Chapter 08: Realizing the Law of Karma through Vedana
(Patron On’s Law of Karma)
…For the practitioners who would like to attain results within 7 days, they have to progress as follows. When the ear hears a sound, there is contact, set the mindfulness at the ear. Set the mind at the contact. The mind has arisen. Disregard the content of the sound, whether it is a scolding voice or a conversation. Contemplate noting ‘sound…sound’, for example.
When mindfulness can control the mind arisen from this contact, which is the ear faculty, and when your mindfulness is good, then morality arises. Good manners arise in your mind. You will be in a good mind. The wisdom will show in your speech. It is a good result that occurs to practitioners only. For those who do not practice, there will be no result at all.
Practitioners have to be mindful toward the contact. Nose for example. When you smell something it does not matter whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. What matters is the mindfulness in controlling the smelling. When the tongue comes into contact with the taste of food, be mindful. I can assure you that if the dhamma practitioner can do this he will obtain results.
For the practitioners who do not contemplate, do not use mindfulness, there will be no practical results. There will only be emptiness without results at all. A person has to have mindfulness at the contact, where we always have to experience. When the tongue comes into contact with sour, sweet, nutty and salty tastes we have to contemplate. When we spoon up our food we have to contemplate. Chew the food finely. Contemplate on swallowing as well. In conclusion, we have to be mindful in every position and contemplate them all.
The movements of bending, stretching or stretching the leg has to be contemplated so that we know how many stages there are in our movements. How many stages are there in the bending movement? How many stages are there in stretching? If you do it slowly, you will see the natural condition. If you do it too quickly, you will not be able to recognize how many stages there are. Dhamma practitioners have to understand this point first. You have to begin here in order to contemplate.
Some people have practiced meditation for years without any results at all. They just waste their time in non-sense. If you practice by contemplating the postures like this, you will be composed and careful in your own duties. There will be a hardworking for yourselves not hardworking outside of your own boundary. You will not go outside of your own boundary to look at other’s duties. A person has to be responsible for himself this way. It is called meditation. Set your mindfulness to control your mind in order to prevent it from flowing downward. You have to resist. Contemplation is unyielding. It is dhamma – the practice part of dhamma. It all boils down to this. If all of you are not interested in this point, it is difficult for me to help.
The person who has practised will display good bodily behavior. These people sit politely and speak politely. There arises the normal, which is sila (morality). So, you gain one point. When you excrete or urinate, you have to contemplate so as to always be mindful. The result will arise through your own wisdom. The bathroom or restroom is a place of practice in mindfulness so that you will not be careless in the bathroom where you may fall down and possibly be paralyze through your own carelessness. The bathroom is slippery because the floor is wet. When we enter we have to contemplate and walk carefully. This is an exercise in mindfulness. It helps our mind to enter the state of being careful. This state can extend to being careful in life. Errors tend to be reduced. Although you still make mistakes, there will be fewer mistakes because you are careful. Your mind will be refined. Everything you do will be done well mannered and with agility. You have a fair mind. This is the meditation activity.
Anyone who can practise until he attains the state of the present, I can assure you, is well mannered physically and verbally. Morality governs the verbal and behavioral expressions of his mind. It is normal. He is also polite in thinking as well. Practitioners do not ignore this point. This is the point of ka-yanupassana- satipattha-na (Corporeal Foundation of Mindfulness).
The practice of Corporeal Foundation of Mindfulness has to be done in all four postures. You can practice in the standing, walking, sitting and standing positions. This is stated clearly as the theory of the Foundations of Mindfulness, which is the only way.
A rash person has neither controlled his mind nor practiced dhamma. His mindfulness is fruitless. A person lacks mindfulness this way. So, contemplation is unyielding, which is dhamma itself. If a person lets everything go according to his impulse, he tends to go for whatever he pleases, but not always correctly. The point is thus.
A dhamma practitioner has to start practising here, from this moment onward. Do not walk hastily. That is walking without mindfulness. Do not do so even when you are in a hurry because the mind is quick. You have to hold it back by using your mindfulness. When you walk to the restroom or refectory, use walking meditation. This is the practicing method for meditators. It is not good to be rash. Bad behaviour will arise physically and verbally.
Practitioners have to look after themselves in this point. No one can practice for someone else. Each has to practice by himself in order to attain results. The important point is being restrained in speech, in mind, in body and in faculty. So, you have to continually contemplate in order to be restrained, not to err and not to be careless. Then there will be food for thought, that is wisdom.
When you do things slowly, as an old saying goes, you will get a beautiful knife. The five sensual objects have to be considered through the six sense-fields. Contemplation on the sensual objects will then be clear. So, you have to practice this point, which is not so difficult. It can be done but we do not practice it, thinking that it’s not dhamma. That is why you have come to practice meditation without results at all, only incurring ill effects.
So, meditation practice always makes us face our own Karma. There are bound to be obstacles. This is normal. When our karma comes to test us, we have to be fearless. Set the mindfulness on it. Be composed and careful. Set your mind straight to the objective in your own mindfulness. This is the result of practice.
If we are in the meditation room and still walk hastily, then we cannot attain results though we do the walking meditation slowly. You have to begin with slowly walking, standing, sitting and lying down. The four postures have to be done slowly inside and outside of the meditation room. There will be no result if you come to chat with each other in the meditation room. If you do so, do not say that you do not get anything from meditation practice. It is because you are not interested to practice that you get nothing to take home. The doctrine is about being unyielding, which is consideration. It teaches us to think with Mindfulness and Clear consciousness. Then we contemplate ‘knowing…’ for example.
Dhamma practitioners have to take this as the starting point. Be mindful in every posture – standing, walking, sitting and lying down. This is very important. The four postures mean thus.
Vedana-nupassana- satipat.t.ha-na has 3 principles, using the four postures. There is vedana- (Feeling) in standing, walking, sitting and even lying down. If you lie down all day and all night, it is useless. You could become physically and mentally ill. This is the meaning of vedana- (Feeling). When we practice ‘standing…’ 5 times, there can be vedana-. When we practise walking and sitting meditation there is vedana-. Lying down without moving, there is normally bound to be vedana-. So, you really have to contemplate the four postures. But in practice, there are 3 principles, i.e., sukhavedana- (pleasant feeling), dukkhavedana- (unpleasant feeling) and upekkha-vedana-(neutral feeling).
Vedana- (feeling) refers to the unbearable or the uncontrollable. It arises when it has to and ceases when it has to. Once it arises, set mindfulness so as to know how feeling is. How strong is it? This is experienceable by practitioners only. We have to know this to be clear. What do you get from practicing superficially? It is not useful at all. You are not able to separate form and name or use the Five Aggregates, form and name as the object of concentration. So, how can you be concentrated enough to use mindfulness and wisdom. There will be no results at all.
According to the Buddha’s teaching, pleasures always mix with displeasures. So, contemplate every posture. Everything has 4 chapters. Some people do not understand what the 4 chapters are because they have not practised. Even if you have practised you still do not know because you are not serious enough. Sometime you just learn the text but do not practice at all. Then how can you know about it? You can only know the text. For that matter, your mind is untrue and goes astray. That is why you are hardworking at things that are not your own duty. But when it comes to your own duty, you are not conscientious at all. There are plenty of people like this around.
Unpleasant feeling and pleasant feeling, both physical and mental, always come and go. They are changeable. In order to be careful about life, you have to contemplate so as to know that it is not true happiness. Sometime there is physical illness or mental dis-ease. Thus, one has to contemplate when being happy or unhappy. Set the mindfulness firmly in the 4 chapters of feeling.
There must be feeling in the four postures. Contemplate either on being sorry or glad so as to know its method. Then we can practice and solve the problem. Vedana- (feeling) enables us to know the Law of Karma very well. We can see our own karma when there is a strong feeling. I leave this to all patrons. Vedana-nupassana- satipat.t.ha-na is the word to remember in advance. It is the secondary step. There must be vedana in every posture. This means that if we are mindful and clearly conscious we have to contemplate. Then vedana- is a secondary or minor issue. The Five Aggregates, form and name become objects of concentration. Vedana- (feeling) can be confined in a separate area.
The word ‘karma’ can be seen clearly in vedana. If you quit after being stiff in sitting or walking, you cannot find the law of karma from your own deeds even if you practice for another ten thousand years. You can never find it no matter what. I leave the expression concerning doctrine here.
Several people have found the law of karma from vedana. The Buddha explained clearly in the Tipitaka about the Eightfold Path.
1. Being able to recollect memory about the previous existences. When the mindfulness is good it can recall the past deeds in life.
2. When vedana- is strong, we realize the law of karma through it. Our previous deeds will recur.
For example, Mr. Chalor had a bursting headache. He took a pill but it could not be cured. So, he endured it, thinking that if he had to die he would let it be. He sat in meditation for 24 hours. Before that, his pain went away when he stopped practicing meditation. When he sat again, it resumed. In his meditation session, he had a bursting headache. Then he recollected the memory about his previous existence that he committed a murder at Erawan Waterfall, Kanchanaburi Province. He was destined to die there. He realized the law of karma, that he had to be murdered there because he committed murder in his previous life. But his headache vanished then. This is how you know the law of karma. How can practicing superficially, like what you are doing, reveal anything? Is it correct to explain other person ’s karma? You have to know your own first.
Vedana- is the knower of life. When you are contemplating the body – standing, walking, sitting, lying down and turning left or right, you will able to recollect your existences. You also recall the events about your parents and never forget about their kindness. This is really the knower. It is the doctrine. When Vedana- arises, you have to contemplate. According to my own observance, even some meditation instructors quit after Vedana- arises. They just contemplate like that. It is a pity that they do not really know. If you do not really know, do not teach others. It is fruitless, not influential.
Take another example. About 30 years ago, in 1953 – 1954 at Wat Promburi, the meditation practitioners had to stay the night in the preaching hall. There was a meditation experience from one patron called Patron On who lived in Ongkarak Village. He has sinced passed away. He was more than 70 years old then. He had a continuous bursting headache whenever he sat. I said, “Patron, keep on contemplating. If you have to die, let it be. So, you can know of your own law of karma.” He had so severe a headache that he felt as if his head was going to split in two pieces. He asked for a pill to take. But it did not go away. When he stopped sitting it was all right. When he resumed sitting meditation it was so painful that tears ran down.
This patron could make it. It burst and he separated the Form, Name and the Five Aggregates as Objects of Concentration. This is how you separate it. It is not that you attend the sermon about the Insight Level Series, yet cannot do the ‘rising…falling’, like what others do. In that case we do not know what Level of Insight we are in. When he felt that his head burst, his mind entered the state of wisdom. He recalled his karma. So, he reported his concentration test, saying, “Luang Poh, I recalled it. Now my headache has vanished.”
“A long time ago I was a pupil at Wat Gao-chang in Promburi District.” In the old days, pupils were educated from the monks until they become adults and were ordained. He was 78 then. He could not remember his own law of karma. When he had a bursting headache, wisdom arose. This is vedana. When the wisdom arises, one has to recollect the previous existence. It is the Law of Karma.
Patron on’s karma was revealed to him thus. At that time there was an opium den next to Wat Toei. They called that area Baan Plu, Baan Sai. People smoked opium a lot. There was an old Chinese man living near the temple. The thief had robbed him of a lot of his belongings. So, he hired a temple boy to shoot the thief, using his gun and a round silver coin as a bullet. About 10 o’clock in the evening, the thief that had robbed the Chinese man was lying smoking opium. At that time the opium den was paneled with rusted zinc plated steel sheets and thatch. The temple boy pointed the gun close to his head andfired. His head burst. He was dead on the spot. Up till then no one knew who the gunman was. The thief was dead and the murderer could not be found.
The dead man was a thief who pilfered until people were fed up with him. A person hired this group of temple boys to shoot him down. They returned the gun to the Chinese man and got paid 12 baht. The temple boys were Patron On and his friends. When he recalled this, he radiated loving-kindness and asked for pardon. His headache vanished. This was obtained from Vedana-…
…It is certain that karma calls for a debt not before long after a person practices meditation. I leave you this. If you quit after experiencing a little Vedana, you cannot know what is the law of karma regarding deeds you have done.
Patron On radiated loving-kindness to ask for pardon. “Do not take the repayment from me. I transfer the merit from meditation to you. Wherever your consciousness is, please acknowledge this transference of merit.”
Because the deceased smoked opium and many people were glad that he was dead, for he could no longer steal, people congratulated the gunman. But it was still a sin. Even if you kill a cat or a dog, or ducks and chickens for a living, it is a sin because you take another’s life. Using another’s life as a stake in trade is a sin. Nothing can prevent this from being a sin. Killing is a sin. Killing mosquitoes, gnats, ants or rats is a sin. None are regarded as not being sinful. I leave this with all of you.
There was once a soldier who used to burn ants. When he came to practice meditation he felt the strings of ants that had come to bite him. He had to contemplate in order to repay his karmic debt. Then he recalled that when he was young he had burned colony after colony of ants. He threw fire into a colony of ants in a mango tree. When the time came, they ‘returned’ to bite him. That was Vedana-. So, he contemplated noting ‘ants biting…ants biting’. When mindfulness is good, wisdom arises. He then recognized that he had been sinful by burning the ants. We know this from meditation.
Some people have practiced medittion for years yet still do not know their own karma. Why? I can answer that. They are not serious in their practice. They do it superficially. When they feel a little stiff or pain, they are selfish and quit. How can they know anything then? They cannot know their karma in the past at all.
Since then, Patron On made more merit, offered more sangha dana and practiced meditation, transferring merit to the deceased he had shot. Karma can be defunct. When the thief received the merit, he could give him pardon and blessing even though we had killed him. This is a very important point. You have to contemplate and use your mindfulness. It is called Vedana-nupassanasatipat.t.ha-na (contemplation on feelings). Vedana- helps us recognize the Law of Karma, thus.
Some people do not know karma at all. They keep adding to it. That is increasing karma and sin in your heart. Such people do not know that they have committed a sin, they have provoked or they have been sarcastic. It has to come from meditation by experiencing strong vedana. When they contemplate and wisdom arises they can know that they have made a sarcastic remark or they have envied, which they should not have. It will become clear in their mind from this contemplation of feelings.
I leave this with meditation practitioners. Do not think that there is no karma. When merit makes something, karma helps adjust it. You always respond to the call of karma. Karma is like a tape recorder, recording everything you have done. When it is switched on, it reveals everything. It is not necessary to repay the karma debt in the next existence. It can be done in this very life. You will see for yourself when the tape recorder is switched on. Everybody has to repay, no matter who he is. This includes monks and clergyman. Even I have to serve my own karma. It cannot be deleted. But the degree can be reduced, from heavy to light or from light it can disappear. This has been attained from vedana-.
But we do not come to practice seriously. We come to laugh and to talk. So we are sinful every day. Quite a waste of your own time!
A person has to look for tranquility. If there is no tranquility, you cannot recall the occurrence. This is the point.
All patrons, I would like to congratulate you for attempting to come every Uposatha day. You have come to practice dhamma impressively. Try to attain valuable benefits. You have to practice. Where is the valuable thing? It’s not with me but with you. Look for it until you find it. Everyone of us has good things and bad things. Whether you find the good or the bad to take back is up to you. Some are immoral and vile. They associate with each other. The kind-hearted and promiscuous cannot associate with each other. Delinquents are within our selves. Do not search others. Do not look at what others do. Sometime our minds are also wicked. There are times when the mind is good and bad. When the mind is good, you are a sage. Your mind is soft, not harsh. When the mind is in peace, performs good deeds with wisdom, that person is a sage. A hotheaded person with confused mind is a delinquent. The practical point is here.
Vedana- can recall the Karma if you practice seriously. If you will die from vedana, let it be. If your head is bursting, let it be. When it occurs, it exists for awhile and ceases. Tilakkhana can be clearly seen. The wisdom automatically informs us what we have done. We could know this in advance, like I had known that I would have a broken neck on the 14th October. I offer sanghadana, transferring merit to my karmic creditors every year, without exemption. My karmic creditors come to call for debts every year, saying, “Your time is up on the 14th October. Are you going?” Thus.
But when we do not have a meritorious mind, we do not know who comes to ask for karma repayment. We just nose for bad action. How can the mind without wisdom know its own law of karma that it has to transfer merit to.
Let the instructor demonstrate how to practice standing meditation, ‘standing…’ 5 times. Practice one by one. Do not just instruct verbally. The trainee may not be able to do it. Some instructors are proficient in practice but cannot teach in correct sequence. All the instructing monks please remember this in order to give the correct instruction. If you cannot pass the primary class, how can you be upgraded to the secondary class? You have to take Form, Name and the Five Aggregates as objects of concentration. If you cannot separate Form and Name, how can I teach you the 16 Insight Levels? Not yet!
Today I have been to the Third Army Division, giving a talk about my life. In a sense, it can be called a series of Insight levels. It is the sequence of knowledge in our wisdom by separating Form, Name and taking the Five Aggregates as objects of concentration. From the first level, one can go up further to the 12th level of Insight automatically. The more you practice, the more you move forward. If you can separate Form and Name, why can’t you separate body and mind or feeling. You have to be able to do this. Once you can separate the feelings, you then know your own law of karma. This is more than enough for a human being.
When your mind is clean and clear, you will know your own law of karma. A good person has to have wisdom for reflecting. He has to know his own law of karma and be afraid of sin. This kind of person will not incite one against another at all.
Instruct the correct method of ‘standing…’ 5 times. Set you mindfulness from the crown of the head down to the navel. Pause for a breath. When you consider ‘…ing’ downward, your mindfulness can immediately follow. Instruct methodically. Stand well restrained from the tip of the tow, then consider ‘stand…’ and pause at the navel. Then set your mindfulness again. It is like we ’re pushing something. When you push it to the end of your stretch, you have to set your position in order to gain strength to push it again. Take a breath then consider ‘…ing’ up to the crown of the head. Do this 5 times. Then open your eyes to practice walking meditation. Please demonstrate and orientate each trainee so everyone can attain it. Do not just talk about it. That is not useful. I leave you this.
One of the goals is ‘rising…falling’. Some cannot do it at all, even though they have come many times. When I ask how do you do ‘rising and falling’, show me. They cannot do it. It is a real pity. Take a long breath ‘ris…’. Then ‘…ing’ according to the rhythm. When you inhale and exhale long, your belly will rise up and fall like a balloon. Let the air out of the balloon. It goes flat. Let the air in. It expands. Do it according to the rhythm. Consider it so that you know that it rises or falls. Do not just say the word without realizing. That is useless. You cannot attain anything even if you practice for another 100 years. It is all here. Practitioners please remember this. You can reconfirm it with your instructors or feel it with your hand. Alternatively, you can feel the rising and falling clearly in the lying posture.
You have to practice the four postures equally – standing, walking, sitting and lying down. Consider the posture while lying down, not sleeping or lying down chatting with each other. It will not work. When you chat with each other, you always collect sin. It does not do you any good. Eat little, sleep little, talk little and practice a lot. Do not look at this resident or that. Do not wander around to peep into other’s residents. Please observe this rule. Do not walk idly around to this and that room. You have to practice and be restrained. Everyone staying in the temple has to observe this. You have to be under the admonition of the Institute, the instructors and the administrators. It is more convenient to serve you then.
Meditation practice boils down to standing, walking, sitting and lying down. It boils down to element, sense- faculties and sense-bases. In conclusion, there is only one – Body and Mind, Form and Name. That is all there is. You have to manage it.
If you can separate Form and Name, it is more than enough. Other Insight levels will follow. This points is important. Sometime there is no need to say that you practice the 6th stage of walking meditation. Just practice ‘left move thus…right move thus’ all the time. Later, you will realize more details in each step. For the refined mind, it will realize more refined movement automatically. All righteous people please remember this point.
Some people attain results while practicing walking meditation. Some attain them while lying down. If you cannot sit, do not. Lie down and consider ‘rising…falling’. Can you practise while lying down? Yes, perhaps you can attain results while lying down.
Let me tell you which arahant attained enlightenment while lying down. He could not attain it while practicing walking meditation or sitting meditation all day and all night. When he relaxed his body, observing the Middle Path, he leaned down and attained arahathood at that moment. He was Ananda, the Buddha’ s cousin.
Why had he not attained enlightenment before then? It was because he was busy serving the Buddha, following him, attending to his guests and serve him. He had no time to practice meditation seriously like others. But he was a walking doctrine cupboard. When the monks organized the first convocation of the Sangha in order to settle questions of doctrine and fix the text of the scriptures, they had to wait for Ananda. Although he remembered the doctrine, he could not participate since he was not an arahant.
Venerable Ananda realized this. After the Great Decease of the Buddha, Venerable Ananda had nothing much to do. So he concentrated on practicing meditation seriously. He had practiced for 24 hours, all day and all night without any sleep. Yet he could not attain anything. He attained it while lying down, considering ‘lying’. His mindfulness entered the subliminal consciousness. Wisdom arose. He attained arahatship while lying down.
I would like to congratulate you on the merit made among this congregation. If you want to know your law of karma, practice. When you have vedana (feelings), contemplate. Then you will know what karma you have done. If you want to have wisdom, restrain your mind deeply and try, then effort will arise.
May all the blessings be with dhamma searchers and meditation practitioners who have developed meritorious minds. May your lives be aglow with wisdom. May you be able to solve problems as you wish. May you prosper with long life, fair complexion, happiness, strength, with wit, monetary reward and valuable assets. May all your wishes come true as everyone of you wishes.
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