VIPASSANā - MEDITATORS’ QUESTIONS 2
Lights of Vipassanā Meditation
Q. Who are the leading lights in Vipassana meditation in Thailand ?
A. In the last fifty years the movement to instil correct Vipassana practice in The Sangha and in society has been led by Pra Ajarn Pimon Tam, also known as Luangpor Yai, and currently Somdet Buddhachahn.
Pra Pimon Tam
Pra Pimon Tam was born in the north-east of Thailand, and he began his teaching duties in the 1920’s, teaching the method of watching the rising and falling breath at the navel, which later became popular in Burma in 1949. (Pra Pimon Tam was invited to Burma over a dozen times by the Burmese Sangha, and he was also invited to teach in the U.S., Europe, Israel, India, Kampuchea, and Malaysia).
He was the only strictly Vipassana bikkhu to become a leading figure in The Sangha Administration. This fact, and his esteem within The Sangha, was never very popular with the scholars in the administration. In the early 60’s the Sangha Administration perjured against him, and he was stripped of his robes and imprisoned without trial.
During his five years in prison, he taught Vipassana meditation everyday, and his students came in their thousands. The chief conspirator in The Sangha administration, who was of course the head of The Sangha whilst Pra Pimon Tam was imprisoned, was decapitated when his chauffeur driven limousine was involved in an accident.
Pra Pimon Tam was then allowed to rejoin The Sangha, although he was not given back his previous positions, and did not seek them. Each year he organised a Vipassana Samana, or teaching seminar, spending a week in each of four provinces of Thailand; each year a different group of four provinces was chosen.
A typical Vipassana Samana consists of over 1,000 bikkhus, 500 samanairns, and 500 nuns, plus some 500 lay devotees (anagarikas. etc.) staying in the fields tudong style, and teaching the local population who visit both day and night. It is not uncommon to have a gathering of 15,000 Buddhists, sitting together in meditation in the moonlit fields.
The Vipassana Samana has spent a week in all of Thailand’s 70 plus provinces, and some of them have been visited more than once. Apart from his usual teaching duties, on these teaching tours Pra Pimon Tam has personally taught and sat with over a million people. He was also responsible for Vipassana instruction to be included in the regular high school syllabus in Thailand’s government schools.
When a position on the council of Mahatheras, or senior administration. became vacant, the bikkhus of north-east Thailand threatened to form a new Sangha unless Pra Pimon Tam was given the post. Thus eventually he was given back all that was taken away, and although he remained detached from his reinstatement to the administration. he was able to use it for the spreading of Vipassana instruction.
Pra Pimon Tam has been an inspiring leader who has taken the inconsistencies and unjustness of society with a smile, and has pushed forward, through the apathetic ideas of the scholarly administration, spreading the correct teachings of The Buddha and the analytical knowledge of Abhidhamma.
As a bikkhu’s bikkhu, and some one who has changed The Sangha and Thai society as a whole, one cannot overemphasise the importance of the teachings of Ajarn Buddhataht, a true servant of The Buddha.
Ajarn Buddhataht’s teachings have been published in well over a hundred books, that have made The Buddha’s teachings so clear and interesting to all. He has taken the ceremony and stuffiness out of Buddhism, and with his own understanding and insight, shown that there is nothing more beneficial and enjoyable than the Dhamma.
He has organised seminars and taught specific groups in society, such as teachers, lawyers government officials, soldiers, farmers and bikkhus, and emphasised the necessity of duty and Dhamma in their particular field. He has pointed out that duty is also Dhamma, and that if we carry out our duties correctly then our society will be correct.
To schoolteachers he has pointed out the necessity of a correct foundation for education, and this foundation must be morality.
To government officials and administrators he has pointed out that corruption is not one of their duties. And to lawyers, police, and the armed forces, he has taught of our nature as human beings, so that they may be considerate and just in their duties.
Although Ajarn Buddhataht was not well known for being a meditation master (often directing young aspirants to other centres), he was in fact one of the principal meditation masters for those bikkhus who had progressed well in their practice.
The duties of Ajarn Buddhataht of Wat Suan Moke have been a joy and inspiration to bikkhus, nuns, novices, and lay-people alike.
Ajarn Leuan of Tung Song province was an Ajarn’s Ajarn. He lived in a group of caves set in the forest, and as he received little formal education, he was not a talker, he taught by yahn (Jhāhna), and the samādhi resulting from yahn, and his practice in the pitch black caves. He also began teaching in the early 20’s the method which was standardised more than two hundred years ago from Wat Maha Dhatu, watching the rising and falling breath at the navel, and noting all phenomena.
To the local villagers he was known not only for his Vipassana instruction, but for the fact that when he ate his daily meal in front of the caves, he would share it with all the creatures of the forest. Animals that were normally aggressive towards each other, wild forest dogs, leopard cats, forest fowl, squirrels, as well as domestic animals, would all sit around him, peaceful and contented in his presence. He was a teacher for both man and beast, a great teacher of Vipassana Ajarns in Thailand.
Pra Kru Palad Kao
Ajarn Pra Kru Palad Kao is the head Vipassana meditation master of the Vipassana Ajarns in Thailand. Each year at the Centre for training Vipassana Ajarns of Thailand, he has held retreats which in their different stages generally run for well over five months.
These retreats are for bikkhus and nuns who have completed their initial five year training, and involve eighteen hours of practice per day. After five years of such retreats the bikkhus and nuns are assigned teaching duties.
As well as these duties, the Ajarn also holds various retreats for nuns, lay-people, and an annual month long retreat for school-children.
The Ajarn is well respected for his discipline and correct practice, and his outspoken exposure of what is not The Dhamma, and the follies of society. His teaching output throughout Thailand is phenomenal, both in the form of radio broadcasts and personal instruction. He has also taught in Japan, India, and has reintroduced correct Vipassana practice into Nepal. In his training he ephasises complete devotion to the practice, and the duty that bikkhus and nuns have towards society.
Greatest obstacle to progress
Q. What is the greatest obstacle to someone progressing in Buddhist practice ?
A. The information, the programming, that we carry with us; which is described as the fixed views and opinions that we have about life, about Buddhism, and what Buddhism is.
Q. Is there a way of cutting through this?
A. All of the Ajarns who have practiced and taught correctly emphasise the practice only, however because many of us have different lifestyles periodic reading can be an aid. In many meditation centres reading is prohibited, as it is often the greatest obstacle to development.
The head Ajarn of the Vipassana administration in Thailand has pointed out that as little as five percent of so-called Buddhists actually follow what The Buddha taught, thus he does not allow reading. He teaches to learn the truth first, by observing the mind, then one can learn what is not true afterwards by reading some of the so-called religious books.
If books illuminate the necessity of mindfulness and clear away unnecessary baggage then they are useful. If they cross the boundary of common sense, or stray from The Buddha’s basic teachings of cause and effect, then they should be regarded as nice stories.
One should remember that The Buddha did not write any books, and really he was not religious at all. He pointed out the nature of human beings, he was a scientist of our mind and body process, so it is not necessary to be a religious believer. Whether we follow a religion or not, and whatever we choose to believe, our nature as human beings is exactly the same, and these teachings are things to be proved, not believed.
When The Buddha taught there were no Wats or temples, no images, candles, or incense, no ceremonies; people just practiced. His teachings were remembered by some and told to others as stories. Over four hundred years later these stories were collected and written down, so it is obvious that embellishments and errors were also written down, and that many stories were rejected or accepted on the social values of the times, or the influence of a particular member of The Sangha.
During a period of over two thousand years it is also probable that there were revisions and additions from various scholars who may or may not have been well-practiced. So that in todays translations there are quite a few instances of what The Buddha did not teach.
These things should be considered, and books should be used as reference material rather than taken as the truth of what has happened in the past.
Many untruths have been spread on the strength of fame and scholarly certificates, leading many people of common sense to think twice about the Buddha’s message, and the merits of genuine Sangha members.
In some instances the incorrect teachings of a few have led to the total rejection of all the Sangha by the narrow-minded, leading them to think that there can be Buddhism without the Sangha.
Ranks, titles, and scholastic degrees, are the trappings of society, and should be understood as such. However, due to the ignorant nature of society, it comes as no surprise to find that those with official-looking pieces of paper exert the most influence.
The Buddha himself taught not to worship or believe in him, but to watch the mind and realise one’s own nature. And although many members of The Sangha are worthy of great respect because of their dedication to correct practice and selflessness in the uplifting of society, none of them surpass the value of the teachings.
Buddhism has suffered much less than other religions from gross fabrication, there is no reliance on literary works as a foundation or proof of Buddhism. Long before Buddhism, there were religions based upon virgin births, gods come to earth, bringing the dead back to life, in fact just about anything that is humanly impossible. Stories may be true or untrue, but for Buddhism their is no necessity to believe. There are no efforts to convert people, and in comparison to other religions it is not really a religion at all, but a science, of how our nature really is.
From the uncertainty of various writings, and the variety of uncertain teachers, comes the necessity to follow the very basic teachings of The Buddha, of morality and samadhi (mindfulness), under the guidance of an Ajarn who is merely a servant of The Buddha, and realise for oneself the cause and effect nature of existence.
The Dhamma, the truth, is not in the books,
The Dhamma is not in the Ajarn,
The Dhamma is in the practice.
Danger to Buddhism
Q. Is there any danger to Buddhism from other religions ?
A. No, the danger to Buddhism comes from within, from people who call themselves Buddhists yet do not really understand what Buddhism is. Other religions are often used by these people as a focus of their aversion, and as an excuse for their own failings.
Whilst as Buddhists, we may look at belief systems and realise their errors, we must also realise that they are not completely in error. All of the major religions teach morality, and the spreading of love and kindness, so they do offer great benefit to society. We should consider the alternatives to such religions, and also realise that not every human being has the necessary understanding to become a practicing Buddhist.
If Buddhism is taught and practiced correctly, then naturally people of common sense will be influenced by it. If it is taught incorrectly, then one cannot blame people if they look to another religion for a refuge. One must remember the law of karma, there is no effect without a cause.
It is common for impure minds to always be concerned with what others are doing, instead of looking at themselves. They criticise other religions, and even the members of their own Sangha for not doing things in agreement with their own defiled views. They spend their time in idle gossip, spreading their defiled moods amongst others, and ignorantly work against the efforts of the genuine Buddhists.
One must consider what Buddhism is, it is not a belief system where the founder is exalted and worshipped because no one else can hope to be the same. It is the only door in the prison of being, the only choice for those who know where they are, and anyone with complete faculties can realise the same as The Buddha did if they persevere.
Considering the impact upon society that The Buddha had, in a country full of many religions, one of which specialises in taking over others’ property even to this day, then one should realise what it would be like if Buddhists were really Buddhists. Awareness shines a light in the minds of others, just as defiled moods can be spread amongst those who are not so aware. The Buddha was not made a teacher because of some government proclamation, he taught with the authority of his own practice, he was a teacher by example. He was not concerned at the doings of others, and we should follow his example and practice correctly.
Customs and Traditions
Q. As a Westerner it is difficult to accept many of the customs, and traditions that come with Buddhism, is it necessary to follow these ?
A. It depends upon where you are. If one stays with an Ajarn in the West, then there is no necessity for the customs to be the same as in Asia, but there will still be something new and strange. It must be remembered that not all people who visit and stay at Wats have the same ideas, so there must be some common ground.
In Thailand, for example, Buddhism is woven into the fabric of society, and there are many customs associated with it that are not strictly The Buddha’s teachings. Many of the customs have symbolic meanings associated with Buddhism, which in themselves are not too out of place if one understands them. However, for a Western visitor it is only natural that many things will seem strange, and whether one can accept them or not is really a matter of letting go and concentrating upon the practice.
Not every Wat or meditation centre in Thailand has the same practices, but where ever you are it is necessary to blend in with society, because to openly reject the local customs would cause misunderstanding. Of course one does not have to inwardly accept them either, it is better to use them as part of the training, an opportunity to express non-self. If one is to seek training in Thailand, then accepting the local customs and traditions is a small price to pay for the guidance of a well-practiced Ajarn.
Buddhism in the West
Q. Regarding Buddhism in the West, how should the discipline, customs, and ceremonies, be followed there ?
The Buddha taught the middle path, the avoidance of extremes, and so the practice of moral discipline and samadhi should also be without extremes.
Some bikkhus and lay-people attach to the discipline, customs, and ceremonies, so much that many ordinary people come to think of Buddhism as just the same as other religions. Quite often people have realised the ignorance in belief systems, and when they meet a similar type of behaviour from Buddhists one cannot blame them for thinking that Buddhism is only more of the same thing.
There is a discipline for members of The Sangha, and there is a discipline for lay-people, but discipline is not The Dhamma, it is only a guide.
Whilst Vipassana cannot be developed without some discipline and effort, attachment to the discipline alone produces nothing but a fanatical mind.
The discipline should be a lifestyle rather than a set of rules to be followed blindly, because what is more important than any rule written in a book, is understanding and intent. Words can often be manipulated, but we should always be aware of the intent in our minds, so that it fits in with the spirit of The Buddha’s Vinaya.
When The Buddha sent his disciples to other countries, he sent them to teach The Dhamma, and there were no ceremonies or customs attached to these teachings, otherwise The Dhamma would not have flourished. He did not say that any country was unsuitable because of this reason or that, he told them to go everywhere, because everywhere where there are people is a suitable place.
There are Ajarns who conduct no ceremonies at all, and whilst they may be considered radical in the sense of custom, one cannot help but think that they are more true to the original teachings of The Buddha. To follow the expectations of society will certainly generate more support, but at what expense ?
Customs and ceremonies should be suitable for the environment, otherwise we ignorantly come to think that Buddhism is only suitable for Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka.
Ordination for men and women
Q. When the Buddha was questioned regarding the same type of ordination for men and women, why do you think he did not answer ?
A. The kind of reply as given by The Buddha is a very common reply from Ajarns to bikkhus. It means that if you don’t have the understanding to see why such and such is so, then giving you an answer in words will not really supply the answer. That is why The Buddha remained silent.
The question of male and female has always been a controversial subject, and if one gives an answer to people who attach to black and white extremes, then it is sure to cause dissent.
One should consider why The Buddha answered in this way, was he discriminating against women, or was he taking into account the different nature of men and women ?
Although it is good public relations to say that all are equal, obviously there are differences but it is not a question of either sex having superiority.
If we consider the general nature of male and female in society, then we find that the male sex has more problems, such as violence, narcotics, crime, etc., whereas the female sex are generally more stable. This comes about because of the different natures of the minds, and the difficulties in exercising direction.
If we were to take into account all of the wars waged by men, and all the devotion to their children shown by the mothers of the world, then socially we would have to say that women are superior.
In religious and social circles we find that women are more supportive by far, but when a man is able to exercise direction in his spiritual awareness then he usually becomes a leader.
In religions that are belief systems it is more custom than practice that designates who becomes what. In Buddhist practice we find that the males who do practice correctly have a difference in samadhi because of their nature, thus the leaders are, and have been, the Ajarns. But it does not mean that every bikkhu has good samadhi, nor that some nuns do not have.
The number of bikkhus who spend their lives as the Buddha did, on developing correct samadhi to the exclusion of everything else, is quite small. And most members of Western societies who come to Buddhism, do so in a less direct way, because it takes time to let go of their Western ways and ideas. Thus in the West there are no Ajarns who’specialise in direct Vipassana training, and the emphasis is placed upon discipline and lifestyle, which is equal for both sexes.
An Ajarn is such because of his practice, just as The Buddha was, there is no social right involved by being male. A leader does not require official certification, a leader just leads.
It is true that there is discrimination against women in some circles, but all of us, both male and female, experience some forms of discrimination throughout our lives so it should not be a major issue. Generally, in Buddhist practice there is no discrimination, of course if you want to find it you will find it, but then you are not practicing correctly.
In the final analysis, one must consider the benefits that can be given to society by all, it is petty to be concerned about male and female rights, and illustrates a mind not focused upon correct practice, and lacking understanding of The Dhamma. Although our nature and abilities are different, we are of equal importance, we are dependent upon each other.
Q. Is it necessary to practice in strict silence when developing Vipassana meditation ?
A. No, this rule of silence is not really a Buddhist practice, but is generally favoured by Westerners due to their ideas being influenced by the practices of other religions.
Remaining silent does not aid Vipassana in any way, it is not being natural and relaxed. When one is practicing talking should be kept to a strict minimum of course. Daily interviews, when practitioners do talk, are a part of the practice that helps to balance the mind. Forceful silence tends to make people become unbalanced and fierce.
When staying in a Wat or meditation centre, it is impossible to expect everyone to remain silent. Not everyone will be practicing because there are so many other things to be done in the daily affairs of the Wat.
Also there are different periods throughout the year that involve the instruction of bikkhus and nuns in things other than meditation. When one stays in a Wat some will be practicing and some will not, to be upset by other people talking shows a lack of Vipassana, and scores ten points for attachment. It is a case of meditators not knowing what is samadhi, and what is Vipassana.
Vipassana can be practiced anywhere, noise is no problem at all if you don’t attach to it. Just go and stay in any forest in Asia, they are far noisier than many towns and cities, and after it has rained the noise of the insects and frogs becomes quite deafening.
The ultimate knowledge
Q. What is the ultimate knowledge ?
A. To know and understand the sight of your own eyes, the sound of your own ears, the smell of your own nose, the taste of your own tongue, the sense of your own body, the mood of your own heart, the thoughts in the mind, and why all these things arise. This is the ultimate knowledge.
First stage in the development
Q. What is the first stage in the development of Vipassana ?
A. Realising that you have a mind, realising that there is Nama and Rupa, or mind and material objects, instead of an ‘I’ or a ‘me’. This is something very basic, but something that 99.99 % of society are not aware of.
Whenever there is contact between our environment and a sense organ, there are two elements involved, the materiality that comes into contact with the sense organ, and the mind that knows this contact, is aware of this contact.
There is no ‘person’ doing anything, there is just a cause and effect process.
Most people are not interested in mind development because they are not even aware that they have a mind, or they think that the mind is the brain so life is assumed to be completely material.
A lot of people who are interested in meditation also do meditation without ever coming to realise that there is Nama and Rupa. As well as many people who know the sutras inside out, yet are not aware of their own mind process, simply because they have never spent the time to watch.
In Thailand, Pra Kru Palad Kao has put in a lot of time and effort teaching the experts, the scholars, who have had all the degrees, ranks, and titles, concerned with the study of the sutras. He had to be very careful with them because they were people of high esteem in their respective areas, and one of them was even the head of The Sangha in another Asian country. But not one of them knew the first thing about which they were supposed to be highly qualified, not one of them was even slightly aware of their own mind process. In their own minds they thought they knew it all, and some of them even thought they were already enlightened. They knew the knowledge in the books, but they had never realised it in their own practice, they had never actually experienced it.
It is not uncommon to meet meditators who state how long they have spent in India, etc., have done so many courses, have been with this teacher and that teacher, learned this method and that method. They give you a very attractive dossier on their ‘personal’ achievements and their attachment to the fashion of being a mysterious meditator, but still don’t realise the first thing about their own nature.
If you want to realise the basics, never mind the various methods of concentration, moving the mind to different parts of the body, or the hand movements (not The Buddha’s methods). As meditation has now become quite fashionable there are countless methods being taught, but meditation without awareness of the mind is a complete waste of time. Put the mind upon the rising and falling of the breath at the abdomen (or nose) and watch the thoughts, feelings, sounds, and sensations, as they arise upon the mind, and note them.
Don’t become trapped by being a scholar, an expert, or even a mysterious meditator, just watch the mind process, realise Nama and Rupa, and everything will begin to unfold.
Q. What is the second stage in development ?
A. Realising that every arising in the mind is conditioned, i.e. that everything is a cause and effect process. Nothing arises without a cause, and the opposite applies that if we take away the cause, then the arising ceases. This is something that is easy to see in our environment, but realising it in the mind process can only done by watching the mind.
There is a condition for everything that happens to us, and a condition for everything that we do. Even our bodily movements are preceded by a condition, the intent in the mind. Unless people spend the time to slow down and watch the mind, they will never realise this fundamental awareness.
There is great depth to this particular realisation, because it also unfolds the mysteries of the birth of all beings as well as the arising of all phenomena upon the mind.
This awareness leads to a more complete awareness of phenomena arising upon the mind, where the initial, middle, and falling away, stages of each arising can be seen. At this point one begins to really understand the nature of all these sights, sounds, tastes, smells, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. That is, that they are not a part of an ‘I’ or ‘me’, but are simply reactions, results, that come and go according to various conditions.
They are seen and understood as not belonging to a ‘self’, seen as being in constant flux, forever changing, and thus understood as being unsatisfactory in nature.
It will also be realised from this that all of your past experiences have had this same nature, and all of your future experiences will have this nature too.
Past, present, and future, all the same, what a misadventure you are starring in !
From here there is the obstacle of very clear and strong samadhi to overcome, and once this is let go of the first path of stream entry begins.
Most important part of Vipassana
Q. What is the most important part of Vipassana meditation ?
A. Noting, the noting of all phenomena that arise upon the mind.
Some people who have practiced meditation for a while often think that it is not so important, and that the most important part is to keep the mind upon the breath. This is incorrect, noting is the part of the meditative process where one lets go of phenomena that has arisen, returning the mind to the breath is secondary.
When we meditate, and thoughts begin to arise, it is not enough to just be half aware that we are thinking, because then we will carry on thinking as before. When we are doing sitting meditation, our ability to note ‘thinking, thinking’, ‘feeling, feeling’, and ‘hearing, hearing’, is the actual letting go, returning the mind to the breath then moves the mind away from the thoughts, etc., and gives it a neutral object.
It is a mechanical process because our mind works in a mechanical way. Whatever arises does so because of conditions. By noting phenomena that arise upon the mind we are letting go of them and replacing them with the noting, then we let go of the noting and replace it with the breath.
The phenomenon is no longer present because we have let it go, we haven’t wrestled with it or tried to push it away, it has gone because we let go of it, and if it returns we do the same again. If our practice is skilful and correct, eventually it will become a spent force and disappear completely.
During our daily activities the actual time spent sitting may be quite short, but as long as we are skilful at noting, then we will be able to avoid unwholesome phenomena in any situation.
Let go of happiness
Q. Does the practice of letting go mean that we have to let go of all happy experiences also ?
A. The practice of letting go is to develop awareness and understanding of the nature of what arises in the mind.
It does not mean that you do not experience happiness, but as you become more aware of the nature of what you experience, then your idea of happiness will change.
Things that you attached to yesterday will be let go of today, just as you did in your change from child to adult.
Every being likes to experience happiness, but we all have different ideas about what makes us happy. When we lack understanding of the nature of things, then we often attach to happiness that bites.
From letting go, as opposed to attaching and abandoning our minds to all experiences, we develop understanding. Once we have understanding then we are able to exercise direction in our lives.
The end result is a free mind, which is happiness all of the time. In society, a personls idea of happiness can be compared to the images of all the advertising companies; you have to pay for it, and it doesn’t last.
There is no need to become a religious robot, with a mind full of excessive discipline, incantations, and guilt, all this too must be let go of. By letting go we find that our natural condition is one of happiness and contentment.
Types of desire
Q. How many types of desire, craving, are there ?
A. Desire, craving, is threefold. First of all there is the desire for sensual pleasure, when we have attachment to colours, shapes, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and thoughts, that arise when sense objects come into contact with the senses. (Which includes the desire for life or death, to experience and to not experience).
Then there is pure form desire, when we have attachment to such things as art objects, antiques, toys (from cars and computers to yachts), Zen temples, and form jhānas.
And finally there is non-form desire, when we have attachment to fame and renown, being loved, being influential, brave, honourable, venerable, holy, etc., as well as the attachment to non-form jhānas.
Q. What are the attachments of an ordinary human being ?
A. These are fourfold, namely :
Attachment to the senses.
Attachment to unfounded views and opinions.
Attachment to rites, rituals, and superstitions, (including fortune telling).
Attachment to the belief in a permanent ego, self, or personality.
Q. Are dreams of any importance ?
A. Like everything else that arises upon the mind, including all experiences, whether so-called out of body, or near death experiences, dreams are insignificant, they are impurities.
Whilst science has proved correctly that most people do dream, a natural mind does not experience dreams. In most cases dreams are a continuation of peoples’ daily mental activities.
Dreams arise because of four causes:
2. excessive thinking
3. sickness (or an unsettled stomach)
4. contact from another being.
Q. What is the possibility of we humans being visited by other types of intelligent beings from outside of our galaxy ?
A. Well, one can only surmise that if they were intelligent, and knew of our situation, then they wouldn’t come near us. In Buddhism rather than saying just yes or no to possibilities in general, we should understand that if the conditions are there, then things can happen; everything is dependent upon conditions.
As far as our galaxy is concerned, there are some things that we should understand. We experience the earth because our senses are made of the earth. It is a temporary experience and in the absolute sense it is illusion, māya. All the creatures that we share this planet with are also made from the earth, this is why we are all relatives.
We experience the earth as solid, but science tells us that there are no solids but simply energy. So our bodies are energy and our senses and our nature as humans create the illusion of the earth and our galaxy.
Our mind is not energy, is not of the earth, but is composed of attachment to experiences, and is joined with our body to experience further consciousness.
In comparison to the other beings that we know of, we may rightly consider ourselves to be more completely aware. But in the total framework of nature, we are perhaps only a small band on the spectrum of awareness. On the material plane we can only experience those properties of which we are composed, so there may be other beings extent that we cannot be aware of because of our limited capacity to experience.
When one considers our illusory nature, then it is pointless to be concerned with the possibilities of the illusion. Rather that one should be concerned with the origin of the illusion.
As far as aliens, extraterrestrials, are concerned, the people we are looking for are already here. They have already invaded; it is us, we are looking for ourselves.
Q. What are narcotics in the natural sense, and why are they so prevalent ?
A. Narcotics have always been available to society in some form or other, and always will be. They are in fact natural poisons, some of them mild enough to be considered pleasurable by those looking for a refuge. The only societies who have used narcotics in any way of purpose, have used them as a medicine, to change consciousness; in a way equivalent to the electric shock treatment used in some Western societies.
What has made many young people turn to narcotics are the conditions in society, and as the growth and preparation of narcotics has often been encouraged by the leaders of these societies for financial gain, one cannot help but sympathise with habitual users.
If they have nothing else, apart from their attachment to consciousness provided by plant poison, most of them do have the correct view of society, that it is in a mess.
Unfortunately what they don’t see is their own contribution to that mess, and their unwitting support for all the elements in society that they are against.
For those who realise their predicament, it is a pity that their awareness is wasted on private revolt, instead of joining an alternative society where their efforts at self-destruction can be put to better use; for their own well-being, and for society’s.
Peace and contentment can be found by even the worst of us, if we would only take the trouble to look around.
Q. Could Vipassana be considered a kind of therapy ?
A. In the usual sense no, but because Vipassana changes our conscious life so completely, in the absolute sense it is the ultimate therapy.
Therapy in society is useful if one knows of no other alternative, and if one can afford it. It could be compared to being picked up by a rescue launch after a shipwreck, it is better than drowning, but that rescue boat has your name and problem painted on it. You become fixed as Joe the junky, Max the madman, Diana the divorcee, Wilma the widow, etc. There is attachment to the cause of suffering.
Society often treats peoples’ personalities as if they were fixed by the moon or stars, and this unwitting cementing of peoples’ characters by family and friends alike becomes an extra burden and cause of suffering.
In contrast, Vipassana is like a small boat that comes drifting along. It is a means of rescuing your own being without the burden of a labeled ‘self’. You have to do the rowing, but there is the freedom of knowing that you are simply a changeable process, nothing more. No one to feel hurt, no one to feel lonely, no one to complain. Whatever happens in life should be let go off. Attachment, in the form of talking about it over and over again, only creates the consciousness for the suffering to keep on arising.
Developing awareness of how our mind process operates offers complete freedom for all. For those who have a problem in society’s eyes, then it is often difficult to reconcile. To be a wide-eyed schizophrenic smiler, manufacturing an image which is acceptable for society, is not the answer, we need the understanding of who and what we are.
Most people go through life carrying the burdens of ‘personal’ calamities like old wounds, because they don’t understand our nature as human beings. They become trapped by their lifestyles and habits, and their unwillingness to accept change. They never realise that they themselves should be directing their lives, instead of being at the mercy of events.
Everything about our life is supposition, things are supposed to be a certain way, and we are all supposed to fit into a certain framework, a certain pattern. None of this supposition of course takes into account the ignorance and impurities of mind that people have (not forgetting the so-called leaders of our society). To attach seriously to anything that arises out of this chaos shows a lack of respect for one’s own being. Everyone should learn the true meaning of ‘nevermind’; not attaching to anything at all.
In truth, there is nothing that happens to us that we do not create ourselves. If we make mistakes, then filling our minds full of guilt, remorse, and self pity, is only adding to the way that we torture ourselves.
Vipassana is the ultimate therapy because it offers the ultimate refuge, freedom from all suffering, and being in alignment with our nature.
In Buddhism there is no sin, no evil, no devil, only ignorance and stupidity. And once these are replaced with moral discipline and mindfulness, there is no ‘person’ to be anything at all. No one to love and no one to hate, no one to suffer.
Love and hate are flip-flop sides of attachment, as well as pride and guilt, conceit and inferiority. In society the ideas of love, peace, and ‘love yourself’, are merely slogans, whose repetition fails to replace the ignorant greed and aggression in peoples’ hearts with awareness.
Love, peace, and love for ones own being, are all natural states of alignment with nature, no effort or intent is required to produce them. Stupidity takes up all the energy and effort.
Vipassana is the means of letting go of all the ignorance that we cling to, so that we may experience and understand what we really are.
Q. What is society in need of most ?
A. Moral discipline, and the understanding of why such discipline is necessary. Society has many laws, yet the things in society which create the most suffering are legal.
While most things that happen to people are often self-inflicted, and often warrant little concern, one should consider the people of this world who are dependent upon correct guidance from society, namely the children of our society, the future society.
Apart from an awareness of the obvious menace of narcotics, both illegal and legal, is the need for censorship concerning violence and pornography. Whilst censorship is often looked upon as a breach of freedom, one must also consider what is common sense.
We must take into account that there are different levels of consciousness amongst human beings, some levels barely above the animal level. Not having sensible censorship laws is providing these people with a cause to produce effects which are totally beyond the capabilities of any member of the animal realm.
Society’s greed for wealth creates respect for money and anyone that has money, so that the elements of our society who make their money from criminal actions have power and influence. It then comes as no surprise to find that the politicians are reluctant to enforce any form of sensible control over what destroys the well-being of society.
Thus we cannot rely upon the lawmakers to set any kind of decent standards, the law of what is right and correct should be in our hearts, with the insight of knowing why we should have such standards.
Moral discipline is comprised of four standards:
May all beings come to realise their true nature. May they be happy.
„World society is like a clock, it is composed of many parts, many cogs. Some kinds, some sizes, work quickly, others work slowly amongst all the different parts, but when all the cogs work and join together, then we have the correct time."
Pra Pimon Tam
From an address given to the delegates of one hundred and five nations at the meeting of the Moral Re-armament Organisation, Switzerland, 2521 (1978).
Pra Pimon Tam was also invited to the Vatican by Pope Pius the 12th, where at St. Peter’s basilica in Rome he said,
„All religions have the same objective, and although we have the means for practicing all of the various religions, we should work together for the peace and happiness of the world. Pope, I ask that your reception be genial when I point out that this is exactly the thing that Jesus wanted."
>Apichato Bikkhu October 2532 (1989)