Point Zero

April 22, 1957

‘‘Asokaram, the night of April 22, 1957: After we had gathered at the meditation hall and said our chants, Ajaan Lee delivered a sermon. At first, all I heard was the opening phrase, ‘namo tassa, etc.,’ without hearing what Pāli stanza he was going to take as his theme, as his voice was very weak and the wind outside so strong that my ears were ringing. So I tried to still my mind and keep listening, even though I couldn’t make out a word he said until the sermon was almost over, when I was able to catch the following:”

To purify the heart, we have to disentangle our attachments to self, to the body, to mental phenomena, and to all the objects that come passing in through the senses. Keep the mind intent on concentration. Keep it one at all times. Don’t let it become two, three, four, five, etc., because once you’ve made the mind one, it’s easy to make it zero. Simply cut off the little ‘head’ and pull the two ends together. But if you let the mind become many, it’s a long, difficult job to make it zero.

And another thing: If you put the zero after other numbers, they become ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, hundreds, thousands, on to infinity. But if you put the zero’s first, even if you have ten thousand of them, they don’t count. So it is with the heart: Once we’ve turned it from one to zero and put the zero first, then other people can praise or criticize us as they like but it won’t count. Good doesn’t count, bad doesn’t count. This is something that can’t be written, can’t be read, that we can understand only for ourselves.

When there’s no more counting like this, the heart attains purity and the highest happiness, as in the Pāli stanza,

nibbānaṁ paramaṁ suññaṁ

nibbānaṁ paramaṁ sukhaṁ,

which means, ‘Nibbāna is the ultimate emptiness, void, zero. Nibbāna is the ultimate ease.’

This is why we’re taught to make the mind one at all times—so that we can easily erase it into zero. Once we can make it zero, we’re bound to loosen our attachments to all things. Our heart will reach purity—

which is nibbāna.