Mind, Mindfulness and Meditation

Whether meditation, as I understand it, is not creating something (calm, concentration or insight, or what not). Rather it is seeing clearly whatever is happening in the moment in a very simple way. Aiming at, or creating calmness, or insight is trying to start from where we should be. So we always fall back to where we are because we did not start from we are. Another way of saying it is: Meditation is complete internal communication, or life (problems) understood in depth is meditation.

So there should be no difference between untangling the content of one’s ‘stuff’, working with problems (neurotic, or what not), and meditation. It is all part of the same process.

For me, doing counselling and giving guidance in meditation are not much different. So a person who does not understand people but has a lot of book knowledge is not a meditation teacher (or counsellor) but is a scholar. A person who teaches and guides people according to a formula should not teach!

Most Westerners need a lot of help just untangling the content of their stuff. For this, a worldly teacher can be very helpful… I understood this point a long time ago, and I am getting deeper into this matter. Even when I was in the USA my way of working with people was first to understand their life, their stuff, their problems, and see where they are stuck. Helping them see their problems clearly. The whole point of meditation is just untangling — to untangle internal and external tangles.

So there can be no cut and dried formula for everybody. People are unique. So there should be flexibility. The Buddha himself gave different instructions for different people.

My understanding is that a meditation teacher must be very sensitive. He (or she) must understand himself very deeply. He must be aware of his own tangles; be very creative in dealing with people; understand every person in a deeper way; be gentle and patient in guiding; not be pushing or demanding to make progress which can cause a feeling of inadequacy and unhappiness. He must understand where his student is. You know, we must start from where we are, not from where we should be. So, a teacher must understand where a student is and give him/her guidance so that the student can start from where he/she is.

Meditation, as it’s been taught to and practised by many people, has its limits. That’s because they don’t understand it properly and they are trying to do it as if it is something apart from their life.

Real mindfulness meditation is all-inclusive. No part of our mental and physical life should be left out of our mindfulness. Every aspect of our life should be well understood.

Real practice is natural, moving, living, limitless, should be practised everywhere, every time. A specialised and fragmented approach is unacceptable for me. I am beginning to feel that a specialised, standardised approach is harmful (I have never been able to force, restrict myself to do that). For me meditation is not something special.

Everything seems so trivial to me. Crazy games. Meaningless hurry, hurry. Why so much doing?

The best thing I can do for myself is to be mindful. Look into your mind (life) and see how dependent you are on people and books. See how easily you get bored. Can you live with boredom without doing anything about it, except being mindful of it?

Doing nothing is actually not easy. I believe you know that from your experience. What happens to your mind when you do nothing? Have you carefully observed that? Boredom is unbearable. So we try to find something to do, to run away from boredom. Just try to do nothing for a few days.

Non-doing is not easy. If you try to do non-doing, then you are doing. If you try to accomplish something, you are doing. And your ego is strong. If you don’t do anything then you become meaningless and empty.

Non-doing is a state of mind which is free from ego. Doing without reacting; without a person doing it. And most important of all, doing wholesome deed without expecting anything in return.

Understanding comes to those who are not in a hurry to understand. Understanding is like a fruit tree; it takes time to become mature. One cannot force it to bear fruits.

Instead of running away from boredom, if you can work through it you will find a kind of wakefulness, alertness, life, clarity beyond that. Then the mind becomes workable. Mostly we give in and become busy, busy. When we’re busy we feel useful, important. When we’re doing nothing we feel useless and feel ashamed. Some people take pride in being busy.

There is a kind of dullness in the mind which is always there. We need something exciting, some kind of stimulant, either talking or reading or travelling or… to keep the mind awake. Otherwise it is in a half-wakeful state. If you can train your mind to be awake all the time, without any of those stimulants, you will find a new kind of energy. Only by being constantly mindful can you get there. Whether you are on retreat or not it is important to be mindful all the time. Doing a retreat is useful. But it is very important to keep up your practice so that you can maintain your clarity. Otherwise you go downhill again. It’s like swimming upstream: If you don’t make a continuous effort you go downstream.

Effort in meditation is like effort in learning to ride a bicycle. In the beginning you put too much effort and you fall off. Later on, by doing it repeatedly, you learn to put just enough effort to keep you on the bicycle so you can put more effort to move forward. You learn by doing it. The most important point, I think, is continuity. If you know what mindfulness means then, be mindful more and more. By being mindful you learn how to be mindful with relaxed effort. If you think you need to put more effort, do it and see how it affects your mind (mindfulness). You will learn how to maintain your mindfulness. You will find that your mind is not at ease when it is not mindful.

I want to be free and peaceful, bodily and mentally. So I’m looking to see what makes a person not free and not peaceful. The more I can see what’s binding me, the better there is the chance of becoming free. The answer is quite simple — attachment and pride. But to see them when they are in action is most important, not just to think about them.

I don’t want to be busy. Being busy is a wasteful way of living. When you’re busy you get so involved that you cannot see what’s going on in your mind. You become unmindful. So I don’t want to be a busy teacher. Never. I talk about this again and again.

If you want to get the most out of meditation do it wholeheartedly. Do it as if there is nothing else you want to do in your life. Beware of distractions!

To learn how to swim you have to get into the water. No use sitting on the bank and asking people to teach you how to swim. With minimum instruction you can get into the water and teach yourself how to swim. Choose a suitable object (or two) for yourself, and be mindful of them continuously. Continuity is the most important point. Thinking cannot make the mind happy. Watch your thoughts without wanting to control them. When you see them clearly they will stop. Thinking is such a big burden.

The most important thing is to be aware of your own mind. Also your motives when you do things. Mostly people are not aware of their motives when they speak or do things and, in most cases, when they are aware of their motives they justify them.

Mindfulness practice (meditation) is awareness of everything happening in all six sense bases all the time, from the moment you wake up until the last moment before you fall asleep. Not just when sitting.

Much more important to be mindful of and understand your fantasies, ideas you are attached to, frustrations, loneliness, and any other feelings, weak or strong.

If something works for you (like noting), do it. Do it long and do it well so that you know all about its advantages and disadvantages.

Meditation is the best kusala (wholesomeness).

If you are mindful and wise, you never lose.

The ideal is to be mindful always.

I’m happy when I’m alone. Talking is boring. I told you about my feeling of drifting away into the universe. Things (and also people) are losing their influence on me. Hard to talk about this feeling. I feel much lighter in my heart.

Don’t take the emotion — commotion seriously. And don’t try to justify it either. You are living your own life and you have a right to do whatever you think is right for you at that moment. If you make a mistake, learn from it.

If you make a mistake and you’re in trouble, look into it without complaining or blaming (oneself or others) or running away; without justifying yourself or getting upset about it. If you can see this without any resistance you can overcome (grow out of) that very quickly and easily. I am getting better at that, now.

Relationships are so frustrating. I told you many times: I’m becoming alone. So I understand very well what you said: “I retreat within myself”. If you watch your mind really closely without wanting to be different, it will resolve your knots, but don’t watch your mind only in order to resolve your knots. That will cause a conflict. See anatta (no-self) in your mind.

I think one day I’ll go away and live alone somewhere. I’m getting tired of religion. I’m just preparing my mind.

I’ve been meditating more this last month. So nice to be alone. I want to read less and less. Now I want to read my mind more. I don’t learn anything in depth from books. Only when I see my life (my mind) clearly can I learn something in depth.

For a human being, understanding human nature in general and understanding his/her mind in particular is the most fruitful thing.

What I’m doing here is so important for me (I mean delving into my mind) that I don’t want to interrupt it unless there is a good reason. In fact, I want to go to a much more secluded place, and live alone and meditate all the time, without interruption. Nothing else is worth the trouble. You have read; you have talked; you have discussed; you have thought a lot; and still you are confused. Enough of all those things.

This clarity makes the mind a lot less attached. My mind is now very much detached and clear. I don’t want to get distracted. So you are not confused about being confused? Some people don’t know they are confused. They are too busy or crazy to think about that. All I can tell you is don’t think too much and be mindful. You know thinking too much makes you more confused.

If you can be mindful when you are sick you will learn something very deep and meaningful. You will see how lonely you are and how meaningless everything is. When the worst of the worst happens we will be really alone.

I’m seeing this loneliness more and more. There are very few people who can reach us and understand us. Between each person there is a big chasm of misunderstanding.

Mindfulness is part of our nature. It can be developed naturally with ease.

Can you explain to her how to be aware of her thoughts and feelings? Not control. Just simple, bare awareness of mind. The chattering, the monologue or dialogue going on in the mind. The comments, judgments, etc.

Mindfulness is a way of life (living). Wherever we are and whatever we are doing we should do it mindfully. Thinking is a big hindrance to mindfulness. We should be mindful of that. Actually, it is very important to be aware of thinking. Watch your mind without blaming or judging. See it as a thing in itself; not you, not yours.

In meditation, do whatever comes easily and naturally. The most important point is to be interested and it should be interesting, to be happy doing it. There should be some satisfaction in doing it. Once something becomes boring there is a negative attitude towards it. With that sort of negative attitude it is tiring to go on doing it. You said, “saddha (confidence) = energy”. Yes, when you have saddha in your practice you have energy to do it.

So, if you are interested in watching your mind instead of rising and falling, why not? The mind is the most interesting thing in life.

Walk more and be mindful. The more you think of how to improve your situation the more unhappy you become. Always planning for the future — “I will be happy if I live in a good place.” Always: “I will be happy if…”. Never, “I am happy…”. Enough planning, improving.

‘Becoming’ is so predominant in our life. We don’t see that there is no ‘being’. How can there be ‘becoming’ without ‘being’? Just see what is happening at this moment without any motive to improve it.

I understand your struggle and pain. I know you are trying your best to be a good disciple of the Buddha. It is hard. It is not even easy to keep the five precepts. Yes, some people think sotapatti maggaphala (the path and the fruit of streamwinning) is nothing. They don’t understand how extraordinary it is not to have (to be rid of) wrong views; to overcome rites and rituals (superstitions). To come to see clearly that dhamma practice is the only way that could lead to liberation, happiness. They don’t know what an extraordinary thing it is not to have any envy (jealousy); to rejoice in other people’s prosperity; to share whatever you have with others; and to have overcome all the doubts about one’s practice (whether it is the right way or not). What a relief it is not to have doubts about the path one is walking on.

I can understand how hard it is to practise sati, for someone who is living such a busy life. I am not one hundred per cent mindful either. It would be better if you can cut down on any unnecessary activities. We listen to the dictates of our minds and run around doing things that our minds tell us to do, but if we watch our minds more closely we will see that we don’t have to believe all the things that our minds tell us to believe, and we don’t have to run around like mad doing all the things that the mind tells us to do.

“He who would accomplish anything, must learn to limit himself.” (Goethe) We waste so much time in trivial pursuits. The Buddha said: “appakicco” (few duties or responsibilities).

If you limit yourself more carefully, you will be able to develop deeper awareness. If you cannot be mindful in your daily life, you cannot develop understanding of life. The understanding of life and the understanding of Dhamma go together. First of all, learn to live your daily life meaningfully, sanely.

I’ve found very few people who are deeply interested in Dhamma as you are. Most people are not even aware of their states of mind. We all have good (wholesome) states of mind and bad (unwholesome) states of mind. To be aware of both states of mind is the first and most important thing to do. We don’t really have any real control of the mind, and that is why it is anatta. See that you are not making these bad (unwholesome) mind states.

To understand the nature of mind, that is, the nature of lobha (greed), dosa (aversion), moha (delusion), mana (comparing), issa (jealousy), macchariya (stinginess), kukkucca (worry), and so on; and also to understand sati (mindfulness), samadhi (concentration), panna (wisdom), metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), etc., is more important than to attain some stage of enlightenment or to get rid of any kilesa (defilement). Understanding comes first; overcoming happens (follows) naturally, later. So, please, be willing to watch whatever is happening in the moment. See the nature of it first. If you are upset because there is lobha, or dosa, or… you will not see it clearly because you are agitated, you have dosa (aversion). See that too. Only when you are willing to look at your mind without feeling guilty, without wanting to do anything about it, will you be able to see it clearly. Then it will lose its power over you because it is exposed — it is transparent.

Please don’t condemn greed, pride, anger, and so on. You can learn quite a lot from them. You cannot grow up unless you know about them very well. Only when you can see them with a clear mind can you learn about their true nature, especially their anatta-ness (selflessness).

The first and most important step in meditation is non-identification with mental (nama) and physical (rupa) phenomena. It is not overcoming anything except overcoming identification with the namarupa process. Why do people get upset? Because they identify with namarupa. So, when there is greed, lust, attachment or frustration, anger or pride, etc., the most important point is to see them as a natural phenomenon without taking them as something personal. Don’t try to overcome them. Being upset is another ego trip. Is there a person (atta) who is upset? Being upset is just another natural phenomenon. Being upset is ego boosting. If the mind doesn’t get upset, if there is non-identification in the watching mind, which means there is equanimity, the mind will be able to watch greed, etc., with interest, calmness and clarity, and see it for what it is — a fleeting, insubstantial, impersonal, natural phenomenon. Identification makes all defilements stronger. Without identification they are not so strong. A sotapanna [see glossary] still has greed, anger, etc., but there is no identification with namarupa. Only anagamis [see glossary] and arahats [see glossary] are free from greed and anger. But only an arahat is free from mana. If you are upset because you enjoy music, you are being too demanding, you are asking (expecting) too much. But if you see the enjoying mind and watch it with equanimity, only then will you see it for what it is. Being upset (which is dosa) is a close companion of greed and pride. Because you think: I am a meditator so there shouldn’t be greed or pride arising in my mind, you get upset. When there is greed or enjoyment of any kind, say instead: Please stay and let me study you. They are really wonderful. Greed is the greatest magician. Learn (see) the way it conjures up pleasant feelings. The mind gets so tricked by greed that we don’t see it as a magician, we see it as me.

The mind is tricky. The mind wants change, something different. It craves for entertainment, stimulation. Boredom is a great problem. That’s what most people are doing — running after stimulation in one form or another.

If we don’t watch out we can become very self-righteous because we are meditators, or practising Buddhists, or we know Dhamma; we know what is good and what is bad…, which is mana again.

When there is mana in your mind, be willing to see it clearly. Don’t try to drive it away. To see it clearly is very important. The rest will take care of itself. Only when one becomes an arahat is one totally free of mana. Don’t practise humility; it will be forced humility. Just be mindful of mana. If you see your mind clearly you will become humble naturally. You won’t feel like you’re practising humility. You become less proud without your consciously doing it.

Without understanding the immediate effect of wholesome and unwholesome states of mind there cannot be real appreciation of Dhamma. Outward submission to any form of religious practice will never have a profound and lasting result. To understand the reaction of the mind to every experience through the six sense doors is very important, especially the influence of ideas and the attachment to them.

Have you understood (do you understand) wholesome (kusala) and unwholesome (akusala) states of mind? I think this is most fundamental in the practice. I don’t want to use the words good and bad in connection with kusala and akusala. I don’t mean understanding them by reading about them in a book or by thinking about them. I mean by really seeing them immediately. To see the difference of the qualities of minds when it is wholesome and when it is unwholesome.

Sometimes when I see these very clearly I come to understand that it is not worth having an unwholesome state of mind no matter what the situation (circumstance) is. There must be a proper way (without having an unwholesome state of mind) to confront a trying situation. This is wisdom. To be able to live in any situation without an unwholesome state of mind. To get that wisdom, first we must be clearly mindful of the mind reacting to all situations. To everything we see, we hear, etc.

To see whatever is happening in the mind without wanting it to be different whether it is unwholesome, unpleasant, not beautiful, not desirable, e.g. anger, lust, doubt, conceit, and to see whatever is pleasant happening in the mind without wanting to hold on to it, without trying to make it last longer (calm, tranquillity, rapture, clarity, etc.). This is very important.

The moment the mind wants to be in control of the situation (to oppose, obstruct or hinder what is happening, or to create, to bring into being, or to make it last longer), it loses its balance.

Opposing is aversion. Holding on to is attachment.

But not to oppose doesn’t mean to encourage either, and not to hold on to doesn’t mean to discourage. Just simply watching is mindfulness. Watching without getting involved.

We are so used to doing something, making something that we don’t know how to simply watch. We want to have control over things. We want to get involved. So we get into trouble. I don’t mean to say: Don’t get involved, don’t control because then you will be trying not to get involved, not to control. Which is again trying to be in control. So, if you are trying to control, simply be aware of that.

Actually, more and more I can see that without mindfulness life would be very superficial. Mindfulness gives depth and meaning to life.

It is something hard to understand. People say they want to be happy. But, then, how come they are not interested in being really mindful? It must be because they think happiness lies somewhere else, like in sense pleasure, such as in getting what you want, in becoming somebody, in being in control of some important position, in some pleasurable feeling.

People (you and I) want excitement, something stimulating (intellectually, for me). Sometimes we want to rest; we get tired of stimulating things. Then we want to practise mindfulness, keep the mind quiet. Sometimes I get really tired, feel burnt out, of reading, talking, thinking, planning. Then my mind turns away from all those things. I can see how meaningless they are, how unnecessary. At that time, it is very easy to be just simply mindful. So I wish I felt burnt out all the time. So, it is OK to feel burnt out. Siddhartha was burnt out when he left home.

So many petty schemings in the world. “Our highest insights must and should sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them.” (Nietzsche)

It is very important to keep the body and mind well-tuned, like you tune your car or your radio. Only when in good condition will they be sensitive, able to detect properly the frequencies, the vibrations, and the signals.

So, it is very important to learn how things affect our body and mind. Food, weather, exercise, talking, reading, sensual pleasures: everything affects body and mind. And also meditation. Meditation makes the mind more sensitive.

The mind likes to dwell in the past or in the future: It touches the present only tangentially, doesn’t want to stay in the present; always looking for distraction — watching TV, listening to the radio, or a cassette, eating, talking, smoking, reading (yes, I forgot that — reading), and what not. Do we really like mindfulness? Well,… yes… but… Ha, ha. No wonder we are superficial.

We use mindfulness as a painkiller. Only when life becomes too painful do we want to go to a quiet place and meditate. Otherwise we are quite content with distractions.

One cannot be totally free from anger. It will come when there is sufficient cause. All one can do is to see that there is anger. It helps if one can see that people are suffering.

See how much you hurt yourself when you are upset. It’s not worth getting upset over anything. Be mindful. See anger only as anger, not ‘my anger’.

Don’t say you should not be angry. It is very important to be realistic. We have ideals, but we might never attain those ideals. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have ideals. It means we must be aware of our capacity. So, don’t be discouraged because you have ups and downs. Try to be mindful as much as possible. Try your best.

I used to feel bad (ashamed) about having faults (not being perfect). In some cases, it is other people’s unrealistic expectations projected onto me; and unknowingly I slip into the role they expect of me. It is impossible; it is even dangerous; it makes me feel inadequate. But now I have learnt to be myself.

Please be mindful even though it is hard sometimes. When you think it is impossible to be mindful, that is the time when it is most important to be mindful.

It is more important to meditate when you are restless. When you think it is impossible for you to meditate because your mind is crazy — that is the most important time for you to meditate.

In the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, the Buddha said: “Vikkhittam va cittam vikkhittam cittam pajanati.” (When the mind is restless, one knows that the mind is restless.) You are not expected to do more than that.

The Buddha did not say you should feel guilty for being greedy or angry. You know what’s happening. Don’t deceive yourself. That’s all you can do. So, be mindful but don’t beat yourself up. Acceptance and honesty is the most important thing.

Just knowing the states that the mind is in would be enough. If you try to do anything more than that, you’ll end up being even more frustrated. There is no control, and that means anatta. Saragam va cittam saragam cittanti pajanati. (When the mind is lustful, one knows that the mind is lustful.)… Pajanati (to know clearly); that’s all, not more than that. To have a calm and peaceful mind all the time is impossible for someone who is in contact with so many people every day.

I know how reading some dhamma books and/or listening to some dhamma tapes can make one feel guilty. The ideal is too high. We cannot reach it. We don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying sense pleasures as long as we don’t harm anyone. See what enjoyment of sense pleasure is.

Sukham va vedanam vedayamano sukham vedanam vedayamii pajanati. (While enjoying pleasant sensations one knows that I enjoy pleasant sensations.) Where does guilt come in? Who taught us to feel guilty whenever we enjoy our life? Enough! Even though we know mindfulness is the best thing we can do for ourselves, we get distracted very often. We want to be stimulated.

Watch your mind and see what it is doing. If you understand your mind, most of your problems will disappear because most of the problems are mind-made — they have no reality outside your mind.

The best you can do is to acknowledge, to be aware, to know the state of the mind is in without blaming yourself, or justifying; without wanting it to be different, or running away; without feeling guilty or ashamed.

Look at your mind as mind, not as ‘my mind’. Whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ see that as anatta; see that it arises because it has sufficient conditions to arise, not arising on its own. Not a being, not me, not mine. Kilesas (defilements) are very interesting.

Expectation is the source of disappointment. In itself, it even makes the mind restless.

Sometimes, I think that having an ideal of calmness, peacefulness and cheerfulness makes a person even more frustrated.

Those who are living a secluded life might be able to be equanimous (but not me). As soon as you have contact with people (people who are inconsiderate, selfish, who take advantage of you), you will find it difficult to have equanimity.

Calmness is necessary to develop deep insight; it is the opposite of agitation. There is nothing wrong with having some calmness, but be careful of attachment to calmness — that attachment is dangerous. Calmness makes the mind clear. It refreshes the mind and helps mindfulness.

Yoniso manasikara (right attention) is the proximate cause of kusala (wholesome states of mind). There can be no kusala without yoniso manasikara. Ayoniso manasikara (wrong attention) is the cause of akusala (unwholesome states of mind).

We are doing auto-suggestions every day, but most of us don’t know that. Some are positive and of course some are negative. Suggestions are very much like attitudes.

The most important thing to know is your own mind.

The only thing you have direct experience of is your mind, which includes, your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, etc. All the rest is inference. Even when you look at your hands and think that you see its shape and colour, it has gone through many stages. How do you see shape and colour? What is shape? And what is colour?

A friend reported to me that when he was meditating and was aware of sound, at first he experienced sound as coming from somewhere at a distance. Later when he became more mindful he experienced sound in the ear, happening in the ear. And then when he became even more mindful he experienced sound happening in the mind. Without mind there can be no sound.

Nothing is a good substitute for mindfulness. You said, “I knew many of my problems would go away if I were to continue this practice.” We often say, ‘If, if, if…’ What is it which keeps us from really doing it? Why if ? It seems like we don’t want our problems to go away. Or we don’t really believe we can make it. So it is better to say if. This keeps us hoping. If we really do it and don’t succeed, then we will have no hope anymore. So better not to really plunge into it. Just hoping. If you don’t really do it, you can always say ‘I can’. This is the way the mind plays tricks. To protect itself from feeling hopeless, it never does anything wholeheartedly.

Why do we try so hard to convince others?

When I came back from America many people asked me whether there were a lot of people in the USA who believed in Buddhism. They were very happy that Westerners are practising the Buddha’s teachings. Yet they themselves are not really practising. Why are they happy that Westerners are practising, or becoming Buddhists? Why do you feel happy when others believe in what you believe?

People are very funny.
We don’t know anything for sure,
But we know that we suffer.
If we don’t get agitated
We’ll find an answer.
The pride of having an answer
Has caused my blindness. (Sayadaw U Jotika)

Do whatever you want to do. Meditate, take robes, do penance. You know what’s best for you. If I may give you any advice though, I would say: Be mindful.

Practise relaxing meditation. It’s quite simple. Sit in an easy position or lie down if possible. Go through your whole body starting from your forehead, checking all the tension spots and for dull pain. As you become aware of the unpleasant feelings more and more you will learn to relax the muscles, and the tension or pain will slowly fade away. Go over every part of your body without exception. Even the inside of your body. Do it very slowly and patiently, down to your fingers and toes, front and back. Do it once and over again.

Before I became a monk I had read many books on meditation. So I thought I knew all about it. After being a monk for about a year I thought: Now only do I know what meditation is, and after being a monk for three years I thought: Only now I really do know what meditation is. It goes on like that.

When I was young I read many books about explorers and I was very disappointed that there weren’t any unexplored places left. Since I found the psychological world I know that this is a wilderness world which has been explored by many. Many return into this world without proper instruments, and get lost. I have the best instrument — mindfulness. Sometimes I am surprised when I find a lot of people who are religious and don’t know even the simplest thing about mindfulness. Some people said that it was the first time they’d heard that one can practise mindfulness anywhere, anytime no matter what one is doing. Many people thought that one should practise meditation when sitting only. And that one should not do anything while meditating. They think that is the only time to meditate which means they are not willing to watch their mind when they are relating to people.

In their daily life, many people do a lot of sitting practice but they don’t see their greed, desire, anger, hatred, pride, envy, jealousy. A lot of meditators do not see the importance of watching with honesty the defilements arising spontaneously in their daily life, in their interactions with people, and when talking to people. I emphasise a lot about being mindful while talking — that’s when people are the least mindful. Most meditators have a scheduled time to meditate. They do formal sittings, and they choose some object like breathing, the rising and falling of the abdomen, touching or feelings. They have a choice of their object of meditation (which is OK in the beginning). Choice means exclusion (they exclude some things), meditation should be about inclusion. My understanding is that people should first try to be aware of their defilements.

Bhasite sampajanakari hoti. (A person who is practising mindfulness talks mindfully.) Talking is a big part of our life. It is very beneficial to develop mindfulness while talking. It is not easy but it is also not impossible. Be mindful of what you want to talk about, and, when talking, be mindful of your lips moving, the tone and loudness of your voice, or whatever is related to talking.

The most painful experiences in life arise from relationships. So it is very important to be mindful when we are relating to people. We should be aware of our attitude towards the people we relate to. To watch our attitude toward anything is very important. If we don’t have the right attitude we will create a lot of problems. A lot of meditators who do not see their attitudes clearly cause a lot of problems.

I try to be mindful while riding in a car, talking to people, doing things. A good opportunity for one to practice mindfulness is when one is busy. Practising what I teach!

To be mindful is the best thing I can do for myself. If you can practice mindfulness for mindfulness sake you will understand mindfulness better.

People are full of conflicting wishes and desires. Most people don’t know what they really want to do. They change their minds back and forth. Inconsistency is the rule. The mind is full of conflicting feelings.

The shadows of the trees are long. The sun is going down. The evening breeze is cool. How quiet and peaceful it is here. It is like a brahma world. Simplicity, contentment, restraint (samvara), mindfulness, thoughtfulness, endurance, loving-kindness, compassion, and understanding of the mind and body are what makes life here so peaceful. I never feel boredom. I live peacefully and I hope to die peacefully in a forest. I watch my mind. Things come and go. Nothing lasts forever. Even the worst of them doesn’t last long. So when they come I know they will be gone in the next instant. I don’t have to do anything to make them disappear. I want to see them as if I’m looking through a microscope at something very interesting. But the moment I focus my mind on whatever is arising I see only a glimpse of it. Then it’s gone. I want to say: Please stay, let me see you well. After all, we are old acquaintances. But they are afraid of close scrutiny. So mindfulness is my constant companion. I watch mindfulness. I am mindful that I am mindful. Awareness of awareness.

The most important thing is to be mindful. To be so mindful that thinking comes to a stop and you see what life is all about, where the problems come from. Your problems come from your mind. You won’t understand what I mean when I say, ‘Your problems come from your mind’, but when you reach a point where you understand your mind really deeply then you will know. I live peacefully because I understand my mind deeply. Wisdom can overcome kamma.

Another point I noticed a long time ago about mindfulness is that you must do it continually. The same for keeping precepts either as a monk or as a layman. If you say I will keep the precepts and be mindful in retreat but not try your best when out of retreat, then you are not true to the Dhamma. (It’s like committing adultery when married to a woman — a funny simile?) The relationship becomes a fake. You can’t get real joy. You can’t even be really serious. Well, that’s the way I see it. One must be always true (faithful, not commit adultery) to what one is doing (precepts, mindfulness). Otherwise you can’t respect what you are doing, or respect yourself. And without that respect your action will not be joyful, fulfilling, fruitful.

Mindfulness has no motive or attitude. It only sees things clearly, without judging, without wanting things to be otherwise. Practise mindfulness to see what is. That’s all.

We are not aware of a great part of the process which we call our mind, and we’ve forgotten a large part of our experiences and feelings and decisions in the past (past lives too). Yet those things have much influence on the way we feel and think, and that part which we are not very well aware of, or have forgotten but is still part of our mind, I call the unconscious mind, for want of a better term.

I am becoming more and more aware of the dark side of my mind, and as I become more accepting it becomes more revealing and I become more at ease.

We use words when we communicate, but words are so vague in meaning.

A lot of things have lost their importance for me. I am not concerned about a lot of things anymore. That gives me more freedom to see what’s going on in my mind, in my life, and what the mind is really doing. I am deeply interested in meditation.

Much of our suffering is our own creation. The mind is a great magician: It creates suffering and it suffers; it creates pleasure and it enjoys; it is bitten by a snake which is its own creation and suffers the effect of the poison. If only it knew and did not create so much suffering, ninety per cent of the mental pain would not be there any more.

I have come here so that I can have more time to go deeper into my own mind and heart. I want to become more acquainted with myself — to see all the conflicting motives, desires, wishes, ideals, in my mind and heart. I want to be familiar with all the dark nooks and crannies of my mind, and all the creeping and crawling spiders, scorpions and vipers, all the lions and eagles, etc. Not that I want to drive them away. I just want to become a good friend to my mind, a kind and understanding friend. Unless I know them very well, they will not let me sleep peacefully. I want to get a clear idea of how to relate to people.

I don’t like people thinking of me being a certain type of person which I really am not. But that is inevitable. Everybody in the world is misunderstood. And I will still be upset if they understand me correctly. As long as I’m clear about my motives, it’s OK. Where you live and with whom you associate with is very important. Some places and people put your mind in a bad mood, and to be in a bad mood all the time can really damage your mind. We are very subtly influenced by people around us. I am becoming more detached from people and organisations. People use people for their own self-aggrandisement in the name of helping. “Whoever fights with monsters should see to it that in the process they do not themselves become monsters.” (Nietzsche)

I have been watching my mind for so many years now. So I am very much aware of my mind. I know how stupid, silly, foolish, mischievous the mind can be, but because I am aware of it, it cannot carry me away.

I have forgotten most of what I’ve learnt from books. I don’t want to remember too many things. But I know a lot about myself, my mind, my mental states, all the bad, silly things about me. I’ve been taught by people that such things are shameful, that I should feel guilty for having such thoughts. I refused to believe them. I know that all of us have such thoughts but most of us deny that. I’m not going to tell people all about me. I accept (I don’t resist) all about me, good and bad. “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” (Carl Jung) Understanding and accepting myself gives me peace of mind, ease of mind. I’m OK just the way I am. I will go on seeing my mind without rejecting, judging, resisting, denying. One person I really want to know well is myself.

I prefer my mind empty, clear, and light and not burdened with learning. I have nothing to prove, nothing to defend and nothing to propagate.

I did a lot of foolish things when I was young. (I still do foolish things sometimes.) I can’t even talk about them but I don’t try to forget them. The memory of the things I did come into my mind; I don’t resist them. I don’t even feel very upset although I feel the pain.

Everybody makes mistakes. I have learnt a lot about what happens to the mind when a person makes a mistake — how the mind burns with guilt; how the mind wants to forget the past (mistakenly); and especially how it (mistakenly) keeps the person from feeling worthy of the good things in life (such as love, respect, devotion, honour, etc.). I forgive myself. Given the circumstances, how could I have avoided doing those things? But do I need to go on feeling guilty for the rest of my life? No. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’ll try my best not to repeat them. What more can I do? Nothing.

Accepting the truth will free the mind.

I’m not all-wise; I’m very foolish sometimes. Mindfulness of my mind is my compass. When I make mistakes, mindfulness of my mind always tells me that I am in trouble.

There can be no real spiritual growth without deeply under-standing ourselves just the way we are. Momentary peace and bliss is very encouraging but that alone cannot bring transformation.

Opinions that agree offer security. Yes, I can go on being upset about people for not being open-minded, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I cannot change them; I am not responsible for them; I will help them if I can. Most people don’t know what is happening in their mind, in their life. They think they know but they don’t. Most people are very heavily conditioned. You need tremendous awareness and honesty to overcome that conditioning. You are conditioned and I am conditioned too. Do we know that we are conditioned? Most of our thinking and reactions are conditioned reflexes. So let us work first on ourselves. When we ourselves are free from conditions, then I think we can do something to help others become deconditioned. As long as we are upset, we will hurt others in the name of helping. Self-deception. Sometimes it can be so complete that you don’t even know. Defensiveness makes you blind to your own weaknesses (self-deception). We deceive ourselves to be happy. Sometimes it is painful to see our weak points.

Don’t carry all the past memories and all the future cares in your mind. Live each and every moment mindfully. The future will take care of itself.

As we learn we grow out of many of our attachments, desires, dreams, hopes. Disillusionment is painful in the beginning because it is associated with disappointment, but later on it frees the mind. It makes one become more realistic. Life is not a fairytale. There is no ‘they lived happily ever after’ in real life. To be truthful, we must change. Like a snake which sheds its skin because it has become too tight, we must shed our cherished dreams. Instead of complaining that it has become too tight for us to breathe, we must shed our old skin and grow a new one, allowing us to breathe more easily. But we must remember that when the time comes to shed that again, we should not be reluctant. It is always painful to shed old skin. One becomes very vulnerable and over-sensitive because the new skin is not strong enough yet to stand contact with the environment.

I have become more and more independent psychologically. I don’t feel lonely.

“How to be mindful/watchful of the deep down mental states?” You can sense the feeling. Be mindful of the feeling and wait patiently for the thing to surface. Don’t use force. Keep your mind soft.

Happiness is having a quiet mind, and being completely mindful, so mindful that there is no thought, no sense of I. This happiness comes when all thoughts of the past or future do not occur — no ‘I’, no yesterday, no tomorrow, no plan. In that timeless moment there isn’t an ‘I’ experiencing that bliss. There is only the happiness. Real happiness has no reason. When you are really happy (with no sense of I) you cannot say ‘I am happy because…’ If you try hard to be happy you are sure to fail. Real happiness comes without being invited.

Can you watch your mind so closely that it comes to a point where thinking stops? The mind is peaceful when there is no thought but just awareness of what is. Thinking cannot make the mind peaceful. There are problems which cannot be solved, and the best way to deal with such problems is not to think about them. Thinking round and round just wears you out. Educated people like us think too much. We must admit that. We must discipline ourselves not to indulge in thinking too much.

Reading, talking, and all other distractions make a person forgetful. A person who does too much of (any of) these feels very empty, restless and bored when not doing them, or their mind becomes very dull without those stimulants.

Each thought wears and tears the mind. Thinking is a burden, a torture. You think you can find a way to make yourself happy by thinking about it. How long have you fooled yourself that way? And how long are you going to fool yourself ? Enough thinking! Just see what’s happening without thinking.

A lot of things have lost their importance for me. That gives me a lot more freedom to see what’s going on in my mind, in my life.

A thinking mind cannot see; thinking is blind. A seeing mind does not think; seeing excludes thinking. Really seeing is not the same as noting. The more you think, the more you go round and round. If you see thinking really clearly, it must stop.

I’m not thinking. Thoughts are going on by themselves. It seems like they are self-perpetuating.

Don’t think too much and don’t do too much. To be able to meditate one should: not be busy; not talk much; not indulge in sleeping; delight in solitude; be aware of all the six sense doors; be moderate in eating.

How’s your meditation these days? When you stop thinking, when you even stop noting, when your mind comes to complete silence, being alert and aware, then you see the fleeting nature, the dream-like nature of things.

In the box, there are some old newspapers. I started to read them, and I watched my mind. Distractions! Entertaining. Time-killing. Useless.

People get absorbed in entertainment and information, diverting their mind from the real, important things in life. It is much more rewarding to study your own mind and your own life, but most people are afraid to do that. Instead they want to forget themselves. They are running away from themselves; they don’t have enough courage to face themselves. Or they are scared, scared they will go crazy if they think too much about themselves. But I’m not talking about thinking; I’m talking about watching. Yes, if you think too much about yourself, you will go crazy.

People feel empty and useless. To cover that they try to keep themselves busy. People feel important when they’re busy.

Who can tell you what to do? Not me. Neither a guru nor a psychiatrist. You have to find out for yourself. I can only tell you: Be mindful and live a simple life, which I think you are doing anyway. We cannot have everything. We have to make a choice and let the rest go.

Less desire, less burden.

I have no doubt that craving, attachment, lust, and greed is the source of dukkha (suffering), and the only way to grow out of them is seeing through and through. Suppressing and/or expressing has not much value either. Understanding deeply is what counts.

No amount of explanation can make you understand what greed is unless you see it when it is functioning in your mind. It is like a spy; it has many faces and is deceitful. You’ve been deceived by greed.

Tanha (greed), mana (pride, conceit, I-ness), ditthi (wrong views) are papanca (hindrance to spiritual progress, illusion, delay). They are the cause of so much unnecessary activities, the cause of the prolongation of samsara (cycle of birth and death), and the cause of delay for people to practise and become liberated. Papanca expands mental and physical phenomena, keeping people busy and distracted.

Vitakka (initial thought, reflection) is initially putting (applying) the mind on an object, or initially taking an object into the mind, whereas vicara is keeping the mind on the same object in a sustained way. Vicara works together with vitakka in the beginning stages of meditation because the mind slips away from the meditation object. It has to be put back again and again and kept there. After some practice the mind does not slip away so easily but it needs effort to keep it on the object. After much practice it stays on the object. Both are mental concomitants (cetasika).

I have read Vimala Thakar’s article ‘Meditation, A Way of Life’. Here are some of the things I really liked in it:

… unless there is an innate passion to find out, to discover for oneself one will not be equipped to live the meditative way. Meditation is a total way of living, not a partial or fragmentary activity… Life is neither occidental or oriental… There is no excitement in a real enquirer, there is a depth of intensity, not the shallowness of enthusiastic excitement… Then that state of observation begins to permeate the waking hours. Whether you cook a meal, go to the office, or while you are talking, the state of observation begins to permeate all activities of the waking hours… When the state of observation is sustained the sensitivity gets heightened, and from morning till night you are much more aware than before… It is no use concentrating your attention upon the activities of the mind, to the exclusion of the rest of your way of living. Meditation is something pertaining to the whole being and the whole life. Either you live in it or you do not live in it. In another words, it is related to everything physical and psychological… Thus, from the small area of mental activity, we have brought meditation to a vast field of consciousness, where it gets related to the way you sit or stand, the way you gesticulate or articulate throughout the day. Whether you want it or not, the inner state of your being gets expressed in your behaviour… This co-relation of meditation to the total way of living is the first requirement on the path of total transformation… Very few of us realise that constant verbalisation is one of the greatest obstacles in the path of meditation… Life is a homogeneous whole and you can never fragment it… To be aware of the lapse or the gap is itself a kind of observation. (Vimala Thakar)

A fragmentary or specialised approach to life will not work. One needs an all-round understanding. In the body, every part is related to every other part. So it is in life: Every aspect of your life is related to every other aspect of life. The economic, sexual, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual aspects of your life are all related. You cannot keep them separate. If you try to keep them separate your life will be unfulfilling and unharmonious. There will be conflict, a schism, paralysis.

Have you ever read that the Buddha washed his feet, hands and bowl very carefully? Everything he did was spiritualised. That is true spirituality. It is related to every aspect of your life. So the way you talk, dress, relate to other people, eat, sleep, laugh — everything you do reflects your mind.

What do people mean when they say: “very deep meditation experiences”?

What is a streamwinner? Who can tell whether somebody is a streamwinner or not? Is there any difference between a stream-winner and an ordinary worldling? What is the difference?

Answer yourself. Don’t bother to tell me.

How to think profoundly? You need a quiet, mindful mind; a mind which is not tired or agitated but seeing clearly. It is the seeing clearly which is important.

Conflicts we all have, both internal and external. Only clear awareness and wisdom can help. Nissatta (being-less), nijjiva (soul-less)!

Try to think more positive thoughts. Thinking is very powerful. And have things around you which will make you more cheerful. Read books that make your mind calm, serene and cheerful. Some books are depressing. And don’t expect too much either from yourself or others.

After I’d practised mindfulness meditation for two years, I read Mahasi Sayadaw’s book on mindfulness practice and found that most of what I’d experienced agreed with what he had said in his book (to my astonishment and delight). Better to practise long enough and then read the book on nyanzin (stages/progress of insight), but nyanzin is not a feather in one’s hat. A sotapanna will not break the five precepts. That’s what the Buddha repeatedly said.

Some basic knowledge of what the Buddha taught is necessary. Without having heard about Dhamma from some good teacher it is impossible to practise it rightly. How much pariyatti (theoretical knowledge of the Dhamma) is necessary? That’s the question.

Pancavaggi — the group of five monks heard the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta and the Anattalakkhana Sutta, and that was enough for them (to attain enlightenment). Sila (morality) is necessary, without which one cannot be at peace with oneself. Sila supports meditation and meditation supports sila.

You will find all sorts of people in that country. Some are sincere, some understand Dhamma, but a lot of them are totally lost and mixed-up. Hindu, Zen, Tibet, Theravada, Western Psychology. Someone said it is hin-lei-oh (a type of Burmese curry with many ingredients) in America. All sorts of things mixed up and boiled. No perfection anywhere. If you don’t know anything about Dhamma you can get even more confused. Go there for a visit and find out. Life is a series of experiments. Nobody can tell you whether you’ll be happy there or not but you’ll sure find a lot of freedom, freedom to live your life in your own way. As for the way others are living their life, what can one say? It’s their life. Everybody is more or less a bala (fool). Your understanding and practice of Dhamma is your only protection.

Yes, the more mindful one is the softer one becomes. One becomes more sensitive: more sensitive to pain; more sensitive to unhappiness; more sensitive to nonsense. One can get easily irritated by meaninglessness. You might feel upset because the world is full of people who are not even aware of their unwholesome states of mind. And they even expect you to share their attitude towards life (conduct). You might sometimes feel very unhappy that people not only do not appreciate Dhamma, but they even laugh at those who practice it. Sometimes they even intentionally give them trouble. These things happen even among monks. So understand people and forgive them. Upekkha (equanimity) is very peaceful.

Sometimes, some people ask me why they become so easily irritated (upset) in their relationships with people. The answer is that they can’t tolerate so much nonsense anymore. They don’t want to waste so much time talking and gossiping. Before, they enjoyed talking, gossiping, killing time, talking politics. Now they can only tolerate a small dose of it. When they become mindful of what they are talking about, they feel it tastes bad in their mouth. They feel degraded, upset when the other party doesn’t take the hint. They might even become rude. So you must be very mindful of that kind of mind state. Understand people and forgive them.

“The more I meditate and have sati (mindfulness) the more I want to run away from this mad, mad world.” It would be nice if that were possible. But before you can change try to be tolerant and develop upekkha, or else you will burn yourself out.

“You always try to help us, understand us, have you no need for others to understand you?” Yes, I don’t need others to understand me but I would appreciate it if they did. To understand somebody is not so easy. I don’t really understand others but I try. It’s hard enough to understand oneself. If you don’t understand yourself, how can you understand another person? And to understand yourself, you must be very honest with yourself.

It’s really difficult to be honest with oneself. We lie to ourselves all the time. I am a hypocrite. It’s painful to see that.

Maybe you forgot I am a human being too with my own share of foolishness. I don’t think I can become perfect, and I don’t want to be perfect. All I hope for is to see what is real in me. Even when I see my faults I don’t get excited or upset. I am not in a hurry to remove them. I can’t remove them. I can only hope to see them as they really are. And in most cases, even when I see them I distort them. The mind is very good in distorting things. Self-deception. I deceive myself most of the time. I’m learning to see self-deception more and more. I’m not really upset when I see self-deception. If not for mindfulness my life would be a bad joke.

To accept the inevitable is very important for peace of mind.

Real anicca (impermanence) is beyond story level. Reading something in a newspaper and understanding anicca is being intellectual. When you really see anicca it is what you are experiencing in the immediate present. There is no thinking. It’s hard to write everything in a letter. So much to say, so little space.

After all, what I’ve said is not really important. No big deal. It could be quite useless. What I’ve left unsaid, what I couldn’t say seems to me more important. This is just beating around the bush.

When my mind is calm, I have nothing in my mind to write.

If you want the truth
I will tell you the truth
Friend, listen:
the God whom I love is inside. (Kabir)

People create ideas, and those ideas become prisons, but a man who can see through the walls can go through it.

If you can meditate well it doesn’t matter what kind of clothes you wear. Labels don’t mean much if you know what they are for. But people get attached to labels, packages. It is up to you to decide how many precepts you want to keep.

Choose a suitable object or two for yourself, and be mindful of them continuously. Continuity is the most important point. Thinking cannot make the mind happy. Watch your thoughts without wanting to control them. When you see them clearly they will stop.

I’m going to meditate more seriously. My mind is too full with too many worldly matters. I’ve travelled and talked too much. Now I want to be quiet again. Thinking is such a big burden. I am a man in a boat in the open sea: alone, without any radio to contact, but I have my compass (mindfulness).

When your thoughts become radical and you do not want to be misunderstood, you become silent, or you will say things that you are not really interested in saying. You say things that get near to what you want to say but you say it in such a way that people don’t understand what you are saying. Sometimes you are happy that they don’t understand what you are saying. Why do you want to express your thoughts? That is another attachment. If you let go of that attachment there will be silence and peace.

To be resisting all the time to people and situations, even though it is slight, can cause mental strain, which can cause exhaustion in the long run. Watch your mind and see how much reaction is going on to real and imaginary situations. See the mental strain. It is better to live in a place where you don’t have to resist or react all the time. You might have to live alone (if you can stand loneliness).

“The deeper you feel the more silent you must be about your feeling.”
“Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must remain silent.” (Wittgenstein)

I would like to be a silent Buddha. Being misunderstood is too frustrating. Most people have not enough courage to see/accept the truth. They want something that will make them happy. Truth is sometimes frightening. Really. Being disillusioned is scary. There is nothing you can hold on to. Not even Dhamma. (What is Dhamma, anyway?) There is only to see, to understand. Most people are looking for something they can hold on to — a set of ideals; a goal; a method; a community; a sect; an order; anything they can identify with. Unless you can embrace loneliness you will not understand what friendship really means. For most people friendship is a means to overcome loneliness. Cultivate loneliness. Live alone as much as possible and see if you feel OK about that.

If you can really handle loneliness it will be nice to live in a place like that. If you can get a good friend to share that peaceful place with you it would be better. But I think the price is too much.

I hope you are happier now, doing something you like. Do you practice mindfulness always?