The tragedy of human life is that it is such a
mystery to us who live it. The source, the basis, the meaning, and the purpose
of our lives are unknown to most of us, which prevents us from living fully,
wholly, happily, Although it should not and need not be so, distorted vision and
out-of control thoughts turn ordinary life into a secret. Even this life which
each of us calls "my own" is obscured by the confusion and turmoil of
emotions, beliefs, opinions, and misunderstandings. Not knowing life, we live it
incorrectly and in conflict with nature and its truth. Such living is
stunted, cramped, petty, selfish, and sorrow-ridden. How are we to step free of
that into the peace, coolness, and joy that we know is natural and right?
Certain beings are deeply moved to clear up this
mystery and it tragic pain. The Buddha is one who succeeded perfectly, both for
himself and for all humanity. His success came through the direct realization of
the Dhamma, the Natural Truth which frees the heart from all misery and
problems. As a natural consequence of his awakening, he dedicated his life to
helping others awaken. In his own words, "The Dhamma has been preached well
by us, thus: like something upside-down, it has been set right; like something
closed, it has been opened; it has been proclaimed resoundingly; the ragged
edges have been cut away."
Explaining and pointing out the way to Natural
Truth is all one being can do for another, but it is enough to help us clear up
the mystery of our own lives and find peace. Yet we often fail to understand his
gift. This failure is caused by our opinions, lack of awareness, laziness,
apathy, and so on. The keys in this book, then, are intended to help open a
clear and liveable path through our confusion and weakness into a correct
understanding of Dhamma (Natural Truth), so that the Dhamma in turn may
illuminate lif, reveal its secret, and quench all suffering (dukkha).
There are five articles or "keys" here.
The first, "Kalama
Help Us!" sets out a fundamental attitude of Buddhism: we should
believe something only after examining it, thinking it through carefully, trying
it out, and finding for ourselves that it is correct. The Buddhist path of
wisdom is meaningless for those who ignore this principle; they turn it into
something else. This key comes from a series of pamphlets recently written by
Ajahn Buddhadasa and called "Saccasara From
Suan Mokkh." (sacca means
"truth" and sara means both
"essence" and "message"). The translation here was begun by
Dr. Supaphan Na Bangchang and finished by the editor.
"Two Kinds of
Language," the second key, was translated in 1970 by Roderick
Bucknell (at that time Ariyananda Bhikkhu) and has been long out of print. The
third key, "Looking
translated in 1978 by the same translator, and is now published for the first
time. Both of these keys help us to apply the principle of the Kalama Sutta.
"Two Kinds of Language" shows how to discriminate between the two
levels of language which are intertwined in all spiritual speech and literature.
Both levels of language must be acknowledged and understood if we are to benefit
from the Buddha's teaching, and Ajahn Buddhadasa gives many examples of how to
The third key shows us where to verify the truths
taught by others. Here the Venerable Ajahn counteracts our tendency to be
engrossed by external things and orients us in the direction of spiritual truth.
He emphasizes that we must look beyond relative and superficial truth to find
real truth. The key to doing this is "looking within." To help us
begin this necessary introspection, he shows us the difference between observing
external material phenomena and observing internal mental phenomena. Through the
latter, the Dhamma may be realized directly and independently.
& Hunger," the fourth key, was translated by the editor
and originally appeared in 1987 in "Evolution/ Liberation, " a small
journal produced, occassionally, at Suan Mokkh. The aim of this article is to
clarify the proper motivation for Dhamma study and practice. We tend to ask of
Dhamma what it is not meant to provide. Sometimes we even play at Dhamma. Those
who seek happiness would do best to find out what they really want, and whether
or not the Dhamma can provide it.
The last key here, "The
Dhamma-Truth of Samatha-Vipassana for the Nuclear Age," is a
recent translation by the editor. It discusses a few important issues which are
regularly confused. First, the way of life taught by the Buddha is one unified
path. If we unnaturally cut it into pieces, it cannot function spiritually. If
we try to practice just this aspect or that, we will never realize even that
fragment, let alone the whole Dhamma. Second, we create our own problems and
suffering; therefore we must solve them ourselves. We should not let our
personal truths get in the way of the real truth which frees us. Lastly, we live
in an increasingly dangerous world; we have no time to waste. We must be
vigilant and practice earnestly.
Many people have contributed to this book,
beginning with Ajahn Buddhadasa and the translators. With the help of Dhamma
friends who have read and commented upon the articles, I have done some editing,
primarily to harmonize style and terminology, as well as to bring out Ajahn
Buddhadasa's message as clearly as possible. After that, Rod Bucknell has
corrected my corrections. Then, the Dhamma Study & Practice Group has seen
to the business and technical arrangements. And now you have this book in your
hands, which fulfills the wish behind everyone's Dhamma-dana (gift of Dhamma).
Finally, we should remind ourselves once again
that the Buddha said, "I declare only dukkha and dukkha's quenching."
This is another necessary key, yet we often read, study, and
"practice" with other things in mind, such as getting this or or that
experience, state, title, or status. Although this point is implicit throughout
the five articles, we should discuss the word dukkha here in the hope that
people will stop avoiding it. The importance of dukkha, in ordinary life as well
as in Dhamma practice, tends to be taken lightly by some readers.
Dukkha may be understood in two senses; first, as
a feeling of animate beings, and second, as a universal characteristic of all
phenomena. In the first sense dukkha means
"difficult to bear, hard to endure."
The experience of this feeling - it's not an emotion - is never satisfying,
pleasurable, or happy, and can reach extremes such as suffering and torment. The
cause of dukkha is always some form of craving, attachment, and ignorance. In
this sense, dukkha can be translated
"suffering, misery, pain, stress."
Correct Dhamma practice clears such dukkha, beginning with the cruder
manifestations and ending with the dukkha so refined that most people never see
The second sense, broader and more subtle than the
first, means "hateful appearance, ugly once seen." When penetrating
insight reveals them for what they really are, all conditioned things are seen
to be unattractive, ugly, hateful, undependable, and oppressive. Our normal
vision always latches on to something as attractive, but the Dhamma Eye sees
everything as mere illusion and deception. This second universal characteristic
follows from and deepens the first, aniccam
(impermanence). In fact, both senses of dukkha result from aniccam.
All impermanent phenomena are in themselves dukkha (second sense) and are dukkha
(first sense) for the mind that foolishly takes any of them personally. The
second sense of dukkha can be translated "unsatisfactoriness,
Once dukkha is understood, nibbana
follows. Nibbana is the complete and utter
quenching (nirodha) of dukkha,
which can only happen after dukkha has been thoroughly penetrated. Literally, nibbana
means "coolness" or "cool."
It can be described as the cessation of greed, anger, and delusion; and as the
ending of all craving, attachment, selfishness, and ignorance. When such
"hot" states may arise again, nibbana is said to be temporary. Nibbana
is permanent when there is no possibility that such states will arise again. The
evolution from dukkha to nibbana is the sole issue of Dhamma practice. Nothing
else is relevant, whether in this book or in life. Thus, our investigation of
the following keys should be an investigation of what the Buddha described as
the only thing he ever taught - dukkha and the quenching of dukkha. Then our
efforts will bear the fruits of peace and freedom.
We thank you, the reader, for giving this book
your attention. May all beings discover the way of natural truth and realize its