Question and Answer about Dhamma


BY PHRA ACHARN THATE DESARANSI : WAT HIN MAAK PENG NONGKHAI, THAILAND.
CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN PHRA ACHARN THATE DESARANSI AND PHRA BUNTA PASANNACITTO
R E S U M E : PHRA BUNTA PASANNACITTO
Native of the province of Maha Sarakham, he sojourned in many places to earn a living. He had just barely enough knowledge to read and write. Once he met a monk who practised meditation. After some conversation with the monk, he was inspired with faith. So he left the life of laity and entered monkhood under the supervision of an Upajjhaya named Phra Thep bundit of Wat Sri Muang, Nong Khai Province. That was at the age of forty-six. He spent one Vassa season with the Upajjhaya. After that he took leave of him and spent the following Vassa seasons under the supervision of Phra Acharn Thate at Wat Hin Maak Peng in the district of Sri Chiangmai.

He has attended to the practice of meditation regularly. Upon some doubts pertaining to the practice, he asked Phra Acharn the following questions:
QUESTION 1 : Since Dhamma, Whether crude or refined, is always present in Each individual, why does one not see it?
ANSWER 1
Dhamma is difficult to see. It is present not only in individuals, but also in everything. There are two kinds of Dhamma: the form ( Rupa Dhamma ) and the mental factors ( Nama Dhamma ).

The difficulty in seeing lies in the fact that the heart-base is darkened by defilements ( Kilesa ). Thus, The heart is incapabie either of holding or withholding Dhamma for careful examination. This means that the heart is restless.

It is not peaceful enough to be the basis for a consideration of Dhamma. Another problem is that one's heart is prone to wander off among external objects here and there. Even if this may contribute to knowledge, it is knowledge on the theoretical side sanctioned by pedantry. This is, by the way, not true Dhamma.

It is merely book-learning and is ultimately not efficient. Not until Dhamma becomes paccatam or personally perceived in oneself by oneself, can one see its optimum valur, this is why it is difficult to see.
QUESTION 2 : Some people say, if there already is Dhamma within oneself, why take the trouble to practise it? Is his remark correct ?
ANSWER 2
No. As I have explained, Dhamma is within us all right, but we are not capable of perceiving it. We may see it only on the surface, acknowledging its form and abstraction through the eyes and imagination. This is the kind of Dhamma that derives itself from the memory of texts and dictates of provosts.

This is neither seeing with genuiness nor with one's own insights. Therefore, it is necessary that we train and prepare our heart for holding the dhamma. As I have explained, if there is no place to hold the Dhamma, the Dhamma cannot sit. Consequently, as much as we wish to ponder upon the Dhamma, we cannot perceive it clearly. Many times we see it not as it is. Dhamma is there all right, but we are incapable of witnessing it.

This is why we need to train our heart in a quiet place or with the help of a teacher who knows, so that our heart is capable of holding the Dhamma for consideration.
QUESTION 3 :Concerning the three principles of giving ( Dana ), Morality ( Sila ), and meditation ( Bhavana ). Is it possible to perceive them one in all or all in one, once we have attained wisdom ( Panna ) ?
ANSWER 3

The Teacher wishes to stress the importance of each principle, so he makes the above classification and speaks of them separately. Now, if a person practising meditation speaks only of the heart, not of the external object, that is, if we speak of pacification of the heart, then we may pick up the subject of meditation and explain the other two principles through it.

Whether the Dhamma is crude or refined, it will be perceivable to a pacified heart. External giving of material giving is one type. This is to give away miserliness. However, observance of the moral precepts is for pacifying the physical and the verbal. Meditation is for pacifying the physical and the verbal. Meditation is for pacifying the heart. If the heart be not at peace, you may see things with the eyes, but it will not be as distinctly as when you look at them with a quite heart.

In pacifying the heart through meditation, we have to learn to give up mental attachments. This is called Caga also meaning to give, give away. Besides, in meditating, we learn to keep our body and speech at peace. That is, we do not carry on any disturbance through them. Here is already realization of the moral precepts.

Through meditation, we may say that giving, morality, and meditation are one in all and all in one.

QUESTION 4 :Theoretically, when we speak of morality ( Sila ) concentrated absorption ( Samadhi ) and wisdom ( Panna ), we put wisdom last. But, those who practise meditation prefer putting wisdom first. Is this correct ?
ANSWER 4

This is similar to what we have just been talking. The explanation is, when we speak to the people at large, we start from the crude to the refined. It is easier for them to understand. For those who practise, the order is reversed. A heart perfectly at peace can very well see that wisdom is the basis of morality. Wisdom is there to discriminate right from wrong, good from bad, and what to do from not to do. When wisdom grows, we then know that we should abstain from doing ill.

This is how we come to observe the precepts. Hence wisdom comes before morality. The same is true with meditation. When we practise meditation in order to arrive at a concentrated absorption in a sense-object and a one-pointedness of the heart, we must have wisdom, subtlety, and intelligence. We must cleanse our heart all around. In other words, we must be mindful of the senses by not letting them wander away in thoughts. We see dangers in such wanderings, so we are likely to give them up. In this way, we attain peace.

Now, let's look at it the other way around. Normally speaking, wisdom is placed last. In this case, wisdom is of the highest degree. It is wisdom for the realization of truth. If we have observed no precepts and attained not one-pointedness, wisdom cannot possibly grow. Wisdom which is the basis of insight must be built upon perfect observance of precepts and concentrated absorption especially at the level of Appana-Samadhi. Once withdrawing from the full concentration of Appana - Samadhi, insight will occur. Hence wisdom is placed last of all. Some pragmatists, who perceive that wisdom comes before morality and meditation, may regard the other order as a mistake. Nevertheless, those who have attained insight can see the grandiosity and subtlety of the Teacher's explanation and will be able to perceive the Truth of those varied explanations, since they correspond to different levels of dhamma. Wisdom of the highest degree is called Panna Vipassana. It will enable one to release attachments (Upadana)

QUESTION 5 :Some say that mindfulness of the body ( Kayanusti ) is the development of calm ( Samatha Bhavana) Whereas mindfulness of the arising and falling is the development of insight Vipassana-Bhavana. Is this correct ?
ANSWER 5

This is difficult to say. One has to practise in order to understand it. Samatha means calm. There is not just one way to reach it. The Buddha does not make it obligatory that you have to use only such and such a meditation method. You may use any of the methods, whither it be a concentration on the word "Buddho," or "arahan," or "Samma Arahan," or a concentration on death.

You may also concentrate on your body. All are right. There is no objection to any of them. The importance is whether or not the heart is capable of arriving at one -pointedness. If it is capable so, then ir is called Samatha. All of those varied ways may lead to samatha. If the heart cannot yet achieve one-pointedness, it may just be at the state of verbal repetition ( Parikamma-Bhavana ). I have explained that the one-pointedness refers to that state in which the heart is detached from external objects and has come to dwell on one particular object. This is the highest possible state of Samatha. At this state, the heart is charged with the fullest power. It will act automatically.


We cannot direct it. It is capable of auto. Matically setting itself at, or withdrawing itself to a appropriate state ( Bhumi ). This takes place in the realm of Samatha.


As for Vipassana, this means to comprehend truth as it truly is, so that one is able to dispose of one's self-Attachment (Attanu-Ditthi). If one is still unable to do so, one is not yet up to the vipassana state. One may probably acquite defilements of comprehension ( Vipassanu - Kilesa )


In practising Samatha and Vipassana, it's better not to burden yourself with books, or you will become pedantic. Keep them away in a cabinet. Let us train our heart so as to experience calm and one-pointedness. Then if we wish, we may converse with references to books. If we can do this, we can save a lot of saliva.

QUESTION 6 :Most of the beginners in the practice of meditation usually wish to comprehend the highest Dhamma, thinking that they have got enough basis for comprehending it. If they do not know and do not practise Dhamma at the elementary and intermediate levels is it possible ?
ANSWER 6

People today are too anxious, When practising Dhamma, they wish to find the quickest result possible. They sometimes do not even know what the high Dhamma is. Most of them, as I have noticed, think of the high Dhamma as miraculous experiences and abilities to "see" this and that.

This is the so-called "high Dhamma" of people today. Actually Dhamma is discovered not because of our desire. Whenever we have confidence (Sakkha) and practise efficently the four principles of mindfulness (Satipatthana), Dhamma will eventually present itself, whether it be the crude or the refined, the high or the low. All these phases will dawn upon you automatically, without your desire.

As a matter of fact, desire will be quite a hindrance to the Realization of Dhamma. Be not so covetous that you forget the Buddha's teaching when he says: morality at its height of prosperity does further the growth of wisdom. And wisdom at its height of prosperity does further freedom, a complete detachment from defilements and sufferings for that matter. The careless ones, who have not acquired a taste for morality and meditation, hearken heartily to the saying that only wisdom brings one to freedom.


So they joyfully sit around the tray of foods that are put in front of them and gauge themselves hurriedly. Dhamma is not the foods nor the rice which someone else sets before you. You have to prepare it with your own heart. True Dhamma must be touched by the heart. If we do not touch all things by the heart, how can we achieve the total, mental comprehension or Panna ? How can we realize what we have managed to get rid of, and what not ?


In practising Samatha and Vipassana, it's better not to burden yourself with books, or you will become pedantic. Keep them away in a cabinet. Let us train our heart so as to experience calm and one-pointedness. Then if we wish, we may converse with references to books. If we can do this, we can save a lot of saliva.

QUESTION 7 :When we contemplate the word "Buddho," until we become absorbed in the word, is that called "Samadhi" or "Samatha" ? What is the difference between samadhi and Jhana ? How many times does the heart have to acknowledge in order to be considered reaching the Appana-Samadhi state ? After the heart has fully maintained Samadhi, to what level is one supposed to withdraw one's concentration so as to enhance the growth of wisdom ? And once wisdom is developed, how clear does it have to be in order to achieve insight?
ANSWER 7

Samadhi and Samatha are identical. When you contemplate verbally on the word "buddho" until you achieve one-pointedness, here you have Samadhi. The calmness of the heart, which does not take to wandering, is called Samatha.


The teachers usually talk of Samadhi and Jhana as the same thing. If I explain to you here both the similarities and the differences, it will take too long. In my book Pramuan Neo Patibut Dhamma ( Dhamma in Practice ), I have explained them quite in detail. So if this is not clear, you may seek more information from there. I will give just the gist of it like this: Samadhi, can be observed on the basis of the three Cardinal Points of Samadhi, while Jhana can be observed on the basis of Bhavanga ( the passive state ).


However, one may start out with the same object of concentration, according to one's preference. When you have decided upon a particular object, say, you may choose to concentrate on the body, especially on its solid matter, you may concentrate on it without seeking the train of cause and consequence of that solid state, so that the mind becomes focused to the point of BHAVANGA. Here is what is called Jhana. And let it be understood that Uggaha& Patibhaga ( the powers to retain and manipulate and object of concentration ) are derived from Bhavanga. If Bhavanga dies not take place, the two mentioned types of power cannot take place. ( Bhavanga is a state in which the heart flashes and rests itself in one particular state of its own. Sometimes it is completely shut off ).


In Samadhi, after we have chosen the body as an object of contemplation, there must be reflection as to the followings: this body is just an element of earth. What is each of the parts ? What is its characteristic behaviour? How is this element of earth developed? How does it take place? And what is the use of its existence? Etc. Upon reflection, if the heart remains one-pointed, and there is neither anxiety nor doubts in the object of reflection, we will become clear as to the nature of cause and consequence of the object.


In this case, the heart does not enter Bhavanga or the passive state just mentioned. However, when the heart is fully charged with power due to through consideration, the heart will be capable of entering the Appana -Sanadhi ( Absorption Samadhi). (Appana-Jhana and Appana-Samadhi are different. It will take quite long an explanation. And those who have never gone through them in practice will, of course, find it difficult to understand just the same.)


You asked how many times does the heart have to acknowledge in order to reach the Appana-Samadhi stage. Now, if you still have to count on signs like that, your heart cannot passibly reach the Appana stage. The Appana does not develop wisdom. It is simply a stage in which the heart rests after work (or after a sufficient amount of reflection).

As to the question of how far are you supposed to with. Draw the heart in order to obtain wisdom. The heart withdraws itself automatically to the level of Uppacara- Samadhi.

Panna and vipassana are different in character and, therefore, are used in different context. Panna is used generally, beginning from the training of the heart in Samatha all the way to Dhamma Vijaya (mental reflections).

If the heart is capable of perceiving the truth clearly so that the heart becomes bored and withdraws itself from attachment to a particular object, while at the same time the heart drops into a calm state, then this is Vipassana.

QUESTION 8 :Some say that various religious rituals, such as the Pansukula-Matika in which monks are invited to perform funeral rites, are not at all sensible: they are foolishly held by people. Is this right?
ANSWER 8

This view belongs to the Samatha pragmatist. All those who are still dwelling in the Samatha stage carry a view like that : anything, that other people do and that are not conformable to their experience, will be considered foolish, ridiculous, crazy, not leading toward an extinction of suffering. Those at that stage if citta are like that. That is, they reach the Samatha without a well-rounded Panna.

So anyone who gives a view like that can be predicted right off that he is stuck at the Samatha without a well-rounded panna. So anyone who gives a view like that can be predicted right off that he is stuck at the Samatha stage. Once there was a monk who had entered monkhood for more than ten years.

After he had gone through the strenuous job of contemplation, he attained the state of calm. He was very delighted with it. But then turned his view against religious rituals, saying they were all foolish. Later his KAMMATTHANA ( Meditation ) deteriorated.

He took to a widow. So he left monkhood and went to live with her for about five to six months, but he could not put up with her. So he came back again to monkhood. This time he sew that acts and objects of generosity and contribution that laymen rendered to the monks were kindling the monks' Kilesa (defilements). Finally, he could not stay in monkhood. Becoming a layman this time, he was even worse than before. He was ridiculed by youngsters and all. This is the story of one being stuck to Samatha.

Religious rituals are signs of Buddha.Sasana. If there had been no ritual, what would be used as a meansuring device, since the heart by itself is not concrete. And the speech by itself cannot call for consent. The religion has been able to stand firm and lasted up to this time because of all those various rituals. Some built the U posatha hall, Sala, and Kuti for the sake of a deceased person, this is how a Wat got established and lasted till today. If a tree appears only with its core, it will not be able to stand long. It needs the bark and the periderm to protect the core, so that it will not die.

This is also true with the Buddha sasana. It does need those religious rituals as something to protect and help it grow. This is how it has lasted from time past up to this day.

Those who are stuck in the state of calm feel that they have no more Kilesa ( defilements ). They feel no need to examine further as to the cause and effect of right and wrong. Therefore, they do not know which is which. Later when the Samatha power deteriorates, he may not retain himself in monkhood. Some who have left monkhood that way usually are not able to find a way back to the temple.

QUESTION 9 :Some of the Vatta or regular duties, such as those due to the acharn ( Teacher ), Upajjhaya ( preceptor at the ordination of a Bhikkhu ), Senasna ( dwelling ), Bhattakka (meal),and Veccak kakuti (toilet), are considered by some as utterly insignificant. One can attend to them or leave them. Is this right?
ANSWER 9

The regular duties in the Buddha Sasana must be attended to with no exception by all ordained ones. The secular saying has it that : cultured people must know how to attend to what they have got. The Buddha approved of those regular duties and called them Vatta. This means, of course, to do, to attend to.

If we do not yet know how to attend to what we've got, we'll be considered uncivilized. The buddha Sasana has developed a culture higher than that in the secular sphere. Therefore, if those, who have entered monkhood, see not the value of the Buddhist culture, they will certainly turn out savage indeed.

Just consider if there were no one to attend to the dining-hall, if all came to dine and then walked away. What would that dining-hall be like? This is one example. To speak the plain truth: since human beings ate not lowly animals, we eat and then we excrete; nevertheless, we must eat and excrete in proper places, after which we must help one another clean them. " This is Vatta. "

Aside from the reference to their being good culture, those duties are also physical exercises for good health. For those who have attained perfection in morality and Dhamma, having at their disposal both Sati ( awareness ) and panna ( wisdom ), they will have those duties as their shelter ( vihara Dhamma ).

QUESTION 10 :Some consider the Buddha's Dhamma selfish, right?
ANSWER 10

Right, the Buddha' Dhamma seems to be selfish, if they refer to that Pali text, 'One is one's own refuge." However, this saying of the Buddha may have an interpretation entirely different from what it is understood. The point is, in doing or in saying anything, there must be a doer, that is, the subject of the deed or the self, otherwise there cannot be a recognizable deed. Neither can there be an understandable speech.

Therefore, the Buddha teaches one to begin with the self, make it accountable and efficient. Then it may be accountable and efficient for other people.


Now if the meditation pragmatist, who is stuck in the calm stage, refuses to do anything but meditation, as already mentioned in Answer 9, he may cause a speculative person to conclude that the Buddha's Dhamma teaches one to be selfish. In fact, the Buddha reminded the monks even in his last words that, " Bhikkhu, you shall with prudence attend to those deeds boht for the good of yourselves and others." This shows that the Buddha does not teach one to turn selfish after one has sufficiently confirmed oneself in goodness.

A dogmatist usually conjectures that in carrying on a deed for others, one has to sacrifice all by way of personal mattersas, for example, the Bodhisatva in the Mahayanist School, who refuses to become inlightened in order to help others. Never.


Theless, a Bodhisatva is actually a person working toward enlightenment. He is a person working for the good of himself, but in the meantime he is working also for the good of other people. It is difficult to understand for those who have not trained themselves and for those who do not know the actual self. So, even if they perform good deeds for their own self and for other's so that they succeed in reaching their goals, they are still incapable of conceiving the person or the place to Which the goodness goes.




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