What people usually refer to as peace is simply the calming of the mind, not the calming of the defilements. The defilements are simply being temporarily subdued, just like grass covered by a rock. In three or four days you take the rock off the grass and in no long time the grass grows again.
The grass had not really died; it was simply being suppressed. It is the same when sitting in meditation: the mind is calmed but the defilements are not really calmed. Therefore, samādhi (concentration) is not a sure thing. To find real peace you must develop wisdom. Samādhi is one kind of peace – like the rock covering the grass – but this is only a temporary peace. The peace of wisdom is like putting the rock down and not lifting it up, just leaving it where it is, then the grass can’t possibly grow again. This is real peace, the calming of the defilements, the sure peace which results from wisdom.
We speak of wisdom (paññā) and samādhi as separate things, but in essence they are one and the same. Wisdom is the dynamic function of samādhi; samādhi is the passive aspect of wisdom. They arise from the same place but take different directions. They have different functions, like this mango here. A small green mango eventually grows larger and larger until it is ripe. It is the same mango, the small one, the larger one and the ripe one are the same mango, but its condition changes. In Dhamma practice, one condition is called samādhi, the later condition is called paññā, but in actuality sila, samādhi, and paññā (morality, concentration and wisdom) are all the same thing, just like the mango.
In our practice, no matter what particular aspect we are referring to, we should always begin from the mind. Do you know what this mind is? What is the mind like? What is it? Where is it? Nobody knows. All we know is that we want to go over here or over there, we want this and we want that, we feel good or we feel bad, but the mind itself seems impossible to know.
So, what is the mind? The mind doesn’t have form. That which receives impressions, both good and bad, we call ‘mind’. It’s like the owner of a house. The owner stays at home while visitors come to see him. He is the one who receives the visitors, but who receives sense impressions? What is it that perceives? Who lets go of sense impressions? That is what we call ‘mind’. But people can’t see it; they think themselves into confusion: ‘What is the mind? What is the brain?’ Don’t confuse the issue with questions like these.
So what is it that receives impressions? Some impressions ‘mind’ likes and some it doesn’t like. Who is that? Is there one who likes and dislikes? Certainly there is, but you can’t see it. That is what we call ‘mind’.
“In our practice it isn’t necessary to talk of samatha or vipassanā; just call it the practice of Dhamma, that’s enough. And conduct this practice from your own mind. What is the mind? The mind is that which receives or is aware of sense impressions. With some sense impressions there is a reaction of like; with others the reaction is dislike. The receiver of impressions leads us into happiness and suffering, right and wrong. But it doesn’t have any form. We assume it to be a self, but it’s really only nāmadhamma [a mind object].
Does goodness have any form? Does evil? Do happiness and suffering have any form? You can’t find them. Are they round or are they square, short or long? Can you see them? These things are nāmadhamma [mind objects]. They can’t be compared to material things. They are formless, but we know that they do exist.
Therefore, it is said, to begin the practice by calming the mind, put awareness into the mind. If the mind is aware, it will be at peace. Some people don’t go for awareness; they just want to have peace, a kind of blanking out. So they never learn anything. If we don’t have this ‘one who knows’, what is there to base our practise on?
[Excerpt from: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah]