From a talk by Luang Por Boontham
To learn Dhamma is to learn the right way of thinking. We have been talking about the suffering of aversion: especially the suffering of blaming others and becoming angry.
Nobody can make us angry. A person has the power to hit our head; they may speak whatever words they choose, but nobody, nobody in the world, can cause anger within us. This is a very important point.
This way of thinking is born purely of ignorance. Ignorance pierces our heart, and overpowers our whole mind. We hear about this ‘ignorance’ a lot in Buddhism, but what does it actually refer to? We have to find out what it is within ourselves; what knowledge we are lacking; what are the misunderstandings, the forms of stupidity that guide our actions. For example, when we are angry with others, we blame them, find fault with them and point at their ignorance, how ridiculous they are, how wrong they are – all while not seeing our own ignorance at that moment, and thinking ourselves to be 100% intelligent. Yet if one is truly intelligent, he will not reach out and pull suffering to himself. Blaming somebody and accusing them, isn’t that reaching out for suffering? When we are entangled with the thought that this person has done such and such a thing to us and it is not right – how can our mind be at ease? Why do we do this to ourselves?
If we can understand this point, that nobody can make us angry, we have to find out what can cause anger inside of us. What is our wrong thinking that causes it? A person has done something, but we assume that he has done something ‘to me.’
If he is upset, he frowns. Where is the ‘upset with me’? Each person has his own right to act. He is speaking his own words, using his own tongue, coming from his own mind – what are we to do; stop his mouth and sew up his tongue? His actions are his own, and the calamity causes himself is his own, but it is we who do not know the right way of thinking, and therefore we are disappointed, hurt or bothered because of the action of another. What is the outcome? Do we become a good person through following this path?
This is an example for how we can search for the right direction for our own thought, searching for the wrong thinking to replace it with right thinking. Suffering decreases as wrong thinking decreases.
We must start from here: searching to correct our own faults, our own insanity and wrongdoing instead of blaming others. Otherwise, if we do not remove evil from inside us, it will remain in or lives forever; our faults and our enemies will be with us throughout all days and nights or our lives to come. What is wrongdoing? What is the nature of evil? Wrongdoing is whatever deviates from the truth, whatever act runs counter to the truth. Morality is found in acting in accordance with the truth, and it is by letting go of evil that morality arises. The Buddha had no evil whatsoever within him, or he could not be called ‘the Buddha.’ The highest purity of goodness has arisen from his letting go of all evil. Therefore, we need to learn to let go in order to achieve the highest purity like him.
The dhamma called ‘niyyanika’ – the dhamma to remove suffering from the mind – is to be directly learned and practiced, it means learning to let go of fabricating and forming suffering. There is no need to search for happiness elsewhere. Just letting go of the evil within oneself, the suffering will be gone and happiness will automatically arise. Desires for objects of the senses should be given up, namely, craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches – all of which are our own evil. Craving is, again, purely the ignorance of the mind – craving for that which is not even remotely worth the craving. If we can let go of them, there will be no evil within ourselves; when no desire remains, no suffering can arise. No one craves for the suffering after realising it. It is the same as aversion, if we can let go of aversion, no suffering from aversion can arise. If we can let go in the same way of dreams and enchantments, the effort to create happiness in something else beyond ourselves, there will be no need to look for happiness anywhere else.
This is one way to sum up what we must learn: cultivating peace by letting go of wrongdoings, desire, distraction and attachment from our mind – all suffering will be gone and only happiness can remain in the mind, as there is simply no room for evil and purity to stay together in the same mind. The Buddha taught us to let go of suffering, not to accumulate it.
Everyone has the right to follow this teaching, but no one can perform the letting go for others. If someone offers us such delicious food, but we are unable to eat it, can it make us happy? Nobody can hand out happiness if we do not have happiness within: when advice is given, it is the only the voice or the words that can be transferred. The virtue, the good quality, cannot be given. So how can we be hurt when somebody scolds us? Can being scolded change us, make us bad if we are good, make us good when we are bad? You have to depend on yourself, which means accepting your own fault and learning to let go, in order to gain by yourself.
Just think about the Buddha when he left his palace. He did not take any money with him, nor any book; depending on teachers and other ideas only caused him to waste time in wrong practices. From where, then, could he find the end of suffering? He found it by letting go of unawareness, craving, sensual desire, aversion, distraction, wrong views, and attachment. There was nothing that he could find out which would magically remove these things for him: he had to find the sources of suffering in himself and let go of them.
You search until you die, you will never find it elsewhere. Only learn to let go of your own evil from craving, aversion, delusion, ignorance, wrong view, attachment within your own mind. All the sufferings are born within our own mind, let go of them all, and suffering will be gone. It is a waste of time to try and learn from elsewhere, accumulating knowledge which we hope will remove the evil from us. Search for your own ignorance and your own evil, because the removal of ignorance is what wisdom is. The removal of evil is what virtue is. The removal of wrongdoing is where blamelessness, harmlessness and virtue is to be found. I have no teacher but books. I learned from within myself, without any friend. It is just that no one likes this method of learning. They do not like to get rid of evil directly.
I myself have done so many evil things before. I learned to resolve it by getting rid of evil, until wisdom arose. What do we do, when we do not know yet? Just keep digging into yourself. Digging into your thought if it is right or wrong thinking, into our actions if it is right or wrong, no matter when you sit, walk, lie down – analyse how, when and why it is wrong – and you will see.
It is in this way that we can choose to let go of the wrongdoings within us when sitting, walking or lying down, and do these things skilfully. Whichever part we do not understand, we have to try to find out the truth, let go of ignorance until right view is born.
First of all, we have to be wise enough to know the basic distinction between right and wrong, wise enough to correct ourselves when we are wrong. The most important starting point is being able to realise that this thought, or this intention, is wrong – and that this one is right. But mostly we find this too difficult and instead, we just try to stop thinking,
If we misunderstand and do not know, we need to try to correct this. Otherwise, we will never learn the right way so long as we live. You will be puzzled, but this is just the way it is. The Buddha also acquired knowledge this way – he was also puzzled. He gave a simile of a hatching hen, that does not know when its chick will come out. Yet, it keeps on hatching, and we should learn the same way. NO matter how little we can see, just keep observing, find out where the ignorance is: jealousy, craving, selfishness, laziness, carelessness, fear of criticism, arrogance, dishonesty – where are yours? Do you think you do not have any? Are you perfect already, so you don’t need to practice? They do not warn us when they arise, these impurities, that is why we have to search for our own faults continually. It is the fault that darkens our mind so that we see nothing. It can be very uncomfortable in the beginning, this searching without seeing, or the horror of seeing the snakes and tarantulas that lurk within us. But we have to tolerate it, just like the hen hatching, without knowing when the chicken will come out – still it never gives up.
It is enormously difficult without a teacher to point you your faults and give you explanations. In my case I worked it out alone and it took as long as 48, 49 years – with enormous patience. I had no guidance except to learn from within the mind and nowhere else. I received not even one word of advice. I don’t know how I managed to learn this way. I only had experience learning in school, though the worldly knowledge from outside teaches only outside of ourselves. Only the Buddha’s teaching shows us to correct our own mind.
Many people take 4, 5, 7, 10 or 20 years to learn but they only learn from outside, and never reach the end of suffering. People try to learn the Buddha’s teaching in the same way as they learn about other subjects: fear and shame of wrongdoing are thought of as words we read from a blackboard. The 69 states of consciousness are to be translated and repeated. But if you let go of evil and cultivate virtue, let go of delusion and cultivate awareness of wrongdoing – fear and shame of wrongdoing – let go of hatred and keep on picking inside you for your faults, and let it go with calm mind. Once the mind realises the evil, it will turn away from it. By letting go of evil we lose nothing; only gain, for in evil thinking we only gain suffering. If we are jealous of a person, will that person lose anything because of our jealousy? It is the most pointless thing, to be jealous, bringing only evil, suffering and loss – wouldn’t it be better to rejoice in others’ success, since in rejoicing, we gain morality and calm of mind?
The problem is always attached to the self, the ‘self’ is jealous, or angry, or attached to another’s criticism or blame; without attachment to the view of self it is impossible for these things to arise. The attachment to self is nothing but attachment to our mind, which is so full of impurities and hypocrisies, and body, which is made up of hair, flesh, skin, nails, teeth, air that we could put in tires or anywhere else, heat that is the same heat as from a fire. Looking at ourselves, there are only shapes and colours, not ‘ourselves’. What the eyes see are only colours. Look at the form of our eyes, and consider why don’t we think that this form is in us? Look in the mirror when we see the colours of our face – where is the self in the colours? What we see are just shapes made of colour, not self. Where is the self when we see only colours?
What we see are just blemishes and sufferings. And in our mind? When you look into it, where is the part that is you? Is it your jealousy, your hatred, your fear, anxiety? Your wrong thoughts? Your distraction? Where are ‘you’?
“Cunda, suppose there were an uneven path and another even path by which to avoid it; and suppose there were an uneven ford and another even ford by which to avoid it. So too:
(1) A person given to cruelty avoids it by non-cruelty.
(21) One given to sloth and torpor avoids it by non-sloth and non-torpor.
(22) One given to restlessness avoids it by non-restlessness.
(23) One given to doubt avoids it by going beyond doubt.
(24) One given to anger avoids it by non-anger.
(25) One given to resentment avoids it by non-resentment.
(26) One given to contempt avoids it by non-contempt.MN 8
‘Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensual desire; he abandons it, removes it, does away with it, and annihilates it. He does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will…He does not tolerate an arisen thought of cruelty…He does not tolerate arisen evil unwholesome states; he abandons them, removes them, does away with them, and annihilates them.MN 2
As I abided thus, diligent, ardent, and resolute, a thought of sensual desire arose in me. I understood thus: ‘This thought of sensual desire has arisen in me. This leads to my own affliction, to others’ affliction, and to the affliction of both; it obstructs wisdom, causes difficulties, and leads away from Nibbāna.’ When I considered: ‘This leads to my own affliction,’ it subsided in me; when I considered: ‘This leads to others’ affliction,’ it subsided in me; when I considered: ‘This leads to the affliction of both,’ it subsided in me; when I considered: ‘This obstructs wisdom, causes difficulties, and leads away from Nibbāna,’ it subsided in me. Whenever a thought of sensual desire arose in me, I abandoned it, removed it, did away with it.”MN 28
He attends wisely: ‘This is suffering’; he attends wisely: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; he attends wisely: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; he attends wisely: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’MN 2