MN 07: Simile of the Cloth

In this sutta talk, Ajahn Brahm touches on a few key themes:

  • A defiled mind won’t be able to take the “dye” of the Dhamma, and of stillness and peace. “If it’s a defilement, the mind doesn’t take the dye (of stillness and peace); if it’s not a defilement, then the mind takes the dye (of stillness and peace).” and “The dye is the Dhamma, compassion, peace, stillness…If you resist those things, it is because (you) have defilements of the mind. To be able to be here and listen to a sutta talk, that means your minds are already pretty clear of defilements.
  • Conversely, “when the imperfection is gone, the mind easily takes the Dhamma, it easily takes meditation.” -> This points to the necessity of non-meditative factors of the Eightfold Path such as Right Action (no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct), prior to meditation.
  • The link between happiness and stillness: “…you don’t get stillness through suffering. The proximate cause of stillness is happiness.

Opening: As an introduction, Ajahn Brahm states he is going to read the latest research from Ven Analayo, who compared the Agamas with the Sutta. The parallel in the Agamas are in the Ekkotarika Agama, which has a different slant to understanding the sutta.
Ajahn mentioned that in the forest tradition, they had to dye their own cloth, so this required a very clean cloth to start the dyeing process for a well dyed cloth.
The word for dye is “rajati” which is the same word as “to delight” in Pali, and also similar to “raga” (lust) (PJ: note, this is related to the Chinese 色). With a pure mind, the mind “takes” the Dhamma.

4:05 Inspiration arises, then pamuja (gladness). With gladness, one gets piti (joy), then (tranquil). From one who gets tranquility, one gets happiness. Then one gets very still. The sutta also covers the four Brahmaviharas. Also an interesting statement: “there is this, there is the inferior, there is the superior, and beyond this, there is an escape from the field of perception.” Ajahn: “this is the kind of statement that intellectuals REALLY love.”

6:13 Chanting of Namo Tassa

6:45 Ajahn begins reading the sutta, and reads from Ven Analayo’s comparative analysis. Ven Analayo compares this with the parallel in the Chinese Ekkotarika Agama. From Ven Analayo’s Comparative analysis, the Chinese Ekkotarika Agama version provides more context for the sutta, stating that the Brahmin had seen the Buddha taking rich food, and the Brahmin then misjudged the Buddha’s spiritual attainment (as the Brahmin ate only simple food).

11:00 Ajahn compares this with Bodhinyana monastery, as they often get complaints about the rich food.

11:39 Ajahn goes back to reading para 2. The Buddha compares the defiled mind to an unpure cloth, which cannot be dyed properly. An undefiled mind is compared to a pure cloth. Ajahn emphasises his experience with dyeing cloth as a forest monk, which needed a pure cloth.

12:53 Ajahn reads para 3, about the defilements of the mind. Covetousness (lust), ill-will, anger, resentment, contempt, insolence, envy, avarice, deceit, fraud, obstinacy, rivalry, conceit, arrogance, vanity, negligence.

14:08 Ajahn: covetousness (abbijja) is a synonym of the first hindrance (kamacanda). Unrighteous greed – refers to unrighteous wanting for one self. Righteous wanting is for the benefit for others.

15:32 Question of how beings without blemishes can function in the world. Ajahn: When there is a desire, that will be a disturbance in the mind. But when the desire is for others, that is righteous. Similar for an enlightened being taking a nap for the benefit for all sentient beings.

16:56 Question about impact of wanting, needs to be the motivation. Ajahn: yes. The motivation of an enlightened being are the four brahmaviharas (kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity). Comment – this seems to be faultless. Ajahn agreed.

17:47 Ill will and anger. Ill-will can also be ill-will not just to other persons, but to ourselves. “I’m really awful” – guilt is a form of ill-will to oneself. “I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to get jhanas” is also a very common form of ill-will.

18:29 Question – what’s the Pali word? Is it a craving? Ajahn: just one word, vayapada, which means sick, not well. Wishing ill on others. Ajahn also shared an Arab curse: “may your armpits be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels.” Ajahn: it is a type of craving, but a craving that creates a mental state of wishing ill on others. Ill-will to oneself also means ill-will prevents one from getting enlightened. E.g. “I’m really hopeless, I’m terrible.”

20:36 Question – there’s a sutta. Ajahn: quoting the “in the seen that is the seen” etc., it refers to the Knower, not the Doer. Here, this sutta focuses on the ill-will. “The opposite of resentment is kindness.”

22:30 Question – about being in cultures that treat women badly, there is a lot of build up of resentment. Ajahn: agreed. There may be a good cause of resentment: inequity. But we don’t get to the point of resentment: there is a problem and we recognise, and fix it if we can. But don’t be resentful.

24:17 Ajahn talks about contempt, which is a type of pride. Ajahn shares that there are some people who have contempt of others, e.g. Some monks of lay people. If you see it coming up, it’s a defilement.

24:56 Insolence is also a defilement. Ajahn refers to the two rules of the monastery: “Ajahn is always right”, and “If Ajahn is wrong, go back to rule no 1”. “Anything else is insolence hahaha!” Ajahn gave examples of insolence, which is the wrong unkind speech to others.

25:54 Question – a hindrance is an obstruction to jhana and nibbana. How does one know if there is a hindrance or defilement? Ajahn shared that if one does a real act of insolence, the mind won’t take to the peace and joy, and will have difficulty enjoying the peace and joy of meditation. “If you take away the hindrance and defilements, there’s nothing between you and the jhanas.” Sometimes your meditation works or doesn’t work, and it is often due to the defilements in the mind, which “stain the cloth”. Ajahn emphasised that kindness, service, generosity, then that takes the mind towards stillness, calmness, and “improve the meditation almost immediately” and are thus not defilements. “If it’s a defilement, the mind doesn’t take the dye (of stillness and peace); if it’s not a defilement, then the mind takes the dye (of stillness and peace).

29:15 Question – (inaudible) about the Pali. Ajahn mentioned that there are some words which are only used once or twice in the Pali, and it can be hard to understand exactly what they mean.

30:31 Question if kindness and service motivations are closer to non-identity self. Ajahn agreed, and mentioned that there is no service medal for going beyond the call of duty.

31:45 Question if will is cause and effect. Ajahn mentioned that one should look at the effect, and understand the causes. “The dye is the Dhamma, compassion, peace, stillness…If you resist those things, it is because (you) have defilements of the mind. To be able to be here and listen to a sutta talk, that means your minds are already pretty clear of defilements.

33:07 Ajahn goes on with the rest of the defilements, especially deceit and fraud. Ajahn explains that these two terms are very well defined for the Sangha, especially with regard to livelihood for monastics. For example, acting as a doctor, or fraudulently claiming one’s holy water can cure diseases. “Obstinacy” refers to people who won’t be told. “Rivalry”, “conceit” (mana) – Ajahn shares the three conceits of “I’m better”, “I’m worse”, “I’m the same” as everybody else. Ajahn explains why all three are conceits: we’re not the same, not worse, not better, but all different. Ajahn mentioned “Life of Brian”, where Brian said “you’re all different”, and someone put his hand up to say “I’m not”

35:57 Ajahn explains “arrogance”, which refers to excessive conceit: you think you’re way better OR even way worse than others. “Vanity” (madda)- yobanamada (youth), the intoxication of youth: “you can do anything”, which is a kind of intoxication or madness. The other is the intoxication of health: one thinks one will always be healthy. “Negligence” (pamada) is also mentioned. Ajahn emphasises that the sutta doesn’t list ALL defilements, but is more descriptive of some defilements. “The point is whenever there is an imperfection, the mind can’t take the peace, the kindness, the dye… when the imperfection is gone, the mind easily takes the Dhamma, it easily takes meditation.

38:30 Question about pamada.

39:30 Question about the cause of being negligent. Ajahn: probably avijja (delusion). This includes things which one thinks is good but are actual defilements. Ajahn also drew the analogy of a cloth being temporarily free of imperfections, and compared that with the mind that the cloth.
Ajahn continues with Para 5-7.

42:30 Ajahn draws the parallel with the Pali chanting of praising the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (“Iti pi so…”, “Svakkhato…” and “Supatipanno”). Ajahn emphasises that these chants are not made up, but are directly from the suttas.

43:42 Question if the abandonment of these defilements requires knowing the pain of these defilements. Ajahn: it takes some insight and wisdom, to know that the cloth won’t take the dye when those imperfections are present. And what’s the way to remove the imperfections? The Eightfold Path.

44:13 Question if as a motivator, is it to be free from the suffering of these things? Ajahn: that’s one way. The other motivation is for finding out the truth. Question – to find out the truth, there must be some delight? Ajahn: yes. Different people have different motivations, including Nanda (who was motivated by heavenly nymphs).

45:41 When the defilements have been abandoned for a little while, one has unwavering confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (which means being a streamwinner).

46:23 Question of the four pairs of persons. Ajahn: first pair, the streamwinner and on the path of being a streamwinner; ditto for once-returner, non-returner and arahants. “If you want to make merit, to get the biggest bang for your buck… you invest in the Ariya Sangha.” On the Dhamma, the Dhamma was well-expounded, meaning that the Buddha didn’t speak in riddles, but “he said what he meant, he meant what he said.” That’s why it’s very clear when one reads the Suttas.

47:56 Question if the cause of faith in triple Gem was because of the happiness from letting go of the imperfections? Question about the causes of faith. Ajahn: could be many things. For example one could be suffering, and one hears a talk about suffering. It could also be seeing all these things are defilements, and when you abandon these defilements, the mind “takes the dye” that this is the Path that works. “You can hear all the talks in the world… but what really gives you faith is when you put it into practice and it actually works.”

50:00 Ajahn goes onto Para 8. Abandoning defilements in part, one gains unwavering confidence in the Buddha. Ajahn shared Bhikkhu Bodhi’s sharing from the Mahanidana sutta, about the meaning of Dhamma, which is focused on the reason and causes, while the consequence and effect is the Atta. In this sense, what’s the meaning of your life? Where does this lead to? Freedom, enlightenment, peace. One gets the inspiration that this path leads to all kinds of amazing stuff. One understands the underlying nature of the Mind.

52:30 Question about “abandon in part” if that refers to the temporarily removal of defilements. Ajahn: yes, the cloth is temporarily clean. A streamwinner hasn’t totally removed all the defilements.

53:13 Question if what has been abandoned should be irreversible, especially for an ariyan vs someone who has jhana but isn’t an ariyan? Ajahn: what is irreversibly abandoned is wrong view. But what has been abandoned that is reversible would be the defilements mentioned here: ill-will, anger, resentment, contempt, even negligence. When one is inspired in the Dhamma, from the inspiration automatically gladness with the Dhamma arises. Ajahn emphasises this gladness is not associated with sensual pleasure. Then piti (joy) is born, then the body becomes tranquil. For those who can’t sit very long, “what really helps is the piti, the beautiful sense of joy.” The coarser form of piti, Ajahn explained by his experience as a student when he had the piti from his stereo set, which removed his sickness symptoms.

56:25 Continuing from Para 8. From the tranquility of the body, one gets pleasure of happiness. “Sukhino cittam samadhiyati.” -> In one who has pleasure, the mind becomes still. From happiness, the mind becomes still. “That’s an important thing to stress there: you don’t get stillness through suffering. The proximate cause of stillness is happiness.” Which is why Ajahn encourages people to enjoy their meditation. Ajahn emphasises that this is what is supposed to happen.

58:56 Question if lack of confidence is one of the causes of defilements. Ajahn: this is one of the vicious cycles, where one lacks confidence, and you get into a rut. But every now and again, one gets inspired by a Dhamma talk, and get nice peaceful meditation. “That is because of inspiration.” Question – if inspiration because of the present moment. Ajahn: originally meant being filled with the Holy spirit, but it can come from anything. The Pali (veda) was about uplifting and happiness and delight.

1:00:27 Question where the delight comes from? Ajahn: I dunno, but I know it’s there. It’s something that uplifts you.

1:00:50 Ajahn: this is a very common causal sequence, e.g. In the Anguttura, when one gets still, one sees things as they truly are (yatha bhutha nyanadasana), then from seeing things as they truly are, the mind is liberated. That’s another causal sequence: “inspired with the Dhamma, you get glad, rapture… body is still… feel beautiful inner pleasure, you get into jhana, you see things as they truly are, and you’re enlightened.” But you’ll only take that path if your cloth is perfectly clean. Get ill-will, arrogance out of the way, then the mind takes the dye.

1:01:54 Comment that the defilements are all to do with sense of self. Ajahn: the Self is a very difficult thing for people to see at first. One can see ill-will, and other defilements. Comment about contemplation, leading to a huge wave of pleasure. Ajahn: this came from inspiration.

1:03:29 Question if it is the opposite of tranquility int eh body, is that an indication the defilements are functional? Ajahn: it could be one isn’t getting the gladness and inspiration. That’s why getting inspiration from the Dhamma, anatta.

1:04:27 Ajahn continues with Para 9, with the inspiration from the Dhamma. Then Para 10, with the Sangha, and para 11 with the Dhamma.

1:05:57 Para 12. Ajahn puts this further down, after Para 18, as it is with the Chinese Agamas. Ajahn jumps to Para 13: one abides with the mind with metta.

1:07:00 Ajahn explains para 13 in more detail, especially abundant (vipalla), exalted (mahagatta). From the Pali in the Vinaya (Parajika No 4), Ajahn explained that exalted is synonym for jhanas. This isn’t ordinary metta but metta that takes one to the jhana states. The same with the other 3 Brahmaviharas (compassion, altruistic joy, equanimity) in paras 14-16.

1:09:21 Ajahn finishes the 4 Brahmaviharas, commenting that these were also called the 4 immeasurable states.

1:09:42 Ajahn question about the chanting of the metta sutta, filling the mind with metta. Ajahn: Ajahn Jagaro used to make the monks do it, and Ajahn Brahm used to really get into it, while chanting. He never used to be able to finish the chanting, as he would really get into it. Ajahn: if you do do it, stop the chanting, because it has done its job.

1:11:11 “Now we have the Zen Koan… Para 17.” “There is this, there is the inferior… superior… and beyond there is an escape from teh whole field of perception.” Followed by Para 18. Ajahn: “if you really understood what that meant, your mind is liberated and you’re an arahant.” It’s very deep. “But.. (One) must do it in order, first of all, in other words you have to get rid of all those defilements… then you get unwavering confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha… then considering those things, you get this wonderful sequence of inspiration, gladness, rapture…tranquility of body and mind, sukha, samadhi, jhanas… then you can pervade the whole world with the brahmaviharas… then you can understand what this means. Which is why it is a waste of time figuring out what this means.” Ajahn covers the commentary notes, briefly, about how “this” refers to human realms, etc. Etc. Etc.

1:13:44 “escape from the whole field of perception” is escape from all perception at all, which is the end of all perception, and consciousness, feeling, mind. Because wherever there is mind, there will be perception.

1:14:35 Question if this requires a very deep understanding of perception. Ajahn: yes, that requires a deep understanding of perception.

1:15:20 Question of how linear are the teachings, as it seems more circular. Ajahn: it is a bit linear, but not entirely linear. Ajahn drew the parallel of the journey from Serpentine to PErth, which is largely linear but there could be some detours.

1:16:21 Question that if it is a natural process, then one can trust in the process. Ajahn: yes, the trust allows you to let go. Because if you don’t trust, then you fear and you can’t let go. Ajahn recalled the analogy of the trust that a baby has in a mother, where the Mother can hold a baby without letting go. “Trust is the absence of fear?” “Yes”

1:18:25 Ajahn continues with the sutta Para 18, talking about how the mind tends to flow out to play with the five senses, and to show that one exists. The destruction of the outflowing of delusion. “You do something, because you wanna be somebody.

1:19:50 Only after Para 18, then Ajahn goes to Para 12. Even if one eats rich almsfood, that will be no obstacle (to liberation). Ajahn: in the Agamas, the brahmin thought the Buddha and monks were hopeless because they ate good food. The Buddha then gave the simile of the purified cloth to answer to the Brahmin.

1:22:29 Ajahn mentioned this is a lot clearer, and goes on to Para 19, where the Brahmin asks the Buddha about washing in the river for enlightenment. The Buddha replies the Brahmin with a verse, talking about how washing in a river will not wash away dark deeds.

1:24:00 Ajahn: in today’s world, we might say what need to go to a temple or church? But if you’re free from avarice, then any well can be your temple or church. Ajahn also explains avarice means greed.

1:24:50 Question if Buddha replied with a poem. Ajahn said “that’s the done thing at that time.”

1:25:20 Question about the intent of the poetry of the Buddha. Ajahn: in the Buddha’s time, these verses were mentioned to help spread the Dhamma. There are rhymes to these verses, which make it easy to go with music. Ajahn also mentioned about the Gregorian chanting, which is much better than the Buddhist chanting. Ajahn also observed that the chanting is a lot better one is outside the Group than within the group.

1:27:30 Question about the intent of the verses being in a way to inspire the Brahmin. Ajahn: agreed, that’s his supposition though.

1:28:08 Para 21. The Brahmin Bharadvaja ordained as a monk under the Buddha, and became a bhikkhu. Followed by Para 22.

1:29:27 Ajahn mentions that “not Long after the full admissions”, and shared that in the Theragatha, “not Long after” means “20-30 years”. Ajahn mentions that 20-30 years is no Long time when compared with the eons of samsara, and urged patience.
Ajahn also mentions the importance of “dwelling alone”. All monks won’t be fully alone, but one will be often withdrawn physically and mentally, diligent (not sleeping too much).

1:31:55 Question how different the Agamas are with Pali. Ajahn: very similar. Ajahn mentioned the Ven Analayo’s work comparing the Agamas with the Nikayas, which is very helpful for understanding the suttas.

1:32:45 Question of right view absence, as the focus is on removing hindrances. Ajahn: in two weeks’, will cover the Right View sutta. `Ajahn emphasised that the Buddha taught to the audience, and that a talk about Right View wouldn’t have cut with the Brahmin.

1:34:40 Comment about the revolutionary nature of these defilements.

1:35:10 Question waht’s the purpose of the defilements. Ajahn got a question from Psychologists about the evolutionary rationale of removing the defilements. Ajahn mentioned that the purpose of this is to bring to an end of evolution.

1:36:15 Comment about the evolution of spiritual consciousness. Ajahn mentioned the Psychologists laughed at the idea of evolution coming to an end: “they thought it was a cute idea.”
1:37:00 end of the discourse


MN 06 If A Bhikkhu Should Wish

Unfortunately, BSWA seems to have taken down the recordings of 2011 Rains Retreat talks. But I’ll just share what notes I took today. The sutta text can be assessed here.

Timestamp notes

Opening with Chanting. After chanting, Ajahn introduces the sutta, explaining that the sutta illustrates that not everyone starts on the Path fully enlightened but with desires. The Buddha then skilfully uses people’s aspirations and wants to direct them towards Enlightenment.

1:32 Ajahn “pads out” the sutta by sharing the story about Nanda, the Buddha’s cousin. Nanda invited the Buddha to Nanda’s wedding; the Buddha demanded that Nanda bring the Buddha’s alms bowl back to the monastery. Nanda’s wife-to-be spat on the floor, and demanded that Nanda be back from the monastery before the spit dried up. Nanda was ordained, and eventually became an arahant.

5:40 Ajahn talks about the Buddha’s skilful means, which is also applied here in this sutta, where the Buddha talks about the Eightfold Path as a means of getting what one wants. “But what the Buddha is also saying is that, if you do this (I.e. Eightfold Path), you’ll get full enlightenment as well.”

6:20 Ajahn starts reading the sutta.

7:00 Ajahn explains the phrase (in para 2): “perfect in conduct and resort”, with “resort” being gocara in Pali, which literally means “pasture” for grazing.

7:15 (Funny story) Ajahn tells story of an Australian monk in Thailand, whose parents (from Denmark) visited him in Bangkok. They went to a restaurant (with a sign of chicken), but there were many well-dressed women. Ajahn explains that that’s called “wrong resort”.

9:00 Ajahn also shared a story about going to a casino, by accident, looking for a ballroom where he was going to a ceremony.

10:30 “fear in the slightest fault” Ajahn shared that the Pali word for fear here isn’t the same as English fear. It’s more the logical fear of the consequences, in the same way one is fearful of a fire in a bush in the hot season. “You’re not anxious but you’re careful.” Ajahn gave the story of an old English Buddhist, who had a heart attack one day, and who went for open bypass surgery. His wife called Ajahn, because she lied to her husband for the first time in 37 years. Her husband befriended the guy in the next bed. The wife lied about the guy in the next bed, that he had recovered, because she didn’t want to jeopardise her husband’s life. Ajahn told her she has done no wrong. “It’s all right as a Buddhist to lie. But no more than once every 37 years.” Ajahn also talked about going through a red-light: it’s justified if you’re sending a heart attack patient to the hospital, but one will still make sure it’s safe to go through.

14:30 Question – is the danger there that it creates an outflowing of the mind, and disturbing the presence? Ajahn answers that the underlying anxiety of breaking rules is the problem. Understand the purpose of the rules first, but there’s always the one or two times when one has to break the rules due to extenuating circumstances, in order to do the important thing at that time. “This is not a blank cheque to break the rules.”

15:35 “The law of kamma is that any intentional act is kamma, but its quality (whether it’s wholesome kamma, skillful kamma, unskillful kamma), depends on the motivation: whether it’s coming from compassion, renunciation, kindness, gentleness, whether it’s from wanting something (personal gain), whether it’s from ill-will…violence.”

16:42 Ajahn prefers “seeing danger from teh slightest fault” rather than “fear in the slightest fault”.

17:30 Question if the word fear is the same as fear in the MN4 Fear and Dread sutta (Bhayabherava sutta). Yes, same word, though Ajahn added that bhereva is perhaps more anxiety than dread.

18:50 Ajahn continues reading the sutta Para 2, then Para 3.

19:45 Para 3. Ajahn states that “this is very good advice” (for a monk to “fulfil the precepts, be devoted to internal serenity of mind, not neglect meditation, be possessed of insight, and dwell in empty huts.”), Because there’s a misunderstanding of the need to invite fellow monastics to coffee, hang out etc.

20:10 Ajahn talked about Ven Aggacitta setting up a monastery in Malaysia, and did a survey to Malaysian Buddhists in the qualities from monastics e.g. “Charismatic”, “good speaker” etc. In the end, the clear quality was “keeping precepts”. This was a wake-up call for monks.

22:20 “So if you want to be dear and agreeable to your companions in the Holy Life (monks, nuns, laypeople), respected and esteemed by them, fulfil your precepts. Don’t follow this false idea that breaking the precepts makes you easier to look after and more agreeable to the lay community.”

23:20 Ajahn talks about the importance of “internal serenity”. “If you want to see an example of external serenity, go to Buckingham Palace to see the soldiers in those boxes for hours.”

23:45 Don’t neglect meditation! To get respect, be a meditator. Even more so than being a teacher.

24:12 “possessed of insight”, which means you can answer questions from deep insight and experience, not from books.

24:50 “Empty huts” should be read as “dwell in secluded abodes”. Don’t just stay in town, where you can serve lots of people. See if you can dwell in seclusion.

25:45 Ajahn talks about how some people think Bodhinyana monastery is too luxurious. But Ajahn compared that it is far more luxurious in the outside world, beyond the monastery. A few years ago, there was a religious conference in scholars who visited the Benedictine monastery before visiting Bodhinyana Monastery. Some of the scholars commented that they preferred the Benedictine monastery. Ajahn felt good, because that meant monastery is reasonably secluded and austere.

28:20 Question if the sutta’s talk on seclusion was for monastics only. Ajahn replied that this would also include laypeople who practiced seclusion, probably still in a monastery.

29:50 Ajahn reiterates that this sutta is about using people’s desires (in this case, for acceptance and to be liked) to get people into the deeper aspects of the path.

30:30 Question of Pali word for “not neglect meditation”. Ajahn Brahm: the literal Pali translation is to not look after your jhanas in meditation. “Don’t neglect jhana”.

(Re-reading the para 3 with Ajahn Brahm’s translation: “If a bhikkhu should wish: “May I be dear and agreeable to the companions in the holy life (including laypeople), respected and esteemed by them’, let him fulfil the precepts, be devoted to internal serenity of mind, not neglect jhana, be possessed of insight (vipassana), and dwell in seclusion (mental and physical seclusion).”)

32:10 Para 4, about the monks requisites. Ajahn shared the story about the giant tupperware mugs in Wat Pa Nanachat, which got bigger and bigger, as the monks asked their relatives to give them bigger and bigger mugs. “Desires… will still come up, even in a monastery.”

35:20 Question about MN135, where the Buddha talks about the kamma about richness in the next life. Ajahn talks about a short video clip about the Addams family.

37:20 Para 5, which covers “wishing the services of those who brought benefits, bring them great fruit and benefit”. Ajahn repeats how many people have contributed and sacrificed to allow the retreatants and monastics to practice, and emphasises that makes it important for the keeping of precepts, focusing on meditation, etc., because the retreatants/monastics need to act properly in order to bring great fruit for those who gave. “But don’t go into a guilt trip if you didn’t meditate today” warned Ajahn.

40:10 Para 6. Ajahn mentioned his advice to someone dying, to think and recollect a sangha member who is worthy of respect (kept precepts, devoted to internal serenity of mind, not neglected meditation, be possessed of insight and dwell in seclusion), that brings huge joy and peace to those who are dying. Ajahn emphasises that para 5 & 6 are for the benefits of others. Ajahn mentioned that it took 37 years to inspire his own brother (who finally came to visit Jhana Grove).

42:13 Para 7 this comes back to internal to the monk. To overcome discontentment within. Ajahn: especially discontentment. How much problems does it cause in our lives? “Discontentment has nothing to do with your circumstances, but with your attitude.” If you want to overcome discontentment, keep your precepts, devote yourself to serenity, not neglect meditation, be possessed of insight, and dwell in seclusion. Ajahn observes that “spending time alone is a HUGE boost for contentment”

44:30 Question about the differences between discontentment, delight, dukkha and sukha? Ajahn: one can be contented about one’s dukkha, rather than finding fault with circumstances. Ajahn agreed with the observation that this is largely the mental arrow of dukkha.

46:06 Question on overcoming delight, as it is very vague. Ajahn emphasises that the discontentment is the largest point. “If you’re delighted in some things, you will be discontented with other things, just like night and day.”

47:28 Para 8, about overcoming fear and dread. Ajahn shared that his preceptor (ex-Sangha raja of Thailand), who had a venomous snake on his lap when he came out of meditation. “That’s the power of meditation: you just have no fear.” Something about the precepts “you feel protected” and with meditation you’re not at all afraid. “If any of you are afraid of kangaroos or ghosts, just keep your precepts.” That’s one of the way to tell if someone is a meditator or not, because an unenlightened person will have fear.

49:50 Para 9, about attaining at will the four jhanas. Ajahn noted that it is interesting this comes after overcoming fear and dread. Ajahn: “for those who want jhanas, you have to fulfil the precepts.” Dwell in seclusion. You need wisdom-power. Ajahn: “fear is one of the reasons you can’t let go. Dread…(of) body disappearing.” That’s one of the reasons why fear and dread is just before the jhanas.

51:40 Question about what can be drunk or not in the evening (?) Ajahn mentioned that the Eight Precepts can’t be “given” by a monk, but decided by individuals. “Most important thing isn’t taking the precepts, but KEEPING them.” Ajahn commented that most young monks spend a lot of time focusing on what goes into the mouth & why, but suggested keeping it simple, and asking people if necessary.

53:53 Para 10, where it mentions “may I contact with the body” in the immaterial states. Ajahn emphasises “kayapatisamvedi” (“may I contact with the body”) is a Pali idiom of direct experience. So it simply means “May I have direct experience with the immaterial states”.

55:13 Question why this point about direct experience is here in the immaterial states but not the jhanas. Ajahn: the point is that it might be easy for the jhanas. Ajahn also emphasises that the jhanas are “a pleasant abiding”, thus are supposed to be pleasurable.

56:12 Para 11, about wishing to become a stream enterer. Ajahn thinks that one has to get to the jhanas, before becoming a streamwinner. On the three fetters, fetter no 2 is “attachment to rites and rituals”, which is the belief that attachment to rites and rituals will be sufficient to exit samsara. Fetter no 3 is “overcoming doubt”: Ajahn asks rhetorical questions about the benefit of doubt and skepticism, and emphasises that the doubt is about the Buddha’s enlightenment and whether this is the right path. Ajahn shared Sariputta’s skepticism about enlightenment before he was enlightened.

59:39 Question about Ajahn’s words, and phrasing a question differently. Again, why no point about direct experience with the jhanas, but for the immaterial realms. Ajahn – just a different focus.

1:00:30 Ajahn talks about fetter no 1, and emphasises that “kayaditthi” does NOT mean body alone, but about the existence of a Self, and any of the five khandhas as a Self.

1:01:40 Question (unclear). Ajahn – one of the proximate causes is yoniso manasikara (“work of the mind that goes to the origin of things”) requires going to the centre of things. Or the simile (in the KhandhaSamyutta) of the five khandhas.
The Body is like foam on the river Ganges: it’s totally empty of substance.
Vedana (feelings associated with each sense organ, which are pleasurable, unpleasurable or neutral) are transient like drops of rain in a puddle.
Perception, being like a mirage (“there’s something there, but you’re giving it a meaning it doesn’t deserve”).
Will & mental formations, like a plantain tree. (Bhante G: more like an onion. You can peel it but there’s no core, and it makes you cry. An onion is also “it goes on, and on, with an “i” in the middle”)
Consciousness was compared with a magic trick: making things appear that are not true.

1:05:10 moved on, emphasising that “perdition” means that streamwinners can’t go back to hell, and “got an out of jail card”. Ajahn mentioned it never actually says why, and wondered why that is the case. Ajahn suggests that kamma often works because a sense of Self decides whether one should be rewarded or punished.

1:06:21 Para 12, about becoming a once-returner. Ajahn asked if he’s a once returner, how many times is he reborn? Answer: two, as there is a rebirth in a Tusita realm, before reborn to this world. Ajahn: how many lives does a streamwinner have? Answer: 6 more (this life counts as one). Ajahn also mentioned about the difficulty of deciding the degree of attenuation of lust, hate and delusion for once-returners, and mentioned about the Buddha declaring that both Isidatta and Purana were both once-returners. This surprised others, as one was married while another was completely chaste. The difference was that one had less lust but also not as wise, while another was wiser if more lust.

1:09:22 Question (unclear). Paccitiya 8 is a rule against monks telling lay persons about their accomplishments, but possible to tell other monks or nuns. If it is a false claim, they have to leave monastic hood forever. In the Vinaya, one has to ask when and where they became a streamwinner (stream winning is an event). Ajahn’s view is that once-returner is not an event, while non-returner hood is “certainly” an event. Ajahn talks about the simile of the sailors and dry-land: streamwinner sees land, once-returner swimming towards dry-land, the non-returner can feel land, while the arahant is on land.

1:12:36 Question about delusion, streamwinner having right view while an arahant has destroyed delusion. Ajahn “one has moments when one forgets”.

1:13:18 Para 13, about attaining non-returnhood (anagami). This involves the destruction of the three fetters (non-self, no belief in rites and rituals, no doubt), plus destruction of the delight in the five senses, as well as the consequent ill-will. The anagami is reborn in the “Pure abodes”, without a parent, appearing spontaneously and fully formed.

1:14:40 Question about devas.

1:15:25 Para 14, about various supernormal powers.

1:16:25 Question about being possessed of insight. Ajahn – this refers to vipassana, general insight. Primarily the three characteristics and three knowledges (so includes cause and effect, dependent origination).

1:17:15 Question about stroking the moon and sun. Ajahn – “it’s really weird” but suggested it might be like stroking a cat.

1:17:59 Para 15, about the divine ear power. One should be (see the excerpt bolded from Para 3 above). Ajahn mentioned about a monk in Wat Pah Pong, who could hear what people said in a market of 8-10 km from the market. But he developed psychic powers, and thought he was enlightened. One day, he sat in Ajahn Chah’s chair, and taught people. He realised, and he bowed to all the monks in the monastery, and disappeared. He was humble enough to realise the danger of conceit, just like Devadatta.

1:19:40 Question about protection against that. Ajahn – best thing is having a good teacher, as well as having enough understanding of the Dhamma. Many Thai monks had great meditation but no Dhamma.

1:20:36 Para 16, about being able to read minds. Cittanupassana, which is to know a mind affected or unaffected by lust. Ajahn felt that this part was a bit unnatural in this portion. Ajahn: “If you don’t want it, then don’t keep your precepts…” Many people want these things because of their ego, but while you may get them, you’ll get all the way to enlightenment. (Comment unclear, with laughter) About flying, & superpowers, Ajahn mentioned that you need to want to.

1:23:25 Question if exercising these powers is an outflowing of the mind (asava). Ajahn agreed it is, but also mentioned that sometimes this happens naturally at first after deep meditations.

1:24:19 Question if this is related to conversations with devas. Ajahn cautioned that this cannot be confused with schizophrenia. Many saints thought they were schizo. But some real meditators can talk to devas. Some of these divine beings are wise, and some aren’t. Ajahn mentioned the Buddha’s experience in DN 21 (Sakkapanha sutta), where the Buddha was meditating in a cave outside Rajagaha, when one of the gods came to see him to ask questions. The god mentioned that when he was asked questions, instead of having questions of his own. Ajahn commented that if a deva appeared in front of one, one would probably ask a lot of questions of the deva rather than vice versa.

1:26:30 Para 17, about wanting to recollect past lives. To do so, one needs to (see para 3). Question about how Eightfold Path starts with Right view, but this focuses on sila (precepts), samadhi (stillness, jhana), and possessed of insight (vipassana). Ajahn – Right View is probably assumed, because these people are exposed to the dhamma.

1:28:20 Question about seclusion being samadhi (?)

1:28:50 Para 18, about the divine Eye. Ajahn mentioned that “actions” is really “kamma”. To achieve this, one needs to (see para 3).

1:29:36 Para 19, to realise by oneself directly, nibbana, one needs to (see para 3).

1:30:16 Para 20

1:30:30 Question about the difference between “direct knowledge, here and now” vs the earlier “contact with the body”. Ajahn explains the Pali in detail.

1:32:36 Question about rebirth, if Ajahn knows anyone who has directly experienced past lives in the detail outlined in the suttas. Ajahn said yes.

1:33:32 Question about the importance of seeing three knowledges, including past lives. Ajahn gives the simile of the chick hatching out of its egg, from other suttas. Question if this needs to be the order, and if it can be skipped: Ajahn commented that it might not happen, as there are people who are fully enlightened without seeing their past lives.

1:34:38 Questions about lay people without Patimokkha, what would they be measuring their progress against? Ajahn – the Eightfold Path, the 10 akusala khammapadas, were common for lay persons (five precepts expanded with right speech expanded).

1:35:48 Question about Para 19. On “enter upon and abide”, and “taintless”. Question if taintless is without asavas and destruction of  Ajahn agreed. On “enter upon and abide”, it means it stays with one. Ajahn asked if

1:36:55 Question about “perfect in conduct and resort” different for lay persons. Ajahn said yes, but also pointed out there were also inappropriate places for laypersons. Question about different standards for lay persons vs monastics. How did the laypersons got very high attainments without patimokkha? Ajahn – they had much more restraint and wisdom. It’s a different vehicle, which Ajahn compared with a bicycle vs. Using a car (sangha) going up the slope.

1:39:00 Question about female samaneri can’t be enlightened in Burma (apparently from Sayalay Dipankera). Ajahn – “that’s rubbish”, and mentioned that even novices became enlightened in the time of the Buddha. The suttas do not mention. Sumana was sent by the Buddha to get the water guarded by dragon, which cured SAriputta’s sickness (in Theravada commentary). Sumana was treated badly by the bhikkhus, and the Buddha reprimanded the monks, about the four small things to always be wary of (Note: also in the Samyutta Nikaya).
A small fire, as it can be turned into a bush fire
A small snake, because it can be venomous
A small prince, because they can end up becoming the emperor
A small novice (because they could be enlightened).

1:41:40 Question if arahant has to be ordained or die. Ajahn – samaneri would suffice. Ajahn also comments that the belief that an arahant has to ordain or die makes sense, because the will to live is abandoned. “The only reason to live is to be a field of merit to others, and to teach.”

1:43:40 Question about Mahaboowa (? Unclear) Ajahn commented this is a way to experience it, not to be taken literally.

1:44:36 Talk ends

MN 05 Anangana Sutta (Without Blemishes)

Sutta talk given in 2011 Rains Retreat by Ajahn Brahmali. Recording is here.

This sutta is taught by Ajahn Brahmali, and the sutta features the Ven Sariputta. He talks about the four types of persons with and without blemishes (defilements of anger and displeasure, primarily related to a sense of self), and also talks about the dangers of gain honour and praise.

Time stamp notes of MN05 Anangana (“Without Blemishes”)Sutta

1:00 Start of the Sutta, by Ven Sariputta, talking about the four types of persons (para 1 & 2): the person with a blemish who doesn’t understand he has a blemish; the person with a blemish who knows he has a blemish; the person without a blemish who doesn’t understand he has no blemish; and a person with no blemish who understands he has no blemish. Ajahn explains this is an ennumeration of the different types of people, which is a standard teaching device in the suttas. Blemish refers to any type of defilements, e.g. Five Hindrances. In this sutta, blemish primarily refers to a sense of Self, especially of a wish for a particular state. The sutta also explains how a sense of Self leads to other defilements such as anger & ill-will.

3:46 Question (unclear): whether the sense of Self refers to the Right View of the Ariyans. Ajahn Brahmali: there isn’t a clear definition. There are different levels. Ajahn also wants to discuss what does it mean to see things as they truly are, and what does it mean to know whether one has a blemish or not. Blemishes like Five Hindrances have many different qualities, and can be very refined. Fully understanding blemishes means to fully overcome the blemish: only then can one truly say that one has fully understood the blemish. Before fully overcoming the blemish, one might still have very refined remainder of blemish that blocks progress to full insight or samadhi.

6:26 Ajahn: the other meaning of fully understanding the Blemish means stream-entry. This is the usual meaning of yatha-bhuta and pajanati: one of the results of stream-entry is the overcoming of Doubt. In the suttas, Doubt often refers to doubt about what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. With stream-entry, one has direct understanding about what is wholesome and unwholesome. Self-view can only be truly understood only after stream-entry (when one overcomes self-view).

7:50 (continued) Para 2 the superior and inferior of those who have blemish and those who have no blemish. Ajahn: the definition of superiority and inferiority is often found in the suttas, and refer to qualities of the heart & mind (virtue, wisdom). These are the only things in the suttas that is worthy for one to make a distinction between people.

9:31 Question: is there a better translation for superior vs inferior, especially in light of the Three Conceits (“I am better, I am worse, I am the same”)? Ajahn: the Pali words do refer to superior vs inferior, and there is no judging involved. It’s just with reference to the Dhamma practice, and it is not the same as a subjective judgement of whether one is better, worse or the same as others.

11:20 Para 3. Ven Maha Moggallana asks Ven Sariputta why one is called superior or inferior for the ones with blemish or without blemish. Ajahn: the Pali uses “man” but it equally refers to women. Ven Sariputta (para 4) explains that a person with blemish who doesn’t know he has a blemish, won’t arouse the zeal to remove the blemish. This is compared with a bronze dish put in a dusty corner, which gets more defiled & stained. #Simile #bronzedishsimile

13:06 Ajahn: if you don’t understand something has a blemish, you won’t create the zeal for removing the blemish. Most people think desire is important, and they identify with their desires. Ajahn quotes Ajahn Brahm: “the very sense of craving gives people meaning. It’s not the object of craving that is important; it’s the craving itself that is seen as important.” If you think craving is important and you identify it as part of yourself, you won’t arise the zeal to overcome, because you don’t see a problem with the blemish. Not looking at one’s mind is similar to putting the bronze dish away in a dusty corner: one’s mind then accumulates even more blemishes and problems. “Unless one practices to overcome defilements, one tends to become more defiled.” Ajahn briefly refers to the Aggañña Sutta in the Digha Nikaya (DN 27), which talks about how beings started from a very high-plane, and gradually came to lower planes of existence due to their indulgence of sense desires. “Giving in to desires gradually coarsens the mind.” One reading of the Aggañña Sutta is to read it as a simile of how the mind gradually coarsens. “The general evolution (of the mind) is towards more defilements.”

17: 40. Question: is the opportunity to remove blemishes in the mind best when there is a body, or is there an opportunity to continue removing blemishes upon death? Ajahn: the awareness doesn’t need a body. But in certain realms, it can be difficult to reduce blemishes. For e.g. In the animal realm, one would be just concerned about survival and suffering and problems, and it would be difficult to have awareness. In the lower realms, one would just have to bide one’s time until one gets into the human realm again. For devas, it’s too enjoyable and one becomes heedless. But as a deva it is still possible to practice. There are, in the suttas, descriptions of devas becoming stream enterers etc.

19:20 Continued question: it seems that to fully understand the blemishes, one seems to need the contrast from the states where the blemishes aren’t there. Does this then mean it’s easier to see the blemishes between the contrast is greater? Ajahn: one can see the contrast even with the differing strengths of the blemishes on different days, but the full understanding (yatha bhuta) comes with the blemishes being gone.

20:30 Question: if there is too much happiness, is there too much difficulty to see the blemishes? Ajahn: with sensual indulgence, it is distracting and hard to see the blemish as the mind is distracted.

21:20 Ajahn: when one doesn’t understanding the blemish, one can’t do anything to overcome the blemish, and hence one will die with mind defiled, etc. (Para 5) When one has blemish and understands one has a blemish, one will make the effort to overcome the blemish. This is compared to a bronze dish that is cleaned, used and not left in a dustry corner. Ajahn: when one understands there is a problem, only then will one do something. That’s why Four Noble Truths always start with the understanding of the problem of Suffering. Only with this understanding of the problem, will one work towards abandoning of lust hatred and delusion, and be moving in the right direction.

23:30 Question: how would a person who has no blemish but doesn’t understand that he has no blemish, end up dying with mind defiled? Ajahn: this comes up next. The reason is because the blemishes arise again. That’s why the reason this sutta refers to samadhi practice: when one is not careful with protection of their mind after samadhi practice, they allow blemishes to arise in their minds again. Ajahn talks about how the sutta has many layers, and is applicable across different layers of practice.

24:30 Question about the Pali word for blemish. Ajahn: “angana”. Refers to a spot, dirt or blemish. That’s why the sutta is called Ananganasutta.

24:50: Para 6: Ven Sariputta talks about the person without blemish, who doesn’t know his mind is without blemish. He then gives attention to the sign of the beautiful, thus letting lust infect his mind. This is again compared to a bronze dish that is placed in a dusty corner. Ajahn: this is not insight or Ariya state, but someone with samadhi, possibly reborn from Brahma realm and getting good samadhi. They then attend to the world in the wrong way. “Sign of the beautiful” means paying attention to the world in the wrong world. Sign is “nimitta”, and can refer to object, appearance, or aspect of something. So this could mean looking at the beautiful aspect. Ajahn talks about looking at the beautiful or non-beautiful aspect of the human body, as per recollection of the 31 parts of the Body in the Satipatthana Sutta (MN10). These practices are sometimes called the repulsive meditation, but it’s not repulsive as negation of the beautiful. “Asubha” simply deprives it of the “subha” (the beautiful). In MN10, it’s always looking at one’s own body. When overcome the infatuation of one’s own body, one will overcome infatuation of others’ body. “Beauty is only skin-deep. When the body is without skin, it’s not a very beautiful thing.”

28:30 Question: with Asubha practices, one tends to focus on the negatives rather than just removing the positive attraction. Ajahn: a heart or kidney is just a part doing its function, that is neutral. It’s not repulsive, nor is it beautiful. 95% of one’s body is just neutral. Ajahn refers to the origin story of Parajika 3 (from Vinaya), which states that quite a no of monks committed suicide due to doing too much asubha practice. “You have to find that balance: you don’t want your life to be miserable, at the same time you don’t want to stray away.” It’s always a good thing to combine metta with asubha. Any object can be seen from the beautiful aspect or not-beautiful aspect. “How one attends to things is even more important than what one looks at.”

30:44 Question: Ajahn Brahm encouraged one to look at things with contentment and gratitude. Could lust (e.g. For food) be overcome by cultivating gratitude and contentment for the food? Ajahn: Sure! Subha refers to direct experience from senses, whereas gratitude and contentment is a conceptual-level, and is not subha as such.

32:14 Question: (unclear) is this warning about attending to the sign of the Beautiful more about the outflowings of the mind? Ajahn: Subha here refers to what gives rise to sensual desire. Asubha is what counteracts the arias of sensual desire. What gives rise to other wholesome states are desired. This is also how the First Hindrance (Kaamacchandaa) arises: from unwise attention to the beautiful. If one wants to avoid, one needs to avoid giving attention to the sign of the beautiful. Even if one had no blemishes, lust (sensual desire) will arise. Contemplation of Dhamma in Satipatthana Sutta had 2 parts: contemplation of Dhammas and 7 enlightenment factors. One is supposed to know if a hindrance is there, if it is absent, what makes it arise and how to get rid of it if it arises. By not understanding, that gives rise to more blemishes.

35:32 Para 7: Ven Sariputta talks about the person with no blemish who understands he has no blemish. Such a person won’t give attention to the sign of the beautiful, and lust won’t arise. This is compared to a bronze dish that is used and cleaned, and not left in a dusty corner. Ajahn: if one knows one’s mind is without blemish, one would continue practicing the right way until one’s mind is brighter and purer. Instead of losing samadhi, one will keep samadhi and take it further. Hence one would expect greed hatred and delusion will pass away.

37:45 Para 8. Ending summary of the four types of persons.

38:12 Ven Sariputta then describes what these blemishes next. Para 9: Blemish is a term for the spheres of evil unwholesome wishes. Ajahn: Doesn’t like the word “evil”. Prefers to translate the sentence as “Blemish is a term for the spheres of bad unwholesome wishes.” In fact, the word (Papa) is now translated bad.

38:53 Para 10. Ven Sariputta describes another blemish: a bhikkhu who commits an offence wishes that the rest of the Sangha doesn’t find out his offence, but when the Sangha does find out, the bhikkhu has anger and displeasure (Ajahn: vs original translation of “bitterness”). Ajahn: the Vinaya (Buddhist monastic discipline) doesn’t cover everything that is immoral. “It is important to practice morality at an even deeper level than the Vinaya.” In the Vinaya, there was a monk who listened to the Buddha and had a fault finding mind. The monk later realised that he was wrong and travelled a long distance to apologise to the Buddha with the words “I have committed an offence.” Ajahn: it is remarkable as there is no rule in the Vinaya against thinking bad thoughts. So the offence referred in this para in this sutta could refer to that type of personal offence, or it could refer to an offence against the Vinaya. It’s generally a bad thing to try to hide one’s offences, as that would block one’s progress on the Path. A quality of a stream enterer is that they cannot hide their offences. They know the unwholesome vs wholesome, and would never hide an offence. Clearly this para is referring to someone with self view, causing anger and displeasure to arise.

42:25 Para 11. Ven Sariputta talks about another example of a blemish: a bhikkhu seeks to be admonished in private and not in the middle of the Sangha, but ends up being admonished in the middle of the Sangha and feels anger and displeasure. Ajahn: this is again about ego.

43:26 Para 12. Ven Sariputta gives another example of a blemish when a bhikkhu seeks to be admonished by an equal, but ends up being admonished by someone who isn’t his or her equal. Ajahn: usually people want to be admonished by their mates, not by someone who is purer, senior or junior to them. This is again about ego and perhaps conceit.

44:34 Question about how admonishment is part of the Buddha’s training, vs Ajahn Brahm’s repeated teaching of “acknowledge, forgive, learn” towards mistakes. Also what is the Pali word for admonishment here? Ajahn Brahmali: according to the Vinaya, one should acknowledge and confess one’s mistakes. If one monk sees another is hiding one’s offences, the first monk is supposed to report the other.

46:06 Question if in the Patimokka, one is scolded (Ajahn jokingly said “naughty naughty”). Ajahn: the way it works is that the confessor is asked if he sees that he made an offence, and after he says he has, the confessor undertakes to refrain from the offence. There is no admonishment apart from that. Admonishment happens more when one doesn’t want to confess but is caught.

47:18 Para 13. Ven Sariputta talks of a bhikkhu wishing to be asked by the Teacher a series of questions, so that the bhikkhu can demonstrate his knowledge of the Dhamma, but instead someone else is asked by the Teacher. The bhikkhu then has anger and displeasure arising. Ajahn: again this is about pride about being a teachers pet.

48:18 Paras 14- 28. Ven Sariputta talks about a bhikkhu having anger about not being the first monk on the alms round. Same thing about getting the best alms food, water, etc, but not getting it. Or wishing to be giving the anumodana (teaching after the Dana). Ajahn: it was a teaching but now it has degenerated into a blessing. Ven Sariputta also talks about the bhikkhu wishing to give the teaching of the Dhamma. And also getting honour respect and veneration. Also superior robes, requisites, etc. But not getting all these things causes anger and displeasure.

51:26 Ajahn: this is all about ego, esteem. This is all about labha (gain), sakkara (status), siloka (fame, praise), and Ven Sariputta is basically teaching about the dangers of gain, status and fame.

52:26 Ajahn reads extracts from Samyutta Nikaya (Labhasakkara Samyutta, SN17.2) about the dangers of gain status and fame, and how little happiness there is to be gained from these three things. In SN17.2, the Buddha describes gain honour and praise as a fisherman’s hook, with the fisherman as Mara, and encourages one to abandon gain honour and praise. Ajahn: this chapter goes on about the danger of these things, with Devadatta as a prime example of the danger of these things. In another sutta (SN17.5), the Buddha compares a bhikkhu full of gain honour and praise to a dung beetle , full of dung and proud about being full of dung. Ajahn: there is clearly more to this path than any of these three things.

57:17 Ajahn, coming back to the Anangana Sutta. Para 29. Ven Sariputta warns that if a follower doesn’t abandon these bad unwholesome wishes, the follower won’t have his fellow spiritual friends respecting him even if the follower practices the ascetic practices. Ajahn: the point of the Holy Life isn’t to have ascetic practices to look good. The whole point is to abandon these bad unwholesome states, not to hide them under the surface. Ven Sariputta gave the simile of the bronze dish, clean and bright, filled with a carcass of a snake, animal or human, which is showed to others in the marketplace. Ajahn: even if one looks like a bhikkhu on the outside, one doesn’t practice as a bhikkhu inside, and this lack of respect is what happens.

1:01:10 Para 30. Ven Sariputta then talks about the reverse: even if the bhikkhu is not a practitioner of the ascetic practices, he would be respected if he abandons these bad unwholesome wishes. This is because these spheres of the bad unwholesome wishes are seen to be abandoned. The simile is given of a bronze dish that is clean, and filled with clean boiled rice, various soups and sauces; the people seeing it in the market would look in, and would be inspired by a good appetite.

1:03:32 Ajahn reads the conclusion of the sutta. Para 31. Ven Maha Mogallana states a simile to Ven Sariputta. A son of a former cartwright watched a cartwright planing a fellow (exterior rim of a cart’s wheel), and thought “he planes just as if he knew my heart with his heart”. Para 32. Ven Maha Mogallana then refers to bhikkhus with many faults, and stated that the Ven Sariputta with his discourse had planed out their faults as though he knew his (Maha Mogallana)’s heart with his (Sariputta)’s heart. Ajahn: this is a whole list of dodgy monks, the “worst case scenario”. If a person has so many faults like this, very often they don’t care if you point out their faults as they don’t care. These days, most people can live lay lives much better than monastics, which is probably a good thing.

1:07:23 Para 32 then refers to those monastics who are good monks, who would drink in Ven Sariputta’s discourse and further establish themselves in the wholesome. Ajahn: it’s only those people who are already virtuous who would delight in such discourses. “If you have no interest in virtue, you would find this discourse a pain in the neck. The vast majority of monastics would be somewhere in between. Point is, whoever is serious about the practice would gain from such a discourse. Such a discourse is a very useful reminder of the defilements in one’s practice”… A good judge of one’s practice is how you react to a discourse like this: whether you think it’s a waste of time or a source of inspiration.

1:09:53 Question (unclear). Ajahn: Pali word is kula-putta, literally “son of a family”, with good social standing and good prospects in the world. Such a person going forth is a good thing, as they went forth even if they had better prospects. Anybody can join the Sangha: if the Teaching is really good, it would even attract those with good social standing. There must be something good for them to go forth.

1:11:38 Question (unclear). Ajahn: this might be practicalities. Everyone is there when one gives the blessing. One of the problems of Buddhism is that its old, so much has ossified and loss its purpose. One of these things is the post-meal blessing, which was originally meant to be a Teaching of the Dhamma. Nowadays, it’s more of an entertainment with monks chanting. Nothing wrong of that, but the original meaning is lost. Many things in Buddhism is now done without having the original meaning. Classic example is the recitation of the Patimokka by the monks: it used to be a teaching of the Vinaya. Nowadays the recitation is in Pali, and it becomes yet another ritual that has lost its original purpose (since modern monks don’t necessarily understand Pali). Even in Bodhinyana (which is already not so bad), there is some ritualisation.

1:13:50 Question if there’s anything stopping the recitation in a language that is generally understood. Ajahn: Agrees that it should be done in English, but it is difficult when in a tradition, because it is easy to get blamed for change. Now after the Bhikkhuni ordination, now might be a good time to do things independently. The purpose of the Patimokka is to remind one of the rules, so it’s a great opportunity to use this properly.

1:14:50 Question/Comment that Ajahn Brahm suggested after this class to do the recitation in English instead of Pali. Question whether the post-meal teaching was a rule or guidance by the Buddha. Ajahn: it was just the way things were done. Suggestion to do it tomorrow (at the time of the recording) to give a teaching. Ajahn: would be nice to do a sutta reading. Many traditional Buddhists are used to get a blessing, so it’s a challenge. Maybe the Middle Way is to give a short blessing and a short Dhamma discourse. Another comment that a short sutta reading is a bit too “high”. Ajahn: can give short suttas (four lines). In Dhammasara, they still give a Dhamma discourse after the meal as per Sri Lanka.

1:17:20 In Dhammasara, it was a giving of the recollection. Ajahn: thought it was great. It’s great that the more traditional Buddhists get to hear some Dhamma.

1:18:20 Question if Ajahn Brahmali was up to give a 2 min discourse. Ajahn: when Ajahn Brahm is there, it’s a bit inappropriate to ask Ajahn Brahmali to give this discourse.

1:19:17 Comment that the Buddha was against the Vedic tradition of venerating ceremonies, yet this happened with Buddhism with the Pali chanting etc. Question was, when did this ritualisation happen? Ajahn: this pretty much happened straight away. Chanting is much easier than giving a Dhamma talk! Things tend to move towards the easier things to do. That’s just the nature of things.

1:20:32 Para 33. Ven Maha Mogallana compared Ven Sariputta’s discourse to a garland.

1:21:27 Question (unclear). Ajahn: many reasons why suttas by Sariputta were included, and that is because he was named as the one monk to continue the Buddha’s Dispensation. Another reason is that in the Mahaparanibbana Sutta, the Buddha lists down what is a discourse. If the discourse fits what’s in the Dhamma and Vinaya, then one should compare with what’s in the suttas. The Buddha does say that the danger of decline in the Dhamma: people won’t listen to the word of the Buddha, but instead listen to words of pahirikas (people outside Dhamma), poets, and (unclear). Some of these monks are savakkas, one should take reference to what was said by the Buddha himself.

MN04 Fear and Dread (Bhayabherava Sutta)


Notes taken of the recording of the sutta here.

This is an interesting sutta, as it’s the first sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya that talks about the jhanas. It is also interesting, as it emphasizes how important it is to have purity and jhanas before resorting to solitude. So it provides pretty good advice on what you should develop before going on retreat.

“If you like to go on retreat, these are the things you should make sure to develop: develop pure bodily, verbal and mental conduct, have right livelihood, not be covetous or be full of lust, not have ill will or intentions of hate, not have sloth and torpor or restlessness or doubt, not praising yourself and disparaging others, not subject to alarm and terror, not desirous of gain honor and renown, not lazy and wanting in energy, not mindful and still. If you have any of those then you shouldn’t go on retreat: but if you have none of those then go on retreat and enjoy yourself!” -Ajahn Brahm

Time stamp notes of MN04 Fear and Dread
0:33 Ajahn: not really relevant to Australian jungles, but more applicable to forests in Thailand or Sri Lanka. Main purpose of sutta is to say that if one has a pure mind, there’s no fear in solitude. There’s a confidence because of the goodness of one’s conduct. The early part of the sutta also emphasises the importance of having good meditation before going into prolonged solitude, otherwise one can go crazy.

2:40 Homage to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (Namo Tassa…)

3:10 Start of sutta: “Thus have I heard”

3:30 Ajahn explains that if a person “exchanged amiable talk and greetings” with the Buddha, it meant the person wasn’t the Buddha’s disciple but still respected the Buddha. Ajahn also comments about the Buddhist tradition for disciples to sit on either side of the teacher and not right in front.

4:30 Ajahn explains that anagarika means homelessness.

5:20-5:30 In the sutta, Janussoni asks the Buddha if remote locations rob practitioners of their sanity.  Ajahn shared about some rishis in Thailand who were indeed “crazy as coots” from prolonged solitude (without good meditation). Ajahn also shared that some people were expecting him to emerge from his six-month retreat with “big wild eyes” but he was ok due to having samadhi.

6:57 The Buddha agreed with Janussoni, that the jungles would rob the bhikkhus from their mind if they did not get samadhi.

7:35 Ajahn: “Solitude is not an easy thing to practice. IT is when you have stillness, samadhi.”

8:10 Buddha talks about his time as an “unenlightened Bodhisatta”.

8:45 Buddha mentioned that solitude isn’t easy for those with unpure conduct; those with unpure conduct would be overcome with fear and dread in jungles and thickets. Ajahn comments that animals don’t harm wanderers with pure conduct, especially if one gave the animals metta.

10:05 Question from the audience. Ajahn Chah had once answered an ex soldier who had asked “why did I get shot? What was the kamma that led to my getting shot?” To which Ajahn Chah had answered “because you joined the army”. The question was whether the kamma of living in the city is if one gets rolled over by a car in the city, and whether good sila and metta would protect one from these urban dangers. Ajahn Brahm answered that metta would work for animals but not necessarily for cars. It might work better for a bear or elephant than for a car.

11:45 Ajahn related a story of an Indian guru of pure conduct in New York who survived a mugging and they actually apologised to him.

13:10 Question if there are wholesome fears, as the text alluded to unwholesome fears. Ajahn answered that there are wholesome fears e.g. forest fires, which you get out of the way

13:30 Question (unclear). Ajahn explained that the Jetavana monastery was not very far from the city of Savatthi, and most monks would stay in the city monastery for 4-5 years before going off on their own.

14:45 Question of where phobias like arachnophobia comes from even in good persons. Ajahn agreed and said the source is probably from early age incidents or past lives. Good conduct helps. Ajahn mentioned about his phobia of spiders and how he enjoyed it in Thailand. Ajahn also mentioned how the Thai monks were phobic of wall lizards. Ajahn also mentioned there’s a huge tiger snake in the compound, gave it kindness and ignored it and the tiger snake didn’t harm it.

17:30 Buddha talks about the imperfect and unpurified bodily conduct, and how those with purified bodily conduct have a sense of solace and peace and happiness.

18:30 Question if the Buddha was referring to himself as an Unenlightened noble one. Ajahn: yes. There is quite a lot of evidence suggesting the Buddha was a once returner when he was born.

19:20 Buddha talks about unwholesome fear and dread arising from those with unpurified verbal, mental conduct and livelihood purified. Ajahn: it might also come from an understanding of kamma.

20:20 Question that if they have no self, who would perceive the I? Ajahn: even if there is no self there is still likely to have a perception.

21:30 Question if purified in mental conduct means completely no unwholesome thoughts before. Ajahn: Not having thoughts of ill will or craving. a good point, one will only be totally purified in mental conduct when one is an arahant. Power of being a good and moral person, automatically being quite secure in difficult places.

22:30 Question if this is an automatic effect of virtue or kamma. Ajahn: a bit of each. Being a pure person brings a sense of safety where one is even if they may not harm one.

23:53 Ajahn comments that it’s possible to feel whether a good or bad person is in the room. Ajahn shared a story of another monk who felt a bad feeling of a person he just met, which turned out to be the chief executioner of Malaysia.

24:45 Ajahn continues with sutta. Those who have covetousness and lust and the rest of the five hindrances will have unwholesome fear and dread when entering the forest. Ajahn: a test of arahant is to see if they are afraid.

27:00 story of Ajahn Gunha and the king cobra.

29:00 On praising oneself and disparaging others. “Spiritual materialism”. On disparaging others: “That is such terrible terrible conceit.” It’s not encouraged by the Buddha.

31:17 on freedom from alarm and terror. Ajahn: some people are paranoid. On desires of gain fame and renown: Ajahn, having few wishes is the exact opposite. Being possessed of stillness.

32:25 (para 19) drivellers: people who say all sort of silly things and who are devoid of wisdom. Being possessed of wisdom, one finds great solace.

33:00 “If you like to go on retreat, these are the things you should make sure to develop: develop pure bodily, verbal and mental conduct, have right livelihood, not be covetous or be full of lust, not have ill will or intentions of hate, not have sloth and torpor or restlessness or doubt, not praising yourself and disparaging others, not subject to alarm and terror, not desirous of gain honor and renown, not lazy and wanting in energy, not mindful and still. If you have any of those then you shouldn’t go on retreat: but if you have none of those then go on retreat and enjoy yourself!” -Ajahn Brahm

35:08 Question of how does one reconcile the Buddha’s advice with the fact that recollecting one’s own good qualities helps one to be inspired? Ajahn: praise the qualities and conduct, not the person. Similarly disparage the bad qualities and conduct, not the person. Praise the energy, stillness etc and disparage the negative qualities of anger etc. This was taught by the Buddha in the Aranavibhanga sutta (MN139 para 8).

36:40 Buddha spoke about the full moon nights, when people would go to the Temple.

37:37 Question if going to the forest to practice is the Middle Way or an ascetic practice if one still has fear and dread. Ajahn: the Buddha mentioned about having the good qualities first, then having the wisdom to know this before going off into the forest. Otherwise it is indeed too ascetic. Ajahn then tells a funny story about a Thai monk who was doing his tudong (wandering between villages), and the monk had thought he was above his fear of tigers. The monk’s mantra started with “Bud…Dho….Bud…Dho…” and became “Tiger….tiger….tiger..”.

42:18 Question of Ajahn Tate’s biography about being afraid of tigers, and being cooped up in his kuti for three days, before he had come out and resolved to overcome his fear of tigers. The question was, what was going on there? Ajahn: not sure what he did. He might have developed wisdom and peace. But tigers did occasionally eat people

43:00 Ajahn goes back to reading the sutta. The Buddha spoke about the full moon nights, and wondered what happened if he stayed in orchard and forest shrines. Ajahn: the reason why these shrines are there is usually because there are some invisible beings that reside in those shrines, such as ghosts and demons. Most people would stay clear, but the Buddha went there. Sounds from the animals and wind aroused fear and dread and the Buddha asked “why do I dwell expecting fear and dread? What if I subdued the fear and dread while maintaining the same posture?” Ajahn: really likes the fact that the Buddha mentioned “expecting fear and dread”. “It’s when you expect (fear and dread), that’s when it comes.” Fear and dread is about something that hasn’t happened yet. For example the fear from a tiger is that the tiger might eat one, or one expects that it might eat one. One has lost the present moment.

45:00 Question of subduing fear and dread, and if this was by wisdom power or willpower. Ajahn: subduing means allowing the fear to subside.

45:18 Continuation of the sutta.

45:55 Question when this happened in the Buddha’s life and how long he was an ascetic for. Ajahn: for six years.

46:15 Question if one addresses the expectation that causes the fear, or does one calm the emotion down. Ajahn: both. Not expecting and not anticipating allows an old habit to continue. Just stay with the present moment and let the fear and dread pass away. Ajahn shared his story of a ghost in Pu pan district in Thailand, and Ajahn Suwat had warned him of a dangerous ghost in a cave. The cave had a lot of old Buddha statues, and there was a skeleton in the cave…

50:45 Question of Ajahn’s perception of the ghost.

51:00 Ajahn: instead of giving in to the fear and dread, it helps to stay in the same posture. The Buddha talks about perceptions changed. (para 21) Ajahn: this part is out of context, and talks about how perceptions can be changed because of samadhi. One’s perception tends to be heavily conditioned, and gets freed up from the usual conditioning during meditation. Ajahn Chah shared that he saw his body explode, with his organs on different trees. Some people feel their bodies expanding and filling the hall. There are also weird perceptions. “If that happens to you, enjoy it.” – Ajahn Brahm

54:40 Question about when the fear came up. Ajahn: the Buddha still had some fear, and wasn’t fully enlightened, so there was still some fear that came up.

56:00 Ajahn mentioned that Thai monks were terrified of ghosts, and of cremation grounds. Western monks were ok with cremation grounds, as they were less conditioned to be afraid.

56:56 Ajahn mentioned that one time he was in a forest meditating, and thought it was a large animal, possibly a bear. But it turned out to be a tiny mouse. It astonished Ajahn how, even though he thought he was very mindful and peaceful, a little bit of fear actually exaggerated his perception of the sound.

59:14 Question about not trusting the thinking mind but the perception mind, and if there could be a thinking process here. Ajahn shared it could be a subconscious thinking process. Ajahn also reported the ghost of Jhana Grove, which is a sound of someone stepping outside the room. (it’s a kangaroo)

1:00:19 Question that once someone tells you that, it will condition the perception of people. Ajahn agreed. Fear and dread will exaggerate the kangaroo sound, and turn it into a sound of a ghost or a potential murderer.

1:01:16 (para 22) Ajahn comments that para 21 could be inserted, as para 21 doesn’t fit. Hence Ajahn suggests para 22 could follow directly after para 21. Ajahn: fear and dread forces one to become mindful, “because you have no choice”. Old traditional teachers like Ajahn Mun forced his disciples to go meditate in the cave where tigers sleep: the monk meditated all night without sloth and torpor, and was perfectly mindful!

1:03:14 Ajahn points out the sequence of tireless energy, unremitting mindfulness, tranquil and untroubled body, and still and unified mind.

1:03:20 (para 23) Ajahn: first description of the jhanas in the Majjhima Nikaya. “Quite secluded from sensual pleasures” is more accurately “secluded from the five senses”. “Secluded from unwholesome states” refers to seclusion from the Five Hindrances. “Applied and sustained thought” is more accurately translated as “the movement of the mind onto the object and holding onto the object”. (Note: in the Chinese Agamas, this is translated as 有觉有观, but the meaning is as Ajahn described. See here in Chinese []). “Rapture and pleasure born of seclusion” is due to the pleasure and rapture from the disappearance of the five senses.

1:04:53 Question if this sutta is describing that the Buddha experienced jhana before his enlightenment. Ajahn: the chronology of this is difficult. This is going on to what would happen if people go into jungle and face their fears, and would need the stillness of the jhanas.

1:05:52 Question of the cause of the tireless energy. Ajahn: because the Buddha had gone to these scary places, experiencing fear and dread, but staying in the same posture, letting the fear and dread pass, the tireless energy, mindfulness and stillness will arise.

1:06:52 Question of what other ways to get tireless energy. Ajahn: joy, inspiration. Fear and dread isn’t the best way, as you might lose a lot of disciples that way e.g. if Ajahn asked all disciples to go into a snake pit. Ajahn Mun put his disciple (who had a lot of sloth and torpor) on the edge of a cliff, and had gotten into a jhana. Some Western monks at Wat Poh Wan used this teaching to sit on the edge of the roof all night. The abbot got the building to lock the doors. In any case, most of those monks disrobed.

1:09:27 Question if the Buddha encouraged such practices. Ajahn: no, it’s only here that he said he went to dangerous places in remote forests, not edge of cliff.

1:09:55 Question that the Buddha said to go into deep meditation is via still mind and comfortable body. Ajahn: yes, that is what the Buddha said. It is also true that when you’ve nothing to lose, you can arouse the intention to truly let go. “There is that sense of laziness sometimes, and that’s just nature. But it’s true that arousing danger is also dangerous: some people go crazy.” – Ajahn

1:11:30 Question that some places between what Buddha teaches vs. where he spoke about what happened. Some people misinterpret the Buddha’s teachings due to those examples. Ajahn agreed, and emphasised that the basic teaching which the Buddha “taught again and again and again” was the Eightfold Path & Middle Way: not to do anything too strenuous to the body or mind.

1:12:00 Question that the Buddha got first jhana here, and not during his enlightenment. Ajahn: exactly, the chronology of this sutta is a bit strange. Also, it says here that this is almost the story of his enlightenment, and yet it’s not in Bodhgaya since this is supposed to be in a scary place. There’s a chronological issue. But perhaps this is better described as a sutta describing what happens to monks who go to  remote jungle thickets.

1:14:04 (para 24) Second jhana. With confidence, no need to hold onto the object, and there’s perfect stillness (no vittaka-viccara). (para 25) “Still feeling pleasure with the body” = this is the Pali idiom for “direct personal experience”. (para 26) “purity of mindfulness” = these jhanas are states of awareness.

1:16:00 (para 27) Ajahn: must describe after the jhanas, as one’s mind cannot move in the jhanas, let alone be “wieldy” and para 28.

1:17:18 standard description of the Buddha’s enlightenment. There’s a chronological disconnect: earlier part of the sutta talking about his abiding in remote locations arousing fear and dread, while now the sutta is talking about the Buddha’s enlightenment. Ajahn: some people like Stephen Bachelor claim there’s no rebirth and reincarnation, but the Buddha said it’s one of the first true knowledges attained by him.

1:18:16 Ajahn reads para 29. 1:18:50 Ajahn noted that the Buddha that even the beings who go to hell are referred to as “worthy beings”. First watch of the night, the Buddha saw his past lives. Second watch of the night, the Buddha saw the law of kamma.

1:19:38 Question if you need Fourth jhana to see past lives. Ajahn: no, first jhana suffices if one’s mind is still and malleable enough. Ajahn gives instruction of how to see past lives: after meditation, ask self “what’s my earliest memory?” Ajahn: “Why it’s an important part of enlightenment: when you see that this is not your only life, that you’ve lived many many lives, it gives a big picture of what suffering is… this is a very lucky time to be born, but it’s not always like this. Next time, who knows?”

1:21:40 Ajahn reads para 30. Ajahn: this abides in anyone who abides diligent ardent and resolute.

1:22:07 Ajahn reads para 31. The Buddha describes the direct knowledge of the Four Noble Truths.

1:23:21 Question that if enlightenment only arises after the third knowledge, then the previous ignorance that as banished was about past lives and kamma. Question also if one has to know the three knowledges in sequence: Ajahn said it’s possible to be enlightened through direct knowledge of the Four Noble truths, without the first two knowledges. Question that Ajahn mentioned it’s not possible to be fully enlightened without knowing past lives. Ajahn: it’s impossible to know the full extent of suffering without understanding past lives, but it’s possible to know non-self.

1:24:23 Question if it’s possible to get to nirodha samapati first, before seeing ones past lives. Ajahn: possible but by the time you get to nirodha, it’s very easy to see ones past lives.

1:25:05 Ajahn goes back to the sutta. The Buddha talks about the freedom from the outflowings of seeking senses, existence and delusion. Ajahn: when one is liberated and enlightened, one knows one is enlightened.

1:26:12 The Buddha explains why he still goes to the forest post enlightenment. Ajahn: pleasant abiding often refer to jhanas, so the Buddha is referring to the forest as Jhana places.

1:27:45 Ajahn talks about the triple gem, and emphasizes that the suttas refer to the sangha as the monastic sangha.

1:28:33 Question of how to understand the meaning of refuge. Ajahn: recollecting the qualities of the Buddha Dhamma Sangha, to inspire following the path to the end

1:29:35 Question of understanding the triple gem in terms that are meaningful to one. Ajahn: yes.

1:30:15 Question of what motivates an arahant to  go to jhanas. Ajahn: the default state of arahant is in jhana. A simile is how birds sleep on branches without falling off. It’s not because they are insomniacs, but because the more birds relax, the more the claws tighten their grip on the branches. They need effort to release their grip. Only the paranoid birds who fall off. Similarly when one lets go one is still.

1:33:00 In this life refers to refuge in this life till enlightenment or their end of life? Ajahn: until they forget. But the refuge and precepts only happened once in their life and not ritual.

MN14 Culadukkhakhandha Sutta: Buddhism & the Search for Pleasure

“In Buddhism we pursue pleasure. We are not pleasure deniers: we abandon the lesser pleasures for what’s more enjoyable.” – Ajahn Brahm

Notes of the sutta talk  here. One of the most commonly-mistaken views is that Buddhism is all about suffering and the denial of pleasure. This mistake probably arises because of the via negativa description: the Buddhist path describes the existence of suffering and the removal of suffering, hence a lot of people think “this is such a negative & depressing view”.

In reality, Buddhism is the search for happiness & pleasure, and this talk does a brillant job explaining what really is the Buddhist concept of pleasure and joy. Not to spoil the plot, but Buddhism isn’t against pleasure, it’s just against pleasure from the five-sense world, and seeks to replace the lower pleasures with a higher one.

The talk also starts off with an important distinction between intellectual knowledge & actual experience: it’s the difference between knowing the Newtonian equations explaining why the bicycle stays up vs. knowing how to ride a bicycle. The discourse starts with the Buddha’s cousin asking the Buddha why, even though he logically understood mental defilements, he was still subject to them? The root cause was because he was still attached to sensual pleasures, and did not enjoy a higher pleasure that allowed his mind to loosen its hold on the sense-world.

The sutta talk also covers other interesting ground, such as the Vietnamese monk who meditated for 9 days (1:00:00), and also the need for a transformational experience in order for people to trigger a change in their perspectives.

The sutta is an important reminder that it’s not enough to know the Buddha’s words, but to also practice the Eightfold Path.

Timestamp notes from the Shorter Discourse on the Mass of Suffering
1:00 Ajahn Brahm explained that the sutta wasn’t covered previously because it was too short.

1:35 Ajahn starts reading sutta. Explained the sutta was in the context of the Buddha visiting his hometown, Kapilavatthu. Ajahn explained the origin of the name “Banyan tree” (the “merchant tree”), which is mentioned in the sutta.

3:18 Mahanama the Sakyan (Buddha’s cousin) asked the Buddha: why even though he understood greed hatred and delusion, that those states still invaded his mind and remained? What states remained unabandoned in him, causing greed hatred & delusion to remain? Ajahn Brahm: “It’s a very good question.”

4:51 The Buddha answers that Mahanama had states unabandoned by him internally. If those states were abandoned by him internally, Mahanama would not be living the home life. As long as the disciple attends to the rapture and pleasure apart from sensual pleasures, and sees the danger and escape from sensual pleasures, then he will no longer be attracted to sensual pleasures.

7:10 “Rapture and pleasure” refers to first jhana. “Classic description of it.” “Something more peaceful than that” refers to the higher jhanas.

8:10 Ajahn re-reads the paragraph in terms of first or higher jhanas. “Even though a noble disciple sees clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasure provides little gratification, much suffering and despair, and how great is the danger in them, as long as they still do not attain the first or higher jhanas, then they will still be attracted to sensual pleasures.

9:00 Question asked (inaudible). Ajahn commented about the commentaries, which were influenced by the Abhidhamma, by Buddhaghosa a thousand years after the Buddha. Those commentaries were heavily influenced by a vipassana-only path, which doesn’t appear in the suttas.

9:59 Ajahn Brahm: “No such thing as mundane jhana, that’s a commentarial idea. All jhanas are super mundane.” Nowhere in the sutta says that Mahanama attained any fruit of enlightenment. Ajahn refers to paragraph 5, where the Buddha shared how as an unenlightened Bodhisattva, he was just like Mahanama, and was also attracted to sensory pleasures. Thus one cannot infer that Mahanama was a once-returner from the sutta. Ajahn Brahm says that towards the end of his life, Mahanama was supposed to be a once-returner, but it’s unclear when exactly happened. Logically, this sutta happened before Mahanama’s achievement of the once-returner.

12:35 Question if jhana was the escape. Ajahn Brahm: “The escape is always the Eightfold Path, of which jhanas are a part of it.” When the jhanas wear out, the sensory pleasures come back. “The real escape is always the Eightfold Path.” As a person gains more experience in jhanas, sensory pleasures decrease, and there’s no reason to live the home life anymore. Thats why there’s a state unabandoned, which is why one is still living the home life. If one has jhanas, one wouldn’t be so attracted to the home life and join the sangha.

14:37 Ajahn explains Mahanama understands the Dhamma, but like most people, the understanding is based on logic and reason basis, but without the experience of what happens when one lets go and abandons the sense of self. It’s an understanding rather than an experiential insight.

15:10 Ajahn talks about worm and pile of dung story from “Opening the Door of your Heart”, to illustrate nibbida. “Sensory pleasures are like the pile of shit.” Most people like our sex, TV shows, delicious food. But if there’s experience of higher pleasures, one can abandon the pile of shit.

17:01 Question about nibbida (revulsion). Ajahn explains that the cause of nibbida is the realisation that what you’re moving away from is inferior. Motivation for practice of jhanas is always positive: something more profound. Nibbida is about looking back where one was at, rather than looking forward.

18:15 Ajahn recaps paragraphs 3 & 4. Until one attains jhanas, one will be attracted to sensory pleasures.

19:00 Paragraph 5. Buddha only refers to himself as Bodhisattva to refer to his period of life before he sat at the Bodhi tree.

20:39 those monks who can get jhanas are not attracted to sensory pleasures. “The bliss of jhanas is better than sex. If you can access jhana, who wants sex or any pleasure?” Without jhanas, still tendency to be pulled into realm of sensory pleasures. Question (inaudible). Ajahn: you can’t say jhanas are the escape or the whole package, but they are an important part of the Eightfold Path.

22:30 Ajahn recaps a conversation he has with a Catholic priest, who shared the difficulty of being a celibate and to fight the temptation of the attraction of the opposite sex. “The deep meditations are really the only way, so that the mind doesn’t seek its pleasure in girls TV or anything else.” Ajahn felt a lot of compassion for the Catholic priests, who have no alternatives besides a lot of restraint, willpower and faith to stick to their precepts. On insufficiency of willpower: “One can’t just say ‘I will not be attracted to the beautiful woman’: the mind will be attracted to something, unless it has something more.”

24:40 Paragraph 6. The gratification, the pleasure of sensual pleasures. The Buddha speaks about the five cords of sensory pleasure. Ajahn refers to Sutta 13, which contains the text. Forms cognizable by the eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch. The pleasure and joy arising are the gratification.

26:27 Ajahn points out that the joy from the sixth sense of mind (e.g. Jhanas, inspiration from good Dhamma talks, or joy arising from seeing someone doing an act of good kamma) is not in this list, and shouldn’t be something to be afraid of or to be rid of. Pleasures of the sixth sense are positive; the pleasures of five senses are a problem.

27:30 Question about 4 Brahmaviharas. Ajahn says they are mental pleasures, and also talks about inspiration. Happiness from the mind is to be developed. Happiness from sensory pleasures is uncertain and unreliable.

28:38 What is the danger of sensory pleasures? On account of one’s craft, one is exposed to cold, heat, gadflies, possible death. If one doesn’t get property or due compensation, one gets upset, which is a danger in the case of sensory pleasures. Ajahn talks about wrong investments, which lead to unhappiness. If one gets due reward, one experiences pain from the fear of losing the due rewards e.g. From kings, thieves, tax departments, or hateful heirs.

31:49 with sensory pleasures as the cause, kings quarrel with kings, nobles with nobles, brahmins with brahmins, etc. They attack each other, incurring death and deadly suffering. Men also fight in wars because of sensory pleasures. Death & injury are a danger of sensory pleasure. Men also steal, engage in sexual misconduct, and when caught suffer various tortures like the “porridge pot”, imposed by kings.

34:00 Ajahn describes some of these tortures in detail. Then the sutta describes further dangers of sensory pleasures.

36:40 Ajahn asks why we work so hard in our jobs: “It’s really just for sensory pleasure, and once you get the money, you have to protect it.” Sometimes people even go to the extent of committing crimes because of sensory pleasure.

38:18 The Buddha speaks about the escape from sensory pleasure, by the removal of lust. The removal by the Eightfold path, which includes Jhanas.

38:50 Question (inaudible). Ajahn comments that people go into sensory realm because of the lack of joy. Example of people eating from the fridge, not because of hunger but to get a boost of pleasure. Or watching television. Or men seeing pictures of pretty girls in magazines. “One of the most important things to understand is that the mind has to have pleasure. Because if it has no pleasure at all, it will get depressed, and basically will die. Pleasure is what the mind demands… if you can’t say ‘no pleasure at all’ but you have to find (another source of pleasure).

40:25 Question (inaudible). Ajahn: Buddhism is not pleasure denying. It’s not Puritanism. The pleasures of the mind are not dangerous. “In Buddhism we pursue pleasure. We are not pleasure deniers: we abandon the lesser pleasures for what’s more enjoyable.

41:37 Question (inaudible). Ajahn: people sometimes think pleasure has to be exciting. But excitement indicates a certain mental agitation. Valid point that people seek pleasure as an escape from remorse. Many times people seek pleasure to escape the pains of life, one of which can be remorse. Or it can be escape from physical pain: Ajahn gives example of TV in hospitals. Ajahn emphasises that the pleasures of the mind isn’t as stimulating, but is more peaceful and much more reliable than five-sense pleasures.

43:40 Question (inaudible). Ajahn: Even though many people know dangers of pleasures (e.g. Cigarette smoking), it’s not enough. There’s a need for a transformational experience to trigger the change. Simile of tadpole, which doesn’t know what water is like, until the tadpole becomes a frog and escapes water. “It’s that transformational experience of getting experience outside of the five-sense world” that allows one to see the dangers of sensual pleasures.

45:40 Question (inaudible). Ajahn: on becoming a streamwinner, you’ve gone to the path of non-return. You’re going to get jhanas. You’re becoming a person who can let go far more easily.

46:25 Question if it’s possible for a person to experience jhana, and go back to living the lowly life. Ajahn: it’s possible. Example was Devadatta, the Buddha’s cousin who was a good meditator, but later developed pride and tried to kill the Buddha. Jhanas themselves are not enough, but you cannot do without them. The danger for people who meditate well is their pride and ego. Monks are not allowed to say their meditation attainment, because of this danger. If one loses jhanas, one will go for other pleasures, including the easy pleasures of sensory pleasures.

48:20 Comment that concentration/samadhi is not enough. Ajahn: doesn’t like the word concentration; “stillness” is better translation than samadhi. “Samadhi is not enough, you need wisdom as well.” Ajahn quoted original of Dhammapada 273. “Those who have wisdom and jhana together, are in the presence of nibbana.” Ajahn: match & gunpowder, and match is the jhana (root to fire) & wisdom is gunpowder.

50:20 Comment (inaudible). Ajahn: the education of the heart has to be in parallel to meditation. Meditation gives insights. Wisdom and jhanas are inseparable. Insights give an intellectual framework, and on that framework one places one’s experiences, building up a big picture of what life is. But one can’t just have the knowledge of books; one needs insight from very deep & still mind. Jhanas without insight will be like Devdatta. Insight without jhana again will be missing things.

52:00 Ajahn reads the Sutta, where the Buddha is critical of the Jain religion. The Buddha recounts his exchange with Jains who practiced continuous standing, who rejected sitting or lying down despite huge pain. Mahavira (Jain leader, contemporary of the Buddha) encouraged the Jains to exhaust their bad kamma through ascetic practices. The Buddha questions the Jains on their knowledge of their kamma, & points out (“very cheeky”, comments Ajahn) that for one to experience extreme pain and discomfort in this life as Jains, one must have done very bad kamma in previous life.

57:20 The Jain doctrine: “pleasure is not to be gained from pleasure; pleasure is to be gained from pain.” Ajahn: that is the Puritan doctrine. If it hurts, it’s good for you; if it’s pleasure it’s bad for you. “Masochism on a spiritual level.” Ajahn also refers to people in Philippines who voluntarily crucify themselves.

58:37 The Jains comment that if pleasure is to be gained from pleasure, nobody would have greater pleasure than the King (of Magadha, the Indian state where the Buddha was in). The Buddha refutes this, by pointing out that the King can’t “abide without moving his body, experiencing the peak of pleasure” for 1-7 days & nights, whereas the Buddha could.

1:00:15  Ajahn: The Buddha was saying he has greater pleasure than a king. Ajahn then talks about a Vietnamese monk who came to Australia to teach a meditation retreat. Ajahn Sujato shared the story with Ajahn Brahm. The Vietnamese monk sat without moving for 9 days, got out of his meditation and apologised; but the retreatants were very inspired by the monk’s demonstration.

1:02:25 Ajahn: the “peak of pleasure”, greater than the pleasure of a king. Ajahn concludes the sutta, and comments the sutta should be retitled “The Shorter Discourse of the Mass of Pleasure”, when suffering is overcome.

1:03:11 Question of note 211 (in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation). Ajahn: commentary was wrong, in saying that it’s the pleasure of the fruit of attainment. Ajahn comments that the fruit was the pleasure of the jhana realm, and not fruit of attainment. Ajahn comments that the commentary (MA) was written a 1000 years after the Buddha. The sutta is about the pleasure of the jhanas, so the commentary is wrong.

1:04:14 Question about the Pali. Ajahn distinguished between the “Fruit of enlightenment” (insight & knowledge of one’s attainments) vs. actual stillness which is samadhi, and which the Buddha can do for 6-9 days. Ajahn’s theory is that the commentaries were written by scholars in large monasteries, which were busy, and not great meditators. Ajahn commented that Buddhaghosa (who wrote the commentaries & the Visuddhimaga, or “Path of Purification”) was not a streamwinner, because the conclusion of the Visuddhimaga has an inscription “By the fruits of the merit may I become a streamwinner.” Buddhagosa was collecting information from the scholars, but not necessarily the forest monks who were the meditators. Whole idea of commentators were for scholar-monks. “The holy books of Buddhism are not these books, but our meditation.” The suttas are the menu describing the food, but it’s the food that’s the most important

1:06:00 Question (inaudible). Ajahn: inspiration of the mind are positive emotions. Also, the Brahmaviharas. Study for study’s sake can be a grind.

1:07:45 Comment about watching TV not as preferable as reading a book. Ajahn: depends on what the book is, and if the book is conducive in generating a sense of peace. There are many negative books around that put down other people, and gaining pleasure at the expense of others. There are books that give inspiration, which give peace & pleasure & positive outcomes. Instead of reading a physics book, read about someone who overcame adversity & did great acts of compassion. Or better than reading, to do it oneself.

1:09:00 Main point of the sutta. Mahanama understood the Dhamma, but still had greed hatred delusion, because he didn’t have jhanas that helped him overcome sensory pleasures. With sensory pleasures comes ill-will, when we don’t have our own way.

1:10:00 The class pays respects to Buddha Dhamma Sangha.

On the Rahulasamyutta: What do you hold to be your true self?

I’m sorry for the very long delays in posting stuff: I’m still working on my time-stamp notes for the Sabb-asava sutta (MN02 “All the Taints” or more accurately “All the Outflowings”). It’s taking some time, as the sutta is pretty profound, and Ajahn Brahm also takes quite a bit of time to explain the nuances and details of the sutta.

As a “teaser”, I thought I’d post a short note about the collection of suttas called the Rahulasamyutta. which was the subject of today’s sutta talk by Singaporean Dhamma teacher Sister Sylvia Bay at the Buddhist Fellowship Singapore. The Samyutta Nikaya is a massive collection of short suttas, which are “connected” by different themes. Some of the suttas are the heart of the teachings; others are more colourful and (occasionally) random collections of verse. There are also samyuttas which are very practical (e.g. there’s a samyutta on the jhanas and on mindfulness.)

The Rahulasamyutta are a collection of short discourses which the Buddha gave to his son Rahula. Rahula was born shortly before the Buddha Gotama left his life as a Sakyan prince. On the Buddha’s post-enlightenment visit, the seven-year old boy Rahula asked his mother Princess Yasodhara about his inheritance, and was directed by his mother to ask his father the Buddha for his inheritance. The Buddha thus got Rahula ordained as a novice (and later as a monk) (!), so Rahula literally got more than he bargained for.

The discourses in the Rahulasamyutta are related to the Majjhima Nikaya discourses that the Buddha gave to Rahula, namely MN61 & 62; the content is very similar. In the Rahulasamyutta, Rahula asked the Buddha for an object for contemplation. The Buddha then instructs Rahula to contemplate the five aggregates (form i.e. your body & its associated constituents; feeling, which are the pleasant/unpleasant/neutral sensations arising from each of the six senses; volitional formations, which include the will and thoughts; perception, which should be self-explanatory; and consciousnesses, which are the different consciousnesses associated with each of the six senses); the Buddha also asked Rahula to contemplate craving and contact (which arises from the interaction between your body and the five-sense world).

We often see each of these “fuels of existence” as our “self”. So the Buddha  instructs Rahula to contemplate the following for each of these “fuels of existence”:

  1. That each of these are impermanent;
  2. What is impermanent leads inevitably to suffering;
  3. Thus, it is not fit to view each of these “fuels of existence” as “This is mine, this is me, this is the Self”. (You might be thinking, “Why not?” If each of these items are truly yours, then you can control and prevent change.)

With this understanding, revulsion towards these “fuels of existence” arises, followed then by dispassion towards them. One then becomes liberated.

This is really food for thought. What do YOU hold to be your Self? (For me, it’s my sense of will and also my knowledge, which feeds my sense of self.)

MN03: On Being an Heir to the Dhamma, not Material Things

“The real relics of the Buddha are the Dhamma and Vinaya… Not the material things, but the teachings. That is what enlightens beings. That’s what we should really worship here.” – Ajahn Brahm  

Notes of sutta talk recording here. This is one of my favourite suttas from the Majjhima Nikaya, and (in my mind) one of the most important and overlooked teachings in Buddhism these days. In most countries and for most people, Buddhism = large golden temples with large statues, and a lot of effort spent on rituals and material things (e.g. statues and gold leaf).

But the reality is that what will really enlighten isn’t the statue or prayer or gold leaf, but the actual practice of the Eightfold Path. Afterall, everything started not with large golden temples, but with a singular monk who sat under a Bodhi tree, after having some alms food that reinstated his energy, and after having trained his mind to go through the jhanas and to directly experience the Three Knowledges.

And that training requires seclusion, which Ajahn defines as being on the path to being an heir to the Dhamma.

Prima facie, the importance of seclusion appears to directly contradict the view (taken from SN45.2) that admirable friendship is the whole of the Holy Life: I’m aware of Buddhist societies that use this quote to justify the organization of a lot of social activity. As with anything taken out of context, the interpretation of the quote is erroneous, as it is completely taken out of context. In fact, it’s clear from the rest of SN45.2 (beyond the famous quote) that

  1. Admirable friendship is a pre-condition for developing the Eightfold Path;
  2. Each stage of the Eightfold Path  is “is based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release.”

In other words, seclusion is necessary for further development of the path. Sorry, but you can’t party your way to Nibbana… 😉

Timestamp Notes for MN 03 from 2011 rains retreat.

(Note: time-stamp format is mm:ss of the recording)

1:00 The Buddha starting the sutta, on how to be his Heirs in Dhamma and not in material things. This was because the Buddha was very popular, and the requisites (robes etc.) were plentiful for the Sangha.

2:57 The Buddha giving an example of how to be his Heir in Dhamma, and not in material things. Ajahn talks about the repetitiveness of Pali.

8:06 Ajahn on how “hungry and weak” doesn’t mean you’re weak and emaciated from starving, but just slight feeling of hunger. Most important thing is because the Bhikkhu is going against his craving, and having fewness of wishes (“Appichato”, which is the name of an Ajahn).

9:45 Ajahn on how going against indulgence results in a boost of mental energy.

11:20 Question about how the Buddha’s commendation of the monk who goes without the food seems to go against the teaching that some defilements are overcome by using requisites.

12:50 Sariputta’s follow-up to the Buddha’s teaching, implies that the teaching is not entirely clear. In what way do disciples not train in seclusion and train in seclusion?
13:28 Ajahn: The only way is to understand that training in seclusion is being an heir to the Dhamma.

14:23 the 2 types of seclusion: seclusion of the body (kaya-viveka, physical seclusion), which means being alone and not hanging out with each other.
15:20 Seclusion of the mind (citta viveka, mental seclusion), which is defined as jhanas where the mind is secluded from the five senses.
16:20 “The best friend is seclusion.” – Ajahn Brahm

17:53 On training in seclusion. Abandoning what your supposed to abandon, which are:
Craving. Internet. Surfing. Music. Speaking. Talking. Important things to abandon at first.
Sleeping too much.

23:00 On the similarity between how the Sangha treats the seniority of monks with how medieval craftsmen guilds treat their apprentices to master craftsmen.

26:00 On avoiding backsliding and to be comfortable but not luxurious.

29:32 On the problem of greed and hatred.

31:32 How to overcome any type of sensual desire and any type of negativity or fault finding. Best of way to overcome is by the Middle Way.

41:30 On the meaning of Nibbana

42:21 Question on whether everyone will get enlightened

43:30 On the 3 right intentions. 1. Intention of letting go vs intention of attainment. 2. Intentions of Metta, loving kindness. Be kind to one another and to your mind. 3. Intentions of Non violence.

49:00 On problems of the mind & solutions.
A. Anger: it’s overcome not through “venting” but through the eightfold path.
49:40 B. Contempt & insolence. Thinking you are very great compared to the newbies.
50:25 C. Envy. What would you say if someone else is enlightened? 51:30 Opposite of envy, appreciative joy, to celebrate others success.
52:45 D. Avarice, which means collecting things. Story of the giant milo mug.
55:44 E. Deceit & fraud. Ajahn Chah discovering a novice who hid a cake in his ball of rice.
58:12 F. Conceit and arrogance. The three conceits: I am better, I am worse, I am the same.
59:29 G. Vanity & negligence (pamada). Appamada (last words of the Buddha) is the opposite of negligence.

1:00:30 Ajahn talks about how being an heir to the Dhamma is about the actual practice of the eightfold path. Nowadays many Buddhists are heirs of material things, and not the heirs of the Dhamma, with the books (suttas and vinaya) locked up and un-read.

1:02:00  “The real relics of the Buddha are the Dhamma and Vinaya… Not the material things, but the teachings. That is what enlightens beings. That’s what we should really worship here.” – Ajahn Brahm  

1:02:55 According to the Buddha in the Vinaya, if you’re not a streamwinner yet, your consumption of alms-food is like being in debt. On stream winning, you are a rightful heir of the Buddha. On arahantship, you become an owner of the Dhamma.

1:05:09 Ajahn: In 90% of the time (in the suttas), the “middle way” refers to the Eightfold Path between the “self-wearing practice” (or asceticism) and the “pleasure of the five senses practice” (NOT the pleasures of the mind). Middle Way can also be in between eternalism and nihilism.

1:08:00 Also the Middle Way refers to the state between Being and Not Being. You can’t say you’re not, because there’s an arising. You can’t say it is, because after arising it disappears. Ajahn: “a (geometrical) point is there but it has no size. So it’s halfway between being and not being.” It’s not existence but a process. We are a stream, not a thing.

1:10:30 Question about the Christian monks’ surrender who entered Jhanas, and whether they became stream enterers. Ajahn: entering into a jhana, and everything you can recognise as yourself disappears. Some describe it as “pure love”. It would feel like one is enlightened, without a monk like Ajahn to bring them back to earth. What happens if you let go of the perception of the Supreme is that you’ll go deeper: if you stop at just the perception, you’ll not go deeper. Those who stop at entering jhanas won’t be streamenterers, as they’ve not gone far enough to see non-Self.

1:14:22 Question about the fear of non-existence. Ajahn: once you start to get the fear of non-existence, you’re challenging an attachment. “All fear is an attachment. Something you’ve had something for such a long time being taken away from you.” When you get fear on the path, you’re really getting somewhere: an attachment is being loosened.

1:16:00 on dependent origination just being a process that “goes round and round and round” without any peace. “Total restlessness”.

1:16:52 Question about the irritation of life. Ajahn: people react to suffering by craving. But that just creates more suffering. Let go of suffering.

1:19:20 Closing

On the Path: Learning the Buddha’s Words

Or: Why I think the Rains Retreat 2011 talks are awesome sources of Dhamma

One of my favourite sources of the Buddha’s teachings are Ajahn Brahm’s sutta talks during the 2011 Rains Retreat at Bodhinyana Monastery, Serpentine, WA, Australia. These were given in the course of the 3 months Rains Retreat, which is the period when all the monastics aren’t allowed to travel due to tradition.

In this series of talks, Ajahn Brahm read the first 10 suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya (“MN” for short, aka “The Middle Length Discourses”), with the intent of ensuring that all the new monastics and novices have some exposure to the Buddha’s words.

These talks are a wonderful source of Dhamma for a number of reasons:
a. Ajahn Brahm reads through the text, so you don’t need to buy the translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Though you can also find the texts for free here at Sutta Central.

b. Ajahn Brahm often refers to the original Pali, and often explains in detail the meaning of the original phrases, with sufficient context & cross-references from other sources (e.g. the Vinaya).

This is particularly helpful, since the suttas don’t always make a lot of sense by themselves: for example, the very first sutta MN1 ends with the odd phrase “…That is what the Blessed One said. But those bhikkhus did not (emphasis is mine) delight in the Blessed One’s words.” This contrasts with almost every other sutta ending: “…That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.” Ajahn actually explains why the first sutta ending is so odd, and is able to draw from other sources to explain what happened.

c. Last but not least, I find Ajahn’s Pali translations to be fantastic, largely because he has a very different take on the Pali from other Pali scholars that I’ve met. This might be because his exposure to Pali started with the Vinaya (which is much more colloquial than the Suttas’ Pali, based on acquaintances who are much more well-versed in the texts than me). But as a consequence, Ajahn’s translations tend to be much more spot-on: for example, samma samadhi (the 8th factor on the Eightfold Path) is often wrongly translated as Right Concentration. But as most Hindi speakers will recognize, samadhi doesn’t have the connotation of willpower nor of force which “concentration” has. Similarly, the Chinese (正定) isn’t quite the same as concentration, but is more close to Stillness, which is how Ajahn translates samma samadhi.

The biggest issue facing most listeners, though, is that they don’t quite know how to navigate all of Ajahn’s talks: some of the podcasts are 2-3hours long, and there isn’t an index pointing to where one should listen to understand certain key points of the Dhamma.

Hence, what I will do in the coming months is to take notes from these talks, and publish the notes in this blog, so that it’ll be easier for the listener to navigate the podcasts. It’ll hopefully also make it easier for the listener to understand, and at the very least easier to find the relevant parts of the talks. I hope you find this useful too. 🙂

With kindness.

Sense Restraint

Restraint of the five senses is an important part of the Path, and something which I constantly struggle with.

The tendency (which Ajahn Brahm spoke about) is to act like the three monkeys (image courtesy of the Patheos blog)

But in reality, it isn’t about not hearing not seeing and not speaking, but to see , hear and speak about things as they truly are.

It’s fine to see, but to then reflect and to ensure that one’s mind doesn’t grasp, and that there is not craving nor aversion.


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