his teaching and advice.
Since the founding of Suan Mokkh, he has studied all schools of Buddhism, as well
as the major religious traditions. This interest isÊpractical rather than
scholarly. He seeks to unite all genuinely religious people in order to work
together to help humanity. This broad-mindedness has won him friends and students
from around the world, including Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs.
Now, he focuses his energies on his last projects. He has established an
International Dhamma Hermitage. This addition to Suan Mokkh is a retreat center
which provides facilities for:
– Courses which introduceÊforeignersÊand Thais toÊtheÊNatural Truth explained
in the Buddha’s teachings and start them in the Buddha’s system of
– Exchanges among practicing representatives of Siam’s and the world’s religions,
so that they may recover ways to cooperate in overcoming the materialism and
selfishness which is the world’s worst enemy.
– Meetings among Buddhists from around the world to establish and agree upon the
“heart of Buddhism.”
Projects in the preparation stage are a training center for foreign bhikkhus who
aspire to offer there lives in service of the Buddha-Dhamma and a nunnery for
“Dhamma Mothers,” women who have renounced the household life in order to give
birth to Dhamma in themselves and society.
At the age of eighty-five, Ajahn Buddhadasa continues to work as much as his
health and conditions allow. The rest is up to the Law of Nature.
Visitors are always welcome at Suan Mokkh.
Santikaro Bhikkhu was born in the USA and came to Thailand with the U.S. Peace
Corps in 1980. He undertook the bhikkhu life and training in 1985, living and
studying at Suan Mokkh most of that time. He has been translating for Ajahn
Buddhadasa during lectures and conversations, and has translated a few books.
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