By Bhante Sathi
What is more powerful, the body or the mind? We are sitting inside a building. Without body power, we cannot put materials together to build something. But if you think deeply, you might understand that without a push from the mind, we will not move our hands or legs. That is how we know the mind is more important for us. That is why we get together for meditation class. It is much easier to control the power of the body than the power of the mind.
One of the most powerful sides to the mind is curiosity. We are very curious beings. People are always discovering new things because of curiosity. That is very powerful. We have to use that part of the mind to understand and develop ourselves. If you see a magician, you might be excited because he is doing things you cannot do. When you see someone do something you cannot, you want to practice that. That is how meditation was introduced to this world: people were practicing levitating on air and walking on water. That is how people started to hear about the power of the mind. I am not going to discuss curious things like that because we don’t need to. It is better to understand what kind of qualities we have to develop and overcome. Simply, the mind is aiding us to develop our qualities.
Your mind is very powerful, but only you can awaken that power. No one else can do that. However, people can awaken anger, hatred, and lust within us. When others awaken those qualities within you, you are acting as a puppet. You are allowing others to control you. If you let people arouse those qualities whenever they want, you lose your power. People can also influence us towards positive qualities like compassion, but you have to contribute mindfulness and understanding for that to take place. On the other hand, you don’t need that attention to get angry, because we can have anger out of ignorance. What happens is when you feel an emotion like anger it creates tension in the body. You may want to scream or scold someone to release that tension. To overcome that, you need to relax your body and calm yourself. If you have the perception to realize right away when an emotion is coming, you won’t be overtaken by that emotion.
Think about developing mind power. By developing your mind power, you can avoid being a puppet. May we all develop mind power in the present.
With meditation, we are always talking about being open, but we often complain that our mind is running here and there and we cannot focus on one thing. We have trained ourselves to do that because we are not open. When we are scared by our thoughts and emotions, we cover it with something else. With meditation, we are trying to be open to our thoughts.
Usually we don’t see reality, just ideas. For instance, when you see a cup, you have an idea about what that is. You don’t just see what is there; you see a cup. If there is something about that object that does not match your description of a cup, you think there is something wrong with it. We compare everything to our past experience. The first time somebody asked you to observe your breath, you might have thought, why would I do that? Each inhale and exhale seems the same to us until we start to observe it. Once we start to observe we are seeing things without any idea and we see it as it really is. Whatever we can find in nature, a waterfall, a river, a tree, it is always changing. That is why when you see someone after a long time you can see how much they have changed over time; how old they have gotten. But if you live with someone you don’t notice those changes.
Think about your friends. If you really love someone, no matter what they do you see their mistakes as mistakes. If an enemy does the same thing, you see that as proof they are a bad person. We interpret things as we want. That is how we have trained ourselves. It is better to train ourselves to see things as they are. That way, whatever arises, your mind will find a good solution. If you are closed, you will just cover yourself with ideas and you cannot go beyond those ideas. We can even observe that with scientists. When scientists are really open, they can see things that no one was able to see before. Unfortunately, that openness is usually temporary. Once they come up with their own theory, they are closed to a new one. For a long time people were stuck in Newton’s theories until Einstein came along. Some of Newton’s theories were broken down by Einstein’s theories. Then quantum physics came along. Now we are stuck in quantum theories. We think that is the correct view of the world. That will change. When you become open and start to feel relaxed again you make another box. Then you are stuck in that box. When you break that down, you are stuck in an again bigger box. It is better to see through the box. We don’t need to keep ourselves stuck in boxes.
Good afternoon. I am Bhante Sathi. I am Buddhist monk from the Theravada tradition. I come from Sri Lanka, and now I am living in Southfield Michigan, at the Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara. It is nice to see you all today on this very beautiful afternoon. I hope you are all enjoying today’s events.
First, I would like to share with you a short story:
One day a group of princes were having a picnic with some women friends. While having this picnic, the princes were indulging in luxuries of all kinds. In the midst of their sensual distractions, one of the women stole all of the princes’ jewels. Upset by this action, the princes decided to chase after the woman. As they were chasing her they came across Buddha, who was taking a walk. They decided to ask Buddha, “Buddha, did you just see a woman come by, because one of our woman friends stole our jewels and ran off with them.” Buddha then asked them, “Why are you upset about this situation? What is more valuable, to find yourself or to find someone with your jewels?” They knew that Buddha was a wise man. He was not crazy for asking this question, so they carefully thought about it. After examining this question, they were able to reach permanent happiness, which is also called Nibbana or Nirvana.
Here is the interesting part about this story: Buddha only asked them this one simple question and yet they were able to understand the essence of the entire dharma. Now, you may be asking yourself, how could the entire dharma be found in one small question? They understood the entire dharma because by penetrating the very essence of that question, they were able to understand themselves. How did they come to understand themselves? They simply examined what they were doing and discovered who they really were. After they decided to stop chasing after someone else to solve their problems, they looked inward to themselves. At that moment, they were living in the present moment. Being in the present moment brought them a real understanding of the nature of things. That is how they understood the entire dharma from only one question.
Buddhism is teaching us to be aware of the present moment and how to achieve permanent happiness. Buddha didn’t discover anything new, he simply realized the workings of living beings minds and the world. As human beings, we think that we can understand this world through our five senses, which are sight, sound, taste, touch, and hearing. However, if you look closely at your senses, you will see that they have limitations. For example, some animals can see and hear better than us. Because of this, we have to know that our senses are not enough to understand the ultimate Truth. We can not understand this Truth simply by using our five senses. We have to learn to develop our mind. Whoever has developed their mind, has understood more things than an ordinary person. That is why Buddha once said, “All previous Buddhas taught the same dharma and all future Buddhas will teach the same dharma.” If you can be in the present moment, then you will understand the entire dharma.
Usually, when we are doing one thing, our mind is somewhere else. Sometimes it is in the past; sometimes it is in the future. For example, maybe you are thinking about your lunch or a conversation you had this morning. Or what you are going to eat for dinner tonight. But, in reality, you are here. Words are coming out of my mouth, and into your ears. You are sitting, maybe some are standing. There are clouds in the sky, there is a gentle breeze blowing and you are right here, right now… at this very moment. That, my dear friends, is the Truth! At any given moment, NOW is all that there truly IS.
In day-to-day life, sometimes we are consumed with suffering and sometimes we are filled with joy. Where did those two things come from? They came from your past or future. When you look at your joy or suffering, you will see that it is because you are dwelling on ideas from your past or future. Therefore, I would say that if you were able to constantly BE in the present moment, you would be able to understand the true nature of suffering or joy. This is not to say that you will not have emotions, but your emotions will not control you. They will arise and dissolve… like everything else. Since they won’t control you, you will not be ruled by suffering or joy. This is known as “equanimity”.
If we can successfully focus our mind on the present moment, this is called “mindfulness”. Then, when we have an emotion, such as anger, we will be able to see how our mind is working. When we are frustrated, mindfulness will help us see why it is that we are frustrated. The same with an emotion like happiness. If we are mindful, then we can see why it is that we are happy. We can understand how our mind is working. If we can realize the present moment, then we can see how we are thinking and why we are doing different actions. For example, how are we talking? How are we dealing with anger? And how much compassion do we have?
There was a man named Bahiya. He heard that he could see Buddha if he went to Gethawana. So he decided to go there. When he arrived, Buddha was leaving to collect food.
He asked Buddha, “Buddha could you summarize the entire Dhamma so that I can understand?”
Buddha knew that if he summarized the entire Dhamma, Bahiya would understand, so that is what Buddha did.
Buddha summarized, “Bahiya, Thus must you train yourself:
In the seen there will be just the seen.
In the heard there will be just the heard.
In the sensed just the sensed.
In the imagined just the imagined.
Thus, you will have no “thereby”. That is how you must train yourself.
Now, Bahiya when in the seen there will be to you just the seen,
in the heard just the heard,
in the imagined just the imagined,
in the cognized just the cognized,
then, Bahiya, as you will have no “thereby” you will also have no “therein.”
As you, Bahiya, will have no “therein” you will have no “here” or “beyond” or “midway between.”
That, Bahiya, is the end of suffering.”
Bahiya could control his mind, and understood the words of Buddha. Through this understanding, he reached permanent happiness.
If you can live in the present moment you will not worry, be unhappy, or be unsatisfied. You will see things clearly. You can reach permanent happiness. It is right here, right now, at this very moment in each and every one of you.
May you all be well and happy . May you all achieve permanent happiness.