Chapter 11: Dukkha: Suffering
May blessings be with all patrons. Today is another day that you have come to make merit by making donations, observing precepts and meditating in order to enable security in life through faith and firm belief. Meditation causes merit by enabling us to study about patience and study about our own lives to solve our own problems. Now please pay attention to my sermon on this occasion.
For male and female patrons alike, it is considered supreme merit that you have come to do good things for your own lives so that you do not have to suffer and oppress yourself. Should you want to establish convenience, establish safety in life and belongings, look for mental refuge or make merit, please think of it now.
Take this occasion to make merit by donating. You have gained the first step of merit by leaving your home to come here. It means that you have sacrificed the comfort of home in exchange for merit in order to establish happiness. But do not forget that in order for merit to establish happiness, you have to purify your mind. Make your mind at ease and neutral. You then will be happy.
But if you leave home with displeasure and problems on your mind, if you arrive at the office with problems or if you leave the office to do anything with problems on your mind, then you cannot be happy at all.
Dear brethren, where can we find happiness? You’ve come to the temple, sacrificing your time in exchange for happiness. But you come to meet with suffering here again. There is no end to suffering.
All my dear brethren, the Buddha has clearly explained that once you are born in this world you cannot find happiness. Even if you are born as a billionaire, you still suffer. Suffering can occur while you are having a meal with your family. When we have plenty of money, we face displeasure. When we live from hand to mouth, we also face displeasure. Where can you find any happy person? There is none.
Being born in this world is full of suffering. There is only suffering from the moment you come out of your mother’s womb. There is only suffering while you are in your mother’s womb. If you can remember far back to the time you were curled in your mother’s womb, where can happiness come from? The pregnant mother also suffers. Although she is happy to expect her baby, thinking that she is giving birth to her heir or heiress, she also suffers. When she has fully come to term, there is a question if the delivery will be successful. Does this question pose happiness or suffering? So, if you think carefully, you will see that there is no absolute happiness.
Once the mother has given birth to her baby, she has to be concerned with the baby. She has to suffer from child rearing. If the child is not healthy or troublesome, the mother suffers more.
Brethren! What suffering can be equated to the suffering of the family’s head, an abbot or a king.
The Buddha explained clearly that there is no pure happiness. It is usually mixed with suffering. Once a person is born, there is suffering. When a person is old, there is suffering. When you go to school, there is suffering. When you are ill, there is suffering.
Feelings of suffering occur to everyone. Who can get away from it? Illness and pain always cause suffering.
People suffer unequally. Some suffer more; some, less. Suffering also comes in a different pattern for each person. Some enjoy fashionable society, thinking that is happiness. Some people enjoy drinking as happiness. It is happiness while you are drinking. When you are sober, you will face suffering from over spending.
Dear brethren, where can you find absolute happiness and be carefree? There is only suffering. Take my life for example. When I was young, I did not care to understand if my parents had enough to eat or spend. I only wanted to be full and play all the time. That was a child’s happiness. I was naughty according to a child’s nature and could not see into the future. I could not see my parents’ troubles and suffering.
When parents bring up their children, they want to get their children settled in life. They want to give their children the best of education. This is suffering. Parents suffer when their children do not get a seat in school, even when they try to enroll in more than one. When their children cannot pass the university entrance examination parents also suffer. They cannot be happy at all.
Thus, everybody, even when their children can get a seat in school, parents still worry about their graduation. So, parents suffer. But children never know this. They never know how they will finish their schooling. Parents always feel concern. They cannot be happy. Dear relatives, please consider this point as a rule. Once born, there is only suffering.
So, the Buddha had searched for the method to obtain release from suffering in order to enable the world to get rid of suffering and increase happiness, not to be morose. What would you think about? Set your responsibility aside. Separate form and name and suffering from your mind. So, your mind will not be tarnished. Your mind will be pure. When your mind is good you can attain wisdom. If your mind is tarnished with suffering, the wisdom will vanish.
I leave this to all brethren. I am not sure what people are doing. They keep habouring anger like a giant or demon. They keep fighting against each other all the time. It is a pity, very sorrowful.
This world is very hot for all beings living in it. Some die from earthquakes. Some go bankrupt. Or a storm destroys the whole town.
Yet some places in Thailand are still suvannabhumi (the golden land). It’s the Buddha’s land where people practice the doctrine.
The world nowadays seems as if it has come to its end stage. There are all kinds of homicides and accidents.
Good people who are blessed and fortunate will hide under the shade of large trees. They take advice from seniors and make merit by practicing meditation. Under the umbrella of meditation, there will be security and peace inside. If there is no meditation as a large umbrella, there will be no sense of security and peace inside you at all. There will only be suffering all the way through. Illness is one kind. When suffering occurs they cannot be cured. The only remedy is hiding under the umbrella of meditation.
Male and female patrons who are here today have come with the intention of pilgrimage. But where is the merit? Wisdom tells us that merit is with happiness. Happiness can only occur by purifying your mind until dust cannot settle on your mind in order to tarnish it. Then you will be purely happy. It is all here.
Some people come to meditate and yet chat about the past. It is full of suffering. I would like to ask that of you. Cut off all the problems. This is like a high level donation without paying anything. Donate the displeasure in mind by training your mind to meditate so as to enable wisdom to arise. Wisdom realizes what the body will become. It knows the way to touch the mind, also the way of thinking to solve problems in life.
Meditation is not about closing the eyes and seeing magnificient sights or attaining Nibbana, just like some of you have been doing, where you have seen the Buddha or the Chulamani Pagoda, for example. You should practice until you see yourself and your own emotion. See how you really are. See if you have realized it in your mind.
You have come many times. Yet you still bring suffering in your heart. You can never be happy. You will only have suffering in your house.
You are parents. Are you passing suffering on to your children? Being sinful and passing it on to children to cause them further trouble. It is a pity.
You have been to observe the Eight Precepts in many places. Yet you still drool in sleepiness while sitting and unceasingly offering a donation for the preaching. We do not require your donation for the sermon here. We neither want to solicit donations nor collect your money.
The only thing we want is putting merit into your heart, enabling you to be happy and enjoy family life so that you do not mingle with bad society. This is the important point. Does anyone not understand? Everybody wants happiness, not suffering. Why do you create suffering? If you want convenience, why do you establish obstacles? If you do not want to be in trouble, why do you keep making trouble? No one makes any correction at this point at all.
Practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is solving life’s problems. So, the Buddha taught that it is the only way. He gained experience from this way before us. There is happiness surely, also prosperity along the path.
If you go along the path without any route map, it is like walking blindly. So, you walk to face displeasure, not happiness at all.
We have to look for happiness along the path, which is called vipassana (insight), causing wisdom. That is walking along with righteousness by having mindfulness and clear consciousness. Walk with Right Thought, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. This is called making a correct journey. It is proof of your right to life, proof of your mental foundation and proof of your own right view. This, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is the principle of practicing meditation that the Buddha has given as the doctrine, our inheritance.
Yesterday I spoke with pity. The monks have thrown away our father’s inheritance, i.e. meditation. Scholar and activist monks are not interested in this inheritance. So, they cannot solve problems. They can only create problems among the Sangha, among the citizens, and cause troubles as mentioned.
If any house or any temple has a ladder to heaven or enlightenment and a stairway to human assets, that house is always happy and prosperous. If a village or house has no ladder to human assets, heaven and enlightenment, that village or house will face all kinds of trouble. You have to meditate to know this.
Some people cannot meditate, even though they have come so many times. Yesterday I spoke metaphorically. I taught you to separate form and name. Once you can do it, you will be buoyant.
If you keep suffering in your heart, how can you solve the problem? Are you solving it by going to see a medium or an Arahant in the forest? What can you gain from doing so? You can chase after them until you die from old age and yet, you gain nothing. You have to keep your thought in your heart and be mindful about it. Stupid people like to keep their mind at their mouth. Clever people like to keep their mindfulness in their heart. Practicing meditation requires that you keep your mindfulness in your heart. This is a clever person full of wisdom. When husband and wife are kind to each other, it is like having an abiding friend at home. The couple will never quarrel with each other. This is happiness in the human world.
Clever children do not argue with their parents because their parents have mindfulness in their hearts and always control their own minds. Children take after their parents habit and are full of wisdom. People do not think about this.
Some people come to practice meditation so many times. But they are just so, so. They do not separate suffering from their mind. They do not separate form and name. They continue to keep anger in their heart, complete with vengeance too. You create your own suffering and keep getting yourself into trouble. How can you be happy? If you keep ruin in your house, making ways to the ruin just to be happy in society, how can you be happy?
I ask you to think. Keep your mindfulness in your mind. It will separate form and name for you.
‘Sound’, they scold us. ‘Sound’, they make a sarcastic remark. Set your mindfulness at your ears and realize. When the mindfulness contemplates on ‘sound…sound’, you realize that sound is a kind of form. Scolding sound is also a form. The ear is a form. Realization is the name. You know that they scold you.
Use your mindfulness to observe the sound. Consider whom they have scolded. They have not scolded me. They scolded Mr. A, who is just a convention. Then wisdom arises clearly as to why you take form, name and the Five Aggregates as objects of concentration. If you separate the form away, then you realize that the sound is a combination of form and name.
When your mind realizes that someone has scolded Mr. A., that, according to a convention, my name is Mr. A. Oh! They scolded the convention. So, set your mindfulness at your ears. Then contemplate. Your mindfulness will become clear and wisdom arises.
This is called setting mindfulness at your mind. Where is your mind? It is at the ear because we listen through the ears. So, the ear is form. The talking sound is form. Realization that they scolded is name. If we have mindfulness and contemplate on ‘sound…sound’, it ends. It varies according to its own convention. It rebounds to the speaker who scolded and it will end. Your suffering will be gone.
Is it true that we make the suffering ours? The suffering is alone. It is we who chase after it. Be mindful on the arising, the sustaining and the ceasing. Then the sound drops away. It will not enter our memory. If you come for meditation practice, yet no one contemplates, but collects the scolding noise in your mind instead, if you keep collecting this and that, it is like collecting problems in your mind. It makes you suffer. No one solves the problem here. Doing like this, the more you meditate, the more you suffer.
Some people say, “Luang Poh! I’ve come to meditate and yet I have even more suffering.” That is because you have not come to practice the right way. What kind of meditation is that? You’ve come to meditate in order to see deities, Indra or Chulamanee Pagoda. It’s a different story. If you want those, you don’t have to come to this temple. Recite your magic spell and fly up to Chulamanee Pagoda.
Such attitude creates defilement. It is the cause of self – ruin, unknowingly. People like to donate money as a form of making merit. That is not real merit. Real merit is in your mind. Can you not make your mind happy? Separate suffering from your mind. That is the Five Aggregates, using form and name as objects of concentration. It is called Na-maru-paparicchedan~a-n.a, which is the real solution.
The Buddha clearly explained the logic, that if you want to make merit in order to go to heaven, you have to make it in this envious human world. We have to endure the arising problem. Do not run away from it. You can attain the ‘not running away’ state by contemplation. Face it. Do not run away.
The Buddha explained to Ananda, his royal cousin. “Look, Ananda. Where would you run away from scolding? Is there any place where no body scolds us? People scold us in this town. If we go to another town, they will scold us again. Where would we go?”
“What do we do then?” Venerable Ananda asked.
“We have to solve the problem. Eliminate the problem at its root cause.”
This is very clear. Where can you solve the problem? You always create problems with sufferings all the way through. Why? I can answer why. It is because you cannot separate form and name. You cannot separate satisfaction and displeasure. You feel pain because you cannot separate vedana (feeling).
If you were in my shoes, you must be hospitalized. It has been seven days since I have had a meal. I have to endure and give speeches. Being born as a human being, we have to endure. Living among many people, we have to put up with them. We have to endure painful feeling. Contemplate on ‘aching’. Be mindful.
Since coming into the Uposatha Hall to preside over the monks, I have had a painful stomachache because I have not had any meal for some time. When I took just two spoonfuls of food it resulted in a very painful stomachache which I have even now. If you were in my shoes, you must have been restless. Can I endure it? I have to. How can I do it? Separate it. Separate what is form, name and vedana (feeling), so, you do not cling to the pain.
Can you do this? If you cannot, do not grumble about not getting anything from meditation. You are right. You do not get anything because you do not care to contemplate. You do not set your mindfulness at your mind. If your mind is at the eyes, use your mindfulness to control your eyes. Look in order to gain wisdom. Do not look for trouble. But no one meditates so.
Monks in this temple are the same. They only think of how to get to heaven. All of them want to go to Nibba-na. I said even I, myself, cannot go to heaven or Nibba-na, if the human world is still incomplete. If you do not finish high school, do not expect to go to college, just like you attain the 16th level of n~a-n.a.
I leave this with you. Can you separate it yet? If you can, you do not suffer. Well, you have suffering, too. But you can slice it into parts. You will not bring the whole piece in your mind. You will not bring envy or vengeance into your mind, so as to suffer more.
Most people who come here have family problems because they take family as suffering. When I tell them to come and meditate, they say, “Oh! I can’t possibly.” If you cannot come to solve your own problem, you continue to create more suffering and problems. A person has to fight with a problem by solving it. Do not bring the problem into your mind. It will block your thinking. You cannot order yourself or use yourself to do anything. Then you will always suffer, have no appetite and become sleepless. It will cause you an early death.
Some people go to the hospital for trivial illness. They have no endurance. They do not contemplate on feeling. So, they lose to feeling. This kind of people loses to scolding noises as well. They always lose in every thing. They cannot overcome themselves.
The Buddha taught about practicing mindfulness in order that you overcome yourself. When you can do so, you are certain to be happy. Now you have lost to yourself. With suffering in your mind you lose every game. Overcoming others is not as good as overcoming your self. Your ‘self’ is very important because one is always egoistic as if one is special, able to walk on air. No one thinks of himself as bad. Usually ‘I’ am better than everybody else.
If you can practice the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, you will realize a balance. You will gain wisdom to know that not only are you good but others are also good. Not only are they good but you are also good. So, it comes out that no one in society will undermine the other, insult or dare the other. This is one of the merits accomplished.
Try to do it. For what are you taking suffering into your mind? Can you separate it? No, sir. So, you embrace suffering in mind only to be emaciated. This kind of people age quickly and die young.
It is pitiful. Some people are unfortunate. Think about why you were born. Can you make merit to repay some of your karmic debt? Not only do you not agree to pay, but you also decline all charges. Some people have done wrong for so many existences, but still do not accept that they have. Such people are illogical and without wisdom. They cannot attain the meditative object of concentration. The Five Aggregates, form and name have to be used as objects of concentration. There are body and mind, form and name only.
Develop the mind that arises visually, too. Be responsible visually. That is, look at good things only. As for bad things, contemplate on ‘seeing’ to make it cease. Sight is form. Eye is also form. Mind realizes what sight it is. That is name. Then separate name. Form and eye are different. How can it be the same thing? We take it as one. So, we are angry at it or punish it. Now, how will you get to the 16th level of nana? No one can do such an elementary thing.
I leave this as food for thought. Take form, name and the Five Aggregates as your objects of concentration. Separate form and name from each other. Then you will not keep anger in your mind. You will separate it into parts. What do we mix up them for?
If you are egoistic, do not come to meditate. I can assure you that you cannot do it. You can only have the law of karma with you. You will be sorry later on. It is a pity. You have come to a good thing now. So, you must try to take it with you.
“Where is the good thing, Luang Poh?”
“The Good thing is not with me. It is with you. You do not use your own goodness. You cannot find goodness in yourself. Everybody has good points. But he is not interested in himself.”
Put down your ego. Get rid of your conceit. Discard your previous habit. Meditation practice is there for you to learn your own foundation and turn from bad to good, as well as for becoming prosperous.
There was a Muslim. He came to practice meditation for three to four days. He told me, “Luang Poh, now my trade is growing.” The day before yesterday he presented me 10,000 baht and a Buddha image. That is a Muslim. Congratulations.
A true Buddhist can also be happy and prosperous if he can solve problems by the Four Noble Truths. Once suffering occurs, look for its cause by contemplating on ‘suffering’ in order to know where suffering is. When the mind is concentrated through meditation, wisdom will inform you that suffering occurs at that place. You have to correct it there. Do not solve it at the wrong point by letting the medium or fortune-teller solve it. It is not the right way. We perform the karmic deed. We have to solve it. Not asking anyone else to solve it. I leave it to all patrons. You have to endure.
Some people do not have patience. ‘Aching’. Can you resolve to let it be until death? Arising, existing and ceasing. If you ache even more, you will know where the limit is that you can withstand. If you keep your mindfulness on it, you will realize that it splits into form and name. You will know what is form and what is name. Vedana- (feeling) has to depend on the form to arise. It has san.kha-ra (mental formation) to concoct it. So, it aches all over the body.
Once the mind realizes this, it realizes aniccam. (impermanence), dukkham. (suffering) and anatta- (selflessness). Things are impermanent and suffering. Once you have found the cause of suffering, you realize the selflessness. Everything disappears. Then the Tilakkhan.a is clear in your mind that everything arises, exists and ceases. That is insight meditation. When you have realized this, I can assure you that you will no longer be angry with anyone. You will not blame anyone. You will see the good points of everybody.
As I have said, love a person with 50% of your heart. Leave the remaining 50% for just in case you hate him later. Do not love wholeheartedly. Do not hate wholeheartedly either, just in case you love him again you can look him in the eyes.
Try to know the truth. Some of you do not know the truth and hate the whole family from father to son to grandson. It’s a pity. I feel sorry for you. When you come to practice meditation be serious about it. Make merit in order to be genuinely happy. Do not hate anyone.
This year is the year of the goat, entering into the year of the monkey in a few days time. It is like the world’s ending stage. Hide under the shade of large trees and practice meditation. Under the umbrella of meditation there will always be internal security and peace.
While I am speaking now, I am seriously ill. But I can still deliver a speech. You only feel a bit of stiffness. Can you stand it? I am about to die in this Uposatha Hall. Yet I continue to speak to you. Separate form and feeling. Let it ache on its own for awhile. Leave the pain somewhere else first. Use wisdom to speak to you instead. Now I am feeling very painful. Separate it. If you mix it, taking the fever in your mind, taking displeasure in your mind, how much you will suffer?
If you are husband and wife, yet you keep quarreling, your child cannot be happy. No one thinks about this. I always try to think for you. That is meditation. I leave this with you. When parents love and consult each other, the child is glad and happy. It is like a full moon in a clear sky, shining in the sky and on earth. Parents fight and never agree until old age, the child of that family cannot be happy. It is like a full moon in a clouded sky.
When you work for the government or public enterprise, do not look at others. Look only at the job under your responsibility. Then you will do even better. Do not look at people’s bad points. Look at their good points. No matter how jealous they are of you. It will rebound on them. They create their own problems.
If you set your mind on practicing meditation and contemplate on working, the mind will present wisdom. It will be true to the task, the duty, the speech, the person and the long established merit.
The mind is not in peace for several reasons.
1. You do not have enough. Your mind cannot be in peace.
2. Your mind is oppressed. Your mind cannot be in peace.
2. Your mind is oppressed. I can assure you that you cannot be happy at all, if you have not practiced meditation before. But if you have, you will not be afraid. You will take only what you can get. That is superb. If you do not have enough, I can assure you that you cannot concentrate. You will not be happy. Be mindful at whatever comes your way.
3. Being weak from illness. If you have not practiced, can you continue to be happy in peace?
4. Your internal organs are not functioning properly. I can assure you that you cannot be in peace. There will be something wrong with either this or that. When you are not fit physically, you cannot perform your duty perfectly.
5. Bad surroundings. If a person is distracted by bad surroundings, he cannot be in peace. He is likely to be disturbed by one thing or other.
6. Family problems. If you always have a row in the family, where can you find peace? Thus, you cannot be happy from lack of peace either.
7. Too much free time. A person who does not have anything to do cannot have a peaceful mind. They are bound to think of bad things, not good ones. That causes the mind to be restless. Do not allow too much free time for yourself. You have to be free from defilement, not from duty. Use your job as meditation practice.
8. Being addicted to the path of ruin. You cannot have a peaceful mind.
I would like to inform you that there are true stories, which can be used as supporting evidence that the above points cause a restless mind. So, set your mind on practicing meditation in order to be prosperous later. If you have practiced meditation well enough, you will attain wisdom. You will not yield to anyone who oppresses your mind. You will not be afraid that illness will cause inconvenience because you are always mindful with clear consciousness. Although your internal organs are not functioning properly, you do not worry because you can be mindful and contemplate, as I am doing now. This is because we have practiced before. When the surroundings try to distract you to ruin or hurt your feelings, you will not despair. You can be in peace and practice meditation.
Let the family look for happiness. Husband and wife do not quarrel. Instead, regularly chant and pay homage to the Buddha. Practice meditation and transfer merit to your children and grandchildren, wishing them happiness. This is the right thing.
It is not making merit in order to go to heaven or Nibbana, at the same time drooling in your sleep while listening to a sermon and donating money to the preacher or donating money in kathina or forest robe presenting ceremony. I would like to inform that you do not need to do that at this temple. I want to make merit with you. May you be happy when you return home. I wish you to be richer and have highly educated children. This is worldly happiness.
There is no need to talk about heaven and Nibbana-. If you cannot be happy at the beginning, how can you go to heaven and attain Nibbana-? I leave you this.
However, I would like to apologize for inconveniences. My residence has also been pulled down. The meditation trainees’ terrace will be demolished in order to construct a two-storied building. You will be better served next time. I will try to accommodate patrons with convenience and comfort.
At the same time, set your mind on meditation practice. Do not come heedlessly. You have to contemplate until you return home. You have to practice at home, too. Contemplate on eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, standing, walking, sitting, lying, turning left – right, bending – stretching and leg stretching. Contemplate completely on body, feeling, mind and doctrine.
Be mindful wherever you walk. Be mindful when practice ‘standing’ 5 times so that you know your own mind as well as others. Then you can solve the problem there. Do not solve the problem by going to see a medium or worshipping a ghost. You should worship yourself, that you have good points. Present your good points to others. This is like discarding your bad points and using the good ones. It is a pity. It is a shame if you do not use your own good points, but present your bad points to others instead. It is a real pity. I leave you this.
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