Editor's Foreword

Kalama Sutta, Help Us!

Two Kinds of Language

Looking Within

Happiness & Hunger

The Dhamma-Truth of Samatha-Vipassana
For The Nuclear Age

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Lecture at Suan Mokkhabalarama
31 March 1984
Translated by Santikaaro Bhikkhu

We can describe this as simultaneously seeing with tranquility (samatha), seeing an object and fixing the mind upon it, and seeing with insight (vipassana), seeing the characteristics, conditions, and truth of the thing. These two kinds of seeing happen together. We can say that samadhi (concentration) is added to panna (wisdom). Samadhi is the mind steadfastly focusing on the object; panna is seeing what the thing is all about, what characteristics it has, and what its truth is. For example, to look at and fix on a stone is samadhi, then to see that this stone is flowing continuously in change is panna. You don't have to do it many times, you don't need to do it twice, once is enough. Watch the stone and bring concentration and wisdom together in that watching.

This illustrates the intelligence of the Zen Buddhists. They don't separate samadhi and panna. Rather than distinguishing between the two, both together are called "Zen". In Pali the word is "jhana" and in Sanskrit it is "dhyana," which means "to gaze, to stare." Therefore, stare into that thing and see it with both concentration and wisdom. We can see that the Zen sect doesn't distinguish between morality, concentration, and wisdom. When we stare at something there is morality (sila) in that gazing. Then fixing on that thing is samadhi and seeing its reality is wisdom. It saves a lot of time to combine three things into one. Yet practicing this one thing yields three kinds of fruit.

Maybe we'll be forced to admit that it's stupid to separate morality, concentration, and wisdom [These are the three trainings(sikkha) which make up the path that quenches dukkha.] from one another, then to practice them one at a time. There's never been any success in doing so. One can uphold morality until death, yet never have morality. It is impossible to fulfill any of the trainnings when they are separated from one another. There's no use intending to practice (sila) without knowing why and how to practice (panna). Actually, we practice morality to support concentration and practice concentration to support wisdom. If we separate them and do only one, there's no chance of success. Therefore, do all three together, simultaneously; in this way there is success.


There's a Zen picture that I'd like to discuss; I think it will amuse you. It's a picture of a frog sitting at the mouth of its hole. I'm not very familiar with it, but I've seen it a few times. The frog is sitting at the mouth of its hole, it's sitting in the meditation posture. The words accompanying the picture are the frog's: "If they're Perfected Ones only because they sit in the meditation posture a lot, then I'm a Perfected One (arahant) as well, because I've been sitting meditation all my life." The frog says it has sat in meditation from its birth until the present. The Zen people are teasing other sects, kidding both other Mahayana sects and Theravadins as well, for attaching to sitting meditation, for trying to sit in concentrated states until they become rigid, stiff, and crusty. The frog teases them saying, "I've sat in meditation all my life, therefore I'm an arahant just like the others." This points out something important: Don't practice anything blindly, without examining it from all sides and in all aspects.

There's another picture that teases in the same way. In this one the frog says, "These guys are accomplished and successful. If they pass this way, I'll jump into the water with a loud plop and scare them out of their wits. Have these accomplished vipassana teachers walk past this way, and I'll jump into the water with a noisy plop to startle them." This pokes fun at those who attach so much to an activity that they preach, "Do only this, do just this." Then they attach so much to any success that it becomes magical and holy, something that never existed in Buddhism. Always remember that Buddhism has never had anything to do with magical and holy matters. Don't drag them in. There's only idappaccayata; everything follows the law of conditionality directly and absolutely. There's no way for it to be anything magical or holy. If you don't realize this, little things like a frog's plop will continue to frighten you.

If we bring magical and sacred things into Buddhism, it will become just more bowing to and worshipping holy things, requesting whatever we want without doing anything. That's a religion of begging and pleading; that isn't Buddhism at all. Instead, we must behave and practice in correct accordance with the law of nature. Then, benefits will progress according to that practice.


We can see in the Dhammapada Commentaries, which are full of stories, that the Buddha once gave his disciples a certain meditation object. He gave them a particular matter to take into individual practice and instructed them to come to tell him of any results that occurred. The Buddha didn't sit watch over the monks as is done with people nowadays, nor did he distinguish that as concentration and this as insight. He gave them a meditation object very similar to a Zen koan to think, not to think about, but to guard until they saw clearly. For example, they were to practice in a way that was neither here, nor elsewhere; without past, without present, without future. They were to practice until the feeling of "not being here and not having gone anywhere" arose. In "being here," there is the desire to go somewhere, there is craving to find something somewhere. And there's no past, no present, no future, because these all are identical.

If we are just free of craving - that's all it takes - past, future, and present have no meaning. This is what the Buddha meant, but instead of explaining the meditation in this way, he had the monks figure it out on their own. He had them meditate until they saw that there is no past, no future, and no present, that there's no being anywhere, nor going somewhere. Nothing going, nothing coming, and nothing stopping anywhere. "Figure it out yourself."

The monks did as they were instructed and as soon as they began to contemplate what the Buddha had given them, there was morality, concentration, and wisdom full to the brim. The self-control to do a certain thing is morality (sila). Pouring the mind's power into that thing is concentration (samadhi). Clearly seeing and brightly knowing in successive understandings is wisdom (panna) or insight (vipassana). As soon as the monks applied themselves to scrutinizing the matter that had to be understood, sila, samadhi, and panna arose. They didn't chant through any rituals about the 10 precepts or the 227 precepts. Collecting the power of the body and mind into scrutinizing one certain thing - that collecting is sila, the looking is samadhi, and the seeing of the truth of that thing is panna-vipassana.

The commentaries make it very clear that in his time the Buddha gave meditation objects the scrutiny of which led to both tranquility and insight. He didn't separate practice into different stages to be done one at a time until we die without actually having practiced anything, such as keeping sila all one's life without ever having sila. Be very careful about this. Things that are genuinely successful and beneficial become small, simple matters, not the complicated elaborations of our modern thinking and attachment.


I'd like to ask you to observe the way things are naturally. When we think or do anything, the idea and intention to act, and then the intention to do it as well as possible, are gathered together within the act itself. We are able to survive in this life and can win the struggle with nature, because nature creates living things that have the intention to act and act correctly within themselves. But because this happens gradually we don't see it clearly and can't make out the distinctions. If we observe the children running around, we'll see that they develop daily in both samadhi and panna. Have a small child write the ABCs; she'll improve daily. This shows that there is samadhi (concentration) developing daily in her writing and there is growing intelligence in her ability to write more  beautifully. Can't you see it! Meditation and wisdom work together and develop together until, before long, the child is able to write quickly and beautifully, that is, successfully.

There is nothing that can be done without the simultaneous application of the powers of mind and wisdom. No matter how stupid a person is, if we give him an ax and tell him to cut some wood, and then he returns with the wood, then there must be samadhi and panna present. Any fool who can cut wood successfully must have concentration to chop down with the ax and wisdom to know how and where to chop so that the wood splits properly. It doesn't take a teacher to do it. In the chopping of wood, concentration and wisdom develop to the appropriate and necessary  degree.

All natural things are under the control of nature itself. Sila in woodcutting means the intention to cut wood and to not wander off to  play half-way through the work. Steadiness in the chopping and intelligence in knowing how to do it in a simple way are samadhi and panna. This natural concentration and wisdom is present in everything. Even a cook boiling rice or making curries in her kitchen demonstrates mindfulness and wisdom (sati-panna), steadiness of mind, and careful control of things. Without these qualities she couldn't cook anything. She couldn't even light the fire without both concentration and wisdom. Yet this is all natural and according to nature. Also, it's so subtle that you won't realize it if you don't carefully observe and study it. However, it isn't necessary to study this because anyone can cut wood, any fool can light a fire.

Samatha-Vipassana (1) Samatha-Vipassana (3)

Extract from "Keys to Natural Truth" - Buddhadasa Bhikkhu ,
translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu, Published and distributed by Mental Health Publishing, 14/349-350 M.10, Rama II Road, Bangmod, Bangkok,Thailand
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