The Principal Teachings of Buddhism Part 3


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 straightaway 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.


The disturbed mind is just the opposite. It is disturbed in every way - in body, speech, and mind. It is totally confused, without the slightest peace or happiness. For people whose minds are disturbed by "I" and "mine", even if they go and take refuge in the Triple Gem, receive the precepts, offer alms and make merit, there can be no Buddha, Dhamma or Sangha present - it is all just a meaningless ritual. For the true Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha abide in the empty mind. Whenever the mind is empty of "I" and "mine", then the Triple Gem is present right there.


If it is for a short while, then the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha are there temporarily. If it is fixed and unalterable, then there are the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha which are real and enduring. Please keep making the effort to empty your minds of "I" and "mine", and the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha will be regularly present. Keep doing it until it is perfect, until it is absolute. This is to take Dhamma, which is simultaneously the cure of the spiritual disease and the antibody, and put it to use in your mind, so that there is no way for the disease to be born.


Here we should speak a little more about the treatment, to make it clearer that in protecting against the disease or in its treatment, there must be the principle previously mentioned - that of allowing no involvement with "I" and "mine". How is one to go about it? There are many methods. Even with physical and mental diseases one ailment can be treated in a variety of ways without having to rely on a single fixed method; but although they differ, the aim and the results are the same. Similarly, in treating the spiritual disease the Buddha spoke of a great number of practices in order to answer the needs of different people, times, places, and occasions. So we have heard of a great number of practices, many names, and perhaps we have been frightened to hear that he established 84,000 dhammakhandas (main subjects of Dhamma). Now, if there were truly 84,000, you would all feel discouraged. You would die before you learned them all: it can't be done. You would learn some and then forget and then have to learn them again only, to forget again, or else they would get completely mixed up in your mind. In fact, there is merely one handful, merely one subject which the Buddha summarized in one phrase, "Nothing whatsoever should be clung to". To hear this point is to hear all points. To practice this point is to practice all points and to receive the fruits of this point is to be cured of all disease.


Every one of the many methods for wiping out the disease of "I" and "mine'; works. It depends on how you wish to practice.' One of the many ways is to constantly contemplate "I" and "mine" as maya, an illusion' or hallucination. This will enable you to see that the feeling of self, a seemingly solid entity that we are familiar with as ,"I" and" mine", is in fact a mere illusion. This is achieved by contemplating self in terms of the Paticcasamuppada(Dependent Origination) [11].


To explain the Paticcasamuppada theoretically or technically takes a long time. It could take one or two months for just this single matter, because in the field of theory it's been expounded more and more as a subject of psychology and philosophy, until it's reached a state of excessive complexity. But in the field of practice, the Paticcasamuppada is, as the Buddha said just a handful ( of leaves). When there is contact with forms, sounds, odors, flavors, or whatever at one of the sense-doors, that contact is called, in Pali phassa. This phassa (sense contact without wisdom) develops into vedana (feeling without wisdom). Vedana develops into tanha (craving). Tanha develops into upadana (clinging). Upadana develops into bhava (becoming). Bhava deve­lops into jati, which is "birth ( beginning of Ego-not physical birth)", and following on from birth there is the suffering of old, age, sickness and death, which are Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness).


Please see that as soon as there is contact with a sense­ object there is phassa, and that the subsequent development of phassa into vedana, tanha and so on is called Paticcasamuppada, i.e. the process by which various things, existing in dependence on one other thing, condition the arising of another thing, which in turn conditions the development of a further thing, and so on. This process or state is called Paticcasamuppada. It is dependent arising with no self to be found, merely dependence followed by arising. The Paticcasamuppada is the process of dependent arising or dependent origination.


The way of making use of it is not to allow the dependent arising to take, place; cutting it off right at the moment of sense-contact, not allowing the development of vedana, not allowing feelings (without wisdom) of satisfaction or dissatisfaction to arise. When there is no production of vedana (it becomes just pure feelings), then there, is no birth of the craving and clinging that is the "I" and "mine". The "I" and "mine" lie right there at the birth of the craving and clinging; illusion lies right there. If, at the moment of sense-contact when there is no attachment but just pure/mindful contact, it is stopped just there, there is no way for the "I" and "mine" to arise. There is no spiritual disease and no Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness).


Another method. For the average person, it is extremely difficult to prevent sense- contact from developing into feelings. As soon as there is sense-contact, the feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction always follow on immediately. It doesn't stop at sense contact because there has never been any training in Dhamma. But there is still a way to save oneself; namely, when feeling has already developed, when there are already feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, to stop it right there. Let feeling remain as merely feeling and pass away. Don' allow it to go on and become tanha (craving), wanting this and that in response to the satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Because, if there is satisfaction, then there will be desire, craving, indulgence, possessiveness, envy, etc., in consequence. Once there is dissatisfaction, then there is the desire to beat to death, to devastate, and kill. If there are these sorts of desires in the mind, it means that feeling has already developed into craving. If so, then you must suffer from the spiritual disease of Dukkha/unsatisfactoriness and nobody can help. All the gods together cannot help. The Buddha said that even He cannot help. He has no power over the laws of nature, He is merely the one who reveals them so that others can practice in accordance with them. If one practises wrongly one must have Dukkha. If one practises correctly, one has no Dukkha. Thus it is said that if feeling has developed into craving then nobody can help. As soon as any form of craving has arisen, there must inevitably be Dukkha.


In that turbulent wanting that arises in the mind, see how to distinguish the feeling of the desirer, of "I" of the self that wants this or wants that, wants to do it like this or like that, or who has acted in that way or this, or who has received the results of those actions. That one who desires is "I"; wanting things, it grasps them as "mine" in one way or another - as "my" status, "my" property, "my" safety, "my" victory-and in all of those feelings the "I" is also present.


The feeling of "I" and "mine" is called upadana (attachment/clinging) and arises from tanha (craving). Craving develops into attachment. If the Paticcasamuppada has progressed as far as craving and attachment, the germ that enters through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, or body has matured to the extent that it can express itself as the symptoms of the disease, because attachment is followed by bhava (becoming/transformation from peaceful mind to Ego). Upadana conditions the arising of bhava. Bhava means "having and being". The having and being of what? The having and being of "I" and "mine". Kammabhava is the action that conditions the arising of "I" and "mine". If it is called simply "bhava", it means the condition of "I" and "mine" full- blown, the disease full- blown.


In our practice we must stop it right at the point of preventing sense contact from developing into feelings (without wisdom) or, if we fail there, by preventing feelings (without wisdom) from developing into craving. After that, it's hopeless. We try to have Dhamma right there at the meeting of eye and forms, of ear and sounds, of tongue and flavors, etc., by continually training in the point that nothing whatsoever should be clung to. With ordinary people, once contact takes place, then feeling arises followed by craving, attachment, becoming and birth of Ego. This is a path so well- worn that it is extremely easy to follow. But we don't take that path. As soon as there is sense-contact, we turn around and take the path of truth - discerning awareness. We don't take the path of "I" and "mine" or, even if we do follow it as far as feeling, we still turn back there to the path of truth-discerning awareness. We don't just float along with the stream of "I" and "mine". In this way, there is never any dukkha. If we can do. it well, and follow the correct method perfectly, we can realize Arahantship (Enlightenment).


If we wish to go by the Buddha's words, there is an easy principle that the Buddha taught to a disciple called Bahiya. "0 Bahiya, whenever you see a form, let there be just the seeing; whenever you hear a sound, let there be just the hearing; when you smell an odor, let there be just the smelling; when you taste a flavor, let there be just the tasting; when you experience a physical sensation, let it merely be sensation; and when a thought arises, let it be just a natural phenomenon (feeling) arising in the mind. When it's like this there will be no self (no "I"). When there is no self, there will be no moving about here and there, and no stopping anywhere. And that is the end of Dukkha. That is Nibbana." Whenever it's like that, then it is Nibbana. If it is lasting, then it is lasting Nibbana; if it's temporary, then it's temporary Nibbana. In other words, it is just one principle.


Whatever method of practice you adopt, it should lead to equanimity with regards to the sense - objects which you contact, or to their cessation. Whatever sort of insight meditation you do, if you do it correctly without deceit, it will be in this same one form, that of not letting sense-data be compounded into the feeling of "I" and "mine". Then it's not difficult to destroy defilements since, when you practise like this, they are destroyed as a matter of course.


To make a simple comparison it's like when we keep a cat to prevent rats coming around and disturbing us. All we have to do is look after the cat, and the rats will disappear without our having to catch them ourselves. The cat just goes about its business and there are no more rats. Because of the cat, the undesirable thing is no more.


If we merely oversee eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind in the proper manner, the killing of defilements occurs naturally. This is to speak in conventional terms. It is the same as in the Buddha's teaching, "If you live in the right way, the world will not be empty of arahants (Enlightened Ones)". Pay close attention to this. Just live in the right way-you don't have to do anything more than that and the world will not be empty of arahants. This is not a minor point. Just before his death, the Buddha said "im ce bhikkhave bhikkhu samma vihareyyum asunno loko arahantehi assa" or "Bhikkhus, if you live rightly, the world will not be without arahants." "Samma vihareyyum" means "to live rightly".


How is it to live rightly so the world will not be empty of arahants? To live rightly is to live untouched by forms; sounds, odors, flavors and physical sensations. In other words they are experienced, but
they do not enter and confect vedana, tanha, and upadana. We live wisely. We live with truth-discerning awareness, empty of "I" and "mine", as has already been explained. For we have studied sufficiently, we have practised until we are sufficiently adept. Thus having come into contact, the sense-object dies like a wave breaking on the shore; or as if we have a cat in the house that kills the rats that enter from other houses or the forest.


If we live in the right way - according to the principles I of non-clinging – forms, sounds, odors, flavors and physical sensations cannot harm us. We experience them and associate with them, but treat them with truth - discerning awareness. Then we can eat them, consume them possess them, or keep them without resultant Dukkha because it is as if they don't exist. It's the same as if we don't use them, don't eat them or keep them because there is no "us" or "ours".               


On the other hand, when everything is done with "I" and "mine", then there is Dukkha/ unsatisfactoriness all the time. Even before consuming or keeping there is already Dukkha, and while actually consuming or keeping there is more. It’s all Dukkha. This is called not living rightly. We are vexed with the disease of Dukkha.


But, when we live rightly, there is no way for the disease to arise. To explain this point further, if we live rightly then the defilements have no food to sustain them. They get thin and die. It can be compared to caging a fierce tiger in a pen where there is no food. We don't have to kill it, it will die of its own accord. We encircle forms, sounds, odors, flavors, physical sensations, and mental phenomena right at the point where they contact the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. We cage them right there. Practising rightly towards those things at that point, the defilements have no way to get food, will not be born, will not spread, and the germ will die.


The Buddha taught that if we live rightly, just live in the right way, then the earth will not be empty of arahants. This is called practising according to the principle of the Paticcasamuppada. It is the kind of right living by which defilements cannot arise, the seeing of "I" and "mine" as mere illusion, due to the fact that they only arise when sense-contact gives rise to feeling, which develops into craving. If the development of craving is avoided clinging to "I" and "mine" does not take place. Therefore, you should understand correctly that "I" and "mine" is a product of confection, it’s not real. It's an illusion in the same way as a wave that arises due to the blowing of the wind is an illusion. The water is real and the wind is real, but the wave is an illusion. This is to compare it with a material phenomenon, and the comparison is not perfect. It is meant merely to indicate the illusoriness of a wave that arises due to confection-the wind blows across the water, and a ridge of water arises and then disappears. The feeling of "I" and "mine" that arises over and over in a day is like a wave. The water of the sense-experience is contacted by the wind of delusion or ignorance and waves of "I" and "mine" are formed over and over throughout the day. A single emergence of the feeling of "I" and "mine" is called one jati, one birth.



The real meaning of the word "birth" as the Buddha meant it is not the birth from a mother's womb, that's too physical. The birth that the Buddha was pointing to was spiritual, the birth of clinging to "I" and "mine". In one day there can be hundreds of births; the amount depends on a person's capacity, but in each birth the "I" and "mine" arises, slowly fades, and grad­ually disappears and dies. Shortly, on contact with a sense-object, another arises. Each birth generates a reaction that carries over to the next. This is what is called the kamma of a previous life ripening in the present birth. It is then transmitted further. Every birth is like this. This is what kamma - fruit and the reception of kamma fruit is meant to refer to. Such an interpretation agrees with the Buddha's own words. If we don't take it that way then we stray from the point. We must understand birth, kamma, and the fruits of kamma in this way. For example, there can be birth as the desirer of some pleasing object and then death followed by birth as a thief or robber, and then a further death followed by birth as the enjoyer of that object. In a short time there is birth as a prisoner in the dock and then, having been found guilty, birth as a convict in jail. These sorts of birth are many and muddled, many threads and strands tangled together. But if you look closely, you will understand that at any time one stops birth, then at that moment there is Nibbana which is not born, does not get old and sicken, and does not die. If there is still birth, still the feeling of "I" and "mine", it just goes on being the Wheel of Birth and Death, a continual chain of Dukkha.


But we shouldn't go thinking that absence of birth means that one is so empty that there is no feeling at all. It is not sitting stiffly like a log of wood. On the contrary, one is extremely active. Being perfectly empty of birth, empty of "I", is to have perfect truth-discerning awareness, and so whatever one does is completely fluent. There being no false thinking, false speech, or false action, one acts swiftly and surely. There is no possibility of error because one's truth-discerning awareness is natural and spontaneous. This state of mind is called 'empty of I'. That one who is empty of "I," who is Nibbana, can do anything and do it without error. His actions are many, and they are extremely swift and greatly beneficial.


Don't go thinking that if this sort of feeling has arisen we won't be able to do anything - that we'll just stop everything and be totally lethargic and weary, completely indifferent. That's our wrong idea. Our misunderstanding makes us afraid of emptiness, afraid of Nibbana, afraid that ending our craving will be unpleasant.



11. The Law of Dependent Origination- the detail mechanism how the unsatisfactoriness originates and ends; the subject that enlightened the Buddha; the real meaning of cycle of birth and death of Ego/Unsatisfactoriness in the present life; the law of Kamma/Karma in the mind; the rediscovery of Truth by the Buddha.