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.
NOT HERE, NOT GOING THERE
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 about...no, 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.