August 25, 1957

When a person makes up his mind to do one thing but then turns around to do something else entirely, the results of his first intention simply won’t come about. A person like this has to be classed as really stupid—an ingrate to himself, a traitor to himself. Like a child who says goodbye to its parents, telling them that it’s going to school, but then goes wandering off to see a movie or a traveling show. The parents don’t know what’s going on. They think the child is at school. By the time they’ve tracked down the truth, they will have wasted a lot of time. In this way, the child harms itself in four ways: (1) There’s the bad karma of having deceived its parents; (2) it throws away the money the parents paid for its tuition; (3) it stays ignorant and doesn’t pick up any of the knowledge it would have gained at school; and (4) death keeps creeping closer day by day, the child itself eventually becomes a parent, and yet it can’t even read or write three letters of the alphabet.

In the same way, when you aren’t really intent on the practice—you come and sit here meditating but your mind isn’t with the body; it goes wandering off to think about things unrelated to the Dhamma, thinking about things at home, thinking about your children or grandchildren, thinking about this person or that, thinking about things ahead or behind; your mind isn’t established in stillness; your eyes are closed but your mind slips off to look for fun with different kinds of preoccupations; sometimes you meet up with dogs and cats, so you play with the dog and cats—when this happens, you harm yourself in the same ways. (1) First, there’s the bad karma of deceiving your teacher, telling him you’re going to practice concentration but then not doing it. (2) The teacher doesn’t know what’s going on and so teaches the Dhamma until his mouth runs out of saliva, but with no results to show for it. (3) You yourself stay ignorant. You sit and meditate for three years but don’t get anything out of it. If people ask you about the practice, they can’t get any sense out of you, which reflects badly on the teacher. (4) When death comes, you’ll die with pain and hardship, with no inner wealth to take along to the next life. So you’ll keep on spinning around in death and rebirth for who knows how many lives, without ever getting to nibbāna.

All of this comes from not really being intent. If you’re really intent on practicing the Dhamma, then no matter what, you’ll have to get results—large or small—depending on the strength of what you can do. If you’re going to meditate, be intent on meditating. If you’re going to listen to the Dhamma, be intent on listening. If you’re going to speak, be intent on speaking. Whatever you do, be intent on what you’re doing. That way you’ll get the results you want from your actions.

To get results, your intent has to be composed of the four bases for success. In other words, (1) chanda: Like what you’re doing. If you’re going to meditate, be content to stay mindful of the breath. (2) Viriya: Be persistent and don’t get discouraged. Even though there may be pains in the body, you endure them. (3) Citta: Give your full mind to what you’re doing. Don’t just play around. Don’t let your mind wander off to think of other things. (4) Vimansā: When you really do the meditation, you contemplate to see what gives rise to a sense of peace and ease in the body and mind.

When your meditation is composed of these four factors in full, it’s as if you’re sitting on a chair with four good legs. You won’t have to fear that the chair will start tilting or fall over. This is different from a person who’s sitting on a chair with only two legs or one. If anyone happens to brush past, he may tip over or fall flat on his back. But if you’re sitting on a chair with four good legs, then even if someone runs into you or grabs hold of the chair to give it a shake, you needn’t be afraid of falling off. Even if they pick up the chair and move it somewhere else, you’ll still be able to sit on it in comfort. You don’t have fear any danger at all.

This is what it’s like when you make your mind fully solid and strong in the goodness of what you’re doing. You can sit and lie down in ease. Whether you’re in the monastery or at home, you can live at your ease. You can eat or go without food and still be at ease. You can handle a lot of work or only a little and still be at ease. You can have ten million billions in money or not even a single red cent and still be at ease. When death comes, you can die with ease, free from suffering or hardship. When anyone can do this, the devas clap their hands in joy. When anyone can’t, the devas screw up their faces, while Māra and his gang laugh and clap their hands because they’ve beat another of the Buddha’s disciples. Think about it: Do you really want to be one of Māra’s disciples?

We have to use skillfulness and merit to polish ourselves until we’re shining and bright. In other words, we polish our actions with virtue, concentration, and discernment. When you train your mind with concentration until it’s fully tempered and strong, it’ll be calm and cool, bright and gleaming like still water in a deep well, or like the stars in the sky. The hindrances won’t be able to walk all over you, for the level of the mind will keep growing higher and higher at all times. When it’s really up high, it grows cool. Just as when we’re sitting here: We don’t feel especially cool where we’re sitting, but if we go up two or three kilometers off the surface of the earth, we’ll feel cold right away. In addition to cooling off, our eyes will be able to see things far, far away. We’ll be able to see the condition of human beings and animals, all the dangers and difficulties of life on the world beneath us. We’ll start taking these dangers to heart, so that we won’t want to come back down again.

When we talk about the mind’s being on a high level, we don’t mean that it’s high up like an airplane, simply that the quality of its awareness is heightened through training its concentration and discernment. When this happens, you’ll be able to see the causes and effects of everything true and false. You’ll see the dangers of wandering on through death and rebirth, and gain a sense of disenchantment with birth, aging, illness, and death, seeing them as nothing but pain and trouble. When you see things in this way, you’ll lose all hankering for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas. You’ll be intent solely on developing the heart to gain release from all defilements and mental fermentations, so that you won’t have to come swimming around through death and rebirth in the world ever again.