Whenever happiness arises and the mind attaches, you have to take that happiness up for contemplation, and whenever it attaches to suffering, you have to take that up for contemplation. Eventually, the mind reaches a stage when it is fully mindful of both happiness and suffering. Thatís when it will be able to lay aside the happiness and the suffering, the pleasure and the sadness, and lay aside all that is the world and so become lokavidu (knower of the worlds). Once the mind Ė Ďone who knowsí Ė can let go it will settle down at that point. Why does it settle down? Because you have done the practice and followed the path right down to that very spot. You know what you have to do to reach the end of the path, but are still unable to accomplish it. When the mind attaches to either happiness or suffering, you are not deluded by them and strive to dislodge the attachment and dig it out.
This is practising on the level of the yogavacara, one who is travelling along the path of practice Ė striving to cut through the defilements, yet not having reached the goal. You focus upon these conditions and the way it is from moment to moment in your own mind. Itís not necessary to be personally interviewed about the state of your mind or do anything special. When there is attachment to either happiness or suffering, there must be the clear and certain understanding that any attachment to either of these states is deluded. It is attachment to the world. It is being stuck in the world. Happiness means attachment to the world, suffering means attachment to the world. This is the way worldly attachment is. What is it that creates or gives rise to the world? The world is created and established through ignorance. Itís because we are not mindful that the mind attaches importance to things, fashioning and creating sankhara (formations) the whole time.
It is here that the practice becomes really interesting. Wherever there is attachment in the mind, you keep hitting at that point, without letting up. If there is attachment to happiness, you keep pounding at it, not letting the mind get carried away with the mood. If the mind attaches to suffering, you grab hold of that, really getting to grips with it and contemplating it straight away. You are in the process of finishing the job off; the mind doesnít let a single mind-object slip by without reflecting on it. Nothing can resist the power of your mindfulness and wisdom. Even if the mind is caught in an unwholesome mental state, you know it as unwholesome and the mind is not heedless. Itís like stepping on thorns: of course, you donít seek to step on thorns, you try to avoid them, but nevertheless sometimes you step on one. When you do step on one, do you feel good about it? You feel aversion when you step on a thorn. Once you know the path of practice, it means you know that which is the world, that which is suffering and that which binds us to the endless cycle of birth and death. Even though you know this, you are unable to stop stepping on those Ďthornsí. The mind still follows various states of happiness and sadness, but doesnít completely indulge in them. You sustain a continuous effort to destroy any attachment in the mind Ė to destroy and clear all that which is the world from the mind.
You must practise right in the present moment. Meditate right there; build your parami right there. This is the heart of practice, the heart of your effort. You carry on an internal dialogue, discussing and reflecting on the Dhamma within yourself. Itís something that takes place right inside the mind. As worldly attachment is uprooted, mindfulness and wisdom untiringly penetrate inwards, and the Ďone who knowsí sustains awareness with equanimity, mindfulness and clarity, without getting involved with or becoming enslaved to anybody or anything. Not getting involved with things means knowing without clinging Ė knowing while laying things aside and letting go. You still experience happiness; you still experience suffering; you still experience mind-objects and mental states, but you donít cling to them.
Once you are seeing things as they are you know the mind as it is and you know mind-objects as they are. You know the mind as separate from mind-objects and mind-objects as separate from the mind. The mind is the mind, mind-objects are mind-objects. Once you know these two phenomena as they are, whenever they come together you will be mindful of them. When the mind experiences mind-objects, mindfulness will be there. Our teacher described the practice of the yogavacara who is able to sustain such awareness, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, as being a continuous cycle. It is samma patipada (Right Practice). You donít forget yourself or become heedless.
You donít simply observe the coarser parts of your practice, but also watch the mind internally, on a more refined level. That which is on the outside, you set aside. From here onwards you are just watching the body and the mind, just observing this mind and its objects arising and passing away, and understanding that having arisen they pass away. With passing away there is further arising Ė birth and death, death and birth; cessation followed by arising, arising followed by cessation. Ultimately, you are simply watching the act of cessation. Khayavayam means degeneration and cessation. Degeneration and cessation are the natural way of the mind and its objects Ė this is khayavayam. Once the mind is practising and experiencing this, it doesnít have to go following up on or searching for anything else Ė it will be keeping abreast of things with mindfulness. Seeing is just seeing. Knowing is just knowing. The mind and mind-objects are just as they are. This is the way things are. The mind isnít proliferating about or creating anything in addition.
Donít be confused or vague about the practice. Donít get caught in doubting. This applies to the practice of sila just the same. As I mentioned earlier, you have to look at it and contemplate whether itís right or wrong. Having contemplated it, then leave it there. Donít doubt about it. Practising samadhi is the same. Keep practising, calming the mind little by little. If you start thinking, it doesnít matter; if youíre not thinking, it doesnít matter. The important thing is to gain an understanding of the mind.
Some people want to make the mind peaceful, but donít know what true peace really is. They donít know the peaceful mind. There are two kinds of peacefulness Ė one is the peace that comes through samadhi, the other is the peace that comes through panna. The mind that is peaceful through samadhi is still deluded. The peace that comes through the practice of samadhi alone is dependent on the mind being separated from mind-objects. When itís not experiencing any mind-objects, then there is calm, and consequently one attaches to the happiness that comes with that calm. However, whenever there is impingement through the senses, the mind gives in straight away. Itís afraid of mind-objects. Itís afraid of happiness and suffering; afraid of praise and criticism; afraid of forms, sounds, smells and tastes. One who is peaceful through samadhi alone is afraid of everything and doesnít want to get involved with anybody or anything on the outside. People practising samadhi in this way just want to stay isolated in a cave somewhere, where they can experience the bliss of samadhi without having to come out. Wherever there is a peaceful place, they sneak off and hide themselves away. This kind of samadhi involves a lot of suffering Ė they find it difficult to come out of it and be with other people. They donít want to see forms or hear sounds. They donít want to experience anything at all! They have to live in some specially preserved quiet place, where no-one will come and disturb them with conversation. They have to have really peaceful surroundings.
This kind of peacefulness canít do the job. If you have reached the necessary level of calm, then withdraw. The Buddha didnít teach to practise samadhi with delusion. If you are practising like that, then stop. If the mind has achieved calm, then use it as a basis for contemplation. Contemplate the peace of concentration itself and use it to connect the mind with and reflect upon the different mind-objects which it experiences. Use the calm of samadhi to contemplate sights, smells, tastes, tactile sensations and ideas. Use this calm to contemplate the different parts of the body, such as the hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin and so on. Contemplate the three characteristics of aniccam (impermanence), dukkham (suffering) and anatta (not-self). Reflect upon this entire world. When you have contemplated sufficiently, it is all right to re-establish the calm of samadhi. You can re-enter it through sitting meditation and afterwards, with calm re-established, continue with the contemplation. Use the state of calm to train and purify the mind. Use it to challenge the mind. As you gain knowledge, use it to fight the defilements, to train the mind. If you simply enter samadhi and stay there you donít gain any insight Ė you are simply making the mind calm and thatís all. However, if you use the calm mind to reflect, beginning with your external experience, this calm will gradually penetrate deeper and deeper inwards, until the mind experiences the most profound peace of all.
The peace which arises through panna is distinctive, because when the mind withdraws from the state of calm, the presence of panna makes it unafraid of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations and ideas. It means that as soon as there is sense contact the mind is immediately aware of the mind-object. As soon as there is sense contact you lay it aside; as soon as there is sense contact mindfulness is sharp enough to let go right away. This is the peace that comes through panna.
When you are practising with the mind in this way, the mind becomes considerably more refined than when you are developing samadhi alone. The mind becomes very powerful, and no longer tries to run away. With such energy you become fearless. In the past you were scared to experience anything, but now you know mind-objects as they are and are no longer afraid. You know your own strength of mind and are unafraid. When you see a form, you contemplate it. When you hear a sound, you contemplate it. You become proficient in the contemplation of mind-objects. You are established in the practice with a new boldness, which prevails whatever the conditions. Whether it be sights, sounds or smells, you see them and let go of them as they occur. Whatever it is, you can let go of it all. You clearly see happiness and let it go. You clearly see suffering and let it go. Wherever you see them, you let them go right there. Thatís the way! Keep letting them go and casting them aside right there. No mind-objects will be able to maintain a hold over the mind. You leave them there and stay secure in your place of abiding within the mind. As you experience, you cast aside. As you experience, you observe. Having observed, you let go. All mind-objects lose their value and are no longer able to sway you. This is the power of vipassana (insight meditation). When these characteristics arise within the mind of the practitioner, it is appropriate to change the name of the practice to vipassana: clear knowing in accordance with the truth. Thatís what itís all about Ė knowledge in accordance with the truth of the way things are. This is peace at the highest level, the peace of vipassana. Developing peace through samadhi alone is very, very difficult; one is constantly petrified.
So when the mind is at its most calm, what should you do? Train it. Practise with it. Use it to contemplate. Donít be scared of things. Donít attach. Developing samadhi so that you can just sit there and attach to blissful mental states isnít the true purpose of the practice. You must withdraw from it. The Buddha said that you must fight this war, not just hide out in a trench trying to avoid the enemyís bullets. When itís time to fight, you really have to come out with guns blazing. Eventually you have to come out of that trench. You canít stay sleeping there when itís time to fight. This is the way the practice is. You canít allow your mind to just hide, cringing in the shadows.
Sila and samadhi form the foundation of practice and it is essential to develop them before anything else. You must train yourself and investigate according to the monastic form and ways of practice which have been passed down.
Be it as it may, I have described a rough outline of the practice. You as the practitioners must avoid getting caught in doubts. Donít doubt about the way of practice. When there is happiness, watch the happiness. When there is suffering, watch the suffering. Having established awareness, make the effort to destroy both of them. Let them go. Cast them aside. Know the object of mind and keep letting it go. Whether you want to do sitting or walking meditation it doesnít matter. If you keep thinking, never mind. The important thing is to sustain moment-to-moment awareness of the mind. If you are really caught in mental proliferation, then gather it all together, and contemplate it in terms of being one whole, cutting it off right from the start, saying: ďAll these thoughts, ideas and imaginings of mine are simply thought proliferation and nothing more. Itís all aniccam, dukkham and anatta. None of it is certain at all.Ē Discard it right there.