Venerable Maha Kassapa asked the Buddha one day, “Venerable sir, in the past there were very few rules, and more monks attained enlightenment. Now we have more rules, and less monks attain enlightenment. What is the reason?” The Buddha said, “It is true, Kassapa, it is true. It is not the earth, fire, water, air elements that causes the disappearance of true Dhamma, but the appearance of counterfeit dhamma.” It looks like Dhamma, like true Dhamma. But when that counterfeit dhamma appears, true Dhamma disappears. Just like when artificial gold comes to the market, the value of real gold disappears.
There is only one way to know which is real gold and artificial gold. What is the test? The test is you burn artificial gold and real gold; then the artificial gold disappears, and the real gold appears. Similarly, there has to be a test to see which is right Dhamma – Saddhamma – and which is false dhamma. False dhamma is like a scarecrow. A scarecrow looks like a person, but when crows and other birds come several times and tap on it, they find out soon that that is not a real person. Similarly, there is a test.
Why do few persons attain enlightenment; why are there too many rules? In spite of too many rules, few attained enlightenment; when there were few rules, many attained enlightenment. Because bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, lay men, lay women started not paying reverence and respect toward the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, morality and concentration. When they do not pay respect to them, then puthujjana increase.
What is puthujjana? People who cannot make the distinction, the difference, between the kamma path and the Dhamma path: They are called puthujjana. They are the ones who do not pay respect, do not associate with persons with integrity, sappurissa. They do not pay respect and listen to sappurissa Dhamma; and then they remain in samsara. Because they do not associate with kalyanamitra – the right person, the person with integrity – puthujjana do not see evil as evil: Papam papato na passati. Puthujjana see evil as right, a good thing. Therefore, they don’t try to abstain from evil, and they cultivate evil thoughts, words and deeds. And then they do not realize that there are two paths: the samsara path and the Nibbana path. The Buddha said,
Aññāhi lābhūpanisā; aññā nibbāna gāmini;
evame tan abhiññāya; bhikkhu buddhasa sāvako;
sakkāram nābhinandeyya; vivekamanu brūhaye.
” One is the quest for worldly gain, and quite another is the path to Nibbana. Clearly understanding this, let not the monk, the disciple of the Buddha, be carried away by worldly acclaim, but develop detachment instead.”
Now, there are four types of kammas. We have to listen to this very carefully. The Buddha said, “Monks, there is a dark kamma with dark results: atthi bhikkhave kammam kanham kanhavipakam: “Dark kamma with dark results.” What are they? Ten unwholesome kammas: killing, stealing, sensual misconduct, lying, slanderous talk, harsh speech, gossip, excessive greed, hatred and wrong views – misunderstanding. Wrong dhamma. And also, they don’t commit wholesome kamma. And they collect, accumulate unwholesome kamma. They are called apunnabhisankhara. They accumulate unwholesome sankhara. Sankhara means kamma. They accumulate all unwholesome kamma. As a result, they will be reborn in an unwholesome place, a woeful state of existence.They will be reborn as animals, ghosts and goblins, and very woeful states of existence, and demigods.
And there is a kamma called bright kamma with bright results: atthi bhikkhave kammam sukkam sukkavipakam. Committing ten wholesome kammas, including jhanas. They are called punnabhisankhara, anenjabhisankhara. They commit wholesome kammas – and they are still in the mundane puthujjana level. Still, they linger in samsara. If they commit wholesome kamma, they can be reborn as human and in six kinds of divine realms. If they practice jhana and die with jhanic state, they can be reborn in 16 brahma realms. So, these individuals can be reborn as humans, divine and brahmas, because they commit wholesome kammas; but still they keep lingering in samsara. Good kammas! But no liberation. Therefore, wholesome kammas with wholesome results.
There is another kamma called black and white kamma: atthi bhikkhave kammam kanhasukkam kanhasukkavipakam. Have you had black and white kamma? We have black and white papers, printings; but kamma also has black and white kammas. What is the black and white kamma? They commit kamma with a black stain. That means they commit wholesome kamma, but while commiting wholesome kamma they add greed to wholesome kamma. Meaning – when I say this, don’t get offended- they give dana, observe precepts, eight precepts, ten precepts, five precepts and so forth, and they wish to be born in a happy place, wish to have happiness. That wish stains your kamma. If you wish to be born in heaven while commiting wholesome kamma, you add a little stain, a little darkness, a little low-quality mental state. You do not add high quality. The kamma is good; but you wish to be born in some higher place. What do you do with that kamma? You increase your greed. That is wholesome with a dark stain.
And sometimes you commit wholesome kamma without a dark stain, and still you have desire to be born somewhere. You don’t wish to be liberated from samsara. If you are born in a divine realm, you will live there thousands and thousands or millions and millions of years, and still you are in samsara.
We have to commit kamma to liberate from samsara. That is the fourth kind of kamma which I will explain later. Now you are still in the mundane puthujjana level.
Even divine beings: One day a divine being said to Anathapindika, Upaniyati jivtamappamayu, jarupanitassa na santi tana, etam bhayam marane pekkhamano, punnani kayiratha sukhavahaniti: “This life, so very short, is led onward. There is no shelter for one led by old age. Seeing this peril in that, do good deeds; that brings you happiness.” Knowing that we all die, the deity said, knowing that when we grow older, your death is within sight, death is calling you: “Come on come on come on” – no escape. Therefore, do good things very quickly, so that your next life will be good.
Who says this? A divine being. So, a divine being also is a puthujjana – not an ariyan, not an enlightened person. When Buddha came to know about it, he changed this last line of the stanza. He said, Etam bhayam marane pekkhamano, lokamisam pajahe santipekkho ti: “Seeing this death very close to you, within sight, death is visible; and therefore, give up lokamisa, worldly pleasure.” When you commit wholesome kamma, you have worldly pleasure, worldly happiness. Buddha said, “When you see death approaching, don’t commit wholesome kamma.”
You see, you can hear the words appamado amatapadam – Let me put it in English just to save time: “Unmindfulness is the path to death; mindfulness is the path to deathlessness. The mindful do not die; the unmindful are dead already.” That means: If you wish to be born again and again and again and again, you are an unmindful person. Not a mindful person. A mindful person does not wish to be born again and again. Why? The mindful person sees the peril, the danger of repetition of birth and death. From Vipassi Buddha up to Gotama Buddha, all seven buddhas saw this; and they saw vipassana magga, and they committed to shorten their existence in samsara.
So, even when we see our underlying tendences called asava – – By the way, you have heard the word “asava”? Underneath asava is anusaya. Under anusaya there is another layer of defilements. That is called samyojana. Samyojana is at the bottom; from samyojana arises anusaya. Anusaya means “lying dormant in you.” That’s a fine defilement. Above that is asava, a little less gross. Above that are hindrances, nivarana. So, when asava is there, we see that when senses and sensory objects meet together, consciousness, contact, feeling, perception arise, and then at that moment the anusaya level becomes active, pariyutthana. And if you don’t take care at that level, it becomes vitikkamma. That means start going on the road to committing kamma. If you don’t take care of that at that state, then it commits kamma, kamma pattha. Ordinary people stop there. They know this; beyond that, the puthujjana, the ordinary person, does not do anything.
Now, there are four purposes for developing concentration. Four purposes. One purpose is ditthadhammasukkhavihara. I’m talking about the puthujjana, the ordinary person. That person enjoys peace in this life. That is a very blissful state. The person attains the first jhana, the second jhana, the third jhana, the fourth jhana – and attains a very very peaceful moment. A person likes to stay there. Anybody likes to stay in that peaceful state.
But when the person comes out of that peaceful state, all the defilements flood back to the mind. It is just like you see a pond full of moss. When you want to take water, you take the pot and press the moss away and you get clean water. As soon as you leave the pot, the moss will come and cover the surface. So, as long as you are in a very peaceful state, all the hindrances, all tendencies, all the fetters, all underlying tendencies – all of them will be away. As soon as you come back, greed arises, jealousy arises, fear arises, pride arises, hatred arises – they’re not destroyed. But the peaceful state is so peaceful. You have attained all the four jhanas. A beautiful state, a peaceful state.
And then – be very patient, because this is a very important talk. On the Kathina day, I must give Kathina Dhamma. Part of the Kathina celebration is a very difficult thing, and therefore I want to give you a difficult dhamma for you to digest, difficult to digest. But if you pay very close attention, mindful attention, undivided attention, you can understand the meaning of what I’m going to say.
Then, the second purpose of attaining jhana is called nanadassana patilabha.
Nanadassana means knowledge and vision. What is this knowledge and vision? When you practice, for instance, kasina – the light kasina. You take a bright light object, light itself, focus your mind, and have an image, a counterpart sign; focus on that and so forth. You gain certain deep knowledge, vision, understanding, which you can use to read others’ minds: paricca pajana.paracitta vijana Or you can use that state of mind to hear the sound far away: dibbe cakkhu. Or you can use that mind to recollect your previous lives: pubbenivasaṃ anussarati. And so forth. Just like magic! There were many many many sages and saints and munis and so forth, before the Buddha attained enlightment. They were performing miracles: disappearing in one place, reappearing in another place; reading others’ thoughts; going underwater, underground, going through walls and so forth – all sorts of things! Magic! You can do that. That’s called nanadassana patilabha. And still you are in the mundane level.
Then, another purpose is sati-sampajannam patilabha: mindfulness and clear comprehension. You develop your concentration, following all the four jhanas, and gain a very high state of concentration, where you see your feeling, your vedana, you see the vedana feeling like bubbles, vedana bubbulakama. And you see the body (form, f-o-r-m), you can see like f-o-a-m, foam. And your perception, you see like a mirage. Your thoughts or volition you see like a plantain banana or like an onion, which you keep peeling peeling peeling without finding any core. Thoughts are like that. And the person can see consciousness like magic: maya upumati vinnana. You can see all these things. You have clear comprehension. You understand things very clearly.
Still, you are in a mundane level. You still have not gone beyond. And therefore, we have to understand the Dhamma path and the kamma path. This is still kamma path. Now, what is the Dhamma path?
In the Dhamma path, I mentioned that there are four kinds of kammas. I said one kamma is dark with dark results, another kamma is white with white results, another kamma is dark and white with dark and white results. There is another kamma: That kamma is neither dark nor bright, with neither dark nor bright results: atthi bhikkhave kammam akanham asukkam akanhasukkavipakam. That means there is a kamma that does not have a white part or dark part, or a white and dark part. That is called kammakhaye kamma. That is, that kamma destroys kamma. Kamma destroying kamma? What is that, “kamma destroying kamma”?
Kamma destroying kamma is, if you practice one of those kammas, is practicing jhana. you attain jhana, just like before – first jhana, second jhana, third jhana, fourth jhana; you attain. And then you see something that you have not seen before. Something that is so close to you, but you have never seen. Now this is the time you begin to see the secret.
Remember one day I told you there was a deity who had a secret and he wanted to hide it so no human being could find it? He thought of hiding it on Mount Everest. Then he thought, “No no no, these human beings are very smart; one day they will conquer Mount Everest and find it.” Then he thought, “I might hide it at the very deepest place in the ocean. No no no, that is not the right place, people are getting more and more technologically advanced, one day they will find it in the bottom of the sea.” Then he thought, “I might hide it in a cave” like in the Amazon jungle. Then he thought, “No, that is also not the right place.” Then he thought, “Oooh, where to find a place? Where can I find a place that people never look?” Then he thought, “Ah!, I found a place! Hide it in the human mind! That is the place where people never look!”
Eyes are looking outside; ears hear the sound outside; nose outside; tongue is outside. They always think, “My pleasure, happiness, secret, all come from outside. My pleasure comes from outside. My suffering, dukkha, comes from outside. I don’t have any problem, I’m okay – but that fellow made me miserable. That woman makes me miserable. My boss kills me, gives me a headache every day. I am perfect! I’m all right.”
This fellow never sees the secret. And Buddha found that secret. and he told us: Practice meditation, attain jhanas, gain concentration. With that concentrated state of mind, you can see the secret. This secret is in form, feeling, perception, thought and consciousness. We all have that. We all have a body, we all have feelings, perceptions, volition, consciousness – we all have. Where is the secret then? If it is hidden here, where is that?
You know, Buddha gave a very beautiful simile of this that you find in the Samyutta Nikaya. The sutra’s name is Khirarukkhopama, Milk Tree. Just imagine a milk tree. I have seen milk trees; I think most of us have seen them. Those who have seen rubber trees, papaya trees – they have seen milk trees. When you take a knife and cut any place on the milk tree, what do you get? Milk. When a man or woman or boy or girl takes a knife and cuts anyplace, you get milk from that tree. Similarly, what you put in will come out. This [Bhante gestures to himself] is my milk tree. Anything coming out of this tree – is it pleasant? Is it pleasant? beautiful? sweet-smelling? No no. That is what we have inside. The top of the milk tree is here [gestures to head]. You put greed in here, greed comes out. With our eyes we bring greed in, and greed increases, increases, increases. Anytime you see something, greed comes out. When I put hatred in here, anytime I meet someone, I hate him. I don’t like him. I don’t like his words. I don’t like his dress. I put it in here.
So, in these five aggregates, we find the secret. What is the secret? The secret is clinging. As long as we cling to this, we can never get rid of this samsara. We die leaving a cause for the next life.
It’s very interesting: When we do wholesome kamma, we die, leaving a very good cause for the next life. What is that cause? Wholesome kamma. So long as the cause is there, you must expect a result. That is the kamma path.
What is the Dhamma path? We have to understand that this particular cause always produces a result. Therefore, in order not to produce results, what should we do? Remove the cause!
That is the Dhamma path. When Siddhartha Gotama was leaving home, Mara came and said, “Why do you want to leave home? You’re very young; stay at home and enjoy your pleasure in the palace. You have plenty of time to do good things, punna kamma. Do punna kamma, wholesome kamma; why do you want to give up?” What did Siddhartha say?
attho mayham na vijati
yesam ca attho punnena
te maro vattumarahati
“I don’t need even this much punna. If anybody is there, you go and give him or her that punna. Ask him or her to do that. I don’t need this.” That’s why Buddha said, “Punna papa pahinassa natthi jagarato bhayam”: “One who has given up both good and evil has no fear of wakefulness.” That is the Dhamma path.
So, what do you see in the five aggregates, to follow the Dhamma path? See every tiny little bit. You see death. Once you are born and live a number of years – 20, 30, 50, 90, 110 years – and then: finished. That’s all we know about death. Born; and after a certain period of time, conventionally, we die.
But, friends, one who follows the Dhamma path sees another death. What is that death? Every moment we die! That is why Buddha said,
Pannaya passati. Yato yato sammasati
amatam tam vijanatam
“Whenever somebody sees with wisdom rising and falling, rising and falling, that knowledge, that awareness itself, is immortal.” So – every moment we die. Every moment we die. Every moment is rising much faster than that. It comes to a peak and passes away: uppada, thiti, bhanga. Rising moment, peak moment, and passing moment. We live only one moment – the peak moment.
You know when you drive, your wheel stands only such a tiny little fraction of a moment, and then the next moment, the next moment, the next moment. Life is like that. Every moment we are born, every moment we die. That happens to these five aggregates. Every aggregate. Form: Every fraction of a second, it changes.
If you don’t breathe – the breath is the body conditioner, kaya sankhara – that body conditioner conditions this body. How? It brings oxygen to the body, to make it alive. Every fraction of a second, oxygen must go into our cells, 56 trillion cells, and every cell needs oxygen. Any moment we are deprived of oxygen we can die. Impermanent. Feelings change much faster than that. Perception, volition, consciousness – all changing, so quickly.
You know, in arithmetic, any odd number you try to divide, there is always one that remains. For instance, divide three by two? -One, remainder one. Divide five by two? -Two, remainder one. Divide seven by two? -Three, remainder one. Always one remains from the odd number.
Similarly, when we do wholesome kamma, we die leaving a little bit for the next life. And you commit more wholesome in that life; and you die, leaving a little bit more for the next life. It never ends. Never ends. When we see impermanence, we must see impermanence when something rises and falls, and when it falls, it’s finished. It never rises the same again. Seeing the five aggregates in that way is the Dhamma path. Seeing impermanence is the Dhamma path.
So we must learn to separate the five aggregates from the five aggregates of clinging. We have two: One is the five aggregates; the other is the five aggregates of clinging. Panca khanda; panca upadanakhanda. After the Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment, we hear, Parinibbuto so bhagava parinibbanaya dhammam deseti: “The Buddha who passed away teaches us to pass away.” How can one who has passed away teach Dhamma? Parinibutto means “dead.” Bhagava – the Buddha. Parinibbanaya dhammam deseti – “The dead Buddha teaches us to die.” Does it make any sense? It doesn’t make any sense. But it means, parinibbuto, he destroyed his defilements and teaches us how to destroy defilements.
So, he had five aggregates. He did not have five aggregates of clinging. All ordinary people, unenlightened persons, putujjana, have both: five aggregates; and five aggregates of clinging. And they never try to liberate the five aggregates from the five aggregates of clinging. We must learn to liberate our five aggregates from the five aggregates of clinging. That is the Dhamma path. The Dhamma path is not the path that keeps lingering us in samsara. We must learn to liberate from samsara.
Does samsara exist? Have you ever heard that Buddha said samsara exists? Buddha said Nibbana exists. Nibbana exists. Buddha said there is a state where there is no earth element, water element, fire element, air element, sun, moon and all this – nothing, none of this exists. But there is something existing. And so he described Nibbana. But he never described samsara like that. Samsara’s beginning is endless; but he never said ending is indiscernible. He said beginning is indiscernible; he never said ending is indiscernible. Very interesting: He said samsara’s beginning you cannot discern. He never said that it cannot be ended. Why? Samsara can be ended – by ending our kamma. Attaining Nibbana, we can end our samsara. Each and every one of us has our own samsara. We can end samsara, but we cannot end Nibbana. Nibbana is; samsara is not. Samsara is not, but we create it every day. Today we create next samsara; next life we commit samsara; next life we create samsara. Why? We keep committing wholesome kamma or unwholesome kamma. Or imperturbable kamma. As long as we commit kamma, samsara exists for us. The moment we stop committing kamma, then Nibbana exists, and samsara disappears. Then Nibbana exists; samsara disappears.
I want to mention something else I mentioned some time ago. Many people say, I hear thousands of times, “See the Buddha and attain Nibbana.”
You can never do that – “see the Buddha and attain Nibbana.” I say: “You attain Nibbana, and then see the Buddha.” How is that?
That is what the Buddha said to the Venerable Vakkali. Vakkali was a very pious monk; he became a monk just to see the Buddha. One day Vakkali was very very sick. He could not get up. He was in bed. And Buddha visited him. Then Ven. Vakkali cried, and Buddha asked, “Vakkali, why do you cry? Have you any remorse and regret?” “No, venerable sir, my conscience is very very clear. But I’m very sorry, venerable sir, I cannot go and see you. I cannot visit you as often as I did! I cannot keep away from you, my eyes are aching when I don’t see you.” Then Buddha said, “Vakkali, what is the use of this decaying, dying body, the body that gets old, that dies, filled with impurities, like a milk tree?”
Inside Buddha’s body there was nothing beautiful or sweet-smelling. Buddha’s body also was just like our body. It was not the body that attained enlightenment. It was the mind that attained enlightenment. The body is just a body; he had aches and pains and so forth. So Buddha said, “What is the use of seeing this body? You see Dhamma, Vakkali? You see Dhamma. What is the Dhamma? Navalokuttara Dhamma: the last one is Nibbana, magga para Nibbana. Navalokuttara Dhamma you see; you see Nibbana; and then you see the Buddha!” That is what the Buddha said. “See the Dhamma, see Nibbana; attain Nibbana, and then you see the Buddha.”
When Buddha was alive, he said to somebody – he asked him, he challenged him – “Can you see the Buddha now? Are my eyes Buddha? My head Buddha? My body Buddha? Feeling Buddha? Perception Buddha? Volition Buddha? Consciousness? No. no. no.” Then where is the Buddha?
Children see Buddha: this Buddha [gestures] – a Buddha statue. Adults see the Buddha in their mind: the one who attained enlightenment at the age of 35 and passed away at 80, and during that 45 years, the person that lived, is Buddha – in their mind. That is not the Buddha! Another person can see the Buddha through the Dhamma, attain enlightenment, and see – Whaaa! This is the Buddha! Right here! In here!
All the nine stages of Dhamma are here, friends – not over there. Not up there. Not above the clouds. Here. So it is that secret we have to find in here, in each and every one of us. That secret is lodged in the five aggregates. See them rising and falling and rising and falling. Don’t commit wholesome kamma to be reborn. Commit the kamma to destroy all kammas. That’s called kammakhaye kamma dukkhakhaye kamma. “When you end kamma, end dukkha.”
And therefore, we must make the distinction. Buddha called it “this ocean.” Samudda samudda samudda samuddi-akkhayika: ocean ocean ocean. The Buddha’s disciples asked what he meant by “ocean, ocean.” The Buddha replied that the outside ocean is just a mass of water, a great expanse of water; but the real ocean is here: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. This collected together is the ocean. Why is that? It’s a beautiful meaning. Eyes: Friends, you just pause for a moment. See the amount of things you have seen, and you are seeing now? How many trillions, can you count the amount of things you have seen? Ocean there. See the amount of sounds you have heard? One – two, -three? No! An ocean of sound! -Human sound, animal sound, boy sound, girl sound, music sound, concert sound, scolding sound, shouting sound, cursing – so many sounds, so many! Ocean. Smell? How many things did I smell already? An ocean of things. How many things did we eat, taste? Soooo many types of taste. That’s an ocean. How much have we touched? That’s an ocean. How many things we have thought already? How many moments of consciousness have we had? All oceans!
One who crosses these oceans encounters crocodiles, demons, whales and so forth. What are they? Sooo many millions of problems caused by greed, hatred and delusion. In this ocean there are all these. If one is very very mindfully moving, without getting sunk in this ocean, without getting capsized, avoiding all these dangers – whales and sharks and demons and so forth – that is the one who ends kamma and attains Nibbana and then sees the Buddha.
And therefore friends, we try to see the Buddha in the way that the Buddha asked Ven. Vakkali to see. We try to see the Buddha in us through the Dhamma. What is the Dhamma? Navalokuttara Dhamma: Four maggas, four phalas, and Nibbana. They are in us. When we see them very clearly, the Buddha is right there. So, see Nibbana; and then see the Buddha. Don’t try to do it the other way around. That will not happen.
And that is the end of my talk today. I hope I did not make you upset by telling something that you did not expect me to say. This is the Dhamma. I am not lying to you by telling you something that everybody says. I want to open your eyes and my eyes to liberate from this samsara.
And today I once again want to thank all of you who participated in this Kathina celebration, donating various items. Thank you very much. I want to wish you all a very peaceful, happy and healthy life, and be free from all kinds of diseases – especially these days, this very nasty virus destroying life. Every week, twice, I make this wish – every Saturday and Sunday. I want to renew that wish once again on behalf of all our venerable monks and others: That may you all live long in very good health, practice Dhamma, and liberate from samsara. Thank you.