August 25, 1962
The way of practice that follows the aims of the Buddha and the true Dhamma is to be truly intent on acting rightly. Every sort of duty that is ours to do should be done intently. When doing a task of any sort, even a small one, if we lack intentness, it won't get finished in a presentable way at all, because intentness -- which is a matter of mindfulness and principles in the heart that can bring a task to completion -- is lacking in ourselves and in our work. To have mindfulness and principles of the heart in ourselves and in our work is, in and of itself, to be making the effort of the practice, regardless of whether the work is internal or external. If a person lacks intentness as a means of keeping his work in focus, then even if he is a craftsman capable of making things solid and beautiful, his lack of intentness will reduce the quality and beauty of his work. For this reason, intentness and concentration are important factors that shouldn't be overlooked by those who aim at full results in their work.
We have gone forth from the household life. We're meditators. We should display intentness in our every duty and be deliberate in our every task. Even when we sweep the monastery compound, clean our quarters and the meeting hall, set out sitting mats and drinking water, in all our movements, comings and going, even when looking right and glancing left, we should be mindful at every moment. This is what it means to be making the effort of the practice. In developing the habit of mindfulness, we have to use our work as our training ground. Every external task of every sort is a duty. Walking meditation and sitting meditation are duties. If we're mindful in doing our duties, it means that our effort in the practice hasn't lapsed. To train ourselves in the habits of those who are intent on the higher levels of Dhamma, we must begin -- with urgency -- by training ourselves to be mindful in every task of every sort from the very beginning. For the sake of the certainty and stability of your future, develop mindfulness as a habit from this moment onward until you have it constantly present within you, every moment you act and every moment you rest.
When the time comes to make the mind still, mindfulness will come to stick close by the heart and be established as soon as you make the effort, just as you want it to. At the same time, your mindfulness will have enough strength to force the mind into stillness at will. For the most part, when people are unable to make their minds still as they like, it's because mindfulness, which is the primary factor, isn't strong enough, and so the mind easily finds the opening to slip out after other preoccupations -- like an inquisitive child who has no one to watch over him and who can thus get into danger any time at all. The mind that's always carried away, without any mindfulness to look after it, is thus always getting disturbed to the point where it can never find any stillness and peace. The guardians of the mind are mindfulness and discernment, which continually watch over it all the time it is thinking about various issues, and which continually try to reason with the mind to free it from the issues that come to involve it. When the mind is constantly hearing the logic of its discernment, it will be unable to disobey its discernment by thinking about and becoming attached to any issues any longer.
To train mindfulness and discernment to become progressively stronger and not to deteriorate, please train them in the method already mentioned. Don't let yourself be careless in any useful activity of any sort, no matter how small. Otherwise the carelessness that's already the lord of the heart will become a chronic disease taking deep root in the heart, ruining every aspect of your practice. Try to train yourself in the habit of being dependable and intent in your proper activities, within and without, at all times. Don't let carelessness or negligence incubate in your character at all, because people who have trained themselves in the habit of being true to their every duty are sure to be able to succeed in every sort of activity, whether inner or outer, without any obstacle to thwart them. Even when they train their hearts, which is the important job within, they are sure to succeed with circumspection in such a way that they will find nothing with which they can fault themselves -- because outer activities and inner activities both point to the same heart in charge of them. If the heart is habitually careless, then when it takes charge of any inner task, it's bound to ruin the task, without leaving even a scrap for itself to take as its refuge.
So for a bright future in the tasks that form your livelihood and source of happiness, you should train yourself in the habit of being dependable and true in your duties. Perform each task to the utmost of your ability. Then when you turn inward to perform your inner work for the sake of stillness or for the sake of discernment and discovery, you will be able to perform both sorts of work with precision and circumspection because of the habits you have developed in training yourself to be true and circumspect all along. To follow the practice from the beginning to the highest level depends mainly on your basic habits. The 'beginning' of the practice and the 'end' both refer to the one heart whose condition of awareness will develop when it's modified by the Dhamma, both in terms of causes -- the striving of the practice -- and in terms of the results, or happiness, just as a child gradually develops from infancy to adulthood when nourished by food and all sorts of other factors. The beginning of the practice thus refers to the training of the mind in the beginning stages so as to change its habits and sensibilities, making them reasonable and right, until it is knowledgeable and can maintain itself without any deviations from the reasonability and rightness appropriate to it. But when we come right down to it, the beginning and end of the practice are like a piece of fruit: We can't say exactly where it begins and where it ends. When we look at it, it's simply a piece of fruit.
The same sort of thing holds true with the mind. We talk about the beginning or the end of the practice in the sense that the mind has its various preoccupations, coarse and refined, mixed in with it. In modifying them, we have to keep coming up with new techniques, changing those preoccupations from their original state to more and more refined levels that should be called, where suitable, the beginning or the end of the path. Those of you listening should make yourselves reach this sort of understanding of the defilements and evil qualities in the heart that are given such a variety of names that they can go beyond the bounds of what the suppositions of a single mind can keep track of and resolve. Otherwise you won't have any techniques for curing yourselves of the condition just mentioned.
Let me stress once more the principle that guarantees sure results: Train yourself in the habit of being solid and true in your work and duties at all times. Don't be unsteady, uncertain, or undependable. If you say you'll go, go. If you say you'll stay, stay. If you say you'll do something, do it. Once you've settled on a time or a task, keep to it. Be the sort of person who writes with his hand and erases with his hand. Don't be the sort who writes with his hand and erases with his foot. In other words, once we've made a vow, no one else can come in and destroy that vow, and yet we ourselves are the ones who destroy it: This is what is meant by writing with the hand and erasing with the foot, which is something very unseemly. We have to be true to our plans and always decisive. Once we've determined that a particular task is worthwhile and right, we should give our life to that task and to our determination. This way we'll become dependable and self-reliant. The virtues we are maintaining will become dependable virtues and won't turn into virtues floating in the wind. Our practice of concentration will become dependable concentration on every level and won't turn into concentration floating in the wind, i.e., concentration only in name but without the actuality of concentration in the heart. And when we develop each level of discernment, it will be dependable discernment, in keeping with the truthfulness of our character, and won't turn into discernment floating in the wind, i.e., discernment only in name but without any ingenuity in freeing ourselves. What I've said so far is so that you will see the drawbacks of being undependable and desultory, without any inner truthfulness, and so that if you hope for genuine progress in terms of the world and the Dhamma, you'll look for a way to give these things a wide berth.
Now I'd like to say more about mindfulness and discernment, the factors that can make your character more stable and circumspect. You should always be aware that discernment isn't something that you can cook up like food. It comes from considering things carefully. A person without discernment is unable to complete his tasks with any sort of finesse and unable to protect his valuables -- in the sense of the world or of the Dhamma -- from danger. For this reason, the important factors in maintaining and practicing the teachings of the religion are mindfulness and discernment. Whenever an event, whether good or bad, makes contact with the mind, mindfulness and discernment should take it up immediately. This way you can be alert to good and bad events in time and can prevent the heart from straying after things that will harm it.
For the most part, whenever an issue arises, whether it's sudden or not, the heart can be swayed or harmed in line with that issue because it lacks the mindfulness and discernment to observe and inspect things carefully beforehand. It then sees everything as worth pursuing, and so you let the mind follow along with things without your being aware of it. By the time you realize what has happened, time has been wasted, and it's too late to put a stop to the mind, so you let things follow their own course until they all turn to ashes, without any way of being remedied. Don't think that this comes from anything other than a lack of the mindfulness and discernment that can lead out to freedom. If not for this, who would be willing to sacrifice his or her own worth -- with a value above that of anything else in the world -- for the sake of this sort of failure? Yet it's unavoidable and we have to give in -- all of us -- for when the chips are down, it's normal that mindfulness will lapse, and we won't be able to latch onto anything in time. We'll then let things follow their own course in line with the force of events too strong for the mind to withstand.
Thus it is only right that we should prepare ourselves from this moment onward to be ready for the events that lie in wait around us, within and without, and are ready to strike at any time or place. Even though it's still morning (even though you're still alive), don't let yourself delay. To be prepared is to strive to have a firm basis, both within and without, for your living and dying. Whether you live here or there, whether death will happen here or there, whether you live in this world or the next, or whether you're coming to this world or going to the next, you should prepare yourself, beginning now, in the immediate present. Otherwise, when life is up, you won't be able to prepare anything in time. I've never seen any Teacher's Dhamma that says to prepare yourself tomorrow or next month or next year or in the next life, which would simply encourage people to be complacent. I've seen the Dhamma say only that you should make yourself a refuge both within and without right now while you're alive. Even though days, nights, months, and years, this world and the next, are always present in the cosmos, they're not for worthless people who are born and die in vain without doing anything of any benefit to the world or the Dhamma at all.
In particular, now that we are monks and meditators -- which is a peaceful way of life, a way of life that the world trusts and respects, a way of life that more than any other in the world gives us the opportunity to do good for ourselves and others -- we should be fully prepared in our affairs as monks and shouldn't let ourselves be lacking. For our behavior as monks to be gracious in a way pleasing and inspiring to others, we must use mindfulness and discernment as our guardians, looking after our every movement. A person with mindfulness and discernment looking after his behavior is gracious within and without, and maintains that graciousness in a way that never loses its appeal at any time. When we use mindfulness and discernment to straighten out things within us -- namely, the mind and its mess of preoccupations -- the mind immediately becomes clean, clear, and a thing of value.
Remember the Dhamma you have studied and heard, and bring it inward to blend with your practice and to support it. Keep your mindfulness and discernment right with the heart and with your every movement. Wherever the eye looks or the ear listens, mindfulness and discernment should follow them there. Whatever the tongue, nose, and body come into contact with -- no matter how good or bad, coarse or refined -- mindfulness and discernment should keep track of those things and pry intelligently into their causes every time there's a contact. Even when ideas occur in the mind itself, mindfulness and discernment must keep track and investigate them without break -- because those who have gained release from the world of entanglements in the heart have all acted in this way. They have never acted like logs thrown away on the ground where children can climb up to urinate and defecate on them day and night. If anyone acts like a log, defilements and cravings from the various directions -- namely, from sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations -- will come in through the openings of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body to urinate and defecate on the heart that is making itself into a log because it doesn't have any intelligence or circumspection with regard to its inner and outer preoccupations. It simply lets cravings and defilements urinate and defecate on it day and night. This isn't at all fitting for those who aim at freedom from the cycle -- i.e., who aim at nibbana -- because the nibbana of the Buddha and his disciples is not a lazy nibbana or a log's nibbana. Those who want the Buddha's nibbana in their hearts must try to conform to the tracks left by the practice of the Buddha and his disciples. In other words, they must make an effort to develop mindfulness, discernment, conviction, and persistence to keep abreast of the events occurring within and without at all times. Don't act like a log, simply going through the motions of walking, sitting, meditating, sitting like a stump in the middle of a field without any sense of circumspection in the heart. This sort of going through the motions isn't any different from the way people in general normally act.
To be a disciple of the Tathagata, whose fame has spread throughout the three levels of the cosmos, you should try to revive the mindfulness and discernment lying dormant in the heart so that they can support your efforts in extracting all the various defilements and cravings coming from the heart that at the moment is like a log. Greed, anger, delusion, laziness, discontent, jealousy, possessiveness: All of these things are excrement piled on the heart. Once mindfulness and discernment have been trained as we have mentioned, they will become stronger day by day, more and more accustomed to working, in the same way that we get accustomed to other forms of work. When we bring them to bear on the effort of the practice within the heart, they will be able to understand the affairs of the heart in due time, without taking long.
In order to be principled and methodical in your training, keep your awareness constantly with the body. Keep mindfulness focused there and use discernment to investigate within the sphere of the body. To do this is to follow the principles of the frames of reference (satipatthana) and the Noble Truths (ariya-sacca), which form the path of all the Noble Ones.
There are four frames of reference: the body, feelings, the mind, and phenomena. 'The body' refers to every part of the body. This is termed kayanupassana satipatthana. 'Feelings' refers to pleasure, pain, and indifference. This is termed vedananupassana satipatthana. 'The mind' refers to the mental states that are fashioned by the mind and color it. This is termed cittanupassana satipatthana. 'Phenomena' refers to anything, material or mental, that is the object or focal point of the mind's investigation. This is termed dhammanupassana satipatthana.
In investigating the four frames of reference, be sure to come to a right understanding from the outset that body, feelings, mind, and phenomena as frames of reference are a class separate from the mind that possesses them as frames of reference. Otherwise you'll get discouraged or upset when they exhibit change as part of their normal nature or as a result of the investigation, which is something that may happen in the course of the practice. In other words, these four factors normally undergo change that can give rise to pleasure or displeasure. When we are investigating them, they continue to undergo change, which can make the meditator pleased or displeased or sometimes even discouraged and fed up with the investigation. I mention this so that you'll be forewarned when it happens and will make yourself understand with circumspection that the mind in charge of the frames of reference hasn't changed along with its frame of reference in any way. Once you have come to a right understanding, you can become confident in your investigation of the frames of reference. No matter which frame of reference -- body, feelings, mind, or phenomena -- exhibits change or disappears, the heart -- a phenomenon that doesn't change or die -- will be able to investigate to the full extent of its strength and come to a clear comprehension of these four factors step by step without being affected by the pleasures and pains in the body and mind, which are the conditions exhibited by the frames of reference.
In investigating the body, you can deal either with the internal body or with external bodies, depending on the situation and what comes easiest to the heart. 'The internal body' refers to every part of your own body. 'External bodies' refers to the bodies of other people and animals. 'The body within the body' refers to any one part of the body. All of these things will show themselves to be disgusting and dismaying to the person who uses discernment to investigate them and know them as they actually are. Inside and out, both the internal body and external bodies, all share in the same characteristics. They always have to be washed and cleaned -- and thus the care of the body is a constant duty for everyone in the world. The things that are used to care for the body, to keep it alive and presentable, are thus the best-selling merchandise all over the world. The investigation of the body so as to see clearly with discernment into its origins, needs, and behavior, is thus a means of cutting off a well-spring of worries and stress in the heart -- because even a huge mountain of solid rock reaching to the clouds would never weigh on the heart causing it any stress, but the khandhas -- such as the physical khandha, or body -- oppress and weigh on the heart at all times to the point where we can find no chance to put them down. The affairs of stress that are related to the khandhas thus converge on the heart responsible for them. For this reason, the mind in charge of the khandhas should gain an all-around understanding of the khandhas, both in their good and their bad aspects, so as to manage them smoothly and comfortably, and not always be abused by them.
Normally, the khandhas take advantage of us all day long. Every move we make is for their sake. If the mind can find a way out by becoming wise to its khandhas -- even while it is still responsible for them -- it can then be in a position to contend with them and won't have to take on all their stresses and pains. At the same time, the stresses and pains in the khandhas won't set up shop to sell us all their suffering. Thus those who investigate the khandhas so as to see their benefits and drawbacks with discernment aren't destined to take on pain and nothing but pain from the khandhas. They are sure to find a way to reduce and relieve the tensions and strains in their hearts.
In investigating the body, you have to investigate it repeatedly, time and again -- as required for your understanding, and not as determined by your laziness -- until you really see clearly that the body is nothing but a body, and is in no way a being, a person, one's self, or another. This is called the contemplation of the body as a frame of reference.
As for feelings, the mind, and phenomena, you should realize that they are all present in this same body, but their characteristics are somewhat different, which is why they are given different names. Make sure that you understand this point well. Otherwise the four frames of reference and the four Noble Truths will turn into a cause of stress -- a source of worries and doubts -- while you are practicing, because of your confusion about where these phenomena begin and end.
As for feelings, there are three: pleasure, pain, and indifference -- neither pleasure nor pain. Feelings coming from the body and those coming from the mind have these same three sorts. To investigate them, you should ferret them out and examine them in line with their characteristics, but don't take the body to be a feeling. Let the body be the body. Let the feeling be a feeling -- in the same way as seeing a tiger as a tiger, and an elephant as an elephant. Don't take the tiger to be an elephant, or else your evidence won't be in line with the truth, and the issue will spread until it can never be resolved. In other words, ferret out and investigate the feeling displaying itself in the present moment so as to see how it arises, how it takes a stance, and how it disbands. The bases for the arising of all three kinds of feeling are the body and mind, but the feelings themselves aren't the body, nor are they the mind. They keep on being feelings both in their arising and in their disbanding. Don't understand them as being anything else or you'll be understanding them wrongly. The cause of stress will arise in that moment, and you won't be able to find any way to remedy or escape from it. Your investigation, instead of leading to the discernment that will release you from stress and its cause, will turn into a factory producing stress and its cause at that moment without your realizing it.
The way feelings behave is to arise, take a stance, and disband. That's all there is to them every time. And there's no 'being,' 'person,' 'our self,' or another to them at all. As soon as we invest them with the ideas of 'being' or 'person,' they will appear in terms of beings and persons, which are the powers giving rise to the cause of stress in that moment, and we'll immediately be intensifying stress. Meditators should thus use their discernment to be circumspect in dealing with feelings. If you don't take feelings to be yourself while you are investigating them, all three sorts of feelings will appear clearly as they truly are in line with the principles of the frames of reference and the Noble Truths. No matter how these feelings may change for good or bad, it will be a means of fostering the discernment of the person investigating them each moment they exhibit movement and change. The notions of 'being,' 'person,' 'our self,' or 'another' won't have an opening by which to slip into these three sorts of feelings at all. There will be just what appears there: feelings as nothing but feelings. No sense of sorrow, discontent, discouragement, infatuation, or pride will be able to arise in any way while these three sorts of feelings are displaying their behavior, because we have come to a proper understanding of them -- and all the time that we as meditators have a proper understanding of feelings while they are arising, we are said to have the contemplation of feelings as a frame of reference in the heart.
The mind as a frame of reference is not a level of mind different or apart from the other three frames of reference, which is why it is termed a frame of reference just like the body, feelings, and phenomena. If we were to make a comparison with timber, the mind on this level is like an entire tree, complete with branches, bark, softwood, roots, and rootlets, which is different from the timber put to use to the point where it has become a house. To contemplate the mind as a frame of reference is thus like taking a tree and cutting it up into timber as you want. To investigate the mind on this level, we should focus on the thought-formations of the mind as the target or topic of our investigation, because these are the important factors that will enable us to know the defilement or radiance of the mind. If we don't know them, then even if the mind suffers defilement and stress all day long, we won't have any way of knowing. If we want to know the mind, we must first understand the thought-formations that condition the mind in the same way that seasonings give various flavors to food. The fact that the mind displays such an infinite variety of forms, becoming so changed from its original state as to bewilder itself, not knowing the reason and how to cure it, giving in to events with no sense of good or evil, right or wrong, is all because of the thought-formations that condition it.
For this reason, the mind as a frame of reference is a mind entangled with its preoccupations and conditioned by its thought-formations. The investigation of thought-formations is thus related to the mind, because they are things interrelated by their very nature. If we understand thought-formations, we will begin to understand the mind, and if we understand the mind, we will understand more about thought-formations -- starting with thought-formations from the blatant to the intermediate and subtle levels, and the mind from the blatant to the intermediate and subtle levels. These levels of thought-formations and the mind come from the fact that the mind can become involved with blatant, intermediate, or subtle preoccupations. People contemplating the mind as a frame of reference should thus make themselves understand from the very outset that the mind and its conditions, or thought-formations, are two different sorts of things. They aren't one and the same. Otherwise the mind and its thought-formations will become entangled and this will complicate the investigation as I have already explained.
The point to focus on is the arising and involvement of thought-formations -- what preoccupations they touch on -- as well as their disbanding together with the disbanding of their preoccupations. Try to observe and keep track of the movements of these thought-formations that come out from the mind to focus on preoccupations of the past or future, both blatant and subtle. Always be aware that thought-formations and preoccupations of every sort that are interrelated must arise and disband together. They can't be made to behave otherwise. Thus the notions of 'being,' 'person,' 'self,' or 'other' shouldn't be brought in to refer to the mind, because they will immediately turn into a cause of stress. Try to observe until you see this in the course of the investigation, and you will see, as the Buddha taught, that the mind is simply a mind and nothing else -- not a being, a person, self, other, or whatever. When we contemplate the mind in this way, the heart will not be upset or infatuated with the fashionings and conditions, the pleasures and pains of the mind. This is what it means to have the mind as a frame of reference.
'Phenomena' (dhamma) as a frame of reference covers anything that serves as a focal point of the heart. On the refined level, it refers to the heart itself. External phenomena are of many kinds. Internal phenomena include every part of the body, all three kinds of feelings, and the mind on the level of a frame of reference. All of this is included in the contemplation of phenomena as a frame of reference. The contemplation of the body, feelings, and mind together -- all four frames of reference at once -- is, from the standpoint of forest Dhamma, [*] the contemplation of phenomena as a frame of reference. If this is in any way wrong, due to my lack of skill in understanding and explaining the matter, I ask forgiveness of all my listeners and readers, because I always feel at a loss every time I mention the topic of forest Dhamma in any of my talks or writings. For this reason, I ask that my readers, when reading about forest Dhamma, try to cultivate a fairly open mind toward every passage so that they won't get upset while they are reading.
[*] The Dhamma learned from practice, and not from the study of books.
When, in the course of the investigation, the four frames of reference are brought together in the contemplation of phenomena so that they become a single level of Dhamma, this is a point in the practice more amazing and unexpected than anything that has gone before. This is because in the beginning steps of the investigation the body is like a piece of wood in the raw state. Feelings are in a raw state. The mind is in a raw state. Even phenomena are in a raw state, because the investigation itself is like a piece of wood in the raw state, so that the things investigated are all in the same state. But when we plane and polish things with the effort of the practice, everything in the area of the practice gradually changes its condition.
What I have mentioned here concerning the contemplation of phenomena as a frame of reference is a fairly refined level of Dhamma, so we can't help but be grateful for the groundwork laid during the raw state of the investigation on the beginning levels. When we investigate phenomena in the final stages, if feels very different from the beginning stages, even though they are the same four frames of reference. When we reach the final stages, it appears to the mind that all four frames of reference -- body, feelings, mind, and phenomena -- connect so that they all come under contemplation of phenomena as a frame of reference. They converge completely so that there is no sense that this is the body, that's a feeling, this is the mind, that's a phenomenon. They all seem to come together on a single level of Dhamma.
In dealing with the body, feelings, and mind, I've given a fairly adequate explanation of the methods of investigation for remedying and freeing the mind, but now that we come to the topic of phenomena, the discussion seems to have dealt entirely with my own experiences. Nevertheless, I hope that you will approach it with the attitude I've just mentioned and put it into practice in a way suited to your own temperament. The results are sure to come out directly in line with what I've explained to you.
To summarize the four frames of reference: There is the body, which covers the internal body, external bodies, and the body within the body. There are feelings -- internal feelings, external feelings, and feelings within feelings. (The issue of feelings is fairly complex, so I'd like to insert a few opinions here: Internal feelings are feelings or moods in the mind. External feelings are feelings in the body.) There is the mind -- the inner mind, the outer mind, and the mind within the mind. 'The inner mind' refers to mental states that deal with preoccupations exclusively within the mind. 'The outer mind' refers to mental states involved with external preoccupations. 'The mind within the mind' refers to any single mental current out of the many mental currents that come out of the heart. And then there are phenomena -- inner phenomena, outer phenomena, and phenomena within phenomena. 'Inner phenomena' are the refined states or preoccupations that are objects or focal points of the mind, and also the mind itself, which is the converging point of all mental objects. 'Outer phenomena' refers to every kind of external condition capable of being an object of the mind. 'Phenomena within phenomena' refers to any single condition out of the many conditions that are the focal points of the mind.
Thus the terms 'body within the body', 'feelings within feelings', 'the mind within the mind', and 'phenomena within phenomena' refer to any single part or instance of these things. For example, any one hair out of the many hairs on the head, any one tooth out of the many teeth we have: These are termed the body within the body. A person investigating any one part of the body in general is said to be contemplating the body within the body. The same holds true for feelings, mind, and phenomena, but I won't go into detail on this point for fear that we won't have enough time. Let's save it for a later date.
The four frames of reference, from the point of view of forest Dhamma, are present in full measure in our own bodies and minds. This doesn't mean, though, that their external aspects are irrelevant. This is a point you will see clearly when you work at the frames of reference until you can connect them entirely on the level of contemplation of phenomena. The mind won't feel compelled to search for anything external to help in its practice. Simply investigating exclusively in the area of the body and mind, using the four frames of reference complete in the body and mind, will be enough to cure it of its problems.
On the beginning level, though, everything internal and external is relevant. But as you reach the stage of letting go step by step, those various conditions will lose their relevance. Even the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena, which are the necessary terms of the frames of reference, have to be let go. They shouldn't be held to or borne as a burden on the heart. They must all be let go when your investigation fully reaches the point of dhamma anatta: Phenomena are not-self. Then later you can turn around to contemplate and connect them again as a pastime for the mind in the present, once the mind has gone beyond and yet is still in charge of the khandhas.
Meditators, if they are firm and unflinching in the practice of the frames of reference, are sure to see a variety of extraordinary and amazing things arising at intervals in their minds. When the time comes to reap the results on the level of Dhamma corresponding to the causes that have been properly developed, the results will have to appear stage by stage as the attainment of stream entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship. There is no need to doubt this.
So know that whether we contemplate the four frames of reference or the four Noble Truths, they are one and the same path for the sake of release from suffering and stress. Even though there may be some differences, they differ only in name. In terms of their basic principles, they are one and the same. Those who work at the four frames of reference and those who work at the four Noble Truths are performing the same branch of work, because stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding are the same level of truth as the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena -- in the same way as when different people do different jobs in a single factory, the profits from their labor all go to the same factory.
To summarize the final results that come from working at the frames of reference and the Noble Truths step by step: In the beginning the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena are in a raw state. Stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding are in a raw state, because the practice is in a raw state of planing and polishing back and forth without any feel for the heaviness or lightness, depth or shallowness, breadth or narrowness of the Dhamma, and without any sense of right or wrong, good or bad in the practice, because it's something we have never done before. No one, from our great-grandparents down to our parents and other relatives, has ever told us that the frames of reference and Noble Truths are like this or that, that they should be put into practice this or that way so as to give results of this or that sort -- for they themselves had no way of knowing. What's worse, they have taken these excellent frames of reference and Noble Truths and thrown them away underground, underwater and into the fire time and again. We are simply their children, grandchildren, and great-grand-children: How can we boast that we're wise and all-knowing in these matters? We simply have to admit our own ignorance. Even though it's true that the frames of reference and Noble Truths have been excellent Dhamma from the very beginning, when they reach us they have to start as Dhamma in the raw state, because we ourselves are people in the raw state. Even our practice is practice in the raw state. But as we practice persistently, without retreating, and as our understanding into the Dhamma and the practice gradually appears bit by bit, day by day, and slowly begins to take shape, our conviction in the teachings of the Buddha grows continually stronger and more deeply rooted. The things that used to be mysterious gradually come to be revealed for what they truly are.
For example, the four frames of reference and four Noble Truths, even though they were always right with us, used to be as if buried out of sight, without our being aware of them. We listened to monks giving sermons and imagined things to be far away, beyond the range of our ears and eyes. We never thought at all to refer these teachings inwardly to ourselves, the converging points of the Dhamma. When the monks finished their sermons, the results could be summarized as this: 'We don't have the capability of reaching the Dhamma that has been taught, because it's infinitely deep and exceedingly subtle. The Dhamma explained and we the listeners lie on opposite sides of the world.' The thought never occurred to us that all of us -- teachers and listeners alike -- are in the same world of the frames of reference and the four Noble Truths, and that the matters explained were entirely our own affairs without the slightest deviation. These sorts of misunderstandings can happen to all of us.
But when the truth -- such as the frames of reference -- starts revealing itself in the course of our practice, these teachings turn step by step into a map for the mind. We see the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena as if they were a piece of paper covered with symbols and signs showing us the way to proceed so as to gain release from suffering and stress. The frames of reference and Noble Truths, within and without, become symbols and signs showing the way for the mind to proceed on all sides, as if they were saying, 'Hurry up and follow these arrows showing the way to safety. The enemy is in a frenzy searching for you right nearby and is waiting in ambush for you everywhere. Don't be lulled into thinking that any of these places are safe. Only if you hurry through this jungle will you reach safety.' Our persistence in the practice then grows stronger, together with the mindfulness and discernment we have been training by using the frames of reference and Noble Truths as our whetstone and path. The body, feelings, mind, and phenomena that we used to investigate erratically and unevenly now become Dhamma on a common level and can all be investigated so as to be brought together and subsumed under the level of contemplation of pure phenomena.
When the mind takes the contemplation of phenomena as its frame of reference until it is skilled and thoroughly sure of itself, the contemplation of phenomena (dhamma) turns to deal exclusively with the affairs of the mind. At this stage you could say that the Dhamma becomes the mind, or the mind becomes Dhamma. Once the mind has entered purely into the contemplation of phenomena, then external conditions -- sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas, together with the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and ideation, which used to be like a solid mountain of rock, obstructing the mind so that it could find no way out -- fade away and vanish from the imagination. The body, feelings, labels, thought-formations, and cognizance that were like clouds obscuring the heart are now dispersed bit by bit from their shapes -- the suppositions of conventional reality -- by the winds of mindfulness, discernment, conviction, and persistence, until they fade away to the point where almost nothing is left. What is left is simply a vapor arising from the heart: This is a level of phenomena that hasn't yet been destroyed but can't display itself openly because strong mindfulness and discernment have it surrounded and are constantly probing after it to destroy it at all times. Finally this level of phenomena -- the mind of unawareness (avijja) -- is utterly destroyed by mindfulness and discernment, using the truth of dhamma anatta -- phenomena are not-self -- and the teaching that all phenomena are unworthy of attachment. The notions of being, person, self, or others, when they no longer have any conventional suppositions in which to find shelter, must now float away of their own accord.
The moment that mindfulness and discernment have completed their duties toward the frames of reference, a nature that is extraordinary and amazing appears in all its fullness. All problems are resolved without any chance of continuation, because cause and effect between the khandhas and the mind have come to a full and lasting truce. Even though they still live together, they no longer quarrel the way they used to. Each is free in line with its truth. The word yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana -- knowledge and vision of things as they are -- in the understanding of forest Dhamma means living with no mistrust between the khandhas and mind, the world and the Dhamma, the inside and the out. The heart and all things everywhere are no longer enemies as they used to be, and the heart can now put all things to their proper uses.
I ask that all of you as monks and meditators listen to this so that it goes straight to the heart, and make an effort until your practice goes straight to the heart as well. All of this dhamma will appear as a treasure of infinite worth in the hearts of those who are intent, and nothing will ever be able to separate them from it. The effort made for an honorable victory like that of the Buddha -- a victory unmatched by anything else in the world -- is the effort to take victory over oneself, as the Pali says,
atta have jitam seyyo:
It is better to take victory over oneself.
This seems to be enough explanation for the time being, so now, at the end of this talk, I ask that the power of the Triple Gem safeguard and protect each and every one of you so that you meet with ease in body and mind, and so that you progress in virtue, concentration, and discernment until you can overcome all obstacles to the realm of security and peace that is nibbana.
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