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Less than a year before Ajaan Lee's death, some of his students began tape-recording his Dhamma talks. The following talk is one of the nine for which we have transcripts from the tapes — and one of the four for which the tapes are still extant. It's a very unusual talk, showing his distinctive humor and style, and providing a lively discussion of the ways in which the concepts of “self” and “not-self” actually function in practice.
— the translator
In all our activities, persistence and endurance are things we have to foster within ourselves at all times. There have been cases, both in the past and in the present, where people with little education — who couldn't even read or write — have thrown themselves into the effort of the practice and discover that they can read and even memorize whole passages. Some of them have even earned the right to sit for the government exams — this sort of thing has happened. So we should keep reminding ourselves that everything in the world comes from effort and persistence. No matter what kind of person you are — very smart or very stupid, with a poor education and poor social skills — as long as you have these qualities of persistence and endurance in your heart, there's hope for you. As for people who are very smart, sophisticated, and well-educated: if they lack effort and persistence, they won't be able to succeed in their aims, in terms either of the world or of the Dhamma. Especially for those of us who aim at the highest happiness, or nibbana: effort and persistence are the magnets that will pull us toward our goal.
Now, when effort and persistence are present within us, then endurance will have to be present as well. Why? When you put effort and persistence into something, there are bound to be obstacles that get in your way. If you're really persistent, those obstacles will have to disappear, which means that you've been using endurance as well. If you have effort but no endurance, you won't get anywhere. If you have persistence, that means that your effort has endurance, too. So we should regard effort as coming first, and endurance second. Once these qualities are constantly working together within you, then no matter how deep or faraway your aims may be, the Buddha has forecast that you'll attain them in line with your hopes. This is why he said, as a way of ensuring that we'll make the proper effort, that Viriyena dukkhamacceti: It's through effort and persistence that people gain release from the world and reach nibbana. Effort and persistence are our roots, or the magnets that will pull us to nibbana.
That's what the Buddha said. But our own wrong views, which come from the power of defilement, take issue with his teaching. In other words, they don't believe it. They believe themselves, by and large, and aren't willing to believe the teachings of the wise. This is why we have to keep stumbling and crawling along in this world. We simply believe in ourselves, in our own views, but “ourself” is made up of defilement. This defilement is the obstacle that keeps us from believing the Buddha when he tells us that it's through effort and persistence that people will gain release from suffering and stress. We simply hear the words but don't understand them. What we hear goes only as far as our ears and doesn't enter into our hearts. And this means that we're working at cross purposes. Even within a single you, you're working at cross purposes. What you hear is one thing, what you think is something else, and they don't go together. When this happens, you start having doubts. Uncertainty. Things aren't clear to the heart. Your practice turns into nothing but ups and downs, right things and wrong.
This is because the heart of every person… Of course, there's only one heart in every person, but how is it that the heart has so many issues? This is a really complicated question. Why? Because if we look only on the surface, we'll say that each person has only one mind. That's all we know. But if we look in another way, the texts tell us that there are so many mental consciousnesses that they can't be counted. This makes us wonder: How can that be? And when we turn from the texts and really look at ourselves, we'll see that the body of a human being doesn't have only one consciousness. There are lots of consciousnesses in there. Your own real consciousness, you can hardly find at all. You may have up to three kinds of consciousness inside your body. The first is your own consciousness, which entered your mother's womb at the time of your conception, without any other consciousnesses mixing in with it. There were lots of other consciousnesses around it at the time, but they all died out before they could take birth. You can't count how many there are at a time like that, but in the fight to take birth, only one of them has the merit to make it, and the rest all fall away in huge numbers by the wayside. So when we make it into a human womb at the time of conception, we can chalk it up to our merit that we've been able to establish a foothold for ourselves in the human world.
Once our consciousness gets established like this, it begins to develop. The body develops. As it develops, other consciousnesses start infiltrating without our realizing it. If you want to see a really clear example, look at the human body after it takes birth. Sometimes a worm two feet long can come out of your intestines. What does that come from, if not from a consciousness? Or how about germs? Some diseases are actually caused by little animals in your body that cause swellings and tumors. As the traditional doctors used to say, there are eight families and twelve clans of disease-causing animals in our body. What do they come from? From consciousness, that's what. If there were no consciousness, how could there be animals? Animals arise from consciousness. And some of them you can clearly see, as they come crawling in huge numbers out of wounds, out your ears and eyes, nose, teeth, anus, whole swarms of them. So what are they? They're a form of consciousness.
This kind of consciousness you can see clearly, but there's another group of consciousnesses that are more insidious, that don't have a body you can see. Only if you meditate and gain psychic powers can you see them. That's the third kind of consciousness inhabiting your body.
So altogether there are three: Your own consciousness, and there's only one of that. And then all the many consciousnesses lurking in your body, so many that you can't say exactly how many there are. The ones with bodies you can see are more than many. And as for the ones with no bodies, but are living in your body, there's no telling how many there are.
Now, it's because there are so many of them, with so many agendas, that the Buddha tells us not to go joining in with them. They're not us, not ours, none of our business. Sometimes we sit around, with absolutely nothing wrong, and all of a sudden one thing starts leading to another inside the mind. We don't want it to happen, but the mind seems to take on a mind of its own. That's a clear case of these consciousnesses, these crazy consciousnesses, getting into the act, seeping into our own consciousness and making us fall in line with them. These consciousnesses that lurk in our bodies without any bodies of their own: They can get angry, too, you know. They can get greedy and deluded, they can feel love and hate, just like us. Once they start feeling things like this, and they're right next to us, our own consciousness follows along with them, without our even realizing it. This is why there are so many issues in the heart.
It's entirely possible, you know. Suppose, for instance, that two of your children are quarreling right in front of you. That's enough to put you in a bad mood yourself. Even though you didn't get involved in the quarrel along with them, there's a connection, and so you end up with a lot of hurt feelings, too. This is why we're taught, Yam ve sevati tadiso: You end up being like the people you hang around with.
So we're taught to analyze things. There are lots of minds in your mind. Some of them are animal minds. It's not your mind that gets worked up; their minds are the ones getting worked up, but they're right next to yours, and as a result you start tilting in their direction. This is why we're taught that they're anatta, not-self. Consciousness is not-self. So don't get involved with it. We have to use effort, persistence, endurance, to keep things under our thumb. As soon as these things disappear, that's when the heart can be bright and at ease. Because actually, when things like this arise in the heart, it's not our doing. It's their doing. If it were really our own doing, then when things like this appear in the heart, we should feel happy and content. When they disappear, we should feel happy and content. But actually, when things arise in the heart, there are only some cases where we're delighted about what's happening. There are other cases where, no, we're not happy at all. There's a conflict in the mind. Sometimes there are huge numbers of these other consciousnesses, and they have lots of agendas of their own. We get outnumbered and start falling in line with them. When this happens we do things wrong and say things wrong and end up sorry afterwards. This is because we act in line with them, and not in line with our own true heart.
So you have to keep this point in mind if you want to understand consciousness. The Buddha tells us in really simple terms, but we don't understand him. He says, “Consciousness isn't our self.” Only four words, and yet we can't understand them. And how can we expect to understand them? Our hearts aren't established in concentration, so everything we hear gets all confused. All we can think is that consciousness is our mind. That's all we can think, so we start aligning ourselves with everything, taking sides. This is us. That's us. We start siding with everything, which is why we don't understand consciousness.
Now when we start considering things carefully, to see what our own real consciousness is like, we'll check to see if there's anything in there that's honest and loyal and true to us. If there's something that you like to do — you realize it's proper, you know it's right — and you go ahead and do it to completion, then that's something you can trust. But there are other things that you don't really like — part of you wants to do them, another part doesn't — so when there's a split like this, you should realize that you've been associating with fools, with certain kinds of consciousnesses that have come to deceive you. That's when you have to resist, to persist, to pen that thinking in. In other words, you have to focus on contemplating that particular consciousness to see what kind of consciousness it is. Is it your own consciousness? Or is it another consciousness that has snuck in to trip up your consciousness so that you fall in line with it? If you fall in line with it and end up doing things that you later regret, that's called getting taken in by consciousness.
When the Buddha tells us that consciousness isn't our self, that it's anatta, we don't understand what he says. There's one sort of consciousness that's really ours. The consciousness that's really ours is loyal, honest, and true to us. Suppose that you make up your mind that tomorrow you want to go to the monastery to hear a sermon. Now, going to the monastery to hear a sermon is something good that you like to do. You really benefit from it. You're really clear on this point. But by the time tomorrow comes, your mind has changed because — it's simply changed. When this happens, you should realize that your consciousness has gotten mixed up with some other kind of consciousness. That's how you have to look at things. Don't think that it's really your consciousness. The new thought that repeals your old thought isn't really you. It's cheating you. It's not really you. Normally, if something is really you, it's not going to cheat you. It has to be honest and loyal and devoted to you. Once you make up your mind to do something good, you have to stick with it until you succeed and feel happy afterwards. That sort of thinking is your own real consciousness. It's honest. It doesn't deceive you.
Most people, though, deceive themselves. Actually, they don't deceive themselves. They're perfectly all right, but these other consciousnesses seep into them, so that they end up getting deceived. This is why the Buddha teaches us, asevana ca balanam: don't go associating with fools. If you hang around with that kind of consciousness often, you'll end up suffering. So — panditanañca — associate with wise people. Make your mind firmly settled and established. If you think of doing something good, make it good all the way until you succeed in line with your aims. That's you. Don't let any other consciousnesses in to meddle with your affairs. If you run across any thoughts that would make you abandon your efforts, realize that you've been associating with fools, associating with consciousnesses aside from yourself. That's how you should look at things.
Now, if we were to go into detail on all the consciousnesses living in our bodies, there would be lots to say. Basically, there are two kinds: those whose thoughts are in line with ours, and those whose thoughts are not. For example, when we want to do good, there are hungry ghosts and spirits that would like to do good, too, but they can't, because they don't have a body. So they take up residence in our body in order to do good along with us. But there are other spirits who want to destroy whatever good we're trying to do. They were probably our enemies in past lives: We probably oppressed them, imprisoned them, or had them put to death. We got in the way of the good they were trying to do, so they've got some old scores to settle. They want to block the path we're trying to practice so that we don't make any progress. They come whispering into our ears: “Stop. Stop. You're going to die. You're going to starve. It's going to rain too hard, the sun's too hot, it's too early, too late,” they go on and on. These are the consciousnesses that come as our enemies. There are others that used to be our relatives and friends. They want to do good but they can't, so they take up residence in our body so that they can bow down to the Buddha and chant along with us. Because of all this, there are times when our hearts are like monsters and ogres. We can't imagine why it's happening, and yet it's happening, even though we don't want it to. Then there are other times when our hearts are like devas — so sweet and good-tempered that other people can curse our mother and grandmother and we won't get mad. Then there are other times when there's no call for anger and yet we manage to get angry in really ugly, nasty ways. That's the way it is with these consciousnesses: all very confused and confusing, and they come seeping into our bodies. That's how you should look at things.
There's yet another group of consciousnesses: the ones who have come to collect old kamma debts. They're the germs that eat away at our flesh — at our nose, our ears — to ruin our looks. They eat away at our lower lip, exposing our teeth, making us embarrassed and ashamed. Sometimes they eat away at one of our ears, or eat away at our nose all the way up to the forehead. Sometimes they eat at our eyes, our hands, our feet. Sometimes they eat away at our whole body, making our skin diseased. These are kamma debt collectors. In the past we made life miserable for them, so this time around they're ganging up to make us squirm. The one's that are really easy to see are the worms that help eat the food in our intestines. In the past we probably ate their flesh and skin, so this time around they're going to eat ours. They eat, eat, eat — eat everything. “Whatever you've got, you bastard, I'm going to eat it all.” That's what they say. How are we ever going to get rid of them? They eat our outsides where we can see them, so we chase them away and they go running inside, to eat in our stomach and intestines. That's when it really gets bad: we can't even see them, and they're even harder to get rid of. So they keep making us squirm as they keep eating, eating away: eating in our intestines, eating in our stomach, eating our kidneys, our liver, our lungs, eating in our blood vessels, eating our body hairs, eating everything all over the place. They eat outside and turn into skin diseases. They eat inside as worms and germs. And they themselves get into fights — after all, there are lots of different gangs in there. Even just the worms have 108 clans. So when there are so many of them, they're bound to quarrel, creating a ruckus in our home. How can we ever hope to withstand them? Sometimes we fall in with them without realizing it. How can that happen? Because there are so many of them that we can't resist.
These living beings in our body: Sometimes they get angry and get into fights. Sometimes they run into one another on the street and start biting and hitting each other, so that we itch in front and itch in back — scritch scritch, scratch scratch: The worms have gotten into a gang war. They cruise around in our body the way we do outside. The blood vessels are like roads, so there are little animals cruising down the blood vessels. This one comes this way, that one comes that, they meet each other and start talking. Sometimes they have real conversations that know no end, so they spend the night there, eating right there and excreting right there until a swelling starts: That's a little shack for the beings, the consciousnesses in our body. This is how things keep happening.
Our body is like a world. Just as the world has oceans, mountains, trees, vines, land, so it is with the body. Each blood vessel is a road for living beings. They travel down our blood vessels, down our breath channels. Some vessels get closed off, like a dead end road. Others stay open. When they're open, the blood flows, the breath flows, like the water in rivers and streams. When they flow, boats can travel along them. When there are boats, there are beings in the boats. Sometimes the boats crash into each other. That's why we have aches and pains in our legs and arms and along our breath channels. So go ahead: keep rubbing them and massaging them — it's all an affair of the consciousnesses inhabiting our bodies. Some of them live in our eye sockets, some live in our earholes, some in our nostrils, some in our mouth, our throat, our gums. They're just like people, only we can't understand their language. They have jobs and careers, families and homes, and places to vacation all over our body. These consciousnesses in our bodies sometimes get into battles and wars, just like red ants and black ants. Sometimes lizards and toads get into battles — I've seen it happen. It's the same in our body, so where are we going to go to escape from it all? The beings in our eyes lay claim to our eyes as their home. The ones in our ears claim our ears as their home. The ones in our blood vessels claim those as their home. Sometimes their claims overlap, so they get into feuds. As the texts say, there are feelings that arise from consciousness. This is why there are so many things that can happen to the body. Some kinds of consciousness give rise to disease, some are just waiting their chance. For instance, some kinds of consciousness without bodies hang around our blood vessels waiting for wounds and boils to develop. That's their chance to take on bodies as worms and germs. As for the ones who don't yet have bodies, they travel around as chills and thrills and itches and aches all over our body. It's all an affair of consciousnesses.
In short, there are three classes in all — three clans, and all of them great big ones. The first are the living beings with bodies that live in our body. Then there are the consciousnesses that don't have bodies of their own, but inhabit our body. Then there's our own consciousness. So all in all there are three. These three types of consciousness get all mixed up together, so we don't know which kinds of consciousness belong to animals with bodies, which kinds belong to beings that don't yet have bodies, and which kind of consciousness is our own. We don't know. When we don't know this, how can we know the five aggregates? “Viññanakkhandho” that we chant every morning — how can we know it? All we know is “consciousness, consciousness,” but our own consciousness is so slack and limp that it's like a rope dragging on the ground. It's the same with the phrase, “Consciousness is not-self.” All we know is the words they say.
Only when we develop discernment from concentrating the mind will we be able to understand consciousness. That's when we'll be able to understand the 18 properties, starting with: “Cakkhu-dhatu, rupa-dhatu, cakkhu-viññana-dhatu” — eye property, form property, eye-consciousness property. To understand these three things you need the kind of knowledge that comes from concentration. For example, how many kinds of consciousness are there in our eye? When a form appears to the eye and there's consciousness of the form — is it really our consciousness, or is it the consciousness of some other being without a body that's getting into the act? Or is it the consciousness of a being with a body getting in our way, making us doubtful and unsure? The three kinds of consciousness that arise at the eye, that see forms: how many different ways do they react? And are those reactions really a result of our own consciousness, or of the consciousness of beings with bodies inhabiting our body? Or are they the result of consciousnesses without bodies. We don't know. We haven't the slightest idea. When we don't know even this much, how are we going to know, “Cakkhu-dhatu, rupa-dhatu, cakkhu-viññana-dhatu”? There's no way. We have no insight, no knowledge, no discernment at all.
“Sota-dhatu”: our ear, which is the basis for ear-consciousness to arise. Which kind of ear-consciousness arises first? Do we know? No, not at all. Is it our own consciousness that goes out to listen to sounds? Is it the consciousness of some little animal lurking in our ears? Or is it the consciousness of some being that doesn't even have a body? Or is it really our own consciousness? Examine things carefully so that you know this before anything else. You can tell from the results: There are some kinds of sounds that you like to hear, but you know that they're not right, and yet you still like to listen to them. You should realize when this happens that it's not your consciousness that's listening, because it's not loyal to you. There are other kinds of sounds that are good and right, but you don't like them. That's another case when it's not your consciousness. Something else has probably infiltrated and gotten in the way.
You have to watch out for this carefully, because there are a lot of different groups of consciousness with their own agendas. Sometimes you listen to other people speaking: What they say is true and right, but you don't like it. So you go assuming that this business of liking and disliking is yours. You never stop to think that consciousness is not-self. The fact that you don't stop to think is why your ears are so deaf. You're not listening. Some hungry ghost is listening in your stead, without your even realizing it. So how are you going to remember anything? Your mind isn't here with the body in the present, so it's not listening. Hungry ghosts are listening, dead spirits are listening, angry demons are in the way, so as a result you yourself don't know, don't understand, what's being said. Ghosts and demons are doing all the listening and thinking, but you assume it's all you. This is why the Buddha said that ignorance blinds our eyes and deafens our ears. It's all an affair of consciousnesses.
“Cakkhu-dhatu, rupa-dhatu, cakkhu-viññana-dhatu”: There are these three things. The instant the eye sees a form, what consciousness goes out to look? Have you ever stopped to take notice? No. Never. So you don't know whether it's really your own consciousness or the consciousness of an animal lurking in your eye, whether it's an animal with a body or one without a body. You don't even know whether these things really exist. When you don't know this, what can you hope to know? “Sota-dhatu, sadda-dhatu, sota-viññana-dhatu”: You don't know this one either. And so on down the list: “Ghana-dhatu”: The nose is where smells are known and nose-consciousness arises. Sometimes our consciousness likes certain kinds of smells, smells that are proper in line with the Dhamma. So we search out and find those smells to make merit. Other times we give up. We like the smells, but we don't follow through. We don't carry through with our own thoughts. Then there are certain kinds of smells that we don't like, but we still go after them. Some kinds we like, but we don't follow through. There are all kinds of issues surrounding smells. Smells appear in our nose, and consciousness appears in our nose as well. Who knows how many hundreds of kinds of consciousness are living in there? Sometimes they know things before we do. They send us all kinds of false reports to deceive us. They whisper to us, keeping us misinformed so that we believe them. As a result, we close our eyes and follow along with them, like a bear getting honey from a bee's nest. It just closes its eyes and keeps slurping away, slurping away at the honey. It can't open its eyes because the bees are going to sting out its eye sockets. The same with us: when consciousness comes whispering, “Go. Go,” we go along with it, thinking that we're the ones who feel the need to go. Actually, we don't know what it is that comes slipping in to pull us around, like a medium possessed by a spirit.
Jivha-dhatu: The tongue. The tongue is where tastes arise. Tastes come and make contact at the tongue and an awareness arises, called consciousness. But the consciousness that arises: exactly which consciousness arises first? There are living beings that reside in our taste buds, and they have consciousness too, you know. They may know even more than we do. For example, say that there's food we know is bad for us to eat, but there's the desire to eat it. Why is there the desire? Sometimes we don't want to eat it, but the consciousness of some living being wants to eat it. If we eat it, we know it will make us sick, but there's still the desire to eat it. This is called getting fooled by flavors. Getting fooled by consciousness. There are three sorts of consciousness, as we've already mentioned, so which consciousness is getting in the act? Is it our consciousness or not? We've never stopped to check. Is it the kind of consciousness that doesn't yet have a body? Or is it the kind that already has a body appearing in our mouth? We don't know. When we don't know, that's why everything we say comes out all screwy and wrong. These spirits are the ones that make us speak, speaking in all kinds of ways that get us in trouble. Actually, we don't want to say those things, but we go ahead and say them. That's a sign that we've been associating with fools, with the consciousness of angry demons, without our even realizing it. It's only afterwards, when we end up suffering, that we realize what's happened. This is why we keep losing out to them. We don't know consciousness in the five aggregates. We keep chanting, “Viññanam anatta, anatta, ta, ta,” every day, but don't know a thing. This is what the Buddha called avijja, or unawareness.
Kaya-dhatu: The same holds true with the body. The body is where tactile sensations are felt. Tactile sensations make contact and we can know them all: cold, hot, soft, hard. We know. This knowledge of tactile sensations is called consciousness. But whose consciousness it is, we've never made a survey. So we think that we're the ones who are cold, we're the ones who are hot, and yet it's not us at all. Like a person possessed by a spirit. What happens when a person is possessed by a spirit? Suppose there's someone who has never drunk liquor. When a spirit possesses him, he drinks two or three glasses — really enjoying it — but when the spirit leaves, the person who has never drunk liquor is dead drunk. Why? Because there was a consciousness from outside possessing him. He — the real him — never drank liquor, but he drank when an outside spirit possessed him.
The same holds true with our mind. When these consciousnesses start getting obstreperous, we start doing things even though we don't want to do them. Some forms of consciousness like the cold, some like heat. Just like the animals in the world: Some like hot weather, some like cold weather, some like to eat hard things, some like to eat soft things. Worms and caterpillars, for instance: They like to eat hard things. It's the same with the living beings in our bodies: Some like to eat hard things, so they nibble at our bones — or at our flesh until it sloughs off in pieces. Some drink the liquid parts. Some like hot things, some like cold things. So when it gets cold, we feel that we're really cold, but we've never stopped to think about what's made us cold. When it gets hot, we don't know what's made us hot. We just think that it's us: this is us, that's us. When it was that we became a spirit-consciousness along with them, we never noticed.
This is why the Buddha said that we have no discernment. We fall for these forms of consciousness, forgetting his teaching that consciousness is not-self. Actually, there's only one of us, and it's not all complicated like this.
As for our mind — mano-dhatu — the same holds true. It's been possessed by spirits so that it suffers from all sorts of symptoms. The ideas that get thought up in the mind, the ideas that cause thoughts in the mind: they come from a cause. Sometimes the cause may be the shock waves from other consciousnesses bumping into us. The thoughts of living beings with bodies may be directed at us. The consciousness of beings without bodies may have some unfinished business involving us and they may cause our own minds to fall in with them. When this happens, you should know: “Oh. There's been an infiltration.” The thing that has infiltrated is the mood of another living being. It may be the mood of an animal. The mood of a deva. The mood of an angry demon. We have to decode them so that we'll know. When we can know in this way then there aren't all that many issues in our mind. There's only one mind. There's only one consciousness, not a whole lot of them. When one is one, it should stay as one. The problem is that one turns into two and then three and then so on without end. This is what blocks our senses.
Unawareness blocks our eyes, so that we don't know the consciousnesses that have built their homes in our eyeballs. Unawareness blocks our ears: the consciousnesses of all the animals that have come and built their homes filling up our earholes. Unawareness blocks our nose: the consciousnesses of all the animals that have come and built their homes in our nostrils. It blocks our tongue: the consciousnesses of all the animals that have come and built their homes and cities in our tongue. It blocks our body: the consciousnesses of all the animals that have come and built their homes in every pore. As for our own single consciousness, it's no match for them. This is why the effort of our meditation is so limp and lax: we don't understand what these things are doing to us. They close off our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind so that we can't see our way out. As a result, the qualities we're trying to develop just don't grow.
Now, when we can wipe out the homes of unawareness, that's when we'll understand what's going on:
Aneka-jati samsaram, sandhavissam anibbisam.
Through the round of many births
I wandered without finding
The house-builder I was seeking…
When we contemplate to the point where we understand these things, we'll come to see the endless affairs of all the living beings that have taken up residence in our home. Aneka-jati samsaram… They've come to quarrel and squabble and create a lot of trouble. They like to pull our mind into all kinds of harm.
When we contemplate so as to see things in this way, dispassion arises. Cakkhusmimpi nibbindati. We feel dispassion for the eye. Rupesupi nibbindati. Dispassion for forms. Cakkhu-viññanepi nibbindati. Dispassion for consciousness. We really get tired of it. It's a genuine nuisance to our heart. Nibbindam virajjati, viraga vimuccati. We spit them out. The eye spits out forms. It spits out consciousness. It spits them out, because it's had enough.
Sotasmimpi nibbindati. We feel dispassion for the ear. Saddesupi nibbindati. Dispassion for sounds. Sota-viññanepi nibbindati. Dispassion for consciousness. Viraga vimuccati. We spit them all out. When the eye spits out form, forms don't get stuck in the eye, so the eye can penetrate and see for miles. When sounds get spit out, our ears can penetrate: We can hear what the devas are chatting about. When the nose spits out aromas, the entire world smells sweet. Our goodness, when we let go of it, smells sweet in every direction. The tongue spits out flavors, it doesn't swallow them; it spits out consciousness. The body spits out tactile sensations. Heat doesn't get stuck in the heart. Cold doesn't get stuck in the heart. Hard, soft, whatever, in the body, doesn't get stuck, doesn't seep in. Everything gets spit out, all the way to mental consciousness. The mind lets go of its goodness. It doesn't hold onto the view or conceit that its goodness belongs to it. It spits out evil, unskillful states, so that evil can't leak in to get it soaked. It spits out all the various things it knows, such as, “That's the consciousness of living beings with bodies… That's the consciousness of living beings without bodies… That's really my consciousness.” All of this gets spit out. That's what's called viññanasmimpi nibbindati. Dispassion for consciousness, dispassion for mental objects. Viraga vimuccati. Everything gets spit out; nothing gets swallowed, so nothing gets stuck in the throat. The eye doesn't swallow forms, the ear doesn't swallow sounds, the nose doesn't swallow smells, the tongue doesn't swallow flavors, the body doesn't swallow tactile sensations, the mind doesn't swallow ideas. Vimuccati: Release. There's no more turmoil or entanglement. That's when you're said to be in the presence of nibbana. Vimuttasmim vimuttamiti ñanam hoti, khina jati, vusitam brahma-cariyam — “In release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' Birth is ended, the holy life has been fulfilled.” When we can practice in this way we'll know clearly what's the consciousness of animals, what's our consciousness, and we can let go of them all. That's when we'll know that we've gained release from all three sorts of consciousness.
The consciousness of living beings with bodies isn't our consciousness. The consciousness of living beings without bodies isn't our consciousness. Our consciousness, which is aware of these things, isn't us. These things get let go, in line with their nature. That's when we can be said to know the five aggregates, the six sense media. We gain release from the world and can open our eyes. Our eyes will be able to see far, as when we slide away the walls on our home and can see for hundreds of yards. When our eyes aren't stuck on forms, we can gain clairvoyant powers and see far. When our ears aren't stuck on sounds, we can hear distant sounds. When our nose isn't stuck on smells, we can sniff the smell of the devas, instead of irritating our nose with the smell of human beings. When flavors don't get stuck on the tongue we can taste heavenly medicine and food. When the mind isn't stuck on tactile sensations, we can live in comfort. Wherever we sit, we can be at our ease: at ease when it's cold, at ease when it's hot, at ease in a soft seat, at ease in a hard seat. Even if the sun burns us up, we can be at our ease. The body can fall apart, and we can be at our ease. This is called spitting out tactile sensations. As for the heart, it spits out ideas. It's a heart released: released from the five aggregates, released from the three sorts of consciousness. They can't ever fool it again. The heart is released from stress and suffering, and will reach the highest, most ultimate happiness: nibbana.
Here I've been talking on the topic of consciousness. Take it to heart and train yourself to give rise to knowledge within. That's when you can be said to know the worlds. The consciousnesses that have bodies inhabit the worlds of sensuality, from the levels of hell on up to heaven. The consciousnesses with no bodies inhabit the world of the formless Brahmas. Our own consciousness is what will take us to nibbana. When you know these three kinds of consciousness you can be said to be vijja-carana-sampanno: consummate in knowledge and conduct. Sugato: You'll go well and come well and wherever you stay, you'll stay well. All the beings of the world can then get some relief. In what way? We hand everything over to them. Any animals who want to eat away in our body can go ahead and do so. We're no longer possessive. Whatever they want, whatever they like to eat, they can go ahead and have it: We don't give a damn. That's how we really feel. We're not attached. If they want to eat our intestines, they can go ahead. If they want to eat our excrement, they can have it. If they want to eat our blood, they can eat all they like. We're not possessive. Whatever any type of consciousness wants, they're welcome to it. We give them their independence, so they can govern themselves, without our trying to snitch anything away from them. As a result, they gain a share of our goodness. The same for the bodiless consciousnesses in our body: They gain their independence. And we gain our independence, too. Everybody gets to live in his or her own house, eat his or her own food, sleep in his or her own bed. Everyone lives separately, so everyone can be at his or her own ease.
This is called “bhagava”: The eye gets separated from forms, forms get separated from the eye, and consciousness gets separated from self.
The ear gets separated from sounds, sounds get separated from the ear, and consciousness gets separated from self.
The nose gets separated from smells, smells get separated from the nose, and consciousness gets separated from self.
The tongue gets separated from flavors, flavors get separated from the tongue, and consciousness gets separated from self.
The body gets separated from tactile sensations, tactile sensations get separated from the body, and consciousness gets separated from the body.
The mind gets separated from ideas, ideas get separated from the mind, and consciousness gets separated from the mind.
There's no sense that this is our self or that's our self. This is called “Sabbe dhamma anatta,” all phenomena are not-self. We don't claim rights over anything at all. Whoever can do this will gain release from the world, from the cycle of death and rebirth. This is asavakkhaya-ñana — the knowledge of the ending of mental fermentation — arising in the heart.
So now that you've listened to this, you should take it to ponder and contemplate so as to gain a clear understanding within yourself. That way you'll be on the path to release from stress and suffering, using persistence and effort at all times to cleanse your own consciousness so as to know it clearly. That's what will lead you to purity.
So, for today's discussion of consciousnesses, I'll ask to stop here.
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Transcribed from a file provided by the translator.
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