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Saṅkhitt'ovād: Belehrungen in Kürze
übersetzt aus dem Thailändischen vom
Somdet Phra Wanrut (Tup Buddhasiri) was born in 1806 in the area of the newly established capital of Bangkok, at that time situated on the western side of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, during the reign of the first King of the present dynasty (called in Thai the ‘Ratanakosin’ Era). As a young boy, he was so brilliant in his studies that he started receiving royal patronage. He began studying Pāli as a boy even before he ordained as a novice. As a gifted scholar while still a teenager, he was introduced to Prince Mongkut and became his friend and tutor. At the age of twenty, he ordained as a monk as did Prince Mongkut. After a few years, they became uninspired by the state of the monkhood in Siam. Coming across Mon monks of the Rāmaṇa Nikāya who were strict and faithful in their practise of the monks’ monastic code, they reordained. Together with a strong interest in studying the original teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli scriptures, this germinal act blossomed into a full-on reform movement in Thai Buddhism – the Dhammayuttika Nikāya.
Somdet Phra Wanrut was one of the most respected and influential monks in this movement, and his stature only grew as time went on. He was known for his brilliant scholarship, his strict Vinaya, his devotion to wandering ‘tudong’ in the dry season (this actually prevented him from becoming recognised for his knowledge of Pāli, since he was always wandering in the forests and jungles during the times of the state examinations) and his incredibly disciplined meditation practise.
Once, when Luang Pu Mun Bhūridatto was confronted by some smug and conceited ecclesiastical monks from Bangkok, they asked him a condescending question about meditation. His answer startled and impressed them when he said he had no interest in the meditation style of mystic hermits, and proceeded to explain how meditation was done according to the Buddha’s teaching. Luang Pu Mun received a great deal of his grounding in the Buddhist teachings from Tan Chao Khun Upālī Guṇūpamājahn and from the basic vipassanā teaching of the Dhammayut teachers. Chao Khun Up ālī has written in his autobiography that this book, “Saṅkhitt’ovād”, was the book he looked to more than any other when he was struggling to obtain an understanding of the way of practise. There is another book on the four ‘guardian meditations’ by Somdet Phra Wanrut that includes much of the same material as in this book. Luang Pu Sao Kantasīlo was so impressed with that book that he arranged to have it reprinted and distributed in Ubon – no easy thing to do in northeast Thailand 80 or 90 years ago.
There is often a misconception that the Thai Wilderness Tradition of Luang Pu Sao and Luang Pu Mun is ‘anti-intellectual’. It is true that both teachers would tell their disciples not to rely too much on knowledge gained from study. However, they would often send young monks to Ubon to gain a basic foundation in the Buddha’s teachings, learning the basics of how to frame their investigations, before letting them spend too much time in the forest. Luang Pu Sao and Luang Pu Mun themselves had benefitted immeasurably from the instruction they had received, and this line of instruction goes back essentially to the reform efforts of monks like Somdet Phra Wanrut. It was precisely this fidelity to learning and practising what the Buddha actually taught about practise, meditation and investigation that enabled them to ‘re-blaze the trail’ that eventually flowered into the Thai Wilderness Tradition that is so highly respected today.
Today in the West, all kinds of things are being presented as ‘Buddhism’, ‘Buddhist meditation’, or even the ‘Forest Tradition’, and these things often have little or no resemblance to what the Buddha actually taught. This book is a very skilled compilation of talks that Somdet Phra Wanrut has given on his knowledge and practise of meditation. It represents a kind of foundational text for what came later. It is not his teaching, or something he has worked out on his own, but as he says, “What has been related here is the true teaching and encouragement of the Buddha. Trust it.”
The Thai version that I have been working from is plain, continuous text. I have taken the liberty of adding in some heading titles to make it easier for the reader to follow the structure of the book. As the reader will find, the book is very heavy on using the Buddha’s actual words, in Pāli, to guide one’s practise. Since he is teaching the Pāli to the reader and explains almost all references in situ, I felt a glossary was not needed. The reader who is interested in learning the Pāli has the opportunity to do so, but other readers will still be able to follow the explanations.
Wat Doi Mae Pang
๑ Cittaṁ, cetāsikaṁ, rūpaṁ ฅ
Mind, mental factors and form
are burning flames: the suffering of living beings.
๑ Nibbānaṁ paramaṁ suññaṁ ฅ
Completely putting out the burning flames
is a well-being supremely empty of suffering.
๑ Etena sacca-vajjena ฅ
By the truth of these words…</h2>
๑ Suvatthi hotu sabbadā ฅ
May there be safety and security
– freedom from danger –\\for anyone who receives this book \\and practises accordingly, in any age, always.
Those 'gone forth' and householders – women and men – who practise abstinence from sex, not engaging in sexual activity, are people who practise the 'holy life'. Ultimately, even one safeguarding the Observance Day is also called 'someone who practises the holy life'.
People who practise the holy life in those ways should know that the holy life will become tainted and sullen by seven things associated with sexuality:
<blockqoute>The mind has sexual lust and delight, and we have a woman or man massage or fan us.
With sexual lust, we smile, laugh and tease with a woman or man.
We maintain eye-contact with a woman or man, with lust for sexuality.
We listen to a woman or man singing.
We've seen or heard a woman and man indulging in sexuality together, starting with caressing, kissing and embracing, and we give rise to sensual lust – lust for sexuality.
In the past we've made advances to women or men, and now remembering and thinking about those things in the past, we give rise to sensual lust – lust and delight for sexuality.
We have done something good and wholesome, and we wish (by the power of that goodness) to be born as a deva and enjoy celestial endowments of the channels of sensuality.</blockquote>
All together, these are the seven things associated with sexuality. For that reason, when practising one's holy life to make it pure, free from sullen taints, we have to train ourselves to keep away from the seven things associated with sexuality that have been described here. Our holy life will bear great and exceptional fruit – absolutely swiftly and quickly bringing us close to Nirvāna.
Furthermore, speaking about acts of goodness and wholesomeness, at the moment, people nowadays really want to accumulate goodness but don't try to find out how things are good. When we don't understand an act of goodness, we can't approach it correctly – it's just partially coming close, partially going wrong.
This is because, for one, we don't know goodness. For another, it's because of laziness, looking for the easy way out.
What is that goodness like? Where is the goodness there? We don't know. It's just that someone has told us that this is the way to goodness. We believe them and do it with our eyes closed. We don't investigate or reflect on it with our own discernment. What has been described here is thus called: 'being someone who doesn't know goodness'. When we don't know goodness, at the time we want goodness, we enter into doing things that don't correctly make for goodness and wholesomeness. We're just partially coming close, and partially going wrong.
What is that laziness and looking for the easy way like? People want goodness, but lazy and looking for the easy way, we just choose the easiest way, the comfortable way, according to what suits us. Wanting something that is truly good and wholesome – we don't look to do it. We get disheartened, so we discount it, thinking wholesomeness is easy. In the end, when we meditate – sit down with our eyes closed and focus for a moment – as soon as our legs get sore we give up our efforts and lie down, thinking that we've accumulated a lot of goodness already.
You should know that in every kind of wholesomeness, if we take it up with laziness and looking for the easy way, as has been described here, it won't be correct goodness and wholesomeness. We'll just be passing close by because we can't find any truth (in what we're doing). In doing goodness and wholesomeness, we have to know the substance of goodness, the substance of wholesomeness. Once you know, don't look for the easy way out. Don't be apathetic. If you're going to do it, do it well! Make it truly good, truly wholesome! Thus it will be good – not wasting what we do. We won't waste the opportunity of having been born and encountering the Buddha's dispensation.
What is that goodness like? Where is that goodness?
That goodness exists in the heart.
How is the heart so that there is goodness?
A heart that is pure – not greedy, not angry, not deluded – is the fundamental root which gives rise to goodness and wholesomeness. Whenever we do anything by body, speech or mind without greed, without hatred, and without delusion, what we do is wholly and completely good, completely wholesome.
Greed, hatred, and delusion are the fundamental roots which give rise to evil and unwholesomeness. Whenever we do anything by body, speech or mind with greed, with hatred, or with delusion, what we do is wholly and completely evil, completely unwholesome.
Someone who cleanses their heart in purity should know clearly about good and evil, and the causes that give rise to good and evil in this way as well.
Furthermore, speaking in detail: the heart isn't greedy, doesn't focus intent on the belongings of others, doesn't think in ill-will toward others; it isn't angry, or annoyed, and doesn't become intent on revenge, doesn't insult and disparage the qualities of others, doesn't raise oneself to the same level as superiors, isn't envious and jealous of others, isn't miserly, stingy and possessive of things, isn't full of pretence and secrecy in concealing one's faults, doesn't boast about one's qualities being better than they are, isn't stubborn and obstinate… When others explain – teaching and encouraging – correctly in accordance with Dhamma, one doesn't harden the heart, becoming argumentative and imposing our explanations on them. One isn't full of views and conceit, holding to 'us', 'them', 'me', or 'myself'…
One doesn't overly insult or disparage others. One isn't intoxicated, thinking that we are a young man or woman, through seeing that aging is continually bringing us to the end of our life, death coming closer every day – our self-importance is perpetually overshadowed by aging. One isn't intoxicated, thinking that one is at ease and unafflicted, understanding that one is perpetually diseased, afflicted and unwell because we need to take medicine – that is, food and drink – every morning and evening without fail for even a single day. And one isn't intoxicated, thinking that we won't die, through emphasising that this body and life are uncertain; suddenly breaking apart and ceasing is a perpetual possibility. We don't know when disaster will come to our life, like a flame that's been left out in the open. Furthermore, one isn't intoxicated all-around: with pleasing and endearing objects provocative of the mind's lust and delight – we don't become deluded with delight, love or desire toward those objects; hateful or despicable objects which tend to make the mind angry and annoyed – we establish recollection over the mind so that there is no anger, annoyance or hate toward those objects.
A heart that is pure in the ways described here is called 'a truly good heart, a truly wholesome heart', because it has not become tainted and sullen by the 16 aspects of upakilesa – imperfections.
When the heart is not tainted and sullen with the 16 points of imperfection described here, if we die, then we are genuinely bound to obtain a good destination, because the Lord Buddha declared it like this: citte asaṅkiliṭṭhe sugati pāṭikaṅkhā. Translated, this says: 'If the heart is not tainted and sullen, but pure, should one wish for a good destination, or, even though one doesn't want to obtain a good destination, one is genuinely bound to go through just that very purified heart which is not tainted and sullen.' The Buddha declared it like this – thus we say of a purified heart: if one experiences death, it will be able to go on to a good destination.
If the heart is not pure, but tainted and sullen through any one the 16 ways of imperfection which taint and sully, when one dies one is genuinely bound to go to a bad destination – that is, the four realms of misfortune – because the Lord Buddha declared it like this: citte saṅkiliṭṭhe duggati pāṭikaṅkhā. Translated, this says: 'If the heart is tainted and sullen through any one of the 16 ways of imperfection which taint and sully, should one wish for a bad destination – that is, the four realms of misfortune – or, even though the heart does not consent to go, one is bound to genuinely be forced to go, through that very impure heart being tainted and sullen.
Those 16 imperfections, the tainting and sullying of the heart, are:
All these are the 16 imperfections that taint and make sullen.
If a heart is tainted and sullied by any one of the 16 types of imperfection that taint and make sullen, like what has been related here, that heart is thoroughly evil and utterly and completely unwholesome. If one were to die with that tainted and sullen heart, even though one doesn't want to go to a bad destination, one will genuinely and necessarily have to go on one's own, through that very tainted and sullen heart being unwholesome. Because the Buddha has declared it the way it has been related here, even though one does other wholesome things with a heart not bound for a bad destination, if someone hasn't cleansed their own heart, purifying it, when the moment of death comes and the heart is tainted and sullen, they will not be sure to escape the realms of misfortune.
For that reason, we really have to cleanse and purify our hearts, free from the imperfections that taint and make sullen.
If we were to go thinking that these sullen taints are massively numerous and abundant, seeing that cleansing (our hearts) is not possible, we'll see that we won't be free from realms of misfortune and we'll withdraw from our responsibilities, thinking: “I see in this way that I won't be free from realms of misfortune, so I won't bother to try to cleanse and purify my heart.” Thinking like this is not correct, because the heart is one. Even though there may be a lot of sullen taints, if the heart reflects tranquilly with regard to a single object, they are unable to make one tainted and sullen.
It's like a tree stump – only one person can sit on it. If someone else is already sitting on it, then even if there are a lot of other people they are not able to sit anywhere. The disposition of living beings is also singular – if the single heart has given rise to reflection on any one object, even if the taints and sullies of the heart are a lot they are not able to make the heart tainted and sullen at that level.
For that reason, we really have to cleanse and purify our own hearts by meditating on a single kammaṭṭhāna.
If we are going to cleanse our heart by meditating only on a kammaṭṭhāna that the Buddha declared, taught and encouraged, there are a lot of those kammaṭṭhānas – as many as 38 types. In what has come to us in the Pāli commentaries, they have added both a 'space' kasiṇa and a 'light' kasiṇa; thus there are 40 kammaṭṭhānas.
10 kasiṇas, 10 reflections on unattractiveness, 10 recollections, 4 immeasurables, 1 analysis of properties, 1 perception of the loathsomeness of food, and 4 formless jhānas complete the 40 kammaṭṭhānas.
When you are going to develop them, you should know the characteristics of those kammaṭṭhānas. I'll relate a brief summary, enough for you to know them.
The characteristic of those 10 kasiṇas: they are kammaṭṭhānas for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to reflect on the kasiṇa, making the heart absolutely still in concentration.
The 10 reflections on unattractiveness are kammaṭṭhānas for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to reflect and see things as absolutely loathsome.
Buddhānussati, dhammānussati, saṅghānussati, sīlānussati, cāgānussati, and <idevatānussati</i> – all six of these – are kammaṭṭhānas for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to reflect: giving rise to inspiration and satisfaction until the heart becomes still in those virtuous qualities.
Ānāpānasati is a kammaṭṭhāna for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to recollect the breathing until the heart is able to become still in concentration.
Kāyagatāsati is a kammaṭṭhāna for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to recollect the body: that is, the meeting place of things that are disgusting – starting with head-hair, body-hair, nails, teeth and skin – letting it be loathsome until weariness and disinterest arises.
Maraṇasati is a kammaṭṭhāna for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to recollect death – giving rise to a constant sense of urgency and disillusionment.
Upasamānussati</i> is a kammaṭṭhāna for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to recollect the quality of Nirvāna – the stilling of all suffering – until one's heart becomes pure, not thinking of, or missing, anything.
Those four immeasurables (mettā, karuṇā, muditā, upekkhā) are kammaṭṭhānas for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to consider all living beings, without limit, as one's object – reflecting on wishing them happiness, and that they be freed from suffering, and that they remain really pleased with the happiness they have, and (one remains) unbiased and unaffected, not (personlly) delighted or disappointed by their happiness or suffering.
That analysis of properties is a kammaṭṭhāna for cleansing the heart in purity by coming to isolate and separate out the four properties (of material form – earth, water, fire and wind) until one doesn't believe they are a living being or an individual, one’s self or one's identity – making the heart (expansively non-reactive) like earth, water, fire and wind, accordingly.
The four formless jhānas are kammaṭṭhānas for cleansing the heart in purity, free from material form exclusively.
You should first know the characteristics of the kammaṭṭhānas, as instruments for cleansing the heart in purity, in brief like it has been related here. When someone practises to cleanse their heart in purity – developing any kammaṭṭhāna – do it correctly according to its characteristic in the way related here. It won't be wrong.
Here I will bring up just the 'tip of the iceberg', relating enough to understand. As for the methods of meditation, there are a lot. First I will talk about kāyagatāsati.
When you are going to develop it, develop it according to the method that has come to us in the Pāli (scriptures), like this:
Ayaṁ kho me kāyo, uddhaṁ pādatalā adho kesam-atthakā, taca-pariyanto, pūro nānappakārassa asucino. Atthi imasmiṁ kāye: kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco, maṁsaṁ nahāru aṭṭhī aṭṭhi-miñjaṁ, vakkaṁ hadayaṁ yakanaṁ kilomakaṁ pīhakaṁ papphāsaṁ, antaṁ anta-guṇaṁ udariyaṁ karīsaṁ, pittaṁ semhaṁ pubbo lohitaṁ, sedo medo assu vasā, kheḷo siṅghanikā lasikā muttaṁ. Evam- ayaṁ me kāyo uddhaṁ pādatalā adho kesam-atthakā, taca-pariyanto, pūro nānappakārassa asucino'ti.
You should memorise this Pāli kāyagatāsati as a preliminary by all means. Then you should know the meaning of it in this way:
kesā – head-hair, sometimes dark, sometimes light, embedded in the skin all over the head,
lomā – body-hair, neither especially dark or especially light, sprouting from the pores of the skin all over the body – except the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet,
nakhā – nails, sprouting from the ends of the hands and feet, being white in appearance,
dantā – teeth, which sprout from the upper and lower bones of the jaw for chewing and grinding food, and are perpetually soaking in saliva,
taco – skin wrapping all around the body, which, when the outer layers are peeled off, is a light colour,
maṁsaṁ – meat, red in appearance,
nahāru – ligaments, white in colour, which bind the bones of the skeleton together,
aṭṭhī – bones, which are the solid framework of scaffolding inside the body, white in appearance and numbering around 300,
aṭṭhi-miñjaṁ – marrow within the bones, light in colour, like roasted rattan stuffed inside a bamboo tube – the marrow in the skull (the brain) is a white pulp like the body of a snail or like kapok mixed with coconut cream,
vakkaṁ – kidneys, two pieces of ruddy red meat coming off a single ventricle, like two mangos from a single stem on the sides of the body near the heart,
hadayaṁ – flesh of the heart, red in colour, shaped like a closed lotus bud, situated in the middle of the chest,
yakanaṁ – liver, that is, two slabs of meat with a ruddy red colour, situated on the right near the heart,
kilomakaṁ – fascia, white in appearance, holding the skin to the flesh, the flesh to the ligaments, and the bones with the flesh, keeping them all together to some extent,
pīhakaṁ – spleen, a dark ruddy-coloured meat like a black cow's tongue, at the bottom of the ribcage on the left,
papphāsaṁ – lungs, slabs of meat with a ruddy red colour and serrated edges, covering the flesh of the heart and spleen in the centre of the chest,
antaṁ – digestive tract, one end at the glottis of the throat and one end at the sphincter, with labyrinthine folds and white in appearance, bathed in the blood of the abdomen like a white snake with its head cut off soaked in its own blood,
anta-guṇaṁ – the (small) intestine attached to the digestive tract, white in colour,
udariyaṁ – food lying in the stomach, such as what has been eaten already, having entered the stomach and then vomited back out again – like that,
karīsaṁ – things that have been eaten and lodged in the digestive system, becoming faeces like the stool that gets excreted,
pittaṁ – gall, a ruddy green colour, which is like a membrane in the middle of the chest, which doesn't circulate through the body,
semhaṁ – phlegm, a ruddy white colour like latex, lining the bottom inside the digestive tract,
pubbo – lymph and pus, naturally occurring throughout the body, manifesting when there are injuries,
lohitaṁ – blood, which collects in open spaces in the body and circulates throughout the body,
sedo – sweat, which is released through the pores at times when it is hot or we have eaten something spicy,
medo – fat, yellow in colour, adhering between the skin and the flesh,
assu – tears, which flow out of the eyes when suffering and displeasure come to us,
vasā – grease, which is marbled through the viscera like pigfat,
kheḷo – saliva, both clear and thick,
siṅghānikā – clear snot and thick mucus; the pulpy discharge from the nostrils,
lasikā – synnovial fluid, coating the joints of the bones,
muttaṁ – urine, filtered out from the vomit and faeces.
Evaluate the 31 aspects within this body of ours, allowing them to be loathsome and disgusting in every regard. If we are not able to bring ourselves to see it as loathsome, we will still have lust and delight in this body of ours. You should ask yourself, “Is there anything fragrant, valuable, or beautiful in this body here which should delude us with lust, delight, love or desire, for this body?” But it's all loathsome and disgusting things! Can you see that or not?
Then you should recite, thinking: “That is head-hair, that is body-hair, those are nails…” right up to urine at the end. Then you should go back and ask yourself, “Where are the good things? The beautiful things? The fragrant things? Where is it clean inside the body which has thus led us to delusion, lust, delight, love and desire?”t?
If you investigate in the way related here, you will be able to see that it is loathsome and disgusting in this body. If you investigate but cannot see that it is loathsome in every aspect, then whatever aspect that appears clearly as something loathsome and disgusting – that is, urine or faeces, phlegm, pus or blood – direct your attention to reflecting on that. See it as loathsome, because if you can see it in one aspect, then the other aspects are all bound to appear as loathsome in exactly the same way.t?
Just like how grass sprouts up where faeces has been spread – however disgusting that is – so head-hair, body-hair, nails, teeth and skin depend on urine, faeces, pus and blood – soaking in them. They are loathsome and disgusting just like that, in the same way.t?
Furthermore, if a nice, clean flawless cloth were totally soiled with blood, pus, urine and faeces, however loathsome and disgusting it would be, so head-hair, body-hair, nails, teeth and skin, which we esteem as beautiful, are totally soiled with urine, faeces, pus and blood; they are just as loathsome and disgusting in the same way.t?
Furthermore, if we were to draw decorations and dress up the outside of something to make it beautiful, while the inside was full of urine and faeces, however loathsome and disgusting that would be, these bodies here, although we dress them up and decorate them to make them exquisitely beautiful with varying adornments, the insides are full of urine and faeces; they are just as loathsome and disgusting as a bed-pan.
If we investigate this body and are able to see that it is loathsome through any of the skilful means related here, we must safeguard this perception of loathsomeness. Don't let it disappear – to the point where if you see the body, see it as loathsome according to that perception. Don't let kāma-rāga – sensual lust – arise. If you can practise in the way related here, the holy-life you safeguard will become well purified, because for the holy - life to become tainted and sullen, or damaged, depends on kāma-rāga – lust and delight in sensual objects.
For that reason, when the children of good families go forth and ordain, the preceptor tells them a kammaṭṭhāna – that is, the recollection of the body which has been related here – right from the start, because it is a skilful means for curbing kāma-rāga – lust and delight in sensual objects.
Furthermore, whoever has developed this recollection of the body, giving rise to loathsomeness and disgust in their heart, is able to curb lust and delight because this recollection of the body is the straight enemy of rāga – lust and delight. Even hatred and delusion can be curbed by someone who practises that recollection of the body. Thus, it is called 'tasting the flavour' – that is, (the flavour) of Nirvāna, since the Buddha declared it like this: amatan-tesaṁ bhikkhave – “it is certain, bhikkhus, whoever develops recollection of the body, that person tastes the flavour, that is, of Nirvāna – a deathless state”, because Nirvāna is the state of cessation of lust, hatred and delusion. Developing this recollection of the body gives rise to loathsomeness and disgust, with the ability to curb and extinguish lust, hatred and delusion. The Buddha thus declared it to be 'tasting the flavour', that is, of Nirvāna.
For that reason, when you wish to safeguard your holy-life in purity, and desire to 'taste the flavour' – that is, of Nirvāna – you should develop and give rise to this kammaṭṭhāna of recollecting the body! When you develop it, give rise to loathsomeness in your heart at all costs. Once it arises, safeguard that perception of loathsomeness. If you keep up your efforts you will be able to give rise to concentration and to jhāna. This is a skilful means for cleansing your heart in purity – a special kind of wholesomeness.
From here I will speak in terms of maraṇasati – recollection of death. When you develop it, develop it according to its expression in Pāli, like this: maraṇa-dhammo'mhi maraṇaṁ anatīto (for women: maraṇa-dhammā'mhi maraṇaṁ anatītā) – meaning “we have death as our normal nature; going beyond death is not possible”. You can do it like this.
Or furthermore, you can recollect death according to this suggestion: adhuvaṁ jīvitaṁ, dhuvaṁ maraṇaṁ, avassaṁ mayā marittabbaṁ, maraṇa-pariyosānaṁ me jīvitaṁ, jīvitaṁ me aniyataṁ, maraṇaṁ me niyataṁ. This translates as:
When you recollect death, really see death – give rise to a sense of disillusionment, which is the purpose. If you haven't really seen death, even if you recollect it you won't feel disillusionment. For that reason, if you want to develop maraṇasati – recollection of death – you have to understand death first.
What is that death like?
That death is lacking the life-faculty that supports the material body. Because the life -faculty is lacking, the material body decomposes and rots. The life-faculty is for supporting the material body, keeping it fresh and healthy – like how a fire that depends on a wick being immersed and soaking in kerosene can continue to burn. As soon as the kerosene runs out, the fire is extinguished. Similarly, the material body is like fire; the life-faculty is like kerosene. If the life-faculty is lacking, the material body breaks up, decomposes and rots just like the fire getting extinguished.
Furthermore, the life-faculty fosters the material body like water fosters the lotus. If the water dries up the lotus withers; similarly, if the life-faculty is lacking, states of form also become damaged. For that reason, death – namely, lacking the life-faculty – speaking at the most subtle level, is difficult to see. If you don't see death through these suggestions, then investigate death through a suggestion like this:
Death is the end of breathing. At the moment the breath stops, cognisance ceases – the eye doesn't see, the ear doesn't hear, the nose doesn't receive any odour, the tongue knows no taste, the body becomes stiff as a log, insensible to hot or cold, soft or hard. Once it is discarded it becomes stinking and putrid, bloated and disgusting. It decomposes, rots and breaks apart until friends and loved ones can't leave it be anymore. Some take it to be cremated, making it disappear into a fire; some take it to be buried in the ground. This is called 'death'.
Once you can clearly see death, as has been related here, reflect and bring that death into yourself like this:
We have death like this as part of our normal nature; going beyond this death is not possible. Or, reflect that our life is not certain, our death is certain: we truly have to die.
However way, just give rise to disillusionment and disaffection by all means because this maraṇasati kammaṭṭhāna is for cleansing the heart in purity – that is, giving rise to just that very disillusionment.
Replete with these three factors, this meditation will succeed. If you recollect death and disillusionment doesn't arise, this isn't the development of that maraṇasati kammaṭṭhāna, because this kammaṭṭhāna is a skilful means for cleansing the heart in purity – that is, giving rise to just this singular disillusionment. This disillusionment is the substance of goodness and wholesomeness. For that reason, whenever you develop maraṇasati kammaṭṭhāna – recollecting death – through whatever skilful means, if disillusionment arises it is the success of one's undertaking in this kammaṭṭhāna. Diligently put forth effort to safeguard this mind of disillusionment. Don't let it deteriorate. Because that disillusionment is a cause for not being heedless, it naturally quickens one towards doing good and wholesome things which become one's immediate support. For that reason, the Buddha thus proclaimed and praised this recollection of death, saying in this way that it has the greatest benefits and results – reckoning the entrance into Nirvāna as a Dhamma that doesn't die.
Furthermore, when you have seen death and experience disillusionment, recollect yourself as being like a blind person who falls from the top of a tall tree. It is normal that when she has fallen, she is just rushing down lower and lower, waiting for the point of impact and death. She doesn't know when a collision is coming, but certain death is close at hand there, and constantly approaching. We are the same – being born is called 'oneself rushing down lower and lower, looking for the impact and death which is constantly close at hand'. We don't know where we will break up and die. What disease we will die from, or when we will die we don't know. But it is absolutely certain that we will die – like that blind person who falls from the top of a tree.
Furthermore, you can recollect death like a criminal who is going to be killed. It is normal that if a criminal is being brought in to be killed, there are two ways he can die. When the executioner leads him in and he struggles and becomes uncooperative, the executioner cuts off his head right then and there. If he doesn't struggle but follows walking along, he gets closer to death with every step. Once he gets to the site of the execution, the executioner firmly fastens him to a stake so that he can't move his body, and then brings down the sword to cut off his head.
We're the same – birth is our crime and we genuinely will have to die, in one of two ways. Sometimes there is a presently arisen disease and we die quickly, like the criminal who struggles and has his head cut off right then and there. Sometimes we are hurt or afflicted, accompanied by massive pain – aching and hurting throughout the entire body until we can't sit up or move – leaving just the mind thrashing in anticipation of ceasing, like the criminal firmly fastened to the stake. As soon as consciousness comes to an end and ceases, this is like the sword coming down to cut off the head of that criminal.
Recollect yourself. See death like a blind person who falls from the top of a tree, and like a criminal being executed, as has been described here, by all means. Every day! Without fail. You will experience disillusionment and you won't be heedless, enclouded and intoxicated with evil states. It will be for your goodness and wholesomeness every day. Once you don't tremble in fear, if death comes upon you there will be recollection, not delusion, about death. Furthermore, you will prepare yourself by having a refuge at the time of death. Because maraṇasati is so abundantly valuable in this way, you should thus recollect death in the ways related here every day. If you are able to recollect death in this way every day, this is really an exceptional kind of heedfulness.
Furthermore, if you are going to develop any kammaṭṭhāna, you should know: that kammaṭṭhāna will be successful through abandoning five factors and through being endowed with five factors.
Those five factors to abandon are:
These five dhammas are called 'hindrances' – things that obstruct goodness. If we die with any one of these hindrances present, we will genuinely not be able to go on to a good destination. We are bound to go towards misfortune for sure because the Buddha proclaimed it like this, that if the heart is tainted and sullied by any one of the upakilesa – instruments that taint and sully – one should expect an evil destination: that is, the four realms of misfortune. Even though one wouldn't volunteer to go, one will genuinely be forced to go.
Furthermore, if we give our attention to a kammaṭṭhāna but any one of these five hindrances are still present in our heart, we won't experience any pleasure or concentration. We won't succeed in that kammaṭṭhāna because the hindrances are the substance of great and complete unwholesomeness.
If we are to succeed in our kammaṭṭhāna at the time we are giving attention to it, when we develop it – abandoning the hindrances so that they are not present – it is fulfilled with five factors, that is:
When one's experience is like this, this is the substance of concentration, the substance of jhāna – like an exquisite gem. Make recollection support and safeguard it. Don't let it disappear. Because the Buddha proclaimed, taught and encouraged the development of kammaṭṭhāna, you should know that he wanted it for just this much.
If you have developed any kammaṭṭhāna, abandoning five factors and made replete with five factors – able do it in the way described here – you don't have to ask anybody whether you have succeeded with the kammaṭṭhāna that you have been developing or not. You will have just understood for yourself that you have ultimately succeeded in that very kammaṭṭhāna. If you understand that your kammaṭṭhāna has been successful through other factors, (seeing) colours or shapes, for example – differing from the way it has been described here – it is absolutely not correct. If you hold on to this, it is pernicious – it is wrong view – because it differs from, and does not correspond with, the Pāli (record) of what the Buddha explained.
Furthermore, if you develop vipassanā, remember and memorise these Pāli phrases:
rūpaṁ aniccaṁ, vedanā aniccā, saññā aniccā, saṅkhārā aniccā, viññāṇaṁ aniccaṁ rūpaṁ anattā, vedanā anattā, saññā anattā, saṅkhārā anattā, viññāṇaṁ anattā sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā, sabbe dhammā anattā
Like this, the Buddha taught and encouraged assemblies (of his followers) to meditate – it has come to us like this in the Pāli for the most part. Once you can remember these Pāli phrases by heart, you should recite them regularly every morning and evening because they are the true words of Dhamma that the Buddha taught and encouraged. But to develop it you have to what it means, in this way:
They are changeable states – once they have appeared, they disappear. Having arisen, they cease. Like bubbles: translucent things that become established, and then extinguished. Like things seen in a dream: you wake up and they vanish. Like a fire: once ignited and bright, then becomes extinguished and it disappears. If you aren't able to see that they are aniccaṁ, investigate to be able to see it. If you investigate but don't see it, recollect your family and friends who are dead and gone, asking yourself, “Where have they gone now?” Then recollect yourself and those close to you who are still alive and visible. We will also cease and disappear just like that. Here, every kind of fabrication is aniccam: not certain. Having arisen, it ceases. Having appeared, it disappears. Contemplate and reflect in order to see aniccaṁ by all means in the ways related here. If you are able to see it for a second, for a moment, this is the pinnacle of wholesomeness; no other kind of wholesomeness can compare because it represents the true path to Nirvāna. The Buddha proclaimed and praised it thus: the life of someone who has seen aniccaṁ, living only for one day before dying, is superior to the life of a person who lives for a hundred years not seeing aniccaṁ.
sabbe dhammā anattā – every kind of dhamma, from form, sensation, perception, mental fabrications and cognisance – everything – all the way to Nirvāna, is anattā: not one's self, not one's identity. They're empty and insignificant – an owner cannot be found. They don't follow anyone's authority because they have no self, no identity. If they had a self, an identity, a lord and owner, things would go according to our authority – they would follow our hearts' desires. You can't find them following our hearts' desires. When we don't want to get old, we're forced into old age; we don't want affliction, but we're forced into illness and affliction; we don't want to die, but we're forced into death.
How are we deluded into saying they are 'us' or 'ours'? When they don't follow the wishes of our hearts in any way, how can we say they are ours? All dhammas are anattā – not our self, not our identity – in just this way. Contemplate and reflect using discernment to see that all dhammas are not our self, not our identity. They are empty and insignificant. An owner cannot be found. See this. If you can't see it, break down the five aggregates, the six sense bases or the thirty-one parts (of the body) – spread them out and search for yourself, search for your identity. You will see clearly: all dhammas are anattā – genuinely not our self, not our identity. There is no self-identity there. An owner cannot be found. They are truly empty and insignificant.
Once you can actually see like this, you will be able to abandon moha – delusion – and taṇhā – wanting, love and desire. And there won't be māna – believing a 'me' or a 'them'. Diṭṭhi – holding to a self or an identity – will cease through the discernment that reflects and sees that all dhammas are anattā. They are not self, not an identity. An owner cannot be found. They are truly empty and insignificant.
Then reflect and see with discernment like this with regard to all dhammas:
Once you reflect with discernment and see the singular nature of truth in this way, the heart will be pure and massively at ease. Whatever stress, grief, or oppression there is will be able to cease. The quality which is the pure heart of the Buddha, the quality of the Dhamma that extinguishes suffering and grief – the inflammations of the heart – and the quality of the Saṅgha that is able to practise for the stilling of those inflammations in the heart, will naturally manifest clearly in your heart through the discernment that has come to evaluate and see that all dhammas are anattā in the way related here. The heart will be established and resolute through its admiration of the qualities of the Triple Gem. It will not be shaken by worldly dhamma.
When you see the truth until the heart is purified in the way related here, even for a moment or a second, this is called 'experiencing the fully enlightened Buddha' in the clemency of that moment, that second. This is because the Buddha proclaimed it like this: “Whoever sees Dhamma, that person sees me – the Tathāgata.”
The discernment of vipassanā in the way related here is the pinnacle of religion. It is the true path to Nirvāna. Develop it diligently! Even if you don't realise Nirvāna, it is bound to be a reliable refuge when you are about to die. Once you have died it is bound to be a natural character that stays with you, enabling you to genuinely realise Nirvāna in the future. This is because this discernment is supreme – it is truly able to purify beings, freeing them from suffering.
The method of vipassanā related here in brief is easy to develop to the point of seeing truly with our own discernment. The ways of mutual instruction and encouragement are used like this: when we speak in extended detail to separate form, sensation, perception, mental fabrications and cognisance – they can be separated – this is just for taking them to see truly in the unifying way of aniccaṁ, dukkhaṁ and anattā. That is incredibly difficult because the objects of our knowing are so manifold.
Having said that, it is necessary to know in extended detail like this:
Rūpaṁ aniccaṁ – form is not certain, because it arises, changes, and ceases.
There are 28 aspects of that form:
4 mahā-bhūta-rūpa ( primary properties of form):
That is, 19 (manifestations dominated by the) earth property, starting with head-hair and ending with excrement ;
The water property, starting with bile and ending with urine. Those 19 (manifestations dominated by the) earth property and 12 (manifestations dominated by the) water property – examine them in terms of the recollection of the body that has been previously recorded here;
The 4 (manifestations dominated by the) fire property: samatapp'aggi – the fire that continually burns to keep the body warm; jiraṇ'aggi – the fire that burns the body, making it change – consuming and deteriorating it through maturity and aging; pariḍayh'aggi – the fire that burns making our entire body hot and feverish beyond what can be tolerated, requiring us to be ‘misted’ with medicinal decoctions and gently fanned when we have been injured, sick or unwell; pariṇām'aggi – the fire that burns and breaks down food that we have consumed, changing its state and completely digesting it until it becomes urine or faeces. All together these are the four (manifestations dominated by the) fire property;
The 6 (manifestations dominated by the) wind property are uddhaṅgamā-vātā – the winds that rise up to the top of the body, making us yawn or belch, for example, adho-gamā-vātā – the winds that flow downward, making us break wind or pass excrement and urine, for example, kucchisayā-vātā – the winds that move around in our stomach, making it gurgle or become painful, for example, koṭṭhāsayā-vātā – the winds that flow through our intestines, making them expand and become overly stiff, for example, aṅgam-aṅgānusārī-vātā - the winds that flow throughout all the organs of the body, big or small, making the body supple and enabling speech, for example, assāsa-passāso – the winds that flow with our breath, inhalations and exhalations. All together, these are the 6 (manifestations dominated by the) wind property
The 4 properties that have been related here are called mahā- bhūta-rūpa because they are (aspects of) form greater than all (individual) instances of form.
and 24 upādaya-rūpa (derived-forms):
pasāda-rūpa (translucent-form)– that is; eye-translucence – the clear form inside the eye called 'eye-glass' (the lens); ear-translucence – the clear form inside the ear called 'ear-crystal' (cilia); nasal-translucence – the clear form inside the nose (olfactory sensors) that receives aromas; tongue-translucence – the clear form in the tongue (taste buds) that activates gustatory cognisance, knowing various flavours; body-translucence – the clear form throughout the body (nerve fibres) letting tactile cognisance be able to know hot and cool, soft and hard. All together, these are translucent-form. Those five aspects of translucent-form are the clear and receptive things within the body which let cognisance know objects, like a mirror is something clear and receptive for letting a person be able to look at an image – cognisance is like the person, translucent-form is something clear like that mirror.
visaya-rūpa (objectified-form) – that is, various colours, although everything we see with the eye is called 'sight'; various noises, although everything we hear with the ear is called 'sound'; various smells, although everything that we know through the nose is called 'aroma'; various tastes, although everything that we know through the tongue is called 'flavour'. All these are called the four objectified-forms. These four forms are called objectified-form because they are the objects of cognisance.
2 aspects of bhava-rūpa ('being-form') – that is, the form of a female and the form of a male.
1 hadaya-rūpa (heart-form) – that is, the material flesh of the heart: being the place of recourse for the citta.
jīvita-rūpa (life-form) – that is, the life-faculty that fosters states of form, keeping them fresh.
pariccheda-rūpa (enclosure-form) – that is, the spaces that constitute passages in the body: the ear canal or the nasal passages, for example.
viññatti-rūpa (distinguishable-form) – that is, the modes of physical expression that others can recognise are called 'distinguishable bodily-form'; the modes of verbal expression that they can recognise are called 'distinguishable verbal-form'. Together, these are the 2 distinguishable forms.
vikāra-rūpa (operative-form) – that is, the quality of form composed of lightness is called rūpassa lahutā; the quality of form composed of suppleness is called rūpassa mudutā; the quality of form that is suitable for being able to do work is called rūpassa kammaññatā. All together, these are the three operative forms.
lakkhaṇa-rūpa (characteristics of form) – that is, form that is developing or growing is called rūpassa uccayo; form that is reliably attached to other form is called rūpassa santati; form that is compromised through old age is called rūpassa jaratā; form that is not certain, altering, changing and ceasing is called rūpassa aniccatā. All together, these are the 4 characteristics of form.
1 āhāra-rūpa (nutriment-form) – that is, the nutritive essence that arises from the food that we eat.
From the 5 translucent-forms to the characteristics of form and lastly, nutriment-form, these are all together the 24 types of material form called 'derivative form', because their existence depends on the 4 great primary properties of form.
The 4 great primary properties of form and the 24 derived forms are all together the 28 material forms. Those 28 forms are aniccaṁ, not certain – having arisen they deteriorate, altering, changing and ceasing. They are anattā – not our self, not our identity. They are empty and insignificant. You can't find an owner. They depend on (the four) properties and nutriment – having arisen, they break apart and are destroyed.
vedanā aniccā – sensation is not certain; having arisen, it ceases.
That sensation can go 3 ways: that is, the clear knowledge of ease, called 'pleasant sensation'; the clear knowledge of dis-ease, called 'painful sensation'; the clear knowledge of neutrality – neither ease nor dis-ease – called 'equanimous sensation'.
Pleasure is comparable to something that has a delicious, sweet flavour. Pain is comparable to something spicy, hot and torturous. Equanimity – not pleasure, not pain – is comparable to something bland.
From another perspective, there are 5 sensations – pleasure and ease of the body is called 'pleasant sensation'; pain and dis-ease of the body is called 'painful sensation'; pleasure and ease of the mind – happiness – is called 'glad sensation'; pain and dis-ease of the mind – dejection – is called 'sorrowful sensation'; neutrality – not pleasant, not painful – is called 'equanimous sensation'. These are the five sensations.
The sensations that have been related here are all aniccaṁ – not certain – because having arisen, they cease. They are anattā – not our self, not our identity. They don't belong to anybody. They're natural. Having arisen depending on sense-contact, they cease and disappear.
saññā aniccā</i> – the recognition of significance is called 'not certain'.
Having arisen, it ceases.
That saññā has 6 types: rūpa-saññā – the recognition of significance with regard to visible forms; sadda-saññā – the recognition of significance with regard to sounds; gandha-saññā – the recognition of significance with regard to aromas; jivhā-saññā – the recognition of significance with regard to flavours; phoṭṭhabba-saññā – the recognition of significance with regard to tactile objects; dhamma-saññā – the recognition of significance with regard to things that are objects of mind. All together, these are the six types of perception. Those perceptions are all aniccaṁ – not certain. They are anattā – not one's self-identity. They are empty and insignificant. They don't belong to anybody. They're natural. Having arisen depending on sense-contact, they cease and disappear.
saṅkhārā aniccā – mental fabrications are not certain. Those mental fabrications are, namely, the 52 mental characteristics. Here we will exempt both sensation and perception, which still leaves 50 states.
That is, the six inner sense-spheres, the six outer sense -spheres, and the six forms of cognisance – the arising of these three groups rightly and correctly together is called phasso ('sense contact'), which is 1 state.
Thought with regard to various objects – sometimes good, sometimes evil – is called cetanā ('intention'), which is 1 state. A mind that is still with regard to a single object is called ekaggatā ('singleness of mind'), which is 1 state.
One type of sentient state that fosters sentient states is called jīvit'indriyaṁ ('the life-faculty'), which is 1 state.
Activation within the mind is called manasikāro ('attention'), which is 1 state.
Pondering and reflection is called vitakko ('outward application'), which is 1 state.
Evaluation is called vicāro ('inward evaluation'), which is 1state.
Giving oneself over to an object, similar to faith, is called adhimokkho ('resolve'), which is 1 state.
Being a person who is fearless in putting forth effort, not lazy, is called viriyaṁ ('heroic effort'), which is 1 state.
A sense of satisfaction in body and mind is called pīti ('rapture'), which is 1 state.
Willingness is called chando ('desire'), which is 1 state.
All of these 11 states, having excepted sensation and perception already, are called 'añña-samānā', because there is both goodness and evil mixed together in these states.
Mental characteristics that are genuinely the substance of evil include 14 states:
All these are the 14 states of unwholesome mental characteristics. In this way, they are called 'the substance of evil states'.
There are 25 states that are truly wholesome mental characteristics:
All these are the 25 states genuinely on the side of wholesomeness, the 14 states genuinely on the side of unwholesomeness, and the 13 states called añña-samānā – partially wholesome and partially unwholesome mixed together – excepting 2 states, that is, sensation and perception, leaving 11 states. All together, these are the 50 mental characteristics.
Those 50 mental characteristics are called mental fabrications because they are dhammas that dress up the mind, embellish the mind. Those mental fabrications are all aniccaṁ – not certain – because having arisen, they cease in a moment. They are anattā – not one's self, not one's identity. They are empty and insignificant. An owner cannot be found. They arise depending on sense-contact and then cease.
viññāṇaṁ aniccaṁ – cognisance is aniccaṁ, not certain.
That cognisance is, namely, 89 mind-states:
12 unwholesome mind-states – 8 greedy mind-states, 2 angry mind-states, and 2 deluded mind-states. All these are the 12 unwholesome mind-states.
18 non-causal mind-states.
24 wholesome mind -states of the sensual realm – 8 wholesome states, 8 resultant states, and 8 states of perfunctory activity. All together – wholesome, resultant and perfunctory – these are the 24 wholesome mind-states of the sensual realm.
15 wholesome mind -states of the realm of form – 5 wholesome states, 5 resultant states, and 5 states of perfunctory activity. All together – wholesome, resultant and perfunctory – these are the 15 wholesome mind-states of the realm of form.
12 wholesome mind -states of the formless realm – 4 wholesome states, 4 resultant states, and 4 states of perfunctory activity. All together – wholesome, resultant and perfunctory – these are the 12 wholesome mind-states of the formless realm. 8 transcendent mind-states – 4 states of 'Path-mind' and 4 states of 'Fruit-mind'. All together, these are the 8 transcendent mind-states.
Comprehensively, these are all together the 89 mind-states. Those 89 mind-states are called one 'cognisance' because they are the mind distinctively knowing an object. Those states of cognisance are all aniccaṁ – not certain – because having arisen, they cease in that very moment. They are anattā – not one's self, not one's identity. They are empty and insignificant. An owner cannot be found. They arise depending on sentient-form and then they cease.
This vipassanā requires the refined discernment that arises and matures in concentration in order to be able to see clearly. If you are not yet established in virtue and concentration, then you can't genuinely see it. For that reason, when you want to develop this vipassanā, you first have to be well endowed with both virtue and concentration - which are suitable for being able to develop this vipassanā thoroughly. When the child of a good family comes to develop this vipassanā, if they are not able to realise Path and realise Fruit - being only in the initial stages of practise – even then, there are a lot of valuable benefits: they are able to withdraw atta-saññā – perception of self, and assimāna – a sense of being, out through tad- aṅga-pahāna – abandonment through substitution (of skilful states). And it will give rise, in that person who develops it, to faith and inspiration in the complete holy Triple Gem in an immediate sense, ending doubt – succeeding in arriving at all three Refuges as one's abiding.
Furthermore, it will give the person who develops it an experience of spiritual happiness beyond the range of ordinary people. It has beneficial results of a greater and higher magnitude than generosity, virtue and meditating on the divine abidings. It will naturally make that person who develops it have recollection and clear comprehension – not clouded and deranged, harmful to the aggregates – and will bestow a form of being that goes to the good: that is, the human or heavenly worlds as one's future destination.
Because of that, it is appropriate for good people, people searching for that which is useful to them, that they should develop that vipassanā, making it part of their long -standing, ongoing disposition. One really shouldn't be heedless – because birth as a human being here is obtained with great difficulty. Life has brought us to this point with great difficulty. An age when a Buddha has arisen – such as this very age – is obtained with great difficulty. For that reason, it is not right to be heedless.
The Buddha's dispensation – the teachings and encouragement of a Buddha – is incredibly difficult to find. How did the Buddha encourage and teach? He taught and encouraged a practise with regard to virtue, concentration and discernment as the way to heaven and the way to Nirvāna. He taught and encouraged the abandonment of evil states and to build up goodness and wholesomeness – which is all we have to rely on. Someone who has come to be born as a human being and has encountered this dispensation of the Buddha, but doesn't practise according to the teachings and encouragement of the Buddha, is a person truly outside of this dispensation. They absolutely waste the opportunity of their birth and encounter with the Buddha's dispensation. You should investigate, reflect and look into this thoroughly with discernment! Don't let this opportunity of being born and encountering the Buddha's dispensation really be wasted.
One other way of kammaṭṭhāna – an instrument for cleansing the heart – is recollecting the qualities of the Triple Gem. You should know it through this
The flames of defilement and flames of suffering – ever blazing – are burning living beings, roasting living beings, scorching them constantly throughout all three levels of becoming.
Those flames of defilement are rāga – lust and delight, dosa – thoughts of ill-will, and moha – delusion, not knowing truly. Rāga, dosa and moha – all three – the Buddha described as flames because they are fiery, frantic, agitating things for living beings.
Those flames of suffering are jāti – the arising and appearance of the five aggregates, the six sense bases and sentient-form – and aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, frustration, grief and distress. Suffering, starting with jāti – birth – the Buddha described as flames, because it is suffering that inflames the hearts of various kinds of living beings.
Apart from the Buddha, there was not one single person in the world able to extinguish these flames of defilement and suffering. Even someone who could realise that they were the flames of an inferno was already hard to find – where would someone who could extinguish them come from? In the whole world there was not one single person who could extinguish the flames, thus they led the whole world to the flames of a fiery, frantic and agitated state. They didn't know themselves thus: “The flames burn and roast us, inflaming us constantly because of avijjā – delusion, not knowing truly.”
sammā-sambuddho bhagavā – the Blessed One who is our refuge: he has been rightly and correctly enlightened by himself, knowing how to extinguish the flames of his defilement and the flames of his suffering. He taught and encouraged living beings to know and see in the way that he had – with the ability to extinguish their flames of defilement and their flames of suffering as well. He is thus incredibly wonderful, truly worthy of taking inspiration from!
svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo – the Dhamma which is our refuge, that the Blessed One has well proclaimed: having the quality of extinguishing the flames of defilement and the flames of suffering of living beings who practise it correctly, it helps one escape all suffering and danger. That (Dhamma) is virtue, concentration and discernment; path, fruit and Nirvāna. The Dhamma, having the quality of extinguishing the flames of defilement and the flames of suffering in this way, is thus incredibly wonderful, truly worthy of taking inspiration from!
supaṭipanno bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho – the Saṅgha, the disciples of the Blessed One, who are our refuge: they have practised well, becoming replete with regard to virtue, concentration and discernment. They have attained path and fruit, realising Nirvāna – able to extinguish the flames of defilement and the flames of suffering as well. They are the reason huge amounts of wholesomeness can arise for devas and human beings. They are thus incredibly wonderful, truly worthy of taking inspiration from!
When you recollect the qualities of the Buddha, the qualities of the Dhamma and the qualities of the Sangha – all three of these jewels – reflect and investigate with discernment. Once you genuinely see them and inspiration has arisen, you will think in your heart, or exclaim verbally, thus:
aho buddho – the Buddha is my refuge: he was truly enlightened; seeing things truly, he succeed in benefitting himself and others; he is someone worthy of tribute, a person greater and more excellent cannot be found! He is thus truly wonderful and inspiring!
aho dhammo – the Dhamma is my refuge: it is the instrument for extinguishing the fires of living beings; it is definitely able to lead living beings out from suffering! Thus it is truly wonderful and inspiring!
aho saṅgho – the Saṅgha is my refuge: it is the supreme field of goodness, no other greater field can be found! Thus it is truly wonderful and inspiring!
You can absolutely meditate like this. This is recollection of the qualities of the Triple Gem.
Furthermore, when you are afflicted and ill or about to die, you should learn to prepare your heart like this:
There is nobody who hurts. No. There is nobody who dies. The five aggregates – they hurt. The five aggregates – they break apart in their own ways. They aren't mine. They aren't me. They're not my self, not my identity. Leave them alone!
There is nobody who hurts. No. There is nobody who dies. Sentient-form – that hurts. Sentience ceases and form breaks apart, each in their own way. They aren't mine. They aren't me. They're not my self, not my identity. Leave them alone!
Furthermore, when we were born we didn't bring anything with us. When we die we won't take anything with us. The entrance of things that have consciousness, and things that don't have consciousness, is a completely neutral event for the earth. They don't belong to anyone. Leave them alone!
When you investigate and reflect with discernment, seeing truly in the way described here, the mind will not become inflamed along with the body, which is frantic and agitated with pain. Furthermore, it will not fret, getting involved and stuck with regard to the entrance of any things – things that have consciousness or things in which consciousness cannot be found.
Through the discernment that genuinely sees this, when you are able to practise developing the heart in this way – even for a minute or a moment – it is called 'tasting the flavour': that is, the flavour of Nirvāna. It is the Dhamma that doesn't die. It is meeting the perfectly self-awakened Buddha through the clemency of that minute, that moment, because the Buddha proclaimed it like this: “Whoever sees the Dhamma, that person sees me, the Tathāgata.” What has been related here is the teaching and encouragement of the Buddha, who is our true refuge. Practise developing your heart in the way related here at the times when you are afflicted and ill or when you are about to die! You won't waste the opportunity of having been born and encountering this dispensation of the Buddha.
Furthermore, nothing at all is ours. Once we die it is all discarded. We can't take it with us. Don't be deluded and intoxicated: only this aging, affliction and death are truly ours. Run, but you won't escape from them. For that reason, we should quickly take the trouble to find a refuge for ourselves – that is, wholesome, rightful good conduct – by all means while we are still alive. We don't know when death will come upon us. When about to die, this wholesome, rightful good conduct that has been done will be able to be a refuge to us. Apart from wholesomeness, no other things at all are able to be one's refuge. For that reason, we have to be diligent towards our wholesome, rightful good conduct, bringing it to fulfilment and repletion through heedfulness! Don't be someone full of agitation and remorse later on, because the Buddha encouraged and taught like this: vaya-dhammā saṅkhārā, appamādena sampādetha; and like this: jhāyatha, mā pamādattha, mā pacchā vippaṭisārino ahuvattha, ayaṁ vo amhākaṁ anusāsanī. To translate the meaning of these words of the Buddha: “These fabrications – the physical body, heart and mind – have deterioration and ending as their normality. They are uncertain – having arisen, they cease. For that reason, you all should bring wholesome, rightful good conduct to fulfilment – to repletion – through heedfulness! Furthermore, you all should focus on mental objects – burning up defilements and withering them away – through both recollection and vipassanā! Don't be heedless. Have recollection firmly established in wholesome states. Don't feel agitation and remorse later on. Don't waste the opportunity of having been born as a human being and encountering this dispensation of the Buddha. This is the teaching and encouragement that we, the Tathāgata, give to you.”
What has been related here is the true teaching and encouragement of the Buddha. Trust it. You should be diligent in practising according to the teaching and encouragement of the Buddha! You won't have wasted the opportunity of having been born as a human being and encountering this dispensation of the Buddha – which is so incredibly difficult for living beings to come across. Furthermore, the accumulated natural character of goodness and wholesomeness, path, fruit and Nirvāna, will become integrated into your on-going disposition (even) in future instances of becoming and being.