Is it advisable to read a lot or study the scriptures as a part of practice?
A: The Dhamma of the Buddha is not found in books. If you want to really
see for yourself what the Buddha was talking about, you donít need to
bother with books. Watch your own mind. Examine to see how feelings come
and go, how thoughts come and go. Donít be attached to anything. Just
be mindful of whatever there is to see. This is the way to the truths
of the Buddha. Be natural. Everything you do in your life here is a chance
to practice. It is all Dhamma. When you do your chores, try to be mindful.
If you are emptying a spittoon or cleaning a toilet, donít feel you are
doing it as a favour for anyone else. There is Dhamma in emptying spittoons.
Donít feel you are practising only when sitting still, cross-legged. Some
of you have complained that there is not enough time to meditate. Is there
enough time to breathe? This is your meditation: mindfulness, naturalness
in whatever you do.
What can I do about doubts? Some days Iím plagued with doubts about the
practice or my own progress, or the teacher.
A: Doubting is natural. Everyone starts out with doubts. You can learn
a great deal from them. What is important is that you donít identify with
your doubts. That is, donít get caught up in them. This will spin your
mind in endless circles. Instead, watch the whole process of doubting,
of wondering. See who it is that doubts. See how doubts come and go. Then
you will no longer be victimised by your doubts. You will step outside
of them and your mind will be quiet. You can see how all things come and
go. Just let go of what you are attached to. Let go of your doubts and
simply watch. This is how to end doubting.
What about other methods of practice? These days there seem to be so many
teachers and so many different systems of meditation that it is confusing.
A: It is like going into town. One can approach from the north, from the
south east, from many roads. Often these systems just differ outwardly.
Whether you walk one way or another, fast or slow, if you are mindful,
it is all the same. There is one essential point that all good practice
must eventually come to Ė not clinging. In the end, all meditation systems
must be let go of. Neither can one cling to the teacher. If a systems
leads to relinquishment, to not-clinging, then it is correct practice.
You may wish to travel, to visit other teachers and try other systems.
Some of you have already done so. This is a natural desire. You will find
out that a thousand questions asked and knowledge of many systems will
not bring you to the truth. Eventually you will get bored. You will see
that only by stopping and examining your own mind can you find out what
the Buddha talked about. No need to go searching outside yourself. Eventually
you must return to face your own true nature. Here is where you can understand
I still have very many thoughts. My mind wanders a lot even though I am
trying to be mindful.
A: Donít worry about this. Try to keep your mind in the present. Whatever
there is that arises in the mind, just watch it. Let go of it. Donít even
wish to be rid of thoughts. Then the mind will reach its natural state.
No discriminating between good and bad, hot and cold, fast and slow. No
me and no you, no self at all. Just what there is. When you walk on alms-round,
no need to do anything special. Simply walk and see what there is. No
need to cling to isolation or seclusion. Wherever you are, know your self
by being natural and watching. If doubts arise, watch them come and go.
Itís very simple. Hold on to nothing. It is as though you are walking
down a road. Periodically you will run into obstacles. When you meet defilements,
just see them and just overcome them by letting go of them. Donít think
about the obstacles you have passed already. Donít worry about those you
have not yet seen. Stick to the present. Donít be concerned about the
length of the road or about the destination. Everything is changing. Whatever
you pass, do not cling to it. Eventually the mind will reach its natural
balance where practice is automatic. All things will come and go of themselves.
You have said that samatha and vipassana or concentration and insight
are the same. Could you explain this further? A: It is quite simple. Concentration
(samatha) and wisdom (vipassana) work together. First the mind becomes
still by holding on to a meditation object. It is quiet only while you
are sitting with your eyes closed. This is samatha and eventually this
samadhi-base is the cause for wisdom or vipassana to arise. Then the mind
is still whether you sit with you eyes closed or walk around in a busy
city. Itís like this: once you were a child, now you are an adult. Are
the child and the adult the same person? You can say that they are, or
looking at it another way, you can say that they are different. In this
way samatha and vipassana could also be looked at as separate. Or it is
like food and faeces. Food and faeces could be called the same and they
can be called different. Donít just believe what I say, do your practice
and see for yourself. Nothing special is needed. If you examine how concentration
and wisdom arise, you will know the truth for yourself. These days many
people cling to the words. They call their practice samatha. It is essential
to do samatha before vipassana, they say. All this is silly. Donít bother
to think about it in this way. Simply do the practice and youíll see for
I feel sleepy a great deal. It makes it hard to meditate.
A: There are many ways to overcome sleepiness. If you are sitting in the
dark, move to a lighted place. Open your eyes. Get up and wash your face
or take a bath. If you are sleepy, change postures. Walk a lot. Walk backwards.
The fear of running into things will keep you awake. If this fails, stand
still, clear the mind and imagine it is full daylight. Or sit on the edge
of a high cliff or deep well. You wonít dare sleep! If nothing works,
then just go to sleep. Lay down carefully and try to be aware until the
moment you fall asleep. Then as you awaken, get right up. Donít look at
the clock or roll over. Start mindfulness from the moment you awaken.
If you find yourself sleepy everyday, try to eat less. Examine yourself.
As soon as five more spoonfuls will make you full, stop. Then take water
until just properly full. Go and sit. Watch your sleepiness and hunger.
You must learn to balance your eating. As your practice goes on you will
feel naturally more energetic and eat less. But you must adjust yourself.
I have been meditating many years now. My mind is open and peaceful in
almost all circumstances. Now I would like to try to backtrack and practice
high states of concentration or mind absorption.
A: This is fine. It is beneficial mental exercise. If you have wisdom,
you will not get hung up on concentrated states of mind. It is the same
as wanting to sit for long periods. This is fine for training, but really,
practice is separate from any posture. It is a matter of directly looking
at the mind. This is wisdom. When you have examined and understood the
mind, then you have the wisdom to know the limitations of concentration,
or of books. If you have practised and understand not-clinging, you can
then return to the books. They will be like a sweet dessert. They can
help you to teach others. Or you can go back to practice absorption. You
have the wisdom to know not to hold on to any thing.