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