§9. The strategies of clear insight, techniques for uprooting defilement.
The nature of all good things is that they come from things that aren't good, just as lotuses that are fair and lovely are born from mud that is filthy and repulsive; yet once they rise clear of the mud, they are clean and pure, becoming a fitting headdress for a king, a viceroy, or a courtier, never again returning to the mud. In this they are like the earnest meditator, one engaged in a persistent effort. Such a person must investigate a thing that is filthy and repulsive if the mind is to gain release from all filthy and repulsive things. The 'thing that is filthy and repulsive' here is the body. The body is an assemblage of filth, urine, and excrement. The things that are exuded from the hair of the head, the hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, and so on are all forms of excrement. When they fall into food, people take offense at it. The food has to be thrown out, for no one can stomach it. Moreover, the body has to be constantly washed and scrubbed if it is to look presentable. If we don't clean it, it will smell rank and no one will let us come near. Clothing and other accessories, when they are apart from the body, are clean and attractive, but as soon as they come into contact with the body they become dirty. If we let them go without washing for a long time, no one will let us come near, because of the smell.
From this we can see that the body is a house of urine and excrement, asubha -- unattractive; patigula -- repulsive. When still alive, it's bad enough; when there is no more life to it, it's even more disgusting, to the point where nothing else can compare. So from the very beginning, all earnest meditators investigate the body methodically until they have it mastered. Before the body becomes clear, they investigate whichever part or aspect of the body is agreeable to their temperament until a particular aspect of the body appears as an uggaha nimitta. Then they focus on that aspect, working at it and developing it repeatedly.
'Working at it and developing it repeatedly' should be understood as follows: When rice farmers grow rice, they work in the soil, plowing the soil and planting rice in the soil. The following year they grow rice in the soil again. They don't grow their rice in the air or in the middle of the sky. They grow it only in the soil, and the rice then fills their granaries of its own accord. When they work repeatedly in the soil, they don't have to plead, 'Rice, O rice, please come and fill our granaries.' The rice pours in of its own accord. And even if they forbid it, saying, 'Rice, O rice, don't come and fill our granaries,' if they have completed their work in the soil, there's no doubt but that the rice will still come and keep their granaries full.
In the same way, we as earnest meditators should keep investigating the body at the point that is agreeable to our temperaments or first appears for us to see. No matter what, we should not neglect or abandon that point. Working at it repeatedly doesn't refer only to the practice of walking meditation. We should be mindful, continuing our investigation in all places and at all times. Sitting, standing, walking, and lying down; eating, drinking, working, speaking, and thinking, we should always have all-round mindfulness of the present: This is what is meant by 'working at it repeatedly'.
Once you have investigated the body until it is clear, you should then consider dividing it up into its various parts, using your own way of being methodical. Separate the body into the elements of earth, water, fire, and wind, examining it until you really see it in those terms. At this stage, you may use any strategies of your own devising that are agreeable to your temperament, but you must not in any event abandon the original reference point that first appeared to you. When you are investigating at this stage, you should work at it and develop it repeatedly. Don't investigate once and then let it go for half a month or a month. Investigate in and out, back and forth, again and again. In other words, withdraw inward to quiet the mind and then come out again to investigate the body. Don't exclusively investigate the body or exclusively quiet the mind.
When you have investigated in this way until you have it thoroughly mastered, what happens next is what comes of its own accord. The mind is bound to converge in a big way; and the instant it converges, everything will appear to converge, being one and the same. The entire world will be nothing but elements. At the same time, an image will appear of the world as being level as a drum head, because the entire world is of one and the same inherent nature. Forests, mountains, people, animals -- even you yourself -- will all ultimately have to be leveled down in one and the same way. Together with this vision, knowledge arises, cutting off all doubts in the heart. This is called yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana vipassana: the clear insight that both knows and sees things for what they actually are.
This step is not the end point. It is the beginning of the next stage we have to practice, which we as earnest meditators are to work at and develop repeatedly in order for heightened awareness to be mastered and complete. Then we will see that the mental fashionings that suppose, 'This is mine... That is me,' are inconstancy; and that because of attachment they are suffering -- for all elements have been the way they are all along: arising, aging, growing ill, and dying, arising and deteriorating since before we were born. From time immemorial, this is the way they have been. But because the conditions of the mind and the five khandhas -- rupa, vedana, sañña, sankhara, and viññana -- have fashioned and labeled throughout every existence up to the present, through lives too numerous to number, the mind has been deluded into following its supposings. It's not the case that our supposings have attached themselves to us. When you come right down to it, there's no doubt but that all phenomena in the world, whether endowed with consciousness or not, have been the way they are -- arising and deteriorating on their own -- in just this way.
So we realize, pubbe ananussu tesu dhammesu -- these regularities of behavior (lit. 'dhamma-nesses') have been this way from the past. Even though no one has told us, we know that this is just the way they have been. This is why the Buddha maintained with regard to this point that he didn't hear this from anyone, wasn't taught this by anyone -- for this is just the way these things had been since before his time. Thus we can see that the regularities in the behavior of all elements are bound to be this way. But because the conditions of the mind have fastened into all of these things for so many lives, they have behaved in line with those supposings. The mind has been overwhelmed by latent tendencies (anusaya) to the point where it is deluded into believing them, and so states of becoming and birth have been created through the clinging of the conditions of the mind.
Thus the earnest meditator comes to analyze things down in line with their inherent nature, seeing that,
sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha:
Acts of mental fashioning -- the conditions of the mind -- are what is inconstant. The world of living beings is constant: It is simply the way it is. Analyze these things in terms of the four Noble Truths as a way of rectifying the conditions of the mind, so that you can see for certain, in your own right, that these conditions of the mind are inconstant and stressful. And the fact that you haven't seen in your own right that they are inconstant and stressful is why you have fallen for mental fashionings. When you truly see this, it will rectify the conditions of the mind. The realization will come to you,
sankhara sassata natthi:
'There are no mental fashionings that are constant and lasting.' Mental fashionings are simply conditions of the mind, like mirages. As for living beings, they have been a constant feature of the world all along. When you know both sides -- i.e., that living beings are simply the way they are, and that mental fashionings are simply a condition of the mind that supposes them -- then thitibhutam, the primal mind that has no conditions, can gain release.
As for the teaching that all phenomena or regularities of behavior are not-self: How could they be the self? Their business is simply to arise the way they do. Thus the Buddha taught,
sabbe dhamma anatta:
'All phenomena are not-self.' We as earnest meditators should investigate things to see them clearly in this way, until the mind is made to converge, enabling us to see truly and vividly along these lines in our own right, at the same time giving rise to the knowledge that accompanies this vision. This is what is meant by vutthana-gamini vipassana (clear insight leading to emergence). We should work at this stage until it is mastered, until we see truly and clearly, along with the full convergence of the mind and its concurrent knowledge, converging against the current, curing the latent tendencies, turning supposing into release; or until we converge on the primal mind that is simply the way it is, to the point where it is absolutely clear, with the concurrent knowledge,
Khina jati ñanam hoti:
This stage is not an assumption or a supposing. It isn't anything fashioned or conjectured into being, nor is it anything that can be obtained by wanting. It is something that arises, is, and knows entirely of its own accord. Intense, relentless practice in which we analyze things shrewdly on our own is what will cause it to arise of its own accord.
'There is the knowledge of no more birth.'
This has been compared to rice plants. Once we have properly nourished and cared for the rice plant, the results -- the grains of rice -- are not something that can be obtained by wanting. They will appear of their own accord. If a person who wants to get rice is lazy and doesn't care for the rice plant, he can keep wanting until the day he dies, but no rice grains will appear for him. The same holds true with the reality of release: It isn't something that can be obtained by wanting. A person who wants release but who practices wrongly or doesn't practice -- and wastes his time being lazy until the day he dies -- won't meet with release at all.
§10. The primal mind is radiant and clear by nature, but is darkened because of corruptions.
pabhassaramidam bhikkhave cittam
'Monks, this mind is originally radiant and clear, but because passing corruptions and defilements come and obscure it, it doesn't show its radiance.' This has been compared to a tree in the poem that runs,
tanca kho agantukehi upakkilesehi upakkilittham:
A tall tree with 6,000 branches:
This can be explained as follows: The tall tree with 6,000 branches -- if we cut off the three zeroes, this leaves us with six, which stands for the six sense doors, the entry way for the chameleons, i.e., things that are counterfeit, not things that are genuine. Defilements aren't genuine. They are simply things that come drifting in through the sense doors by the hundreds and thousands. Not only that, defilements that haven't yet arisen will arise more and more every day as long as we don't find a means for rectifying the nature of the mind.
Big chameleons swarm it each day by the hundreds,
Small chameleons, each day by the thousands.
If the owner doesn't watch out,
They'll bring along more and more of their friends every day.
The mind is something more radiant than anything else can be, but because counterfeits -- passing defilements -- come and obscure it, it loses its radiance, like the sun when obscured by clouds. Don't go thinking that the sun goes after the clouds. Instead, the clouds come drifting along and obscure the sun.
So meditators, when they know in this manner, should do away with these counterfeits by analyzing them shrewdly, as explained in the strategies of clear insight, § 9. When they develop the mind to the stage of the primal mind, this will mean that all counterfeits are destroyed, or rather, counterfeit things won't be able to reach into the primal mind, because the bridge making the connection will have been destroyed. Even though the mind may then still have to come into contact with the preoccupations of the world, its contact will be like that of a bead of water rolling over a lotus leaf.
§11. One's self-training as a meditator has to be in keeping with one's temperament.
A famous horse-trainer once approached the Lord Buddha and asked him how he trained his disciples. The Buddha responded by asking the trainer how he trained horses. The trainer replied that there were four kinds of horses: (1) those easy to tame, (2) those of an intermediate sort, (3) those genuinely hard to tame, and (4) those that couldn't be tamed at all, and had to be killed. The Buddha replied, 'So it is with me.' (1) Those easy to tame, i.e., those whose minds gather easily, should eat enough food to nourish the body. (2) Those of an intermediate sort, i.e., those whose minds have some trouble settling down, should not be allowed to eat much -- only a little food. (3) Those genuinely hard to tame, i.e., those who really have trouble getting their minds to settle down, shouldn't eat at all, but they have to be attannu They have to know their own strength and exactly how much they will be able to endure. (4) As for those who couldn't be tamed and had to be killed -- i.e., those termed padaparama who couldn't subdue their minds at all -- the Buddha would withdraw the bridge. In other words, he wouldn't teach them, which was tantamount to killing them.
§12. The Mulatika Discourse.
Tika means three. Mula means root. Together they mean 'things that are roots in sets of three.' Passion, aversion, and delusion are three, termed the roots of what is unwise. Craving comes in threes: sensual craving, craving for becoming, and craving for no becoming. The floods and effluents (asava) of the mind each come in threes: sensuality, states of becoming, and unawareness. If a person falls in with these sorts of threes, then,
He or she will have to keep spinning around in threes, and so the three realms -- the realms of sensuality, form, and formlessness -- will have to continue as they are, for these threes are the roots of the three realms.
The remedy also comes in threes: virtue, concentration, and discernment. When people practice in line with the virtue, concentration, and discernment forming the cure, then,
They won't have to keep spinning in threes. The three realms won't exist. In other words, they will gain utter release from the three realms.
§13. Only a visuddhi deva is an individual truly at peace.
akuppam sabba-dhammesu neyyadhamma pavessanto:
'One must have a mind unaroused with regard to any defilements and must know all phenomena both within and without,
in order to be calm and at peace.' A person at peace in this way will have a fully developed sense of conscience and shame, mental qualities that are pure and clean, a firm, steady mind, and a personal integrity endowed with the qualities of a deva (celestial being), as stated in the stanza that runs,
Devas by birth -- the inhabitants of the celestial realms -- are replete with sensual pleasures and restless with defilement. How then can they be at peace? This stanza thus must surely refer to visuddhi devas (devas through purity), i.e., to arahants. Such people are genuinely at peace and qualify as having a fully developed sense of conscience and shame, together with 'white qualities,' i.e., true purity.
santo sappurisa loke deva-dhammati vuccare.