Why do you want this holy water? By Ajahn Chah

The worldly way is to do things for a reason, to get some return, but in Buddhism we do things without the idea of gaining anything…

Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art In the beginning we practise with a desire of some kind in mind; we practise on and on, but we don’t attain our desire. But if we continue to practise anyway, we reach a point where we’re practising without ideas of some kind of return; we just practise in order to let go. This is something we must see for ourselves; it’s very deep. Maybe we practise because we want to go to nibbana, but you won’t get to nibbana! It’s natural to want peace, but it’s not really correct. We must practise without wanting anything at all. If we don’t want anything at all, what will we get? We don’t get anything! The point is, whatever you get is a cause for suffering, so we practise ‘not getting anything’. Continue reading “Why do you want this holy water? By Ajahn Chah”

Nibbana, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Speaking like this you will soon be accusing me of giving you a big sales pitch. Don’t think of me as someone hawking the wares of the Buddha in the marketplace, think rather that we are all companions in Dukkha, in birth, old age, sickness and death…

Buddha Offering Protection, Sri Lanka, mid-15th–16th century. © Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe meaning of the word Nibbana clearly extends to the absence of mental defilements the cause of Dukkha. So that at any moment that our minds are empty of ‘self’ and ‘belonging to self’ then that is Nibbana. For example, at this moment as you sit here I will attest that everyone, or almost everyone, has a mind empty of the feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ because there is nothing engendering them. In listening attentively you give no opportunity for self – consciousness to arise. So look and see whether or not the mind is empty of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. If there is some emptiness (and I merely use the word some, it’s not comp­letely or unchangingly empty) then you are dwelling within the sphere of Nibbana. Even though it is not absolute or perfect Nibbana, it is Nibbana just the same. Continue reading “Nibbana, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu”

Nobody Likes Being Disturbed, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Inner emptiness means to be normal, to have a mind that is not scattered and confused. Anyone who experiences this really likes it. If it develops to its greatest degree, which is to be empty of egoism, then it is Nibbana.

The Mountain is Empty; A Pinecone Falls, Zekkai Chūshin (Japanese, 1336–1405),© Metropolitan Museum of Art We must first be aware of these two categories, ’empty of I’ and ‘not empty of I’. The former is called ’empty’ and the latter is called ‘disturbed’ and to save time that is how they will be referred to from now on.

Here your common sense may say straight away that nobody likes being disturbed. If I were to ask those people who like being disturbed to raise their hands, if anyone did so it would have to be a joke. Everyone likes to be empty in one way or another. Some people like the lazy emptiness of not having to work. Everyone likes to be empty of annoyance, not having the kids coming to bother you. But that emptiness is an external thing, it is not yet true emptiness.

Inner emptiness means to be normal, to have a mind that is not scattered and confused. Anyone who experiences this really likes it. If it develops to its greatest degree, which is to be empty of egoism, then it is Nibbana. Continue reading “Nobody Likes Being Disturbed, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu”

A Meditative Life, by Bhante Bodhidhamma

Sitting meditation is only a part of the meditation. What the Buddha wanted us to do was to develop a meditative life—to know what we are doing at all times, leading a life of full-time awareness…

Reclining Buddha at Polonnaruwa, Sri lanka. Photo: Hazel WaghorneIn the last discourse given by the Buddha called the Parinibbana Sutta, the Discourse concerning his passing away into total nibbana, there is a special section on body movement and posture:

And again when the meditator is walking, she or he is aware of walking, when standing, aware of standing, when sitting, aware of sitting, when lying down, aware of lying down. Whatever position or movement the meditator is in, that is what she or he is aware of.

In other words, sitting meditation is only a part of the meditation. What the Buddha wanted us to do was to develop a meditative life—to know what we are doing at all times, leading a life of full-time awareness. Continue reading “A Meditative Life, by Bhante Bodhidhamma”

Liberation Here and Now, by Ayya Khema

To get a glimpse of wishless liberation, we can notice the dissatisfaction—the dukkha—that arises in the heart and mind whenever we want something. When we drop the wish, we experience relief. The dukkha does not necessarily arise because we can’t fulfil our wish; most likely we can. It’s an old axiom that if we want something badly enough, we will get it. The problem is that most people don’t know what will bring them happiness. The dukkha, however, lies in the desire itself, which creates tension, a feeling of expectation tinged with worry…

DaffodilWhen we hear or read the word ‘liberation’ (nibbana), we often get the idea that it is unattainable, otherworldly, reachable only by spiritual giants, and that it has very little to do with us. We do not have to look at it that way. Let us consider the three kinds of liberation—’signless’, ‘wishless’, and ‘voidness’ liberation. Signless liberation is attained by completely penetrating impermanence (anicca), wishless liberation by completely penetrating unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and voidness liberation by penetrating coreless substance (anatta).

We’re all familiar with impermanence, but what is signless liberation? Suppose we are attached to or highly appreciative of a person, a situation, a belonging. Can we let go of clinging to it? We can try to let go of anything at all, no matter how small. We direct our attention to the fact that all we examine is totally fleeting. We fathom that truth in everything, in all living beings, and, having seen it, we let go of our belief in the solidity of things. We thereby let go of our attachment. If we can do that with anything or anyone, even for a moment, we have won a moment of signless liberation—a moment of direct knowledge that nothing has any intrinsic value, that it’s all a passing show. Having had that experience, even for one moment, gives us an inkling of what the Buddha meant when he spoke about freedom. Freedom is often misunderstood as the ability to do anything we want. We have probably tried that already and found that it doesn’t work. Even if we were to follow only our desires, we would soon be satiated and then feel unfulfilled. Continue reading “Liberation Here and Now, by Ayya Khema”

The Gold Bar, by Ananda Dulal Sarkar

There were many kingdoms in ancient India varying in physical size and military might. More often than not, the bigger and stronger powers absorbed the smaller and weaker ones by unprovoked military actions. A king always accompanied his army and led it if he belonged to the Kshatriya class…

Stupa. Photo: © Paul HeatleyThe victorious king gave a command, ‘Put the prisoners of war to death.’

‘Mahaharaj!’ exclaimed the astounded General, ‘that is against the dharma (code) of the warrior class (Kshatriya) to which I belong.’

‘I do not belong to your class,’ replied the king dismissively. ‘I am of the lowest class. My dharma does not forbid the killing of prisoners who fought against me.’

There were many kingdoms in ancient India varying in physical size and military might. More often than not, the bigger and stronger powers absorbed the smaller and weaker ones by unprovoked military actions. A king always accompanied his army and led it if he belonged to the Kshatriya class.

The General raised his voice, ‘In that case you should not have come to the battlefield!’ The General was a mercenary. He continued, ‘There are strict rules regarding warfare. A strong power must never attack a weak one. A bowman must not shoot at an infantryman fighting with staves and swords. It is mandatory to allow a fleeing enemy to escape. A dead soldier’s family has to be looked after.’ Continue reading “The Gold Bar, by Ananda Dulal Sarkar”