31 March 1984
Translated by Santikaaro Bhikkhu
This is the twelfth and final talk of the series
"Samatha-Vipassana for the Nuclear Age." I would like to use this
opportunity today to summarize, in one bird's eye view, every angle and aspect
of the topics discussed during this series. My goal is to go clearly and
penetratingly into each of them one-by-one. I call this dhamma-sacca (Dhamma-truth),
by which I mean that a specific aspect or angle must be scrutinized until we
realize, on the most profound level, exactly what its true nature is. Most
importantly, dhamma-sacca is the one particular truth most appropriate and
necessary for a situation and its circumstances. We must choose the Dhamma-truth
that needs to be studied and realized here and now. For this scrutiny, I'll use
the framework of the Four Noble Truths,
which consists of the principles:
What is it?
Through what cause does it arise?
What is its purpose?
How does it succeed in that purpose?
Today's talk is called "The
Dhamma-Sacca of Samatha-Vipassana for the Nuclear Age." The nuclear age
form of Dhamma prepares all people to face the events of our nuclear era: events
of war and events of peace. It also prepares us for the general events in
the daily lives of human beings. In the case of war, if nuclear war occurs, what
sort of Dhamma will enable the mind to face such horrible dangers and
punishment? With peace, what knowledge is needed regarding this situation in
which there is still this nuclear age kind of peace? As for Buddhists, in order
to be true Buddhists who don't waste the opportunity of hearing the Dhamma, what
do we need to know about this matter and how should we practice to protect our
name, face, and honor? Don't forget that being a Buddhist means being "one
who knows, is awakened, and has blossomed into perfection."
Nowadays, what are people doing that we call this
"The Nuclear Age"? They can go up to the moon, circle it, land on it,
and come back to earth. They can send vehicles to look at, explore, and go
beyond the planets. Nothing is at all like the old days. We can jump from here
to there and fly around the world in hours. Things have changed like this. Now
that we can go to the heavens nothing is the same. What mental qualities, then,
are appropriate for a mankind that has progressed in this direction and to this
STRANGE & DANGEROUS TIMES
Obviously, this kind of progress leads to strange
and powerful results. In Dhamma language, we call these results atimahantaramana
(ati, extreme; mahanta,
great; aramana, things known or felt, things
which strike or make contact). They are sense objects that powerfully strike the
mind in the form of dukkha (suffering). Why
don't we take a happier view of the situation? Because that's impossible.
Material progress that leads people to be infatuated with sensual pleasure and
stimulation blocks the way to peace. Even though we may be enjoying some
delicious sensual pleasures now, such sense experiences support and increase
defilement (kilesa), especially the
defilement of selfishness. With selfishness reaching extreme levels, there's no
peace in sight. Therefore, we can see only these undesirable things that we have
There are tragedies, disasters, and crises-the
opposites of peace. They come one after another, without any pause between them,
and so we call them atimahantaramana. This is a strange word for ordinary
people, but it is normal in Dhamma language. Huge, extreme sense objects
dominate the mind completely and their impact is beyond reckoning. Small objects
come and go without having any meaning and are forgotten. When objects are large
and extreme, however, they're difficult to forget they're oppressive and
destructive, and they cause much dukkha. Also, they have the characteristic of
another word from Dhamma language - amataputtikabhaya,
"danger that makes one parentless."
The danger we're discussing here is amataputtika.
It's so great that not even our parents can rescue us. It's so vast that we
can't help or parents either. No one can be of help to anyone else. Normally,
this word applies only to the dukkha that arises out of birth, aging, illness,
and death, in which children can't help their parents and parents are unable to
help their children. This is an enormous and absolute danger. And now there is
an external danger of the same magnitude, where parents and children can't help
each other, which leaves us completely alone. Close your eyes and think about
it. If a nuclear missile comes down, who's going to help who? We'll all be dust
anyway; who can help who? This peril is of the same proportion and meaning as
the words "we can't help each other in the matters of birth, aging,
illness, and death."
In this nuclear age, such dangers can come at any
time. Although we may have parents and children, it's as if we had no one. Then
who will help us? What will help? I think that Dhamma will help us, which means
the Buddha will help us.
DON'T HAVE TO CRY
Therefore, we must develop and store Dhamma that
will help us in circumstances so dangerous that thousands of mothers or children
would be of no help. To prepare yourself so that you won't cry is enough. Don't
go so far as to prepare yourself to laugh; no one would believe you. Simply
being prepared not to cry when disaster comes is splendid enough. You don't have
to say that you'll laugh. Actually, if one really has a lot of this sort of
Dhamma, I think that one could laugh. Someone with a sufficiently high level of
Dhamma can laugh in all events, whether disastrous or beneficial. One could
laugh disliking. However, we common folk needn't go so far. We only need, for as
long as we haven't died, not to cry. That's plenty good already. Thus, I
encourage you to listen to this Dhamma of "samatha-vipassana for the
nuclear age," so that you'll be skillful, expert, and correct in its
practice. Then you'll remain unperturbed during the enormous changes of the
You must think back to the topics of the eleven
previous talks. From the beginning, how are we to practice each one? Of them
which point is the most important? Realize aniccam,
dukkham and anatta (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self).
Realize sunnata (voidness, selflessness), tathata
(thusness), and then idappaccayata (conditionality).
Penetrate to these realizations with every exhalation and inhalation - that's
the most important issue. How much is accomplished in practicing on such a
level? If one fully sees that "it's only thus, it's only such, "
whenever something no matter how enormous arises, if tathata
is seen, that's how to endure and how to remain still. Then, if you want, you'll
be able to laugh. But the arahants (Worthy Ones,
perfected human beings) probably wouldn't waste energy on useless laughter.
Remaining quiet and still is better, without laughing, without crying. That's
what's best, having Dhamma that keeps one calm and quiet in all circumstances.
Allow me, then, to explain point by point, what it is, where it comes from, what
its purpose is, and the method for achieving that purpose.
Before we discuss the meaning of "samatha-vipassana
for the nuclear age," we must understand why the word "nuclear"
is used here. In using it I don't mean that we must all be scientists who study
the theories of nuclear chemistry and physics in all their complexity and
detail. It isn't necessary for us to be scientists like that. We only need to
know that nothing can act clumsily or hesitantly and still survive in this
nuclear era. All things must be like lightning bolts in their arising, in their
ceasing, and in their knowledge of other things. All things must be as fast as
lightning bolts. They must be deeper than the ocean and strike like lightning
bolts, so that nothing can resist. In just the same way, our acts must accord
with the nuclear age. This need for speed and power is what is meant by
SAMATHA AND VIPASSANA ARE ONE
When we say "samatha-vipassana
for the nuclear age," we ought to realize the significance of joining the
words samatha (tranquility) and vipassana
(insight) together. Samatha-vipassana is one thing,
not two separate things. If they were two things, we would have to do two things
and that would be too slow. When tranquility and insight are united as one
thing, there is only a single thing to do. Both samatha
and vipassana are developed at one and the same
time. That saves time- a precious commodity in this nuclear age.
Let's review the method of practice that was
discussed in the previous talks. When we look at something, we endeavor to see
how it truly is, both the characteristics that it has and its deepest reality or
truth. In short, when seeing or watching anything, one will see the state of idappaccayata
- the activity of causes and conditions endlessly forming and concocting each
other. As I've summarized this before, sitting right here and looking all around
us, we will see nothing but the flow of idappaccayata
that is concocting and being concocted. It flows continuously according to
impermanence and the fact that once conditions have formed they force the
arising of new things and more new things.