The Principal Teachings of Buddhism Part 2


In Pali, "I" is atta and "mine" is attaniya; or, if one uses the terms in general use in Indian philosophy, “I” meaning to have the feeling of "I" (stemming from the word aham, "I"), and mamamakara, meaning to have the feeling of "mine" (stemming from the word mam, which means "mine").


The feelings of “I” and “Mine” are so dangerous that they are called the spiritual disease, and every branch of philosophy or dhamma in the Buddha's time wanted to wipe them out. Even though they were followers of other teachings, they all had the same aim of wiping out “I” and “Mine”. The difference lay in that when they eradicated those feelings, they called what remained the True Self, the Pure Atman, the Desired. As for our Buddhist teaching, it refused to use those names because it did not want to give rise to any new clinging to a self or things belonging to a self. It was just left a perfect emptiness, which was called Nibbana, as in the phrase, "Nibbanam paramam sunnam" - "Nibbana is supreme emptiness" - that is to say, absolutely empty of "I" and empty of "mine", in every respect, without remainder. That is Nibbana, the end of spiritual disease.


This matter of "I" and "mine" is very hard to see. If you don't really concentrate, you won't be able to understand that it is the force behind Dukkha, the force behind spiritual disease.


That which is called "atta" or "self" corresponds to the Latin word "ego". If the feeling of self-consciousness arises, we call it egoism because once the feeling of "I" arises it naturally and inevitably gives rise to the feeling of "mine". Therefore the feeling of self and the feeling of things belonging to self, taken together, is egoism. Ego can be said to be natural to living beings and, moreover, to be their center. If the word "ego" is translated into English, it must be rendered as soul, a word corresponding to the Greek "kentricon" which in English means center. Ego and kentricon being the same thing, the soul (atta) can be regarded as the center of living beings, as their necessary nucleus, and therefore is something that the ordinary person cannot rid themselves of or refrain from.


So it follows that all unenlightened people must experience this feeling of egoism arising continually. Although it's true that it doesn't express itself all the time, it manifests whenever one sees a form, hears a sound, smells an odour, touches a tactile object or has a thought arise in the mind. On every occasion that the feeling of "I" and "mine" arises, we can take it to be the disease fully developed, regardless of whether it's dependent upon seeing a form, hearing a sound, smelling an odour, or what­ever. When at the moment of contact, the feeling of "I" and "mine" arises, it is the disease fully developed. The feeling of selfishness has strongly arisen.


At this point we no longer call it egoism but selfishness, because it's an agitated egoism that leads one into low, false ways, into a state of thinking only of oneself without consideration for others, so that everything one does is selfish. One is completely ruled by greed, hatred, and delusion. The disease expresses itself as selfishness and then harms both oneself and others. It is the greatest danger to the world. That the world is currently so troubled and in such turmoil is due to nothing other than the selfishness of each person, of each of the factions forming into competing groups. That they are fighting each other without desire to fight, but through compulsion, is because they can't control this thing; they can't withstand its force, and so the disease takes root. That the world has taken in the "germ" which has then caused the disease, is because no one is aware of that which can resist the disease, namely the heart of the Buddhist Teachings. 


I would like you to understand this phrase, "the heart of the Buddhist Teachings". Whenever we ask what the heart of the Buddhist Teachings is, there are so many contending replies that it's like a sea of mouths-everyone's got an answer! But whether they are correct or not is another matter, for people just answer according to what they have remembered or what they have worked out for themselves. Please look and see for yourselves how it is these days. Who truly knows the heart of the Buddhist Teachings? Who has truly reached it?


Whenever we ask what the heart of the Buddhist Teachings is, someone will probably say the four Noble Truths [6], others aniccam dukkham anatta [7], and others may cite the verse  "Refraining from doing evil, doing only good, and purifying the mind, that is the 'heart of the Buddhist Teachings." That's correct, but only very slightly so because it's still something repeated by rote; it's not something that has been truly seen for oneself.

As to that which is the heart of the Buddhist Teachings, I would like to suggest the short saying, "Nothing whatsoever should be clung to". There is a section in the Majjhima Nikaya where someone approached the Buddha and asked him whether he could summarize his teachings in, one phrase and, if he could, what it would be. The Buddha replied that he could: "Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya". "Sabbe dhamma" means "all things", "nalam" means "should not be", "abhinivesaya" means "to be clung to". Nothing whatsoever should be clung to. Then the Buddha emphasized this point by saying that whoever had heard this core phrase had heard all of the Teachings, whoever had put it into practice had practised all of the Teachings, and whoever had received the fruits of practising this point had received all of the fruits of the Buddhist Teachings.


Now, if anyone realizes the truth of this point that there is not a: single thing to be clung to, it means that there is no "germ" to cause the disease of greed, hatred and delusion, or of wrong actions of any kind, whether of body, speech, or mind. So, whenever forms, sounds, odors, flavors, tangible objects mental phenomena crowd in, the antibody "Nothing whatsoever should be clung to" will strongly resist the disease. The "germs" will not enter or, if it is allowed to do so, it will be only in order to be completely destroyed. The "germ" will not spread and cause the disease because of the antibody continually destroying it. There will be an absolute and perpetual immunity. This then is the, heart of the Buddhist Teachings, of all Dhamma. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to : 'Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya'.


A person who realizes this truth is like someone who has an antibody that can resist and destroy disease. It is impossible for him or her to suffer from the spiritual disease. But, for the ordinary person who doesn't know the heart of the Buddhist Teachings, it's just the opposite, like someone who hasn't even the slightest immunity.


You probably understand by now the meaning of the "spiritual disease" and who the doctor is who heals it. But it's only when we see that we ourselves have the disease that we become really serious about healing ourselves, and in the right way too. Before we know, we just enjoy ourselves as we please. It's like someone unaware that they have some serious illness, such as cancer or TB, just indulging in pleasure -- seeking without bothering to seek any treatment until it's too late, and then dying of their disease.


We won't be that foolish. We will follow the Buddha's instruction, "Don't be heedless. Be well - filled with heedfulness." Being heedful people, we should take a look at the way in which we are suffering from the spiritual disease and examine the "germ" that is its cause. If you do this correctly and unremit­tingly, you will certainly receive in this life the best thing that a human being can receive.


We must look more closely into the point that clinging is the "germ", as well as the way that it spreads and develops into the disease. If you've observed even to a small degree, you will have seen that it's this clinging to "I" or "mine" that is the chief of all the defilements.


We can divide the defilements up into greed, hatred and delusion (or raga, kodha, and moha) or group them into sixteen or as many categories as we want - in the end they are all included in greed, hatred and delusion. But these three, too, can be collected into one-the feeling of "I" and "mine". The feeling of "I" and "mine" is the inner nucleus which gives birth to greed, hatred, and delusion. When it emerges as greed, as desire and craving, it attracts the sense -object that has come into contact. If at another moment it repels the object, then it's hate or dosa. On those occasions when it's stupefied and doesn't know what it wants, hovering around the object, unsure whether to attract or repel, that is moha.


Defilement behaves in one of these ways towards sense­ objects, i.e., forms, sounds, odors, flavors, or tangible objects, dep­ending on what form. the object takes-whether it is clearly apprehendable or hidden, and whether-it encourages attraction, repulsion, or confusion. But, though they differ, all three 'are defilements because they have their roots in the inner feeling of "I" and "mine". Therefore, it can be said that the feeling of "I" and "mine" is the chief of all defilements and the root cause of all Dukkha, of all disease.


Having not fully appreciated the Buddha's teaching regarding unsatisfactoriness, we have misunderstood it. We have taken it to mean that birth, old age, and so on are themselves unsatisfactoriness, but in fact those are just its characteristic vehicles.


The Buddha summarized his teaching as, "Sankhittena pancupadanakkhanda­
Unsatisfactoriness" which translates as, "In short, Unsatisfactoriness is the five clung - to khandas (aggregates) [8]. This means that anything which clings or is clung to as "I" or "mine" is unsatisfactoriness. Anything which has no clinging to "I" or "mine" has no unsatisfactoriness. Therefore, birth, old age, sickness, death or whatever, if they are not clung to as "I" or "mine", cannot be unsatisfactoriness. Only when birth, old age, sickness, or death are clung to as "I" or "mine" are the unsatisfactoriness. The body and mind are the same. It's not that unsatisfactoriness is inherent in the body and mind. It's only when there is clinging to "I" and "mine" that they are unsatisfactoriness. With the pure and undefiled body and mind, that of the arahant [9], there is no unsatisfactoriness at all.


We must see that this "I" and "mine" is the root cause of all forms of
unsatisfactoriness. Wherever there is clinging, then there is the darkness of ignorance. There is no clarity because the mind is not empty; it is shaken up, frothing and foaming with the feeling of "I" and "mine". In direct contrast, the mind that is free of clinging to "I" and "mine" is serene, filled full of truth-discerning awareness.


So, we must firmly grasp the fact that there are two kinds of feeling: that of "I" and "mine", and that of truth­discerning awareness, and that they are totally antagonistic. If one enters the mind the other springs out. Only one can be present at a time. If the mind is brimful of "I" and "mine", truth-discerning awareness cannot enter; if there is truth-discerning awareness, the "I" and "mine" disappears. Freedom from "I" and "mine" is truth-discerning awareness.


Thus, if one speaks intelligently - which is to say, concisely, although it is somewhat frightening, one says along with Huang Po, along with the Zen sect, that Emptiness is the Dhamma, Emptiness is the Buddha, and Emptiness is the Primal Mind. Confusion, the absence of Emptiness, is not the Dhamma, not the Buddha, and not the Primal Mind; it is a subsequent confection. There are these two opposing feelings that arise. Once we have understood them, we will understand all Dhamma extremely easily.


Right now, you who are sitting here listening are empty, you re not confecting the feeling of "I" and "mine". You are listening, and you have truth-discerning awareness; the feeling of "I" and "mine" cannot enter. But if on another occasion something impinges and gives rise to the feeling of "I" and "mine", the emptiness or truth - discerning awareness you feel here will disappear.


If we are empty of egoism there is no consciousness of "I" and "mine". We have the truth -discerning awareness that can extinguish unsatisfactoriness and is the cure for the spiritual disease; At that moment the disease cannot be born, and the disease that has already arisen will disappear as if picked up and, thrown away. At that moment, the mind will be completely filled with Dhamma. This accords with the remark that emptiness is truth-discerning awareness, emptiness is the Dhamma, emptiness is the Buddha, because in that moment of being empty of 'I' and "mine" there will be present every desirable virtue in the whole Tripitaka [10].


To put it simply, there will be perfect satisampajanna (mindfulness and self - awareness); perfect hiri (sense of shame); perfect ottappa (fear of evil); perfect khanti (patience and endurance); and perfect soracca (gentleness). There will be perfect katannukatavedi (gratitude) and perfect honesty right up to yathabhutananadassana (the knowledge and vision according to reality) that is the cause for the attainment of Nibbana.



I've come down to basics, saying that there must be satisampajanna, hiri, ottappa, khanti, soracca and katannukata­vedi because these things are also Dhamma, they too can be a refuge for the world. Even hiri and otappa alone, the aversion and shame towards doing evil and the fear of doing evil, with just these the world would be tranquil with lasting peace.


Nowadays there seems to be nothing but callous people who have no sense of fear or shame with regard to doing evil, and being that way they are able to do unfitting things and insist on doing them continually. Even when they see that it will create disaster for the whole world, they still persist, and so the world undergoes destruction because it lacks even this small virtue.


Or, we may take an even humbler virtue, that of gratitude. With just this one virtue, the world could be at peace. We must recognize that every person in the world is the benefactor of everyone else. Never mind people; even cats and dogs are benefactors  of humanity, even sparrows. If we are aware of our debt of gratitude to these things, we will be unable to act in any way that harms or oppresses them. With the power of this one virtue of gratitude, we can help the world.


So it follows that those things which take the name of virtue are, if they are real virtues, of an identical nature. Their identity lies in that everyone of them has the power to help the world. But, if virtues are false, they are totally obstructive, a completely disordered mass of contradictions. When there is true virtue, empty of "I" and "mine" there is all of the Dhamma, all of the Buddha, all things are present within it, in that one mind which is the true mind, the mind in its true state. On the other hand the mind that is feverishly proliferating with "I" and "mine" is without virtue. In those moments, there is no mindfulness or self awareness. The mind is in a rash, hasty state; there is no forethought and consideration, no restraint.


There is ahiri and anottappa, no shame and no fear of evil. One is completely callous as regards evil action, and one is utterly without gratitude. The mind is so enveloped in darkness that one can do things that cause destruction to the world. There's no need to talk about nanadassana (clear-seeing) impermanent, unstable and not-self, or anything of that nature; it's impossible.

(continue to Part 3)


6. Dukkha, its cause, its  extinction and the path leading to its extinction.  

 7. Impermanent, unstable and not-self. 

 8. The five 'groups' or 'aggregates' of existence: form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.  

 9. One freed from all greed, aversion and delusion. 

 10. The Buddhist scriptures.