The Heart of the Teaching
There is a common point between the teachings of each different Venerable Ajahns.
That common point is sati (awareness of the present moment within the framework of the mind and body).
When we are aware, we are also free from all the thoughts, and at that instant, the normal state of mind will slightly appear.
When you glance over to observe your own state of mind in your day-to-day life, that is counted also as awareness. When you are aware and mindful of the present moment, the mind will be empty.
Glancing over or checking over your emotion, or observing the mind whether it is at its normal state or not? These are all referring to the same thing.
The moment we glance over, we also step out from our world of thoughts.
You can try this on your own to see whether it is true or not. If you want to observe your own state of mind, you have to immediately be aware of the present moment in order to see your own mind or else you won’t be able to see it.
Although, the moment you are aware only happens for a fraction of a second, it will accumulate like sugar flakes like I mentioned earlier.
You have to repeatedly glance over to observe your own mind all day long.
How often do you have to glance?
“As often as you can.”
Each person has accumulated the skill in glancing over differently. The level of training is also different in each person. Those who have intensively trained their own mind will be able to glance continuously, while beginners will be able to see it for just momentarily and inconsistently. That is completely normal because each individual has accumulated level of training differently.
However, all the different teachings come down to the same point. Notice the teachings from different Luangpors, some will prefer to use certain words, while others will prefer differently.
But all the great teachings of each different Luangpors will all come down to the same point, which is to be at a state above your own thoughts.
That is “awareness of the present moment within the framework of the mind and body”.
What is the Buddhda State of mind?
The awareness of the present moment will develop into what is called the Buddha State of mind.
When developing one’s awareness up to this point, some Laungpors will realize the truth from the Three Characteristics of Existence point of view (anicca, dukkha and anatta).
On the other hand, some will realize the truth from the perspective of emptiness/nothingness. One should develop the ability to see the Buddha State of mind often enough, until one can automatically see it all the time.
The short meaning of the Buddha State of mind is “the state where your mind is totally free from all mental reaction/formation (sangkhara)”.
This is the true Buddha State of mind.
As a matter of fact, “to consistently see the normal state of mind is what’s most important” because nothing exists in the Buddha State of mind, there is no anicca, no dukkha and no anatta. At the same time, we can’t really say that anatta doesn’t exist in the Buddha State because the word anatta itself literally means no-self/individual. Similarly, there is also no-self/individual in the Buddha State of mind. It’s just a word, just a vocabulary (which cannot accurately describe this indescribable state).
Whenever you are aware of the present moment, the normal state of mind will also appear but only for fractions of a second. You have to consistently practice to build up your awareness.
Once awareness of the present moment becomes your new habit, your mind will no longer pay attention to its own reactions and it will realize that those mental reactions are like the darkness, it is gloomy and obscure which leads to suffering.
Imagine when you are suffering you would feel obscure, but it is just a feeling. You won’t literally see obscurity but instead you would feel that your mind is not clear and open.
There is neither brightness nor darkness in the Buddha State of mind. In fact, nothingness is already there all the time, there is no brightness or darkness.
“It is just a state of mind with nothingness,
completely normal and smooth,
no ups and downs, and
no brightness or darkness.”
In the past, I couldn’t really understand it,
the word ‘fulfilling the entirety of the world (เต็มโลกธาตุ)’ which means that
whenever you can attain the state nothingness, or
when you become one with nothingness
that is the state of “fulfilling the entirety of the world, there’s no beginning and no end”.
In the Buddha State of mind, there’s no light or dark. It is what it is, like the sun rises with brightness. Nothingness lies within everything. How does everything become one? It becomes one with ‘nothingness’ as the common point.
The flow of nama-rupa (the mental-physical continuum) revolve all the time. Things age and get old because changes happen every second. This is the ways things are, they revolve around nothingness.
When we are able to attain the state of nothingness
“everything turns into one unity,
because it becomes one with all.”
All the things that revolve around nothingness are just manifestation of their conditions or states. This is similar to a tree with branches and leaves, what do we call this whole combination of all the parts? The whole combination is a tree but we may call its parts as leaves, branches and roots…the truth is, it’s still a tree. This concept is similar to nothingness.
Let go of the manifestation of the state of mind (sabhava Dhamma), not the Buddha State of mind
All the things that occur are just manifestation of the conditions or states of truth (or emotions).
You must first get to know nothingness.
Luangpor Tien once taught (about the four levels of understanding in human), which are
“to remember, to know, to be enlightened, to truly realize”
To remember means to listen to something and remember it.
To know means to see something with your own direct experience, like you have already seen nothingness with your own experience.
To be enlightened is to see the same things with direct experience but deeper in intensity until you can see and understand every aspect of it.
To realize the truth means to truly know, for sure without a mistake. What you realize is the ultimate truth without a doubt, and no one else could lie or deceive you anymore.
While you are practicing Dhamma,
you only need to know one thing.
But your understanding about this one thing will be deeper and deeper.
That one thing is this so-called “nothingness”.
When you are steadfast to see all things under the law of anicca, dukkha and anatta, you have to begin by developing awareness in order to see these Three Characteristics of Existence.
Whenever you are aware of the present moment, you will be able to see the state of anger arises and you are still full with sati. The moment you are aware, you can get away from the state of anger at least for a short moment, which means you can momentarily escape from being overpowered by your mental reactions.
Instead of keeping with the normal state of mind, or keeping with the awareness, which has already taken you out from being overpowered by anger,
those whose concentration of the mind are still not developed well enough
and still cannot remain equanimous with anger,
consequently anger doesn’t pass away.
You then look at anger and wonder when will anger disappear?
Why doesn’t it disappear?
They said that things that arise must pass away.
All the great Dhamma teachings have taught people to see the realities of anicca, dukkha and anatta. This is what makes people get stuck with the states of emotions because people expect to see and understanding these realities (of anicca, dukkha and anatta).
Instead of coming out of those states of emotions, you sink deeper into them.
Getting stuck there, is a waste of time.
You should instead let go of the state of anger
even if it doesn’t disappear because your mind is still reacting to it.
Anger arises from your own mental reactions, but we keep looking at it!!
You should instead let go of anger, let it be there and return to awareness within the framework of the body.
Awareness within the framework of the body is pure.
There’s no meaning within awareness.
It is impossible to give awareness any meaning attached to it.
Because it is “the Buddha State of mind”.
The Buddha State of mind is totally free from any mental reactions.
It is an indescribable state and cannot be defined by words.
We often focus on seeing the states of emotions (sabhava Dhamma) instead of focusing on awareness within the framework of your own body. By doing that we just neglected the Buddha State of mind.
How can one actually be free from all mental reactions? The answer is … to be aware.
“Glancing”. Glancing over to observe the state of your mind in the moment is similar to awareness. Before you can glance over, you have to be aware, how can you glance over when you’re not aware of the present moment?
Start with awareness of the present moment …straight away! … you have to be aware first, before you can start glancing. If you get caught up inside your own thoughts, it would be impossible to start glancing. It is like when someone’s is drowning in the ocean, how can he/she look for the shore.
You have to understand that each Luangpor uses his own different vocabularies. Most importantly, it all comes down to the same common point and that is awareness. The main goal of our daily practice is to attain the Buddha State of mind, therefore, you first need to know what is the Buddha State of mind?
The Buddha State is the state of mind being completely free from all mental reactions.
Do it in any way you wish to be totally free from all the mental reactions.
As a matter of fact, there is really only one way to reach that point,
And that is “to be aware within the framework of the body”, there is no other way.
While you are aware, you should also glance, observe and get to know the state of awareness in that moment and learn what it is like … there is no thoughts, it is clear, light and smooth, there is no ups or downs. You will get to know what the real Buddha State of mind or awareness is like.
When you get to know it continuously,
it will change from remembering to knowing and then to enlightening.
Knowing it consistently and continuously until it becomes everlasting …
then finally realizing the ultimate truth.
What exactly is the true status of your own self?
To see the reality of the state of your own emotion is similar to standing on the shore.
Once we know we are safe on the shore,
We could easily watch things floating by,
Floating by and by,
Floating by and by.
If I were to ask what is the true status of yourself right in that moment?
Is seeing things floating by and by really the true status of yourself?
Your own status is “you’re sitting on the shore, your mind is at its normal state, and safe”. This is the state that you have to understand, and knowing not to jump into the water. Don’t jump into the water or else you’ll get all wet.
Once your mind learns that being on the shore makes you dry, happy, no danger and it is safe, it will know that there is no need to jump into the water to get yourself wet and dirty. Your mind wouldn’t want to jump in anymore, correct?
Similarly, once anger arises, your mind won’t be fooled to jump into it (the sea of anger) anymore — now the mind knows that it will be miserable. The present state of the mind is already happy why would it want to jump in there again. That is because “your mind is familiar with it already” (used to being on the safe shore).
It’s like growing up in a clean house and one day, you’ve been taken to live in a slum – you’re not going to live there, right? Because you are already used to cleanliness.
On the other hand, if you are already living in a slum from the beginning and someone pulls you out to the main road, you would panic — ‘Oh No’! No more main road, and run back into the slum because you still don’t know well enough about the outside. You have no idea that out there is cleaner than the slum. However, if you learn that outside is cleaner, you wouldn’t want to be back in the slum anymore…your mind works just in the same way.
“If your mind becomes familiar with better things,
it will automatically let go of the old things.”
Once your mind is already well concentrated and equanimous, it is already at its normal state,
Your mind will be able to see all things in the world as they really are with equanimity.
“Mere seeing, not thinking”.
It is a state of mere seeing. Like ‘oh something arises, now I see it’, and by mere seeing the state of something arising … it immediately ceases way, and allow it to end right there. You will not get drawn into thinking in rational that ‘oh everything arises just to pass away’, it doesn’t work like that. At the same time, don’t get stuck with what’s being manifested either. It’s like watching things pass you by, allow them to pass by and don’t cling on them.
If you spend the majority of your lifetime familiarizing yourself with the normal state of mind, you might luckily get on the right track when you die. When approaching your last mind before death, you mind might coincidentally be at its normal state, not holding on to anything, and just let it stay with nothingness – then you will automatically reach nibbanic state without having to be an arahant but you’ll never have to reborn again.
This is exactly what the Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu often mentions about the possibility of reaching nirvana right at death. However, this can only happen when “the normal state of mind has already become the basis of your life”.
The True Happiness
Our mind has been struggling all the time as we live our lives from past to present.
There has never been …
a smooth state of mind … and normal.
A state without needing anything …
A state without any desire …
A state with absolute content and completeness.
There is a happiness that is completely simple … its scale doesn’t shoot high up.
It’s more like you’re being nourished bit by bit with happiness … that is already satisfying enough.
It’s like feeling full after having a meal, staying comfortably in an air conditioning room – you don’t have the urge of going anywhere because you are already content. That is the state of happiness.
This is the state that the mind is simply at its normal condition, no hustling. The only word I could think of to describe this state is that “the mind is totally detached from the hustle to reach out for anything”.
While you’re still living with your old habit pattern of the mind,
Your mind would be like …
What’s out there for me to do,
I need to find something to do … I’m bored …
I have to go do this and that …
I’m thinking about doing this and that …
Think of doing this … think of doing that ….
All the time …
Like it’s impossible for the mind to stay still.
Realize and Let It Pass
Back when Ajahn Kemananda was still ordained as a monk he was quite good at giving Dhamma talks. While he was giving his Dhamma discorses to a group of college students, there was a phrase which he said ‘stay with the present’. After he finished his Dhamma talk, Luangpor Tien said to him that:
Staying with the present is still an attachment.
You need to unravel yourself even from the present.
This is a very profound teaching.
Staying with the present,
Some people stay with the present
Until it overpasses the present and becomes the past already.
Similarly, when you see anger arises and get attached to the feeling of anger … that is
What we called staying with the present with attachment.
It does not unravel from the present.
Another word for staying with the present without attaching to it, Luangpor Tien called it “to realize and let it pass”. This is a very important word.
Realize and let it pass … passes to where?
“let it passes you by …
And return to awareness of the body in the present moment”.
And this … is where the Buddha State of mind opens itself up again.
Focusing on Generating the Cause and Not the Effect
All in all, the most important point is …
To be aware of the present moment within the framework of body and mind.
Also, familiarize yourself with the Buddha State of mind,
Know its state and form,
Which is the normal state of mind.
Concentrated mind and equanimity of the mind can be achieved by attaining the Buddha State of mind which is to have the continuity of the normal state. Continuity of the normal state of mind will lead to a concentrated samadhi of the mind.
You have to attain the Buddha State of mind first before you can see the Three Characteristics of Existence. Once your mind can see this … it will automatically arrive at a conclusion that whatever states arises in the mind, will eventually ceases away, they all fall into the law of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (no-self).
This is the teaching from the famous Dhamma talk “Buddha State of Mind”.
It is the teaching to see the realities, but only for those who could already attained the Buddha State.
However, we often hurrying on to see the result (the Three Characteristics of Existence).
But we don’t actually focus on creating the tool to be able to see those results.
This is the main problem in today’s Dhamma practice.
Those who already have enough concentrated mind, their mind is consisted of the normal state about 80-90% of their lives. Therefore, whenever something arises, these people will automatically see that it falls under the law of anicca, dukkha and anatta.