Hand book for Mankind 4 5

Hand book for Mankind (4)
THE TRUE NATURE OF THINGS The word “religion” has a broader meaning
than the word “morality.” Morality has to do with behavior and happiness,
and is basically the same the world over. A religion is a system of practice of a high
order. The ways of practice advocated by the various
religions differ greatly. Morality made us good people, behaving in
accordance with the general principles of community life and in such a way as to cause
no distress to ourselves or others. But though a person may be thoroughly moral,
he may still be far from free of the suffering attendant on birth, ageing, pain and death,
still not free from oppression by the mental defilements. Morality stops well short of the elimination
of craving, aversion and delusion, so cannot do away with suffering. Religion, particularly Buddhism, goes much
further than this. It aims directly at the complete elimination
of the defilements, that is, it aims at extinguishing the various kinds of suffering attendant on
birth, ageing, pain and death. This indicates how religion differs from mere
morality, and how much further Buddhism goes than the moral systems of the world in general. Having understood this, we can now turn our
attention to Buddhism itself. Buddhism is a system designed to bring a technical
knowledge inseparable from its technique of practice, an organized practical understanding
of the true nature of things or what is what. If you keep this definition in mind, you should
have no difficulty understanding Buddhism. Examine yourself and see whether or not you
know what is what. Even if you know what you are yourself, what
life is, what work, duty, livelihood, money, possessions, honour and fame are, would you
dare to claim that you know everything? If we really knew what is what, we would never
act inappropriately; and if we always acted appropriately, it is a certainty that we would
never be subject to suffering. As it is, we are ignorant of the true nature
of things, so we behave more or less inappropriately, and suffering results accordingly. Buddhist practice is designed to teach us
how things really are. To know this in all clarity is to attain the
Fruit of the Path, perhaps even the final Fruit, Nirvana, because this very knowledge
is what destroys the defilements. When we come to know what is what, or the
true nature of things, disenchantment with things takes the place of fascination, and
deliverance from suffering comes about automatically. At the moment, we are practising at a stage
where we still do not know what things are really like, in particular, at the stage of
not yet realizing that all things are impermanent and not selves. We don’t as yet realize that life, all the
things that we become infatuated with, like, desire and rejoice over, is impermanent, unsatisfactory
and not self. It is for this reason that we become infatuated
with those things, liking them, desiring them, rejoicing over them, grasping at them and
clinging to them. When, by following the Buddhist method, we
come to know things aright, to see clearly that they are all impermanent, unsatisfactory
and not selves, that there is really nothing about things
that might make it worth attaching our selves to them, then there will immediately come
about a slipping free from the controlling power of those things. Essentially the Buddha’s teaching as we have
it in the Tipitaka is nothing but the knowledge of what is what or the true nature of things–just
that. Do keep to this definition. It is an adequate one and it is well to bear
it in mind while one is in the course of practising We shall now demonstrate the validity of this
definition by considering as an example the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth, which points out that
all things are suffering, tells us precisely what things are like. But we fail to realize that all things are
a source of suffering and so we desire those things. If we recognized them as a source of suffering,
not worth desiring, not worth grasping at and clinging to, not worth attaching ourselves
to, we would be sure not to desire them. The Second Noble Truth points out that desire
is the cause of suffering. People still don’t know, don’t see, don’t
understand, that desires are the cause of suffering. They all desire this, that and the other,
simply because they don’t understand the nature of desire. The Third Noble Truth points out that deliverance,
freedom from suffering, Nirvana, consists in the complete extinguishing of desire. People don’t realize at all that nirvana is
something that may be attained at any time or place, that it can be arrived at just as
soon as desire has been completely extinguished. So, not knowing the facts of life, people
are not interested in extinguishing desire. They are not interested in nirvana because
they don’t know what it is. The Fourth Noble Truth is called the Path
and constitutes the method for extinguishing desire. No one understands it as a method for extinguishing
desire. No one is interested in the desire extinguishing
Noble Eightfold Path. People don’t recognize it as their very point
of support, their foothold, something which they ought to be most actively reinforcing. They are not interested in the Buddha’s Noble
Path, which happens to be the most excellent and precious things in the entire mass of
human knowledge, in this world or any other. This is a most horrifying piece of ignorance. We can see, then, that the Four Noble Truths
are information telling us clearly just what is what. We are told that if we play with desire, it
will give rise to suffering, and yet we insist on playing with it until we are brim full
of suffering. This is foolishness. Not really knowing what is what or the true
nature of things, we act in every way inappropriately. Our actions are appropriate all too rarely. They are usually “appropriate” only in terms
of the values of people subject to craving, who would say that if one gets what one wants,
the action must have been justified. But spiritually speaking, that action is unjustifiable. Now we shall have a look at a stanza from
the texts which sums up the essence of Buddhism, namely the words spoken by the bhikkhu Assaji
when he met Sariputta before the latter’s ordination. Sariputta asked to be told the essence of
Buddhism in as few words as possible. Assaji answered: “All phenomena that arise
do so as a result of causes. The Perfected One has shown what the causes
are, and also how all phenomena may be brought to an end by eliminating those causes. This is what the Great Master teaches.” He said in effect: Every thing has causes
that combine to produce it. It cannot be eliminated unless those causes
have been eliminated first. This is a word of guidance warning us not
to regard anything as a permanent self. There is nothing permanent. There are only effects arising out of causes,
developing by virtue of causes, and due to cease with the cessation of those causes. All phenomena are merely products of causes. The world is just a perpetual flux of natural
forces incessantly interacting and changing. Buddhism points out to us that all things
are devoid of any self entity. They are just a perpetual flux of change,
which is inherently unsatisfactory because of the lack of freedom, the subjection to
causality. This unsatisfactoriness will be brought to
an end as soon as the process stops; and the process will stop as soon as the causes
are eliminated so that there is no more interacting. This is a most profound account of “what is
what” or the nature of things, such as only an enlightened individual could give. It is the heart of Buddhism. It tells us that all things are just appearances
and that we should not be fooled into liking or disliking them. Rendering the mind truly free involves escaping
completely from the causal chain by utterly eliminating the causes. In this way, the unsatisfactory condition
which results from liking and disliking will be brought to an end. Let us now examine the Buddha’s intention
in becoming an ascetic. What motivated him to become a bhikkhu? This is clearly indicated in one of his discourses,
in which he says that he left home and became a bhikkhu in order to answer the question:
“What is the Good?” The word “good”(Kusala), as used here by the
Buddha, refers to skilfulness, to absolutely right knowledge. He wanted to know in particular what is suffering,
what is the cause of suffering, what is freedom from suffering, and what is the method that
will lead to freedom from suffering. To attain perfect and right knowledge is the
ultimate in skill. The aim of Buddhism is nothing other this
perfection of knowledge of what is what or the true nature of things. Another important Buddhist teaching is that
of the Three Characteristics, namely impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness or suffering
(dukkha) and non – selfhood (anatta). Not to know this teaching is not to know Buddhism. It points out to us that all things are impermanent
(anicca), all things are unsatisfactory(dukkha), and all things are not selves (anatta). In saying that all things are impermanent
we mean that things change perpetually, there being no entity or self remains unchanged
for even an instant. That all things are unsatisfactory means that
all things have inherent in them the property of conducing to suffering and torment. They are inherently unlikable and disenchanting. That they are not selves is to say that in
no thing whatsoever is there any entity which we might have a right to regard as its “self”
or to call “mine.” If we grasp at things and cling to things,
the result is bound to be suffering. Things are more dangerous than fire because
we can at least see a fire blazing away and so don’t go too close to it, whereas all things
are a fire we can’t see. Consequently we go about voluntarily picking
up handfuls of fire which is invariably painful. This teaching tells us what things are like
in terms of the Three Characteristics. Clearly Buddhism is simply an organized practical
system designed to show what is what. We have seen that we have to know the nature
of things. We also have to know how to practice in order
to fit in with the nature of things. There is another teaching in the texts, known
as the Chief of all Teachings. It consists of three brief points:
“Avoid evil, do good, purify the mind!” This is the principle of the practice. Knowing all things as impermanent, worthless
and not our property, and so not worth clinging to, not worth becoming infatuated with, we
have to act appropriately and cautiously with respect to them,
and that is to avoid evil. It implies not to break with accepted moral
standards and to give up excessive craving and attachment. On the other hand, one is to do good, good
as has come to be understood by wise people. These two are simply stages in morality. The third, which tells us to make the mind
completely pure of every kind of contaminating element, is straight Buddhism. It tells us to make the mind free. As long as the mind is not yet free from domination
by things, it cannot be a clean, pure mind. Mental freedom must come from the most profound
knowledge of the what is what. As long as one lacks this knowledge, one is
bound to go on mindlessly liking or disliking things in one way or another. As long as one cannot remain unmoved by things,
one can hardly be called free. Basically we human beings are subject to just
two kinds of emotional states: liking and disliking (which correspond to pleasant and
unpleasant mental feeling). We fall slaves to our moods and have no real
freedom simply because we don’t know the true nature of moods or what is what. Liking has the characteristic of seizing on
things and taking them over; disliking has the characteristic of pushing
things away and getting rid of them. As long as these two kinds of emotional states
exist, the mind is not yet free. As long as it is still carelessly liking and
disliking this, that the other, there is no way it can be purified and freed from the
tyranny of things. For this very reason, this highest teaching
of Buddhism condemns grasping and clinging to things attractive and repulsive, ultimately
condemning even attachment good and evil. When the mind has been purified of these two
emotional reactions, it will become independent of things. Other religions would have us simply avoid
evil and grasp at goodness. They have us grasp at and become attached
to goodness, even including the epitome of goodness, namely God. Buddhism goes much further, condemning attachment
to anything at all. This attachment to goodness is right practice
at the intermediate level, but it just can’t take us to the high level
no matter what we do. At the lowest level we avoid evil, at the
intermediate level we do our utmost to do good, while at the highest level we make the
mind float high above the domination of both good and evil. The condition of attachment to the fruits
of goodness is not yet complete liberation from suffering,
because, while an evil person suffers in a way befitting evil persons, a good person
suffers also, in a way befitting good persons. Being good, one experiences the kind of suffering
appropriate to good human beings. A good celestial being experiences the suffering
appropriate to celestial beings, and even a god or Brahma experiences the suffering
appropriate to gods. But complete freedom from all suffering will
come only when one has broken free and transcended even that which we call goodness to become
an Aryian, one who has transcended the worldly condition,
and ultimately to become a fully perfected individual, an Arahant. Now as we have seen, Buddhism is the teaching
of the Buddha, the Enlightened One, and a Buddhist is one who practices according to
the teaching of the Enlightened One. With regard to what was he enlightened? He simply knew the nature of all things. Buddhism, then, is the teaching that tells
us the truth about what things are really like or what is what. It is up to us to practice until we have come
to know that truth for ourselves. We may be sure that once that perfect knowledge
has been attained, craving will be completely destroyed by it, because ignorance will cease
to be in the very same moment that knowledge arises. Every aspect of Buddhist practice is designed
to bring knowledge. Your whole purpose in setting your mind on
the way of practice that will penetrate to Buddha-Dhamma is simply to gain knowledge. Only, do let it be right knowledge, knowledge
attained through clear insight, not worldly knowledge, partial knowledge, halfway knowledge,
which for example clumsily mistakes bad for good,
and a source of suffering for a source of happiness. Do try your utmost to look at things in terms
of suffering, and so come to know, gradually, step by step. Knowledge so gained will be Buddhist knowledge
based on sound Buddhist principles. Studying by this method, even a woodcutter
without book learning will be able to penetrate to the essence of Buddhism,
while a religious scholar with several degrees, who is completely absorbed in studying the
Tipitaka but doesn’t look at things from this point of view, may not penetrate the teaching
at all. Those of us who have some intelligence should
be capable of investigating and examining things and coming to know their true nature. Each thing we come across we must study,
in order to understand clearly its true nature. And we must understand the nature and the
source of the suffering which produces, and which sets us alight and scorches us. To establish mindfulness, to watch and wait,
to examine in the manner described the suffering that comes to one– this is very best way
to penetrate to Buddha-Dhamma. It is infinitely better than learning it from
the Tipitaka. Busily studying Dhamma in the Tipitaka from
the linguistic or literary viewpoint is no way to come to know the true nature of things. Of course the Tipitaka is full of explanations
as to the nature of things; but the trouble is that people listen to it
in the manner of parrots or talking myna birds, repeating later what they have been able to
memorize. They themselves are incapable of penetrating
to the true nature of things. If instead they would do some introspection
and discover for themselves the facts of mental life,
find out firsthand the properties of the mental defilements, of suffering, of nature, in other
words of all the things in which they are involved,
they would then be able to penetrate to the real Buddha- Dhamma. Though a person may never have seen or even
heard of the Tipitaka, if he carries out detailed investigation every
time suffering arises and scorches his mind he can be said to be studying the Tipitaka
directly, and far more correctly than people actually
in the process of reading it. These may be just caressing the books of the
Tipitaka everyday without having any knowledge of the immortal Dhamma, the teaching contained
within them. Likewise, we have ourselves, we make use of
ourselves, we train ourselves, and we do things connected with ourselves every day,
without knowing anything about ourselves, without being able to handle adequately problems
concerning ourselves. We are still very definitely subject to suffering,
and craving is still present to produce more and more suffering every day as we grow older,
all simply because we don’t know ourselves. We still don’t know the mental life we live. To get to know the Tipitaka and the profound
things hidden within it is most difficult. Let us rather set about studying Buddha-Dhamma
by getting to know our own true nature. Let us get to know all the things which make
up this very body and mind. Let us learn from this life:
life which is spinning on in the cycle of desiring, acting on the desires, and reaping
the results of the action, which then nourish the will to desire again, and so on, over
and over incessantly; life which is obliged to go spinning on in
the circle of samsara, that sea of suffering, purely and simply because of ignorance as
to the true nature of things or what is what. Summing up, Buddhism is an organized practical
system designed to reveal to us the “what is what.” Once we have seen things as they really are,
we no longer need anyone to teach or guide us. We can carry on practising by ourselves. One progresses along the Aryian Path just
as rapidly as one eliminates the defilements and gives up inappropriate action. Ultimately one will attain to the best thing
possible for a human being, what we call the Fruit of the Path, Nirvana. This one can do by oneself simply by means
of coming to know the ultimate sense of the “what is what.” Hand book for Mankind (5)
THREE UNIVERSAL CHARACTERISTICS We shall now discuss in detail the three characteristics
common to all things, namely impermanence, unsatisfactoriness (suffering) and non-selfhood. All things whatsoever have the property of
changing incessantly; they are unstable. All things whatsoever have the characteristic
of unsatisfactoriness; seeing them evokes disillusionment and disenchantment
in anyone having clear insight into their nature. Nothing whatsoever is such that we are justified
in regarding it as “mine.” To our normally imperfect vision, things appear
as selves; but as soon as our vision becomes clear, unobscured
and accurate, we realize that there is no self-entity present in any of them. These three characteristics were the aspect
of the teaching which the Buddha stressed more than any other. The entire teaching when summed up amounts
simply to insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-selfhood. Sometimes they are mentioned explicitly, sometimes
they are expressed in other terms, but fundamentally they aim at demonstrating the same single
truth. The impermanence of all things had been taught
before the time of the Buddha, but it had not been expounded as profoundly
as it was by the Buddha. Unsatisfactoriness, likewise, had been taught
but not in its full depth. It had not been treated from the point of
view of causation, and no directions had been given as to how it could be thoroughly and
completely done away with. Earlier teachers had not understood its true
nature as did the Buddha in his enlightenment. As for non-selfhood in the ultimate sense,
this is taught only in Buddhism This doctrine tells us that a person who has complete understanding
of the “what is what” or the nature of things will know that nothing
whatsoever is a self or belongs to a self. This was taught only by the Buddha,
who truly had a complete and thorough understanding of the “what is what”
or the true nature of things. The ways of practice designed to bring about
insight in these three characteristics are numerous;
but one single noteworthy fact is bound to be revealed once that perfect insight has
been attained, namely the fact that nothing is worth grasping at or clinging to. There is nothing that we should want to get,
to have, to be. In short: nothing is worth getting; nothing
is worth being. Only when one has come to perceive that having
anything or being anything is a delusion, a deception, a mirage, and that nothing at
all is worth getting or worth being, has one achieved true insight into impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and non-selfhood. A man may have been reciting the formula:
“anicca, dukkha, anatta” morning and evening hundreds and thousands of times and yet not
be able to perceive these characteristics. It is just not in their nature to be perceptible
through hearing or reciting. Now intuitive insight, or what we call “seeing
Dhamma,” is not by any means the same thing as rational thinking. One will never come to see Dhamma by means
of rational thinking. Intuitive insight can be gained only by means
of a true inner realization. For instance, suppose we are examining a situation
where we had thoughtlessly become quite wrapped up in something which later caused us suffering. If, on looking closely at the actual course
of events, we become genuinely fed up, disillusioned and disenchanted with that thing, we can be
said to have seen Dhamma, or to have gained clear insight. This clear insight may develop in time until
it is perfected, and has the power to bring liberation from all things. If a person recites aloud:
“anicca, dukkha, anatta” or examines these characteristics day and night without ever
becoming disenchanted with things, without ever losing the desire to get things
or to be something, or the desire to cling to things, that person has not yet attained
to insight. In short, then, insight into impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and non-selfhood amounts to realizing that nothing is worth getting
or worth being. There is a word in Buddhism that covers this
completely, the word sunnata, or emptiness, emptiness of selfhood, emptiness of any essence
that we might have a right to cling to with all our might as being “mine.” Observation, which leads to the insight that
all things are devoid of any essence that is worth clinging to is the real core of the
religion. It is the key to Buddhist practice. When we have come to know clearly that everything
of every kind is devoid of selfhood we can be said to know Buddha-Dhamma in its entirety. The single phrase “empty of self” sums up
the words “impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and not self (anatta).” When something is perpetually changing, devoid
of any permanent unchanging element, it can also be said to be empty. When it is seen to be overflowing with the
property of inducing disillusionment, it can be described as empty of any entity that we
might have a right to cling to. And when we discover on examination that it
possesses no stable component whatever that could be “self,” that it is simply nature,
changing and fluctuating in accordance with the laws of nature, which we have no right
to call a self, then it can be described as empty of self. As soon as any individual has come to perceive
the emptiness of things, there arises in him the realization that it is not worth getting
or being any of those things. This feeling of not desiring to get or to
be has the power to protect one from falling slave, to the defilements or to any kind of
emotional involvement. Once an individual has attained this condition,
he is thenceforth incapable of any unwholesome state of mind. He does become carried away by or involved
in anything. He does not become in any way attracted or
seduced by anything. His mind knows permanent liberty and independence,
and is free from suffering. The statement “Nothing is worth getting or
being” is to be understood in a rather special sense. The words “get” and “be” refer here to getting
and being with a deluded mind, with a mind that grasps and clings wholly and entirely. It is not suggested that one could live without
having or being an thing at all. Normally there are certain things one can’t
do without. One needs property, children, wife, garden,
field and so on. One is to be good, one can’t help being a
winner or a loser, or having some status or other. One can’t help being something or other. Why then are we taught to regard things as
not worth getting or being? The answer is this: the concepts of getting
and being are purely relative; they are worldly ideas based on ignorance. Speaking in terms of pure reality, or absolute
truth, we cannot get or be anything at all. And why? Simply because both the person who is to do
the getting and the thing that is to be got are impermanent, unsatisfactory (suffering)
and nobody’s property. But an individual who doesn’t perceive this
will naturally think “I am getting…, I have…, I am….” We automatically think in these terms, and
it is this very concept of getting and being that is the source of distress and misery. Getting and being represent a form of desire,
namely the desire not to let the thing that one is in the process of getting or being
disappear or slip away. Suffering arises from desire to have and desire
to be, in short, from desire; and desire arises from failure to realize that all things are
inherently undesirable. The false idea that things are desirable is
present as an instinct right from babyhood and is the cause of desire. Consequent on the desire there come about
results of one sort or another, which may or may not accord with the desire. If the desired result is obtained, there will
arise a still greater desire. If the desired result is not obtained,
there is bound to follow a struggling and striving until one way or another it is obtained. Keeping this up results in the vicious circle:
action (karma), result, action, result, which is known as the Wheel of Samsara. Now this word samsara is not to be taken as
referring to an endless cycle of one physical existence after another. In point of fact it refers to a vicious circle
of three events: desire; action in keeping with the desire; effect resulting from that
action; inability to stop desiring, having to desire
once more; action; once again another effect; further augmenting of desire … and so on
endlessly. Buddha called this the “Wheel” of samsara
because it is endless cycling on, a rolling on. It is because of this very circle that we
are obliged to endure suffering and torment. To succeed in breaking loose from this vicious
circle is to attain freedom from all forms of suffering, in other words Nirvana. Regardless of whether a person is a pauper
or a millionaire, a king or an emperor, a celestial being or a god, or anything at all,
as long as he is caught up in this vicious circle,
he is obliged to experience suffering and torment of one kind or another, in keeping
with his desire. We can say then that this wheel of samsara
is well and truly overloaded with suffering. For the rectifying of this situation morality
is quite inadequate. To resolve the problem we have to depend on
the highest principles of Dhamma. We have seen that suffering has its origins
in desire, which is just what the Buddha set out in the Second Noble Truth. Now there are three kinds of desire. The first kind is sensual desire, desiring
and finding pleasure in things: in shapes and colors, sounds, scents, tastes, or tactile
objects. The second kind is desire for becoming, desire
to be this or that according to what one wants. The third kind is desire not to become, desire
not to be this or that. That there are just these three kinds of desire
is an absolute rule. Anyone is defied to challenge this rule and
demonstrate the existence of a kind of desire other than these three. Anyone can observe that wherever there is
desire, there distress is too; and when we are forced to act on a desire,
we are bound to suffer again in accordance with the action. Having got the result, we are unable to put
an end to our desire, so we carry right on desiring. The reason we are obliged to continue experiencing
distress is that we are not yet free from desire, but are still slaves to it. Thus it can be said that an evil man does
evil because he desires to do evil, and experiences the kind of suffering appropriate to the nature
of an evil man; and that a good man desires to do good, and
so is bound to experience another kind of suffering, a kind appropriate to the nature
of a good man. But don’t understand this as teaching us to
give up doing good. It is simply teaching us to realize that there
exist degrees of suffering so fine that the average man cannot detect them. We have to act on the Buddha’s advice: if
we are to break free from suffering completely, simply doing good is not sufficient. It is necessary to do things beyond and above
the doing of good, things that will serve to free the mind from the condition of serfdom
and slavery to desire of any kind. This is the quintessence of the Buddha’s teaching. It cannot be bettered or equalled by any other
religion in the world, so ought to be carefully remembered. To succeed in overcoming these three forms
of desire is to attain complete liberation from suffering. How can we eliminate desire, extinguish it,
cut it out at its roots and put an end to it for good? The answer to this is simply: observe and
take note of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness (suffering) and non-selfhood until we come
to see that there is nothing worth desiring. What is there worth getting or being? What is there such that when a person has
got it or becomes it, it fails to give rise to some kind of suffering? Ask yourself this question: What is there
that you can get or be that will not bring distress and anxiety? Think it over. Does having a wife and children lead to lightheartedness
and freedom or does it bring all sorts of responsibilities? Is the gaining of high position and title
the gaining of peace and calm or the gaining of heavy obligations? Looking at things in this way, we readily
see that these things always bring only burden and responsibility. And why? Everything whatsoever is a burden simply by
virtue of its characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non selfhood. Having got something, we have to see to it
that it stays with us, is as we wish it to be, or is of benefit to us. But that thing is by nature impermanent unsatisfactory
and nobody’s property. It cannot conform to the aims and objectives
of anyone. It will only change as is its nature. All our efforts, then, are an attempt to oppose
and withstand the law of change; and life, as an attempt to make things conform
to our wishes, is fraught with difficulty suffering. There exists a technique for coming to realize
that nothing at all is worth getting or being. It consists in examining things deeply enough
to discover that in the presence of craving one has feelings of a certain kind towards
getting and being; that when desire has given way completely
to insight into the true nature of things, one’s attitude towards getting and being is
rather different. As an easy example let us consider eating. One man’s eating accompanied by craving and
desire for delicious tastes must have certain features that distinguish it from another
man’s eating, which is accompanied not by desire,
but by clear comprehension, or insight into the true nature of things. Their eating manners must differ, their feelings
while eating must differ, and so must the results arising from their eating. Now what we have to realize is that one can
still eat food even though one lacks all craving for delicious tastes. The Buddha and Arahants, individuals devoid
of craving, were still able to do things and be things. They were still able to do work, far more
in fact than any of us can with all our desires. What was the power by virtue of which they
did it? What corresponded to the power of craving,
of desiring to be this or that, by virtue of which we do things? The answer is that they did it by the power
of insight, clear and thorough knowledge of what is what or the true nature of things. We by contrast are motivated by desire, with
the result that we are, unlike them, continually subject to suffering. They did not desire to get or possess anything,
and as a result others were benefited thanks to their benevolence. Their wisdom told them to make it known rather
than remain indifferent, and so they were able to pass the teaching on to us. Freedom from craving brings many incidental
benefits. A body and mind freed from craving can look
for and partake of food motivated by intelligent discrimination and not, as before, by desire. If we wish to break free from suffering, following
the footsteps of the Buddha and the arahants, then we must train ourselves to act with discrimination
rather than with craving. If you are a student, then learn how to distinguish
right from wrong, good from bad, and verify that studying is the very best thing for you
to be doing. If you have a job of some kind, then learn
how to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, and satisfy yourself that that job
is the best thing for you to be doing, and of benefit to all concerned. Then do it well, and with all the coolness
and equanimity your insight provides. If, in doing something, we are motivated by
desire, then we worry while doing it and we worry when we have finished;
but if we do it with the guiding power of discrimination, we shall not be worried at
all. This is the difference it makes. It is essential, then, that we be always aware
that, in reality all things are impermanent, unsatisfactory and not selves,
that is, that they are not worth getting or being. If we are to become involved in them, then
let us do so with discrimination and our actions will not be contaminated with desire. If we act wisely, we shall be free of suffering
right from beginning to end. The mind will not blindly grasp at and cling
to things as worth getting and being. We shall be sure to act with wakefulness,
and be able to proceed in accordance with tradition and custom, or in accordance with
the law. For example, though we may own land and property,
we need not necessarily have any greedy feelings about them. We need not cling to things to the extent
that they become a burden, weighing down and tormenting the mind. The law is bound to see to it that our piece
of land remains in our possession. We don’t need to suffer worry and anxiety
about it. It isn’t going to slip through our fingers
and disappear. Even if someone comes along and snatches it
from us, we can surely still resist and protect it intelligently. We can resist without becoming angry, without
letting ourselves become heated with the flame of hatred. We can depend on the law and do our resisting
without any need to experience suffering. Certainly we ought to watch over our property;
but if it should in fact slip out of our grip, then becoming emotional about it won’t help
matters at all. All things are impermanent, perpetually changing. Realizing this, we need not become upset about
anything. “Being” is the same. There is no need to cling to one’s state of
being this or that, because in reality there is no satisfactory condition at all. All conditions bring about suffering of one
kind or another. There is a very simple technique, which we
must have a look at later, known as vipassana, the direct practice of Dhamma. It consists of close introspection, which
reveals that there is nothing worth being, or that there is really no satisfactory state
of being at all. Have a look at this question yourself; see
if you can discover any satisfactory condition or state of being. Being a son? a parent? husband? wife? master? servant? Is any of these agreeable? Even being the man with the advantage, the
one with the upper hand, the winner -is that agreeable? Is the condition of a human being agreeable? Even the condition of a celestial being or
a god–would that be agreeable? When you have really come to know the what
is what, you find that nothing whatsoever is in any way agreeable. We are making do with mindlessly getting and
being. But why should we go risking life and limb
by getting and being blindly, always acting on desire? It behoves us to understand things and live
wisely, involving ourselves in things in such a way that they cause a minimum of suffering,
or ideally, none at all. Here is another point: we must bring to our
fellow men, our friends, and particularly our relatives and those close to us,
the understanding that this is how things are, so that they may have the same right
view as we have. There will then be no upsets in the family,
the town, the country, and ultimately in the whole world. Each individual mind will be immune to desire,
neither grasping at nor becoming wrapped up in anything or anyone. Instead everyone’s life will be guided by
insight, by the ever-present, unobscured vision that there is in reality nothing that we can
grasp at and cling to. Everyone will come to realize that all things
are impermanent, unsatisfactory and devoid of any self-entity, that none of them are
worth becoming infatuated with. It is up to us to have the sense to give them
up, to have right views, in keeping with the Buddha’s teaching. A person who has done this is fit to be called
a true Buddhist. Though he may never have been ordained nor
even taken the precepts, he will have truly penetrated to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. His mind will be identical with that of Buddha,
Dhamma and Sangha. It will be uncontaminated, enlightened and
tranquil, simply by virtue of not grasping at anything as worth getting or worth being. So a person can readily become a genuine,
full-fledged Buddhist simply by means of this technique of being observant, perceiving impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness selfhood until he comes to realize that there is nothing worth getting
or being. The lowest forms of evil originate in and
are powered by desire to get and to be; milder forms of evil consist of actions less strongly
motivated by desire; and all goodness consists of action based
on the finest, most tenuous sort of desire, the desire to get or to be, on a good level. Even in its highest forms, good is based on
desire which, however, is so fine and tenuous that people don’t consider it in any way a
bad thing. The fact is, however, that good action can
never bring complete freedom from suffering. A person who has become free from desire,
that is to say an Arahant, is one who has ceased acting on desire and has become incapable
of doing evil. His actions lie outside the categories of
good and evil. His mind is free and has transcended the limitations
of good and evil. Thus he is completely free of suffering. This is a fundamental principle of Buddhism. Whether or not we are able to do it or wish
to do it, this is the way to liberation from suffering. Today we may not yet want it; some day we
are bound to want it. When we have completely given up evil and
have done good to our utmost, the mind will still be weighed down with various kinds of
attenuated desire, and there is no known way of getting rid of
them other than by striving to go beyond the power of desire, to go beyond the desire to
get or be anything, bad or good. If there is to be Nirvana, freedom from suffering
of every kind, there has to be absolute and complete absence of desire. In short, to know what is what in the ultimate
sense is to see everything as impermanent, unsatisfactory and devoid of selfhood. When we really know this,
the mind comes to see things in such a way that it does not cling to get or to be anything. But if we have to become involved in things
in the ways known as “having” and “being,” then we become involved intelligently, motivated
by insight, and not by desire. Acting thus, we remain free from suffering.

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