After these aspirations there are three other verses on Going Forth, followed by others upon The Practices of a Bhikkhu. This section leads on to the main part of the verses which concern The Mind in various ways. A few verses on Delight in the Forest are followed by one which indicates some success in the training. These verses, as they are dealt with in the following pages, are not in the order of the text, but the number of the verse commented on has been indicated.
This is one among many verses in which Talaputa holds a conversation with his mind. You could say "But I thought that Buddhists taught that there was no self or soul among the changing patterns of mind and body? But here is Talaputa with two selves, what he calls himself, and his mind! How do you account for this? Though there are just streams of mind and body processes yet there appear to be two people inside this skull, one saying 'yes' and the other 'no'.
In this particular verse the perversity of the untamed mind is well-illustrated. While a layman he aspired to be a bhikkhu but once he had left the household life and gone forth to homelessness, his mind slackened and was no longer enthusiastic. A case of "it's greener on the other side of the fence" — just craving tanha. So he thinks "Come on! Stir yourself, mind! Don't idle! The same theme. Here is his mind not pleased with bhikkhu-life, though that same mind-stream has brought it about. Mind is full of craving. While it has "dear ones, friends, relatives, playing and loving, sensual pleasures of the world" the mind's craving has something to get involved with, get entangled with.
The craving mind is not satisfied with this of course, but its appetite is dulled. It is when Talaputa has given up all this that the mind starts to get agitated. No distractions! No escapes from dukkha! People living a worldly life sometimes think that monks and nuns are escapists but the latter if they really get down to practice have no way of escaping dukkha and must face it, while the former have many escape-routes through amusements and sensual variety.
When worldly escape-routes are closed off then the craving mind is not pleased. Again Talaputa exhorts his mind — "It's not like it used to be, craving mind! You used to be in control but now I am a bhikkhu. The ruination brought on by craving is not for me! The ruins of disease, decay and death, again and again. People are ruined by the defilements in their own hearts, they ruin their own futures and ruin other beings about them. The world is ruined by greed, aversion and delusion, the Roots of Evil. A good bhikkhu is not wrapped up by ruination lit. How does he do this? By leading the kind of life where craving finds little to grab hold of.
Take the bhikkhu's almsround as an example. For most people food is very much an object of craving, so they try to get what they like and have as much as they like. A bhikkhu goes out with his black iron alms bowl and stands silently before people's houses to receive whatever they are pleased to offer him.
He does not 'beg', as he may not, unless sick, ask for anything; nor does he sing or chant but should walk and stand silently. He accepts food as it comes, the poor with the good, the tasteless with the tasty, the disliked with the liked — which helps to cut down on craving. His head is shaven, too, so the craving and conceit connected with hair does not trouble him. And he wears no ornaments at all, just brownish-yellow robes, so from a worldly point of view he may be "unsightly" but that is just another way of cutting down on craving.
In this way he devotes himself to the Buddha's words. In the last verse, the bhikkhu's exterior appearance was emphasized while this verse deals with his interior attitude while going on his almsround. What is that? As he passes shops he does not gaze in the windows, or at the faces of people who pass by or who give him almsfood; he is not attracted by sounds of music nor does he show disgust at any bad smells that may come his way; his steps are steady, neither showing off pretended calm by slow walking nor exhibiting many desires by rushing along.
He just goes steadily "having a mind to sensual pleasures unattached" — content with what he gets. A mind like this he compares to "the full moon shining clear at night" — radiant with loving kindness and free from the clouds of defilements. Finally, in the refrain that runs through many of these verses, he reproaches his mind "You used to tell me to act like this" — meaning that now he does so, the mind plays a different tune. The austere practices which the Buddha allowed bhikkhus to undertake also aim at lessening desires. Talaputa mentions some of them in this verse: a forest-dweller who lives five hundred bowlengths — say half a mile — in the forest ; an almsman a bhikkhu who always goes on almsround and does not rely on lay-supporters bringing food ; a graveyard dweller he lives at the place where corpses are left exposed or else burnt, so that the impermanence of bodies is obvious ; a rag-robe-wearer gathering rags or offcuts of cloth he patches together his robes, not accepting ready-made ones from lay people ; one never lying down is a bhikkhu who practices in three postures — walking, standing and sitting — but does not lie down.
He sleeps sitting up and in this way manages to restrict his hours of sleep — more time for meditation. These methods and others are practiced privately with only the practicer and his Teacher knowing about them. They are never advertised by wise bhikkhus who are not concerned either to get the admiration of others or much support from them. Such austerities as these were an important part of the practice leading to attainment of the arahants of old, as today of Venerable Acariya Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera and his enlightened disciples in N.
Thailand, who urge the young bhikkhus and novices training under them to use them. Visiting lay people who come to practice meditation are also expected to practice them, such as eating only once a day, another austere practice. For all these, with the explanations, see The Path of Purification, Ch. Practices like these should never be ends in themselves, but aids for controlling the errant mind. We have already come across Talaputa's dispute with his mind and now he is upbraiding it — "You're not a wild elephant going where you like! You're my mind!
Now it's time to get ready, so don't grieve! Be joyful! One should be prepared for the great battle against Mara and therefore put on the armor of the Dhamma. Talaputa longs for Nibbana while seeing that all of this conditioned world or any other is impermanent, unstable, liable to arising and passing away and therefore unsatisfactory, or dukkha. But this mind is still attached to "the unstable and the frail. No, but no madder than a person who with great effort has renounced family, money, pleasure and so on only to give way to some impulse which destroys the fruits of his renunciation.
There is no safety from the whims of the mind until arahantship is reached, though a certain security is won by the stream-winner. Still his mind goes "back to habits made of old" — while he was a layman, in spite of the fact that when he still lived the household life, his mind urged him to practice Dhamma: to have few wishes, to abandon the disparagement of others, to still all dukkha — these things being praised by wise men. This is opposite to the world's way which is to have many desires and to cultivate them so that they increase. Generally too, disparaging other people is popular in the world — it gives an outlet for our aversion while at the same time boosting our conceit.
No wonder it's popular! And people are not concerned with stilling dukkha. When it gets too much to bear then they turn to other things or even take some treatment to reduce it to manageable proportions. They would be lost without dukkha, because their conception of 'selfhood' is dukkha, and where would they be without 'themselves'. Again grumbling at his mind — the mad mind, the mind mad with defilements. A madman who plays about senselessly is just the extreme development of ourselves, and all of us, like Talaputa before he attained arahantship, are under the power of craving and defilement.
The play that the mad mind shows us is this world, several times distorted through the lenses of permanence, happiness, selfhood and beauty. This is how the mad mind causes us injury again and again through successive births, high and low. His final question to his mind means "What have I not done for you? Here the Buddha is quoted likening the mind to a monkey. Anyone who has watched monkeys will know why. They exhibit unrestrained lust and quarrelsome anger while they can do nothing for more than a few minutes before they get tired of it. They swing from one support to the next, running and jumping and playing.
Know anyone with a mind like that? For such a monkey mind a man-taming trainer is needed, or else a great physician who can tell how it is to be cured. These are both epithets of the Buddha, who is also "He who speaks the best," and "Best among mankind. In other words: you can't have it both ways. It's extremely foolish for us to check because we as "blind foolish common men long have lain" down in sensual desires which are "varied, sweet, delightful. I've got two eyes in my head, came tops in school and I've got a family going back to the Conquest! You're foolish since you don't restrain yourself and so make bad kamma rooted in greed, aversion and delusion which will bring you pain and suffering — more dukkha.
And you're called a common man or an ordinary man, like myself, as you have not yet experienced the true nobility of stream-winning, once-returning, non-returning or arahantship. But people who make a certain amount of effort with generosity, moral conduct and meditation are at least called 'beautiful ordinary men' while I fear that you may fall into the class of 'foolish ordinary men'.
We understand it! Take two people: one is gentle, compassionate and generally unselfish, always thinking how to help others — a happy smiling person; the other is twisted up by hate, bursting with anger and resentment, ready to kill and torture. Now the first man is called 'a heavenly man' and dying with that slightly superhuman mind will gain a superhuman birth; while the second even now is 'a hellish man' and when he dies with his evil kamma in mind, with that subhuman mind he gains a very subhuman birth.
Easy to explain! And so are the hells. The name for pleasures in this verse may not please some people, "How disgusting to compare sense-pleasure to vomit! Having loosened these cords one's mind discovers pleasure far superior to them, heavenly or divine pleasures in the heavens of sensuality and of subtle form. Even these pleasures are nothing to one who has enjoyed the Paramasukha — the Sublime Happiness of Nibbana free of all attachments.
Though one has not got this far yet, if some of the pleasures of meditation have been experienced, then other grosser worldly pleasure will seem to be like vomit. Who will want to eat what has been rejected? So who, having tasted the pleasures of meditation and renunciation will go back to the bondage of the senses? Like the last this is a blunt verse. It tells the worldly person what he does not want to hear while anyone really devoted to Dhamma appreciates such straightforwardness.
What is the power of Mara here? This means the strength of the defilements in one's heart whereby one is driven on to desire, delight and enjoy. And though a person like this speaks of 'my mind' as though he is the owner, truly, as Talaputa points out, he is only a servant of mind, swept along by the mind's desires.
So one knows where one's at! In the Dhamma there is no deceitfulness. Openness and Dhamma, and of the people who practice it. Here is Talaputa's mind instructing him what he ought to do, instructions which he thought up before his Going-forth, and then found difficult to carry out afterwards.
We have met the Four Noble Truths before see, 8 and here three of them are presented as an exhortation. Since they are impermanent and craved for or grasped at as me and mine, they are the basis for the experience of dukkha. And making an end of ill here and now is another way of saying Nibbana.
Some more instructions about dukkha. Impermanent things, whether 'me', 'mine' or 'not me', 'not mine', are all unstable and so, unreliable. But isn't that what everyone does? So how much security do we have? He hasn't read the paper yet, so he doesn't know about that bank vault robbery. But she isn't aware that the government will nationalize land holdings. So who's secure? Don't want your wealth but I'm sure going to live long.
But how does he know? Even this body, conventionally called 'mine', is changing all the time and can perish any moment. One has to see the danger in impermanent compounded things, see them as dukkha so that one's grasping can be unwrapped from them. And they are void too. What does 'void' mean? This is not a metaphysical abstraction but a name for what is void of self. Body is void of self and so are feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Just where we think there is self or soul. They have to be seen with insight as void, empty, ownerless.
And dukkha has to be seen in the same way as really poisonous. As it is now, we are attached to a whole heap of dukkha and think that it is productive of happiness. That illusion has got to go — to see dukkha as it really is. None of this can be done while the mind still wanders about, in other words, there is no insight unless a person has developed calm strongly first. When a person has succeeded with jhana, the fully developed Right Concentration, then insight becomes easy. Without strong calm, the 'insight' that people have is either illusory or else so weak as to vanish quickly.
When we feel cornered by dukkha, we can go for a holiday, 'a change of air'. While this may make us feel good, it has not really solved the problem. Some who can afford it, with time and money, are always traveling round — "It'll be better there" they say. And they say it again when they get there, about some other place. These days travel is easy, even in the heavens, so escape appears to be easy too but the end of dukkha is never found just by going elsewhere. Everywhere is the same which means all this world and any other. When they die many people of some religions hope to go to a heavenly world and they will do so if they die with a somewhat purified and elated mind.
They hope that 'heaven' is perfection where dukkha cannot touch them. Don't you know that 'conditioned' means also 'impermanent' and that in turn signifies 'dukkha'? Your heavenly life may last long and be very pleasant indeed but it cannot possibly be eternal and so is not secure either. The Sensual Realm of hells, animals, ghosts, human beings and heavens — all are "unstable and oppressed" — by dukkha.
Then the Realm of Subtle Form — the Brahma-world Heavens gained through the practice of jhana, even that is all "unstable and oppressed. One may become this or that, here or there, due to one's kamma, but one does not get beyond dukkha. So, where are you going, mind, to find happiness?
There is only one answer. Round and round treads the ox, hauling water or grinding grain, just like the untrained mind which takes the impermanent for the permanent, that which is dukkha to be happiness, the not-self as self or soul , and the unattractive as beautiful. These are the four perversions or distortions in which the unenlightened mind operates. No wonder there's dukkha! However, if one makes up one's mind to serve the Buddha by practicing as much Dhamma as one can, then the fetters and bonds, including these four, can at least be loosened in this life, and possibly cut off completely.
Why be a slave to this ox-like perverted mind? What else is it like? Mind is formless, without any kind of body or material, just a collection of processes. And it is a far-traveler, how far and how quickly it goes in an instant! Supersonic jets are just creaking old oxcarts by comparison with the mind's speed. And mind is "a wanderer alone" since its various processes arise in a conditioned way upon the basis of what has gone before.
And when one sees all the troubles that come of mind constantly drawn to the senses, how troubled it is, how lacking in peace and security, then one is prepared to aspire to Nibbana. Notice the contrast between past lives when the mind's wishes and desires had been followed leading to further rebirth therefore and Talaputa's present life in which he is not content to drift with the stream of sense-desires but makes an effort to cut across the current. The sensual mind does not like this and becomes discontented and angry. Talaputa accuses his mind of ingratitude since he had so long pandered to its desires and thus was forced to live in the dukkha caused by them.
Minds or mental states are many and various and what appeals to one kind of mind experienced at one point in time may not be at all attractive to another type of mind occurring later. The more confidence one has in that Teacher the greater will be the efforts that one makes to practice his teachings.
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This is the best way beyond the oceans of rebirths. In these next two verses, Talaputa speaks of the mind as the source of whatever rebirths one has to experience. We make kamma all the time, every day, by every decision, choice or volition. All those kammas have appropriate results inherent in them — and how many of them will it be possible to experience in this life?
Combined with our craving for continuity or existence onwards from the moment of death, these kammas can provide the bases for innumerable future lives. We may then become priests brahmans or aristocrats, and from among the latter we may achieve rulership as king or president. Lives as merchants or workers are also brought on by an individual's past kamma.
Someone is going to say at this point "Oh, you are proposing that rigid old caste structure just as the Bhagavad Gita does. I thought Buddhists were free of such ideas? The Buddha did not agree with their ideas and made his Sangha of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis open to anyone of any caste. But he knew the truth that past kamma does determine where one is born. It shapes one's inclinations, one's aptitudes and weaknesses. But that one should be completely controlled by past kamma as some believed, is a fatalistic view, making impossible new present kamma. Everyone has the chance to make good kamma now, whatever their birth in this life.
Titans or demons are the resultant birth for them who love power and ruthlessness. One would imagine that some politicians and army people get birth among them. Power is fine when only one or two have it, so the powerful think, but when reborn in this state, everyone has it. Imagine the constant mauling, brawling and wars, much more a feature of demonic life than this human world! And the hells are more over-populated than this world — by plenty of beings who loved to kill and torture other beings, while they were human.
As to animal rebirth, if one wants it then the formula is to take delight only in what delights animals — to make oneself an animal in fact, enjoying only food, drink and sex. Or instead of an animal-man one can be a ghostly man by avaricious hoarding, never giving anything to anyone, and then have to suffer life as a ghost, miserable and beset by unsatisfied cravings. All this is brought about by the mind. When one knows about this the wise person does something about the wild mind.
All the Dhamma taught by the Buddha is for the purpose of taming this mind and Talaputa has mentioned a few useful points in these verses. The formula of the four jhanas had been repeated hundreds of times in the Suttas, while one or more jhanas are also often mentioned. They are the perfection of concentration and the person who possesses ability with the jhanas has a wonderful inner refuge to which he can withdraw for refreshment and peace. When jhana has been obtained and mastered there is no need to try to meditate, for one has reached the state of perfected meditation.
The four jhanas, for a Buddhist, are not ends in themselves but are the basis for the successful practice of mindfulness leading to insight. The faculties and powers are different strengths of the same five factors: faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom. If one is to grow in the Dhamma in a balanced way then these factors must be balanced, faith with wisdom, effort with concentration, while the fulcrum is mindfulness.
The result of imbalance of these faculties can be seen in the holy men of many religions. The seven wisdom-factors lead to Enlightenment when fully developed.
They are more commonly called 'enlightenment-factors' and have been explained at length elsewhere. The Buddha's Teaching is only made one's own experience through the Three Knowledges of remembrance of past lives with all details and particulars; of the workings of kamma, seeing for oneself how evil kamma will bear painful fruits but good kammas fruit in happiness; and finally, the knowledge of the exhaustion of the taints — the exhaustion of sensual desires, being existence and ignorance of the Four Noble Truths.
Once it is 'touched' or personally verified in this way, that person is an arahant, one who has finished the job with nothing to strive for, but having seen non-self lives compassionately for others' benefit. Some more Dhamma to grow into. The Dhamma does not grow into oneself — it cannot be changed to suit oneself; oneself the practicer must grow into the Dhamma, that is, adapt to the Dhamma, become the Dhamma.
That means changing oneself, which is more trouble and less fun than changing the Dhamma.
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The Eightfold Path is what one should try to grow into since it leads directly to Nibbana. The first understanding of the four Noble Truths is more intellectual to begin with, deepening with experience to include one's understanding of all sides of life, while the second purifies one's emotions so that relinquishment, loving-kindness and compassion dwell in one's heart instead of lust, ill-will and cruelty.
Whoever lives his life by these two factors of wisdom is a wise person indeed. The first is abstaining from falsehood, malicious speech, harsh speech and idle chatter. Do you pass this test? The second means refraining from killing living beings non-human included , taking what is not given which is rather more than theft , and wrong conduct in sexual pleasures and 'wrong' means causing injury in mind or body to someone concerned. Are you pure in these three respects? The third factor covers all sorts of livelihood which involves hurtfulness or breaking any of the Five Precepts.
How is your livelihood? The last section of the Path is concerned with developing the mind: Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, which the Buddha defined in this way: the first is twofold effort: to rid the mind of evil and to cultivate it in goodness. There are various methods taught for this.
The second is mindfulness to be cultivated towards the body, feelings, mental states and mental factors. If no effort is made, no mindfulness will arise. With no mindfulness the last factor of Right Concentration cannot be perfected. This is the four jhanas which have been mentioned earlier. This is a short summary of the Eightfold Path.
Only those who are with it in mind, speech and body will make "the utter destruction of all ill. The wrong path then, the one not to follow, is the Ignoble Eightfold Path. How much of your understanding and thought is Wrong View and Wrong Intention? And perhaps you are developing Wrong Effort for more unwholesomeness , Wrong Mindfulness to be aware of ways of evil and Wrong Concentration upon what leads to sensuality or to destruction?
Using wisdom, one's way is not along this path, but by making effort and becoming restrained from evil, one may be established in the Path, as a stream-winner for instance. This will occur when the causal process of both coming-into-being and passing-out-of-being have been penetrated with insight, at which time one no longer believes in Dhamma but having verified it personally one is actually the Buddha's heir.
It is then not the Buddha's Dhamma that one knows but one's own Dhamma, seen for oneself when 'oneself' has dissolved into the processes of arising and passing away. Wavering doubts, half-hearted practice, lack of confidence in the Triple Gem, lack of confidence in one's Teacher — all makes for indecisiveness and getting nowhere.
People like to see progress in their Dhamma-practice but this will never be seen without determination and firmness of mind which prevents one being deflected on to other matters. When the mind's aim is truly firm then what chance have defiled and egoistic thoughts? Talaputa is no longer in their power and even if they should arise he has enough mindfulness and wisdom not to follow them up, so that they are cut off quickly.
Nor can he be misled by feelings and thoughts relating to the body which he compares to something rather dangerous — "a double-ended sack. He goes further: if a double-ended sack is bad enough, what about "a thing filled full and flowing with nine streams? It is this body which has nine holes: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, anus and urinary duct. And through these holes flow various sorts of dirt: eye-dirt, ear-dirt wax , nose-dirt snot , spittle, phlegm and vomit from the mouth, and excrement and urine from the other two. None of them smell, taste or look good, yet they come from the inside of this precious sack which I proudly call 'my body'.
How strange it is! But Talaputa will not be entangled in all this for he is determined to be a master, not a slave, of mind. People wish that their meditation was calm, that their hindrances were subdued, that their defilements were cut off, but their untamed minds are stronger than these wishes and they are slaves to that untamed mind. Talaputa's practice and determination are such that Dhamma is in control, Dhamma is master, while defilements of any sort are slaves which obey orders instantly. That is his inward state.
Outwardly he is quite happy with whatever comes — whatever robes, almsfood, resting place and medicines the four supports of a bhikkhu's life , he obtains, he is satisfied with them. He does not always seek for more and different clothes: his three robes are enough. He is content too with the food people give him and is not concerned with flavors, textures, a 'balanced diet' and so on.
Resting-places cause him no trouble or expense — a cave, the root of a tree, a hollow among some boulders, or a small hut provided by generous donors. And when he needs medicines he will be offered whatever is necessary to cure the body, and if not, he is not too much concerned. The catskin bag is an illustration of the necessary energy for taming the mind. It seems that catskin required a lot of work to cure it, to make it supple; so does the mind.
For the mind to be supple is meant that one can do with it what one likes. Bull elephants in the mating season can be dangerous. Ordinarily they are very strong, but to this must be added a fiery temper when in rut and it will be a skillful trainer indeed who brings such an elephant under control. A great deal of energy will be necessary — as needed for taming the wild mind too.
The wild elephant is used to going where it likes and when it likes. Nothing can stop it crashing through the forest. In the same way the wild mind goes anywhere, any time and is not restrained at all as it crashes about in the jungle of desires. What has to be done is told in the next verse. This like a strong post to which the mind is tied by the rope of mindfulness. Slowly, the wild elephant learns that it cannot get away!
But it has to be well-guarded, for successful meditation cannot be mixed with what goes counter to it. If it is well-guarded the mind grows with mindfulness, grows to become aware of many things it had not known before.
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This growth, through insight-wisdom, goes on until the time of penetrating a Noble Path, perhaps of stream-winning. At that moment there is no leaning on, support or clinging to any of the becomings, not to sensual-desire, nor to subtle form, nor even to the formless realm.
If the Noble Path which has been entered is that of arahantship, thereafter there is no support at all, no leaning on any kind of existence. Here is real determination! That's all he has to do! More to the point, wherever one is, one is always in the present. That future time when it will be easier to train one's mind is an illusion.
When it comes round to being now, it's just the same old now and things have not changed. So there is only one time to start: NOW. Otherwise of course "this wandering mind, a wanderer," will go on wandering where it wishes — from dukkha to more dukkha. Talaputa tells his mind "Get me across the floods! First is the flood of sensual desire. Who is not swept along by it? Enjoying life here means to be adrift upon this flood of delight in sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches.
This first flood not only sweeps along human beings but also all the sub-human and even laps the devas in the heavens of sensual desire. A mighty flood indeed which is not even recognized by many people who are yet being whirled along in it. The second is the flood of existence or being , the extent of which is even greater than the first. From the lowest of the hells, through animals, ghosts, humans, gods of sensual desire, and the Brahma gods of subtle form and formlessness, all these beings are borne along by this flood, the desire for existence.
A third flood holds all these beings within its bounds too, the flood of views. Views are a powerful support to the ego "I believe It is not surprising that 'views' are popular! Nor is it surprising that the Buddha's Teaching with its emphasis on taming the self, then seeing self as empty and hollow, is strongly disliked by some!
And this flood of views has been the cause of innumerable wars and murders, because, of course, I am right and you must be wrong. Views, though they seem intellectually respectable, can rouse terrible passions. The last flood of all, the flood encompassing all floods, is that of unknowing or ignorance — of the four Noble Truths. In the power of this flood beings are tossed about upon the ocean of samsara.
If they hold that dukkha is experienced because of no cause acausally , or from one First Cause, of from the displeasure of numerous divine beings, or merely from material change, then they are lost in the samsaric ocean. Even Buddhists who have merely heard the Four Noble Truths can only be said to have a distant glimpse of the Further Shore; if they make no effort to practice, certainly they will not get there. Only those Buddhists who are determined to cut down their cravings through Dhamma-practice will approach that shore called Nibbana. Only when the real causes of dukkha are dealt with will this fourth flood by crossed.
Though immense floods to those who do not practice Dhamma, they can be leapt across by one who does so intensively. The mind purified with wisdom does the leaping — no one leaping to nowhere but attaining liberation having done so. None of this will be accomplished until one has seen "this world — unstable, unsteady, lacking any essence. This drive is samvega — being deeply moved to stirred. For looking truly at the world means perceiving the necessity of change, and changing oneself can be a painful business. The Rains have just begun after the long dry hot season and the earth which has been bare and brown is now covered by a bright green carpet of new grass.
This is the time too when leafless trees burst into flowers of many colors followed by fresh growths of pale green, pink, purple and many other shades. Talaputa will have been at ease in this season when it becomes cooler, an ease he expresses in the words "like a log I'll lie. The Commentary says "being ungrasping like a tree he lies down" perhaps indicating that his ease and pleasure is not like the rest taken by people who do not train themselves. They grasp at the concept or conceit 'I am lying down', along with which can go lethargy and drowsiness and other defilements but Talaputa, having made great efforts, does not grasp in this way.
Most people do not find a secluded spot in the mountains "Soft as cotton down," even if it is covered with "four-inch grass. He is not worried if his meditation seat is hard rock nor delighted if it is a soft cushion. Wherever he is, that is a good place to meditate and since solitude is seldom accompanied by "all mod. This is not the mark of an idle person, for while the dull-witted may be able to blot out discomfort by much sleep, the way of the meditator is to become more aware.
Aware of what? Aware of the dukkha instead of escaping from it. The mind of Talaputa, like our own minds, is up to its tricks again. Having got to a remote place perhaps one feels bored and wants to return to where there is more sense stimulation. Or perhaps one feels afraid, as though that aloneness was a threat to one's self which relies very much upon the support which others give this concept. Again, the woods are attractive when the sun shines and the weather is warm but if one proposes to live there for a long time in all weathers then there may be some hardships to face.
And the usual reaction to hardship is to seek enjoyment elsewhere but where will this be found in the wet woods? Maybe the sounds of "the brightly plumaged birds on Giribbaja's peaks" will not be sufficient entertainment for such a dissatisfied mind? But Talaputa must have overcome this kind of mind eventually so that wherever he was in the wilds and whatever the condition, he always had equanimity, if not happiness. One good result of meditation is that it makes one able to endure all sorts of conditions which, without the development that meditation brings, one could not bear.
A point to check up on oneself! This means that at least one's temper is even when things do not go as one wishes; or better than this, one is joyful come what may, a result of what one has experienced in meditation. Depression, boredom and lethargy which might be the reactions of some, are all born from the evil root of delusion, while dissatisfaction, anger and grumbling arise from the evil root of aversion. The good meditator is at least as joyful as the birds — and he has much greater cause for joy than them.
The peacock is a very beautiful bird and even his strange cries amidst rocks and cliffs would be arresting. But one must admit that the peacock's beauty costs him something. All that magnificent plumage is a burden even to walk around in, what to speak of flying! It appears too, that peacocks are only too aware of their splendor and 'as vain as a peacock' is as true of the bird as of some people. He struts about and shows off his tail from prominent perch as though saying to human beings "Poor featherless creatures, do you not envy my plumes?
The peacock is contrasted by the Buddha with the swan, plain in color and lacking any ornaments, but how well and how far he flies! This illustrates how usually householders are burdened with their wealth and possessions, so that their spiritual flights go not very far, not very long, while bhikkhus through lack of ownership are able, if they make the effort, to fly far and strongly.
At this point maybe someone says, "What about the lady Visakha or the merchant Anathapindika? They were householders of greater possessions and wealth than most people have, yet they became stream-winners. Nor did they renounce all and enter the Sangha. And besides, there are other examples: Yasa's father and mother, and Upali who at first followed the Jains — they were all rich people. These people were not ordinary householders for we are told that they had developed their special qualities in previous lives so that when they met the Buddha they quickly penetrated his words.
I might be one! How do I know? But how you can tell whether you are one or not, probably depends on whether you have been able to meet an arahant and penetrate the truth of his words! And one should not assume that one has such great merits! But in any case, the life of a bhikkhu or a nun is not for everyone.
If your kamma fixes you in a lay person's life with the responsibilities and burdens that it brings, then you have to be content to make short hops from tree to tree. One should not expect arahantship in this life unless conditions, internal and external, are complete for gaining it — this is one extreme view. On the other hand neither should one think 'I cannot get anywhere' — the other extreme. Just keep on with regular meditation practice, every day for an hour or however long one can spare, with concentrated courses from time to time.
A great deal can be done in this way and one will find that the peacock plumes drop off as one goes along. Here are some good places for meditation: the peaks of mountains or their slopes, open spaces, forests or caves. All of them to be suited for meditation, should be unfrequented by human beings. Other beings, boar and antelope are mentioned, may be found there but their presence is not so disturbing as human beings. Animals make small noises and only from time to time, while humans, these days especially, are much noisier with their songs, shouts and transistor radios.
Some places which should be quiet, such as caves, can be noisy enough if converted into a shrine for instance. Talaputa tells himself that it will be fine when he gets to silent places. What his mind actually did is related elsewhere. More mountains and forests where Talaputa hopes to find peace. There are some who would say, "Well, he's quite wrong to take off for those forests because if he could not find peace where he was, then how would he find it elsewhere?
The Buddha taught three kinds of solitude of which the first, physical aloneness, is conducive to the second, the oneness of mind in jhana when the hindrances have been suppressed. This 'solitude' in turn is helpful for the final aloneness of the mind which has no more assets upadhi , another way of speaking about arahantship. So if the second is to be attained the first is very useful, as Talaputa found and has emphasized in his verses. Those who do not find that these three sorts of solitude follow each one upon the another are either people who have developed the first sort of solitude in past lives, or those who are just playing about and pretending at meditation "Daily life is Zen, you know!
So there is some reason why one meditates best in quiet and lonely places. In the last line of the verse there is something of a puzzle. Talaputa addressing his mind the deluded and defiled mind says "Doubtless, mind, you will perish," but the Commentary explains "by the destruction of Samsara, you will be established. The purified mind is established since there is nothing that can shake it. Not the place where people on the whole like to dwell — unless on some well-protected tour. Leopards and tigers are thrilling through binoculars or even outside the closed windows of one's car or coach but people are not so happy at their close approach if they have no weapons.
Fear is in their hearts and from fear is born hatred and the desire to destroy. But what can a bhikkhu do? He never even touches weapons and would not use one even if it was at hand. Yet in Talaputa's days, down to our own as we find in the lives of Venerable Acariya Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera and his disciples , bhikkhus often lived in remote areas where large animals abounded. Often bhikkhus did not even have the protection of a hut as they lived at the foot of trees or in caves.
What protection did they have? Their best protection was meditation, for in proportion to their success in purifying the mind, fear becomes less. When fear and anxiety no longer control the mind then a bhikkhu can live happily in a cave where there are snakes, in a forest where tigers and leopards are commonly seen, or near to the haunts of wild elephants. No bhikkhu comes to grief in such places if he cultivates two things: mindfulness and loving-kindness. His mindfulness will prevent him from carelessly treading on snakes for instance , while his loving-kindness will break up fear of other beings.
And if he feels the first stirrings of fear in his heart he can always recite one of the discourses suitable for such an occasion. There is the Discourse on the Supreme Banner for "one who has gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, to an empty hut," in which the cure for fear, trembling and horripilation is the Recollections of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Then there is the well-known Discourse on Loving-kindness which by awakening that quality in one's heart banishes fear.
Animals know and fear a man who has fear while they are aware of the peaceful vibrations of the fearless meditator. If one is fearful still of wild animals and knows a great Teacher who stays in such a place, it is a good test of oneself to ask permission to stay there with him. No harm will come to such meditators, as is told in Venerable Acariya Mun's life story, while they will learn how to deal with unfaced fears. Some people, from urban surroundings are unable even to keep their calm over large hairy spiders, so what will they do if 'hailed' by leopard or tiger?
And if one cannot get over these fears, how far can one's meditation go? In the kinds of situation which we have been talking about, 'abandoning longing for the body' becomes rather easier. There are just not the facilities for pampering the body in such remote places. Solomon, Indian Dialectics.
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