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  • Advice on Meditation...

    Meditation is simply a question of being, of melting, like a piece of butter left in the sun. It has nothing to do ....

  • Vyagghapajja Sutta: The conditions of welfare

    Therefore the Buddha follows up on his advice on material welfare with four essential conditions for spiritual welfare: confidence (in the Master's enlightenment...

  • MAHA GHOSANANDA: PEACE IN EVERY STEP

    The suffering of Cambodia has been deep. From this suffering comes Great Compassion. Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart. ...

Dec 30, 2011

The meaning of Compassion

“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”

"I would like to explain the meaning of compassion which is often misunderstood. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the rights of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop a genuine concern for his or her problems. This is genuine compassion. Usually when we are concerned about a close friend, we call this compassion. This is not compassion; it is attachment. Even in marriage, those marriages that last only a short time, do so because of attachment - although it is generally present - but because there is also compassion. Marriages that last only a short time do so because of a lack of compassion; there is only emotional attachment based on projection and expectation. When the only bond between close friends is attachment, then even a minor issue may cause one´s projections to change. As soon as our projections change, the attachment disappears, because that attachment was based solely on projection and expectation. It is possible to have compassion without attachement, and similarly, to have anger without hatred. Therefore we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment, and between anger and hatred. Such clarity is useful in our daily life and in our efforts toward world peace. I consider these to be basic spiritual values for the happness of all human beings, regardless of whether one is a believer or a nonbeliever."

H.H Dalai Lama

Dec 27, 2011

The Cankers

The cankers only increase for those who are arrogant and heedless, who leave undone what should be done and do what should not be done. The cankers cease for those mindful and clearly comprehending ones who always earnestly practice mindfulness of the body, who do not resort to what should not be done, and steadfastly pursue what should be done. Dhp. 292-293

Dec 26, 2011

Your Choice: Your Identification and Foreign Culture



It was the individual freedom of holding or celebrating religious creed. But he also warned that extreme enthusiasm over other religion is the destruction to the national identification. Some Cambodian business people, private schools and media broadcasting operators, for their own interests, have been destroying Cambodia's tradition, custom and culture through promoting the event -- Christmas Day -- to the public, especially among the youth. ~Dr. Ros Chantrabuth, advisor to the Royal Academy of Cambodia

Buddhism is Cambodia's state religion. More than 90 percent of the people are Buddhist followers. However, because of the globalization, Cambodian young are vulnerable to foreign cultures.
[Xinhua News]

Respectable and Honorable Ones

Who is wise and virtuous,
Gentle and keen-witted,
Humble and amenable,
Such a one to honor may attain.

Who is energetic and not indolent,
In misfortune unshaken,
Flawless in manner and intelligent,
Such a one to honor may attain.

Who is hospitable and friendly,
Liberal and unselfish,
A guide, an instructor, a leader,
Such a one to honor may attain.

Generosity, sweet speech,
Helpfulness to others,
Impartiality to all,
As the case demands.

These four winning ways make the world go round,
As the linchpin in a moving car.
If these in the world exist not,
Neither mother nor father will receive,
Respect and honor from their children.

[Sigalovada Sutta]

Dec 25, 2011

Wrongly Directed Mind is the Worse Enemy

Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, Or haters, one to another, Far worse is the harm, From one’s own wrongly directed mind. Niether mother nor father, Nor any other relative can do One as much good As one’s own well-directed mind. -Dhammapada v 42-43

Dec 24, 2011

Lotus from the Mud


The lotus has its roots in the mud, Grows up through the deep water, And rises to the surface. It blooms into perfect beauty and purity in the sunlight. It is like the mind unfolding to perfect joy and wisdom.

Good and Evil

"The kind of seed sown  will produce that kind of fruit.  Those who do good will reap good results. Those who do evil will reap evil results.  If you carefully plant a good seed,  You will joyfully gather good fruit." -Dhammapada

Dec 23, 2011

The Buddha’s Teachings on Love

- by Gil Fronsdal

Just as blood nourishes the heart which keeps it flowing, so love nourishes spiritual freedom and is, in turn, kept flowing by it. The connection is so strong that Buddhism, often known as a Path of Freedom, could equally be called a religion of love. Perhaps this is what he had in mind when the Dalai Lama said his religion is kindness. For the Buddha, love is one of the paths to full spiritual liberation.

If we call Buddhism a religion of love we need to be clear what we mean by love, or more precisely, what forms of love we are including. Because freedom is the guide, the measure, and the ultimate goal of all things Buddhist, Buddhist love includes those forms of love that are characterized by freedom. Love that involves clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self would, in Buddhist terms, be seen as expressions of bondage and limitation.

Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and a particular form of equanimity are the four kinds of love taught and encouraged in classic Buddhist teachings. None of these are uniquely Buddhist; they are four qualities of heart that reside within everyone, at least as potentials. Teachings about the four forms of love existed in India prior to the Buddha – they were elements common to the Indian spiritual world which he included within his system of practice. While Buddhism cannot exist without love, it may be helpful to realize that love can exist happily apart from Buddhism. Learning the ways of these four loves does not require one to become a Buddhist. It only requires a willingness to develop innate capacities.

Love does not need to be left to chance. It mustn’t be a matter of “falling in love,” nor must it be accepted in whatever degree or frequency it happens to appear. The Buddhist tradition has developed a range of practices and reflections designed to develop our capacity to love. As with a treasure behind a locked door, we can find the key that allows us to open the door of love; like a muscle, love can be strengthened through practice.

In their most developed forms, the four types of love can each become a boundless radiance glowing from us. As such, love may flow from us equally toward all beings or it can glow freely without needing to be directed to anyone. When boundless, love without any particular object is recognized in Buddhism as a form of liberation.

To be “free” only when things are pleasant is not real liberation. Similarly, to love only in optimal conditions is not real love. Not a few Buddhist meditators have experienced great love while in meditation, only to have it disappear quickly outside of meditation. It can be easy to love all beings in the abstract, but it can be a great challenge to do so when we have to live with them. It is one thing to love and another to express that love in daily life.

One of the most rewarding spiritual practices is to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of our life and to all people we encounter. This entails learning how to include love’s presence while we speak to others, are in conflict with others, and are living with others. While this can be a daunting task, it begins with having the intention to do so. And it is supported by appreciating each manifestation of love that we encounter. Even practicing loving-kindness for the time it takes to snap the fingers is beneficial. Each drop of practice is significant and, as the Buddha said, “with dripping drops of water, the water jug is filled.”

Dec 19, 2011

The Foundations of Mindfulness


MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta — The Four Establishments of Mindfulness 
The Buddha's comprehensive practical instructions on the development of mindfulness as the basis for insight. This Sutta Read by Sally Clough. From SuttaReading
 

Read a translation of this sutta by Nyanasatta Thera 

Satipatthana Sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness
translated from the Pali by
Nyanasatta Thera

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living among the Kurus, at Kammasadamma, a market town of the Kuru people. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhu thus: "Monks," and they replied to him, "Venerable Sir." The Blessed One spoke as follows:

This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the four foundations of mindfulness. What are the four?

Herein (in this teaching) a monk lives contemplating the body in the body,[1] ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness,[2] ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief.


I. The Contemplation of the Body

1. Mindfulness of Breathing

And how does a monk live contemplating the body in the body?

Herein, monks, a monk, having gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree or to an empty place, sits down with his legs crossed, keeps his body erect and his mindfulness alert.[3]

Ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a long breath"; breathing in a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing in a short breath"; breathing out a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a short breath."

"Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself.

Just as a skillful turner or turner's apprentice, making a long turn, knows, "I am making a long turn," or making a short turn, knows, "I am making a short turn," just so the monk, breathing in a long breath, knows, "I am breathing in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a long breath"; breathing in a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing in a short breath"; breathing out a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a short breath." "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself.

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally.[4] He lives contemplating origination factors[5] in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors[6] in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors[7] in the body. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: "The body exists,"[8] to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached,[9] and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.

2. The Postures of the Body

And further, monks, a monk knows, when he is going, "I am going"; he knows, when he is standing, "I am standing"; he knows, when he is sitting, "I am sitting"; he knows, when he is lying down, "I am lying down"; or just as his body is disposed so he knows it.

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in the body.[10] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: "The body exists," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.

3. Mindfulness with Clear Comprehension

And further, monks, a monk, in going forward and back, applies clear comprehension; in looking straight on and looking away, he applies clear comprehension; in bending and in stretching, he applies clear comprehension; in wearing robes and carrying the bowl, he applies clear comprehension; in eating, drinking, chewing and savoring, he applies clear comprehension; in walking, in standing, in sitting, in falling asleep, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silence, he applies clear comprehension.

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body...

4. The Reflection on the Repulsiveness of the Body

And further, monks, a monk reflects on this very body enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head-hairs down, thinking thus: "There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, midriff, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine."

Just as if there were a double-mouthed provision bag full of various kinds of grain such as hill paddy, paddy, green gram, cow-peas, sesamum, and husked rice, and a man with sound eyes, having opened that bag, were to take stock of the contents thus: "This is hill paddy, this is paddy, this is green gram, this is cow-pea, this is sesamum, this is husked rice." Just so, monks, a monk reflects on this very body enveloped by the skin and full of manifold impurity, from the soles up, and from the top of the head-hairs down, thinking thus: "There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, midriff, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine."

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body...

5. The Reflection on the Material Elements

And further, monks, a monk reflects on this very body, however it be placed or disposed, by way of the material elements: "There are in this body the element of earth, the element of water, the element of fire, the element of wind."[11]

Just as if, monks, a clever cow-butcher or his apprentice, having slaughtered a cow and divided it into portions, should be sitting at the junction of four high roads, in the same way, a monk reflects on this very body, as it is placed or disposed, by way of the material elements: "There are in this body the elements of earth, water, fire, and wind."

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body...

6. The Nine Cemetery Contemplations

(1) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body dead one, two, or three days; swollen, blue and festering, thrown in the charnel ground, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it."

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-factors in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-factors in the body. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: "The body exists," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.

(2) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals or by different kinds of worms, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it."

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body...

(3) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton with some flesh and blood attached to it, held together by the tendons...

(4) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton blood-besmeared and without flesh, held together by the tendons...

(5) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to a skeleton without flesh and blood, held together by the tendons...

(6) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground and reduced to disconnected bones, scattered in all directions_here a bone of the hand, there a bone of the foot, a shin bone, a thigh bone, the pelvis, spine and skull...

(7) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, reduced to bleached bones of conchlike color...

(8) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground reduced to bones, more than a year-old, lying in a heap...

(9) And further, monks, as if a monk sees a body thrown in the charnel ground, reduced to bones gone rotten and become dust, he then applies this perception to his own body thus: "Verily, also my own body is of the same nature; such it will become and will not escape it."

Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in the body. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: "The body exists," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating the body in the body.

II. The Contemplation of Feeling

And how, monks, does a monk live contemplating feelings in feelings?

Herein, monks, a monk when experiencing a pleasant feeling knows, "I experience a pleasant feeling"; when experiencing a painful feeling, he knows, "I experience a painful feeling"; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling," he knows, "I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling." When experiencing a pleasant worldly feeling, he knows, "I experience a pleasant worldly feeling"; when experiencing a pleasant spiritual feeling, he knows, "I experience a pleasant spiritual feeling"; when experiencing a painful worldly feeling, he knows, "I experience a painful worldly feeling"; when experiencing a painful spiritual feeling, he knows, "I experience a painful spiritual feeling"; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful worldly feeling, he knows, "I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful worldly feeling"; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling, he knows, "I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling."

Thus he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feelings in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in feelings, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in feelings, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in feelings.[12] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Feeling exists," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, a monk lives contemplating feelings in feelings.

III. The Contemplation of Consciousness

And how, monks, does a monk live contemplating consciousness in consciousness?

Herein, monks, a monk knows the consciousness with lust, as with lust; the consciousness without lust, as without lust; the consciousness with hate, as with hate; the consciousness without hate, as without hate; the consciousness with ignorance, as with ignorance; the consciousness without ignorance, as without ignorance; the shrunken state of consciousness, as the shrunken state;[13] the distracted state of consciousness, as the distracted state;[14] the developed state of consciousness as the developed state;[15] the undeveloped state of consciousness as the undeveloped state;[16] the state of consciousness with some other mental state superior to it, as the state with something mentally higher;[17] the state of consciousness with no other mental state superior to it, as the state with nothing mentally higher;[18] the concentrated state of consciousness, as the concentrated state; the unconcentrated state of consciousness, as the unconcentrated state; the freed state of consciousness, as the freed state;[19] and the unfreed state of consciousness as the unfreed state.

Thus he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness internally, or he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness externally, or he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in consciousness, or he lives contemplating dissolution-factors in consciousness, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in consciousness.[20] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Consciousness exists," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, a monk lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness.

IV. The Contemplation of Mental Objects

1. The Five Hindrances

And how, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in mental objects?

Herein, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances.

How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances?

Herein, monks, when sense-desire is present, a monk knows, "There is sense-desire in me," or when sense-desire is not present, he knows, "There is no sense-desire in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen sense-desire comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen sense-desire comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sense-desire comes to be.

When anger is present, he knows, "There is anger in me," or when anger is not present, he knows, "There is no anger in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen anger comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen anger comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned anger comes to be.

When sloth and torpor are present, he knows, "There are sloth and torpor in me," or when sloth and torpor are not present, he knows, "There are no sloth and torpor in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen sloth and torpor comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen sloth and torpor comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sloth and torpor comes to be.

When agitation and remorse are present, he knows, "There are agitation and remorse in me," or when agitation and remorse are not present, he knows, "There are no agitation and remorse in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen agitation and remorse comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen agitation and remorse comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned agitation and remorse comes to be.

When doubt is present, he knows, "There is doubt in me," or when doubt is not present, he knows, "There is no doubt in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen doubt comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen doubt comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned doubt comes to be.

Thus he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in mental objects.[21] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Mental objects exist," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances.

2. The Five Aggregates of Clinging

And further, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five aggregates of clinging.[22]

How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five aggregates of clinging?

Herein, monks, a monk thinks, "Thus is material form; thus is the arising of material form; and thus is the disappearance of material form. Thus is feeling; thus is the arising of feeling; and thus is the disappearance of feeling. Thus is perception; thus is the arising of perception; and thus is the disappearance of perception. Thus are formations; thus is the arising of formations; and thus is the disappearance of formations. Thus is consciousness; thus is the arising of consciousness; and thus is the disappearance of consciousness."

Thus he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in mental objects.[23] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Mental objects exist," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five aggregates of clinging.

3. The Six Internal and External Sense Bases

And further, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the six internal and the six external sense-bases.

How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the six internal and the six external sense-bases?

Herein, monks, a monk knows the eye and visual forms and the fetter that arises dependent on both (the eye and forms);[24] he knows how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be.

He knows the ear and sounds... the nose and smells... the tongue and flavors... the body and tactual objects... the mind and mental objects, and the fetter that arises dependent on both; he knows how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be.

Thus he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in mental objects.[25] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Mental objects exist," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the six internal and the six external sense-bases.

4. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment

And further, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the seven factors of enlightenment.

How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the seven factors of enlightenment?

Herein, monks, when the enlightenment-factor of mindfulness is present, the monk knows, "The enlightenment-factor of mindfulness is in me," or when the enlightenment-factor of mindfulness is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of mindfulness is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of mindfulness comes to be; and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of mindfulness comes to be.

When the enlightenment-factor of the investigation of mental objects is present, the monk knows, "The enlightenment-factor of the investigation of mental objects is in me"; when the enlightenment-factor of the investigation of mental objects is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of the investigation of mental objects is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of the investigation of mental objects comes to be, and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of the investigation of mental objects comes to be.

When the enlightenment-factor of energy is present, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of energy is in me"; when the enlightenment-factor of energy is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of energy is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of energy comes to be, and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of energy comes to be.

When the enlightenment-factor of joy is present, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of joy is in me"; when the enlightenment-factor of joy is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of joy is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of joy comes to be, and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of joy comes to be.

When the enlightenment-factor of tranquillity is present, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of tranquillity is in me"; when the enlightenment-factor of tranquillity is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of tranquillity is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of tranquillity comes to be, and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of tranquillity comes to be.

When the enlightenment-factor of concentration is present, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of concentration is in me"; when the enlightenment-factor of concentration is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of concentration is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of concentration comes to be, and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of concentration comes to be.

When the enlightenment-factor of equanimity is present, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of equanimity is in me"; when the enlightenment-factor of equanimity is absent, he knows, "The enlightenment-factor of equanimity is not in me"; and he knows how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment-factor of equanimity comes to be, and how perfection in the development of the arisen enlightenment-factor of equanimity comes to be.

Thus he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution-factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-factors in mental objects.[26] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Mental objects exist," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the seven factors of enlightenment.

5. The Four Noble Truths

And further, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the four noble truths.

How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the four noble truths?

Herein, monks, a monk knows, "This is suffering," according to reality; he knows, "This is the origin of suffering," according to reality; he knows, "This is the cessation of suffering," according to reality; he knows "This is the road leading to the cessation of suffering," according to reality.

Thus he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution-factors in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-factors in mental objects.[27] Or his mindfulness is established with the thought, "Mental objects exist," to the extent necessary just for knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the four noble truths.

* * *

Verily, monks, whosoever practices these four foundations of mindfulness in this manner for seven years, then one of these two fruits may be expected by him: highest knowledge (arahantship) here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.[28]

O monks, let alone seven years. Should any person practice these four foundations of mindfulness in this manner for six years... five years... four years... three years... two years... one year, then one of these two fruits may be expected by him: highest knowledge here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

O monks, let alone a year. Should any person practice these four foundations of mindfulness in this manner for seven months... six months... five months... four months... three months... two months... a month... half a month, then one of these two fruits may be expected by him: highest knowledge here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

O monks, let alone half a month. Should any person practice these four foundations of mindfulness in this manner for a week, then one of these two fruits may be expected by him: highest knowledge here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

Because of this it was said: "This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely the four foundations of mindfulness."

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Satisfied, the monks approved of his words.
Notes

1. The repetition of the phrases 'contemplating the body in the body,' 'feelings in feelings,' etc. is meant to impress upon the meditator the importance of remaining aware whether, in the sustained attention directed upon a single chosen object, one is still keeping to it, and has not strayed into the field of another contemplation. For instance, when contemplating any bodily process, a meditator may unwittingly be side-tracked into a consideration of his feelings connected with that bodily process. He should then be clearly aware that he has left his original subject, and is engaged in the contemplation of feeling.

2. Mind (Pali citta, also consciousness or viññana) in this connection means the states of mind or units in the stream of mind of momentary duration. Mental objects, dhamma, are the mental contents or factors of consciousness making up the single states of mind.

3. Literally, "setting up mindfulness in front."

4. 'Internally': contemplating his own breathing; 'externally': contemplating another's breathing; 'internally and externally': contemplating one's own and another's breathing, alternately, with uninterrupted attention. In the beginning one pays attention to one's own breathing only, and it is only in advanced stages that for the sake of practicing insight, one by inference at times pays attention also to another person's process of breathing.

5. The origination factors (samudaya-dhamma), that is, the conditions of the origination of the breath-body; these are: the body in its entirety, nasal aperture and mind.

6. The conditions of the dissolution of the breath-body are: the destruction of the body and of the nasal aperture, and the ceasing of mental activity.

7. The contemplation of both, alternately.

8. That is, only impersonal bodily processes exist, without a self, soul, spirit or abiding essence or substance. The corresponding phrase in the following contemplations should be understood accordingly.

9. Detached from craving and wrong view.

10. All contemplations of the body, excepting the preceding one, have as factors of origination: ignorance, craving, kamma, food, and the general characteristic of originating; the factors of dissolution are: disappearance of ignorance, craving, kamma, food, and the general characteristic of dissolving.

11. The so-called 'elements' are the primary qualities of matter, explained by Buddhist tradition as solidity (earth), adhesion (water), caloricity (fire) and motion (wind or air).

12. The factors of origination are here: ignorance, craving, kamma, and sense-impression, and the general characteristic of originating; the factors of dissolution are: the disappearance of the four, and the general characteristic of dissolving.

13. This refers to a rigid and indolent state of mind.

14. This refers to a restless mind.

15. The consciousness of the meditative absorptions of the fine-corporeal and uncorporeal sphere (rupa-arupa-jhana).

16. The ordinary consciousness of the sensuous state of existence (kamavacara).

17. The consciousness of the sensuous state of existence, having other mental states superior to it.

18. The consciousness of the fine-corporeal and the uncorporeal spheres, having no mundane mental state superior to it.

19. Temporarily freed from the defilements either through the methodical practice of insight (vipassana) freeing from single evil states by force of their opposites, or through the meditative absorptions (jhana).

20. The factors of origination consist here of ignorance, craving, kamma, body-and-mind (nama-rupa), and the general characteristic of originating; the factors of dissolution are: the disappearance of ignorance, etc., and the general characteristic of dissolving.

21. The factors of origination are here the conditions which produce the hindrances, such as wrong reflection, etc., the factors of dissolution are the conditions which remove the hindrances, e.g., right reflection.

22. These five groups or aggregates constitute the so-called personality. By making them objects of clinging, existence, in the form of repeated births and deaths, is perpetuated.

23. The origination-and-dissolution factors of the five aggregates: for material form, the same as for the postures (Note 10); for feeling, the same as for the contemplation of feeling (Note 12); for perception and formations, the same as for feeling (Note 12); for consciousness, the same as for the contemplation of consciousness (Note 20).

24. The usual enumeration of the ten principal fetters (samyojana), as given in the Discourse Collection (Sutta Pitaka), is as follows: (1) self-illusion, (2) skepticism, (3) attachment to rules and rituals, (4) sensual lust, (5) ill-will, (6) craving for fine-corporeal existence, (7) craving for incorporeal existence, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness, (10) ignorance.

25. Origination factors of the ten physical sense-bases are ignorance, craving, kamma, food, and the general characteristic of originating; dissolution factors: the general characteristic of dissolving and the disappearance of ignorance, etc. The origination-and-dissolution factors of the mind-base are the same as those of feeling (Note 12).

26. Just the conditions conducive to the origination and dissolution of the factors of enlightenment comprise the origination-and-dissolution factors here.

27. The origination-and-dissolution factors of the truths should be understood as the arising and passing of suffering, craving, and the path; the truth of cessation is not to be included in this contemplation since it has neither origination nor dissolution.

28. That is, the non-returning to the world of sensuality. This is the last stage before the attainment of the final goal of arahantship.

Dec 18, 2011

Sick People

AN 3.22
Gilana Sutta: Sick People
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
"There are these three types of sick people to be found existing in the world. Which three? "There is the case of the sick person who — regardless of whether he does or does not receive amenable food, regardless of whether he does or does not receive amenable medicine, regardless of whether he does or does not receive proper nursing — will not recover from that illness. There is the case of the sick person who — regardless of whether he does or does not receive amenable food, regardless of whether he does or does not receive amenable medicine, regardless of whether he does or does not receive proper nursing — will recover from that illness. There is the case of the sick person who will recover from that illness if he receives amenable food, amenable medicine, & proper nursing, but not if he doesn't.

"Now, it is because of the sick person who will recover from that illness if he receives amenable food, amenable medicine, & proper nursing — but not if he doesn't — that food for the sick has been allowed, medicine for the sick has been allowed, nursing for the sick has been allowed. And it is because there is this sort of sick person that the other sorts of sick persons are to be nursed as well.[1]
"These are the three types of sick people to be found existing in the world.

"In the same way, these three types of people, like the three types of sick people, are to be found existing in the world. Which three?

"There is the case of the person who — regardless of whether he does or doesn't get to see the Tathagata, regardless of whether he does or doesn't get to hear the Dhamma & Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata — will not alight on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities. There is the case of the person who — regardless of whether he does or doesn't get to see the Tathagata, regardless of whether he does or doesn't get to hear the Dhamma & Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata — will alight on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities. There is the case of the person who will alight on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities if he gets to see the Tathagata and gets to hear the Dhamma & Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata, but not if he doesn't.

"Now, it is because of the person who will alight on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities if he gets to see the Tathagata and gets to hear the Dhamma & Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata — but not if he doesn't — that the teaching of the Dhamma has been allowed. And it is because there is this sort of person that the other sorts of persons are to be taught the Dhamma as well [on the chance that they may actually turn out to need and benefit from the teaching].
"These are the three types of people, like the three types of sick people, to be found existing in the world."

Notes

1. I.e., on the chance that they may actually turn out to need and benefit from such nursing.

Dec 17, 2011

The Removal of Distracting Thoughts (mp3 and text)

MN 20: Vitakkasanthana Sutta — The Removal of Distracting Thoughts. Five practical methods of responding wisely to unskillful thoughts (thoughts connected with desire, aversion, or delusion). This Sutta read by Ayya Medhanandi. Recorded by the reader in July 2005 in Paekakariki, New Zealand. Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi. From www.suttareadings.net
 
Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts
translated from the Pali by
Soma Thera
[www.accesstoinsight.org] 


Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi, in Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's Pleasance. The Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying, "Bhikkhus," and they replied to him saying, "Reverend Sir." The Blessed One spoke as follows:

"Five things should be reflected on from time to time, by the bhikkhu who is intent on the higher consciousness. What five?

When evil unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion arise in a bhikkhu through reflection on an adventitious object, he should, (in order to get rid of that), reflect on a different object which is connected with skill. Then the evil unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

Like an experienced carpenter or carpenter's apprentice, striking hard at, pushing out, and getting rid of a coarse peg with a fine one, should the bhikkhu in order to get rid of the adventitious object, reflect on a different object which is connected with skill. Then the evil unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate and delusion are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

If the evil unskillful thoughts continue to arise in a bhikkhu, who in order to get rid of an adventitious object reflects on a different object which is connected with skill, he should ponder on the disadvantages of unskillful thoughts thus: Truly these thoughts of mine are unskillful, blameworthy, and productive of misery. Then the evil unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

Like a well-dressed young man or woman who feels horrified, humiliated and disgusted because of the carcass of a snake, dog, or human that is hung round his or her neck, should the bhikkhu in whom unskillful thoughts continue to arise in spite of his reflection on the object which is connected with skill, ponder on the disadvantages of unskillful thoughts thus: Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, blameworthy, and productive of misery. Then the evil, unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

If evil, unskillful thoughts continue to arise in a bhikkhu who ponders on their disadvantageousness, he should in regard to them, endeavor to be without attention and reflection. Then the evil unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

Like a keen-eyed man shutting his eyes and looking away from some direction in order to avoid seeing visible objects come within sight, should the bhikkhu in whom evil, unskillful thoughts continue to arise in spite of his pondering on their disadvantageousness, endeavor to be without attention and reflection as regards them. Then the evil, unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

If evil, unskillful thoughts continue to arise in a bhikkhu in spite of his endeavor to be without attention and reflection as regards evil, unskillful thoughts, he should reflect on the removal of the (thought) source of those unskillful thoughts. Then the evil, unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

Just as a man finding no reason for walking fast, walks slowly; finding no reason for walking slowly, stands; finding no reason for sitting down, lies down, and thus getting rid of a posture rather uncalm resorts to a restful posture, just so should the bhikkhu in whom evil, unskillful thoughts arise, in spite of his endeavor to be without attention and reflection regarding them, reflect on the removal of the (thought) source of those unskillful thoughts. Then the evil, unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

If evil, unskillful thoughts continue to arise in a bhikkhu in spite of his reflection on the removal of a source of unskillful thoughts, he should with clenched teeth and the tongue pressing on the palate, restrain, subdue and beat down the (evil) mind by the (good) mind. Then the evil, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate and delusion are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).
Like a strong man holding a weaker man by the head or shoulders and restraining, subduing and beating him down, should the bhikkhu in whom evil, unskillful thoughts continue to arise in spite of his reflection on the source of unskillful thoughts, restrain, subdue and beat down the (evil) mind by the (good) mind, with clenched teeth and the tongue pressing on the palate. Then the evil, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate and delusion are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

When, indeed, bhikkhus, evil unskillful thoughts due to reflection on an adventitious object are eliminated, when they disappear, and the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated just within (his subject of meditation), through his reflection on an object connected with skill, through his pondering on the disadvantages of unskillful thoughts, his endeavoring to be without attentiveness and reflection as regards those thoughts or through his restraining, subduing, and beating down of the evil mind by the good mind with clenched teeth and tongue pressing on the palate, that bhikkhu is called a master of the paths along which thoughts travel. The thought he wants to think, that, he thinks; the thought he does not want to think, that, he does not think. He has cut down craving, removed the fetter, rightly mastered pride, and made an end of suffering."

The Blessed One said this, and the bhikkhus glad at heart, approved of his words.

Dec 16, 2011

Seeing Things as They Are

If we contemplate even a minute sector of life's vast range, we are faced with a variety of living forms so tremendous that it defies all description. Yet three basic features can be discerned as common to everything that has animate existence, from the microbe to man, from the simplest sensations to the thoughts of a creative genius:

impermanence or change (anicca);
suffering or unsatisfactoriness (dukkha);
non-self or insubstantiality (anatta).

These three basic facts were first found and formulated over 2,500 years ago by the Buddha, who was rightly called "the Knower of the World" (loka-vidu). They are designated, in Buddhist terminology, the three characteristics (ti-lakkhana) — the invariable marks or signs of everything that springs into being, the "signata" stamped upon the very face of life itself.

Of the three, the first and third apply directly to inanimate existence as well as to the animate, for every concrete entity by its very nature undergoes change and is devoid of substance. The second feature, suffering, is of course only an experience of the animate. But the Buddha applies the characteristic of suffering to all conditioned things, in the sense that, for living beings, everything conditioned is a potential cause of experienced suffering and is at any rate incapable of giving lasting satisfaction. Thus the three are truly universal marks pertaining even to what is below or beyond our normal range of perception.

The Buddha teaches that life can be correctly understood only if these basic facts are understood. And this understanding must take place, not only logically, but in confrontation with one's own experience. Insight-wisdom, which is the ultimate liberating factor in Buddhism, consists in just this experiential understanding of the three characteristics as applied to one's own bodily and mental processes, and deepened and matured in meditation.

To see things as they really are means to see them consistently in the light of the three characteristics. Not to see them in this way, or to deceive oneself about their reality and range of application, is the defining mark of ignorance, and ignorance is by itself a potent cause of suffering, knitting the net in which man is caught — the net of false hopes, of unrealistic and harmful desires, of delusive ideologies and of perverted values and aims.

Ignoring or distorting the three basic facts ultimately leads only to frustration, disappointment and despair. But if we learn to see through deceptive appearances, and discern the three characteristics, this will yield immense benefits, both in our daily life and in our spiritual striving. On the mundane level, the clear comprehension of impermanence, suffering and non-self will bring us a saner outlook on life. It will free us from unrealistic expectations, bestow a courageous acceptance of suffering and failure, and protect us against the lure of deluded assumptions and beliefs. In our quest for the supramundane, comprehension of the three characteristics will be indispensable. The meditative experience of all phenomena as inseparable from the three marks will loosen, and finally cut, the bonds binding us to an existence falsely imagined to be lasting, pleasurable and substantive. With growing clarity, all things internal and external will be seen in their true nature: as constantly changing, as bound up with suffering and as unsubstantial, without an eternal soul or abiding essence. By seeing thus, detachment will grow, bringing greater freedom from egoistic clinging and culminating in Nibbana, mind's final liberation from suffering.

by Nyanaponika Thera

Dec 15, 2011

A Heap of Bones

This was said by the Lord...

"Bhikkhus, the skeletons of a single person, running on and wandering in samsara for an aeon, would make a heap of bones, a quantity of bones as large as this Mount Vepulla, if there were someone to collect them and if the collection were not destroyed."

The bones of a single person
Accumulated in a single aeon 
Would make a heap like a mountain — 
So said the Great Sage. 
 
He declared it to be 
As great as Mount Vepulla 
To the north of Vulture's Peak
In the hill-fort of Magadha.
 
But when one sees with perfect wisdom 
The four noble truths as they are — 
Suffering, the origin of suffering, 
The overcoming of suffering, 
 And the noble eightfold path
Leading to relief from suffering — 
 
Having merely run on 
Seven times at the most, 
By destroying all fetters 
One makes an end of suffering. 
 
___
Tipitaka {Iti 1.24; Iti 17}  
translated from the Pali by
John D. Ireland

Right Conduct

"By developing what habit, what conduct, what actions may man be correctly established in and arrive at the highest goal?

"He should respect his elders and not be envious of them. He should know the right time for seeing his teacher.[1] If a talk on Dhamma has started he should know the value of the opportunity and should listen carefully to the well-spoken words.[2]

"When the time is right let him go to his teacher's presence, unassuming, putting aside stubbornness. Let him keep in mind and practice (what he has learned): the meaning and the text (of the Teaching), self-control and (the other virtues of) the Holy Life.[3] Delighting in the Dhamma, devoted to the Dhamma, established in the Dhamma, skilled in investigating the Dhamma,[4] let him not indulge in talk harmful to the (practice of) Dhamma. Let him be guided by well-spoken truths.

"Abandoning the uttering of laughter and lamentations; giving up anger, fraud, hypocrisy, longing, conceit, violence, harshness, moral taints and infatuation; let him live without pride, self controlled. Understanding is essential (for listening) to a well-spoken word. Learning and understanding are essential to meditation, but a man who is hasty and heedless does not increase his wisdom and learning.

"Those who are devoted to the Dhamma made known by the Noble Ones (ariya) are unsurpassed in speech, thought and action. They are established in peace, gentleness and concentration, and have reached the essence of learning and wisdom."
— vv. 324-330

Notes
1. That is when needing their advice for dispelling mental defilements.
 
2. The phrase "well-spoken" (subhasita) is a technical term in the Pali canon. It refers to sayings  connected with Dhamma and concerning one's well-being, happiness and progress on the path.
 
3.The rendering follows the Commentary.
 
4.Or, "having discriminative knowledge of the Dhamma."
 
Translated from Pali by Venerable Thanissaro Bhkkhu

Dec 8, 2011

Two kinds of Gifts

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "I am a brahman, responsive to requests, open-handed, bearing my last body, an unsurpassed doctor & surgeon. You are my children, my sons, born from my mouth, born of the Dhamma, created by the Dhamma, heirs to the Dhamma, not heirs in material things.

"There are these two kinds of gifts: a gift of material things & a gift of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: a gift of the Dhamma.

"There are these two kinds of sharing: sharing of material things & sharing of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: sharing of the Dhamma.

"There are these two kinds of assistance: assistance with material things & assistance with the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: help with the Dhamma.

"There are these two kinds of mass-donations: a mass-donation of material things & a mass-donation of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: a mass-donation of the Dhamma."


He who, unstinting,
made the mass-donation of Dhamma,
the Tathagata,
sympathetic to all beings:
to one of that sort
— the best of beings, human & divine —
living beings pay homage —
to one gone
to the beyond
of becoming.

[Tipitaka, Itivuttaka 101]

Dec 2, 2011

Aims of Buddhist Education

by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Ideally, education is the principal tool of human growth, essential for transforming the unlettered child into a mature and responsible adult. Yet everywhere today, both in the developed world and the developing world, we can see that formal education is in serious trouble. Classroom instruction has become so routinized and pat that children often consider school an exercise in patience rather than an adventure in learning. Even the brightest and most conscientious students easily become restless, and for many the only attractive escape routes lie along the dangerous roads of drugs, sexual experimentation, and outbursts of senseless violence. Teachers too find themselves in a dilemma, dissatisfied with the system which they serve but unable to see a meaningful alternative to it.

One major reason for this sad state of affairs is a loss of vision regarding the proper aims of education. The word "education" literally means "to bring forth," which indicates that the true task of this process is to draw forth from the mind its innate potential for understanding. The urge to learn, to know and comprehend is a basic human trait, as intrinsic to our minds as hunger and thirst are to our bodies. In today's turbulent world, however, this hunger to learn is often deformed by the same moral twists that afflict the wider society. Indeed, just as our appetite for wholesome food is exploited by the fast-food industry with tasty snacks devoid of nutritional value, so in our schools the minds of the young are deprived of the nutriment they need for healthy growth. In the name of education the students are passed through courses of standardized instruction intended to make them efficient servants of a demeaning social system. While such education may be necessary to guarantee societal stability, it does little to fulfill the higher end of learning, the illumination of the mind with the light of truth and goodness.

A major cause of our educational problems lies in the "commercialization" of education. The industrial growth model of society, which today extends its tentacles even into the largely agrarian societies of South and Southeast Asia, demands that the educational system prepare students to become productive citizens in an economic order governed by the drive to maximize profits. Such a conception of the aim of education is quite different from that consistent with Buddhist principles. Practical efficiency certainly has its place in Buddhist education, for Buddhism propounds a middle path which recognizes that our loftiest spiritual aspirations depend on a healthy body and a materially secure society. But for Buddhism the practical side of education must be integrated; with other requirements designed to bring the potentialities of human nature to maturity in the way envisioned by the Buddha. Above all, an educational policy guided by Buddhist principles must aim to instill values as much as to impart information. It must be directed, not merely toward developing social and commercial skills, but toward nurturing in the students the seeds of spiritual nobility.

Since today's secular society dictates that institutional education is to focus on preparing students for their careers, in a Buddhist country like Sri Lanka the prime responsibility for imparting the principles of the Dhamma to the students naturally falls upon the Dhamma schools. Buddhist education in the Dhamma schools should be concerned above all with the transformation of character. Since a person's character is molded by values, and values are conveyed by inspiring ideals, the first task to be faced by Buddhist educators is to determine the ideals of their educational system. If we turn to the Buddha's discourses in search of the ideals proper to a Buddhist life, we find five qualities that the Buddha often held up as the hallmarks of the model disciple, whether monk or layperson. These five qualities are faith, virtue, generosity, learning, and wisdom. Of the five, two — faith and generosity — relate primarily to the heart: they are concerned with taming the emotional side of human nature. Two relate to the intellect: learning and wisdom. The second, virtue or morality, partakes of both sides of the personality: the first three precepts-abstinence from killing, stealing, and sexual abuse- govern the emotions; the precepts of abstinence from falsehood and intoxicants help to develop the clarity and honesty necessary for realization of truth. Thus Buddhist education aims at a parallel transformation of human character and intelligence, holding both in balance and ensuring that both are brought to fulfillment.

The entire system of Buddhist education must be rooted in faith (saddha) — faith in the Triple Gem, and above all in the Buddha as the Fully Enlightened One, the peerless teacher and supreme guide to right living and right understanding. Based on this faith, the students must be inspired to become accomplished in virtue (sila) by following the moral guidelines spelled out by the Five Precepts. They must come to know the precepts well, to understand the reasons for observing them, and to know how to apply them in the difficult circumstances of human life today. Most importantly, they should come to appreciate the positive virtues these precepts represent: kindness, honesty, purity, truthfulness, and mental sobriety. They must also acquire the spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice (caga), so essential for overcoming selfishness, greed, and the narrow focus on self-advancement that dominates in present-day society. To strive to fulfill the ideal of generosity is to develop compassion and renunciation, qualities which sustained the Buddha throughout his entire career. It is to learn that cooperation is greater than competition, that self-sacrifice is more fulfilling than self-aggrandizement, and that our true welfare is to be achieved through harmony and good will rather than by exploiting and dominating others.

The fourth and fifth virtues work closely together. By learning (suta) is meant a wide knowledge of the Buddhist texts which is to be acquired by extensive reading and persistent study. But mere learning is not sufficient. Knowledge only fulfills its proper purpose when it serves as a springboard for wisdom (pañña), direct personal insight into the truth of the Dhamma. Of course, the higher wisdom that consummates the Noble Eightfold Path does not lie within the domain of the Dhamma school. This wisdom must be generated by methodical mental training in calm and insight, the two wings of Buddhist meditation. But Buddhist education can go far in laying the foundation for this wisdom by clarifying the principles that are to be penetrated by insight. In this task learning and wisdom are closely interwoven, the former providing a basis for the latter. Wisdom arises by systematically working the ideas and principles learned through study into the fabric of the mind, which requires deep reflection, intelligent discussion, and keen investigation.

It is wisdom that the Buddha held up as the direct instrument of final liberation, as the key for opening the doors to the Deathless, and also as the infallible guide to success in meeting life's mundane challenges. Thus wisdom is the crown and pinnacle of the entire system of Buddhist education, and all the preliminary steps in a Buddhist educational system should be geared toward the flowering of this supreme virtue. It is with this step that education reaches completion, that it becomes illumination in the truest and deepest sense, as exclaimed by the Buddha on the night of his Awakening: "There arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and light."

Anicca Vata Sankhara: Impermanent, alas!

by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Anicca vata sankhara — "Impermanent, alas, are all formations!" — is the phrase used in Theravada Buddhist lands to announce the death of a loved one, but I have not quoted this line here in order to begin an obituary. I do so simply to introduce the subject of this essay, which is the word sankhara itself. Sometimes a single Pali word has such rich implications that merely to sit down and draw them out can shed as much light on the Buddha's teaching as a long expository article. This is indeed the case with the word sankhara. The word stands squarely at the heart of the Dhamma, and to trace its various strands of meaning is to get a glimpse into the Buddha's own vision of reality.

The word sankhara is derived from the prefix sam, meaning "together," joined to the noun kara, "doing, making." Sankharas are thus "co-doings," things that act in concert with other things, or things that are made by a combination of other things. Translators have rendered the word in many different ways: formations, confections, activities, processes, forces, compounds, compositions, fabrications, determinations, synergies, constructions. All are clumsy attempts to capture the meaning of a philosophical concept for which we have no exact parallel, and thus all English renderings are bound to be imprecise. I myself use "formations" and "volitional formations," aware this choice is as defective as any other.

However, though it is impossible to discover an exact English equivalent for sankhara, by exploring its actual usage we can still gain insight into how the word functions in the "thought world" of the Dhamma. In the suttas the word occurs in three major doctrinal contexts. One is in the twelvefold formula of dependent origination (paticca-samuppada), where the sankharas are the second link in the series. They are said to be conditioned by ignorance and to function as a condition for consciousness. Putting together statements from various suttas, we can see that the sankharas are the kammically active volitions responsible for generating rebirth and thus for sustaining the onward movement of samsara, the round of birth and death. In this context sankhara is virtually synonymous with kamma, a word to which it is etymologically akin.

The suttas distinguish the sankharas active in dependent origination into three types: bodily, verbal, and mental. Again, the sankharas are divided into the meritorious, demeritorious, and "imperturbable," i.e., the volitions present in the four formless meditations. When ignorance and craving underlie our stream of consciousness, our volitional actions of body, speech, and mind become forces with the capacity to produce results, and of the results they produce the most significant is the renewal of the stream of consciousness following death. It is the sankharas, propped up by ignorance and fueled by craving, that drive the stream of consciousness onward to a new mode of rebirth, and exactly where consciousness becomes established is determined by the kammic character of the sankharas. If one engages in meritorious deeds, the sankharas or volitional formations will propel consciousness toward a happy sphere of rebirth. If one engages in demeritorious deeds, the sankharas will propel consciousness toward a miserable rebirth. And if one masters the formless meditations, these "imperturbable" sankharas will propel consciousness toward rebirth in the formless realms.

A second major domain where the word sankharas applies is among the five aggregates. The fourth aggregate is the sankhara-khandha, the aggregate of volitional formations. The texts define the sankhara-khandha as the six classes of volition (cha cetanakaya): volition regarding forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, and ideas. Though these sankharas correspond closely to those in the formula of dependent origination, the two are not in all respects the same, for the sankhara-khandha has a wider range. The aggregate of volitional formations comprises all kinds of volition. It includes not merely those that are kammically potent, but also those that are kammic results and those that are kammically inoperative. In the later Pali literature the sankhara-khandha becomes an umbrella category for all the factors of mind except feeling and perception, which are assigned to aggregates of their own. Thus the sankhara-khandha comes to include such ethically variable factors as contact, attention, thought, and energy; such wholesome factors as generosity, kindness, and wisdom; and such unwholesome factors as greed, hatred, and delusion. Since all these factors arise in conjunction with volition and participate in volitional activity, the early Buddhist teachers decided that the most fitting place to assign them is the aggregate of volitional formations.

The third major domain in which the word sankhara occurs is as a designation for all conditioned things. In this context the word has a passive derivation, denoting whatever is formed by a combination of conditions; whatever is conditioned, constructed, or compounded. In this sense it might be rendered simply "formations," without the qualifying adjective. As bare formations, sankharas include all five aggregates, not just the fourth. The term also includes external objects and situations such as mountains, fields, and forests; towns and cities; food and drink; jewelry, cars, and computers.

The fact that sankharas can include both active forces and the things produced by them is highly significant and secures for the term its role as the cornerstone of the Buddha's philosophical vision. For what the Buddha emphasizes is that the sankharas in the two active senses — the volitional formations operative in dependent origination, and the kammic volitions in the fourth aggregate — construct the sankharas in the passive sense: "They construct the conditioned; therefore they are called volitional formations. And what are the conditioned things they construct? They construct the body, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness; therefore they are called volitional formations" (SN XXII.79).

Though external inanimate things may arise from purely physical causes, the sankharas that make up our personal being — the five aggregates — are all products of the kammically active sankharas that we engaged in our previous lives. In the present life as well the five aggregates are constantly being maintained, refurbished, and extended by the volitional activity we engage in now, which again becomes a condition for future existence. Thus, the Buddha teaches, it was our own kammically formative sankharas that built up our present edifice of personal being, and it is our present formative sankharas that are now building up the edifices of personal being we will inhabit in our future lives. These edifices consist of nothing other than sankharas as conditioned things, the conditioned formations comprised in the five aggregates.

The most important fact to understand about sankharas, as conditioned formations, is that they are all impermanent: "Impermanent, alas, are formations." They are impermanent not only in the sense that in their gross manifestations they will eventually come to an end, but even more pointedly because at the subtle, subliminal level they are constantly undergoing rise and fall, forever coming into being and then, in a split second, breaking up and perishing: "Their very nature is to arise and vanish." For this reason the Buddha declares that all sankharas are suffering (sabbe sankhara dukkha) — suffering, however, not because they are all actually painful and stressful, but because they are stamped with the mark of transience. "Having arisen they then cease," and because they all cease they cannot provide stable happiness and security.

To win complete release from suffering — not only from experiencing suffering, but from the unsatisfactoriness intrinsic to all conditioned existence — we must gain release from sankharas. And what lies beyond the sankharas is that which is not constructed, not put together, not compounded. This is Nibbana, accordingly called the Unconditioned — asankhata — the opposite of what is sankhata, a word which is the passive participle corresponding to sankhara. Nibbana is called the Unconditioned precisely because it's a state that is neither itself a sankhara nor constructed by sankharas; a state described as visankhara, "devoid of formations," and as sabbasankhara-samatha, "the stilling of all formations."

Thus, when we put the word sankhara under our microscope, we see compressed within it the entire worldview of the Dhamma. The active sankharas consisting in kammically active volitions perpetually create the sankhara of the five aggregates that constitute our being. As long as we continue to identify with the five aggregates (the work of ignorance) and to seek enjoyment in them (the work of craving), we go on spewing out the volitional formations that build up future combinations of aggregates. Just that is the nature of samsara: an unbroken procession of empty but efficient sankharas producing still other sankharas, riding up in fresh waves with each new birth, swelling to a crest, and then crashing down into old age, illness, and death. Yet on it goes, shrouded in the delusion that we're really in control, sustained by an ever-tantalizing, ever receding hope of final satisfaction.

When, however, we take up the practice of the Dhamma, we apply a brake to this relentless generation of sankharas. We learn to see the true nature of the sankharas, of our own five aggregates: as unstable, conditioned processes rolling on with no one in charge. Thereby we switch off the engine driven by ignorance and craving, and the process of kammic construction, the production of active sankharas, is effectively deconstructed. By putting an end to the constructing of conditioned reality, we open the door to what is ever-present but not constructed, not conditioned: the asankhata-dhatu, the unconditioned element. This is Nibbana, the Deathless, the stilling of volitional activities, the final liberation from all conditioned formations and thus from impermanence and death. Therefore our verse concludes: "The subsiding of formations is blissful!"