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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meditation, heart of Buddhism

Meditation, heart of Buddhism

It’s easy saying “I’m enlightened”, but then something happens like that and you run a mile. Another monk in Hampstead at the time was just going for a walk in the afternoon when he passed a pub. He didn’t realise at the time that there was a big soccer match between England and Scotland on that day. It had already finished and the Scots supporters where in the pub getting drunk. Around this period, there was a popular TV series about a Kung Fu monk who, when he was small, was called “grasshopper.” These sozzled Scots soccer fans looked through the window of the pub and said “Och it’s wee grasshopper,” and this monk took fright.

These where big Scotsmen and they were very drunk. So he started running away, and they chased him all the way back to the Temple. “Wee grasshopper” was running for his life. He lost it. But the sort of practical letting go that Ajahn Chah did in Hampstead is something which gives you a sense that you are on the road to enlightenment.

Gradual path

Meditation-The best way to attain inner peace

The Heart of Buddhism is a gradual path, one step after another step, and you do get results. Some people say you shouldn’t meditate to get results. That’s a lot of hogwash! Meditate to get results! Meditate to be happy. Meditate to get peace. Meditate to get enlightened, little by little. But if you’re going for results, be patient. One of the problems with Westerners is that when they make goals, they are not patient enough.

That’s why they get disillusioned, depressed and frustrated. They don’t give their practice enough time to mature naturally into enlightenment. It takes time, maybe a few life times even, so don’t be in a rush. As you walk each step, there is always something you get out of it. Let go a little and you get freedom and peace. Let go a lot and you feel bliss. This is how I teach meditation both at my monastery and here. I encourage meditators to aim for these stages of letting go, these bliss states called Jhana.


Everyone wants to be happy, and the Jhanas are how you can achieve happiness, I mean real happiness, deep happiness. The only trouble is these states don’t last very long, only a few hours, but still they are very attractive. They arise through letting go, real letting go. In particular they arise through letting go of will, choice, control. It’s a fascinating thing to experience a deep meditation and understand how it comes about.

Through such an experience you realise that the more you control, the more you crave because of attachments, the less peaceful you get. But the more you let go, the more you abandon, the more you get out of the way, the happier you feel. Now this is a teaching of something very profound, much deeper than you can read in a book or hear in a talk and certainly much more useful than discussing these things over a coffee table. You’re actually experiencing something. This is getting towards the heart of religion, that which people call mysticism. You’re actually experiencing it for your self. In particular you are letting go of this “controller,” this “doer.”

Prime problem

Now that is the prime problem for human beings. We can’t stop messing things up. Very often we should just leave things alone but we can’t, we don’t. Instead we make a mess. Why can’t you just relax and enjoy yourself instead of always doing something?

It’s hard to stop in meditation, but the more you stop the more rewards you get, the more peace you get. When you let go in meditation, let go the will, let go of the control, when you stop talking to yourself, you get inner silence.

How many of you are fed up yet with this racket that goes on inside your head all the time? How many of you sometimes can’t get to sleep at night when there’s no noise from the neighbours but there is something even louder between your ears. Yak, Yak, Yak, Worry, Worry, Worry, Think, Think, Think! This is the problem with human beings, when it’s time to think they can’t think clearly and when it’s time to stop thinking they can’t be at peace. When we learn how to meditate we get this sense of being more balanced, and we know how to let go. We now how to let go to the point where all thoughts disappear. These thoughts are just commentaries, they’re just descriptions. The difference between thought and reality is the difference between, say, reading a book about New York and going to New York.

Which is more real? When you’re there, you smell the air, you feel the atmosphere, you sense the character, all of which are things you can’t write in a book. The truth is always silent. The lie is always with words.

When the Body Disappears

Remember “con men,” “con women” as well. These con men can sell you anything! There’s one living in your mind right now, and you believe every word he says! His name is Thinking. When you let go of that inner talk and get silent, you get happy. Then when you let go of the movement of the mind and stay with the breath, you experience even more delight.

Then when you let go of the body ,all these five senses disappear and you’re really blissing out. This is original Buddhism. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch completely vanish. This is like being in a sensory deprivation chamber but much better. But it’s not just silence, you just don’t hear anything. It’s not just blackness, you just don’t see anything. It’s not just a feeling of comfort in the body, there is no body at all.


When the body disappears that really starts to feel great. You know of all those people who have out of the body experiences? When the body dies, every person has that experience, they float out of the body. And one of the things they always say is it’s so peaceful, so beautiful, so blissful. It’s the same in meditation when the body disappears, it’s so peaceful, so beautiful, so blissful when you are free from this body. What’s left? Here there’s no sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. This is what the Buddha called the mind in deep meditation. When the body disappears what is left is the mind.

I gave a simile to a monk the other night. Imagine an Emperor who is wearing a long pair of trousers and a big tunic. He’s got shoes on his feet, a scarf around the bottom half of his head and a hat on the top half of his head. You can’t see him at all because he’s completely covered in five garments. It’s the same with the mind. It’s completely covered with sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. So people don’t know it.

They just know the garments. When they see the Emperor, they just see the robes and the garments. They don’t know who lives inside them. And so it is no wonder they’re confused about what is life, what is mind, who is this inside of here, were did I come from? Why? What am I supposed to be doing with this life? When the five senses disappear, it’s like unclothing the Emperor and seeing what is actually in here, what’s actually running the show, who’s listening to these words, who’s seeing, who’s feeling life, who this is. When the five senses disappear, you’re coming close to the answer to those questions.

What you’re seeing in such deep meditation is that which we call “mind,” (in Pali it’s called Citta). The Buddha used this beautiful simile. When there is a full moon on a cloudy night, even though it’s a full moon, you can hardly see it. Sometimes when the clouds are thin, you can see this hazy shape shining though.

You know there is something there. This is like the meditation just before you’ve entered into these profound states. You know there is something there, but you can’t quite make it out. There’s still some “clothes” left. You’re still thinking and doing, feeling the body or hearing sounds. But there does come a time, and this is the Buddha’s simile, when the moon is released from the clouds and there in the clear night sky you can see the beautiful full disc of the moon shining brilliantly, and you know that’s the moon.

The moon is there; the moon is real, and it’s not just some sort of side effect of the clouds. This is what happens in meditation when you see the mind. You see clearly that the mind is not some side effect of the brain. You see the mind, and you know the mind. The Buddha said that the mind released is beautiful, is brilliant, is radiant. So not only are these blissful experiences, they’re meaningful experiences as well.

How many people may have heard about rebirth but still don’t really believe it? How can rebirth happen? Certainly the body doesn’t get reborn. That’s why when people ask me where do you go when you die, “one of two places” I say “Fremantle or Karrakatta” that’s where the body goes! But is that where the mind goes? Sometimes people are so stupid in this world, they think the body is all there is, that there is no mind.

So when you get cremated or buried that’s it, that’s done with, all has ended. The only way you can argue with this view is by developing the meditation that the Buddha achieved under the Bodhi tree. Then you can see the mind for yourself in clear awareness - not in some hypnotic trance, not in dullness - but in the clear awareness. This is knowing the mind

Knowing the Mind

When you know that mind, when you see it for yourself, one of the results will be an insight that the mind is independent of this body. Independence means that when this body breaks up and dies, when it’s cremated or when it’s buried, or however it’s destroyed after death, it will not affect the mind. You know this because you see the nature of the mind.

That mind which you see will transcend bodily death. The first thing which you will see for yourself, the insight which is as clear as the nose on your face, is that there is something more to life than this physical body that we take to be me. Secondly you can recognise that that mind, essentially, is no different than that process of consciousness which is in all beings. Whether it’s human beings or animals or even insects, of any gender, age or race, you see that that which is in common to all life is this mind, this consciousness, the source of doing.

Once you see that, you have much more respect for your fellow beings. Not just respect for your own race, your own tribe or your own religion, not just for human beings, but for all beings. It’s a wonderfully high-minded idea. “May all beings be happy and well and may we respect all nations, all peoples, even all beings.” However this is how you achieve that! You truly get compassion only when we see that others are fundamentally just as ourselves.

If you think that a cow is completely different from you, that cows don’t think like human beings, then it’s easy to eat one. But can you eat your grandmother? She’s too much like you. Can you eat an ant? Maybe you’d kill an ant because you think that ants aren’t like you.

But if you look carefully at ants, they are no different. In a forest monastery living out in the bush, close to nature, one of the things you become so convinced of is that animals have emotions and , especially, feel pain. You begin to recognise the personality of the animals, of the kookaburras, of the mice, the ants, and the spiders.

Each one of those spiders has a mind just like you have. Once you see that you can understand the Buddha’s compassion for all beings. You can also understand how rebirth can occur between all species - not just human beings to human beings, but animals to humans, humans to animals. You can understand also how the mind is the source of all this.

The mind can exist even without a body in the realms of ghosts and angels (what we call in Buddhism Devas). It becomes very clear to you how they exist, why they exist, what they are.

These are insights and understandings which come from deep meditation. But more than that, when you know the nature of the mind then you know the nature of consciousness.

You know the nature of stillness. You know the nature of life. You understand what makes this mind go round and round and round, what makes this mind seek rebirth. You understand the law of Kamma.

The Three Knowledges

The First Knowledge. When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree, according to tradition he gained three knowledge’s. The first knowledge was the memory of past lives. When you get close to the mind, there are certain powers that come with that experience.

The powers are no more than an ability, a dexterity with the use of the mind. It’s like the difference between a dog that has been running wild and a dog that has been well trained. You can tell the trained dog to go and pick up the newspaper. It wags its tail and goes and picks up the newspaper for you. Some people have got their dogs so well trained that they can actually pick up the telephone. Maybe they could answer the telephone as well, then that would really save you a lot of time!

When you get to these deep states of meditation often, the mind becomes well trained.

To be continued

1 comment:

Salinya said...

Thank you for this post. I have a concern though, are there times that when you try to meditate and focus on your thoughts, you find that you do not have any at the moment, and upon realizing that, you try to fabricate any random thought that you make only to realize later on that it isn't exactly what you were aiming for? What do you do when you find that you have lost your focus aside from re-focusing on your breathing? Would you have any tips? Thanks.

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