This is a fairly long explanation of the Buddho technique of
meditation. It also contains many excellent tips on meditation in
general. It discusses obstacles and how to handle them and several
other insights that have the potential to greatly increase your
meditation experience. Enjoy!
Phra Ajaan Thate Desaransi
(Phra Nirodharansi Gambhirapannacariya)
Translated from the Thai
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Printed in Thailand B.E. 2532 (CE 1984)
This work may be copied or reprinted //for free distribution//
without permission from the translator.
Otherwise, all rights reserved.
* * *
DharmaNet Edition 1994
Transcribed for DharmaNet by Myra Fox
Proofread and formatted by John Bullitt
This electronic edition is offered for free distribution
via DharmaNet by arrangement with the translator.
P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951
* * * * * * * *
When you go to study meditation with any group or teacher who is
experienced in a particular form of meditation, you should first make
your heart confident that your teacher is fully experienced in that
form of meditation, and be confident that the form of meditation he
teaches is the right path for sure. At the same time, show respect for
the place in which you are to meditate. Only then should you begin
Teachers in the past used to require a dedication ceremony as a means
of inspiring confidence before you were to study meditation. They
would have you make an offering of five pairs of beeswax candles and
five pairs of white flowers -- this was called the five khandha -- or
eight pairs of beeswax candles and eight pairs of white flowers -- this
was called the eight khandha -- or one pair of beeswax candles each
weighing 15 grams and an equal number of white flowers. Then they
would teach you their particular form of meditation. This ancient
custom has its good points. There are many other ceremonies as well,
but I won't go into them. I'll mention only a very simple,
easy-to-follow ceremony a little further on.
Only after you have inspired confidence in your heart as already
mentioned should you go to the teacher experienced in that form of
meditation. If he is experienced in repeating //samma araham//, he
will teach you to repeat //samma araham, samma araham, samma araham//.
Then he'll have you visualize a bright, clear jewel two inches above
your navel, and tell you to focus your mind right there as you continue
your repetition, without letting your mind slip away from the jewel. In
other words, you take the jewel as the focal point of your mind.
If you go to a teacher experienced in meditating on the rising and
falling of the abdomen, he will have you meditate on rising and
falling, and focus your mind on the different motions of the body. For
instance, when you raise your foot, you think //raising//. When you
place your foot, you think //placing//, and so on; or else he will have
you focus continually on being preoccupied with the phenomenon of
arising and passing away in every motion or position of the body.
If you go to a teacher experienced in psychic powers, he will have you
repeat //na ma ba dha, na ma ba dha//, and focus the mind on a single
object until it takes you to see heaven and hell, deities and brahmas
of all sorts, to the point where you get carried away with your
If you go to a teacher experienced in breath meditation, he will have
you focus on your in-and-out breath, and have you keep your mind firmly
preoccupied with nothing but the in-and-out breath.
If you go to a teacher experienced in meditating on //buddho//, he will
have you repeat //buddho, buddho, buddho//, and have you keep the mind
firmly in that meditation word until you are fully skilled at it. Then
he will have you contemplate //buddho// and what it is that is saying
//buddho//. Once you see that they are two separate things, focus on
what is saying //buddho//. As for the word //buddho//, it will
disappear, leaving only what it is that was saying //buddho//. You
then focus on what it is that was saying //buddho// as your object.
People of our time -- or of any time, for that matter -- regardless of
how educated or capable they may be (I don't want to criticize any of
us as tending to believe in things whose truth we haven't tested,
because after all we all want to know and see the truth) and especially
those of us who are Buddhists: Buddhism teaches causes and effects
which are entirely true, but why is it that we have to fall for the
claims and advertisements which we hear everywhere? It must be because
people at present are impatient, and want to see results before they
have completed the causes, in line with the fact that we are supposed
to be in an atomic age.
Buddhism teaches us to penetrate into the heart and mind, which are
mental phenomena. As for the body, it is a physical phenomenon.
Physical phenomena have to lie under the control of mental phenomena.
When we begin to practice meditation and train the mind to be quiet and
untroubled, I can't see that we are creating any problems at that
moment for anyone at all. If we keep practicing until we are skilled,
then we will be calm and at peace. If more and more people practice
this way, there will be peace and happiness all over the world. As for
the body, we can train it to be peaceful only as long as the mind is in
full control. The minute mindfulness lapses, the body will get back to
its old affairs. So let's try training the mind by repeating
PRELIMINARY STEPS TO PRACTICING MEDITATION
Before practicing meditation on the word //buddho//, you should start
out with the preliminary steps. I.e., inspire confidence in your mind,
as already mentioned, and then bow down three times, saying:
//Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava//
-- The Blessed One is pure and fully self-awakened.
//Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi//
-- To the Blessed, Awakened One, I bow down.
(Bow down once.)
//Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo//
-- the Dhamma is well-taught by the Blessed One.
-- To the Dhamma, I bow down.
(Bow down once.)
//Supatipanno bhagavato savaka-sangho//
-- The Community of the Blessed One's disciples have
conducted themselves rightly.
-- To the Community, I bow down.
(Bow down once.)
//Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhassa.//
(Think of the virtues of the Buddha, the foremost teacher of the world,
released from suffering and defilement of every sort, always serene and
secure. Then bow down three times.)
//Note//: These preliminary steps are simply an example. There's
nothing wrong with chanting more than this if you have more to chant,
but you should bow down to the Buddha as the first step each time you
meditate, unless the place in which you are meditating is unconducive.
* * *
Now, sit in meditation, your right leg on top of left, your hands
palm-up in your lap, your right hand on top of your left. Sit
straight. Repeat the word //buddho// in your mind, focusing your
attention in the middle of your chest, at the heart. Don't let your
attention stray out ahead or behind. Be mindful to keep your mind in
place, steady in its one-pointedness, and you will enter into a state
When you enter into concentration, the mind may go so blank that you
don't even know how long you are sitting. By the time you come out of
concentration, many hours may have passed. For this reason, you
shouldn't fix a time limit for yourself when sitting in meditation. Let
things follow their own course.
The mind in true concentration is the mind in a state of one-
pointedness. If the mind hasn't reached a state of one-pointedness, it
isn't yet in concentration, because the true heart is only one. If
there are many mental states going on, you haven't penetrated into the
heart. You've only reached the mind.
Before you practice meditation, you should first learn the difference
between the heart and the mind, for they aren't the same thing. The
mind is what thinks and forms perceptions and ideas about all sorts of
things. The heart is what simply stays still and knows that it is
still, without forming any further thoughts at all. Their difference is
like that between a river and waves on the river.
All sciences and all defilements are able to arise because the mind
thinks and forms ideas and strays out in search of them. You will be
able to see these things clearly with your own heart once the mind
becomes still and reaches the heart.
Water is something clean and clear by its very nature. If anyone puts
dye into the water, it will change in line with the dye. But once the
water is filtered and distilled, it will become clean and clear as
before. This is an analogy for the heart and the mind.
Actually, the Buddha taught that the mind is identical with the heart.
If there is no heart, there is no mind. The mind is a condition. The
heart itself has no conditions. In practicing meditation, no matter
what the teacher or method: If it's correct, it will have to penetrate
into the heart.
//When you reach the heart, you will see all your defilements, because
the mind gathers all defilements into itself. So now how you deal with
them is up to you//.
When doctors are going to cure a disease, they first have to find the
cause of the disease. Only then can they treat it with the right
As we start meditating longer and longer, repeating //buddho, buddho,
buddho//, the mind will gradually let go of its distractions and
restlessness, and gather in to stay with //buddho//. It will stay
firm, with //buddho// its sole preoccupation, until you see that the
state of mind which says //buddho// is identical with the mind itself
at all times, regardless of whether you are sitting, standing, walking
or lying down. No matter what your activity, you will see the mind
bright and clear with //buddho//. Once you have reached this stage,
keep the mind there as long as you can. Don't be in a hurry to want to
see this or be that -- //because desire is the most serious obstacle to
the concentrated mind//. Once desire arises, your concentration will
immediately deteriorate, because the basis of your concentration --
//buddho// -- isn't solid. When this happens, you can't grab hold of
any foundation at all, and you get really upset. All you can think of
is the state of concentration in which you used to be calm and happy,
and this makes the mind even more agitated.
Practice meditation the same way farmers grow rice. They're in no
hurry. They scatter the seed, plow, harrow, plant the seedlings, step
by step, without skipping any of the steps. Then they wait for the
plants to grow. Even when they don't yet see the rice appearing, they
are confident that the rice is sure to appear some day in the future.
Once the rice appears, they are convinced that they're sure to reap
results. They don't pull on the rice plants to make them come out with
rice when they want it. Anyone who did that would end up with no
results at all.
The same holds true with meditation. You can't be in a hurry. You
can't skip any of the steps. You have to make yourself firmly
confident that, "This is the meditation word which will make my mind
concentrated for sure." Don't have any doubts as to whether the
meditation word is right for your temperament, and don't think that,
"That person used this meditation word with these or those results, but
when I use it, my mind doesn't settle down. It doesn't work for me at
all." Actually, if the mind is firmly set on the meditation word you
are repeating, then no matter what the word, it's sure to work --
because you repeat the word simply to make the mind steady and firm,
that's all. As for any results apart from that, they all depend on
each person's individual potential and capabilities.
Once in the Buddha's time there was a monk sitting in meditation near a
pond who saw a heron diving down to catch fish and eat them. He took
that as his meditation subject until he succeeded in becoming an
arahant. I've never seen a heron eating fish mentioned as a subject in
any of the meditation manuals, but he was able to use it to meditate
until he attained arahantship -- which illustrates what I have just said.
When the mind is intent on staying within the bounds of its meditation
word //buddho//, with mindfulness in control, it is sure to grow out of
its rebelliousness. We have to train and restrain it, because we are
looking for peace and contentment for the mind. Ordinarily, the mind
tends to be preoccupied with looking for distraction, as I have already
explained, and for the most part it strays off to this sort of
distraction: When we start meditating //buddho, buddho, buddho//, as
soon as we focus the mind on //buddho//, it won't stay there. It'll
run out to think of whatever work we are about to start or have left
undone. It thinks about doing this and doing that until it gets all
worked up, afraid that the work won't come out well or won't succeed.
The work we've been assigned by other people or which we're doing on
our own will be a waste of time or will cause us to lose face if we
don't do as we've been told....
This is one of the distractions which prevent new meditators from
attaining concentration. You have to pull your mind back to //buddho,
buddho, buddho//, and tell yourself, "Thoughts of this sort aren't the
path to peace; the true path to peace is to keep the mind with
//buddho// and nothing else" -- and then keep on repeating //buddho,
After a moment, the mind will go straying out again, this time to your
family -- your children, your wife or husband: How are they getting
along? Are they healthy? Are they eating well? If you're far apart,
you wonder about where they're staying, what they're eating. Those who
have left home think about those at home. Those at home think about
those who have gone far away -- afraid that they aren't safe, that
other people will molest them, that they have no friends, that they're
lonely -- thinking in 108 different ways, whatever the mind can
imagine, all of which exaggerate the truth.
Or if you're still young and single, you think about having fun with
your friends -- the places you used to go together, the good times you
had, the things you used to do -- to the point where you actually say
something or laugh out loud. This sort of defilement is the worst of
When you are meditating //buddho, buddho, buddho//, your defilements
see that the situation is getting out of hand and that you'll escape
from their control, so they look for things to tie you down even more
tightly all the time. Never from the day of your birth have you ever
practiced concentration at all. You've simply let the mind follow the
moods of the defilements. Only now have you begun to practice, so when
you repeat //buddho, buddho, buddho// to get the mind to settle down
with //buddho//, it's going to wriggle away in the same way that fish
try to wriggle back into the water when they're tossed up on land. So
you have to pull the mind back to //buddho//.
//Buddho is something cool and calm. It's the path for giving rise to
peace and contentment -- the only path that will release us from the
suffering and stress in this world//.
So you pull the mind back to //buddho//. This time it begins to settle
down. As soon as you feel that it's staying put, you begin to get a
sense that when the mind stays put, it is rested and at ease in a way
different from when it's not still, when it's restless and upset. You
make up your mind to be careful and alert to keep the mind in that
state and... Oops. There it goes again. Now it's taking your financial
interests as an excuse, saying that if you don't do this or search for
that, you'll miss out on a really great opportunity. So you focus your
mind on that instead of your meditation word. As for where //buddho//
has gone, you haven't the least idea. By the time you realize that
//buddho// has disappeared, it's already too late -- which is why they
say that the mind is restless, slippery and hard to control, like a
monkey which can never sit still.
Sometimes, after you've been sitting in meditation a long time, you
begin to worry that your blood won't be flowing properly, that your
nerves will die from lack of blood, that you'll grow numb and end up
paralyzed. If you're meditating far from home or in a forest, it's
even worse: You're afraid that snakes will bite you, tigers will eat
you, or ghosts will haunt you, making all kinds of scary faces. Your
fear of death can whisper to you in all sorts of way, all of which are
simply instances of you yourself scaring yourself. The truth is
nothing at all like what you imagine. Never from the day of your birth
have you ever seen a tiger eat even a single person. You've never once
seen a ghost -- you don't even know what it would look like, but you
fashion up pictures to scare yourself.
The obstacles to meditation mentioned here are simply examples. There
are actually many, many more. Those who meditate will find this out
//If you hold buddho close to the heart, and use your mindfulness to
keep the mind with nothing but buddho, no dangers will come your way//.
So have firm faith in //buddho//. I guarantee that there will be no
dangers at all -- unless you've done bad kamma in the past, which is
something beyond anyone's power to protect you from. Even the Buddha
himself can't protect you from it.
When people begin meditating, their confidence tends to be weak. No
matter what their meditation subject, these sorts of defilements are
sure to interfere, because these defilements form the basis of the
world and of the mind. The minute we meditate and make the mind
one-pointed, the defilements see that we're going to get away from
them, so they come thronging around so that we won't be able to escape
from the world.
When we see how really serious and harmful they are, we should make our
minds forthright and our confidence solid and strong, telling ourselves
that we've let ourselves be deceived into believing the defilements for
many lifetimes; it's time now that we be willing to believe the
Buddha's teachings and take //buddho// as our refuge. We then make
mindfulness solid, and fix the mind firmly in //buddho//. We give our
lives to //buddho//, and won't let our minds slip away from it. When
we make this sort of commitment, the mind will drop straight into
one-pointedness and enter concentration.
When you first enter concentration, this is what it's like: You'll have
no idea at all of what concentration or one-pointedness of mind is
going to feel like. You are simply intent on keeping mindfulness
firmly focused on one object -- and the power of a mind focused firmly
on one object is what will bring you to a state of concentration. You
won't be thinking at all that concentration will be like this or like
that, or that you want it to be like this or like that. It will simply
take its own way, automatically. No one can force it.
At that moment you will feel as if you are in another world (the world
of the mind), with a sense of ease and solitude to which nothing else
in the world can compare. When the mind withdraws from concentration,
you will regret that that mood has passed, and you will remember it
clearly. All that we say about concentration comes from the mind which
has withdrawn from that state. As long as it is still gathered in that
state, we aren't interested in what anyone else says or does.
You have to train the mind to enter this sort of concentration often,
so as to become skilled and adept, but don't try to remember your past
states of concentration, and don't let yourself want your concentration
to be like it was before -- because it won't be that way, and you will
just be making more trouble for yourself. Simply contemplate //buddho,
buddho//, and keep your mind with your mental repetition. What it does
then is its own business.
After the mind has first attained to concentration, it won't be the
same way the next time around, but don't worry about it. Whatever it's
like, don't worry about it. Just make sure that you get it centered.
When the results come out in many different ways, your understanding
will broaden and you'll come to develop many different techniques for
dealing with the mind.
What I've mentioned here is simply to be taken as an example. When you
follow these instructions, don't give them too much weight, or they
will turn into allusions to the past, and your meditation won't get
anywhere. Simply remember them as something to use for the sake of
comparison after your meditation has begun to progress.
No matter what method you use -- //buddho//, rising & falling or
//samma araham// -- when the mind is about to settle down in
concentration, you won't be thinking that the mind is about to settle
down, or is settling down, or anything at all. It will settle down
automatically on its own. You won't even know when you let go of your
meditation word. The mind will simply have a separate calm and peace
which isn't in this world or another world or anything of the sort.
There's no one and nothing at all, just the mind's own separate state,
which is called the world of the mind. In that state there won't be
the word 'world' or anything else. The conventional realities of the
world won't appear there, and thus no insight of any sort will arise in
there at all. The point is simply that you train the mind to be
centered, and then compare it to the state of mind which isn't centered
so that you can see how they differ, how the mind which has attained
concentration and then withdraws to contemplate matters of the world
and the Dhamma differs from the mind which hasn't attained
The heart and the mind. Let's talk some more about the heart and mind
so that you'll understand. After all, we're talking about training the
mind in concentration: If you don't understand the relationship
between the heart and the mind, you won't know where or how to practice
Everyone born -- human or animal -- has a heart and mind, but the heart
and mind have different duties. The mind thinks, wanders and forms
ideas of all sorts, in line with where the defilements lead it. As for
the heart, it's simply what knows. It doesn't form any ideas at all.
It's neutral -- in the middle -- with regard to everything. The
awareness which is neutral: That's the heart.
The heart doesn't have a body. It's a mental phenomenon. It's simply
awareness. You can place it anywhere at all. It doesn't lie inside or
outside the body. When we call the heart-muscle the heart, that's not
the true heart. It's simply an organ for pumping blood throughout the
body so as to keep it alive. If the heart-muscle doesn't pump blood
throughout the body, life can't last.
People in general are always talking about the heart: "My heart feels
happy... sad... heavy... light... down..." Everything is a matter of
the heart. Abhidhamma experts, however, speak in terms of the mind:
the mind in a wholesome state, the mind in an unwholesome state, the
mind in a neutral state, the mind on the level of form, the mind on the
formless level, the mind on the transcendent level and so on, //but
none of them know what the real heart and mind are like.//
The mind is what thinks and forms ideas. It has to make use of the six
senses as its tools. As soon as the eye sees a visual object, the ear
hears a sound, the nose smells an aroma, the tongue tastes a flavor,
the body comes into contact with a tactile sensation -- cold, hot, hard
or soft -- or the intellect thinks of an idea in line with its
defilements, good or bad: If any of these things are good, the mind is
pleased; if they're bad, it's displeased. All of this is an affair of
the mind, or of defilement. Aside from these six senses, there's
nothing the mind can make use of. In the texts they are analyzed into
the six faculties, the six elements, the six forms of contact, and all
sorts of other things, but all these things lie within the six senses.
So these are characteristics of the mind: that which can never sit
When you train the mind -- or, in other words, practice concentration
-- you have to get control over the mind which is wriggling after the
six senses, as already explained, and make it stop still with one
thing: its meditation word, //buddho//. Don't let it go straying out
ahead or behind. Make it stay still, and know that it's staying still:
That's the heart. The heart has nothing to do with any of the six
senses, which is why it's called the heart.
When people in general talk about the heart of something, they are
referring to its center. Even when they talk about their own hearts,
they point to the center of the chest. Actually, the heart doesn't lie
in any particular place at all -- as I have already explained --
although it lies right in the center of everything.
If you want to understand what the heart is, you can try an experiment.
Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for a moment. At that point
there won't be anything at all except for one thing: neutral awareness.
That's the heart, or 'what knows'. But if you try to catch hold of the
heart in this way, you can't hold on to it for very long -- only as
long as you can hold your breath -- but you can give it a try just to
see what the true heart is like.
(Holding the breath can help reduce physical pain. People who are
suffering from great pain have to hold their breath as one way --
fairly effective -- of relieving their pain.)
Once you realize that the heart and mind have different duties and
characteristics like this, you'll find it easier to train the mind.
Actually, the heart and the mind are really the same thing. As the
Buddha said, the mind is identical with the heart. When we practice
concentration, it's enough just to train the mind; once the mind is
trained, that's where we'll see the heart.
Once the mind has been fully trained by using mindfulness to keep it
with //buddho// as its only preoccupation, it won't go straying after
different things, and instead will gather into oneness. The meditation
word will disappear without your being aware of it, and you will feel a
sense of peace and ease which nothing else can equal. Those who have
never experienced this ease before, when they first experience it,
won't be able to describe it, because no one else in the world has ever
experienced that kind of peace and ease. Even though other people
//have// experienced it, it's not the same. For this reason, you find
it hard to describe -- although you can describe it to yourself. If
you try to describe it to others, you have to use similes and analogies
before they'll understand you. Things of this sort are personal: Only
you can know them for yourself.
In addition, if you have developed a lot of potential in previous
lifetimes, all sorts of amazing things can happen. For example, you
may gain knowledge of heavenly beings or hungry ghosts. You may learn
about your own past and future, and that of other people: In that
particular lifetime you were like this; in the future you'll be like
that. Even though you didn't intend to know these things, when the
mind attains concentration it can know on its own in a very amazing
This sort of thing is something which really fascinates beginning
meditators. When it happens to them, they like to brag to other
people. When those people try to meditate, but don't get the knowledge
or abilities, they become discouraged, thinking that they don't have
the merit or potential to meditate, and they begin to lose faith in the
As for those who see these sorts of things, when that knowledge or
ability deteriorates -- because they've been carried away by external
things, and haven't taken the heart as their foundation -- they won't
be able to grab hold of anything at all. When they think of the things
they used to know, their minds become even more stirred up. People who
like to brag will take the old things they used to see and talk about
them in glowing terms. Avid listeners really love to listen to this
sort of thing, but avid meditators are unimpressed -- because true
meditators like to listen only to things which are present and true.
The Buddha taught that whether his teachings will flourish or
degenerate depends on those who practice them. The teachings
degenerate when meditators get just a little bit of knowledge and then
go bragging to other people, talking about external matters with no
substance at all, instead of explaining the basic principles of
meditation. When they do this, they make the religion degenerate
without their even realizing it.
Those who make the religion flourish are those who speak about things
which are useful and true. They don't speak just for the fun of it.
They speak in terms of cause and effect: "When you meditate like this,
repeating the meditation word in this way, it will make the mind gather
into one and snuff out its defilements and restlessness like this...."
//When you meditate on buddho, be patient. Don't be in a hurry.// Be
confident in your meditation word, and use mindfulness to keep the mind
with its //buddho//. Your confidence is what will make the mind firm
and unwavering, able to let go of all its doubts and uncertainties. The
mind will gather in on its meditation word, and mindfulness will keep
it solely with //buddho// at all times. Whether you sit, stand, walk,
lie down, or whatever work you do, mindfulness will be alert to nothing
but //buddho//. If your mindfulness is still weak, and your techniques
still few, you have to hold on to //buddho// as your foundation.
Otherwise your meditation won't progress; or even if it does progress,
it won't have any foundation.
//For concentration to be strong, the mind has to be resolute.// When
mindfulness is strong and the mind resolute, you decide that this is
what you want: "If I can't catch hold of //buddho//, or see //buddho//
in my heart, or get the mind to stay put solely with //buddho//, I
won't get up from my meditation. Even if my life will end, I don't
care." When you do this, the mind will gather into one faster than you
realize it. The meditation word //buddho//, or whatever it is that may
have been bothering or perplexing you, will vanish in the flash of an
eye. Even your body, which you have been attached to for so long,
won't appear to you. All that remains is the heart -- simple awareness
-- cool, calm and at ease.
People who practice meditation really like it when this happens. The
next time around, they want it to happen again, and so it doesn't
happen again. That's because the desire keeps it from happening.
Concentration is something very subtle and sensitive. You can't force
it to be like this or that -- and at the same time you can't force the
mind //not// to enter concentration either.
If you're impatient, things get even more fouled up. You have to be
very patient. Whether or not the mind is going to attain
concentration, you've meditated on //buddho// in the past, so you just
keep meditating on //buddho//. Act as if you had never meditated on
//buddho// before. Make the mind neutral and even, let the breath flow
gently, and use mindfulness to focus the mind on //buddho// and nothing
else. When the time comes for the mind to enter concentration, it will
do it on its own. You can't arrange the way it will happen. If it
were something you could arrange, all the people in the world would
have become arahants long ago.
Knowing how to meditate, but not doing it right; having done it right
once, and wanting it to be that way again, and yet it doesn't happen:
All of these things are obstacles in practicing concentration.
//In meditating on buddho, you have to get so that you are quick and
adept.// When a good or a bad mood strikes you, you have to be able to
enter concentration immediately. Don't let the mind be affected by
that mood. Whenever you think of //buddho//, the mind gathers
immediately: When you can do this, your mind will be solid and able to
rely on itself.
When you have practiced so that you are adept and experienced in this
way, after a while you will find that your defilements and attachments
to all things will gradually disappear on their own. You don't have to
go clearing away this or that defilement, telling yourself that this or
that defilement has to be removed with this or that teaching or this or
that method. Be content with whatever method you find works for you.
That's plenty enough.
To have the defilements gradually disappear with the method I've just
explained is better than trying to arrange things, entering the four
levels of absorption, sustained thought, rapture and pleasure, leaving
just one-pointedness and equanimity; or trying to arrange the first
stage of the path to nibbana by abandoning self-identity views,
uncertainty and attachment to precepts & practices; or by looking at
your various defilements, telling yourself, "With that defilement, I
was able to contemplate in such-and-such a way, so I've gone beyond
that defilement. I have so-and-so many defilements left. If I can
contemplate in such-and-such a way, my defilements will be finished" --
//but you don't realize that the state of mind which wants to see and
know and attain these things is a defilement fixed firmly in the mind.
When you finish your contemplation, the mind is back in its original
state, and hasn't gained anything at all//. On top of that, if someone
comes along and says something which goes against the way you see
things, you start disagreeing violently, like a burning fire into which
someone pours kerosene.
So hold firmly to your meditation word, //buddho//. Even if you don't
attain anything else, at least you've got your meditation word as your
foundation. The various preoccupations of the mind will lessen, or may
even disappear, which is better than not having any foundation to hold
to at all.
Actually, all meditators have to hold firmly to their meditation word.
Only then can they be said to be meditation //with a foundation//. When
their meditation deteriorates, they'll be able to use it //as something
to hold to//.
The Buddha taught that people who make the effort to abandon
defilement have to act like old-time warriors. In the past, they'd have
to build a fortress with strong walls, moats, gates and towers to
protect themselves from enemy attack. When an intelligent warrior went
out to battle and saw that he was no match for the enemy, he would
retreat into his fortress and defend it so that the enemy couldn't
destroy it. At the same time, he would gather enough troops, weapons
and food (i.e., make his concentration forthright and strong) and then
go out to resume his fight with the enemy (i.e., all the forms of
//Concentration is a very important strength. If you don't have
concentration, where will your discernment gain any strength? The
discernment of insight meditation is not something that can be
fashioned into being by arrangement. Instead, it arises from
concentration which has been mastered until it is good and solid.//
Even those who are said to attain Awakening with 'dry insight': If they
don't have any mental stillness, where will they get any insight? It's
simply that their stillness isn't fully mastered. Only when we put the
matter this way does it make any sense.
When your concentration is solid and steady to the point where you can
enter and leave it at will, you will be able to stay with it long and
contemplate the body in terms of its unattractiveness, or in terms of
its physical elements. Or, if you like, you can contemplate the people
of the world until you see them all as skeletons, or you can
contemplate the entire world as empty space....
Once the mind is fully centered, then no matter whether you are
sitting, standing, walking or lying down, the mind will be centered at
times. You will be able to see clearly how your own defilements --
greed, anger and delusion, which arise from the mind -- //arise// from
this and that cause, how they //remain// in this or that way, and you
will be able to find means to //abandon// them with this or that
This is like the water in a lake which has been muddy for hundreds and
hundreds of years suddenly becoming clear so that you can see all the
things lying along the lake-bottom -- things which you never dreamed
were there before. This is called insight -- seeing things as they
truly are. Whatever sort of truth they have, that's the truth you see,
without deviating from that truth.
Forcing the mind to be still can make it let go of defilement, but it
lets go in the same way a person cuts grass, cutting just the part
above ground, without digging up the roots. The roots are sure to send
up new shoots when rain falls again. In other words, you do see the
harm of the preoccupations which arise from the six senses, but as soon
as you see it, you retreat into stillness without contemplating those
preoccupations as carefully as you do when the mind is in
concentration. In short, you simply want stillness, without wanting to
spend any time in contemplation -- like a ground lizard which relies on
its hole for safety. As soon as it sees an enemy coming, it runs into
its hole, escaping danger only for a while.
If you want to uproot your defilements, then when you see that
defilement springs from the six senses -- for instance, the eye sees a
visual object or the ear hears a sound, contact is made which causes
you to be pleased or displeased, happy or sad, and then you grasp onto
it as your preoccupation, making the mind murky, disturbed and upset,
sometimes to the point where you can't eat or sleep, and can even
commit suicide -- when you see this clearly, make your concentration
firm and then focus your mind exclusively on examining that particular
preoccupation. For instance, if the eye sees an attractive visual
object which makes you feel pleased, focus on examining just that sense
of pleasure, to find out whether it arises from the eye or from the
If you examine the visual object, you see that it's just a physical
phenomenon. Whether it's good or bad, it doesn't try to persuade you
to be pleased or displeased, or to make you love it or hate it. It's
simply a visual object which appears and then disappears in line with
its own nature.
When you turn to examine the eye which sees the visual object, you find
that the eye goes looking for objects and, as soon as it finds one,
light gets reflected into the optic nerves so that all kinds of visible
forms appear. The eye doesn't try to persuade you to be pleased or
displeased, to love or to hate anything. Its duty is simply to see.
Once it has seen a visible form, the form disappears.
As for the other senses and their objects, attractive or unattractive,
they should be examined in just the same way.
When you contemplate in this way, you will see clearly that all the
things in the world which become objects of defilement do so because of
these six senses. If you contemplate the six senses so that you don't
tag along after them, defilements won't arise within you. //On the
contrary: Insight and discernment will arise instead, all because of
these same six senses.// The six senses are the media of goodness and
evil. We will head for a good or a bad destination in the next life
because of the way we use them.
The world seems broad because the mind isn't centered, and is left free
to wander among the objects of the six senses. The world will narrow
down when the mind has been trained in concentration so that it lies
under your control and can contemplate the six senses exclusively
within it. In other words, when the mind is fully concentrated, the
outer senses -- the eye seeing forms, the ear hearing sounds and so on
-- won't appear at all. All that will appear are the forms and sounds
which are mental phenomena present exclusively in that concentration.
You won't be paying any attention to the outer senses at all.
When your concentration is fully solid and strong, you will be able to
contemplate this //world of the mind// which gives rise to sensory
contact, perceptions, preoccupations and all defilements. The mind will
withdraw from everything leaving just the heart, or simple awareness.
The heart and the mind have different characteristics. The mind is what
thinks, forming perceptions and preoccupations to the point of latching
on holding them to itself. When it sees the suffering, harm and stress
which come from holding onto all the defilements, it will go and
withdraw from all preoccupations and defilements. The mind will then
be the heart. This is how the heart and mind differ.
The heart is what is neutral and still. It doesn't think anything at
all. It is simply aware of its stillness. The heart is a genuinely
neutral or central phenomenon. Neutral with no past, no future, no
good, no evil: That's the heart. When we talk about the heart of
anything, we mean its center. Even the human heart, which is a mental
phenomenon, we say lies in the center of the chest. But where the real
heart is, we don't know. Try focusing your attention on any part of
the body, and you'll feel the awareness of that spot. Or you can focus
your attention outside the body -- on a post or the wall of a house,
for example -- and that's the spot you'll be aware of.
So we can conclude that the true heart is still and neutral awareness.
//Wherever there is neutral awareness, that's where the heart is.//
When people in general talk about the heart, that's not the true heart.
It's simply a set of muscles and valves for pumping blood throughout
the body to keep it alive. If this pump doesn't send blood throughout
the body, the body can't live. It'll have to die. The same holds true
with the brain. The mind thinks of good and evil by using the brain as
its tool. The nervous system of the brain is a physical phenomenon.
When its various causal factors are cut off, this physical phenomenon
can't last. It has to stop.
But as for the mind, which is a mental phenomenon, Buddhism teaches
that it continues to exist and can take birth again. This mental
phenomenon will stop only when insight discerns its causal factors and
uproots their underlying causes.
None of the various subjects and sciences of the world have an end
point. The more you study them, the more they fan out. Only Buddhism
can teach you to reach an end. In the first stage, it teaches you to
acquaint yourself with your body, to see how it is made up of various
things (the 32 parts) put together, and what their duties are. At the
same time, Buddhism teaches you to see that the body is inherently
unattractive. It teaches you to acquaint yourself with this world (the
world of a human being), which is made up of suffering and stress, and
which will ultimately have to fall apart by its very nature.
So now that we have received this body -- even though it is full of
foul and unattractive things, and even though it is made up of all
kinds of suffering and stress -- we're still able to depend on it for a
while, so we should use it to do good to repay our debts to the world
before we leave it at death.
The Buddha teaches that although the nature of a person (this world) is
to fall apart and die, the mind -- the overseer of this world -- must
come back to be reborn as long as it still has defilements. Thus he
teaches us to practice concentration, which is an affair exclusively of
the mind. Once we have practiced concentration, we will fell every
sensory contact inside, just at the mind. We won't be concerned with
out seeing and hearing at the eye or the ear. Instead, we will be
aware of the sensory contact right at the mind. This is what it means
to narrow down the world.
The senses are the best means for taking the measure of your own mind.
When sensory contact strikes the mind, does it have an impact on you?
If it has a lot of impact, that shows that your mindfulness is weak,
and your foundation is still shaky. If it has only a little impact, or
no impact at all, that shows that your mindfulness is strong, and you
are fully able to care for yourself.
These things are like Devadatta, who created trouble for the
Bodhisattva all along. If not for Devadatta, the Bodhisattva wouldn't
have been able to bring his character to full perfection. Once his
character had been fully perfected, he was able to gain Awakening and
become the Buddha. Before gaining Awakening, he had to withstand the
massive armies of temptation; and right after his Awakening, the three
daughters of temptation came to test him once more. As a result, the
people of the world have praised him ever since for having conquered
defilement in this world once and for all.
//As long as the inner senses still exist, mental contact is still a
preoccupation.// Thus those who know, having seen the harm of these
things, are willing to withdraw from them, leaving just the heart which
is neutral...neutral...neutral, with no thinking, no imagining, no
fashioning of anything at all. When this is the case, where will this
world be formed? This is how the Buddha teaches us to reach the
* * * * * * * *
TITLE OF WORK: Buddho
AUTHOR: Phra Ajahn Thate Desaransi (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, translator)
AUTHOR'S ADDRESS: Wat Hin Mark Peng
Sri Chiang Mai
Nongkai, Thailand 43130
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COPYRIGHT HOLDER: The Abbot
Metta Forest Monastery
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Valley Center, CA 92082
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 1984
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