To Be an Inner Millionaire
The search for inner wealth is much the same as the search for outer wealth. In searching for outer wealth, intelligent people have no problems: They can find it easily. But stupid people have lots of difficulties. Look around and you’ll see that poor people are many, while rich people are few. This shows that stupid people are many, while intelligent people are few, which is why there are more poor people than rich people.
In the search for inner wealth—virtue and goodness—the same holds true: It depends more on ingenuity than on any other factor. If we’re stupid, then even if we sit right at the hem of the Buddha’s robe or the robe of one of his Noble Disciples, the only result we’ll get will be our own stupidity. To gain ingenuity or virtue from the Buddha or his Noble Disciples is very difficult for a stupid person, because inner wealth depends on ingenuity and intelligence. If we have no ingenuity, we won’t be able to find any inner wealth to provide happiness and ease for the heart.
External wealth is something we’re all familiar with. Money, material goods, living things, and things without life: All of these things are counted as wealth. They are said to belong to whoever has rights over them. The same holds true with the virtue and goodness we call merit. If unintelligent people search for merit and try to develop virtue and goodness like the people around them, the results will depend on their ingenuity and stupidity. If they have little ingenuity, they’ll gain little merit.
As for those of us who have ordained in the Buddha’s religion, our aim is to develop ourselves so as to gain release from suffering and stress, just like a person who aims single-mindedly at being a millionaire.
People in the world have basically three sorts of attitudes. The first sort: Some people are born in the midst of poverty and deprivation because their parents are ignorant, with no wealth at their disposal. They make their living by begging. When they wake up in the morning, they go begging from house to house, street to street, sometimes getting enough to eat, sometimes not. Their children fall into the same ‘kamma current’. That’s the kind of potential they’ve developed, so they have to be born to impoverished parents of that sort. They just don’t have it in them to think of being millionaires like those in the world of the wealthy. The parents to whom they are born act as a mould, so they are lazy and ignorant like their parents. They live in suffering with their parents and go out begging with them, sometimes eating their fill, sometimes not.
But this is still better than other sorts of people. Some parents are not only poor, but also earn their living by thievery and robbery. Whatever they get to feed their children, they tell their children what it is and where it came from. The children get this sort of education from their parents and grow up nourished by impure things—things gained through dishonesty, thievery, and robbery—so when they grow up, they don’t have to think of looking for work or for any education at the age when they should be looking for learning, because they’ve already received their education from their parents: education in stealing, cheating, thievery and robbery, laziness and crookedness. This is because their parents have acted as blackboards covered with writing: their actions and the manners of their every movement. Every child born to them receives training in how to act, to speak, and to think. Everything is thus an education from the parents, because the writing and teachings are all there on the blackboard of the parents. Laziness, dishonesty, deceit, thievery: Every branch of evil is there in the writing on the blackboard. The children learn to read, to draw, to write, all from their parents, and fill themselves with the sort of knowledge that has the world up in flames. As they begin to grow up, they take over their parents’ duties by pilfering this and that, until they gradually become hoodlums, creating trouble for society at large. This is one of the major fires burning away at society without stop. The reasons that people can be so destructive on a large scale like this can come either from their parents, from their own innate character, or from associating with evil, dishonest people. This is the sort of attitude found in people of one sort.
The second sort of people have the attitude that even though they won’t be millionaires, they will still have enough to eat and to use like people in general, and that they will be good citizens like the rest of society so that they can maintain a decent reputation. People of this sort are relatively hard-working and rarely lazy. They have enough possessions to get by on a level with the general run of good citizens. When they have children, the children take their parents as examples, as writing on the blackboard from which they learn their work, their behavior, and all their manners. Once they gain this knowledge from their parents, they put it to use and become good citizens themselves, with enough wealth to get by without hardships, able to keep up with the world so that they don’t lose face or cause their families any shame. They can relate to the rest of society with confidence and without being a disgrace to their relatives or to society in general. They behave in line with their ideals until they become good citizens with enough wealth to keep themselves out of poverty. These are the attitudes of the second sort of people.
The third sort of people have attitudes that differ from those of the first two sorts in that they’re determined, no matter what, to possess more wealth than anyone else in the world. They are headed in this direction from the very beginning because they have earned the opportunity to be born in families rich in virtue and material wealth. They learn ingenuity and industriousness from their parents, because their parents work hard at commerce and devote themselves fully to all their business activities. Whatever the parents do, the children will have to see. Whatever the parents say with regard to their work inside or outside the home, near or far, the children—who are students by nature—will have to listen and take it to heart, because the children are not only students, but also their parents’ closest and most trusted helpers. The parents can’t overlook them. Eventually they become the supervisors of the parents’ workers inside and outside the home and in all the businesses set up by their parents. In all of the activities for which the parents are responsible, the children will have to be students and workers, at the same time keeping an eye and an ear out to observe and contemplate what is going on around them. All activities, whether in the area of the world, such as commerce, or in the area of the Dhamma—such as maintaining the precepts, chanting, and meditating—are things the children will have to study and pick up from their parents.
Thus parents shouldn’t be complacent in their good and bad activities, acting as they like and thinking that the children won’t be able to pick things up from them. This sort of attitude is not at all fitting, because the way people treat and mistreat the religion and the nation’s institutions comes from what they learn as children. Don’t think that it comes from anywhere else, for no one has ever put old people in school.
We should thus realize that children begin learning the principles of nature step by step from the day they are born until their parents send them for formal schooling. The principles of nature are everywhere, so that anyone who is interested—child or adult—can study them at any time, unlike formal studies and book learning, which come into being at some times and change or disappear at others.
For this reason, parents are the most influential mould for their children in the way they look after them, give them love and affection, and provide their education, both in the principles of nature and in the basic subjects that the children should pick up from them. This is because all children come ready to learn from the adults and the other children around them. Whether they will be good children or bad depends on the knowledge they pick up from around them. When this is stored up in their hearts, it will exert pressure on their behavior, making it good or bad, as we see all around us. This comes mainly from what they learn of the principles of nature, which are rarely taught in school, but which people pick up more quickly than anything that school teachers teach.
Thus parents and teachers should give special attention to every child for whom they are responsible. Even when parents put their children to work, helping with the buying and selling at home, the children are learning the livelihood of buying and selling from their parents—picking up, along the way, their parents’ strong and weak points. We can see this from the way children pick up the parents’ religion. However good or bad, right or wrong the religion may be—even if it’s worshipping spirits—the children are bound to pick up their parents’ beliefs and practices. If the parents cherish moral virtue, the children will follow their example, cherishing moral virtue and following the practices of their parents.
This third sort of person is thus very industrious and hard-working, and so reaps better and more outstanding results than the other two sorts.
When we classify people in this way, we can see that people of the first sort are the laziest and most ignorant. At the same time, they make themselves disreputable and objects of the scorn of good people in general. People of the second sort are fairly hard-working and fairly well-off, while those of the third sort are determined to be wealthier than the rest of the world and at the same time are very hard-working because, since they have set their sights high, they can’t just sit around doing nothing. They are very persevering and very persistent in their work, going all out to find ways to earn wealth, devoting themselves to their efforts and to being ingenious, circumspect, and uncomplacent in all their activities. People of this sort, even if they don’t become millionaires, are important and deserve to be set up as good examples for the people of the nation at large.
We monks fall into the same three sorts. The first sort includes those who are ordained only in name, only as a ceremony, who don’t aim for the Dhamma, for reasonability, or for what’s good or right. They aim simply at living an easy life because they don’t have to work hard like lay people. Once ordained, they become very lazy and very well-known for quarreling with their fellow monks. Instead of gaining merit from being ordained, as most people might think, they end up filling themselves and those around them with suffering and evil.
The second sort of monk aims at what is reasonable. If he can manage to gain release from suffering, that’s what he wants. He believes that there is merit and so he wants it. He believes that there is evil, so he wants really to understand good and evil. He is fairly hard-working and intelligent. He follows the teachings of the Dhamma and Vinaya well and so doesn’t offend his fellow monks. He is interested in studying and diligently practicing the threefold training of virtue, concentration, and discernment. He takes instruction easily, has faith in the principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya, is intent on his duties, and believes in what is reasonable.
The third sort of monk becomes ordained out of a true sense of faith and conviction. Even if he may not have had much of an education from any teachers in the beginning, once he has become ordained and gains instruction from his teachers or from the texts that give a variety of reasons showing how to act so as to head toward evil and how to strive so as to head toward the good, he immediately takes it as a lesson for training himself. The more he studies from his teachers, the stronger his faith and conviction grow, to the point where he develops a firm, single-minded determination to gain release from suffering and stress. Whether sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, he doesn’t flag in his determination. He is always firmly intent on gaining release from suffering and stress. He’s very persistent and hard-working. Whatever he does, he does with his full heart, aiming at reason, aiming at the Dhamma.
This third sort of monk is the uncomplacent sort. He observes the precepts for the sake of real purity and observes them with great care. He is uncomplacent both in training his mind in concentration and in giving rise to discernment. He is intent on training the basic mindfulness and discernment he already has as an ordinary run-of-the-mill person, so that they become more and more capable, step by step, making them the sort of mindfulness and discernment that can keep abreast of his every action until they become super-mindfulness and super-discernment, capable of shedding all defilements and mental effluents from the heart. He thus becomes one of the amazing people of the religion, earning the homage and respect of people at large.
In the area of the world there are three sorts of people, and in the area of the Dhamma there are three sorts of monks. Which of the three are we going to choose to be? When we come right down to it, each of these three types refers to each of us, because we can make ourselves into any of them, making them appear within us—because these three types are simply for the purpose of comparison. When we refer them to ourselves, we can be any of the three. We can be the type who makes himself vile and lazy, with no interest in the practice of the Dhamma, with no value at all; or we can make ourselves into the second or third sort. It all depends on how our likes and desires will affect our attitudes in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Whichever type we want to be, we should adapt our thoughts, words, and deeds to fit the type. The affairs of that sort of person will then become our own affairs, because none of these sorts lies beyond us. We can change our behavior to fit in with any of the three. If we are going to be the third sort of person, then no matter what, we are sure to release ourselves from suffering and stress someday in the future or in this very lifetime.
So be uncomplacent in all your activities, mindful of your efforts and actions, and discerning with regard to your affairs at all times. Don’t let the activities of your thoughts, words, and deeds go straying down the wrong path. Try to train your mindfulness and discernment to stay involved with your activities at all times. To safeguard these sorts of things isn’t as difficult as safeguarding external wealth, because inner wealth stays with us, which makes it possible to safeguard it.
As a monk, you have only one duty. When sitting, be aware that you’re sitting. Whatever issue you think about, know that you’re thinking. Don’t assume that any issue comes from anywhere other than from a lapse of mindfulness in your own heart, which makes wrong issues—from minor ones to major ones—start spreading to your own detriment. All of this comes from your own lack of watchfulness and restraint. It doesn’t come from anything else. If you want to gain release from suffering and stress in this lifetime, then see the dangers of your own errors, your complacency, and your lack of mindfulness. See them as your enemies. If, in your eyes, the currents of the mind that spin to give rise to the cravings and mental effluents termed the origin of stress are something good, then you’re sure to go under. Be quick to shed these things immediately. Don’t let them lie fermenting in your heart.
Those who see danger in the round of rebirth must see the danger as lying in the accumulation of defilement. Your duties in the practice are like the fence and walls of a house that protect you stage by stage from danger. In performing your duties that constitute the effort of the practice, you have to keep your mindfulness with those duties and not let it lapse. Nourish your mindfulness and discernment so that they are always circumspect in all your affairs. Don’t let them flow away on the habitual urges of the heart. You can then be sure that the affairs of the mind will not in any way lie beyond the power of your effort and control.
So I ask that each of you be mindful—and don’t let your mindfulness conjecture ahead or behind with thoughts of the past or future. Always keep it aware of your activities, and you will be able to go beyond this mass of suffering and stress. Even if your mind hasn’t yet attained stillness, it will begin to be still through the power of mindfulness. There is no need to doubt this, for the mind can’t lie beyond the power of mindfulness and discernment coupled with persistent effort.
Of the famous meditation masters of our present era, Ven. Ācariya Mun is the one I admire and respect the most. In my opinion, he is the most outstanding teacher of our day and age. Living and studying with him, I never saw him act in any way at odds with the Dhamma and Vinaya. His behavior was in such harmony with the Dhamma and Vinaya that it was never a cause for doubt among those who studied with him. From my experience in living with him, I’d say that he was right in line with the path of those who practice rightly, straightly, methodically, and nobly. He never strayed from this path at all.
When he would tell us about the beginning stages of his practice, he’d talk about how he had tried to develop mindfulness. He liked to live alone. If others were living with him, they would get in the way of his meditation. If he could get away on his own, he’d find that mindfulness and discernment were coupled with his efforts at all times. He would stay with his efforts both day and night. It was as if his hand was never free from its work. Mindfulness converged with his mind so that they were never willing to leave their endeavors.
He had resolved never to return to this world of continual death and rebirth. No matter what, he would have to gain release from suffering and stress in this lifetime and never ask to be reborn again. Even being born into this present lifetime had him disgusted enough, but when he also saw the birth, ageing, illness, and death of human beings and living beings in general, day and night, together with the blatant sufferings caused by the oppression and cruelties of the strong over the weak, it made him feel even greater dismay, which is why he asked not to be reborn ever again. The way he asked not to be reborn was to take the effort of the practice as the witness within his heart. Wherever he lived, he asked to live with the effort of the practice. He didn’t want anything else that would delay his release from suffering. This is what he would tell us when the opportunity arose.
Whatever knowledge or understanding he had gained in the various places he had lived, he wouldn’t keep from us. When he lived there, his mind was like that; when he lived here, his mind was like this. He even told us about the time his mind realized the land of its hopes.
The way each person’s mind progresses is purely an individual matter. It’s not something we can imitate from one another. Even the various realizations we have and the means of expression we use in teaching ourselves, our fellow meditators, and people in general, have to be a matter of our own individual wealth, in line with our habits and capabilities, just as a millionaire with lots of wealth uses his own millionaire’s wealth, while a poor person with little wealth makes use of his own wealth. Each person, no matter how rich or poor, makes use of the wealth he or she has been able to accumulate.
In the area of habits and capabilities, how much we may possess depends entirely on ourselves. These aren’t things we can borrow from one another. We have to depend on the capabilities we develop from within. This is why our habits, manners, and conversation, our knowledge and intelligence, our shallowness and depth differ from person to person in line with our capabilities. Even though I studied with Ven. Ācariya Mun for a long time, I can’t guarantee that I could take his Dhamma as my own and teach it to others. All I can say is that I depend on however much my own knowledge and capabilities may be, in line with my own strengths, which is just right for me and doesn’t overstep the bounds of what is fitting for me.
As for Ven. Ācariya Mun, he was very astute at teaching. For example, he wouldn’t talk about the major points. He’d talk only about how to get there. As soon as he’d get to the major points, he’d detour around them and reappear further on ahead. This is the way it would be every time. He was never willing to open up about the major points. At first I didn’t understand what his intentions were in acting this way, and it was only later that I understood. Whether I’m right or wrong, I have to ask your forgiveness, for he was very astute, in keeping with the fact that he had taught so many students.
There were two reasons why he wouldn’t open up about the major points. One is that those who weren’t really intent on the Dhamma would take his teachings as a shield, claiming them to be their own as a way of advertising themselves and making a living. The other reason is that the Dhamma that was a principle of nature he had known and might describe was not something that could be conjectured about in advance. Once those who were strongly intent on the Dhamma reached those points in their investigation, if they had heard him describe those points beforehand, would be sure to have subtle assumptions or presuppositions infiltrating their minds at that moment, and so they would assume that they understood that level of Dhamma when actually those assumptions would be a cause for self-delusion without their even realizing it.
As far as these two considerations are concerned, I must admit that I’m very foolish because of my good intentions toward those who come intent on studying with me. I’m not the least bit secretive. I’ve revealed everything all along, without holding anything back, not even the things that should be held back. I’ve been open to the full extent of my ability, which has turned into a kind of foolishness without my being aware of it. This has caused those who are really intent on studying with me to misunderstand, latching onto these things as assumptions that turn into their enemies, concealing the true Dhamma, all because I may lack some circumspection with regard to this second consideration.
Ven. Ācariya Mun was very astute both in external and in internal matters. On the external level, he wouldn’t be willing to disclose things too readily. Sometimes, after listening to him, you’d have to take two or three days to figure out what he meant. This, at least, was the way things were for me. Whether or not this was the way they were for my fellow students, I never had the chance to find out. But as for me, I’d use all my strength to ponder anything he might say that seemed to suggest an approach to the practice, and sometimes after three days of pondering the riddle of his words I still couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I’d have to go and tell him, ‘What you said the other day: I’ve been pondering it for three days and still can’t understand what you meant. I don’t know where to grab hold of it so that I can put it to use, or how much meaning your words had.’
He’d smile a bit and say, ‘Oh? So there’s someone actually pondering what I say?’
So I’d answer, ‘I’m pondering, but pondering out of stupidity, not with any intelligence.’
He’d then respond a little by saying, ‘We all have to start out by being stupid. No one has ever brought intelligence or wealth along at birth. Only after we set our mind on learning and pondering things persistently can we become intelligent and astute to the point where we can gain wealth and status, and can have other people depend on us. The same holds true with the Dhamma. No one has ever been a millionaire in the Dhamma or an arahant at birth.’
That’s all he would say. He wouldn’t disclose what the right way would be to interpret the teaching that had preoccupied me for two or three days running. It was only later that I realized why he wouldn’t disclose this. If he had disclosed it, he would have been encouraging my stupidity. If we get used simply to having things handed to us ready-made from other people, without producing anything with our own intelligence, then when the time comes where we’re in a tight spot and can’t depend on anything ready-made from other people, we’re sure to go under if we can’t think of a way to help ourselves. This is probably what he was thinking, which is why he wouldn’t solve this sort of problem when I’d ask him.
Studying with him wasn’t simply a matter of studying teachings about the Dhamma. You had to adapt and accustom yourself to the practices he followed until they were firmly impressed in your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Living with him a long time was the way to observe his habits, practices, virtues, and understanding, bit by bit, day by day, until they were solid within you. There was a lot of safety in living with him. By and large, people who studied with him have received a great deal of trust and respect, because he himself was all Dhamma. Those who lived with him were bound to pick up that Dhamma in line with their abilities. At the same time, staying with him made you accustomed to being watchful and restrained. If you left him, and were intent on the Dhamma, you’d be able to take care of yourself using the various approaches you had gained from him.
When you’d stay with him, it was as if the paths, fruitions, and nibbāna were right within reach. Everything you did was solid and got results step by step. But when you left him, it wouldn’t be that way at all. It would turn into the other side of the world: If the mind didn’t yet have a firm basis, that’s the way it would usually be. But if the mind had a firm basis—in other words, if it had concentration and discernment looking after it—then you could benefit from living anywhere. If any doubts arose that you couldn’t handle yourself, you’d have to go running back to him for advice. Once he’d suggest a solution, the problem would usually disappear in an instant, as if he had cut it away for you. For me, at least, that’s the way it would be. Sometimes I would have left him for only five or six days when a problem started bothering me, and I couldn’t stand to wait another two or three days. If I couldn’t solve this sort of problem the moment it arose, then the next morning I’d have to head right back to him, because some of these problems could be very critical. Once they arose, and I couldn’t solve them myself, I’d have to hurry back to him for advice. But other problems aren’t especially critical. Even when they arise, you can wait. Problems of this sort are like diseases. When some diseases arise, there’s no need to hurry for a doctor. But with other diseases, if we can’t get the doctor to come, we have to go to the doctor ourselves. Otherwise our life will be in danger.
When these critical sorts of problems arise, if we can’t handle them ourselves, we have to hurry to find a teacher. We can’t just leave them alone, hoping that they’ll go away on their own. The results that can come from these problems that we don’t take to our teachers to solve: At the very least, we can become disoriented, deluded, or unbalanced; at worst, we can go crazy. When they say that a person’s meditation ‘crashes,’ it usually comes from this sort of problem that he or she doesn’t know how to solve—isn’t willing to solve—and simply lets fester until one of these two sorts of results appear. I myself have had these sorts of problems with my mind, which is why I’m telling you about them so that you can know how to deal with them.
The day Ven. Ācariya Mun died, I was filled with a strong sense of despair from the feeling that I had lost a mainstay for my heart, because at the time there was still a lot of unsettled business in my heart, and it was the sort of knowledge that wasn’t willing to submit easily to anyone’s approaches if they weren’t right on target—the way Ven. Ācariya Mun had been, and that had given results—with the spots where I was stuck and that I was pondering. At the same time, it was a period in which I was accelerating my efforts at full speed. So when Ven. Ācariya Mun died, I couldn’t stand staying with my fellow students. My only thought was that I wanted to live alone. So I tried to find a place where I could stay by myself. I was determined that I would stay alone until every sort of problem in my heart had been completely resolved. Only then would I stay with others and accept students as the occasion arose.
After Ven. Ācariya Mun’s death, I went to bow down at his feet and then sat there reflecting with dismay for almost two hours, my tears flowing into a pool at his feet. At the same time, I was pondering in my heart the Dhamma and the teachings he had been so kind to give me during the eight years I had lived with him. Living together for such a long time as this, even a husband and wife or parents and children who love one another deeply are bound to have some problems or resentments from time to time. But between Ven. Ācariya Mun and the students who had come to depend on his sheltering influence for such a long time, there had never been any issues at all. The longer I had stayed with him, the more I had felt an unlimited love and respect for him. And now he had left me and all my well-intentioned fellow students. Aniccā vata saṅkhārā: Fabrications—how inconstant they are! His body lay still, looking noble and more precious than my life, which I would have readily given up for his sake out of my love for him. My body was also still as I sat there, but my mind was in agitation from a sense of despair and my loss of his sheltering influence. Both bodies were subject to the same principle of the Dhamma—inconstancy—and followed the teaching that says, ‘uppajjitvā nirujjhanti’: Having been born, they are bound to die. There’s no other way it could be.
But as for Ven. Ācariya Mun, he had taken a path different from that of conventional reality, in line with the teaching, ‘tesaṁ vūpasamo sukho’: In their stilling is ease. He had died in this lifetime, lying still for just this brief span of time so that his students could reflect with resignation on the Dhamma, but from now on he would never be reborn to be a source for his students’ tears again. His mind had now separated from becoming and birth in the same way that a rock split into two pieces can never be truly rejoined.
So I sat there, reflecting with despair. The problems in my heart that I had once unburdened with him: With whom would I unburden them now? There was no longer anyone who could unburden and erase my problems the way he had. I was left to fend for myself. It was as if he had been a doctor who had cured my illnesses countless times and who was the one person with whom I had entrusted my life—and now the doctor who had given me life was gone. I’d have to become a beast of the forest, for I had no more medicine to treat my inner diseases.
While I was sitting there, reminiscing sadly about him with love, respect, and despair, I came to a number of realizations. How had he taught me while he was still alive? Those were the points I’d have to take as my teachers. What was the point he had stressed repeatedly? ‘Don’t ever stray from your foundation, namely "what knows" within the heart. Whenever the mind comes to any unusual knowledge or realizations that could become detrimental, if you aren’t able to investigate your way past that sort of knowledge, then turn the mind back within itself and, no matter what, no damage will be done.’ That was what he had taught, so I took hold of that point and continued to apply it in my own practice to the full extent of my ability.
To be a senior monk comes from being a junior monk, as we see all around us and will all experience. We all meet with difficulties, whether we’re junior or senior. This is the path we all must take. We must follow the path of difficulty that is the path toward progress, both in the area of the world and in the area of the Dhamma. No one has ever become a millionaire by being lazy or by lying around doing nothing. To be a millionaire has to come from being persevering, which in turn has to take the path of difficulty—difficulty for the sake of our proper aims. This is the path wealthy and astute people always follow.
Even in the area of the Dhamma, we should realize that difficulty is the path of sages on every level, beginning with the Buddha himself. The Dhamma affirms this: Dukkhassanantaraṁ sukhaṁ—people gain ease by following the path of difficulty. As for the path to suffering, sukhassanantaraṁ dukkhaṁ—people gain difficulties by following the path of ease. Whoever is diligent and doesn’t regard difficulty as an obstacle, whoever explores without ceasing the conditions of nature all around him, will become that third sort of person: the sort who doesn’t ask to be reborn in this world, the sort who tesaṁ vūpasamo sukho—eradicates the seeds for the rebirth of any sort of fabrication, experiencing an ease undisturbed by worldly baits, an ease that is genuinely satisfying.
So. I ask that all of you as meditators keep these three sorts of people in mind and choose for yourselves which of the three is the most outstanding within you right now—because we can all make ourselves outstanding, with no need to fear that it will kill us. The effort to gain release from suffering and stress in the Lord Buddha’s footsteps isn’t an executioner waiting to behead the person who strives in the right direction. Be brave in freeing yourself from your bonds and entanglements. The stress and difficulties that come as a shadow of the khandhas are things that everyone has to bear as a burden. We can’t lie to one another about this. Each person has to suffer from worries and stress because of his or her own khandhas. Know that the entire world has to suffer in the same way you do with the khandhas you are overseeing right now.
Don’t let yourself be content to cycle through birth, ageing, illness, and death. Be uncomplacent at all times. You shouldn’t have any doubts about birth, because the Buddha has already told us that birth and death are out-and-out suffering. Don’t let yourself wonder if they are flowers or sweets or any sort of food you can eat to your satisfaction. Actually, they are nothing but poison. They are things that have deceived us all in our stupidity to be born and to die in heaps in this world of suffering and stress. If we die in a state of humanity, there’s some hope for us because of the openings for rebirth we have made for ourselves through the power of our good deeds. But there are not just a few people out there who are foolish and deluded, and who thus have no way of knowing what sorts of openings for rebirth their kamma will lead them to.
So for this reason, see the danger in repeated birth and death that can give no guarantees as to the state in which you’ll take birth and die. If it’s a human state, as we see and are at present, you can breathe easily to some extent, but there’s always the fear that you’ll slip away to be reborn as a common animal for people to kill or beat until you’re all battered and bruised. Now that’s really something to worry about. If you die, you die; if you survive, you live and breathe in fear and trembling, dreading death with every moment. How many animals are dragged into the slaughter houses every day? This is something we don’t have to explain in detail. It’s simply one example I mention to remind you of the sufferings of the living beings of the world. And where is there any shelter that can give a sure sense of security to the heart of each person overseeing his or her heap of life?
As meditators we should calculate the profits and losses, the benefits and drawbacks that come from the khandhas in each 24 hour period of day and night. The discontent we feel from being constantly worried: Isn’t it caused by the khandhas? What makes us burdened and worried? We sit, stand, walk, and lie down for the sake of the khandhas. We eat for the sake of the khandhas. Our every movement is simply for the sake of the khandhas. If we don’t do these things, the khandhas will have to break apart under the stress of suffering. All we can do is relieve things a little bit. When they can no longer take it, the khandhas will break apart.
bhārā have pañcakkhandhā:
The five khandhas are really a heavy burden.
Even though the earth, rocks, and mountains may be heavy, they stay to themselves. They’ve never weighed us down or oppressed us with difficulties. Only these five khandhas have burdened and oppressed us with difficulties with their every movement. Right from the day the khandhas begin to form, we have to be troubled with scurrying around for their sake. They wield tremendous power, making the entire world bend under their sway until the day they fall apart. We could say that we are slaves to the khandhas from the day we’re born to the day we die. In short, what it all comes down to is that the source of all worries, the source of all issues lies in the khandhas. They are the supreme commanders, making us see things in line with their wants. This being the case, how can anything wonderful come from them? Even the khandhas we will take on as a burden in our next birth will be the same sort of taking-birth-and-dying khandhas, lording it over us and making us suffer all over again.
So investigate these things until you can see them clearly with discernment. Of all the countless lifetimes you may have been through over the eons, take this present lifetime before you as your evidence in reviewing them all. Those who aren’t complacent will come to know that khandhas in the past and khandhas that will appear in the future all have the same characteristics as the khandhas that exist with us in the present. All I ask is that you force your mind to stay in the frame of the three characteristics (ti-lakkhaṇa), which are present throughout the body and mind at all times. No matter how wild and resistant the mind may be, it can’t withstand the strength of mindfulness and discernment backed up by persistent effort.
As long as mindfulness and discernment aren’t yet agile, you have to force them; but as soon as they gain enough strength to stand on their own, they’ll be like a fire and its light that always appear together. Once mindfulness and discernment have been trained to be authoritative, then wherever you are, you’re mindful and discerning. It’s not the case that you will always have to force them. They’re like a child: When it’s first born, it doesn’t have the strength and intelligence to care for itself, so its parents have to take on the duty of caring for it in every way until it matures and becomes able to survive on its own. The parents who used to look after it are then no longer burdened with that duty. The same holds true with mindfulness and discernment. They gain strength step by step from being trained without ceasing, without letting them slide. They develop day by day until they become super-mindfulness and super-discernment at the stage where they perform their duties automatically. Then every sort of thing that used to be an enemy of the heart will be slain by super-mindfulness and super-discernment until nothing remains. All that remains is a heart entirely ‘buddho,’ ‘Dhammo’ will become a marvel at that very same moment through the power of super-mindfulness and super-discernment.
So I ask that all of you as meditators make the effort. See the burden of birth, ageing, illness, and death that lies ahead of you as being at least equal to the burden of birth, ageing, illness, and death present in living beings and fabrications all around you. It may even be more—who knows how much more? For this reason, you should make sure that you gain release from it in this lifetime in a way clear to your own heart. Then wherever you live, you’ll be at your ease—with no need to bother with any more problems of birth or death anywhere at all—simply aware of this heart that is pure.
I ask that you all contemplate this and strive with bravery in the threefold training of virtue, concentration, and discernment. The goal you set for yourself in that third sort of person will one day be you. There’s no need to doubt this.
That’s enough for now, so I’ll ask to stop here.