Can we find true happiness in life? There are moments of happiness in our life but these do not last. Pleasant things we enjoy are susceptible to change, they do not last. We do not really see the impermanence of what is in ourselves and around ourselves, we always cling to what is actually impermanent. The pleasant and unpleasant events of our lives condition very much our feelings. We are slaves of the vicissitudes of life. One day we are praised and then we are glad. The next day we are treated unjustly and we are humiliated, and then we are sad. There are in our life. We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of Eights, Ch I, par. 6) that the Buddha spoke to the monks about the eight worldly conditions which obsess the world. He spoke with regard to those who have not attained enlightenment as follows:
... monks, gain comes to the unlearned common average folk, who reflect
not thus: "This gain which has come is impermanent, painful and subject
to change." They know it not as it really is. Loss come...
fame... obscurity... blame... praise... contentment... pain... They reflect
not that such are impermanent, painful and subject to change, nor do they
know these conditions as they really are. Gain, loss and so forth
take possession of their minds and hold sway there. they welcome
the gain which has arisen; they rebel against obscurity. They welcome
the praise which has arisen; they rebel against blame. They welcome
the contentment which has arisen; they rebel against pain. Thus given
over to compliance and hostility, they are not freed from birth, old age,
death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, miseries and tribulations. I
say such folk are not free from ill.
We then read that for the "ariyan disciple," who has attained enlightenment,
the opposite is the case. We may wonder what the secret is of the
ariyan disciple. He sees things as they really are and is not enslaved
to the worldly conditions. Could we also become an ariyan
disciple? At this moment we are still "unlearned, common, average
folk." From the Buddha's teachings we learn that seeing realities
as they are can make us less enslaved to the worldly conditions.
Seeing things as they are, that is true wisdom. Do we see realities
as they are or do we live in dreams and fantasies? In our life there are
realities and there are imaginations or ideas which we form up in our mind.
We do not even know the difference between reality and imagination.
However, in order to see things as they really are we must know the difference
between what is real and what is not real.
We may wonder whether the Buddha's teaching is not a philosophical system
which deals with abstractions. On the contrary, the Buddha's teaching
helps us to know ourselves, to know our different moments of wholesomeness
and unwholesomeness. He taught the way to eradicate attachment, aversion
The Buddha taught about everything which appears no and which can be directly
experienced. He did not teach abstract ideas. What appears
no? Is it attachment, aversion or ignorance? Or is it generosity
or compassion? In our life there are wholesome moments and unwholesome
moments and these change very rapidly. We do not have one consciousness
or mimd, but many different moments of consciousness. Moments
of consciousness are realities, not imagination, and we can know them now,
at this moment, when they appear. Then we will notice that there
are many different moments of consciousness (cittas). When we, for
example, perform a good deed there are wholesome moments of consciousness,
but also unwholesome moments of consciousness may arise. Some slight
stinginess may arise, which we only know ourselves and which nobody else
may notice. There may be attachment to the person to whom we give
a gift, or there may be conceit. If we do not know when there is
an unwholesome moment of consciousness (akusala citta) how could we develop
Moments of consciousness are not imagination, they are realities which
can be directly experienced, now, at this moment. We can come to
know our good and bad qualities when they appear. We have attachment
and aversion with regard to what we experience through the eyes, the ears
and through the other senses. Before attachment or aversion with
regard to what we see can arise, there must be a moment of just seeing.
Is there seeing at this moment? It can be experienced, it is a reality.
Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, experiences through the bodysense and
through the mind are realities, they are not imaginations. They are
different moments of consciousness which can be directly experienced with
they appear. The Buddha spoke about realities which can be directly
experienced and there are different from abstract ideas and imaginations.
Generosity, kindness, aversion, seeing or hearing are mental phenomena
or namas, they experience different objects. Sound, flavour, hardness,
softness, heat or cold are physical phenomena or rupa, they do not know
Generosity is a reality, it is nama. We may be inclined to think
that there is a person who is generous, that a self is generous, but generosity
does not stay. It is not self, only a kind of nama which arises and
falls away. Seeing is real, it is a kind of nama. We think,
"I see," but seeing does not stay, it is impermanent. Where is then
the self? There is no person. What we take for a person are
in reality only different namas an rupas which arise and then fall away
again. The nama and rupa in our life are realities which can be directly
experienced. They are real, but they do not stay. They arise
and then fall away immediately.
We are full of wrong ideas about reality, we believe that a self sees and
hears, that a self performs good deeds and bad deeds, the whole day there
is clinging to a self. Wrong view about reality cannot lead to any
good. So long as we believe in a self there cannot be any eradication
of attachment, aversion and ignorance and then we will always be enslaved
to the eight "worldly conditions" of gain and loss, fame and obscurity,
praise and blame, contentment and pain.
There is no self who experiences something. The seeing sees, the
hearing hears, the thinking thinks. What is the use of knowing this?
It is essential to know that not a self but different moments of consciousness
experience different objects. The can be only one moment of consciousness
at a time an it experiences one object. We may be inclined to think
that namas can last for a while. We may believe that thinking, for
example, can last form some time. In reality there are many different
moments of thinking and they think of only one object at a time.
Can we think of more than one thing at a time? This is impossible.
Seeing is a moment of consciousness and it experiences only one object:
the visible object. after seeing there can be thinking of what we
have seen or there can be hearing, but these moments cannot arise at the
same time. All these moments are different.
Once I was having lunch with "Khun Sujin," my good friend in the Dhamma,
in a Chinese restaurant in Bangkok. I was served a duck's foot and
when I looked at it I had aversion. Khun Sujin said, "Just taste
it, try it, without paying attention to the shape and form." I tasted
it without paying attention to the shape and form. The taste was
good. At that time I did not understand yet the full meaning of Khun
Sujin's lesson, but she wanted to show me that the experience through the
eyes is one thing, ant eh experience through the tongue the eyes is one
thing, and the experience through the tongue quite another thing and thus
another reality. We join all the different experiences together into
a "whole" and we think" "I am eating a duck's foot." Duck's foot
is not a reality. What are the realities?
If we do not come to know namas and rupas which appear one at a time, we believe that a duck's foot, a person, a house or a car realities which exist. However, these things are ideas, not ultimate realities (paramattha dhammas). Namas and rupas which can be experienced one at a time are realities. Our life is namas and rupas which arise and fall away. When there is a clearer understanding of the realities which can be directly experienced, one nama or rupa at a time, there will be less confusion in our life and we will gradually learn that there is no self.
in order to develop right understanding of nama and rupa, there should
be mindfulness of them when they appear. There is no self who is
mindful but it is "sati" which is mindful. Sati is a term in Pali
(the language of the Buddhist scriptures) which can be translated as mindfulness,
non-forgetfulness or awareness. Sati is a mental factor which accompanies
each wholesome moment of consciousness. There are different kinds
and degrees of sati. When we are generous there is sati which is
non-forgetful of generosity. When we abstain from killing or other
unwholesome actions there is sati which prevents us from unwholesomeness.
There is sati with the development of calm (tranquil meditation) and it
is mindful of the meditation subject. Sati in the development of
insight or right understanding of realities has a different object: it
is mindful or non-forgetful of a nama or rupa which appears now.
At that moment there is no notion of a "self" or something which exists
and can stay.
We cannot expect there to be many moments of sati in the beginning. Sati is non-forgetful of the reality which appears now, through one of the six doors, and at that moment understanding of that reality can develop. That kind of understanding is direct understanding of the reality which appears and it is different from theoretical understanding. The development of direct understanding of realities is the development of insight of the Buddha taught. it can only develop very gradually, during many lives.
Insight leads to detachment from the self. We learn that what we used to take for self are in reality many different elements, namas and rupas, which can be know when they appear. My husband and I had been invited to a restaurant where it was very cold. I have aversion towards cold and I was inclined to say something about it. But that would have been impatience and lack of consideration for our host and hostess. I considered that the namas and rupas which arise are beyond our control. They arise when there a re conditions for their arising. We always think that a self or a person can be master of nama or rupa. Sometimes it seems that we can, but it is not so in reality. The experience of bodily ease and pain belongs to the eight worldly conditions which we are not master of. The Buddha taught us to develop right understanding of realities which are already appearing in daily life, no matter whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. Sati can arise wherever we may be, in our daily life. Also when we do not feel well or when we are cold there can be mindfulness of realities. For example, if there can be a moment of mindfulness of only cold when it appears, there is at that moment no notion of "my feet which are cold" or "the cold draught," which are not realities but only ideas. After a moment of sati is never lost. Sati falls away, but it can condition a moment of sati again, later on. We may think of the eight worldly conditions, but he development of right understanding of realities will help us most of all to be more patient amidst the vicissitudes of life. Eventually the right understanding of realities will lead to complete detachment and to freedom from all sorrow.