Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all the laity. We have practised meditation for a long time for the purpose of gaining inner peace. As we know, peace is important–having some peace of body, some peace of mind. But what is it like when we are with outer conditions or surroundings? When the surroundings are chaotic/turbulent and our mind doesn’t have strength, this is like our minds being a small child. It doesn’t have any idea. It does not yet have wisdom. It crawls around here and there. It comes into contact with something and thinks it is food. The child sees some waste paper, and wonders what it is. It wants to taste the paper, and puts it in its mouth. Or sometimes there are dangers. The child goes outside the home and gets hit by a car, gets into an accident. This happens. Or plays in the water, and isn’t aware and then drowns in the water. This also happens. The child does not yet have wisdom. There’s no intelligence yet.
So all the sense-objects we contact, the outer surroundings, they make our minds muddled and be mixed up. That inner disorder is the mind getting deluded in sense-objects and moods. If it’s a sense-object we encounter that we don’t like, suffering arises within our mind. And it’s this suffering which makes us want to find one thing or another in order to have our mind stop and be still, which we call peace. If we look at it in one way, having suffering is something good for those with wisdom, because they can find a way out of that suffering. But one without any wisdom doesn’t know how to get out of suffering. Then they may look for a way to escape that suffering that is wrong, and then there is chaos and confusion arising in the mind.
So peace is what many Dhamma practitioners are looking for now, and what is this peace like? This peace is stilling, subduing. Like the peace of the mind, the peace from mindfulness of sense-contact. It is making the mind stop and be still; peace consists of peace of the body and peace of the mind. Can we see that with regards to peace of the body, if we are normal and well, then the body is peaceful. There is no pain or ailments, then we feel at ease. But when there is sickness and ailments arising, the body is painful and it’s unbearable. If we don’t take the right medicine for the sickness, then we don’t recover. But if we take the right medicine we may recover, but there may then be symptoms from that medicine coming up. So we can see that the body is not something that is stable or enduring: it changes in this way.
As for the peace of the mind, this is something we should be aware of. We know the mind that has excessive thinking, the mind that is bored, the mind that is frustrated, and the mind that is stressed. So we have to find different methods of making the mind peaceful, so that suffering doesn’t arise. We should get to understand true peace. The Buddha said that true peace is not far from us, it is with us all the time. So we just have mindfulness to know in time the mind as it is; to be able to look after the mind, to not be muddled and caught up with regards to all the sense-objects and moods, and to not fall into liking or disliking. So the mind is peaceful already. But what we lack is the quality of mindfulness, samadhi, concentration or wisdom to look after the mind, which then makes the mind all muddled and mixed up. No one likes the muddled and irritated mind. No one is satisfied with their state of mind. So in Dhamma practice, we aspire to have peace come up.
But if we practise with too much attachment, then we have even more chaos. So we need to try to train our mind. If the mind has peacefulness, though it is true that it is peaceful, it’s not true peace. It’s just a temporary peace. It’s like a rock that is covering the grass. Once the rock is taken off, the grass grows again. This is the peace of samadhi, peace of the mind. But it is not the peace of the mind free from the defilements. So the Buddha taught us to bhavana, to cultivate the mind to make it be peaceful, then to contemplate the truth.
Find the source of it all, find the cause that makes us not peaceful. Which is just the attachment to the 5 khandas or aggregates, that is–forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.
So with regards to this uneasiness, whether we sit in a car, sit in a boat, or go anywhere, the uneasiness goes with us. There was once when venerable Ajahn Chah was discussing Dhamma with a western monk, Ajahn Chah said that even if you go up to the moon, to Mars, or go anywhere at all, we will still have suffering there if our hearts don’t have right view. So we need to try to be able to train in this.
There is another story where there were many monks and novices living together, and they wanted peace. All people actually are the same, they all want peace. They went into the forest, and they sought out great teachers, and practised in the forest and mountains. But sometimes they were still disturbed. Why? Just because their views were still not good. So how do we gain peace? We go look for peace, so we go somewhere peaceful, and then what? We have no sounds, no sights, no smells, no tastes, we go somewhere quiet like this, then we are at ease? This is called avoiding the sense-objects. Outside its noisy and really chaotic, so we avoid it.
When its not chaotic, its peaceful and we are at ease. When we get a pleasant mood or sense-object, then the mind is at ease, because the mood is close to nature, and so we really like it. But this is not the path, because when we receive moods and sense-objects again, then chaos and troubles arise again. This shows that we are running away from the mood or sense-object.
So how then? The blind, the deaf, those whose noses can’t smell, tongue can’t taste, or are handicapped, will they have Dhamma? Will they have true peace? Will they have wisdom? Sometimes they have problems with the workings of their brain, the face is numb, the arm numb, the foot numb, sometimes they get acupuncture on their face and they can’t feel it. One puts a needle in their hand and they can’t feel it. Why? Because the nerves don’t receive any stimulation anymore. Then will they see the Dhamma? They don’t see the Dhamma. They don’t receive the feelings from those things, but it is actually another type of feeling.
So can we see it’s not that those who are deaf, blind, someone who doesn’t know odours and tastes, who doesn’t receive feelings in the body, it’s not that they will be people who are at peace. This is about the body that is damaged, and their minds may be chaotic too. They may be even more agitated than before too, because they want to be able to see, want to know, want to smell, want to know the taste. They may think and wonder why they are not like others. Why do I have this sickness or that sickness? So they are even more in disorder.
So where does this peace arise from? It arises just inside the mind and heart. So this Dhamma practice, sometimes the great teachers when they were disrupted because of sounds, they took wax to block their ears. So that they could be peaceful and wouldn’t need to hear anything. Then the sound in the ear is “urrrrrr..” It’s noisy like this, so it’s still not peaceful, it’s in turmoil. This is looking at the sound coming to disturb us, so he kept practising onwards. And then ultimately, he finds that it’s not like that. It’s not that the sound comes to disturb us. When the mind is peaceful, it’s the mind that gets involved with the sound.
So in the practice we need to train the mind to be peaceful, and we need to know things that arise in time as they are. But when we are with disturbing sounds, we are with sights, we have sense-contact that causes disorder, then we need to have a lot of mindfulness. At the least we know that mindfulness is the important thing that needs to know in time the sense-objects and moods that enter. Is our heart disturbed? If we want to run away, we can’t run away all our life. We can avoid the disturbances by going somewhere peaceful from time to time. This is for the purpose of combating the chaos of our daily lives that we live in, and it is the hardest thing to make our mind peaceful in the midst of chaos. So we can run away to find peace on the outside, like going into a retreat for 7 days, 15 days, or 1 month to be quiet. Then there is nothing to disturb us, and we are at ease. But when we leave it and be with moods and sense-objects again, and we can’t fight against the sense-objects and moods, then we run away again to go back into retreat. We can’t do this. We need to live in the present world. Though it is chaotic and difficult, we have to be able to make our hearts peaceful.
So for the monks who practise, they may live in the monastery and the mood is peaceful and at ease, but this is not yet it. It is for the cultivation of strength in the mind, to have more strength to be able to combat the sense-contact and moods. But we have to accept that in the beginning, we can’t fight against the sense-contact, so we evade it first. We find peace first. Maybe it’s a spot in the house, or if we have an opportunity we go to practise somewhere that is peaceful. But it’s so that we can overcome the current situation, so that our mind can have mindfulness and wisdom. It’s not that we just run away to a retreat for 7 days or 15 days. We can’t do that. So the peace of the mind when we can receive chaotic sense-objects and moods, know them in time as they arise with wisdom, this will be true peace.
So we can say that all the laity have to receive a lot of sense-contact and moods, but if you have mindfulness and wisdom, then you may see and know the Dhamma quickly. This is because when you are with those sense-contact and moods, if you just have mindfulness and wisdom, then you will be able to attain to Dhamma.
So there is a question and answer about this when venerable Ajahn Chah went to the West. There was one person there who said, “in the west, there are lots of sense-objects and moods. It is very chaotic, and there are many people who don’t practise Dhamma. So it was like saying that the peoples’ minds were very dark. Ajahn Chah said that when there is darkness, if we shine a bright flashlight into that darkness, we will see even more clearly. So this is looking inside. It’s not looking outside and seeing that people have so much darkness, that they aren’t able to be taught. But Ajahn Chah said that if we shine a bright flashlight, then we will see even more clearly. This means that we ourselves need to have the wisdom to be able to tell and advise them. Then they will be able to walk following us, and they will be able to see clearly.
So the true knowing is that we can’t evade through having external peace. We must fight to gain peace. Though we may evade it temporarily, so that we have the strength of samadhi come up, so that we can struggle, and so that we can have wisdom. Then the mind won’t be deluded with sense-contact. The mind gets bigger. It’s not like a little child who has no wisdom, who sees something and grabs it, puts it in their mouth, and do other silly things. So that means having no mindfulness, having no wisdom. They may contact electricity, touch it and might get shocked and die. So they must have someone to look after them. The mind needs something to look after it, which is mindfulness, to look after our mind.
So in the midst of chaos, may we have a lot of mindfulness and wisdom.
If we people are not in a busy place, we are somewhere peaceful, then this is easy. But if we are with disturbances, and our minds can be peaceful, then whoever can do this is someone with a lot of mindfulness and wisdom. So try to train in this. But sometimes we do need to evade and escape it, and find a suitable place to do samadhi, so that the mind can cultivate its mental strength, so that it can have wisdom. So be determined to train in this a lot. May you all grow in Dhamma, may you all be well.