The Practice in Brief
An Hour's Meditation
A Basic Order in Life
Continuous Practice
Every In-and-Out Breath
Taking a Stance
The Details of Pain
Aware Right at Awarenes
The Pure Present
The Deceits of Knowing
Sabbe Dhamma Anatta
Going Out Cold
Reading the Heart



Observations on the Art of Meditation

K. Khao-suan-luang

Translated from the Thai
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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provided it is offered free of any charge.

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A Basic Order In Life


The most important thing in the daily life of a person who practices the Dhamma is to keep to the precepts and to care for them more than you care for your life -- to maintain them in a way that the Noble Ones would praise. If you don't have this sort of regard for the precepts, then the vices that run counter to them will become your everyday habits....

Meditators who see that the breaking of a precept is something trifling and insignificant spoil their entire practice. If you can't practice even these basic, beginning levels of the Dhamma, it will ruin all the qualities you'll be trying to develop in the later stages of the practice. This is why you have to stick to the precepts as your basic foundation and to keep a lookout for anything in your behavior that falls short of them. Only then will you be able to benefit from your practice for the sake of eliminating your sufferings with greater and greater precision.

If you simply act in line with the cravings and desires swelling out of the sense of self that has no fear of the fires of defilement, you'll have to suffer both in this life and in lives to come. If you don't have a sense of conscience -- a sense of shame at the thought of doing shoddy actions, and a fear of their consequences -- your practice can only deteriorate day by day...

When people live without any order to their lives -- without even the basic order that comes with the precepts -- there's no way they can attain purity. We have to examine ourselves: In what ways at present are we breaking our precepts in thought, word, or deed? If we simply let things pass and aren't intent on examining ourselves to see the harm that comes from breaking the precepts and following the defilements, our practice can only sink lower and lower. Instead of extinguishing defilements and suffering, it will simply succumb to the power of craving. If this is the case, what damage is done? How much freedom does the mind lose? These are things we have to learn for ourselves. When we do, our practice of self-inspection in higher matters will get solid results and won't go straying off into nonsense. For this reason, whenever craving or defilement shows itself in any way in any of our actions, we have to catch hold of it and examine what's going on inside the mind.

Once we are aware with real mindfulness and discernment, we'll see the poison and power of the defilements. We'll feel disgust for them and want to extinguish them as much as we can. But if we use our defilements to examine things, they'll say everything is fine. The same as when we're predisposed to liking a certain person: Even if he acts badly, we say he's good. If he acts wrongly, we say he's right. This is the way the defilements are. They say that everything we do is right and throw all the blame on other people, other things. So we can't trust it -- this sense of "self" in which craving and defilement lord it over the heart. We can't trust it at all....

The violence of defilement, or this sense of self, is like that of a fire burning a forest or burning a house. It won't listen to anyone, but simply keeps burning away, burning away inside of you. And that's not all. It's always out to set fire to other people, too.

The fires of suffering, the fires of defilement consume all those who don't contemplate themselves or who don't have any means of practice for putting them out. People of this sort can't withstand the power of the defilements, can't help but follow along wherever their cravings lead them. The moment they're provoked, they follow in line with these things. This is why the sensations in the mind when provoked by defilement are very important, for they can lead you to do things with no sense of shame, no fear for the consequences of doing evil at all -- which means that you're sure to break your precepts.

Once you've followed the defilements, they feel really satisfied -- like arsonists who feel gleeful when they've set other people's places on fire. As soon as you've called somebody something vile or spread some malicious gossip, the defilements really like it. Your sense of self really likes it, because acting in line with defilement like that gives it real satisfaction. As a consequence, it keeps filling itself with the vices that run counter to the precepts, falling into hell in this very lifetime without realizing it. So take a good look at the violence the defilements do to you, to see whether you should keep socializing with them, to see whether you should regard them as your friends or your enemies....

As soon as any wrong views or ideas come out of the mind, we have to analyze them and turn around so as to catch sight of the facts within us. No matter what issues the defilements raise, focusing on the faults of others, we have to turn around and look within. When we realize our own faults and can come to our senses: That's where our study of the Dhamma, our practice of the Dhamma shows its real rewards.

K. Khao-suan-luang
January 29, 1964

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