What I have been telling you about here concerns the pure nature of mind as it is experienced in reality. This hasn't been a theoretical analysis of the mind or mental factors. There isn't any need for that. The things which really are needed are confidence in the teachings and the sincerity to keep deepening the practice. You have to put your life on the line. When the time comes, the whole world turns upside down. Your view and understanding of reality is completely transformed. If other people see you at that time, they might think that you're insane. If it happened to someone who couldn't maintain their mindfulness and rationality, they might really go crazy, because after such an experience, nothing is the same as before. The way you view people in the world is no longer the same, but you are the only one who has seen things like this. Your whole sense of reality changes. The way you think about things alters – when other people think in one way, you think in another. They talk about things one way, you another. While they go up that way, you go down this way. You are no longer the same as other human beings. From then on you have this experience often and it can last for a long time.

Try it out for yourselves. If you have this kind of experience in your practice, you won't have to go looking for anything far away; just keep observing the mind. At this level, the mind is at its boldest and most confident. This is the power and energy of the mind. It's much more powerful than you'd ever expect.

This is the power of samadhi. At this stage it is still just the power that the mind derives from samadhi alone. If samadhi reaches this level, it is at it's deepest and strongest. It's no longer a matter of controlling the mind through suppression or momentary periods of concentration. It has reached its peak. If you were to use such concentration as a basis for practising vipassana, you would be able to contemplate fluently. From here onwards it could also be used in other ways, such as to develop psychic powers or perform miraculous feats. Different ascetics and religious practitioners use such concentration in various ways, such as casting spells and making Holy Water, charms and talismans. Having reached this point, the mind can be used and developed in many different ways and each might be good in it's own way, but it's the kind of good like a good drink: once you've had it you become intoxicated. That kind of good is ultimately of little use.

The calm mind is like a resting place for the practitioner. The Buddha rested here as it forms the base from which to practise vipassana and to contemplate the truth. At this point you only need to maintain a modest level of samadhi, your main function is to direct your attention to observing the conditions of the world around you. You contemplate steadily the process of cause and effect. Using the clarity of the mind, you reflect on all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations you experience, and how they give rise to different moods: good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant. It's as if someone were to climb up a mango tree and shake the fruit down while you wait underneath to collect up all those that fall. You reject any mangoes which are rotten, keeping only the good ones. That way, you don't have to expend much energy, because rather than climbing the tree yourself, you simply wait to collect the mangoes at the bottom.

This means that when the mind is calm, all the mind-objects you experience bring you knowledge and understanding. Because there is awareness you are no longer creating or proliferating around these things. Success and failure, good reputation and bad reputation, praise and criticism, happiness and suffering, all come and go by themselves. With a clear, still mind that is endowed with insight it's interesting to sift through them and sort them out. All these mind-objects which you experience – whether it's the praise, criticism or things that you hear from other people, or any of the other kinds of happiness and suffering which you experience – become a source of benefit for you. Because someone else has climbed up the mango tree and is shaking it to make the mangoes fall down to you. You can gather them up at your leisure. You don't have to fear anything – why should you fear anything when it's someone else who is up the tree, shaking the mangoes down for you? All forms of gain and loss, good reputation and bad reputation, praise and criticism, happiness and suffering, are like the mangoes which fall down to you. The calm mind forms the basis for your contemplation, as you gather them up. With mindfulness, you know which fruits are good and which are rotten. This practice of reflection, based on the foundation of calm, is what gives rise to panna or vipassana. It's not something that has to be created or concocted – if there is genuine insight, then the practice of vipassana will follow automatically, without you having to invent names or labels for it. If there is a small amount of clarity, this gives rise to small vipassana; if it's deeper insight, it is 'medium vipassana'. If there is complete knowledge and insight into the truth of the way things are, it is 'complete vipassana'. The practice of vipassana is a matter of panna. It's difficult. You can't do it just like that. It must proceed from a mind that already has achieved a certain level of calm. Once this is established, vipassana develops naturally with the use of panna – it's not something you can force on the mind.

As a result of his experience, the Buddha taught that the practice has to develop naturally, according to conditions. Having reached this level, you allow things to develop according to your accumulated wholesome kamma [8] and parami [9]. This doesn't mean you stop putting effort into the practice, but that you continue with the understanding that whether you progress swiftly or slowly, it's not something you can force. It's like planting a tree, it knows by itself the appropriate pace to grow at. If you crave to get quick results, see that as delusion. Even if you want to it to grow slowly, see that as delusion also. As with planting the tree, only when you do the practice will you get the result. If you plant a chilli bush for instance, your duty is simply to dig the hole, plant the seedling, give it water and fertiliser and protect it from insects. This is your job, your part of it. Then it's a matter of trust. For the chilli plant, how it grows is it's own affair – it's not your business. You can't go pulling at it to make it grow faster. Nature doesn't work like that. Your job is just to water it and give it fertiliser.

When you practice like this, there's not much suffering. Whether you reach enlightenment in this lifetime or the next, is not important. If you have faith and confidence in the efficacy of the practice, then whether you progress quickly or slowly, can be left up to your accumulated good kamma, spiritual qualities and parami. If you see it this way, you feel at ease with the practice. It's like when you are driving a horse and cart, you don't put the cart before the horse. Before you were putting the cart before the horse. Or if you were ploughing a field, you would be walking ahead of the buffalo, in other words, the mind would have been restless and impatient to get quick results. But once you reflect like this and are practising accordingly, you no longer walk ahead of the buffalo, you walk behind.

So, with the chilli plant you bring water and fertiliser and chase away any ants or termites that come. Just that much is enough for it to grow into a beautiful bush all by itself. Once the plant is flourishing, it's not your business to try and force it to flower right away. Don't practice that way. It's just creating suffering for no reason. The chilli plant grows according to it's own nature. Once it flowers, don't try to force it to produce seeds right away. It won't work and you'll just suffer. That's really suffering. When you understand this, it means you know your own part in the practice and you know the part of the mind-objects and defilements. Each has it's own separate part to play. The mind knows its role and the work it has to do. As long as the mind doesn't understand what it's job is, it will always try and force the chilli plant to grow up, flower and produce chilli peppers, all in the same day. That is nothing other than samudaya – the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering.

If you have had insight into this, it means you know when the mind is deluded and goes off. Once you know the correct way to practice, you can let go and allow things to follow naturally in accordance with your accumulated wholesome kamma, spiritual qualities and parami. You simply keep practising without having to worry about how long it will take. You don't have to worry whether it will take one hundred or one thousand lives before you get enlightened. Whichever life it will be, it doesn't really matter, you just continue practising at whatever pace you can be at ease with.

Once the mind has entered the stream it cannot turn back. It has gone beyond even the smallest evil action. The Buddha taught that mind of the sotapanna (stream-enterer) has inclined or entered into the stream of Dhamma and cannot return. Those who have practised to this point can no longer fall back and be born into the apaya [10] realms or the hell realms again. How could they possibly fall back when, having clearly seen the harm and danger, they have already cut off the roots of all unwholesome kamma. They are no longer able to commit unwholesome acts of body and speech. Once they have refrained from committing unwholesome acts of body and speech, how can they possibly fall into the apaya realms or the hell realms? Their minds have entered the stream. Once the mind has entered the stream through meditation, you know your duty and the work you have to do. You know the path of practice and how it progresses. You know when to exert and when to relax in the practice. You know the body and you know the mind. You know materiality and mentality. Those things which should be let go of and abandoned, you let go of and abandon them, without getting caught in doubt and uncertainty.

In the past, I didn't use such a great amount of detailed knowledge and refined theory in my practice. The important thing was to gain clear understanding and refine the practice within the mind itself. If I looked at my own or anyone else's physical form and found there was attraction to it, I would seek out the cause for that attraction. I contemplated the body and analysed it into its component parts: kesa (hair of the head), loma (hair of the body), nakha (nails), danta (teeth), taco (skin) and so on. The Buddha taught to contemplate the different parts of the body, over and over again. Separate them, pull them apart, peel the skin off and incinerate it all. Keep meditating like this, until the mind is still, firm and unwavering in its meditation on the unattractiveness of the body. When you are walking on alms round, for instance, and see other monks or lay people ahead, visualise them as corpses, tottering along the road in front of you. As you walk, keep putting effort into this practice, taking the mind deeper and deeper into the contemplation on the impermanence of the body. If you see a young woman and are attracted by her, contemplate the image of a corpse which is rotten and putrid from the process of decomposition. Contemplate like this on every occasion, so that the mind maintains a sense of distance, not becoming infatuated with that attractiveness. If you practise in this way, the attraction will not last long, because you see the truth very clearly, no longer doubting the truth that the body is really something, which is rotting and decomposing.

Use this kind of reflection until the perception of unattractiveness becomes clearly fixed in the mind, and it goes beyond doubt. Wherever you go it won't be wasted. You must really determine to do this practice to the point where whenever you see someone, it's exactly the same as if you were actually looking at a corpse. When you see a woman, you see her as a corpse; when you see a man you see him as a corpse; and you see yourself as a corpse in just the same way. In the end, everybody becomes a corpse. You have to put as much effort into this contemplation as you can. Train yourself until it becomes part of the mind. It's actually quite enjoyable – if you really do it. But if you just become absorbed in reading lots of books, it's difficult to get results. You have to practice sincerely and with real determination so that the kammatthana [11] becomes established as an integral part of the mind.

Studying the Abhidhamma can be beneficial, but you have to do it without getting attached to the books. The correct way to study is to make it clear in the mind that you are studying for the realisation of truth and to transcend suffering. These days there are many different teachers of vipassana and many different methods to choose from, but actually, the practice of vipassana isn't such an easy thing to do. You can't go and do it just like that; it has to develop out of a strong foundation in sila. Try it out. Moral line, training rules and guidelines for behaviour are a necessary part of the practice – if your actions and speech are untrained and undisciplined, it's like skipping over part of magga and you won't meet with success. Some people say you don't need to practise samatha, you can go straight into vipassana, but people who speak like that tend to be lazy and want to get results without expanding any effort. They say that keeping sila isn't important to practice, but really, practising sila in itself is already quite difficult and not something you can do casually. If you were to skip the sila, then of course the whole practice would seem comfortable and convenient. It would be nice if whenever the practice involved a bit of difficulty you could just skip over it – everybody likes to avoid the difficult bits.

There was once a monk who came here and asked permission to stay with me, saying that he was interested in the practice. He inquired about the monastic regulations and discipline here, so I explained that in this monastery we practise according to the Vinaya (Code of Discipline) and that the monks can't keep personal funds of money or stores of requisites. He said that he practised non-attachment. I said that I didn't know how he practised or what he meant by that. Then he asked whether he could use money, if he didn't attach or giving any special importance to it. I said he could use it, in the same way as he could use any salt which he could find that wasn't salty. The monk was really just trying to impress people with the way he talked, but actually, he was too lazy to bother practising with what he saw as lots of trifling and unnecessarily meticulous rules which to him just made life difficult. If ever he could find some salt which didn't taste salty, I would be ready to believe him. If it really wasn't salty, he should bring a whole basket full and try eating it! Could it really not be salty? Non-attachment is not something which can be experienced simply through talking about it or trying to guess what it's like. It's not like that. Having displayed his views on the practice in that way, it became clear that the monk would be unable to live here, so he left and went his own way.

You have to keep putting forth effort into the practise of sila and the various dhutanga [12] practices. It's not different for lay people either. Even if you are living at home, at the least very keep the five precepts [13]. Try to compose and discipline your speech and actions. Keep putting forth your best effort, and your practice will gradually progress.

Don't give up the practice of samatha just because you have tried it a few times and found that the mind doesn't get calm. That's the wrong way to go about it. You really have to train yourself over a long period of time. Why does it have to take so long? Think about it. How many years have you let pass by without practising? When thoughts arise pulling the mind in one direction, you rush after them, when they start pulling it in another, you still rush after them with your mental proliferation. If you are going to try and stop the flow of the mind and make it stay still, right there in the present moment, a couple of months is just not long enough. Contemplate this. Think about what it might take to have a mind which is at peace with the flow of the different issues and events which affect it and is at peace with the mind-objects it experiences. When you first start to practise, the mind has so little steadiness that as soon as it comes into contact with a mind-object, it gets agitated and confused. Why does it get agitated? Because it's under the influence of tanha. You don't want it to think. You don't want to experience any mind-objects. This not wanting is a form of craving. It's vibhava-tanha (craving for non-existence). The more you desire not to experience any agitation and confusion, the more you encourage and usher it in. 'I don't want this impingement, why does it come? I don't want the mind to be agitated, why is it like this?' That's it – there's craving for the mind to be in a peaceful state. It's because you don't know your own mind. That's all. You persist in getting caught up with the mind and its craving, and yet it takes an incredibly long time before you realise where you are going wrong. When you think about it clearly, you can see that all this distraction and agitation comes because you tell it to come! There is craving for it to be otherwise; there is craving for it to be peaceful; there is craving for the mind not to be restless and agitated. That's the point – it's all craving, the whole mass of it.

Well, never mind! Just get on with your own practice. Whenever you experience a mind-object, contemplate it. Throw it into one of the three 'pits' of aniccam, dukkham, anatta in your meditation and reflect on it. Generally, when we experience a mind-object it stimulates thinking. The thinking is in reaction to the experience of the mind-object. The nature of ordinary thinking and panna is very different. The nature of ordinary thinking is to carry on without stopping. The mind-objects you experience lead you off in different directions and your thoughts just follow along. The nature of panna is to stop the proliferation, to still the mind, so that it doesn't go anywhere. You are simply the knower and receiver of things. As you experience different mind-objects, which in turn give rise to different moods, you maintain awareness of the process and ultimately, you can see that all the thinking and proliferating, worrying and judging, is entirely devoid of any real substance or self. It is all aniccam, dukkham and anatta. The way to practise is to cut off all the proliferation right at its base and see that it all comes under the headings of the three characteristics. As a result it will weaken and lose its power. Next time when you are sitting in meditation and it comes up, or whenever you experience agitation like that you contemplate it, you keep observing and checking the mind.

You can compare it with looking after water buffalo. There is a buffalo, its owner and some rice plants. Now normally, buffaloes like to eat rice plants; rice plants are buffalo food. Your mind is like the buffalo, the mind-objects which you experience are like the rice plants, That part of the mind which is 'that which knows' is like the owner of the buffalo, The practice isn't really any different from this. Consider it. What do you do when you are looking after a water buffalo? You let it wander freely, but try to keep an eye on it the whole time. If it walks too near the rice plants, you shout a warning and when the buffalo hears, it should stop and come back. However, you can't be careless. If it's stubborn and doesn't take heed of you warnings you have to take a stick and give it a good whack, then it won't dare to go anywhere near the rice plants. But don't get caught taking a siesta. If you can't resist taking a nap, the rice plants will be finished for sure.

Practice is similar. When you are watching your mind, it's 'that which knows' that actually does the watching. 'Those who watch over their minds will free themselves from Mara's [14] trap.' But it's puzzling: the mind is the mind so who is it who watches over the mind then? The mind is one thing, 'that which knows' is another. This knowing emerges from within the very same mind. It's the knowing of the state of mind; knowing as the mind experiences mind-objects; and knowing of the mind that is separate from mind-objects. This aspect of the mind which knows is what the Buddha referred to as 'that which knows'. The knowing is the one who watches over the mind. It is from the knowing that panna arises. The mind manifests as thinking and ideas. If it meets a mind-object, it will stop off and spend some time with it. If it meets another object then it will spend some time with that, just like that buffalo stopping off to nibble some rice plants. Wherever it wanders to, you have to keep an eye on it the whole time, ensuring that it won't slip away from your sight. If it strays near the rice plants and doesn't take any notice when you shout a warning, you must show it the stick right away, with no messing about. To train it, you have to give it a hard time and make it go against the flow of its desires.

Training the mind is the same. Normally, when it contacts a mind-object, the mind will immediately grab hold of it. As it grabs hold of mind-objects, 'that which knows' has to teach it. Using wise reflection, you have to train the mind to contemplate each object in the light of whether it is wholesome or unwholesome. When you experience other mind-objects, because you see them as desirable, your mind rushes to grasp at them. So 'that which knows' has to teach it over and over again, using wise reflection, until it is able to cast them aside. This is how you can develop the calmness of the mind. You will come to see that whatever you grasp hold of is inherently undesirable. The result is that the mind stops right there without any further proliferation. It loses any desire to pursue such objects, because it has come under a constant barrage of insults and criticism. You really have to give it a hard time. You have to torture it until the words penetrate to your very heart. That is the way to train the mind.

Ever since I went into the forest to practise, I trained in that way. Whenever I teach the monastic community, I teach that way – because I want you to see the truth. I don't want you just to see what's in the books. I want you to see for yourselves, in your own minds, whether you have been liberated from your defiled thoughts or not. Once you have been liberated, you know. As long as you have still not freed yourself, you must use wise reflection to penetrate and understand the truth. If you really have insight into the true nature of thoughts, you will automatically transcend them. If later on something else comes up and you get stuck on that, you must reflect on that and as long as you haven't transcended it, you can't give up, otherwise there can be no progress. You must keep working with the problem over and over again and not let the mind get away. This is the way I practise with my own mind. The Buddha taught: paccatam veditabbo viρρuhi – the wise ones are those who know for themselves. It means that you have to do the practice yourself and gain insight from your own experience. You must know and understand this very self.

If you have confidence in and trust yourself, you can feel at ease. Both when people are criticising you, and when they are praising you, your mind remains at ease. Whatever they say about you, you remain calm and untroubled. Why can you stay so relaxed? Because you know yourself. If other people praise you when you are actually worthy of criticism, are you really going to believe what they say? No you don't simply believe what other people say, you do your own practice and judge things for yourself. When people who have no foundation in practice get praised, it puts them in a good mood. They get intoxicated with it. Likewise, when you receive criticism, you have to look inwards and reflect for yourself. It might not be true. Maybe they say you are wrong, but actually, they are mistaken and you aren't really at fault at all. If so, there's no need to get angry with them, because they aren't speaking according to the truth. On the other hand, if what they say is the truth and you really are wrong, then again there's no reason to be angry with them. If you can reflect in this way, you can feel completely at ease, because you are seeing everything as Dhamma, rather than blindly reacting to your opinions and preferences. This is the way I practise. It's the shortest most direct way to practise. Even if you were to come and try to argue with me about theories of the Dhamma or Abhidhamma, I wouldn't join in. Rather than argue, I would just give you reasoned reflection.

The important thing is to understand the Buddha's teaching that the heart of practice is letting go. But it's letting go with awareness, not letting go without awareness, like buffaloes and cows who don't pay much attention to anything. That's not the right way. You let go because you have insight into the world of conventions and concepts and you have insight into non-attachment.

The Buddha taught that in the beginning you should practise a lot, cultivate a lot and attach a lot. You should attach to the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha as firmly as you can. He taught to begin practice in this way. Attach with sincerity and determination and keep attaching. It's similar to his teaching on not envying others. He said that when making a living people should depend on the fruits of their own labours. You should support yourself from your own stock of cows and buffaloes, and from your own land and fields – there's no unwholesome kamma to be made when you do this. If you earn o living by taking other peoples property, you make bad kamma. Many people heard this teaching and believed it, so they made their living working their own property to its full extent. But of course this involved some difficulty and suffering. There was suffering because they had to work with their own sweat on their own property. So then they went to the Buddha and recounted their tale of suffering, complaining that if you own anything it's just a source of complications and unhappiness. Previously, he taught them that their difficulties and hassles arose from competitiveness, trying to acquire things which really belonged to other people. So they understood that if they followed the teaching that they should make a living from their own resources rather than exploiting those of others, then all their problems would be solved. However, when they tried doing this, they found that in fact their hassles and difficulties still existed. So then the Buddha shifted his teaching to a different level. He said that in fact, if you attach to and give undue importance to things of any kind, it doesn't matter whose they are, suffering is the result. If you touch fire in someone else's house it's hot; if you touch fire in your own house it's also hot – that is the nature of attachment.

The Buddha could only teach according to the level of understanding and wisdom of each individual, because it was like having to teach crazy people. That's the way you teach crazy people – sometimes it's appropriate to give them an electric shock, so you do it. As long os people's minds are at such a coarse level, they don't have the mindfulness or wisdom to understand the teaching. Having finished his own practice, the Buddha got to grips with our problems and would come up with various skilful means or teach people according to their circumstances.

In my own practice I tried every possible means of reflection and investigation to gain insight. I staked my whole life on the practice, because I had confidence in the Buddhist teaching that magga, phala and nibbana (enlightenment) actually exist. These things actually do exist, just as it says in the teaching, and they actually do arise through good practice. They arise from a mind that is bold enough to give the defilements a hard time; bold enough to reflect and train; bold enough to fundamentally change; bold enough to do the practice.

What does doing the practice mean? It means going against the tendencies of your mind. When your mind starts thinking this way, the Buddha has it go that way; it starts thinking that way, he has it go this way. Why did the Buddha teach about going against the grain? Because in the past, for so long, your mind has been covered with defilement. He taught that the mind is unreliable because it's still untrained and has not yet been transformed by the Dhamma. Because of this, he said you can't trust it. As long as it hasn't merged with sila and Dhamma – because it's still not pure and lacks clear insight – how can you trust it? He taught not to rely on the unenlightened mind because it's defiled. At first it's the servant of the defilements, but over time it gradually gets polluted and becomes defilement itself. So, he taught not to trust the mind.

Look at all our monastic regulations and training guidelines, they all make you go against the grain. When you go against the grain there is suffering. Of course, as soon as there is some suffering, you complain that the practice is too difficult and troublesome. You say you can't do it, but the Buddha didn't think that way. He saw that if there is suffering, it's a sign that you are practicing in the correct way. But you understand that you are practising in the wrong way and that this is the cause of all the difficulty and hardship. When you begin practice and start to experience some suffering, you assume that you must be doing, something wrong. Everyone wants to feel good, but they're not usually concerned about whether it’s the right way or wrong way to practise. As soon as you start going against the kilesa and the stream of tanha, it brings up suffering and you want to stop because you think you must be doing something wrong. But the Buddha taught that actually you are practising correctly. Having stimulated the kilesa they get heated and stirred up, but you can misunderstand and think that it is you who have been stirred up.

The Buddha said that it's the kilesa that get stirred up. It's because you don't like going against the defilements that it's difficult to progress in the practice – you don't reflect on things. In general you tend to get stuck in one of the two extremes of kamasukhallikanuyogo (sensual indulgence) or attakilamathanuyogo (self-torture). Sensual indulgence means you want to follow all your mind's desires: whatever you want to do, you do it. You want to follow your craving, which means you want to sit comfortably, sleep as much as you want and so on. Whatever you do, you want to be comfortable – that's the nature of sensual indulgence. If you are attached to pleasant feelings how can you progress in the practice?

If you aren't indulging in sensuality or are unable to obtain satisfaction through attaching to pleasant feelings, then you tend towards the other extreme of aversion, becoming angry and dissatisfied and then suffering because of it. That is the extreme of self-torture. But this is not the way of one who is training to be peaceful and aloof from the defilements.

The Buddha taught not to follow these two extreme ways. He taught that when you experience pleasant feelings, you should just take note of them with awareness. If you indulge in anger or hatred, you aren't walking in the footsteps of the Buddha. It's following the way of ordinary unenlightened beings, not the way of the samana. One who is peaceful no longer moves in that direction, they walk the middle way. This is sammapatipada (right practice), which means the extreme of sensual indulgence is off to your left and the extreme of self-torture is off to your right.

So if you take up the life of a practising monastic, you should follow the middle way. That means you don't pay too much attention to happiness and suffering – you let them go. But at the same time you can't avoid feeling pushed around by these two extremes: one moment you are struck from this side, another moment pulled from that side. It's like being the clapper of a bell. They hit you from this direction and you swing in that one, back and forth, over and over. It is these two things which push you around. In his first teaching, the Buddha talked about these two extremes because this is where attachment has taken root. Half the time, desire for pleasant things hits you from this side and the rest of the time, dissatisfaction and suffering hit you from the other side. It is just these two things which bully us and push us around the whole time.

Walking the middle way means you let go of both the pleasant and the suffering. To practise correctly – samma patipada – you must follow the middle way. To walk the middle way, following the path of the Buddha, is difficult and involves some suffering. If you don't find satisfaction when your mind craves pleasant feelings, it's just suffering. It seems that all that exists is just these two extremes of happiness and suffering and as long as you still believe in these things, you'll tend to attach to them and get involved with them. It means that when you become angry with someone, you immediately start looking for a piece of wood to go and hit them with – there's no patience or endurance. If you like someone, then you like to spend your whole time with them, getting lost completely. That's right isn't it? You always tend towards these two ends, the middle way never gets a look in. But the Buddha didn't teach us to follow the extremes. He said that we should gradually let them go. This is the way of samma patipada – the way out of becoming and birth. It's the way without becoming or birth, without happiness or sadness and without good or bad. As ordinary unenlightened human beings who are still subject to becoming, each time you fall into this process of becoming, you fail to see that middle point of balance. You go rushing by, on and on, as if you're falling headlong and you end up attaching to the extreme of happiness. If you don't get what you want, you still meet suffering from the other direction, missing the mid point time and time again. Rushing back and forth, you don't see that point of balance where peace and equanimity exists. You don't come to rest of that point in the middle which is free from becoming and birth. Why? It's because you don't like it. Getting tangled in becoming is like falling into a realm where you get savaged by ferocious dogs, and then, though you try climbing upwards to get away, your head gets pecked and torn apart by the iron beaks of demonic vultures and crows. It's like being caught into a never-ending hell-realm. That's what the true nature of becoming is like.

So the place where there is no becoming and birth, humans don't really notice. The unenlightened mind fails to see it and consequently just passes back and forth over it. Samma patipada is the middle way which the Buddha followed until he was liberated from becoming and birth. It is abayakata dhamma – neither good nor had because the mind has let everything go. This is the way of the samana. One who doesn't follow this way cannot be a true samana, because they won't experience true inner peace. Why is that? Because they are still involved in becoming and birth, they are still caught up in the cycle of birth and death. But the middle way is beyond birth and death, high and low, happiness and suffering, good and bad. It is the straight way and the way of calm and restraint. It is a calm that lies beyond happiness and suffering, good moods and bad moods. This is the nature of the practice. If your heart has experienced this true peace, it means you are able to stop. You are able to stop asking questions. There's no longer any need to ask anybody. This is why the Buddha taught that the Dhamma is paccattam veditabbo viρρuhi – it's something which each individual has to know clearly for themselves. You see how it all accords exactly with what the Buddha taught and then you've no need to ask anybody else.

So I have talked briefly about my own experience and practice: I didn't have so much external knowledge or study the scriptures that much. By experimenting and investigating, I learned from my own mind in a natural way. Whenever liking arose, I observed it and watched where it led the mind. All it does is drag you towards suffering. So what you do is keep practising with your own mind until you gradually develop awareness and understanding ... until you see the Dhamma for yourself. But you must be utterly sincere and really determine your heart and mind to do it.

If you truly want to practise, you must make a determined effort not to proliferate or think too much. If you start meditating with craving to have a certain kind of experience or gain some kind of state, then it's better to stop. When you start to experience some calm, if you start thinking, ' Is this it?' or ' Have I attained that?' you should take a break and gather up all that theoretical knowledge and just put it away in a box somewhere. Don't bring it up for discussion. The kind of knowledge which arises during meditation is no of that order. It's a completely new kind. When you experience some genuine insight, it's not the same as the theory. For instance, when you write the word 'greed' down on paper, it's not the same as having the experience of greed in the mind. This applies to anger in just the same way; the written word is one thing, but when you actually experience it in the mind, you've got no time to read anything – you experience it right there in the mind. It is very important to understand this.



[8] Kamma: 'Actions', both wholesome and unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind. [Back]

[9] Parami: refers to the ten spiritual perfections: generosity, moral restraint, renunciation, wisdom, effort, patience, truthfulness, determination, kindness and equanimity. [Back]

[10] Apaya: The four 'Lower Worlds' are: the animal world, ghost-world, demon world and hell. [Back]

[11] Kammatthana: Literally means a 'basis for action'. It usually refers to the forty subjects of meditation (as listed in the Visuddhimagga). It can also be used more generally to mean the whole way of training in sila, samadhi and panna. [Back]

[12] Dhutanga: ascetic practices recommended by the Buddha as 'Means of Shaking Off (the Defilements)', or 'Means of Purification'. They include 13 strict observances (such as: wearing only three robes, eating only from the alms-bowl), which aid in the cultivation of contentedness, renunciation, energy and similar virtues. One or more of them may be observed for a shorter or longer period of time. [Back]

[13] Five precepts: the five basic guidelines for training oneself in wholesome actions of body and speech: refraining from killing other beings; refraining from stealing; refraining from sexual misconduct; refraining from lying and false speech; refraining from the use of intoxicants. [Back]

[14] Mara: the evil one or the Devil. Can appear as a deity or as the personification of the defilements. [Back]