Entering for the Rains
Wat Paa Udomsomphorn
Sakon Nakorn, Thailand
July 12, 1976
Now I’d like you all to make a vow—with the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha as your refuge—as to what you plan to do for the Rains retreat.
Be generous, observe the precepts, and meditate without fail. What do you laypeople plan to do? You might try the eight uposatha precepts for the entire Rains. For those of you who’ve never observed the five precepts, see if you can gather all five. Or you can try all eight—every day for the three months. It’s not too much for the sake of developing your perfection of truth, developing your goodness. Do this sincerely. Give it a try.
As for the monks, I asked you if you were ready to do the forgiveness ceremony, I asked you to practice, but you kept making mistakes. You have to be able to vouch for yourselves. Your teachers can’t vouch for you, the Buddha can’t vouch for you, that you’re good and capable. When you actually get around to doing it, you can’t do it. That’s how it is.
We have to practice. If you just know about the practice without being experienced in the practice, it’s not good enough. If you’re experienced but not skilled, it’s not good enough. If you’re skilled but not intelligent, it’s not good enough. From knowing you have to become experienced. From being experienced, you have to become skilled. From skilled, you have to become intelligent in how to practice. That’s when it’s up to standard.
If you simply know about these things—knowing about how to ordain, knowing about the precepts, knowing about meditation—but you’re not experienced, or if you’re experienced but not skilled—skilled in getting the mind to enter concentration or in how to contemplate—then you’re not up to standard.
Once you’re skilled, you have to be intelligent. Intelligent in what way? As soon as you focus on the body, if you think of it falling apart, you can immediately see it fall apart. If you think of it disintegrating, you can immediately see it disintegrate. You have that level of strength.
It’s like that layperson last night. He was bragging that he had reached arahantship. Uh-huh. He could brag and describe all the steps. I laughed to myself. Everyone else had come to hear me give a Dhamma talk, but he just kept on talking until way late at night. If he were really as good as he claimed, he would have shaved his head and ordained, but he couldn’t even go without an evening meal, couldn’t even give up his status as a layperson. He was sure that he was an arahant, and he knew everything—inner fabrications, outer fabrications, defilements—he knew them all. But if he really knew the defilements, how come he couldn’t abandon them? How come he couldn’t ordain? What was he taking to be knowledge?
So understand. We practice developing concentration every day, every day, so that we’re acquainted with it, so that we can train our character. Things that we haven’t seen or heard in the past, we get to hear. What we’ve already heard, we get to make more extensive. We get more skilled. In this way, our practice doesn’t stay on its old level. It has to develop and progress. Only then will it be good. Our problem is that our practice is now falling back. It’s the same for the monks and novices. It’s the same for everyone.
In the past, on a night like this, I’d sleep for only a little bit. Daytime would be the same. Sleeping I’d save for some other time. Eating I’d save for some other time. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat at all. I wouldn’t even think about it. My one concern was for the practice. I wouldn’t lie down. I wouldn’t give it any thought. My sole concern was for the practice.
Day and night, I’d be intent on doing it: walking meditation, sitting meditation. If it wasn’t raining, I wouldn’t go into my hut. When I had finished walking meditation, I had made a platform, the size of this sermon seat. That’s where I’d sit. When I was tired from walking, I’d sit. Tired from sitting, I’d walk. If I fell asleep, I’d sleep right there. That’s what I’d do during the Rains. During the dry season, it’d be the same. I’d pitch my umbrella tent and sleep at the foot of a tree. Once the Rains had ended, I’d live at the foot of a tree as a regular practice.
But nowadays, nobody does walking meditation at night. Nobody puts forth an effort. We’re afraid of discomfort, afraid of fatigue, afraid of hunger—which is why no one is skilled. You have to be willing to give your life to the practice.
In the old days, when Phra Ajaan Mun had a hut, he’d tear out the floor and make it a walking meditation path. He’d make a platform like this sermon seat and put his sleeping mat and pillow there. That’s where he’d spend the night. When he was tired from walking, he’d stand. Tired from standing, he’d sit. Tired from sitting, he’d walk. He exerted that much effort. That’s how he became our teacher. He did this for 16 years, and when he came to know, that’s how he was able to teach us all, up to the present day.
Before him, there was no one to teach these things. They said that the Buddha’s time was past. They had a lot of merit but hadn’t studied much, hadn’t meditated much. They’d simply chant the names of the 40 meditation themes, starting with the ten recollections, the ten kasiṇas, the ten contemplations of unattractiveness, the four formless jhānas, the four sublime attitudes (brahma-vihāra), the analysis into elements, and the loathsomeness of food. They’d repeat the 40 meditation themes—how many times? They’d take 108 sticks of incense and count until they had reached all 108. That’s how they used to meditate. If you wanted to do walking meditation, you had to do that first. But nowadays, we don’t do things that way. We can meditate in all our activities, in every posture. That’s the way it is.
I want you to understand our practice of virtue. We gain happiness and prosperity because of virtue. Virtue means normalcy in body, normalcy in mind. It’s a matter of abandoning harm, refraining from harm, great and small, through our body and mind. We don’t do anything evil, don’t engage in bad kamma. No matter what level of becoming we go to, we won’t be evil.
We’ve been born into the world and we complain of the suffering. We complain of difficulties, complain of poverty, complain of being in debt. We’ve studied well, we’ve gained a good education, but once we’ve completed our studies and started work, we still find that it’s difficult. Why? Because we haven’t made merit for many lifetimes. So even though we want status, we don’t gain it. Even though we want wealth, even though we want beauty, we don’t gain them.
This is why, after the Buddha gained awakening, he set out the religion as a series of daily practices: virtue, concentration, discernment. These are the basic principles of the religion. On the lowest level, there’s generosity, virtue, and meditation. The Buddha taught these as daily practices: the lower level of virtue, the medium level of virtue, the refined level of virtue. The lower level is the five precepts. The medium level is the eight or ten precepts. The refined level is the 227 training rules for the monks.
In the 227 training rules, the Buddha taught everything: how to wear your robes, how to eat, how to sit, how to lie down, how to walk, how to stand. He taught everything—even how to chew a mouthful of rice, how to put the rice in your mouth: He even taught that. How so? Make the mouthful rounded, not too big, and don’t bite a piece from a handful of rice. Don’t throw it into your mouth. As long as the rice hasn’t come to your mouth, don’t open your mouth. Don’t make chomping noises like pigs. Don’t make slurping noises. Don’t nibble from your handful. Don’t lick your lips. Don’t lick your hands. He taught down to the details like this—so that your behavior will be gracious.
So we should all look at our virtues and precepts to make sure that they’re in good order. When we don’t engage in any major or minor faults, then whatever level of becoming we’re born into, we’ll be faultless people.
And the Buddha taught us to meditate. So get into position. Sit in concentration. If I teach a lot, it becomes too much. Look at the source of the Dhamma, the mind, to see how it is. Wherever it’s not good, you’ll then be able to correct it. So. Get into position.
We’ve come to gain some merit on this day of entering the Rains, so I want you to enter, okay? Don’t go straying outside. Enter inside. When you make merit on the day of entering the Rains, enter into your body, enter into your mind, into your heart. What does it mean to enter into your body? To see your body. Entering into your mind means seeing your mind. At the moment, you don’t yet see your body. You don’t yet see your mind. What does it mean not to see? You don’t know how your body functions. You assume it to be your self, a being, a person. So enter in and look into it, starting with the hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, muscles, liver, kidneys, small intestines, large intestines, gorge, feces. Look into it.
Why look into it? So that you won’t be deluded. Deluded by what? Deluded by passion, greed, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving, clinging, becoming, and birth. You won’t be deluded once you really see. So look at this body of yours. What does it have that makes you want to be deluded and infatuated, telling yourself that it’s you or yours, that it makes you happy or miserable. What’s the reason? That’s why the Buddha has you look into it until you know and see. Look into what it’s like, how it functions. Look to see what’s actually there.
Is it really a person? If you see that it’s a person, then why do you complain about its aches and pains? Why do you complain about its being tired or hungry? Why do you complain about the suffering and difficulties it puts you through? Why is there nothing but hardship and irritation around it? Why is it like that? Everyone who comes here has diseases and dangers, this or that symptom—no worse than I am these days. This person has stomachaches, earaches, headaches, pains in the intestines, pains in the back, pains in the shins, pains in the thighs, pains in the eyes. That person says, “Ohh, I’ve lost money, I’m in debt…” So why is it like that? Look to see how it’s come about. People complain—everyone who comes. This person suffers from this; that person suffers from that.
If you want to solve these problems, hurry up and solve them now. Who else can you have solve them for you? You have to solve them yourself. Even the Buddha couldn’t take them away for you. If he could have, he would have taken them away into unbinding with him. He was able only to point out the path of practice—in other words, right now.
So look. Enter and look into your body. What is it like, your body? Enter into it and look. Is it pleasant or painful? What is it like? This is pleasant, but that’s painful. How can it be your self when it’s painful like this?
When you’ve entered in and looked into the body on which you depend, in which you live, then enter in and look into your mind. How is your mind? This mind is what creates states of becoming and birth, creates kamma, creates animosity, creates dangers. This mind is what builds up evil, builds up bad kamma. So look at it. How does it build up evil and build up bad kamma? It’s voracious, frenzied, and restless. It wants that; it wants this. That’s how it is. It sends itself to the left, to the right, out in front, back behind, up, down. It can’t stay established right in the middle. So enter in and look into your mind.
Don’t place your mind anywhere else. Place it with Buddho, i.e., awareness itself. Wherever your awareness is located, focus your mind right there in Buddho, the awareness. Don’t place it anywhere else. If you focus it over there at this place or that, it’s going to suffer. Don’t place it with your children or grandchildren. Don’t place it with your home or your workplace. Place it right at your mind. Try to see how it’s functioning, what it has. Know and understand. If it starts any becoming or birth, try to see it.
We’ve come to look, to meditate, to separate things out and make choices in the heart. If the heart is quiet and still—if it doesn’t go running out in front, back behind, to the left or to the right, if it doesn’t label and give meanings to this thing or that—then it can be at peace. When it’s at peace, it can gain release from suffering and stress—because it doesn’t grab hold of this thing or that. It can be entirely empty and radiant.
When the mind is quiet and tranquil—samatha means tranquility—then when it’s quiet, it’s clear. When it’s clear, it can see what’s good, see what’s evil, see happiness, see suffering and stress. Whatever’s evil, we can let go of it. Whatever’s suffering, we can let go of it. That’s how it is. Whatever’s not good, we let go of it. We’ve gained our educations, but nothing aside from this is really good. What’s wrong when this is good? Tell me.
To summarize things here in the present: Our body is good and quiet—happy and at ease. The heart is at peace—free from suffering and trouble. Unperturbed. Kāya-lahutā; citta-lahutā. Lahu, light. The body is light; the mind is light. With this kind of lightness, everything’s light. Your work is light. Everything’s light. That’s how it is.
This is why I have you focus on watching these things so that you can know and see. We want happiness and ease, but nothing else is happiness and ease aside from a mind that’s quiet. In the Canon, the Buddha says, N’atthi santi paraṁ sukhaṁ: There is no happiness aside from the quiet mind. So focus on in. No happiness aside from a quiet mind. This quietness is happiness, right here and now. Outside as well as in. If what’s inside isn’t quiet, how can what’s outside be quiet?
Where do things get born? How do we get born in hell, born as common animals, born in suffering, born poor? Where does birth come from? It comes from this mind. What falls into hell, into the realm of hungry ghosts, into birth as a common animal? This mind. Mental happiness and mental ease are born from this mind. They’re not born from anything else. What goes to be a deva, an Indra, a Brahmā is this mind. Nothing else.
When this is the case, I want each of you to get your mind, your heart, quiet. So. Each and every one of you, make your heart quiet. I can promise you that whatever sound you may hear won’t pose you any danger. You don’t have to worry. Make your heart quiet. Make your heart still. Make your heart entirely empty. Don’t grasp onto this or that thing as your self. If you grasp, it’s suffering. Now’s the time to put the thread into the needle, so really focus on doing it.
Look and see. Right here is where you get to recognize what’s good and what’s not. I’ve already explained what’s good. I’ve already explained what’s not. So now look at your heart to recognize whether it’s good or not. Stay right here and look so that you can see how it’s getting along, whether it’s quiet or not.
Wherever it’s caught up, wherever it’s snared, quickly untangle it as soon as you know. When death comes, you won’t be able to correct it, so hurry up and correct it now. Wherever it’s not good, correct it right there. Wherever it’s caught up, untangle it right there. Wherever it’s not good, wash it away right there. Sit and watch your own heart.
We’ve come to train; we’ve come to practice. It’s like a carpenter planing a piece of wood because he wants it to be straight. He planes it and then looks straight along it. When he sees anything off, he planes the wood again right there until it’s smooth and straight enough to use. In the same way, wherever your heart isn’t straight, correct it right there. That’s how it is. So get yourselves to understand the practice. It’s like polishing the floor of this hall. Why do we polish it? So that it’ll be clean, so that it’ll be clear. The more you polish it, the clearer it’ll be. And it’s the same with your heart.
We human beings: The Dhamma belongs to each person who gives rise to it. Kusalā dhammā: When you do it, you gain the results. If you don’t do it, you don’t gain the results. You want them, but you don’t gain them—because you haven’t done5 the causes. Kusalā dhammā: You’ve done what’s skillful. For instance, you’ve sat in concentration, sat in meditation so that the mind is happy and at ease. That’s skillful action. Kusalā dhammā brings happiness and prosperity now and into the future. Whatever level of becoming you go to, you’ll meet with happiness and ease.
Akusalā dhammā: You’ve created bad kamma in the past, so you’ve come to receive suffering and difficulties now and into the future. You meet with things that aren’t good. It comes from what you’ve done—in the same way as when we come here to do good. This is why I have you sit and watch your mind.
Abyākatā dhammā: This refers to those who have abandoned defilement, passion, greed, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving, clinging, becoming, and birth once and for all; who have entered unbinding, having disbanded suffering and stress in the cycle of wandering-on; who won’t come swimming back to dying and taking rebirth ever again. They’ve entered the “land” of unbinding, where there’s no birth, no aging, no illness, no death, no suffering or stress.
What does it mean to abandon defilement? When we’re stained with craving—hankering and restless—the mind abandons it all. Passion, delight, and desire for things: It abandons them all. Greed: It abandons it all. Aversion, anger: It abandons it all. Delusion, ignorance: It abandons it all. Becoming and birth: It abandons them all. It enters the “land” of unbinding, having disbanded suffering and stress in the cycles of wandering-on, and won’t come swimming back to dying and taking rebirth ever again.
This is why I want you to understand the practice. The Buddha set out the religion because he was afraid that we’d meet with things that aren’t good, that we’d be worried and possessive about this, that, or the other thing—but those things don’t help us gain release from suffering. So don’t let yourself get worried and possessive. Place your heart in the Buddha, in Buddho, as your refuge. Be constantly alert—sitting, standing, walking, lying down. Be mindful. Abyākatā dhammā: Make your mind Buddho. Make your mind serene, happy, and at ease.
Buddho is a mind fully serene. Bright. Clear. One who knows all knowable things, thoroughly and throughout; one who knows birth, aging, illness, and death; one who knows all suffering; one who knows kamma and animosity. This is why we say that the Lord Buddha awakened to all noble dhammas (ariya-dhamma).
How was he able to let go? Because the four visions inspired his heart. Which four visions? Birth, aging, illness, and death: That’s what he saw that enabled him to abandon his royal treasures without taking any delight in them. That’s what happened—nothing else far away. If he had held onto his royal treasures, he wouldn’t have been able to escape these four things.
After consideration, he came to the conclusion that there must be something that doesn’t take birth, doesn’t age, doesn’t grow ill, doesn’t die. Just as when there’s darkness, there’s light to relieve it; when there’s heat, there’s coolness to relieve it. He kept on exploring and contemplating for six years before he was able to achieve the unexcelled right self-awakening that made him a Buddha. His awakening consisted of three things:
Pubbenivāsānussati-ñāṇa: He awakened to his past lives. What he had been born as, he knew it all, knew it thoroughly and throughout, with nothing concealed—whatever level of becoming he had taken birth in. This is why he knew all about living beings, because he had been everything that they were. Whoever had done what, he knew it all. This was the first knowledge.
Cutūpapāta-ñāṇa: the knowledge that allowed him to know how living beings, after falling away from this life, went to live on what level of becoming and birth, what they became: The Buddha knew it all. What they had done, what they had built up, that led them to be born on what level of becoming: He knew it all. He was capable and fearless after he had awakened to this.
Āsavakkhaya-ñāṇa: This was the knowledge that ended becoming and birth—that made him an arahant. It disbanded defilement, passion, greed, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving, clinging, becoming, and birth once and for all. He was never to swim around, dying and taking rebirth, ever again.
So I want you to understand that when the Buddha had gained awakening, he knew everything—knowing that in this world there are no empty spaces. Beings are stuffed tight together like rice stuffed into a burlap sack, with no empty spaces at all. So where do we come from? He said that beings are stuffed into this world with no empty spaces. Stuffed full. Do you believe him? The air seems to be empty, with nothing at all, but that’s because we have no means for taking the measure of beings. No receptors. If we had a means for taking their measure, we’d have receptors.
For instance, suppose that the ends of our fingers were calibrated to be receptors. If we were to take a radio and set it here, we could turn it on and hear a jumble of sounds in English. But our fingers as they are don’t pick up any sounds at all. If you were to put a radio here, you’d have the sounds of Western languages, Chinese languages, all sorts of languages—what do you say to that? That’s just the way it is—and yet the air appears empty, with no sounds at all. But if you were to set a radio here, you’d hear the sounds of people singing—the air would be full of all kinds of sounds. That’s because there’s a receiver calibrated to pick up these things. Where do these sounds come from? From America, from England, from all kinds of places. I’ve never sat and listened to a radio, but you have, right? That’s the way it was with the Buddha.
He was courageous and fearless in setting out the religion—about merit, about evil, about everything—because he knew everything, all knowable things, thoroughly and throughout. Nobody taught these things to him. He awakened to them on his own. That’s why he’s called sayambhū—he was self-awakened.
Do you understand yet? Do you understand? I’m teaching these things for you to listen to. Don’t keep on being worried or concerned about this, that, or the other thing. Your worries are a waste of time. They’re fruitless. Throw them all away. Don’t be worried about this, possessive of that. If you place your heart with this or that, you suffer. If you place it here, it doesn’t suffer. So place it with Buddho—awareness itself—and it won’t suffer. Understand?
The Dhamma belongs to each person who gives rise to it, who does it. This is why the Buddha taught us, but people don’t believe in his teachings. Whoever comes wants to engage in lots of conversation. Provincial governors, chief justices, judges: All kinds of people come to see me. Even crazy people come. Victims of black magic come. Every kind of person comes. People without children who want children. People with lots of children who don’t want children. People who try to fashion what they want, but they’re no good at fashioning. The Dhamma fashions for us, but we’re no good at fashioning our ears, eyes, and noses—because we don’t listen to the Dhamma.
We have to practice the Dhamma. Dhammo have rakkhati dhammacāriṁ: The Dhamma protects those who practice the Dhamma. Living beings depend on the Dhamma; the Dhamma depends on living beings. Those who don’t practice the Dhamma will bring lack of wellness on themselves. Those who practice will bring wellness on themselves. To bring wellness, you sit in concentration and watch, as I’ve already explained. When your heart is well, when it experiences well-being and ease, then whatever level of becoming and birth you go to, you’ll have well-being and ease. If your heart is suffering, in turmoil, hot with trouble, you’ll receive that as a result. When you’re reborn, your body will be deformed. That’s how it happens. This is what’s important, which is why you should try to know and understand.
So come and look. Come and practice. If you’re intoxicated with your work, intoxicated with money, it won’t bring you any real benefits. Whatever you gain, you’ll have to discard it all. If you had money by the millions and billions, you’d have to discard it all. If you had money enough to fill this hall, you’d have to discard it all. Children filling the country: You’d have to discard them all. The only thing you’ll have left is kusalā dhammā, akusalā dhammā, that’s all. When you do these things, that’s what you gain. Aside from that, you don’t gain anything. If we do good, we’ll gain it. If we don’t do it, we won’t gain it.
Do you understand? You nuns: Keep practicing. Will any of you do the dhutaṅga practice of not lying down tonight? Are you up for the fight?
5. Another play on words. In Thai, dhammā is a homonym with tham maa, which means “to have done.”