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Friday, November 22, 2013

The Radiant Mind Is Unawareness

by Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Translated from the Thai

Normally the mind is radiant and always ready to make contact with everything of every sort. Although all phenomena without exception fall under the laws of the three characteristics — stress, inconstancy, and not-self — the true nature of the mind doesn't fall under these laws.
The extent to which the mind does follow these laws is because the things that fall under these three characteristics come spinning in and become involved with it, so that it goes spinning along with them. Even then, though, it spins in a way that doesn't disintegrate or fall apart. It spins with the things that have the power to make it spin, but the natural power of the mind itself is that it knows and does not die. This deathlessness is something that lies beyond disintegration. This non-disintegration is something that lies beyond the three characteristics and the common laws of nature, but we're not aware of it because conventional realities become involved with the mind and surround it, so that the mind's behavior conforms thoroughly to theirs.
The fact that we're unaware that birth and death are things that have always been with the mind infected by defilement, is because ignorance itself is an affair of defilement. Birth and death are an affair of defilement. Our own true affair, the affair that's ours pure and simple — the affair of the mind pure and simple — is that we don't have the power to be our own true self. We have been taking all sorts of counterfeit things as our self all along, and so the mind's behavior is not in keeping with its true nature. Its behavior falls under the sway of the deceits of defilement, which make it worry and fear, dreading death, dreading everything. Whatever happens — a little pain, a lot of pain — it's afraid. If even the least little thing disturbs it, it's afraid. As a result, the mind is filled with worries and fears. Even though fear and worry aren't directly an affair of the mind, they still manage to make it tremble.
We'll see — when the mind is cleansed so that it is fully pure and nothing can become involved with it — that no fear appears in the mind at all. Fear doesn't appear. Courage doesn't appear. All that appears is its own nature by itself, just its own timeless nature. That's all. This is the genuine mind. 'Genuine mind' here refers only to the purity or the 'saupadisesa-nibbana' of the arahants. Nothing else can be called the 'genuine mind' without reservations or hesitations. I, for one, would feel embarrassed to use the term for anything else at all.
The 'original mind' means the original mind of the round in which the mind finds itself spinning around and about, as in the Buddha's saying, 'Monks, the original mind is radiant' — notice that — 'but because of the admixture of defilements' or 'because of the defilements that come passing through, it becomes darkened.'
The original mind here refers to the origin of conventional realities, not to the origin of purity. The Buddha uses the term 'pabhassaram''pabhassaramidam cittam bhikkhave' — which means radiant. It doesn't mean pure. The way he puts it is absolutely right. There is no way you can fault it. Had he said that the original mind is pure, you could immediately take issue: 'If the mind is pure, why is it born? Those who have purified their minds are never reborn. If the mind is already pure, why purify it?' Right here is where you could take issue. What reason would there be to purify it? If the mind is radiant, you can purify it because its radiance is unawareness incarnate, and nothing else. Meditators will see clearly for themselves the moment the mind passes from radiance to mental release: Radiance will no longer appear. Right here is the point where meditators clearly know this, and it's the point that lets them argue — because the truth has to be found true in the individual heart. Once a person knows, he or she can't help but speak with full assurance.
Thus the fact that our mind is surrounded, made to fear, to worry, to love, to hate, or whatever, is caused entirely by the symptoms of conventional reality, the symptoms of defilement. We have no mental power of our own. We have only the power of defilement, craving, and mental effluents pushing and pressuring us day and night while we sit, stand, walk, and lie down. Where are we going to find any happiness and ease as long as these things, which are constantly changing, keep provoking the mind to change along with them without our being aware of the fact?
There can be no ease in this world — none at all — until these things can be completely eradicated from the heart. Until then, we can have no secure ease and relief in any way. We can only shift and change about, or lean this way and that, depending on how much we're provoked by the things that come and involve us. This is why the Buddha teaches us to cleanse the mind, which is the same thing as cleansing ourselves of suffering.
There is no one who has genuinely penetrated the principles of the truth like the Lord Buddha. Only he can be called 'sayambhu' — one who needs no teaching or training from anyone else. In curing his heart of defilement, he performed the duties of both student and teacher, all by himself, until he awakened to the level of the superlative Dhamma, becoming the superlative person, the superlative Master.
This is not to deny that on the level of concentration — the development of mental stillness — he received training from the two hermits; but that in itself wasn't the way of extrication leading to the level of omniscience (sabbaññu). By the time he was to attain omniscience, he had left the two hermits and was striving on his own. He came to know the Dhamma on his own and to see on his own, without anyone else's teaching him. He then brought that Dhamma to teach the world so that it has known good and evil, heaven, hell, and nibbana ever since. Had there been no one to teach us, we of the world would be completely burdened with the mass of fire filling our hearts and would never see the day when we could put our burdens down.
This being the case, we should appreciate the worth of the Dhamma that the Buddha brought to the world after having endured hardships in a way no one else in the world could have managed.
So now, at present, what is it that covers the heart so that we can't find its radiance and purity, even though each of us wants to find purity. What conceals it? To answer in terms of natural principles, we should start with the five khandhas. As for the 'mind of unawareness,' we can save that for later. Let's just start out with what's really obvious — the five khandhas and their companions: sight, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations.
These make contact with the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body, and then link up with the mind, forming the basis for this assumption and that. The mind then takes the objects that have come passing by and uses them to bind itself, entangle itself, or encircle itself so that it is completely darkened with love, hate, anger, and all sorts of other states, all of which come from the things I have mentioned.
But what lies buried deep is our belief that the khandhas form our self. From time immemorial, whatever our language, whatever our race — even when we are common animals — we have to believe that these things are us, are ours; that they are a being, the self of a being, our own self. If we become deities, we believe that our divine bodies are ours. If we become hungry ghosts or whatever, the things we dwell in — gross bodies or refined — we take to be us or ours. Even when we become human beings and begin to have some sense of good and evil, we still have to believe that 'This is us,' or 'This is ours.' Of the five khandhas, the body (rupa) is 'us.' Vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana are 'us,' are 'ours.' These assumptions lie buried deep within us.
The Buddha thus teaches us to investigate. We investigate these things so as to see their truth clearly and then to uproot our mistaken assumptions and attachments that they are the self. We do this for the sake of freedom and for nothing else.
If we look at these things in their normal state, we might wonder why we should investigate them. Sights are simply sights; sounds are sounds; smells, smells; tastes, tastes; tactile sensations are simply natural phenomena as they've always been. They've never announced that they are our enemies. So why investigate them?
We investigate them to know the truth of each one of them as it actually is, to realize our own delusions by means of this investigation and to extricate ourselves from them through knowledge — for the fact that the mind lays claim to the khandhas as its self, as belonging to itself, is because of delusion and nothing else.
Once we have investigated and clearly understood what these things are, the mind withdraws inwardly through knowledge, understanding, and discernment, with no more concern for these things. We investigate whichever khandha is most prominent. We needn't conjecture or speculate about the fact that we haven't contemplated the five khandhas in their entirety, or each khandha in turn. We needn't conjecture at all. All we need to do is to see which khandha is prominent and merits investigation at the moment — which khandha we feel best suited to handle — and then investigate and explore it so that it becomes clear.
Take, for instance, the body, whichever aspect of the body is most prominent in your awareness — the aspect that has you most interested, that you want most to investigate. Latch onto that spot and focus on examining it so as to see its truth in terms of the question, 'What is stress?'
In the texts we are told that stress (dukkha) means 'unendurability,' but this doesn't sit well with my own crass tastes, which is why — one man's meat being another man's poison — I prefer to translate stress as 'a constant squeeze.' This is more in keeping with my tastes, which are very crude. For example, the phrase, 'yampiccham na labhati tampi dukkham,' is right in line with my translation. In other words, 'Not attaining what is desired is stress.' How is it stress? In that it puts a squeeze on us, or makes us uncomfortable.
If we don't get what we want, we're uncomfortable. Even if we get what we want but then lose it, we suffer stress. Stress in this sense fits the translation, 'a squeeze.' This squeeze is what's meant by stress or unendurability. If it can't endure, let it go its own way. Why mess with it? Actually, no matter which khandha, no matter which of the three characteristics, the mind is the one at fault for getting attached, which is why we have to examine the khandhas until we have them clear.
Whatever aspect of the body, look so as to see it clearly. If we're not yet clear about the filthiness in our 'physical heap,' we can look at the charnel ground within us so as to see it clearly. When we're told to visit the charnel ground, this is where we make our visit. Even if we visit a charnel ground outside, the purpose is to reflect inwardly on the inner charnel ground — our own body.
As for the external charnel ground, in the days of the Buddha it was a place where corpses were scattered all over the place. The dead were hardly ever buried or cremated as they are today. So the Buddha taught monks to visit the charnel ground, where old corpses and new were scattered everywhere. He also gave detailed instructions as to the direction from which to enter, in keeping with his sharp intelligence as a self-dependent Buddha, the Teacher of the world. He said to approach from the upwind side and not from the downwind side. Otherwise the stench of the various corpses would be bad for your health.
'When you encounter corpses in this way, how do you feel? Look at the different types of corpses. How do you feel? Now refer inwardly, to your own body, which is another corpse.' This is how he taught the monks to investigate. Once we have an eyewitness — ourself — as to what the corpses in the external charnel ground are like, we can refer inwardly to the internal charnel ground: ourself again. Once we have grasped the basic principle, the external charnel ground gradually fades out of the picture. Instead, we investigate our internal charnel ground so that it becomes gradually more and more clear. In other words, we see how this body is a well of filth. Repulsive. Something that constantly has to be washed, bathed, and cleaned.
Is there anything that, once it has become involved with any part of the body, remains clean? Even the food we eat, once we consume it, becomes filthy from the moment it enters the mouth and passes on down. Our clothing is also dirty. It has to be washed and laundered — a lot of fuss and bother. The same holds true for our homes. They constantly have to be cleaned, scrubbed, dusted, and swept. Otherwise they turn into another charnel ground because of the filth and the smell. Everywhere, wherever human beings live, has to be cleaned — because human beings are filthy. And since our bodies are already filthy, everything that comes into contact with them becomes filthy. Even food — delicious, inviting, appealing food — once it becomes mixed with the filth in the body, such as saliva, becomes filthy as well. If you took food of various kinds into your mouth and then spit it out, there'd be no way you could take it back in again. It'd be too disgusting. Revolting. Why? Because the body is filthy by its very nature, and so whatever becomes involved with the body becomes filthy as well.
To contemplate in this way is called investigating the charnel ground, or investigating the theme of loathsomeness.
So. Focus in on seeing its inherent nature. Look at every facet, in whichever way comes most naturally to you. When you've examined one spot, your knowledge gradually seeps into the next spot and the next. If mindfulness and awareness keep in close connection, discernment can't help but go to work and advance unceasingly. You'll feel profoundly moved as you come to see and know truly, step by step. This is discernment on the first level of investigation.
Once you've investigated filthiness, you then investigate the process of change in the body. In other words, filth is in this body. Dry corpses, fresh corpses, raw corpses, cooked corpses, all kinds of corpses are gathered together in this body, but I've never heard the place where they are barbecued, roasted, and stewed called a crematorium. Instead, it's called kitchen. But actually, that's what it is, a crematorium for animals. And then they're all buried here in this stomach, this grave. We're a burial ground for all kinds of animals — yes, us! — if we look at ourselves in all fairness, with impartiality, because we're filled with old corpses and new. Once we have contemplated in this way, then if we don't feel disenchantment, if we don't feel disengagement, what will we feel? — for that's the way the truth actually is.
The Buddha taught us to get to the truth, because this is what the truth is. If we don't resist the truth, we will all be able to unshackle ourselves from our attachments and false assumptions — from our stupidity and foolishness — step by step. The mind will become bright and clear, radiating its brightness with dignity, bravery, and courage in the face of the truth that comes into contact with it at all times. It will be content to accept every facet of the truth with fairness and impartiality. Even though we may not have yet abandoned our attachments absolutely, we can still find relief in having put them down to at least some extent. We no longer have to be constantly weighed down with our attachments to the khandhas to the point where we are always miserable. This is in keeping with the saying, 'Fools, the heavier their burdens, the more they keep piling on. Sages, the lighter their burdens, the more they let go — until nothing is left.'
When we investigate in this way, we should examine the process of change in the khandhas. Every piece, every bit, every part of the body undergoes change. There's no exception, not even for a single hair. Everything undergoes change in the same way. So which part is us, which part is ours, to which we should be attached?
The same holds true with the word 'anatta,' not-self. It drives home even more firmly the fact that these things don't deserve our attachment. 'Anatta' lies in the same parts as change — the very same parts. They're anatta, not ours or anyone else's. Each one, each one is simply a natural phenomenon mingled with the others in line with its own nature, without any concern for who will like it or hate it, latch onto it or let it go.
But we human beings are light-fingered and quick. Whatever comes our way, we snatch hold of it, snatch hold of it, with no concern for right or wrong. We're more light-fingered and quick than a hundred monkeys, and yet all of us, all over the world, like to criticize monkeys for not being able to sit contented and still. Actually we ourselves can't stay contented and still in any position. We're full of restlessness — unruly, reckless, overflowing our boundaries — and yet we never think of criticizing ourselves. The Dhamma taught by the Buddha is thus like a stick for slapping the hands of this light-fingered, unruly monkey.
With the three characteristics, anatta among them, he warns us, strikes our wrists: 'Don't reach!' He slaps us, strikes us: 'Don't reach for it as "me" or "mine."' The phrase, 'The body is not the self,' is just like that. 'Don't reach for it. Don't latch onto it.' This is simply so that we will see that it's already not-self. By its nature it's not-self. It doesn't belong to anyone at all. He's already told us: 'Anatta: It's not the self.' This is how we investigate the body.
So, now then: Focus on visualizing it as it disintegrates, in whichever way seems most natural to you. This part decomposes. That part decomposes. This part falls off. That part falls off. Let yourself become engrossed in watching it, using your own ingenuity. This falls off, that falls off, until everything has fallen apart — all the bones, from the skull on down. Once the skin that enwraps them has decomposed, the flesh has decomposed, the tendons that hold them together have decomposed, the bones can't help but fall apart, piece by piece, because they are held together only by tendons. Once the tendons decompose, the different parts have to fall off piece by piece in a pile on the ground, scattered all over the place. You can even visualize having vultures, crows, and dogs come to eat and scatter the parts everywhere. How does the mind feel about this?
Well then, look at it. Visualize the liquid parts seeping into the earth and evaporating into the air, then drying away, drying away until they no longer appear. The solid parts, once they've dried, return to the earth from which they came. Earth returns to earth, water to water, wind to wind. Penetrate down into any of four elements — earth, water, wind, or fire — because each gives clear evidence of the Noble Truths.
We don't have to think that we've examined earth clearly, but this element or that element isn't clear. We needn't think that way at all. If we examine any one of them until it's clear, we will penetrate them all, because earth, water, wind, and fire are all already open and aboveboard. They appear to our sight. In our body, we already have water. Wind — for example, the in-and-out breath — is already clearly there, already clear to see. Fire — the warmth in the body — is something we all have here in our bodies. So why don't we accept its truth with right discernment? Once we've investigated it over and over again, we have to accept it. We can't resist the truth, because that's why we're here: We want the truth.
So keep investigating. Look for the part that's 'you' or 'yours.' Look for it! There isn't any — not a one! The whole thing originally belongs to them: to earth, water, wind, and fire. It originally belongs to the different elements.
Now, when you look in this manner, the mind can settle down and grow still. At the same time, these aren't preoccupations that will make the mind proud, conceited, or unruly. Rather, they are themes that calm the heart, which is why the Buddha taught us to investigate them repeatedly until we understand and become adept at them.
When the mind sees clearly with its own discernment, it can't help but withdraw into stillness, firmly centered within, letting go of all its cares. This is one level in the investigation of the khandhas.
Now for the next step: Investigate feelings of pain, especially when you are ill or have been sitting in meditation for a long time, and severe pain arises. Take it on, right there. A warrior has to fight when the enemy appears. If there's no enemy, how can you call him a warrior? And what's the enemy? Feelings of pain, the enemy of the heart. When you're ill, where does it hurt? There: You have your enemy. If you're a warrior, how can you run away and hide? You have to fight until you gain knowledge and then use that knowledge to come out victorious.
So. What does the pain come from? From the time we were born until we first sat in meditation, it wasn't there. Before we first became ill, it didn't appear. It appears only now that we're ill. Before that, where was it hiding? If it's really 'us,' our mind should have been aware of it at all times, so why hasn't this kind of pain appeared at all times? Why is it appearing now? If the pain is 'us,' then when it vanishes why doesn't the mind vanish with it? If they're really one and the same thing, they have to vanish together. The pain should appear as long as the mind is aware. If they're one and the same thing, the pain shouldn't vanish. You have to look and investigate until this is clear. At the same time, analyze the body when the pain arises — when, for example, your legs ache or when this or that bone hurts. Fix your attention on the bone if the bone is really hurting.
Is the bone the pain? Ask yourself! And whatever you're asking about, focus your attention right there. Don't ask in the abstract or absentmindedly. Ask in a way that focuses the mind right down to see the truth. Focus steadily right on the pain. Stare the mind right down on whichever bone you identify with the pain. Look carefully to see, 'Is this bone the pain?' Fix your attention there. Really observe with your own discernment. If this bone is really the pain, then when the pain vanishes, why doesn't the bone vanish with it? If they really are one and the same thing, then when the pain vanishes, the bone should vanish too. It shouldn't remain.
But look: When the disease goes away, or when we get up from sitting in meditation, the really severe pain vanishes, the stress vanishes. So if they are one and the same thing, why doesn't the bone vanish as well? This shows that they aren't one and the same. The feeling isn't the same as the body. The body isn't the same as the feeling. Similarly, the body and the mind aren't one and the same. Each has its own separate reality. Distinguish them so as to see them clearly in line with this truth, and you'll understand their true nature through discernment, with no doubts at all. Feeling will appear in its true nature.
Ultimately, the investigation will come circling in, circling in, circling in to the mind. The pain will gradually shrink into itself, away from the mind's assumptions. In other words, you will see that the mind is the culprit. The mind is the instigator. The physical pain will gradually subside and fade away. The body will simply be there as the body, with the same reality it had before the pain appeared. And now that the pain has vanished, the flesh, skin, tendon, bone or whatever part you had identified as the pain will maintain its reality in the same way. It isn't the pain. The body is the body. The feeling is the feeling. The mind is the mind. Fix your attention on seeing them clearly. Once the mind has penetrated to the truth, the pain will disappear. This is one result.
Another result is that even if the pain doesn't vanish — here I'm referring to the physical pain — still it can't have any impact on the heart and mind. Ultimately, the mind is serene, secure, and majestic, there in the midst of the physical pain. No matter which part of the body you say is pained — even if it's the whole body at once — the mind isn't disturbed or agitated in any way. It's relaxed and at ease because it has seen with discernment right through the pain appearing at the moment. This is another sort of result that comes from investigating pain.
When investigating pain, then the greater the pain, the more important it is that your mindfulness and discernment not retreat. They have to keep advancing so as to know the truth. You needn't aim at making the pain vanish, because such a desire would simply enhance the pain and make it more and more severe. Actually, you're making an investigation simply to see the truth. Whether or not the pain vanishes, know the truth that is the pain or gives rise to the pain by seeing through it with your own discernment: That's enough. Fix your attention there, and these things will keep appearing and disappearing there in the khandhas.
The body appears for a certain period and then disintegrates in what we call death. As for feelings of pain, they appear a hundred times in a single day and then disappear a hundred times, a thousand times as well. What's lasting about them? This is the kind of truth they are. Get so you clearly know with discernment the truth of painful feelings as they appear. Don't retreat or let the mind wander adrift.
What is sañña labeling at the moment? Sañña is the important instigator. As soon as sankhara fashions anything — blip! — sañña latches right onto it and labels it this, labels it that — stirring things all up. When we talk about the things that create havoc, provoking this issue and that, we're referring to these characters: sankharas and saññas that label things and stamp meanings on them. 'This is us. This is ours. This is pain. It hurts right here. It hurts right there. I'm afraid of the pain. I'm afraid to die' — afraid of everything of every sort. These are the characters that fool us into fear, making the mind apprehensive, making it give up its efforts and lose. Is it good to lose? Even children playing games have a sense of shame when they lose, and try to make up their losses. As for meditators who lose out to defilement, who lose out to pain: If they don't feel embarrassed in the presence of the defilements, the pains and themselves, then they're simply too shameless.
Know that vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana are simply individual conditions displayed by the mind. They appear and vanish. 'Sañña anatta' — see? They too are not-self, so how can you hold to them? How can you believe them to be you, to be yours, to be true? Keep track of them so that you can know them clearly with mindfulness and discernment: audacious, undaunted, diamond-hearted, decisive in the face of defilement and pain of every sort.
Sankharas, mental formations: They form — blip, blip, blip — in the heart. The heart ripples for a moment: blip, blip, blip. The moment they arise, they vanish. So what substance or truth can you find in these saññas and sankharas?
Viññana, cognizance: As soon as anything comes into contact, this takes note and vanishes, takes note and vanishes. So ultimately, the khandhas are full of nothing but appearing and vanishing. There's nothing lasting about them that can give us any real sustenance or nourishment. There's not even the least bit of substance to them. So use your discernment to investigate until you see clearly in this way, and you will come to see the real Dhamma taught by the Buddha, which has not been otherwise from time immemorial and by the same token will never be otherwise at all.
Once we've investigated to this extent, how can the mind not withdraw into stillness until it is plainly apparent? It has to be still. It has to stand out. The mind's awareness of itself has to be prominent because it has withdrawn inwardly from having seen the truth of these things. The mind has to be prominent. Pain, no matter how horribly severe, will dissolve away through investigation, through the mind's having clearly seen its truth. Or if it doesn't go away, then the pain and the mind will each have their own separate reality. The heart will be inwardly majestic. Undaunted. Unfearing.
When the time comes for death, let it happen. There is no more fear, because death is entirely a matter of rupa, vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana. It's not a matter of the 'knower' — the heart — breaking apart. It's not the knower — the heart — that dies. Only those other things die. The mind's labels and assumptions have simply fooled it into fear. If we can catch sight of the fact that these labels and assumptions are illusions and not worthy of credence, the mind will withdraw inwardly, no longer believing them, but believing the truth instead, believing the discernment that has investigated things thoroughly.
Now, when the mind has investigated time and again, ceaselessly, relentlessly, it will develop expertise in the affairs of the khandhas. The physical khandha will be the first to be relinquished through discernment. In the beginning stage of the investigation, discernment will see through the physical khandha before seeing through the others and will be able to let it go. From there, the mind will gradually be able to let go of vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana at the same time.
To put the matter simply, once discernment sees through them, it lets go. If it has yet to see through them, it holds on. Once we see through them with discernment, we let them go — let them go completely — because we see that they are simply ripplings in the mind — blip, blip, blip — without any substance at all. A good thought appears and vanishes. A bad thought appears and vanishes. Whatever kind of thought appears, it's simply a formation and as such it vanishes. If a hundred formations appear, all hundred of them vanish. There is no permanence to them substantial enough for us to trust.
So then. What is it that keeps supplying us with these things or keeps forcing them out on us? What is it that keeps forcing this thing and that out to fool us? This is where we come to what the Buddha calls the pabhassara-citta: the original, radiant mind. 'But monks, because of the admixture of defilement,' or 'because of the defilements that come passing through' — from sights, sound, smells, tastes, tactile sensations; from rupa, vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana, that our labels and assumptions haul in to burn us — 'the mind becomes defiled.' It's defiled with just these very things.
Thus investigation is for the sake of removing these things so as to reveal the mind through clear discernment. We can then see that as long as the mind is at the stage where it hasn't ventured out to become engaged in any object — inasmuch as its instruments, the senses, are still weak and undeveloped — it is quiet and radiant, as in the saying, 'The original mind is the radiant mind.' But this is the original mind of the round of rebirth — for example, the mind of a newborn child whose activities are still too undeveloped to take any objects on fully. It's not the original mind freed from the cycle and fully pure.
So while we investigate around us stage by stage, the symptoms of defilement that used to run all over the place will be gathered into this single point, becoming a radiance within the mind. And this radiance: Even the tools of super-mindfulness and super-discernment will have to fall for it when they first meet with it, because it's something we have never seen before, never met before, from the beginning of our practice or from the day of our birth. We thus become awed and amazed. It seems for the moment that nothing can compare to it in magnificence.
And why shouldn't it be magnificent? It has been the king of the round of rebirth in all three worlds — the world of sensuality, the world of form, and the world of formlessness — since way back when, for countless aeons. It's the one who has wielded power over the mind and ruled the mind all along. As long as the mind doesn't possess the mindfulness and discernment to pull itself out from under this power, how can it not be magnificent? This is why it has been able to drive the mind into experiencing birth on various levels without limit, in dependence on the fruits of the different actions it has performed under the orders of the ephemeral defilements. The fact that living beings wander and stray, taking birth and dying unceasingly, is because this nature leads them to do so.
This being the case, we have to investigate it so as to see it plainly. Actually, radiance and defilement are two sides of the same coin because they are both conventional realities. The radiance that comes from the convergence of the various defilements will form a point, a center, so that we can clearly perceive that 'This is the center of the radiance.' When any defilement appears, in correspondence with that state or level of the mind, a very refined stress will arise in the center we call radiant. Thus radiance, defilement, and stress — all three — are companions. They go together.
For this reason, the mind possessing this radiance must worry over it, guard it, protect it, maintain it, for fear that something may come to disturb it, jar it, obscure its radiance. Even the most refined adulteration is still an affair of defilement, about which we as meditators should not be complacent. We must investigate it with unflagging discernment.
In order to cut through the burden of your concerns once and for all, you should ask yourself, 'What is this radiance?' Fix your attention on it until you know. There's no need to fear that once this radiance is destroyed, the 'real you' will be destroyed along with it. Focus your investigation right at that center to see clearly that this radiance has the characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-self just like all the other phenomena you have already examined. It's not different in any way, aside from the difference in its subtlety.
Thus nothing should be taken for granted. If anything has the nature of conventional reality, let discernment slash away at it. Focus right down on the mind itself. All the really counterfeit things lie in the mind. This radiance is the ultimate counterfeit and at that moment it's the most conspicuous point. You hardly want to touch it at all, because you love it and cherish it more than anything else. In the entire body there is nothing more outstanding than this radiance, which is why you are amazed at it, love it, cherish it, dawdle over it, want nothing to touch it. But it's the enemy king: unawareness.
Have you ever seen it? If you haven't, then when you reach this stage in your practice you'll fall for it of your own accord. And then you'll know it of your own accord — no one will have to tell you — when mindfulness and discernment are ready. It's called avijja — unawareness. Right here is the true unawareness. Nothing else is true unawareness. Don't go imagining avijja as a tiger, a leopard, a demon, or a beast. Actually, it's the most beautiful, most alluring Miss Universe the world has ever seen. Genuine unawareness is very different from what we expect it to be.
When we reach genuine unawareness, we don't know what unawareness is and so we get stuck right there. If there's no one to advise us, no one to suggest an approach, we are sure to stay stuck there a long time before we can understand and work ourselves free. But if there is someone to suggest an approach, we can begin to understand it and strike right at that center, without trusting it, by investigating it in the same way we have dealt with all other phenomena.
Once we've investigated it with sharp discernment until we know it clearly, this phenomenon will dissolve away in a completely unexpected way. At the same time, you could call it Awakening, or closing down the cemeteries of the round of rebirth, the round of the mind, under the shade of the Bodhi tree. Once this phenomenon has dissolved away, something even more amazing that has been concealed by unawareness will be revealed in all its fullness.
This is what is said to be like the quaking of the cosmos within the heart. This is a very crucial mental moment: when the heart breaks away from conventions. This moment, when release and conventional reality break away from each other, is more awesome than can be expressed. The phrase, 'the path of arahantship giving way to the fruition of arahantship' refers to precisely this mental moment, the moment in which unawareness vanishes. As we are taught, when the path is fully developed, it steps onward to the fruition of arahantship, which is the Dhamma — the mind — at its most complete. From that moment on, there are no more problems.
The phrase, 'the one nibbana,' 1 is fully realized in this heart in the moment unawareness is dissolving. We are taught that this is the moment when the path and the fruition — which are a pair — come together and meet. If we were to make a comparison with climbing the stairs to a house, one foot is on the last step, the other foot is on the floor of the house. We haven't yet reached the house with both feet. When both feet are on the floor of the house, we've 'reached the house.' As for the mind, it is said to reach the Dhamma or to attain the ultimate Dhamma, and from the moment of attainment it's called 'the one nibbana.'
In other words, the mind is completely free. It displays no further activity for the removal of defilement. This is called the one nibbana. If you want, you can call it the fruition of arahantship, for at this stage there are no more defilements to quibble. Or you can call it the one nibbana. But if you want to give it the conventional label most appropriate to the actual principle, so that nothing is deficient in conventional terms, you have to say 'the one nibbana' so as to be completely fitting with conventional reality and release in the final phase of wiping out the cemeteries of the mind of unawareness.
The Buddha taught,
n'atthi santi param sukham:
There is no ease other than peace.
This refers to the stage of those who have no more defilements, who have attained sa-upadisesa-nibbana alive, such as the arahants.
To practice the religion means to attend to your own heart and mind. Who is it that suffers pain and difficulty? Who is the suspect, forever imprisoned? Who else, if not the mind? And who has it imprisoned, if not all the defilements and mental effluents? To deal with the situation, you have to deal directly with the enemies of the heart, using your discernment, for only sharp discernment is capable of dealing with the defilements until they dissolve away of their own accord, as I have already mentioned. From that point on, there are no more problems.
As for rupa, vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana, they're simply conditions — just conditions — no longer capable of affecting or provoking the mind. The same with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations: Each has its separate reality. To each one we say, 'If it exists, it exists. If not, no matter.' The only problem has been the mind that makes labels and assumptions through its own stupidity. Once it gains enough intelligence, it becomes real. All phenomena within and without are real. Each has its own separate reality, with no more of the conflicts or issues that used to occur.
When we reach the stage where 'each has its own separate reality,' we can say that the war between the mind and defilement is over. When the time comes to part, we part. If not, we live together, like everyone else in the world, but we don't take issue with each other like everyone else in the world, because we've made our investigation.
If the words 'inconstancy, stress, and not-self' don't refer to the khandhas for which we are responsible, what do they refer to? So now we have completed our studies — our study of the three characteristics (tilakkhana), rather than of the three divisions (tipitaka) of the Pali Canon, although actually the three divisions are nothing other than the three characteristics, in that the three divisions are a description of the three characteristics throughout.
Inconstancy: the process of change. Stress. Not-self: The khandhas are not us — not us while we are living, so when we die what is there to latch onto? When you see the truth in this way, you don't worry or feel apprehensive over the life or death of the khandhas. The mind simply perceives the modes in which the khandhas behave and break apart, but by its nature it doesn't disband along with the khandhas, so there's nothing to fear. If death comes, you don't try to prevent it. It life continues, you don't try to prevent it, for each is a truth.
In completing your study of death, you become the ultimate person — the ultimate you. When you have completed your study of death, you don't fear death — 'If life continues, let it continue; if death comes, let it die' — for you have spread a net around yourself with your discernment. You don't tremble over the truths of which the heart is fully aware at all times.

The Outer Space of the Mind

Venerable Acariya
Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno

Translated from the Thai

People who practice in earnestness, trying to develop and improve the qualities in their hearts step by step, beginning with virtue, the stages of concentration, and the levels of discernment, are -- to make a comparison -- like the people who build a rocket or a satellite to travel in outer space. They have to put their vehicle into good shape. Otherwise it won't get off the ground -- because the things that can act as obstacles to their vehicle are many. The object that's going to travel in space has to be developed in order to be completely suited to its environment in every way. Before they can get it safely past its obstacles, they need to have made ample calculations. Even then, there are times when mishaps occur. But once the vehicle has been thoroughly developed, it can travel easily in outer space without any mishaps of any sort. This is an analogy for the minds of those who practice, who have developed their inner qualities and put them in to shape.
The heart is what will step out beyond the realm of conventional realities that exert a gravitational pull on it, into the outer space beyond convention: to vimutti, or release. The things that act as obstacles, preventing it from stepping out, are the various kinds of defilement.
For this reason, we have to make a very great effort. The defilements have various levels of crudeness and subtlety, so in developing the heart so as to pass through the crudeness and subtlety of the various levels of conventional reality -- and of the defilements in particular -- we must try to make it just right. We must use whatever qualities are needed to get the mind past the crudeness of conventional realities or defilement, stage by stage, by means of our practice, by means of our efforts to improve and develop it. Our persistence has to be strong. Our efforts, our endeavors in all ways have to be strong. Mindfulness and discernment are the important factors that will take the heart beyond the various obstacles thwarting it step by step. All of the techniques and strategies taught by the Buddha in the area of meditation are means for developing the heart so that it will be suited to transcending the realm of conventional reality and reaching outer space: nibbana.
What is it like, the outer space of the Dhamma? They no longer doubt about whether the outer space of the world exists or not. The things that lie within conventional reality are known to exist. Outer space beyond our atmosphere is another level of conventional reality. Outer space: What is it like? Does it exist? How does our world in the atmosphere differ from the things outside the world of our atmosphere called outer space? Both of these levels exist.
The mind that lies in the realm of conventional reality -- surrounded and controlled -- is like the various objects in the world trapped by the pull of gravity at all times. The mind is trapped by the pull of defilement in just the same way. It can't escape, which is why it must develop its strength to escape from the world of this gravitational pull. This gravitational pull is something the Buddha has already explained. In brief, there is craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming. The details -- the branches and offshoots -- are more than can be numbered. They fill this world of conventional realities. They are all factors that make the mind attached and entangled -- loving, hating, and resenting different things, different beings, different people. All these factors can be adversaries to the heart and come from the preoccupations of the heart itself that labels things and misinterprets them.
For this reason, the principles of the Dhamma that the Buddha taught in the area of meditation for developing and modifying the heart are very appropriate for helping us as meditators to escape from all the things in our hearts that exert a pull on us or weigh us down. These things are hard to remove, hard to remedy, hard to sever, which is why we need a Teacher to guide us. If we had no Teacher, the living beings in the three realms of the cosmos -- no matter how many thousands or millions of forms and levels there are -- would all be as if deaf and blind. Not one of them would be able to escape from this darkness and blindness. This is why we should have a heartfelt sense of the awesomeness of the arising of a Buddha, who leads living beings to escape from this gravitational pull, from this oppressiveness, safely and in large numbers -- to the point where no one else can compare -- beginning with each Buddha's foremost disciples and on to the end of his dispensation, when his teachings no longer exist in the hearts of living beings, which is the final point in his work of ferrying living beings from all sorts of blindness, darkness, suffering, and stress.
Our present Buddha performed these duties with the full mindfulness and discernment of his great mercy and compassion, beginning with the day of his Awakening. It's as if he took a large ship and cast anchor in the middle of the ocean in order to gather the living beings of various kinds and strengths adrift in the water on the verge of death and bring them on board stage by stage. Those who take an interest in the Dhamma are like beings who struggle to get on board the Buddha's ship that has cast anchor in the middle of the sea. They keep climbing on board, climbing on board, until the day when the beings of the world have no more belief in the teachings of the religion. That's when the ship will no longer have any function. Those who are still left in the sea will have to stay there adrift, with no more way of escape. They are the ones who are to become food for the fishes and turtles.
Those who have come on board, though, are the various stages of those who have been able to escape, as mentioned in the four types of individuals, beginning with the ugghatitaññu, vipacitaññu and neyya. These are the ones who have come on board. How high or low they are able to go depends on their individual capabilities. There are those who escape completely -- those free of defilement; there are those on the verge of escape -- the non-returners (anagami); those in the middle -- the once-returners (sakidagami); and then the stream-winners (sotapanna); and finally ordinary good people. Here we're referring to the Buddha's ship in its general sense. He uses it to salvage living beings, beginning from the day of his Awakening until the point when the teachings of the religion have no more meaning in the world's sensibilities. That's the final point. Those who remain are the diseased who can find no medicine or physician to treat their illnesses and are simply awaiting their day to die.
So now we are swimming and struggling toward the Buddha's large ship by making the effort of the practice. In particular, now that we have ordained in the Buddha's religion and have developed a feel for his teaching, this makes us even more moved, even more convinced of all the truths that he taught rightly about good and evil, right and wrong, hell, heaven, the Brahma worlds, and nibbana, all of which are realities that actually exist.
We have followed the principles of the Buddha's Dhamma, and in particular the practice of meditation. Try to build up your strength and ability without flagging, so as to resist and remove all the things that coerce or exert a gravitational pull on the heart. Don't let yourself become accustomed to their pull. They pull you to disaster, not to anything else. They're not forces that will pull you to what is auspicious. They'll pull you to what's inauspicious, step by step, depending on how much you believe, give in, and are overcome by their pull. Suffering will then appear in proportion to how much you unconsciously agree, give in, and are overcome by their pull. Even though there are the teachings of the religion to pull you back, the mind tends to take the lower path more than the path of the religion, which is why it is set adrift. But we're not the type to be set adrift. We're the type who are swimming to release using the full power of our intelligence and abilities.
Wherever you are, whatever you do, always be on the alert with mindfulness. Don't regard the effort of the practice as tiring, as something wearisome, difficult to do, difficult to get right, difficult to contend with. Struggle and effort: These are the path for those who are to gain release from all stress and danger, not the path of those headed downward to the depths of hell, blind and in the dark by day and by night, their minds consumed by all things lowly and vile.
The Noble Ones in the time of the Buddha practiced in earnest. With the words, 'I go to the Buddha for refuge,' or 'I go to the Sangha for refuge,' we should reflect on their Dhamma, investigating and unraveling it so as to see the profundity and subtlety of their practice. At the same time, we should take their realizations into our hearts as good examples to follow, so that we can conduct ourselves in the footsteps of their practices and realizations.
'I go to the Buddha for refuge.' We all know how difficult it was for him to become the Buddha. We should engrave it in our hearts. Our Teacher was the first pioneer in our age to the good destination for the sake of all living beings. Things were never made easy for him. From the day of his renunciation to the day of his Awakening, it was as if he were in hell -- there's no need to compare it to being in prison -- because he had been very delicately brought up in his royal home. When he renounced the household life, he faced great difficulties in terms of the four necessities. In addition, there were many, many defilements in his heart related to his treasury and to the nation filled with his royal subjects. It weighed heavily on his heart at all times that he had to leave these things behind. He found no comfort or peace at all, except when he was sound asleep.
As for us, we don't have a following, don't have subjects, have never been kings. We became ordained far more easily than the Buddha. And when we make the effort of the practice, we have his teachings, correct in their every aspect, as our guide. Our practice isn't really difficult like that of the Buddha, who had to struggle on his own with no one to guide him. On this point, we're very different. We have a much lighter burden in the effort of the practice than the Buddha, who was of royal birth.
Food, wherever we go, is full to overflowing, thanks to the faith of those who are already convinced of the Buddha's teachings and are not lacking in interest and faith for those who practice rightly. For this reason, monks -- wherever they go -- are not lacking in the four necessities of life, which is very different from the case of the Buddha.
All of the Noble Disciples who followed in the Buddha's footsteps were second to him in terms of the difficulties they faced. They had a much easier time as regards the four necessities of life, because people by and large had already begun to have faith and conviction in the teachings. But even so, the disciples didn't take pleasure in the four necessities more than in the Dhamma, in making the single-minded effort to gain release from suffering and stress. This is something very pleasing, something very worthy to be taken as an example. They gave their hearts, their lives -- every part of themselves -- in homage to the Buddha and Dhamma, to the point where they all became homage to the Sangha within themselves. In doing so, they all encountered difficulties, every one of them.
Because the Dhamma is something superior and superlative, whoever meets it has to develop and prosper through its power day by day, step by step, to a state of superlative excellence. As for the defilements, there is no type of defilement that can take anyone to peace, security, or excellence of any kind.
The defilements know this. They know that the Dhamma far excels them, so they disguise themselves thoroughly to keep us from knowing their tricks and deceits. In everything we do, they have to lie behind the scenes, showing only their tactics and strategies, which are nothing but means of fooling living beings into falling for them and staying attached to them. This is very ingenious on their part.
For this reason, those who make the effort of the practice are constantly bending under their gravitational pull. Whether we are doing sitting meditation, walking meditation -- whatever our posture -- we keep bending and leaning under their pull. They pull us toward laziness and lethargy. They pull us toward discouragement and weakness. They pull us into believing that our mindfulness and discernment are too meager for the teachings of the religion. They pull us into believing that our capacities are too meager to deserve the Dhamma, to deserve the paths, fruitions, and nibbana, or to deserve the Buddha's teachings. All of these things are the tactics of the pull of defilement to draw us solely into failure, away from the Dhamma. If we don't practice the Dhamma so as to get above these things, we won't have any sense at all that they are all deceits of defilement. When we have practiced so as to get beyond them step by step, though, they won't be able to remain hidden. No matter how sharp and ingenious the various kinds of defilement may be, they don't lie beyond the power of mindfulness and discernment. This is why the Buddha saw causes and effects, benefits and harm, in a way that went straight to his heart, because of his intelligence that transcended defilement.
For this reason, when he taught the Dhamma to the world, he did so with full compassion so that living beings could truly escape from danger, from the depths of the world so full of suffering. He wanted the beings of the world to see the marvelousness, the awesomeness of the Dhamma that had had such an impact within his heart, so that they too would actually see as he did. This is why his proclamation of the Dhamma was done in full measure, for it was based on his benevolence. He didn't proclaim it with empty pronouncements or as empty ceremony. That sort of thing didn't exist in the Buddha. Instead, he was truly filled with benevolence for the living beings of the world.
His activities as Buddha -- the five duties of the Buddha we are always hearing about -- he never abandoned, except for the few times he occasionally set them aside in line with events. But even though he set them aside, it wasn't because he had set his benevolence aside. He set them aside in keeping with events and circumstances. For example, when he spent the rains alone in the Prileyya Forest, he had no following, and none of the monks entered the forest to receive instruction from him, which meant that this activity was set aside. Other than that, though, he performed his duties to the full because of his benevolence, with nothing lacking in any way.
This is a matter of his having seen things clearly in his heart: the harm of all things dangerous, and the benefits of all things beneficial. The Buddha had touched and known them in every way, which is why he had nothing to doubt. His teaching of the Dhamma regarding harms and benefits was thus done in full measure. He analyzed harm into all its branches. He analyzed benefits into all their branches and completely revealed the differing degrees of benefits they gave. The beings of the world who had lived drearily with suffering and stress for untold aeons and were capable of learning of the excellence of the Dhamma from the Buddha: How could they remain complacent? Once they had heard the teachings of the religion truly resonating in their very own ears and hearts -- because of the truth, the honesty, the genuine compassion of the Buddha -- they had to wake up. The beings of the world had to wake up. They had to accept the truth.
That truth is of two kinds. The truth on the side of harm is one kind of truth: It really is stressful, and the origin of stress really creates stress to burn the hearts of living beings. As for the path, it really creates ease and happiness for living beings. Those who listened to these truths, listened with all their hearts. This being the case, the strength of will they developed, their conviction, and their clear vision of both harm and benefits all gathered to become a strength permeating the one heart of each person. So why shouldn't these things reveal their full strength and manifest themselves as persistence, effort, earnestness, and determination in every activity for the sake of gaining release from all dangers and adversity by means of the Dhamma?
This is why the disciples who heard the Dhamma from the Buddha, from the mouth of the foremost Teacher, felt inspired and convinced. Many of them even came to see the Dhamma and gain release from suffering and stress, step by step to the point of absolute release, right there in the Buddha's presence. As we've seen the texts say: When the Buddha was explaining the Dhamma for the sake of those who could be taught, his followers -- such as the monks -- attained the Dhamma to ultimate release, nibbana, in no small numbers. This is what happens when truth meets with truth. They fit together easily with no difficulty at all. Those who listened did so by really seeing the benefits and harm, really convinced by the reasons of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha, which is why they gained clear results right then and there.
The Dhamma -- both the harm and benefits that the Buddha explained in his day and age, and that existed in the hearts of his listeners in that day and age: In what way is it different from the truths existing in our hearts at present? They're all the same nature of truth, the same Noble Truths. They don't lie beyond the four Noble Truths, either in the Buddha's time or in the present.
The Buddha's instructions were the truth of the path, teaching people to have virtue, concentration, and discernment so that they could truly understand the affairs of stress straight to the heart and remove the cause of stress, which is a thorn or a spear stabbing the heart of living beings, creating suffering and stress that go straight to the heart as well. The truth of stress exists in our bodies and minds. The truth of the origin of stress reveals itself blatantly in our hearts in our every activity. What can reveal itself only intermittently, or not at all, is the path -- even though we are listening to it right now.
What is the path? Mindfulness and discernment. Right View and Right Attitude: These things refer to the levels of discernment. If we add Right Mindfulness, then when we have these three qualities nourishing the heart, Right Concentration will arise because of our right activities. Right Activity, for those who are to extricate themselves from stress, refers primarily to the work of removing defilement -- for example, the work of sitting and walking meditation, the work of guarding the heart with mindfulness, using mindfulness and discernment continually to investigate and contemplate the different kinds of good and bad things making contact with us at all times. This is called building the path within the heart.
When we bring the path out to contend with our adversary -- the origin of stress -- what facet is the adversary displaying? The facet of love? What does it love? What exactly is the object it loves? Here we focus mindfulness and discernment in on unraveling the object that's loved. What is the object in actuality? Unravel it so as to see it through and through, being really intent in line with the principles of mindfulness and discernment. Reflect back and forth, again and again, so as to see it clearly. The object that's loved or lovable will fade away of its own accord because of our discernment. Mindfulness and discernment wash away all the artifice, all that is counterfeit in that so-called love step by step until it is all gone. This is the discernment we build up in the heart to wash away all the artifices, all the filth with which the defilements plaster things inside and out.
Outside, they plaster these things on sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. Inside, they plaster them on labels -- sañña -- that go out our eyes... They plaster things beginning with our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, stage by stage. There's nothing but the plaster of defilement. When we meet with these things, seeing them or hearing them, sañña -- labels and interpretations -- and sankhara -- thought-formations -- appear in the mind. These continue plastering layer on layer.
For this reason, we must use discernment to investigate. Whatever is plastered outside, wash that plastering away. Then turn around to wash away the plastering inside. When we have seen these things clearly with discernment, how can discernment help but turn to find the important culprit, the deceiver inside? It has to turn inside. In using mindfulness and discernment, this is how we must use them. When we investigate, this is how we investigate -- and we do it earnestly. This is Right Activity in the area of the practice.
Right Speech: As I've said before, we speak in line with the ten topics of effacement (sallekha-dhamma). We don't bring matters of the world, politics, commerce, matters of women and men, matters of defilement and craving to converse among ourselves so as to become distracted and conceited, piling on more defilement and stress, in line with the things we discuss. With the topics of effacement -- that's what the Buddha called them -- we speak of things that will strengthen our will to make persistent effort, making us convinced and inspired with the Dhamma. At the same time, these topics are warnings against heedlessness and means of washing away the various kinds of defilement when we hear them from one another. This is Right Speech in the area of the practice.
Right Livelihood: Feed your heart with Dhamma. Don't bring in poison -- greed, anger, delusion, or lust -- to feed the heart, for these things will be toxic, burning the heart and making it far more troubled than any poisonous substances could. Try to guard your heart well with mindfulness and discernment. The savor of the Dhamma, beginning with concentration as its basis, will appear as peace and calm within the heart in proportion to the levels of concentration. Then use discernment to unravel the various things that the mind labels and interprets, so as to see them clearly step by step. This is called Right Livelihood -- guarding the heart rightly, feeding it correctly with the nourishment of the Dhamma, and not with the various kinds of defilement, craving, and mental effluents that are like poisons burning the heart. Reduce matters to these terms, meditators. This is called Right Livelihood in the practice of meditation.
Right Effort, as I've said before, means persistence in abandoning all forms of evil. This covers everything we've said so far. The Buddha defines this as persistence in four areas, or of four sorts, but since I've already explained this many times, I'll pass over it here.
Right Mindfulness: What does the Buddha have us keep in mind? All the things that will remove defilement. For example, he has us keep the four frames of reference in mind: being mindful as we investigate the body; being mindful as we investigate feelings; being mindful as we investigate the mind; being mindful as we investigate phenomena that involve the mind, arise in the mind, arise and then vanish, vanish and then arise, matters of past and future appearing in the present all the time. We keep investigating in this way. If we investigate so as to make the mind progress in tranquillity meditation, Right Mindfulness means using mindfulness to supervise our mental repetition. From there it turns into Right Concentration within the heart. This is called building the Dhamma, building tools for clearing our way, loosening the things that bind and constrict the heart so that we can make easy progress, so that we aren't obstructed and blocked by the force of the things I have mentioned.
Only the religion, or only the Dhamma, can remove and scatter all the things that have bound us for countless aeons, clearing them away so that we can make easy progress. When the mind is centered in concentration, then confusion and turmoil are far away. The mind is still and dwells in comfort and ease. When the mind develops discernment from investigating and contemplating the things that obstruct it, it makes easy progress. The sharper its discernment, the wider the path it can clear for itself. Its going is smooth. Easy. It advances by seeing and knowing the truth, without being deluded or deceiving itself. Genuine discernment doesn't deceive itself, but instead makes smooth progress. It unravels all the things that obstruct it -- our various attachments and misconstruings -- so as to see them thoroughly, as if it were slashing away the obstacles in its path so that it can progress step by step as I've already explained to you.
The most important basis for its investigation is the body. Bodies outside or the body inside, investigate them carefully and thoroughly, for they're all Noble Truths. They're all the path, both inside and out. Investigate and unravel them so as to see them clearly -- and while you're investigating them, don't concern yourself with any other work more than with the work of investigation. Use discernment to investigate in order really to know, really to see these things as they are, and uproot the counterfeit labels and assumptions that say that they're pretty and beautiful, lovely and attractive. Investigate so as to penetrate to the truth that there is nothing at all beautiful or attractive about them. They're thoroughly filthy and repulsive: your body and the bodies of others, all without exception. They're all filled with filthy and repulsive things. If you look in line with the principles of the truth, that's how they are. Discernment investigates, peering inward so as to see clear through -- from the skin outside on into the inside, which is putrid with all kinds of filth -- for the sake of seeing clearly exactly what is pretty, what is beautiful, what is lovely and attractive. There's nothing of the sort in any body. There are only the lying defilements that have planted these notions there.
When we have really investigated on in, we see that these notions are all false. The genuine truth is that these bodies aren't pretty or beautiful. They're nothing but repulsive. When they fall apart, what are they? When they fall apart, earth is earth -- because earth is what it already was when it was still in the body. The properties of water, wind, and fire were already water, wind, and fire when they were in the body. When the body falls apart, where do these things ever become gods and Brahmas, heaven and nibbana? They have to be earth, water, wind, and fire in line with their nature. This is how discernment investigates and analyzes so as to see clearly. This is how we use clear-seeing discernment to clear away the things obstructing and distorting our vision. Now there's no more such thing as being constricted or blocked. Our discernment, if we use it, has to be discernment all the day long.
Wherever discernment penetrates, it sees clearly, clears away its doubts, and lets go, step by step, until it lets go once and for all from having known thoroughly. Once it has investigated blatant things so as to know them clearly, where will the mind then go? Once it has investigated blatant things and known them clearly, it's as if it has completely uprooted the blatant defilements that have planted thorns in different objects, such as our own body. So now where will the defilements go? Will they fly away? They can only shrink inward to find a hiding place when they are chased inside and attacked by mindfulness and discernment.
Feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance: These are simply individual conditions by their nature, but they are under the control of defilement. Defilement is the basis from which they spring, so it has to regard itself as being in charge. It uses labels to make them defilement. It forms thought-formations so as to make them defilement. It cognizes and takes note so as to make these things defilement. However many feelings arise, it makes them all defilement. Defilement can't make things into Dhamma. It has to be defilement all the day long. This is how it builds itself in its various branches.
So. Investigate on in. Slash on in. Feelings of pleasure and pain: They exist both in the body and in the mind. Feeling isn't defilement. If we look in line with the principles of nature, it's simply a reality. The assumption that 'I'm pained' or 'I'm pleased' -- delusion with pain, delusion with pleasure, delusion with feelings of indifference in the body and mind: These things are defilement. The assumptions and delusions are defilement. When we really investigate inward, the various feelings aren't defilement; these four mental phenomena aren't defilement.
Once we've spotted our assumptions and construings, they retreat inward. The feelings that still exist in the body and mind, even though they aren't yet thoroughly understood, are still greatly lightened. We begin to gain an inkling of their ways, step by step. We're not deluded to the point of complete blindness as we were before we investigated. Whichever aspects of feeling are blatant and associated with the body, we know clearly. We can let go of bodily feelings. We can understand them. As for feelings remaining in the mind, for the most part they're refined feelings of pleasure. We know and let go of them in the same way when the path gains power. These feelings of pleasure are like fish in a trap: No matter what, there's no way they can escape getting cooked. They can't swim down into large ponds and lakes as they used to. They can only sit waiting for their dying day. The same holds true for the refined feeling of pleasure -- which is a conventional reality -- within the heart. It can only wait for the day it will be disbanded as a convention when the ultimate ease, which is not a convention, comes to rule the heart through the complete penetration of mindfulness and discernment. So investigate on in until you understand, reaching the point of letting go with no more concerns.
What is sañña labeling? Labeling this, labeling that, making assumptions about this and that: These are all affairs of defilement using sañña. When cognizance (viññana) takes note, it too is turned into defilement. So we investigate these things, using discernment in the same way as when we investigate feelings. We then understand. When we understand, these things become simply cognizance taking note, simply sañña labeling, without labeling so as to be defilement, without taking note so as to be defilement. Defilement then retreats further and further inward.
Ultimately, these five issues -- namely, the physical khandha, our body; the vedana khandha, feelings in the body (as for feelings in the mind, let's save those for the moment); the sañña khandha, the sankhara khandha, and the viññana khandha -- are all clearly known in the heart, with no more doubts. The defilements gather inward, converge inward. They can't go out roaming, because they'll get slashed to bits by mindfulness and discernment. So they have to withdraw inward to find a hiding place. This, in actuality, is what the investigation is like, and not otherwise.
In our investigation as meditators, when discernment reaches any particular level, we'll know for ourselves, step by step. Both defilement and discernment: We'll know both sides at the same time. When discernment is very strong, defilement grows weaker. Mindfulness and discernment become even more courageous and unflinching. The words laziness and lethargy, which are affairs of defilement, disappear. We keep moving in with persistence day and night. This is the way it is when the path gains strength. As meditators you should take note of this and practice so as to know it and see it, so as to make it your own treasure arising in your heart. Your doubts will then be ended in every way.
We now take this atomic mindfulness and discernment and shoot it into the central point of conventional reality, the point that causes living beings to founder in the wheel of the cycle (vatta) so that they can't find their way out, don't know the way out, don't know the ways of birth, don't know who has been born as what, where they have died, what burdens of suffering and stress they have carried. Mindfulness and discernment go crashing down into that point until it is scattered to pieces. And so now how can we not know what it is that has caused us to take birth and die? There is only defilement that is the important seed causing us to take birth and die, causing us to suffer pain and stress. The true Dhamma hasn't caused us to suffer. It has brought us nothing but pleasure and ease in line with its levels, in line with the levels of what is noble and good. The things that give rise to major and minor sufferings are all affairs of defilement. We can see this clearly. We can know this clearly. Especially when defilement has been completely scattered from the heart, it's as if the earth and sky collapse. How can this not send a tremor through the three levels of the cosmos? -- because this thing is what has wandered throughout the three levels of the cosmos. When it has been made to collapse within the heart, what is the heart like now? How does the outer space of the Dhamma differ from the outer space of the world? Now we know clearly. The outer space of this purified mind: Is it annihilation? The outer space of the world isn't annihilation. If it were annihilation, they wouldn't call it outer space. It's a nature that exists in line with the principles of its nature as outer space.
The outer space of the mind released from all forms of gravitational pull, i.e., conventional reality: What is it like? Even though we've never known it before, when we come to know it, we won't have any doubts. Even though we've never seen it before, when we come to see it, we won't have any doubts. Even though we've never experienced it before, when we come to experience it, we won't have any doubts. We won't have to search for witnesses to confirm it, the way we do with conventions in general. It's sanditthiko -- immediately apparent -- and only this fits perfectly with our heart and that outer space mind.
This is what we referred to at the beginning when we talked about the outer space of the world and the outer space of the mind. The outer space of the mind -- the mind of nibbana -- is like that. Just where is it annihilated? Who experiences the outer space of the mind? If it were annihilation, who could experience it? As for where it will or won't be reborn, we already know that there's no way for it to be reborn. We know this clearly. We've removed every defilement or conventional reality that would lead to rebirth. Conventional reality is the same thing as defilement. All things -- no matter how subtle -- that have been dangers to the heart for such a long time have been completely destroyed. All that remains is the pure outer space of the mind: the mind that is pure. You can call it outer space, you can call it anything at all, because the world has its conventions, so we have to make differentiations to use in line with the conventions of the world so as not to conflict.
When we reach the level of the outer space mind, how does it feel for the mind to have been coerced, oppressed, and subject to the pull of all things base and vile, full of stress and great sufferings for aeons and aeons? We don't have to reflect on how many lifetimes it's been. We can take the principle of the present as our evidence. Now the mind is released. We've seen how much suffering there has been and now we've abandoned it once and for all. We've absolutely destroyed its seeds, beginning with 'avijja-paccaya sankhara' -- 'With unawareness as condition there occur mental formations.' All that remains is 'avijjayatveva asesa-viraga-nirodha' sankhara-nirodho' -- 'Simply with the disbanding of unawareness, with no remaining passion, thought-formations disband.' That's the outer space of the mind.
The mind released from all gravitational forces: Even though it's still alive and directing the khandhas, there's nothing to bar its thoughts, its vision, its knowledge. There's nothing to obstruct it, nothing to make it worried or relieved, nothing to make it brave, nothing to make it afraid. It is simply its own nature by itself, always independent in that way.
For this reason, knowledge of all truths has to be completely open to this unobstructed and unoppressed mind. It can know and see. If we speak of matters related to the body and khandhas, we can speak in every way without faltering, because there's nothing to hinder us. Only the defilements are what kept us from seeing what we saw and from describing the things we should have been able to describe, because we didn't know, we didn't see. What we knew was bits and pieces. We didn't know the full truth of these various things. When this was the case, how could we know clearly? How could we speak clearly? All we knew was bits and pieces, so when we spoke, it had to be bits and pieces as well.
But once we've shed these things, everything is wide open. The mind is free, vast, and empty, without limits, without bounds. There's nothing to enclose or obscure it. When we know, we really know the truth. When we see, we really see the truth. When we speak, we can speak the truth. You can call the mind brave or not-brave as you like, because we speak in line with what we experience, what we know and see, so why can't we speak? We can know, we can see, so why can't we speak? -- for these things exist as they have from the beginning. When the Buddha proclaimed the Dhamma to the world, he took the things that existed and that he saw in line with what he had known -- everything of every sort -- and proclaimed them to the world. Think of how broad it was, the knowledge of the Buddha, how subtle and profound -- because nothing was concealed or mysterious to him. Everything was completely opened to him. This is why he's called lokavidu -- one who knows the world clearly -- through the vastness of his mind that had nothing to enclose or conceal it at all.
Aloko udapadi: 'Brightness arose.' His mind was bright toward the truth both by day and by night. This is how the Buddha knew. The Noble Disciples all knew in the same way, except that his range and theirs differed in breadth. But as for knowing the truth, it was the same for them all.
Here we've described both the benefits and the harm of the things involved with the mind -- in other words, both the Dhamma and the defilements -- for you as meditators to listen to and contemplate in earnestness.
So. Let's try to develop our minds so as to shoot out beyond this world of conventional realities to see what it's like. Then we won't have to ask where the Buddha is, how many Buddhas there have been, whether the Noble Disciples really exist or how many they are -- because the one truth that we know and see clearly in our hearts resonates to all the Buddhas, all the Noble Disciples, and all the Dhamma that exists. We won't have any doubts, because the nature that knows and exists within us contains them all: all the Buddhas, the community of Noble Disciples, and all the Dhamma that exists. It's a nature just right in its every aspect, with nothing for us to doubt.
This is the place -- if we speak in terms of place -- where we run out of doubts about everything of every sort. We oversee the khandhas, which are simply conventions of the world, just as all the Noble Disciples do while they are still living. As for the mind, it has gained release and remains released in that way. As we have said, even though it remains in the midst of the world of conventions, this nature is its own nature, and those other things are their own affairs. Each is a separate reality that doesn't mingle, join, or have an effect on the others. When we say release from the world, this is what we mean.
All of the Dhammas I have mentioned here: When do they exist? And when don't they exist? The Dhamma exists at all times and in all places. It's akaliko, timeless. So I ask that you penetrate into the Dhamma of these four Noble Truths. You'll be right on target with the results of the Buddha and the Noble Disciples; and there's no doubt but that you'll be right on target with the results of the Buddha's and the Noble Disciples' work. Their workplace is in these four Noble Truths, and the results that come from the work are the paths, fruitions, and nibbana. They arise right here. They're located right here. When we have practiced and reached them fully and completely, there will be nothing for us to question.
This is why there won't be any reason to doubt the time of the Buddha as compared to our own time, as to whether the Dhamma of the Buddha was different because the defilements are now different from what they were then. The defilements then and now are all of the same sort. The Dhamma is all of the same sort. If we cure defilement in the same way, we're bound to gain release in the same way. There is no other way to gain release, no matter what the day and age. There is only this one way: following the way of the path, beginning with virtue, concentration, and discernment, to eliminate defilement, the cause of stress -- in particular, craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming -- completely from the heart. As for nirodha, the cessation of stress: When defilement is disbanded, from where will any more suffering or stress arise? When defilement and stress are disbanded for good, that's the outer space of the mind. As for the Noble Truths, they're activities, or our workplace. The result that comes from these four Noble Truths is something else entirely. As I've always been telling you: What is it that knows that stress and the cause of stress disband? When the path has performed its duties to the full and has completely wiped out the cause of stress, then nirodha -- the cessation of stress -- appears in full measure, after which it disbands as well, because it too is a conventional reality. As for the one who knows that the cause of stress has disbanded by being eradicated through the path so as to give rise to the cessation of stress: The one who knows this is the pure one -- the outer space of the mind -- and that's the end of the matter.
So investigate carefully. Listen carefully when you listen to the Dhamma while putting it to use. When we work, we can't let go of our tools. For instance, if we're working with an ax, the ax has to be at hand. If we're working with a knife, the knife has to be at hand. If we're working with a chisel, the chisel has to be at hand. But when we've finished our work, we let go of our chisel, we let go of our various tools. So here the virtue, concentration, and discernment that are called the path are our tools in the work of eliminating defilement. We have to keep them right at hand while we are working. When we have eliminated defilement until it's completely defeated and nothing is left, these tools are phenomena that let go of themselves of their own accord, without our having to force them.
As I've always been saying, the teachings on inconstancy, stress, and not-self are our path. We can't let go of them. We have to investigate things with mindfulness and discernment so as to see them clearly in line with the principles of inconstancy, stress, and not-self. Once we're ready and we've run the full course, we let go of these principles in line with the truth. We don't call anything not-self. Each thing is a separate reality, with no quarreling. This is the Dhamma: It has many stages, many levels, so those who listen have to make distinctions, because in this talk I've discussed many stages on many levels, back and forth, so as to make things plain for those listening.
To summarize: The marketplace of the paths, fruitions, and nibbana is located in the Noble Truths. It isn't located anywhere else. So, whatever else, make sure that you attain them. Accelerate your efforts to the full extent of your ability. Use all the mindfulness and discernment you have to contemplate and investigate things in order to see them clearly. See what it's like to set them spinning as a wheel of Dhamma, which the Buddha has described as super-mindfulness and super-discernment. When we start out practicing, how can they immediately become super-mindfulness and super-discernment? When children are born, they don't immediately become adults. They have to be nourished and guarded and cared for. Think of how much it takes, how much it costs, for each child to become an adult as we all have. Mindfulness and discernment need to be nourished and guarded in just the same way. When we nourish and guard them unceasingly, unflaggingly, they grow bold and capable until they become super-mindfulness and super-discernment. Then they attack the defilements -- no matter what the sort -- until the defilements are slashed to pieces with nothing left, so that we attain purity -- release and nibbana -- within our own heart, which will then have the highest value. Whether or not anyone else confers titles on it, we ourselves don't confer titles. We've reached sufficiency, so what is there to gain by conferring titles? All that's left is the gentleness and tenderness of purity, blended into one with benevolence. The entire mind is filled with benevolence.
The Buddha taught the beings of the world through his benevolence. His mind was completely gentle toward every living being in the three levels of the cosmos. He didn't exalt or demean any of them at all. 'Sabbe satta' -- 'May all living beings who are fellows in suffering, birth, aging, illness, and death' -- 'avera hontu' -- 'be free from enmity'... all the way to 'sukhi attanam pariharantu' -- 'may they maintain themselves with ease.' That was his benevolence. He gave equality to all living beings. He didn't lean, because his mind didn't have anything to lean. It didn't have any defilements infiltrating it that could make it lean. The things leaning this way and that are all affairs of defilement. When there's pure Dhamma, the mind keeps its balance with pure fairness, so there's no leaning. It's a principle of nature that stays as it is.
So I ask that you all take this and earnestly put it into practice. Gain release so as to see it clearly in your heart. How do they compare: this heart as it's currently coerced and oppressed, and the heart when it has attained release from coercion and oppression. How do they differ in value? Come to see this clearly in your own heart. You won't see it anywhere else. Sanditthiko: It's immediately apparent within the person who practices.