With panna there will be an understanding of sense objects. For instance, during the meditation sense objects are experienced which give rise to feelings and moods. You may start to think of a friend, but then panna should immediately counter with ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘Stop’ or ‘Forget it’. Or if there are thoughts about where you will go tomorrow, then the response should be ‘I’m not interested, I don’t want to concern myself with such things’. Maybe you start thinking about other people, then you should think ‘No, I don’t want to get involved,’ ‘Just let go’ or ‘It’s all uncertain and never a sure thing.’ This is how you should deal with things in meditation, recognizing them as ‘not sure, not sure’, and maintaining this kind of awareness.
You must give up all the thinking, the inner dialogue and the doubting. Don’t get caught up in these things during the meditation. In the end all that will remain in the mind in its purest form are sati, sampajañña and panna. Whenever these things weaken doubts will arise, but try to abandon those doubts immediately, leaving only sati, sampajañña and panna. Try to develop sati like this until it can be maintained at all times. Then you will understand sati, sampajañña and samadhi thoroughly.
Focusing the attention at this point you will see sati, sampajañña, samadhi and panna together. Whether you are attracted to or repelled by external sense objects, you will be able to tell yourself ‘It's not sure’. Either way they are just hindrances to be swept away till the mind is clean. All that should remain is sati, recollection; sampajañña, clear awareness; samadhi, the firm and unwavering mind; and panna, consummate wisdom. For the time being I will say just this much on the subject of meditation.
Now about the tools or aids to meditation practice – there should be metta (goodwill) in your heart, in other words, the qualities of generosity, kindness and helpfulness. These should be maintained as the foundation for mental purity. For example, begin doing away with lobha, or selfishness, through dana, giving. When people are selfish they aren’t happy. Selfishness leads to a sense of discontent, and yet people tend to be very selfish without realizing how it affects them.
You can experience this at any time, especially when you are hungry. Suppose you get some apples and you have the opportunity to share them with a friend; you think it over for a while, and, sure, the intention to give is there all right, but you want to give the smallest one. To give the big one would be ... well, such a shame. It’s hard to think straight. You tell them to go ahead and take one, but then you say, “Take this one!” ... and give them the smallest apple! This is one form of selfishness that people usually don’t notice. Have you ever been like this?
You really have to go against the grain to give dana. Even though you may really only want to give the smallest apple, you must force yourself to give away the biggest one. Of course once you have given it to your friend you feel really good. Training the mind by going against the grain in this way requires self-discipline – you must know how to give and how to give up, not allowing selfishness to stick. Once you learn how to give to others your mind will be joyful. If you still don’t know how to give, if you are still hesitating over which fruit to give, then while you are deliberating you will be troubled, and even if you give the biggest one there will still be a sense of reluctance. But as soon as you firmly decide to give the biggest one the matter is over and done with. This is going against the grain in the right way.
Doing this you win mastery over yourself. If you can’t do it you will be defeated by yourself and continue to be selfish. All of us have been selfish in the past. This is a defilement, which needs to be cut off. In the Pali scriptures, giving is called ‘dana’, which means bringing happiness to others. It is one of those conditions, which help to cleanse the mind from defilement. Reflect on this and develop it in your practice.
You may think that practising like this involves hounding yourself, but it doesn’t really. Actually it’s hounding craving and the defilements. If defilements arise within you you have to do something to remedy them. Defilements are like a cat. If you give it as much food as it wants it will always be coming around looking for more food, but if you stop giving it any food after a couple of days it’ll stop coming around. It’s the same with the defilements, they won’t come to disturb you, they’ll leave your mind in peace. So rather than being afraid of defilement, make the defilements afraid of you. To make the defilements afraid of you, you must see the Dhamma within your minds right now.
Where does the Dhamma arise? It arises with our knowing and understanding in this way. Everyone is able to know and understand the Dhamma. It’s not something that has to be found in books, you don’t have to do a lot of study to see it, just reflect right now and you can see what I am talking about. Everybody can see it because it exists right within our hearts. Everybody has defilements, don’t they? If you are able to see them then you can understand. In the past you’ve looked after and pampered your defilements, but now you must know your defilements and not allow them to come and bother you.
The next constituent of practice is moral restraint (sila). Sila watches over and nurtures the practice in the same way as parents look after their children. Maintaining moral restraint means not only to avoid harming others but also to help and encourage them. At the very least you should maintain the five precepts, which are:
Once moral restraint is pure there will be a sense of honesty and kindness towards others. This will bring about contentment and freedom from worries and remorse. Remorse resulting from aggressive and hurtful behaviour will not be there. This is a form of happiness. It is almost like a heavenly state. There is comfort, you eat and sleep in comfort with the happiness arising from moral restraint. This is the result; maintaining moral restraint is the cause. This is a principle of Dhamma practice – refraining from bad actions so that goodness can arise. If moral restraint is maintained in this way, evil will disappear and good will arise in its place. This is the result of right practice.
But this isn’t the end of the story. Once people have attained some happiness they tend to be heedless and not go any further in the practice. They get stuck on happiness. They don’t want to progress any further; they prefer the happiness of ‘heaven’. It’s comfortable but there’s no real understanding. You must keep reflecting to avoid being deluded. Reflect again and again on the disadvantages of this happiness. It’s transient, it doesn’t last forever. Soon you are separated from it. It’s not a sure thing; once happiness disappears suffering arises in its place and the tears come again. Even ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’ end up crying and suffering.
So the Lord Buddha taught us to reflect on the disadvantages, that there exists an unsatisfactory side to happiness. Usually when this kind of happiness is experienced there is no real understanding of it. The peace that is truly certain and lasting is covered over by this deceptive happiness. This happiness is not a certain or permanent kind of peace, but rather a form of defilement, a refined form of defilement to which we attach. Everybody likes to be happy. It’s happiness because of the very attraction to it. If at any time there is no attraction then suffering arises. We must reflect on this happiness to see its uncertainty and limitation. Once things change suffering arises. This suffering is also uncertain, don’t think that it is fixed or absolute. This kind of reflection is called adinavakatha, the reflection on the inadequacy and limitation of the conditioned world. It is to reflect on happiness rather than accepting it at face value. If you see that it is uncertain you shouldn’t cling fast to it. You should take hold of it but then let it go, seeing both the benefit and the harm of happiness. To meditate skilfully you have to see the disadvantages inherent within happiness. Reflect in this way. When happiness arises, contemplate it thoroughly until the disadvantages become apparent.
When you see that things are inadequate  your heart will come to understand the nekkhammakatha, the reflection on renunciation of sensuality. The mind will become disinterested and seek for a way out. Disinterest comes from having seen the way forms really are, the way tastes really are, the way love and hatred really are. By disinterest we mean that there is no longer the desire to cling to or attach to things. There is a withdrawal from clinging, to a point where you can abide comfortably, observing with an equanimity that is free of attachment. This is the peace that arises from practice.